Thursday, June 30, 2011

DIY Child's Drum

This toy is super easy to make, and what child wouldn't love a drum of their very own. I made one for the boys before, when we were living with family, and the boys wanted to be just like their Uncle Caleb. But the recycled pretzel container drum obviously didn't make the cut for items to move half-way around the world, so I made a new drum for Aaron's third birthday, and he loved it.

First, find a cylindrical container, and clean it. This time, I used a cardboard container that formerly contained 3 kg of ice cream. Next, cover it with paper, and decorate it. Then, find something to use for drumsticks. This time, my husband cut two pieces of bamboo for drumsticks. Incidentally, the thin bamboo stick was sturdy enough to break the brand new saw blade (that's China for you). In the past, we have used other sticks, pencils, and chopsticks for drumsticks.

If your child wants to pretend to be in a marching band (like Uncle Caleb or Christopher Robin), you can add a string to be worn around the neck, as long as you are there to make sure it is not a strangulation hazard.

Now our boys are all ready for a hero party. Both boys love this simple and free (well except for the saw blade) toy. Perhaps we'll have to get another "big old kind of ice cream" (as Aaron would say) so that they can each have one.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

DIY Thomas Board Game

My mom made tons of games for us when we were kids. A lot of them were educational, but some were just for fun. For my son's third birthday I wanted to make him a special board game that he would really enjoy. He loves Thomas the Tank Engine, so I decided to make a Thomas-themed board game. After I decided on the theme, it was a pretty straight forward process.

First I found a piece of cardboard. I used part of the box from the new toilet seat, but any sturdy cardboard will do. You could probably even buy new cardboard if you wanted to, but I have no idea where I could but it here.

Then I had my husband print out a map of the Island of Sodor he downloaded from Wikipedia. Because Nate is amazing and computer savy, he was able to make it large enough to fit on two pages and added direction arrows, start here, and end of the line markings to the document before printing. This made my job easier. I just added additional stops, basically black dots, for the trains to stop at along the track. Then I glued the map to the cardboard and put some Thomas stickers we had on for decoration. Next I laminated the whole thing, with tape because that is all we had at the time.

I also had my husband print some engines from Thomas coloring pages we found online. Again because my husband is so cool, he was able to shrink them down and adapt a Thomas engine to match the rest before printing them out. I colored them, cut them out, and then laminated them onto cardboard. Then I made little stands so the trains can stand up as they move along the track.

I wanted the game to help emphasize some of the good morals that are taught in the Thomas stories so I made consequence cards to be used when a player lands on a stop that has a name written on the map. Things like helping a friend shunt freight cars move you ahead, but being bossy or boasting move you back a few stops. If you want to make your own game you can download the free printable game cards here.

The rules are simple:
  1. Roll the die
  2. Move that number of stops
  3. Stay there if it has no name
  4. Or pick a card and follow the consequence if it has a name
  5. The fist one to the end of the line wins
Or you can simply push the cars around the Island of Sodor and have fun reading the cards, which is what Aaron's favorite thing to do with this game so far. I guess it is good to has gifts that you can grow into.

I am really pleased with how the game turned out, and Aaron is too even if he plays the game differently than intended. It is a gift Aaron loves and cost me basically nothing to make since we had the cardboard and die already. It did take a little paper, ink, and tape, but the only real expense was my time.

What do you think would be good themes for board games?

DIY Gifts

Miniature Bean Bags
Here are some Do-It-Yourself Gift ideas:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Aaron's Third Birthday and Andrew's 18 Month Birthday

Wow! My firstborn is turning 3? I don't have two boys two years old and under anymore? I don't have only babies in the house any more? Andrew is already 18 months old? How did that happen? It sure seems like both Aaron and Andrew were just born not too long ago. I am finding the saying "Some days can be long, but the years are short" to be very true.

