Waring Pro YM350

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I’ve been making my own yogurt for the past couple of years. Not only is it much tastier than store-bought yogurt, but it’s also much cheaper. At my local supermarket, an 8-ounce container of yogurt costs $1. That adds up to $16 per gallon. At the same supermarket, one gallon of low-fat organic milk costs $4.

Since I’m a believer in the power of probiotics (i.e. bacteria is good for your immune system), I usually eat three cups of home-made yogurt a day. That translates to a savings of $2.25 per day, or $67.50 per month — which means my $89 Waring Pro YM350 yogurt maker paid for itself in just a few months. Even if you don’t eat as much yogurt as I do, I recommend you try making it yourself. It’s so easy, and even fun.

Here’s how…

1. Pour 4-6 cups of low fat milk into a microwave-proof glass bowl, and heat it until the milk begins to boil. (Boiling changes the milk’s composition so it will solidify when mixed with the starter culture.) If a skin forms on top of the milk, that’s a good sign you boiled it long enough.

2. Let the milk cool to the point where you can tolerate holding your hand against the bowl. Remove and discard the milk skin. Add one tablespoon of your previous batch of yogurt (or plain store-bought yogurt if you’re just starting out), and mix together with a whisk. Do NOT add more starter yogurt to the mix in an attempt to speed up the process. Paradoxically, it will only slow down the fermentation (I’ve read that too much starter crowds out the bacteria from doing its job).

3. Pour the yogurt into 8- or 16-ounce containers. Do NOT put on the lids yet. If you have an older-style oven with a pilot light, you can stick the glass jars in there and allow the warm oven to act as an incubator. Otherwise, use the yogurt maker or a seed-starter warming pad to ferment the milk into yogurt.

4. Wait 8-10 hours, then screw the lids onto the jars and place them in the refrigerator.

Tip: I like to mix my yogurt with nuts, blueberries, and honey from my beehive. My kids love yogurt, banana, and berry smoothies.

[Watercolorist Jana Bouc has put together a great set of illustrated instructions on how to make yogurt using the Waring Pro YM350. -- OH]

Waring Pro YM350
No longer manufactured

Note: It appears that Euro Cuisine is producing a nearly identical model.–OH

Euro Cuisine YMX650 Automatic Yogurt Maker
$50
Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Waring



Banana Guard

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Most parents would agree that the venerable banana is a staple of the toddler diet. Unfortunately, they tend to not to fare very well when tossed into a diaper bag filled with wipes, water bottles, and the other dizzying array of items that have to be hauled around everywhere with your little ones. The Banana Guard makes this problem go away completely.

We were given one of these shortly after our daughter was born, and two years later, it goes everywhere with us. The sturdy, BPA-free container protects bananas in even the most overstuffed of diaper bags, and there’s something particularly ingenious about the size and shape: I’ve yet to encounter a banana that didn’t fit.

The ventilation holes help keep the banana fresh, and while the locks can be opened fairly easily, they won’t accidentally pop open if the bag is tossed about, or if the guard is discovered by a curious toddler.

Of course, this isn’t just for kids. When I eat bananas on the go the Banana Guard is the answer. The $15 price tag is perhaps a little steep, but the guard is definitely built to last and in the long run probably costs less than all the bananas you might lose otherwise.

-- Darin Wilson  

[Note: The price dropped significantly on this item. Though similar to the previously reviewed and slightly cheaper Banana Bunker, several reviewers and commenters pointed out that the Banana Guard is an improved and thus more banana-friendly case for your precious and easily bruised golden cargo.-- OH]

Banana Guard
$7
Available from Aero Stich

Amazon also stocks a cheaper, generic version for $6 Manufactured by Banana Guard



Smart Spice

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These small servings of spice are individually wrapped to preserve freshness. Each packet is about a teaspoonful. They are fantastic for spices you may use only occasionally, say nutmeg, cardamon, cumin, etc. Even a tightly capped bottle of spice will loose potency compared to these sealed envelopes with an extended shelf live of many years. While this method does increase litter compared to bulk spices, the actual volume of extra packing you would use in a year is negligible — maybe equivalent to large plastic bag. In exchange for this and a higher price per ounce, you get organic spice with remarkable freshness, always at the ready. Because of their intense flavor we’ve started using them for some spices we use regularly. (I am surprised the creators don’t offer a single box “spice rack” with a sample of each spice.) The tiny packets are also great for camping.

