How to Make Vanilla Yogurt in Your Crock Pot

A Simple Way to Make Homemade Vanilla Yogurt in Your Slow Cooker - So simple and delicious! It's a great way to save money and be healthy at the same time.

Here is something I never imagined myself doing. I am now making my own yogurt! You see, I’ve always liked yogurt but started eating it more in the past couple of years. I regularly eat it for breakfast with granola or as part of my lunch. It’s a good source of protein and dairy. When I started to feed Nathan solids, yogurt was one of those foods that he loved. However, I quickly realized how expensive yogurt has become. I also realized that many of the yogurts have lots of artificial ingredients in them. This got me thinking.

In my quest to being more frugal, two years ago, I had started buying the large tubs of yogurt and dividing it into containers myself. It is much more cost efficient than buying the individual containers but it still wasn’t cheap. The regular price for a quart of yogurt is now $3. I had heard of people making their own yogurt and decided to give it a try. Guess what? I’m hooked. It’s simple and delicious and so much cheaper! When I get my milk on sale, I can now much 4 quarts of homemade yogurt for under the price of $3. (Yes, I can easily get a gallon of milk for under $3 in the wonderful state of Indiana.) Plus, I know that my yogurt is made of milk, sugar, vanilla and the live cultures. That’s it! No artificial ingredients in this homemade yogurt.

You may be in disbelief but give it a try. It takes some time but the effort and supplies involved couldn’t be simpler. I read dozen of recipes and combined a couple of them to come up with this recipe. The main reason being that I wanted vanilla yogurt and almost all the recipes I found were for plain yogurt. Also, I didn’t want to mess with a thermometer if I didn’t have to. With this slow cooker method, homemade yogurt is truly a make it and forget it recipe.

Ingredients:

1/2 gallon milk (I used 2%. Most recommend whole milk for thicker yogurt but 2% works fine.)

1/2 cup yogurt starter (Any yogurt with live cultures works. I’d recommend plain or vanilla. I used Stonyfield Organic Vanilla Yogurt for my original starter because that is what I was feeding Nathan. Once you make your first batch, simply save 1/2 cup of the yogurt to use as starter for your next batch.)

1/2 cup sugar (I’ve read that honey works too. I stuck with a simple sugar. You can add more or less to taste. This amount was just about perfect for us.)

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I use my pure Mexican vanilla which I love! We buy ours at El Mercado in San Antonio but you can buy a similar bottle on Amazon, although not as cheap. It is so delicious!)

Cheesecloth and colander (Optional and explained below.)

Directions:

Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into your crock pot and turn it on low. Let it sit for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Set a timer and walk away from the crock pot at this point.

When the timer dings, turn the crock pot off and unplug it. Whisk in sugar and vanilla. Let the yogurt sit for 3 hours. Again, set your timer and resume your regular activities.

After the 3 hours are up, spoon 1 cup of the milk into a small mixing bowl. Whisk in your yogurt starter. Add this mixture back to the crock pot and whisk it all together.

Put the lid back on the crock pot and wrap the entire crock pot in one or two beach towels. I wrap one around the outside and cover the top with another towel. The reason being is that it allows the temperature of your yogurt to slowly cool and culture.

Let your wrapped crock pot sit for 8 to 12 hours while the yogurt cultures. The longer the yogurt cultures, the tangier the taste. 8 to 9 hours is what I generally do.

When you unwrap your crock pot, you will now have yogurt! See how simple? The yogurt is delicious but my yogurt turned out slightly thinner than store bought yogurt. It tasted fine and can be eaten as is. Simply spoon into jars and store your homemade yogurt in the fridge. If you prefer, you can add one more step as I now do to thicken the yogurt.

After the 8 hours are up, I line my colander with 2 or 3 squares of cheesecloth. I place the colander on top of a metal bowl and pour all my yogurt into the cheese-lined colander. I carefully place the bowl in the refrigerator for a couple hours. After trial and error, I believe 3 hours is the right length of time for this straining. You can check the thickness of your yogurt by stirring it. Whenever you think it is ready, scoop the yogurt out of the colander and put it in glass jars or storage containers.