Andrew is an amazing son.  He as always excelled at anything related to physical development. His all of his motor skills (both gross and fine) have always been his most advanced abilities. Of course, he is trying to keep up with his big brother. He can throw and hit a ball almost as well as Aaron can, and he can already walk on his tip-toes. He doesn't quite have the running motion down yet, but his walking speed can be just about as fast as running. The other day, he decided he wanted to watch a Thomas The Tank Engine video, so he took it upon himself to plug the portable DVD player into the tablet computer and press enter to start it. Andrew was the only one in the room, so it had to be him. This speaks highly of his fine motor and computer skills and sheds light on why the USB ports are wearing out.

Everyone here says Andrew is very fat. At 27.5 pounds and 33 inches tall he does dwarf the Chinese 18-month-olds. But he is hardly fat since he is in the 75th percentile for weight and the 75th percentile for height (by American standards). I think that that is a pretty good weight for his height. We take it as a compliment that he is of healthy constitution.

Andrew is just developing the ability to sit still for more than a minute. An ability he lost temporarily when he learned to walk at 9 months. As such, he can read a couple of words and letters, but is just starting to develop a real interest in learning. Now he loves to look at the computer, books, and pictures. His verbal skills are starting to take off once again too.  He is rapidly adding to his vocabulary, both in English and Chinese. His desire to communicate meaningfully is kicking in, and he loves to "talk" about everything he sees, whether in English, Chinese, sign language, or by simply making Animal noises. The last activity is one of his favorites as of late, especially snorting like a pig.

Aaron is an equally amazing son with different strengths. At three years old, he already knows words in four languages, reads English proficiently at about 4th grade level, and uses a computer almost too well for his age.  Once he surprised me by using the table of contents to find his favorite Winne-the-Pooh story. His daddy taught him how to use a table of contents and how to use a computer, so it is no surprise he is great at it.

At three years old he is 33 pounds and 38½ inches tall, which is 80th percentile for height and 65th percentile for weight. We know he is growing a lot lately because he is eating more than Andrew again. He loves to run, jump, and climb trees, and he is getting much better at throwing and hitting balls.

Aaron is starting to make clearer, more purposeful lines and drawings. He loves to cut and glue things. So far this hobby has been contained to approved paper. He loves to help around the house and is beginning to be a really useful boy. Aaron can help set the table, clear dishes (we use metal camping dishes), put dishes in the dish drainer, hang up and fold diapers and diaper wipes, shake out the rugs, and pick up toys. He also loves to help mommy when she is cooking and baking, although perhaps his favorite part is licking the spoon.

Andrew and Aaron's favorite fictional characters are from Winnie-the-Pooh and Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. Since we had a Winnie-the-Pooh party for Aaron's second birthday, we went with Thomas this time. We found Thomas coloring pages online and colored a bunch of them for decorations. I put them up the night before Aaron's birthday so that he would see them first thing in the morning.

The birthday fun started when Aaron awoke while I was blowing up balloons for him. Aaron and Andrew ran around naming all of the engines and singing the "Doodle-doot Song" (their name for Thomas's classic theme song). Aaron had great fun picking out which color balloon should be next and naming each after an engine of the same color.

We had breakfast and talked to both sets of grandparents on Skype. Aaron was super excited, except when his grandparents tried to sing the birthday song to him. For some reason, Aaron decided he hated the Happy Birthday Song being sung to him. He got cranky each time the grandparents sang to him.

That afternoon, as part of the boys present, we took them to their two favorite places: Walmart and KFC. Behind Walmart there are those funny little toy vehicles that you put a coin in and they move and sing for a while. The boys were thrilled that they each got a ride one and then play a wack-a-mole game. After that, we went to KFC for ice cream cones, and the boys played in the playplace for a long time. Well, they played in the playplace until Andrew discovered that he can now climb into the KFC highchairs by himself. These new jungle gyms then became the most exciting thing around.

