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Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Homemade Yogurt

I've been making homemade yogurt for 4+ years, off and on, usually in the summer when I could count on 90-degree days to keep the yogurt warm during its incubation period.  In 2021 I got an air fryer for Christmas that has a dehydrator feature. Light bulk moment - I could make yogurt any time with this!

I've made this every week for 3-4 months with consistent results.

I like to start with Chobani Whole Milk Greek Yogurt as my starter, reserve 1/2 cup and let it sit out while milk heats up.  Side note to any experienced yogurt makers - I've tried reusing my homemade yogurt as a starter, but results are runnier than I'd prefer so I continue to use Chobani as my starter.

My plan is to finish with 48 ounces of yogurt, so I start by filling 3-pint size jars with whole milk and heat the milk in a pot with pour spout to 180 degrees.  I use a candy thermometer that hangs on the side of the pot.  This process takes up to 20-30 minutes, I don't like to go too fast, or it will make the milk skim.  Stirring frequently helps deter milk skim.

Once the pot has reached 180 degrees, remove from heat and wait for it to reduce down to 120 degrees. This takes about 20-25 minutes.  Once the temperature is 120, stir in the 1/2 cup of yogurt, mix well, then pour mixture into the three pint size jars.  I use this size because it fits nicely into my air fryer.

Set the air fryer to 110 degrees and 6 hours, with no lids.

Once finished, let it cool for about 30 minutes, then add lids and put into fridge.  Cool overnight, by the next day it should be nice and solid.  It won't be exactly like Greek yogurt, to do this you'd need to take an extra step to strain it.  I personally prefer regular yogurt so I stop at this point.

Savings - one container of Chobani Whole Milk Greek Yogurt cost $5.58 for 32 ounces at Walmart.  I can make 8 recipes.  A pint jar is 16 ounces, so every recipe makes 48 ounces of yogurt x 8 recipes equals 384 ounces of yogurt.  It may sound like a ton of yogurt, but we have 4 kids making smoothies before workouts several times a week, and I eat 8 ounces every morning.  It's a necessity!

Milk cost $2.62 currently at Aldi, which is $0.02 x 48 ounces = $0.99

Chobani Whole Milk Greek Yogurt cost $5.58 for 32 ounces, which is $0.17 x 4 = $0.6975

In summary, my out-of-pocket cost is $1.68 to make 48 ounces of plain whole milk yogurt, which equals $0.035 per ounce.  

The lowest price I can find for plain whole milk yogurt is at Weis for $3.97 for 32 ounces which equals $0.12 per ounce, and at 48 ounces, it would cost $5.76.  

Total savings for my homemade version is $4.08.

Is that a lot of effort to save $4.08?  I guess that's up to each person.  I work from home, and I can easily work my primary job and check on the yogurt every 20-25 minutes as needed.  If I worked full time away from home, I might not bother with this but as it is, I enjoy this little task and it saves us a little money each time I make it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Applesauce Spice Muffins

I got the original recipe on epicurious, but I've changed so many details that I finally need to record it as my own.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce

Instructions:
Mix dry ingredients together and cut butter into the mix.  Mix eggs, sugar, and applesauce together in small bowl then add to the dry ingredients.

Use a muffin scoop to distribute the mixture into 13 muffin cups.  I don't use liners because I'm cheap, but it can help reduce mess.  By cutting the butter into the mix, and not melting it, the muffins do not spread, which makes them hard to dig out, and forms a nicer domed muffin.

Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Why we went back to Costco

In 2021, I documented the pros and cons of keeping Costco.  It's 30 miles from our home, we were not getting the benefit of discounted gas, and I thought we could find similar items at our local Sam's Club.  

We held out for one year before we went back to Costco for these specific foods that we love, and cannot get at Sam's club:

* Sukhi's Tikka Masala - 2 pack (Sam's has a different version that is not as good) - it's a meal staple that we have every two weeks with Rice, Garlic Naan from Aldi, and homemade Mango Lassi's.  It's quick and honestly feels like a meal out!

* Costco Chicken Breasts (I don't know what they do, but they are huge and less fat than everywhere else).

* Costco Cheese Pizza 4 pack (I literally never find frozen pizza at Sam's, it's a helpful Friday lunch meal for the kids).

