Sunday, February 10, 2019


At Thanksgiving, Tim's cousin Marc was singing the praises of the instant pot pressure cooker he had. He was a great salesman since the next day Tim and I checked prices at Walmart and I ended up ordering the Crock Pot 6 qt. Express Multi-Cooker on a Black Friday super sale.

There is a learning curve to using the pressure cooker and after some trial and error, I really like using it! The best part is being able to toss in frozen meat and coming out with a great meal!

I've made:
Mac and cheese
Hard boiled eggs
Iced tea (which turned out bitter, even after two tries)
Chicken drumsticks from frozen
Chicken breasts from frozen
Chicken taco soup
Sweet potatoes

I'm on a Facebook group for Crock-Pot Express users and I saw so many people making yogurt. I decided to jump on the bandwagon since Anna and I like yogurt. I whipped up a batch and here is what I did, complete with bullet points and tips:

Yogurt in the Instant Pot
Cold start, no-boil method
1 1.5 L bottle of ultra-pasteurized milk, usually Fairlife or any organic milk
2 heaping tablespoons of yogurt with live, active cultures
1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Tips and notes:
*1 1.5L bottle of Fairlife ultra-pasteurized, ultra-filtered milk
This can be whole milk (red bottle) for the thickest and creamiest yogurt, or you can use 2% Fairlife, or skim Fairlife.
Fairlife is the go-to milk to use for yogurt making since it is also ultra-filtered.

Yes, you can use other ultra-pasteurized milk besides the Fairlife brand, since it is pricey. Good news! Most organic milk is ultra-pasteurized. You can use whole, 2%, or skim.

If you use regular plain milk that is not ultra-pasteurized, you have to boil it then cool it and #ain'tnobodygottimefodat. This cold-start method is low maintenance and easy.

*2 heaping TBL yogurt with live, active cultures.
I used Fage total 2% plain yogurt.
I've seen others use the Oui brand and also Chobani.
You can use whole milk yogurt, 2% yogurt, skim yogurt, etc. but it has to have live, active cultures. It will be stated on the container. 
Flavored is ok to use, you won't really taste the flavor in it.

*1 can sweetened condensed milk to add sweetness.
The finished yogurt didn't turn out overly sweet with this added.

In your instant pot, put in the whole container of milk, the yogurt, and the sweetened condensed milk. Whisk everything together. Place two layers of paper towels or a clean dish towel over the top of the pot then put your lid on. I have a glass lid that I used and you can use a dinner plate too. The paper towels absorb the moisture. Press the yogurt setting and put the lid on, over the paper towels or dish cloth. Let it cook for 8 hours or more. The longer you let it cook, the more tart it will be. The default time on the Yogurt setting is 8 hours.

I let mine go for 9 1/2 hours. I set it before I went to bed and let it cook all night. The pot gets warm, similar to a slow cooker, and it doesn't pressurize.

When the cook time finishes, turn off the pot, let the batch cool slightly, then put a sheet of aluminum foil over the top. Place in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Don't stir the mixture if you want to keep it thick and smooth. I could stand a spoon in the mixture once it had set for about 5 hours!

If you want it Greek style, you can strain the whey through some cheesecloth or coffee filters over a bowl for really thick yogurt. My yogurt batch didn't have much whey so I put it in a container and dug in! So good!

I found a ton of great recipes on Pinterest since the instruction booklet that came with the cooker was kind of lame. Click here to see my Pinterest board!

I really want to try making cheesecake next! I'll use the Cheesecake #17 recipe as found here: Cheesecake #17

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you try making yogurt and how it turns out!

Until next time,

Monday, September 3, 2018

Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Cake

Happy Labor Day and Happy Birthday Tim!

We had lunch with Tim's Mom yesterday and we celebrated his birthday. I made him a cookies & cream ice cream cake that was the perfect size for the 5 of us. We ate half of it so it will feed 10 people.

 It turned out great and was so easy to make!