We had a few of our friends over for a small party that night. Three girls in their twenties are probably not the most traditional guests at a 3-year-old's party, but these are some of Aaron's favorite people here. At first, he said that he didn't want any birthday party, and then later he said that these guests could come to Andrew's half birthday party. It's a good thing it was the same party because Aaron actually loved it when they came. The six-year-old boy we invited was busy, and we decided against inviting kids from the neighborhood because Aaron is so bothered whenever their grandmothers try to touch his blond hair. The small party was just right.

Nate printed some extra Thomas pages to color at the party and a complete set of coloring pages as a gift for Aaron. I also made some Thomas themed games. The boys had fun with the games, even though they didn't really follow the traditional way to play Bozo buckets or pin the tail on the donkey. It is easier, after all, not to have to stand behind a line or use a blindfold. Everyone got prizes anyway. Andrew made sure that everyone had plenty of prizes; he loved passing them out.

I made a cake with a map of the Island of Sodor (from Thomas the Tank Engine) and put Henry (engine number 3) on top for Aaron and a half a cake with a Thomas (engine number 1) for Andrew. Once again, Aaron said that he didn't want the birthday song sung to him, but he said we could sing to Andrew. So, we sang a general Happy Birthday song to both of them. Aaron then proceeded to blow out his three candles and Andrew's one candle. Poor guy, we had to light it again so that Andrew could blow it out himself.

We ate cake, ice cream cones, and watermelon, and then the boys opened a few simple gifts. Our friends brought Aaron a bunch of cars and stickers. We gave Aaron a few gifts we made and bought both Aaron and Andrew a plastic bat and ball. Aaron couldn't have been more excited. He stayed up late looking at all of his new things and coloring his coloring pages. Then he announced that he was ready to go to bed, laid down, and fell asleep instantly.

A few days later, when the packages arrived from the grandparents, it was celebration time all over again. The boys just kept opening presents until everything was spread out all over the floor. Then they play with the new toys all afternoon. Aaron got so sad when we all needed to go out for a couple of minutes to pay the electric bill, even though we said we would take him to the park on the way back. He is usually begging to go outside, so the gifts from the grandparents were a huge hit.

It has been a wonderful  (albeit sometimes grumpy) year with Aaron, and we look forward to seeing what God will bring in the next year of his life.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Father's Day 2011

Nate wanted a quiet day at home to just enjoy our family. I tried something new and made homemade hash browns for breakfast, along with cinnamon rolls. Nate loves hash browns and these turned out really well. Aaron even liked them, even though they were out of his routine of yogurt and granola.

We talked to Nate's family in America via Skype. Then we gave Nate some treats we made, wrapped in wrapping paper the boys made. Aaron also read Nate the ebook we made about Daddy, Go, Dad. Go! Aaron doesn't quite grasp the surprise present idea yet, so Nate already knew about this present. It was adorable all the same to see our, not quite three-year-old, reading an entire ebook we made to his daddy..

We had a great lunch of homemade lasagna and triple chocolate cake. Then we headed outside to play. The boys had a wonderful time running, climbing, finding rocks, and throwing sticks in the ponds. We had a traditional Chinese dinner with friends later that evening.

Mandarin Mondays: 烧烤

My stomach is still feeling the effects of Saturday's Chinese barbeque (烧烤 shāo kǎo), and the Fourth of July is coming up soon, so I thought it a good time to talk about barbecuing. Like a lot of things here, barbecuing is both similar and different to how we generally do things in America. Also, eating anywhere here has been referred to as a Chinese roulette: sometimes you get sick, and sometimes you don't; sometimes you know why, and sometimes you don't. So, it is possible that it was something other that this barbecue that made us sick.

My husband's school was hosting a barbecue at a lovely park on a lake southwest of the city. The park is beautiful. You can see mountains and the lake, and there are lovely gardens. There are also a lot of man-made tourist attractions and souvenir shops.

When we arrived, we went walking through the park and eventually found the shāo kǎo area, or as the sign says, "blarbacue tribe," and were told where to sit by Nate's teacher. The tables in this area have built-in barbecues, so your food is cooked right there in front of you. It is a convenient, but smoky, setup.