* Starbucks Breakfast Blend 2lb coffee - I can find Starbucks coffee at Sam's but this blend is exclusive at Costco.

* Costco Espresso 2lbs - I buy it online at least once every two months, it's literally the best deal on espresso, not counting Cafe Bustelo (which I don't care for).

* Panko Coated Tilapia - another meal staple that we like to have with tater tots or fries and call it 'Fish and Chips' night.  Sometimes we change it up with a bag of frozen veggies that can be microwaved.

* Tasty Bite Madras Lentils - we have this with the Tikka Masala.

Costco also has great deals on items throughout the year, especially around Christmas.  I like getting 32 winter leggings/tops every few years, they eventually wear out because I wear them every day in the winter. 

In my bio, I mentioned our meals are 95% homemade, well the above quick items are part of the 5%.  There are some days that need quick meals, and these are some of our favorites.

In summary, I'm glad we took a year off to be sure this was really important to us.  We go every 2-3 months and by 2-3 of each item depending on when we want to go back.  We did keep Sam's club for the local discount on gas, which does pay for the membership, and there are a few items that we can only get at Sam's, so I've justified keeping both clubs.  

Cranberry Bars

 Ingredients:

* 1 3/4 cups brown sugar

* 3/4 teaspoons salt

* 2 1/4 cups butter unsalted

* 4 eggs

* 2 teaspoons vanilla

* 3 Tablespoons diced crystalized ginger

* 2 1/4 cups flour

* 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

* 1 1/2 cups cranberries

* 6 ounces white chocolate chips

Updating here from post it note.  I will add more information next time I make it.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Mixed Berry Mini Pie

This is for when you have enough left over pie dough to fill a mini pie, but not enough for a top.  Sometimes we make pigs in blanket, which is pie dough rolled out, butter smeared on top, then cinnamon and sugar sprinkled over and rolled.  Bake for 20 minutes at 375.  My kids love extra cookies, but sometimes I prefer to make a mini pie.

Ingredients:

* 2 cups mixed berries (raspberry and blueberries, or blackberries)

* 1/2 teaspoon allspice

* 1 Tablespoon cornstarch

* 1/3 cup sugar

If working with fresh berries, put into a small pot and cook on the stove with all ingredients for 1-2 minutes, this helps juice up the berries.  If frozen, then just mix above ingredients in a bowl.

Roll out pie crust, place into mini pie plate, trim edges, add filling.  Sprinkle streusel on top.  I usually have extra in the freezer because I make it in a large batch.  Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes.  Put a pan under the pie plate in case of overspill so it doesn't go onto the oven floor.

Streusel - I follow Sarah Kieffer's recipe at The Vanilla Bean Blog

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Buying Contact Lenses

It seems like every year it changes as to who has the cheapest contacts.  I buy Biofinity Energy lenses and before getting a years supply, I made sure to cross check with three suppliers:

Target Optical –

  • Rakuten 4% cash back
  • 6 pack $229.96
  • 5% back from Target card, $11.50 savings

1800contacts –

  • Rakuten 6% cash back, $11.90 savings
  • 6 pack $198.37
  • $40 rebate (cash card, claim it when contacts arrive, takes 6-8 weeks)
    • Still cheaper than Target even if I somehow miss the deadline
  • Used Discover Miles which earns 1.5% back

Walgreens -

  • Rakuten – no discount
  • 6 pack $263.96
I used to get a discount with State Farm insurance for Target contacts which gave them the best deal, but after that was dropped, I started searching other sites.  Last year Walgreens had the best price, now this year 1800contacts is the winner.  I almost missed the cut off date for the rebate card.  I assumed it would come in the mail, but after logging my monthly purchases, I looked up the receipt and realized I had to go to the 1800contacts rebate page, print it out and mail it by the 23rd.  Hurray!  I'm getting it in the mail today.

I also found an excellent detail - 1800contacts will replace torn contacts!  I tear at least one set per year so this is pretty cool.  Target also used to replace them for me so I like having this option.  

1800contacts for the win!