The cheesecloth step is not necessary and a matter of preference. It will reduce the amount of yogurt you get from your milk but I think it nice to have a slightly thicker yogurt. When you lift the colander out from the metal bowl, you will notice a clear, yellow liquid. This is whey. You can save your whey in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Whey can be used in place of buttermilk in recipes or to make ricotta cheese. That is next on my list of projects, once I collect enough whey.

Additional Notes:

I think vanilla yogurt is the perfect flavor for the addition of fruit or granola. If you don’t want vanilla yogurt, simply omit the sugar and vanilla in this recipe to make plain yogurt.

1/2 gallon is 8 cups. If you don’t strain the yogurt, you will end up with 8 cups of yogurt. When I am done straining it, I end up with around 4 cups of yogurt. If you strain out too much whey and the yogurt is too thick for your liking, it is easy to stir some whey back in to make your yogurt thinner.

I found my cheesecloth at Meijer. You can also buy it on Amazon here or here (affiliate links). I have heard that coffee filters work too. Since I plan to continue making my own yogurt, I spent the couple dollars and invested in cheesecloth.

Due to the amount of time it takes, I have decided it is best to start the yogurt 6 hours before I want to go to bed. I put the yogurt into my slow cooker around 4pm so that it can culture overnight. Then, first thing in the morning, I put the yogurt into cheesecloth to strain and my yogurt is ready for a late breakfast.

If you find a good deal on milk, remember that milk freezes really well so you could buy your milk and freeze it until you are ready to make yogurt. Just pour a little bit of milk out before freezing so the jug can expand. I buy a whole gallon of 2% milk to make yogurt. I use half of the milk to make yogurt and freeze the other half until I’m ready to make another batch.

I have read that you can easily double this recipe but I have not tried that yet. Please let me know if and when you do! I hope this answers many of the questions you might have. If you have others, ask them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them. It might seem intimidating but if you eat a lot of yogurt and are looking to save money, give this a try!

What do you think? Will you try making your own yogurt?

How to Make Homemade Vanilla Yogurt in Your Crock Pot

Parmesan Garlic Rolls

Oh, bread! How I love bread! I could never be one of those people who gave up eating carbs because I enjoy my bread too much. I have recently re-committed to baking our bread instead of buying it. I can control what goes into it that way. Plus, it really isn’t all that hard to bake bread and it tastes so good when it’s homemade! I am also baking our own rolls for special occasions. My two favorite rolls to make are the best ever homemade crescent rolls and these parmesan garlic rolls.

The recipe for these parmesan garlic rolls came to my Mom from her friend, Rosalie, at church. They are delicious! This recipe alone makes a bread maker worthwhile. True story. I bought my first bread maker used at a church rummage sale for $4. It lasted me for 7 years so was money well spent. It recently died and I replaced it with another used bread maker. This one cost me $10 at my Uncle’s garage sale but I still consider it money well spent because now I can make these rolls again!

I like to serve these rolls along side sausage crepes or poppy seed chicken. These would be great with any pasta meal, too! They are a simple recipe and the use of the bread machine makes it even simpler. Dump everything into your bread machine and once the dough is ready, divide them into little balls. Allow the rolls to rise again and bake. The deliciousness comes from the topping of parmesan and garlic butter, so don’t forget that step! The other wonderful part of this recipe? These rolls freeze wonderfully. You can enjoy one pan now and save one for later!

Parmesan Garlic Rolls - A delicious roll recipe made simple by using the bread machine. Plus, they freeze great!

Ingredients:

1 cup water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon Red Star brand active dry yeast (add another teaspoon if you use Fleishmanns)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons dry milk powder
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1 clove garlic, crusted
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Place first seven ingredients (water, flour, salt, yeast, margarine, sugar and dry milk powder) in bread machine. Select Dough setting and press start. Allow your bread machine to work it’s magic!

When the dough has risen long enough, the machine will beep. Turn off bread machine, remove bread pan, and turn out dough onto a floured countertop or cutting board.

Knead the dough once or twice before using a sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roll each section of dough into a long rope. Using a sharp knife, divide dough into 24 pieces (12 pieces per rope).

Shape each section of dough into a ball. Place rolls in two 8-inch greased pie pans – 12 rolls each in each. I usually put 9 around the outside with 3 in the middle, leaving space between the rolls for them to rise.