Now they do have hamburgers (hàn bǎo) and hot dogs (rè gǒu) in China, but you aren't likely to find these at a traditional shāokǎo. Actually, they are pretty rare anywhere outside a fast food place or western restaurant. At this barbecue, they served chicken wings (jī chì) and sliced pork (zhū ròu). By the way, the phrase "to eat chicken wings" in Chinese is "chī jī chì," in case you weren't confused enough already. They also had potatoes (tǔ dòu), onions (yáng cōng), and zucchini (xiǎo guā). So far, this is not too odd for barbecue food. Then they brought out some sort of breakfast cake, which didn't look at all like cake, and put that on the grill too. Last they brought out cold rice noodles (mǐ xiàn) in individual dishes. They didn't grill the noodles. Cold rice noodles are a famous local dish.

The food all tasted good and seemed to be cooked well. Shāo kǎo literally means "fire roast," and the food was cooked until incredibly hot, except for the local soy bean and spice sauce and cold noodle dish, which makes them the most likely suspects for tummy upset. The boys didn't see the need to eat for politeness' sake, so they didn't eat anything besides Pepsi and part of a banana. They are still doing fine, so perhaps there decision was wise.

We all had a great time walking in the woods and along the lake. The boys particularly enjoyed the large jungle gym there and throwing rocks into the lake. It was a beautiful day at the park, at least until Andrew filled his diaper and Aaron had a bathroom misadventure. Then is was time to head home.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bread and Bakery

Light and Fluffy Pancakes
I am very glad that I am not gluten intolerant because I love bread and almost anything made with wheat. I may have gotten this from my Grandpa Roy who always ate enough bread or rolls at family dinners to spoil his appetite. Baking makes the whole house smell good and feel cozy, and almost anything baked tastes better if it is homemade. Making bread and bakery items at home can save a lot of money too, a double bonus.

Pizza Crust

I am writing out this recipe from memory. It is so simple and tasty. My mom and I made this delicious crust all the time for our Saturday night pizza tradition when I was growing up. I still make it all the time, but not always on Saturdays anymore. This recipe also makes excellent bread sticks or focaccia.

This recipe makes pizza a frugal treat around here. Which is great because around here you pay about as much as in the states for a medium pizza. But here a medium is like an American personal pan size.

Pizza Crust

Makes 2 Medium thin crust pizza crusts (the real 12 inch kind)

Preheat oven to 350°F
In a large mixing bowl, briefly mix together:
2½ cups flour (white, whole wheat, or a combination)
1 tsp salt

In a liquid measuring cup mix:
1 cup warm water
1 Tbsp oil
1 pkg or 2½ tsp yeast
1tsp sugar or honey

Pour liquid mixture into the mixing bowl, mix, and knead until thoroughly combined. A food processor gets this job does in a couple of minutes if you have one. Or course then you still have to clean the food processor, and I am still debating which I prefer kneading or cleaning.

After mixing let rest for 5 minutes and then press into pizza pans. Let rest again 5-10 minutes. Bake crust for 5-10 minutes before removing and adding toppings of your choice. This is the key to getting crispy instead of soggy crust. After adding toppings return to the oven and bake about 15 minutes more. This recipe freezes really well also (both before and after adding toppings) so you can make your own frozen pizza for busy days.

Uses for Whey

Whey can be used as a substitute for water or milk in most baked goods without any necessary adjustments. It gives a great taste and texture to yeast bread and raises the nutritional value when used as a replacement for water. Biscuits, pancakes, quick breads, and pasta all turn out great when using whey in place of milk or water.

I have also read that the whey that is leftover from draining yogurt for yogurt cheese has an excellent natural preservative effect when used to make homemade mayonnaise and other condiments. This would be tremendously beneficial as homemade condiments have a very short shelf life.