-- KK  

Smart Spice
$3 for one box of 4 packets

Available from Alice Manufactured by Smart Spice



Sweet Maria’s

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My particular enthusiasm is home-roasted coffee and Sweet Maria’s is my go-to supplier. Not only do they offer everything you need to roast your own coffee at home, but they also carry a great range of products from inexpensive entry-level roasters to top-of-the-line home roasters. (I’ve been using the Hottop roaster for many years now and am very satisfied).

The best thing about Sweet Maria’s is that it is also a great source of information about coffee, roasting, brewing, and drinking. I’ve been a coffee nut for quite a few years now and have learned a fair bit about the subject. As far as I can tell, everything on the Sweet Maria’s site is either correct or clearly marked as opinion. What more could you want?

– Dudley Irish

For Canadians, a good analogue to Sweet Maria’s is Green Beanery in Toronto. They sell roasting, grinding, and coffee-making equipment, as well as beans from small-scale farmers in Africa, Asia, and South America. Everything’s available online. I’ve bought a few things from them and visited their shop once during a trip to Toronto. They do good work.

– Brad

 

[For Canadians, a good analogue to Sweet Maria's is Green Beanery in Toronto: http://www.greenbeanery.ca/bean/. They sell roasting, grinding, and coffee-making equipment, as well as beans from small-scale farmers in Africa, Asia, and South America. Everything's available online. I've bought a few things from them and visited their shop once during a trip to Toronto. They do good work. -- Brad]



Potato Garden

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Ever since I encountered fingerling potatoes in European restaurants I wanted to grow some of my own. I find these small fat-finger-shaped tubers have a nuttier, richer taste than regular potatoes. Potato Garden in Colorado is a mail order source that sells a dozen varieties of fingerlings and it’s been fun trying various breeds. Potato Garden also introduced me to scores of strains in “main” potatoes. And they offer an exotic variety of live starters for other root crops, such as garlic, onions, and sun chokes. Their catalog provides enough basic info about growing and storing roots that it serves as a one-stop short course. For spring delivery you need to order early.

-- KK  

Potato Garden Catalog
Free

Available from Potato Garden

Sample Excerpts:

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*
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*
Sun Chokes: Native of North America, a type of sunflower whose tuberous roots have been eaten for millennia by Native Americans. The first recorded discovery of sunchokes in America apparently occurred in Native American gardens along the eastern coastline in the early 1600′s. The Indians called them “sun roots”. Sunchokes are delicious eaten raw as they have a crisp, juicy texture like water chestnuts. We like to slice or grate them for a zesty addition to any fruit or vegetable salad. We have found that steaming or boiling is the best way to cook them, with a little butter and Real Salt.

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Swiss Spice Shakers

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This salt and pepper shaker is spill- and moisture-proof and small. Great for camping or the kitchen table. I discovered it on my friends’ dinner table on a trip to Boston, friends who are eminently practical people.

I’m not much on black pepper, so mine is loaded with crushed habaneros pepper on the right side and a 50/50 mix of Morton’s and sea salt on the left.

-- Jeff Bragg  

Swiss Spice Humid Proof Salt & Pepper Shaker
$15

Available from Combat Tactical Sometimes available from Amazon



Veganomicon * Simply Vegan

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Veganomicon is the best vegan (no meat or dairy) cookbook out there. It’s reputation is based on the quantity and variety of its recipes, and the complexity and deliciousness of the resulting dishes. There are more than 250 recipes, presented with wit and lighthearted punk-rock irreverence, as well unpretentious and helpful instructions. These vegan dishes don’t only try to mimic meat-based meals; they are just good food. Our household doesn’t adhere to a vegan diet, yet we’ve found some of these recipes great eye-openers as to how tasty and accessible homemade vegan food can be.