In a small bowl, combine butter and garlic. Pour over the rolls. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cover rolls and let rise in a warm oven 30 to 45 minutes until doubled.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Additional Notes:

These rolls freeze very well! Simply allow the rolls to cool before removing them from the pan. If you are careful, all the rolls should come out attached to one another. Wrap in foil and freeze until ready to use. Place the foil wrapped rolls in the oven to reheat them before serving.

Simple Chocolate “Dump” Bars

Simple and Delicious Chocolate Dump Bars - When you are in the mood for chocolate, here's a recipe where you can dump everything in a bowl and end up with a delicious chocolate treat.

You know the moments when you want something sweet for dessert and you don’t have a brownie mix in your pantry? If so, this is the recipe you need to know! These chocolate dump bars are thicker than a brownie with a slight cake like texture. This is a handy recipe to have on hand when you need to make a quick chocolate dessert.

These chocolate dump bars use simple ingredients that are already in your pantry. You don’t need a mixer and you won’t dirty many dishes. You just dump all the ingredients in a bowl, stir it together and bake. Hence, the fancy name of this recipe!

With no further ado, here’s the recipe to make these chocolate dump bars.

Ingredients:

2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
5 eggs
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Dump all the ingredients (except chocolate chips) in a large bowl. Mix with a spoon until all ingredients are moistened. Spread in greased 9 by 13 pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool and cut into bars.

Oven Baked Caramel Corn

Simple and Delicious Oven Baked Caramel Corn

Yum. Caramel corn! Along with our famous buckeyes, this was one of the Christmas treats that my mother baked each year. Now, I do the same because it is such a delicious treat – and really, very simple. I’ve tried other caramel corns but unless the popcorn is coated in caramel (like this recipe), it’s not caramel corn to me! With this recipe you can make your own batch of delicious caramel corn. This recipe can be made in advance of your festivities because as long as it is stored in an airtight container, it will keep. It will keep quite awhile although I think it’s safe to say you’ll eat it before too long goes by. It really is that good!

Ingredients:

8 or 9 quarts plain popped corn
1 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Pop corn on the stove. Do not salt or butter. Pour popcorn in a larger roaster. (I fill the roaster with popcorn, rather than measuring out the exact quarts.)

Boil all ingredients in saucepan except popcorn and baking soda for 5 minutes, mixing well and stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add baking soda. Stir quickly. Pour caramel over popcorn, mixing well.

Place roaster with popcorn in 250 degree oven for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool. Store in a tightly closed container.

Simple Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Candy Corn Sugar Cookies - No Mix! A simple & delicious homemade recipe for this fun fall treat.

It’s Fall which means cool weather (if you live up North), pumpkins (of course) and if you’re my husband, candy corn. I’ve never been a big fan of the actual candy corn candy so I decided to put my spin on it by making candy corn cookies. The original recipe came from Betty Crocker but I was disappointed to see it used a mix. I’m not a big fan of cookie mixes because I think homemade cookies always taste better. So, I went to my stand-by Texas Sugar Cookie recipe and adapted it to make these cookies.

This sugar cookie dough is the easiest cookie dough you will ever roll out. Even if you’re not rolling it out (like for these cookies), it still handles well and of course, tastes delicious. The nice thing about these cookies is that they become a slice and bake cookie, so you will end up with lots of mini candy corn cookies in no time at all. The other good thing? These cookies freeze great so you can make them ahead of time and serve them at any of your upcoming Fall parties! Here is the recipe.

Candy Corn Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons milk

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar in mixer. Add in eggs, vanilla and milk. Slowly add in baking powder and flour. Once you have this dough mixed, it’s time to make the candy corn cookies.

Divide the dough into three equal-ish piles. Just do your best to make it even! Leave one bowl as is. Using food coloring, dye one bowl yellow and the remaining bowl orange.

Line a bread pan with seran wrap. On the bottle of the pan, evenly press the white dough. Next, layer on the orange dough with the yellow dough on top. Fold the remaining seran wrap over the top and refrigerate the dough for 3 to 4 hours.