Uses for Buttermilk

The buttermilk you have left over from homemade butter may be used in cooking and baking. It can obviously be used in any recipe that calls for buttermilk. Buttermilk pancakes made with real buttermilk are the best. Buttermilk may also be used as a substitute for regular milk in most baked goods without difficulty. Buttermilk makes a great ingredient for homemade salad dressing. It can also be used as a substitute for regular milk in cream soups.

Panir or "Ricotta" Cheese

Similar to a ricotta or cottage cheese, this soft cheese melts well and is excellent in pasta dishes. Homemade panir cheese is significantly cheaper than store bought ricotta and can be made without salt or salted to taste, which is great for someone on a sodium restricted diet.

To make panir cheese, slowly heat milk in a saucepan to at least 160°F stirring intermittently to avoid burning it. Once it reaches an even temperature of 160°F, add vinegar (approximately 2 tablespoons per quart of milk) and stir. If the milk was hot enough the heat will cause a reaction with the acid in the vinegar, and it will separate. Like little Miss Muffet, you should now have curds and whey. If the whey still looks very opaque, you can continue to add vinegar by the tablespoon until the whey is clearer and all of curds have separated out. Line the inside of a clean colander with a layer of cheese cloth or a clean flour sack dish towel and pour in the desired amount of yogurt. Place the colander on top of a small bowl turned upside down inside a large bowl so that the whey can drain freely into the large bowl. Pour curds and whey mixture into the colander, and allow the whey to drain. Salt can be added at this point to taste, and the cheese can be either used immediately or stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Whey may be saved and used in baking.

Yogurt or "Cream" Cheese

Cream cheese and recipes made with cream cheese are rich and delicious. I love a good cheesecake and an occasional bagel with cream cheese, but these are undeniably not necessities when it comes to our diet and grocery budget. Cream cheese is quite expensive here and only available at import stores. This yogurt cream cheese is cheaper and healthier than the original and this allows us to enjoy it much more often. You can even add your own cinnamon and brown sugar or fruit and honey for a fancy spread for bagels.

This simple cheese is very similar to cream cheese and can be used in many recipes that call for cream cheese. It does have a slightly different texture and a little extra tangy taste compared to cream cheese so some recipes may have to be adapted.

To make yogurt cheese simply line the inside of a clean colander with two layers of cheese cloth or a clean flour sack dish towel and pour in the desired amount of yogurt. Place the colander on top of a small bowl turned upside down inside a large bowl so that the whey can drain freely into the large bowl. Allow to drain for several hours or over night squeezing out extra liquid if desired. Scrape yogurt cheese off cloth with a spatula. Sweeteners, flavoring, fruit, and other additions may be added at this time as well. Store refrigerated in sealed container. Whey may be saved and used in baking.


Yogurt is so tasty and healthy. It can make your tummy happy two ways. By being a wonderful treat and by aiding good digestion. It is not hard to make, but this is one dairy product that can take a few tries before you perfect your process and end result. Heating the milk without burning it and maintaining a fairly consistent temperature are the only really tricky steps. I personally think that homemade yogurt is tastier, and it can be quite a bit cheaper to make it yourself as well. Although this is not always the case.

Yogurt can be made from reconstituted dry milk, pasteurized milk, or raw milk. It does not necessarily have to be pasteurized before the yogurt starter is added, but the end result (both texture and flavor) is usually better when the desired bacteria does not have to compete with other organisms when it is growing. To kill off competing microorganisms heat milk in a saucepan or double boiler to 160–185°F slowly, so as not to burn it in the process. Pour into clean/sterile glass jars. Allow to cool to approximately 110°F. To do this the jars can be left at room temperature, dipped in cool water bath, or refrigerated for faster cooling.