– Elon Schoenholz

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When I went vegan, I was 14 years-old (14 years later, I still am). At the time, my parents made me sell them on the idea of maintaining my health sans animal products. At first the task seemed incredibly daunting. Once I found Simply Vegan, I had all the answers.

This book is perfect for beginning vegans because it has specific sections on how to be a healthy vegan, as opposed to a “Fritos and Sprite” vegan. The text goes into various sources of proteins and minerals, and includes ready-to-go weekly shopping lists and daily meal lists. If you’re getting into veganism, you can do it safely and intelligently with a minimal amount of work; just buy the stuff on the shopping list and cook it.

I won’t say the recipes in this book are the best ever. They certainly can’t hold a candle to much of Veganomicon. But if you know your way around a spice rack, they’re pretty good. Either way, there’s no better book I’ve found which covers the nutritive bases and really can set a new vegan on the right path to whole health. 14 years later, I’m still vegan and my folks are mostly vegan as well.

– Ian Hall

 

[Veganomicon was also suggested by the following readers: Charlotte, Scott Carlson, Chris, Jared, Terri Alice, Ryan Freebern and Ian Hall. -- SL]

Veganomicon
Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero
2007, 336 pages
$17
Available from Amazon

Simply Vegan: Quick Vegetarian Meals
Debra Wasserman, Reed Mangels
2006 (4th edition), 224 pages
$11
Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

from Veganomicon:

Chickpea Cutlets
We try not to play favorites, but this is one of our babies and a recipe that we are sure will take over food blogs worldwide. A combination of chickpeas and vital wheat gluten formed into savory cutlets, it’s perfect for when you want something “meaty” buy don’t want to go to the trouble of making seitan. We serve these cutlets in myriad ways, packed into sandwiches or smothered in mustard sauce, with a side of mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. It’s vegan food that you can eat with a steak knife and, best of all, it is fast and easy. You’ll probably want to double the recipe if you’re serving it to guests.

1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup vital wheat gluten
½ cup plain bread crumbs
¼ cup vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated with a microplane grater
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon Hungarian paprika
¼ teaspoon dried rubbed sage
Olive oil for pan frying

*

Beanball Sub
This is a conglomeration of a few recipes from the cookbook that also would make great use of leftover Beanballs (page 189). We throw in a handful of spinach just for posterity; you need not be so healthy if you don’t feel like it. Also, if you don’t want to make the Pine Nut Cream (page 164) and just want to use some soy cheese, we won’t judge you. These would be perfect for a Super Bowl party, or since you are a vegan and hate football, a Nobel Prize party. Ooh, we can’t wait to see who wins for physics this year!

1 recipe Beanballs (page 189)
1 recipe (4 cups) Marinara Sauce, or any of the variations (page 205)
1 recipe Pine Nut cream (page 164)
4 hoagie rolls, split open
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, well washed

*

Tip
To toast sesame seeds: Preheat a small pan over medium-low heat. Pour in the sesame seeds and toast them, stirring often, for about 3 minutes. Once they are browned, immediately remove them from the pan to prevent burning.

*

Tip
This is our favorite way to prep collards: To get rid of the tough stem without having to sit there cutting it, you can actually easily tear the leaves from the stem with your hands. Fill the sink with water, pull off the leaves, rip them into large pieces (collards are tough, they can take it) and put the leaves into the water to rinse them. No need to drain, just give them a shake before adding to the pan.

from Simply Vegan:

Summary: It is very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein, as long as calorie intake is adequate. Strict protein combining is not necessary; it is more important to eat a varied diet throughout the day…. This concern about protein is misplaced. Although protein is certainly an essential nutrient which plays many key roles in the way our bodies function, we do not need huge quantities of it. In reality, we need small amounts of protein. Only one calorie out of every ten we take in needs to come from protein (1).