When the dough is firm, remove it from the refrigerator and cut the dough into slices (like bread). Then, using a knife, cut the dough into small triangles, alternating angles of cut. You can view all the steps below.

4 Simple Steps to Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Careful place candy corn cookies onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Cool on a baking rack. Enjoy your candy corn!

Sally’s Baking Addiction Links

Links I Love Button

I have a theme to my links today because I’d like to introduce you to someone. Everyone, I’d like you to meet Sally of Sally’s Baking Addiction. Sally, meet everyone! I stumbled across Sally via one of her recipes on Pinterest and one recipe quickly lead to another and another and another. Since I have so many of her recipes on my to make list, I thought I’d share a couple that are on my current list.

Starting with breakfast, I want to try this chocolate peanut butter lover’s granola. It looks delicious for breakfast – or a snack! I also want to try making Sally’s raspberry swirl sweet rolls. What a fun twist on a cinnamon roll!

I’d eat this cinnamon-swirl chocolate chip bread for breakfast or at anytime. Yum! I’m also curious to try her sky high apple pie muffins. She has lots of delicious looking muffin recipes but this one is at the top of my list. Plus, these are made with greek yogurt and applesauce which really makes them a healthier muffin treat!

Now, onto delicious looking desserts. The gorgeous pictures Sally takes of her desserts will instantly entice you to make countless of these recipes. Here are some of the desserts I want to make.

Peanut butter stuffed brownies. Need I say anything more? S’mores brownie pie looks like a fun twist on a classic s’more.

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are going on my fall baking list. I love pumpkin chocolate chip muffins so am excited to find a cookie recipe for the same flavors!

Fluffernutter cake intrigues me since it’s a combination of peanut butter and marshmallows. I’ll probably make cookie dough lovers ice cream pie first because cookie dough is another one of my favorites.

Although Sally  is known (at least to me) for her desserts, she does have other recipes – main dishes and healthy ones, too.

I want to try her honey bbq chicken fingers that are actually marinated in bbq sauce. Why have I never thought of that as a marinade before? I’m going to try her crustless 110 calorie quiche with some of our garden goodies. The quiche recipe is for me, but the cheesy garlic breadsticks for me and my husband!

You see why I needed an entire links devoted to Sally? I might have to do this with a couple of my other favorite blogs soon. For now, go check out Sally’s Baking Addiction. It’s great cooking inspiration!

More New Recipe Links

Links I Love Button

Yes, I’m back with more recipe links because I’ve discovered lots more that I want to try. I simply can’t help myself! Don’t these look delicious?

Edie shared her recipe for best ever blueberry cake with lemon glaze. Since it’s blueberry season, it’s the perfect time to bake this.  I also want to try making chocolate covered blueberries.

Ree showed how she makes her own veggie cream cheese. Yes, it takes more work but you can easily customize it to your taste.

Jen reminded me of one of my Mom’s recipes with this no-bake chocolate eclair cake. What a perfect summer treat!

Ruth made a 5 minute ice cream cake which is another great summertime dessert.

Adriane shared her recipe for rhubarb cherry crisp. I don’t think I’ve ever had this rhubarb combination but it looks delicious!

Brenda made her take on rhubarb with her recipe for grilled angel food cake with rhubarb sauce. Another winner, I think!

Lynette intigued me with her recipe for juice pie. Yes, the frugal filling comes from juice.

Now, the ever important question. Which one shall I try making first?

5 Ingredient Cake Mix Cookies

5 ingredient cake mix cookies that can be made with any variety of cake mix. So simple yet so delicious!

I love to bake. It doesn’t matter the recipe because I’m willing to try most. Sometimes, the simplest is still the best. Growing up, we made our traditional chocolate chip cookies but we also made cake mix chocolate chip cookies.

These cake mix cookies are so simple and require only 5 ingredients. There is no mixer required because it is easy to mix these cookies in a single bowl with a wooden spoon. Less dishes after baking is always nice! These cookies also are soft and almost gooey. It’s a nice twist on an ordinary chocolate chip cookie.

