Hye Thyme Cafe: January 2017

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Homemade Madzoon (Yogurt) Redux - with Observations Over Time

Homemade Madzoon (Yogurt) : Hye Thyme Cafe

When I first started making my own yogurt, I read a bunch of different recipes and combined what sounded like it made the most sense. Since then, I've been making it at least twice a month, so I've changed my process over time to make it even simpler.

1 qt milk
Yogurt for a starter - with live active cultures
Heavy-bottomed pot works best
Large Covered Bowl
Large Towel
Thermometer - optional
Vanilla - optional
Milk Powder - optional
Agave or other sweetener - optional

  1. Over medium heat, whisking frequently, bring the milk up to roughly 200⁰.
  2. Whisking occasionally to prevent a skin from forming, let cool to roughly 115⁰.
  3. In large bowl, whisk starter yogurt, then temper with a bit of the warm milk, adding a little at a time until all the milk has been incorporated.
  4. Whisk in vanilla if using.
  5. Cover bowl, wrap with a towel, and store in the oven for about 12 hours.
  6. Chill.
HEAT:  I have read in several places that if you heat the milk above 180⁰, it won't set properly, yet when I first started making it, the recipes I was following said to bring it to a boil until it started to rise - at risk of boiling over - remove from the heat, turn off the burner, and keep placing the pot on/off the still-hot burner until the milk stopped rising. The logic was that by letting it bubble, more steam would escape, meaning less water in the final product.  I have found that 200⁰ works best for me, and definitely sticking with medium heat. When I made attempts to heat it faster over a hotter temp with constant whisking, I definitely noticed a thinner texture. Using a heavy-bottomed pot will reduce the odds of scorching, but if that happens, don't panic. If you go back to whisk and can feel a layer sticking on the bottom, just don't scrape at it - continue whisking lightly. If soaking doesn't help remove that layer from your pot later, try pouring some salt on it and using that to scrub. You can certainly use a thermometer if you have one, but if not, no worries - heat the milk until you have a complete layer of froth on the top and it just starts to bubble, then cool until you can stick your little finger in it for a 10 count without it being too hot.

MILK POWDER:  I had originally read that the milk powder makes it more stable, which sounded like a logical idea, so that's how I started out ... until the price of powdered milk suddenly skyrocketed and I refused to buy it. Turns out you really don't need it at all!

VANILLA:  What can I say? I love vanilla, so I put it in pretty much everything. I don't even measure it, just whisk in a swig at the end.

SWEETENER:  I started out adding agave nectar to my starter yogurt as a sweetener, but somewhere along the line, I realized that when I eat yogurt, it's either with fruit, honey, or a spoonful of jam or fruit spread (and often a  sprinkle of granola or some crumbled cracker bread), so you really don't need any extra sweetener, unless you plan to eat it plain.

TIMING:  Another thing you'll find in looking online is people insisting that you have to ferment the yogurt for no longer than 8 hours, others insisting 12, etc. To be honest, over Labor Day weekend, I went out of town to a cookout at a co-worker's house and completely forgot that I had yogurt resting in the oven. I told him if he didn't see me at the office on Tuesday, he'd know I had poisoned myself. No worries - it was totally fine!!

STRAINING:  Something else I would do when making yogurt is strain it for a thicker end product. As it turns out, if you leave it in the big bowl you started in, the yogurt will strain itself. When you scoop, just be sure to scoop down rather than across the top, causing wells. The water will seep out and hold the yogurt in place, then you can just strain it when you get down to the bottom if you want. Most people use cheesecloth to strain it through, but I just line a strainer with a coffee filter and set it over a bowl in the fridge for a while.