(1) Food and Nutrition Board, institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002.

*

Generally, vegan diets can be low in fat if they emphasize grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Some foods vegans eat such as oils, margarine, nuts, nut butters, tofu, tahini, avocado, and coconut are high in fat. These foods should not be the center of one’s diet but should be used sparingly. For example, tofu is high in fat. If you ate a pound of tofu, you would eat about 22 grams of fat. Eating a smaller amount of tofu (4 ounces) and serving it over rice with vegetables could provide the same number of calories and less fat.

*

Calcium, needed for strong bones, is found in dark green leafy vegetables, tofu made with calcium sulfate, calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice, and many other foods commonly eaten by vegans. Although lower animal protein intake may reduce calcium losses, there is currently not enough evidence to suggest that vegans have lower calcium needs. Vegans should eat foods that are high in calcium and/or use a calcium supplement.




Simply Vegan

simplyvegan-sm.jpg

Simply Vegan is perfect for beginning vegans because it has specific sections on how to be a healthy vegan, as opposed to a “Fritos and Sprite” vegan.

It goes into sources for proteins, minerals, has ready-to-go weekly shopping lists, and daily meal lists, so if you’re getting into veganism you can do it safely and intelligently with a minimal amount of work (just buy the stuff on the shopping list and cook it). I went vegan at 14 (and have been vegan 14 years so far) and my parents made me sell them on the idea of being healthy sans animal products. At first the task seemed incredibly daunting, but once I found Simply Vegan I had all the answers. And these days my folks are mostly vegan as well.

simplyvegan-sm2.jpg

I won’t say the recipes in this book are the best ever – they certainly can’t hold a candle to much of Veganomicon — but if you know your way around some spices there’s no better book that I’ve found which covers the nutritive bases and really can set a new vegan on the right path to whole health.

-- Ian Hall  

Simply Vegan: Quick Vegetarian Meals
Debra Wasserman, Reed Mangels
2006 (4th edition), 224 pages
$11

Available from Amazon



Veganomicon

veganomicon-sm.jpg

Veganomicon is the best vegan cookbook out there. It’s reputation is based on the quantity and variety of its recipes, and the complexity and deliciousness of the resulting dishes. There are more than 250 recipes, presented with wit and lighthearted punk-rock irreverence, as well unpretentious and helpful instructions. These vegan dishes don’t only try to mimic meat-based meals; they are just good food. Our household doesn’t adhere to a vegan diet, yet we’ve found some of these recipes great eye-openers as to how tasty and accessible homemade vegan food can be.

-- Elon Schoenholz  

Veganomicon
Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero
2007, 336 pages
$18

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Chickpea Cutlets
We try not to play favorites, but this is one of our babies and a recipe that we are sure will take over food blogs worldwide. A combination of chickpeas and vital wheat gluten formed into savory cutlets, it’s perfect for when you want something “meaty” buy don’t want to go to the trouble of making seitan. We serve these cutlets in myriad ways, packed into sandwiches or smothered in mustard sauce, with a side of mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. It’s vegan food that you can eat with a steak knife and, best of all, it is fast and easy. You’ll probably want to double the recipe if you’re serving it to guests.

1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup vital wheat gluten
½ cup plain bread crumbs
¼ cup vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated with a microplane grater
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon Hungarian paprika
¼ teaspoon dried rubbed sage
Olive oil for pan frying

*

Beanball Sub
This is a conglomeration of a few recipes from the cookbook that also would make great use of leftover Beanballs (page 189). We throw in a handful of spinach just for posterity; you need not be so healthy if you don’t feel like it. Also, if you don’t want to make the Pine Nut Cream (page 164) and just want to use some soy cheese, we won’t judge you. These would be perfect for a Super Bowl party, or since you are a vegan and hate football, a Nobel Prize party. Ooh, we can’t wait to see who wins for physics this year!