Next inoculate with bacteria starter. This can be done with commercial starter, acidophillis tablets (available at health food stores), or plain yogurt with active live cultures. The most common are Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Probiotic yogurts can be cultured at home also, although in my experience they usually yield a thinner yogurt than their store-bought counterparts. Use approximately ¼ cup yogurt per quart of milk. Fruit flavored yogurt may have other undesirable yeasts or bacteria that make it a less potent starter than plain yogurt. Stir starter thoroughly through the milk and then tightly seal jars.

Now the task is to simply keep the mixture as close to 110°F as possible for 6–8 hours and allow the bacteria to culture, creating thick yogurt. This can be done in a variety of ways. A good thermos, a water bath in a small cooler or large pot, a gas oven with a pilot light, an electric oven with 100 watt or higher light bulb, or a heating pad are all possible heat regulating methods and other methods are certainly possible. The important factor here is not the method but rather little temperature fluctuation. If the temperature rises above 120°F the beneficial bacteria will begin to die off and if dips below 100° F they will begin to go dormant and stop reproducing.

After the yogurt has grown sufficiently thick it may be chilled for several hours before eating. Sweeteners, flavoring, fruit, and other additions may be added before or after chilling as well. Store refrigerated in sealed container.

Some of my favorite yogurt additions are:
  • Honey
  • Vanilla
  • Puréed berries or bananas
  • Granola sprinkled on top right before eating
What you do like in your yogurt?

Butter and Buttermilk

Butter is so wonderfully delicious, creamy, smooth, buttery, and the good news is most people think that it is indeed good for you in moderation. When we found ourselves living in a small town in China, well we really missed our butter. I then learned how to make it and we would carefully scrape the fat off of the three cups of milk we got every day and saved them up to make amazing butter, and buttercream frosting for birthday cakes. It still amazes me sometimes that now that we are in a bigger city we can actually buy butter in a store, in China.

Butter can be made from store bought heavy cream or from the cream in non homogenized whole milk. If using whole milk chill for several hours or overnight to allow cream to rise to the top. Scrape cream from the top of whole milk using a large spoon or shallow ladle. Thick cream can be used immediately to make sweet cream butter or saved for days and allowed to sour. Sour cream butter has a more intense taste, but can still be used in bakery items and confections without making them taste at all sour.

The cream can be chilled or as warm as a moderate room temperature (around 70°F), if it is too warm however the nuggets of butter will not clot out properly, producing buttermilk with soft/melted butter in it that cannot be easily extracted without changing the temperature of the mixture.This is quite a frustrating problem as it seems like your cream will never turn into butter.

The next step is to agitate the cream. This can be done in a variety of ways requiring a range of time, effort and electricity. The fastest and easiest is to use a blender or stand mixer on a fairly low setting so as not to heat up the cream too much while agitating it (if the mixture does heat up too much during this process, it can be chilled and then agitated again).

I discovered this problem when I tried making butter with an American blender for the first time and the butter would never clot out. I was rather stumped at first because I knew that this blender was better than the very cheap Chinese blender I had been using. Then one day when I was too frustrated with the mess to clean it up right away, I just put the blender in the fridge for later. Much to my surprise I found butter floating on the top when I returned later to start lunch and on low agitation the rest easily clotted out. The higher powered blender was actually performing "too well" ironically enough.

This great blender method requires electricity but virtually no manpower. However if electricity is not available the are plenty of other ways to agitate cream. There is a variety of churns that are specifically designed to churn butter manually, but perhaps the simplest of set ups is filling a jar half full with cream and shaking it until the creams seizes and the butter clots out. Time required for agitation will vary by method and amount of cream from as little as 5 minutes to over a half hour.

The cream will go through a variety of stages during this process. It will slowly thicken and expand, like when making whipped cream, and then suddenly the mixture will seem thinner again as the butter separates out. When the mixture has turned to buttermilk with grains of butter floating in it you then carefully scrape as much butter as possible into a bowl and with a spoon or spatula press the grains together into a ball against the side of the bowl, squeezing out as much buttermilk as possible. This can be poured back into the other buttermilk and saved for use in cooking or baking.