As a side note, I still haven't caved and bought Vision Insurance.  I've researched it and know I could write it off on my taxes, but it comes up to just under $300 per year, and with the discounts I would pay $200 more per year so it's not worth it to me.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Hong Kong Weekend Updates

This weekend I tried out the pool on the rooftop and found it to be really nice.  It's completely outside so open based on the weather, thankfully Saturday was free from rain.  I swam for an hour and enjoyed some time reading on the lounges but it started to get really hot, in the mid-80's and Maryland is still in the low 70's so I'm not used to the heat yet.  After the pool I found the ladies locker room and it was so amazing, they have an experience shower where you can choose rainfall, tropical, etc.  I picked tropical and the shower nozzle is located super high so it really feels like you are standing under a water fall.  It was so cool. 

I had lunch at Spasso where I had a fairly boring piece of Salmon, but the dessert was amazing.  The menu mentioned a 15 wait and with nothing pressing to do, I didn't mind waiting.  It was a mini chocolate lava cake, with a scoop of Espresso 26 ice cream, one scoop of chocolate pudding, and a few raspberries for decoration.  I'll upload a photo when I get back, for some reason I can't seem to transfer any right now.

After lunch I got a coffee and walked around a bit but didn't really find anything interesting and it was too hot to go far.  I probably should have gone somewhere as I got quite bored in my room and tired from the morning swim and previous day arm workout.

For supper I went to Outback Steakhouse for Toowoomba pasta.  It was a bitter disappointment.  I got this dish as far back as when my husband and I lived in California in 2002-03.  It's supposed to have little crawfish and be spicy.  After awhile, I could only find this dish in HK as they stopped selling it in the US so I'd look forward to it when coming here.  It was basically plain fettuccini alfredo with five shrimp.  Very boring, not at all what I've remembered and gotten in HK many times.  The brown bread was also not the right taste.  I barely ate any of it and it gave me indigestion.  

Friday, May 19, 2023

Pablo - A Hong Kong Mexican Restaurant

Pablo, a Mexican restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui building.  On Google maps there is no star rating, is it because it’s too new?  Or because Google is showing 4* and higher options and this is no 4 star establishment.

The d├ęcor is nice, the service deplorable. 

I came with my creative team and we decided to order from the set menu.  The first dish was either salad, pumpkin soup or something I didn’t recognize, and since I didn’t want soup or salad I went with the surprise.  It had raw fish over a spicy mix of something purporting to be salsa and bits of avocado.  I wasn’t in the mood for raw fish, or I’d have gone with a sushi restaurant which might be more trustworthy since in the their business of keeping raw fish fresh.  The waiter didn’t even ask what was wrong, he simply scooped up our first course without comment.  

After the first course was cleared, the waiter came back to clarify that I'd asked for grilled chicken with my bowl.  He obviously hadn't put my order in yet, or correctly, because he came out a moment later with the my two colleague's meals, something my boss always says is terrible etiquette for a restaurant to bring meals out separately.

The second course for me was green rice, black beans, avocado, and grilled chicken.  I thought it was pretty good and made up for the bizarre first course.  Unfortunately, my colleague was disappointed in his three tiny tacos and left hungry.

No chips were served.  Complementary chips and salsa are so part of the Mexican restaurant culture that this stood out as a very odd thing.  In Texas, both are even served with breakfast!

I ran out of water mid-meal, it was low when the second course was served but no one bothered to refill.  I desperately tried to signal our waiter, he looked right at me and ran away!  Even my co-worker was puzzled, why did that guy run off.  Much later we see him come out with a birthday item for the table near us, he’s so caught up in the celebration that he couldn’t be bothered with our needs.  I waved at him every time he bobbed into view and he finally sent a co-worker to see what we needed who promptly refilled our waters.

Dessert was served, one churro.  Just one!  Earlier my colleague had suggested we split dessert, so I casually broke it in half and ate 4 inches of churro.  What an epic failure of a restaurant.

Just in case I was too harsh, I went back the next day, by myself, and got the soup, same bowl but with pork and one churro.  I couldn’t eat the soup, it was weird.  This time a different waiter expressed concern.  The bowl was disappointing because it wasn’t grilled pork, it was fried pork fat!  Ewwww.  So I ate the beans, rice and avocado, then had my one churro. 