1 recipe Beanballs (page 189)
1 recipe (4 cups) Marinara Sauce, or any of the variations (page 205)
1 recipe Pine Nut cream (page 164)
4 hoagie rolls, split open
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, well washed

*

Tip
To toast sesame seeds: Preheat a small pan over medium-low heat. Pour in the sesame seeds and toast them, stirring often, for about 3 minutes. Once they are browned, immediately remove them from the pan to prevent burning.

*

Tip
This is our favorite way to prep collards: To get rid of the tough stem without having to sit there cutting it, you can actually easily tear the leaves from the stem with your hands. Fill the sink with water, pull off the leaves, rip them into large pieces (collards are tough, they can take it) and put the leaves into the water to rinse them. No need to drain, just give them a shake before adding to the pan.




Artisan Bread in Five

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As a practical guide to incorporating No-Knead Bread baking into daily life, regardless of your schedule, I highly recommend Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and the follow-up Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I’ve been baking from the instructions in these books for some time now, and I hardly ever buy commercial bread. My young ones love the bread, especially warm from the oven, and there’s something special about bringing your own fresh baked bread to a get-together.

Why Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day? Literally five minutes of effort. Throw the ingredients together, mix, pop the dough into a bucket and then into the fridge. After a couple hours of rising, I have enough for three big loaves. The dough keeps very well in the refrigerator for a couple weeks (and tastes noticeably better the longer it’s been sitting, though mine rarely makes it that long). When I want fresh bread I pull out a bit of dough, get the oven heated up and bake away. There are plenty of no-knead recipes about, but Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois perfected a process that works for me.

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The main advantage I’ve gotten out of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day is feeding the kids a bit more whole grain and some protein as well. I find the flavor richer, too (beer helps that a bunch, but also subtracts a few healthy points). I do prefer the texture of the white loaf, and for guests or as a host gift, I’d likely choose the original recipe. Of late, our everyday breadbox loaf comes from the Healthy book. Slices, toasted a bit, make a heavenly sandwich.

-- Angus Long  

[Thanks to readers Drew Mills and Bob Mintiero for also recommending Artisan Bread -es]

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
by Jeff Hertzberg, Zoe Francois
2007, 242 pages
$17
Available from Amazon

Helathy Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
2009, 336 pages
$16
Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

From Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day:

Whole grain flour is better for you than white flour. Because whole grains include the germ and the bran, in addition to the starch-rich but fiber- and vitamin-poor endosprem….whole grain flours bring a boatload of healthy substances into your diet, including phytochemicals….,vitamins, and fiber. Those are pretty much absent from white flour. Iron, niacin, folic acid, riboflavin, and thiamine are added back in enriched commercial white flour, but no other nutrients—so whole wheat delivers more complete nutrition than white flour even when it’s been enriched. But there’s more—because bran and germ in whole grains dilute the effect of pure starch in the endosprem, the absorption and conversion of starches into simple sugars is slowed, so blood glucose…rises more slowly after consumption of whole grains than it does after eating refined white flour products.

*

Our first book concentrated on ingredients from the traditional European baker’s cupboard. We’ve updated our discussion to include whole grains, vital wheat gluten, and even ingredients for gluten-free breads. Perhaps the most crucial ingredient to get familiar with is vital wheat gluten. It’s essential for achieving a light loaf when using lots of whole grains, never kneading, and still storing the dough in the refrigerator.

*

Yeast Love to Keep Cool
Jefferson University yeast biochemist Hannah Silver, Ph.D., loves great bread, and bakes her own with our method. We asked her where the great flavor comes from, especially with dough that has aged a few days: “Yeast extracts are sometimes used as a flavor enhancer in commercial food, and they introduce a savory, complex flavor, sometimes called umami, the so-called fifth basic taste recognized by the human tongue (in addition to sweet, salty, bitter, and sour). The flavor you get with stored dough comes from chemicals produced by yeast as they use sugars and starches to make carbon dioxide gas (which forms bubbles to leaven the bread) and alcohol (which boils off in baking).