STARTER:  Don't forget - if you're going to get into the habit of making your own yogurt regularly, be sure to save a scoop at the end to serve as the starter for your next batch. To start a new batch, they say you only need a tablespoon or so, but I usually pick up a single-serve of plain yogurt and use the whole thing. You will also read elsewhere that it has to be full-fat yogurt, but since that's almost impossible to find nowadays anyhow, I've realized that's not true either. I have used Chobani, Fage, Oikos, and the generic store brand and find that Chobani seems to work the best, but there's not a huge difference. The Chobani and store brands tend to give you a thicker, creamier yogurt.

Homemade Madzoon (Yogurt) : Hye Thyme Cafe
This is what it looks like at 200⁰ - complete layer of foam on top and big bubbles just starting to surface.

Homemade Madzoon (Yogurt) : Hye Thyme Cafe
Homemade Madzoon (Yogurt) : Hye Thyme Cafe

Homemade Madzoon (Yogurt) : Hye Thyme Cafe

Homemade Madzoon (Yogurt) : Hye Thyme Cafe

Homemade Madzoon (Yogurt) : Hye Thyme Cafe
Homemade Madzoon (Yogurt) : Hye Thyme Cafe

Homemade Madzoon (Yogurt) : Hye Thyme Cafe
Nice and thick - spoon isn't sinking into it.

Homemade Madzoon (Yogurt) : Hye Thyme Cafe
A few days later, self-straining in action.

Homemade Madzoon (Yogurt) : Hye Thyme Cafe

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cranberry-Apple-Jalapeno Crusted Pork Roast

Cranberry-Apple-Jalapeno Crusted Pork Roast: Hye Thyme Cafe

This recipe was borne out of a surplus of fresh cranberries I was left with in my freezer following the holidays this year. I had no idea what I wanted to do with them until I happened upon a great deal on a pork roast. Cranberry and pork go well together, apples and pork go well together, cranberries and apples certainly go well together ... throw in a jalapeno for a little heat/flavor and some butter, and how can you go wrong???

Whenever I make a roast, I add carrots and onions to the pan. In this case, I decided to skip the carrots in favor of more apple, so I sliced both into thick rings and used them like a rack, so as the butter in the coating melted down, it would help cook and flavor the rings and the drippings for a gravy. 

When it comes to the apples, you want to chose a sweet variety to counter the tartness of the cranberries. Also, a firmer apple so it hold up well - I used my favorite, Macoun. As for the roast, mine was on the smaller side, as I recall, about 2 1/2 lbs. If you are making a larger roast, just plan on either a thinner layer of the coating, or coating the top and sides, but not the bottom - there should still be plenty.

1 pork roast
3 apples
1 lg sweet onion
2 c whole cranberries
1 jalapeno
1 stick butter
1 1/2 c broth or water
1 T flour
Gravy master - optional

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Pat the roast dry with paper towels, then season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Core, peel, and slice two of the apples and the onion into thick rings and place in a roasting pan - onions first, then the apples on top.
  4. Core, peel, and rough chop the third apple and add to the bowl of your food processor, along with the cranberries and chopped jalapeno (how much of the seeds and pith you keep will determine the heat).
  5. Pulse until chopped and evenly distributed, then add the butter and continue to run until it turns into sort of a cross between a compound butter and a paste.
  6. Spread the cranberry mixture all over the roast and then place the roast on top of the apple and onion rings.
  7. Pour enough liquid into the bottom of the pan to at least partially cover the onions to help them cook and so the juices and butter will melt down into the liquid to start your gravy.
  8. Figure on roasting for roughly 20-30" per pound, and you want an internal temp of at least 145 when done.
  9. Transfer the cooked roast and the apple/onion rings to a serving platter to rest - can tent loosely with foil.
  10. Add the 1T of flour to a saucepan, along with about 1/4 c of the pan juices, and whisk until smooth over medium heat.  Add the remaining pan juices and bring up to a boil to thicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste, adding additional broth or water if necessary. If a lot of the cranberry juice ended up in your gravy, giving it a pinkish hue, go ahead and add a drop or two of gravy master.