This cake mix cookie recipe called for a yellow cake mix with chocolate chips. A couple weeks ago, I decided to put a twist on it and make the same recipe with a chocolate cake mix and peanut butter chips. It was a revelation! Why have I never thought of this before? There are so many possibilities for this simple recipe now. How about a spice cake cookie with white chocolate chips? Or a devil’s food cookie with butterscotch chips? The only thing you have to do is get adventurous and use a different cake mix and / or add-in.

Here’s the recipe so you can get mixing and matching in your kitchen with this recipe. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

5 Ingredient Cake Mix Cookies

Ingredients:

1 package cake mix (traditionally yellow but any variety can be used)
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Soften margarine in a glass bowl. Stir in cake mix, eggs and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Add in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by teaspoon (or cookie scoop) on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies will be soft. Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies, if using a Pampered Chef medium cookie scoop.

There you have it! A simple 5 ingredient cookie recipe that your family is sure to enjoy. The flavor possibilities are as numerous as your imagination. I’d love to hear what combinations you try!

Ice Cream Links I Love

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Summer is here at last and that makes me think of ice cream. This is the time of year when I think having an ice cream maker would be fun. However, I’d probably eat too much ice cream for my own good! That said, I have been accumulating quite a few homemade ice cream recipes – all that do NOT require an ice cream maker. I want to give some of these a try this summer.

I’ve already made frozen chocolate chip yogurt. This recipe is so simple – and so delicious! Andy enjoys this recipe, too. This recipe tastes just as good before it is frozen, so good luck waiting to eat this one!

Budget Savy Diva shared her recipe for easy homemade vanilla ice cream. With only three ingredients (and one of them sweetened condensed milk), this recipe looks very easy.

This must be a good recipe because Kevin & Amanda share the same simple recipe. Then, they suggest lots of add-ins to make varieties such as cinnamon bun ice cream. Knowing this is a basic recipe gives me a lot of ideas to make different ice creams!

Not Your Momma’s Cookie shared her take with “no machine” monster cookie dough ice cream. With this one, you mix up the cookie dough mixture first before stirring it into the ice cream. Yum!

Eagle Brand has several ice cream recipes on their site. The mint chocolate chip ice cream is the first one I want to try. I think I’ve actually made a similar recipe from Taste of Home.

If you want to see more, you can view all the other ice cream recipes I want to try on my Ice Cream Without an Ice Cream Maker Pinterest Board.

Mac & Cheese Links To Try

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Lately, I’ve found myself craving macaroni and cheese. Like so many others, I grew up with the blue box Kraft mac and cheese. It’s still nice on occasion, but I now feel like there must be a good homemade alternative. Do you know how many different variations there are for mac and cheese? I don’t know how to decide which one is best other than to try them all! Here are some of the recipes on my list.

Of course, I should start with the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Macaroni and Cheese. Ree has yet to steer me wrong on recipes so this seems like a good place to start. Plus, it seems pretty basic.

The Lovely Little Kitchen shared her version of Mac and Cheese that is created with a combination of colby and sharp cheddar cheese. I made this one already when my friend, Allison, came over for a visit. I didn’t top it with bread crumbs but it was still good.

Mandi’s recipe at Life…Your Way is unique because it calls for the addition of cream cheese. I want to try her Creamy Homemade Macaroni and Cheese because cream cheese in anything is delicious!

Shugary Sweets shared a Copycat Panera Mac and Cheese recipe that sounds delicious. It has cream and white cheddar, which sets it apart from the other recipes. I actually have never tried the Mac and Cheese at Panera but this recipe intrigues me.

I have tried Beecher’s famous Mac and Cheese in Seattle and Martha Steward shares the actual recipe with the World’s Best Mac and Cheese. This recipe does require a separate step of making a cheese sauce, but if it tastes as good as the mac and cheese we ate in Seattle, it will be worth it!

Savory Reviews shared a recipe that is supposed to be similar to the Noodles and Company Wisconsin Mac and Cheese. Again, I’ve never tried it but I like the idea of a cheese sauce with noodles and more cheese piled on it.

Have you tried any of these mac and cheese recipes? Or do you have another one I should try? Any secrets for making a good homemade mac and cheese?  I’m determined to do it! I’ve printed off all the recipes so now I just need to start trying them. I’ll let you know which recipe wins, once I’ve tried them all, that is!

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