 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Ruth Chris Steakhouse - how many ways can I say I love you

If you are feeling a tiny bit homesick for traditional American cooking and want the servers to make a huge fuss over you, go to Ruth Chris Steakhouse in Kowloon, HK.  I've been there two times this week and I can't wait to go back.

The first time was my first evening here, and I was quite tired.  I only ordered a spinach salad and crab cakes, I told them upfront I was only getting salad and appetizer.  They didn't care, they still fussed over me and made sure I had everything I needed.

The 2nd time I went I was feeling better so I had mac and cheese as an appetizer (comfort food) and the ahi tuna stack. Too be honest, the tuna stack was not as good as I've had it before, but they are so sweet and nice that it really didn't bother me.  

I really can't say enough good things about the service, they are genuinely nice people and take the best care of you no matter what you are ordering.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Back to Hong Kong

It has been 4 years and 3 months since my last trip - the longest stretch in between trips in my entire 23 years of coming here.  Last trip was January 2019, that year rioters took over HK streets fighting for human rights.  Then at the end of 2019 Covid spread and shut down HK for almost 3 years to visitors.  My bosses first trip back was October 2022 when they still had the mask mandates and required testing in place.  I'm thankful those have been lifted.

So much has changed.  The war between Russia and Ukraine means we can no longer fly over Russia.  Instead we fly from the east coast to west and leave out of San Francisco, this adds several hours to an already long trip.

The hotel where I've stayed at for 15 years, has dropped many of it's luxuries.  No mini bar, no free cell phone to walk around with, and no ordering breakfast for dine in room service (I'm still confused by this one and it was one of my favorites), seating throughout the hotel has been removed to discourage people from sitting around and presumably spreading germs.  They've removed the night time menu dining options and I feel like the menu has been severely reduced to limit requests for room service.  I don't believe they do downturn service anymore.  

At least Ruth Chris Steak house is still here!  

Thursday, May 04, 2023

May the Fourth Be With You!

Star Wars day was pretty epic this year.  The kids got really involved and helped set up the toy display along with making some of the foods.

This year it fell on a Thursday, which is challenging because we had gymnastics, but at least there was no school the next day so kids could stay up late and watch a show.  Currently we're watching Obi Wan Kenobi.

A few days prior to the holiday, the kids made tie fighter cookies.  They've gotten really good at making these.

While they were in school I made Han Solo in carbonate.  Next year I think I'll use purple jello in the same pan.

While we were at Gymnastics, Charlotte who was feeling under the weather, helped make Droid Balls (popcorn with m&m's which the kids helped sort by color earlier in the week).


Earlier in the week I made Chewie Chews (Ginger Cookies).


Dad made this awesome Death Star pizza (I photographed it the wrong so sorry for the oddly flipped photo).


We also made light saber mozzarella sticks, and the most ultimate drink ever - Darth Maul Soda 



Finally, here is our collection of Star Wars toys, many of which I've had a hand in developing for Galaxy's Edge, along with legos, Pez dispensers, and a few roto head Grogu's that belong to the girls - one who is getting into the "fish eggs", and a handmade Ewok in a plant made by Violette!





Monday, January 02, 2023

Cherry Scones

Cherry Scones

2 ½ cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 stick of butter

½ cup heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 cup cherries, halved and pits removed

Preheat oven to 400 and bake 18-20 minutes.

Brush the tops with 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream and sprinkle with turbando. 

Very crumbly, didn’t notice the cherry juice, might double it next round and use less cream. 

Would be great with cherry juice glaze.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

MMXXIII

My biggest accomplishment for 2022 was learning how to swim.  Four classes at the YMCA, Saturday mornings from 8-9.  Mid-year I added walking and biking twice a week when Sam decided he wanted to do a triathlon and by the end of the year I was able to complete a 12 year old triathlon.  

I was able to drop my cholesterol from 164 down to 124 just with the additional exercise.  

I really don't have any grand goals for 2023 except to stay consistent at working out and help Sam achieve his goal of completing the triathlon in July.

The three oldest kids all learned to ride bikes in August, that was an awesome accomplishment.

I want to save more money this year, last year we saved 20% of my salary, this year I'd like to aim for 25%.

I'd like to blog more often, go to church on Wednesday's, and have an organized house.