Making stuff at home that you can buy at the store

It's no secret that while we love living in the city, we have dreams of someday moving to the country and learning how to live off the land. In an ideal world, we'd figure out a way to enjoy country life without giving up our connection to the culture, art and community that we love so much about urban life, but for now the best we can do is embrace the city while learning as much as can about the art of making things at home. First step: cooking.

We are fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood that is chock-full of amenities, including some of the nicest restaurants in San Francisco. We live within walking-distance of some of our very favorite places to eat, which means we eat out... a lot. There is an appreciation for food in this town that we've never experienced anywhere else, and the opportunities to enjoy incredible produce and artisanal meats, dairy products and prepared foods are plenty. Of course once you have tasted the amazing flavor of $6 yogurt and $8 preserves, it's really difficult to go back to the bland, watery stuff that comes from the supermarket. And so we have started making stuff at home, which is not only educational, fun and rewarding, but even MORE delicious than the fancy stuff from the local market.

Aside from home-grown honey, which we have been enjoying for a year now, we roast coffee beans at home, make yogurt and granola weekly, and have recently been experimenting with bread, sauces and preserves. Since we don't have our own garden, we happily accept donations from the bounty of our families' gardens, which have provided us with pounds of apricots, apples, tomatoes and squash over the past year.

Making yogurt is ridiculously easy. We take a quart of milk, put it in a saucepan and heat it up to 180º. Then we let it cool down slowly to 110º, stir in a tablespoon or two of yogurt from a previous batch, and let it sit overnight, maintaining a temperature of 110º. Our stovetop has gas burners with pilot lights that are always on, so we just put the hot milk/yogurt mixture in a jar, and place it in a cast iron skillet on a burner. By the next morning, we have yogurt! You could also place your jar in the stove or in a cooler filled with warm water.

The super delicious and super simple granola recipe came from my Mom, and you can download it here.

Derek orders a few pounds of green beans from Sweet Maria's every couple months, and at around $6/pound for pretty much the best beans around (our current favorite is a Yirga Cheffe from Ethiopia), you can't go wrong. The roasting takes about 10-15 minutes per batch, and he roasts them in our "coffee" table in the living room every couple weeks.

My sister let us fill up a bag of tomatoes from her garden last weekend, which we turned into an amazing tomato sauce with the help of a KitchenAid strainer attachment that we borrowed from Leigh & Andrew. Derek cooked down the tomatoes, which we ran through the strainer and then thickened up with some onions and spices. Delicious!