Once you have squeezed as much buttermilk out as possible it is time to wash the ball of butter in very cold water to prevent the butter from quickly turning rancid. If the water is too warm it will cause the butter to melt and be washed away. Simply pour cold water into the bowl and knead the ball of butter in the water with a spoon or spatula and then discard the water. Repeat until the water is almost clear, usually about three times is sufficient. Press against the side of the bowl removing excess water, add salt to taste if desired, store in sealed container. The butter will obviously keep longer the colder the temperature it is stored at and freezes well for months. Although if you are freezing the butter you may wish to avoid adding salt until you want to use it because freezing it may intensify the saltiness.

Another interesting thing that I have learned along the way is that the yield of butter is proportional to the amount of cream used is related to how high the fat content of the cream is. This makes sense, but I didn't realize that different breads of cows yield different amounts of cream per gallon of milk. Also the cream itself may also have differing fat content. The higher the fat content the more butter produced. Very rich cream may yield butter up to half the volume of cream used, whereas lighter cream may yield less than one quarter of the volume.

Sour Cream

Sour cream can be made from store bought heavy cream and a culture or from the cream in raw, non-homogenized, whole milk.

If using raw milk chill for several hours or overnight to allow cream to rise to the top. Scrape cream from the top of raw whole milk using a large spoon or shallow ladle. Place in a sterilized or extremely clean jar and cover. Unpasteurized thick cream will naturally sour and thicken on its own. Length of time to develop into good sour cream will depend on the environment in which it is stored. When refrigerated cream make take a week or more to slowly culture into rich sour cream. But the taste and texture of real naturally soured cream is worth the wait. It is amazingly good. I have found that if the milk does not have a high enough fat content the cream may not sour right. It simply turns into rich spoiled milk which is rather disappointing when you are expecting wonderful sour cream. You may wish to do a small test batch first.

Pasteurized heavy cream from the supermarket can be inoculated with bacteria by mixing in a small amount of store bought sour cream. Storing this mixture at room temperature (around 70°F) for 24 hours should produce sour cream.

Pasteurized Milk

There is a big debate going on now over raw versus pasteurized and homogenized milk. While I think that a good clean source or raw milk is probably healthier in most cases, there may be times if you are purchasing raw milk you may wish to pasteurize it. Especially if the cleanliness of the source is in question or you are serving someone with a compromised immune system, the very young, or the elderly. Pasteurization can also improve the quality and lifespan when making some other dairy products.

Pasteurization can be done easily right on your stove top by heating the milk in a clean thick bottomed saucepan or double boiler to 160°F and keeping it that temperature for at least 15–20 seconds. Stirring frequently will help prevent the milk from scalding. The milk can then be cooled and used as normal. Milk does not have to be boiled to be pasteurized and doing so and then cooling it may alter the taste and texture of the milk.

Do It Yourself Dairy

We (like most Americans) love dairy products; however the Chinese people do not often share this love and some even disdain our beloved cows' milk and milk products. We were told by one Chinese high school girl that we should really just get soy milk because, "The taste of cows milk is very miserable." Well I kind of think their soy milk is rather miserable myself. But anyway this is one food arena that the availability and quality of certain products we love has fluctuated wildly over the course our married lives. So I did a lot of research and came up with several wonderful dairy products right in my kitchen. I'd like to try more complex cheese making sometime in the future, but milk prices are high here and we don't have room in our backyard for a cow, so it is cheaper to buy hard cheese than to make it.

It is quite easy to make many dairy products yourself with little else than a some scientific knowledge and a few basic pieces of kitchen equipment. However, most of these dairy products are produced using bacteria cultured at a specific temperature or using heat and acid reactions so a good food thermometer is very important if not necessary to their production. Described is not so much as recipe for each product as a process. None of these products are particularly difficult to make, but it may a few tries to develop a system that works best for you. However, once you find out how to make a certain item exactly how you like it, you may have a hard time settling for the commercial version again.


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