Archive for the ‘Failed Attempts’ Category

A Hanukkah Dinner at No. 71

December 13, 2009

Frying up some beet latkes.

Despite the fact that Cari and I are growing more and more comfortable with large dinners, 95% of the family dinners we have with my side of the family are at restaurants, my parents’ house or my aunt and uncles’ house.  Hanukkah has become the one time of year that we get my parents, sisters (and brother-in-law), aunt, uncle and cousins over at our house.

This year, for the first time in our three years of hosting Hanukkah, we actually managed to get the whole group (12 of us in all) together.  Usually between other Hanukkah/Christmas parties and trips, there have been one or two people who have been unable to attend.  We had an ambitious menu planned, some of which worked out – some, not so much.

Our Menu:

  • Challah
  • Leek & Zucchini Soup (Thanks, Aunt Lynne!)
  • Salad (Thanks, Melissa!)
  • Macaroni & Cheese with Peppers and Dill (Thanks, Laura!)
  • Gingered Carrot Latkes (link)
  • Cumin-Scented Beet Latkes (link)
  • Butternut Squash Latkes with Sage and Pine Nut Yogurt Sauce (link)
  • Spicy Cauliflower Latkes with Za’atar Aioli (link) (Thanks, Mom!)
  • Steamed Broccoli with Lemon Zest
  • Assorted Pastries (Thanks, Mom!)
  • Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cake (Thanks, Heidi!)
  • Fruit Salad (Thanks, Rachael!)

Cari and I were also hoping to make cholent, a stew with beans and barley, but we had a major slow cooker mishap.  We also hoped to make sufganiyot, the traditional Hanukkah jelly doughnut, but the batter never rose.


Butternut Squash, with sage and garlic, about to bake for the latkes.

Everything else tasted great.  The definite highlight of our contributions were the various latkes we found through Epicurious.  We forgo the traditional potato latkes because we know we’ll get them a lot of the next week.

The carrot and butternut squash latkes were a big hit last year, so we decided to make those again, along with the beet latkes and cauliflower latkes (which were actually made by my mother).  We made most of them ahead of time, which worked fine except for the butternut squash, which got quite soggy when we reheated them.  In addition to the pine nut yogurt and za’atar aioli, we also made apple, green onion and jalapeno salsa.

A great dinner over all – thanks to everyone who contributed!

Failed Attempts, revisited: Yogurt

May 5, 2009

A little over a month ago, I posted about my failed attempt at making yogurt. I finally tried again last night, only to yet again wake up to a pretty unchanged milk slosh.

But this time, I learned something due to Adam’s brilliant observance: “It doesn’t feel as warm as it does when it’s worked in the past… more room temperature…”

Uh, hello light bulb.

The friggin’ yogurt maker  ISN’T WORKING. The light comes on, the timer counts down – but the base isn’t heating up at all. I may as well be placing a milk/yogurt mix on the counter overnight. I can’t believe it took three attempts to figure this out.  So 14 cups of milk and  1.5 cups of yogurt starter later, I’ve figured it out. (Ok, ok – Adam’s figured it out. Fine.)

I’m losing ground at arguing that the yogurt maker saves us money, huh?

Emailing customer service today… fingers crossed.

Failed Attempts: Yogurt

April 7, 2009

After raving about how great it is to make our own yogurt, our last two attempts have failed! Two weeks ago we set up the yogurt maker to run overnight, only to wake up to warm sloshy milk that hadn’t thickened at all. I figured that time was definitely my fault, as I hadn’t kept track and had let the milk cool down too much… but this time I did everything just right… and was once again greeted this morning with a slightly thickened but pretty inconsistent slosh. 

The process is pretty simple: Heat milk to 185°F, then mix in flavourings and cool to 110°F (I usually put the pan into another pan filled with ice water to speed it up). Mix in the yogurt starter and if you want, a bit of powdered milk to help it thicken. Then put it into the cups that come with the yogurt maker, and stick it in for 8-12 hours (longer for skim milk). And then you should have nicely thickened yogurt.

It worked a half dozen times with no problems… why is it suddenly not working? Bah!

The possibilities in this random troubleshooting guide:

  • Be sure the temperature of the yogurt maker is maintained at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. [Well, yeah… that’s why we use a yogurt maker. Unless the temperature somehow got out of whack, I have no idea why this would be a problem.]
  • Check the cleanliness of all your preparation and yogurt making utensils to troubleshoot for contaminates. Make sure all your pans, spoons and yogurt containers are squeaky clean. This ensures that no contaminates interfere with the yogurt cultures. You may even want to take the extra step of boiling utensils. [Hmm. We sure didn’t boil our utensils, but everything was for sure clean. And certainly as clean as it was the first half dozen times we made yogurt successfully.]
  • Look at the date on your yogurt starter. If the starter you’re using is out of date, you may no longer have live cultures. Buy new yogurt starter or alternatively, buy some plain yogurt to use as starter. Be sure the yogurt is organic or at least all natural. That way you’re not getting all those funky additives in your new batch. [We used plain yogurt – PC Brand, 1% MF… I know it wasn’t out of date, but maybe it’s not “all natural”.. maybe we do need a better type?]
  • Troubleshoot mixing and temperatures. Mix the starter or yogurt with your milk after it cools to lukewarm. You’ll need to heat your milk to almost boiling to eliminate any unfriendly contaminates, but you need to let it cool a bit before adding the starter. If you don’t, the starter cultures will get cooked and not make yogurt. [I know this was not the problem. I was VERY VERY watchful of the temperatures, and got it exactly right.]
  • Keep it quiet. It’s best to mix a batch of yogurt right before going to bed. That way kids bounding through the room will not upset things. In order for the yogurt to set properly, you’ll need to keep things fairly quiet, or the vibrations will disturb the process. [It went overnight… so unless the cats disturbed it, I don’t see how this could be a problem.]

Ok, so a few ideas of what to do better next time. But what a bummer… I was looking forward to some yummy fresh yogurt!