Cranberry-Apple-Jalapeno Crusted Pork Roast: Hye Thyme Cafe

Cranberry-Apple-Jalapeno Crusted Pork Roast: Hye Thyme Cafe
Cranberry-Apple-Jalapeno Crusted Pork Roast: Hye Thyme Cafe

Cranberry-Apple-Jalapeno Crusted Pork Roast: Hye Thyme Cafe

Cranberry-Apple-Jalapeno Crusted Pork Roast: Hye Thyme Cafe

Cranberry-Apple-Jalapeno Crusted Pork Roast: Hye Thyme Cafe
See how juicy?! 👍

Cranberry-Apple-Jalapeno Crusted Pork Roast: Hye Thyme Cafe

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Top 10 of 2016 - And a Confession of Sorts

Top 10 of 2016: Hye Thyme Cafe

I'm sorry to say the pikins were pretty slim for this year's Top 10. That's where the confession comes in... 

Back in February, I had a snowball of symptoms that temporarily threw my life into a tailspin. There was everything from wonky vision (I was practically blind for a while there), severe dry mouth, and leg cramps, all the way to a large portion of my hair falling out. Because my current job doesn't include benefits, I had no health insurance, so I was hoping it would go away. Wishful thinking! I signed on for a health plan through the state health exchange right at the cut-off. Before that, I hated the idea and was just holding on until my job became full-time, with benefits. I couldn't wait any longer!

The very first day my insurance went into effect, I had a doctor appointment scheduled. Turns out I not only have hypothyroidism, but I'm a Type 2 Diabetic. Ironically, it turns out to be one of the best things to happen to me in years!

After learning of my condition, I went home and immediately dumped all of the juice, popsicles, etc. that I had been downing to soothe the dry mouth. All that sugar was actually intensifying the effect. About two days after I started my medication, 95% of my page-long list of symptoms miraculously vanished! As a matter of fact, I'm doing so well, I was already able to stop taking one of my medications. 😊

I can still technically eat anything I want, I just have to watch my carb count, but I was totally paranoid about it for a while there, sticking mostly with yogurt, steel-cut oatmeal, lots of veggies, and hummus. It was easy to ditch my usual diet, which was pretty much Pepsi and Coffee all day, then dinner and something to munch on during TV time. The hardest adjustment has been making sure I eat three times a day. I've never been a morning person, so my breakfast was always a Dunkin Donuts coffee - same for lunch pretty often. I can't give up my Dunkies, but I did start ordering a smaller size and reducing the sugar. As for Pepsi, I haven't had a single glass/can since February! No looking back on that one.

In addition to the list of symptoms that resolved, I also started automatically losing weight. Two other symptoms I had for YEARS that I had no idea were related until they went away are edema - my hands and feet would swell up something awful when the temps would rise above 70 - and vertigo! I had a few really bad bouts of vertigo over the years, then for several months leading into last February, had a chronic mild vertigo. It suddenly occurred to me one day that I haven't had it at all since I started treatment. Go figure!

So, you can see why I haven't been doing much baking and have been steering clear of high-carb foods as much as possible. Now that I've gotten into a better rhythm with things, I'll try to do a better job of coming up with new, low(er)-carb recipes to post.

In the meantime, these were the Top 10 reader favorites of 2016 ...

  1. Coconut Granola Custard (have to admit I'm glad this was the fave)
  2. Pizza Dip with Pepperoni Chips 
  3. Concord Grape Pie (color me surprised this made #3)
  4. Roasted Carrot Hummus 
  5. Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Tomatoes and Parmesan
  6. Beet, Carrot, and Apple Salad (I practically live on this)
  7. Greens & Beans
  8. Tabouli-Style Quinoa-Kale Salad with Lemony Garlic Tahini Dressing
  9. Chicken Taco Salad
  10. Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
As always, thank you for inspiring me and for following along with my kitchen adventures. I wish us all a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2017.

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