You need a 6" spring form pan, I got mine at Wal-Mart.
1 tub of cookies and cream ice cream, I used the Aldi brand that was 1.5 quarts and I had a little left over
24 Oreo cookies (again, Aldi brand)
3 tbl. butter, melted
Can of whipped cream for garnish

Set out ice cream for about 20-30 minutes so it is softer and easier to spread. Meanwhile, crush up your cookies using a food processor or put in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin, mallet, etc.
Melt the butter. Put crushed cookies and butter in a bowl and mix well. Press on the bottom and sides of pan. Scoop ice cream into pan and cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 4-6 hours.

Ta-Da! Happy Birthday Tim!
When you are ready to serve the cake, pop the cake out of the pan and decorate with whipped cream around the sides and in the center. I only put whipped cream in the center and added a cookie for fun.

I just checked-we have no less than *9* containers of ice cream in our freezer! We are keeping the ice cream makers in business over here!

Have a wonderful week and we'll catch you next time!


Sunday, September 2, 2018

Coffee Ice Cream

Hey faithful readers! Happy Labor Day weekend!

We have a big weekend planned since it is Tim's birthday tomorrow. What are we doing? Tim says "working" LOL! There is a big tax deadline looming on September 15th so we are celebrating his birthday this weekend instead of tomorrow. We celebrated last night and went out to dinner and shopping while Mom kept the Munchkins. Thanks Mom!

Tim loves ice cream-and who doesn't? I've made two great ice cream desserts and have a review of some Halo Top ice cream that Anna and I tried so it will be Ice Cream Week here on the Just Keep Talkin' blog.

First up for the over 21 crowd is no churn coffee ice cream by Nigella Lawson. RUN, do not walk, to your grocery store or sit down and order the espresso powder and make this. It is AMAZING!! I stumbled across this recipe while Google-ing "what do I do with leftover sweetened condensed milk". The recipe calls for 4 ingredients and surprisingly, I had all 4 on hand! That never happens. I made up a batch yesterday and it is like heaven on a spoon.

You need:

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
2 tbl. espresso powder
2 tbl. Kahlua or Kapali coffee liqueur

About the espresso powder-this is very finely ground (more fine than instant espresso coffee) espresso used in baking. Instant espresso coffee would be a little gritty. I got mine, as seen on the left, on a super sale from Williams Sonoma this spring. Through Labor Day, they are offering 20% off and free shipping. King Arthur Flour offers the espresso powder too. 'Round here, you might try Publix or Harris-Teeter, or a fancy-schmancy grocery store like Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, etc. I doubt the local Wal-Mart would have it.

So to make the ice cream, pour the sweetened condensed milk in a bowl and add the heavy whipping cream. Whisk or use an electric mixer to blend. Add the espresso powder and liqueur and mix. Pour into a container and freeze. The alcohol keeps it from freezing into a solid brick you can't scoop into, plus the alcohol taste is slight. The ice cream has a really creamy and smooth texture.

Excuse the janky photo but here is
what the finished product looks like!

I found variations on Nigella's website here and will be making some of these soon. The banana/coffee/coconut sounds interesting, I may try that version next.

Stay tuned for a cookies and cream ice cream cake recipe, made in a 6" springform pan. It's freezing as we speak, I hope to serve it at lunch today as Tim's birthday cake.

Have a great weekend!
Until next time,

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Life Lately + Cheesecake!

Well hey there strangers, how's it going? Here is what has been going on in our life since Thanksgiving.

Christmas was great, we had a wonderful time with our families, and the days we had off from work/school were enough to recharge us and hit the ground running in 2018!

We had a bump in the road over Christmas break, Camden had 2 episodes of seizures out of the blue. After tests were run, he doesn't have any underlying medical conditions and his medicine seems to be helping. So thank you Lord for answered prayers and let's hope no more seizures happen.

(Not a paid advertisement) Camden also has psoriasis, mostly on his scalp and back, but it was starting to spread to his face. My niece Olivia recommended African black soap. We have tried so many creams, ointments, lotions, and steroid medicines over the years that didn't really work and we were about at our wit's end in trying to battle this. I found the soap at Wal-Mart last week and it has really helped! Best $3.46 I ever spent! So if you are in Wal-Mart, it is not stocked with the regular soap (of course not, nothing is ever where you would think it would be in our Wal-Mart) but in the cosmetics and skin care section, near the Burt's Bees products. Thanks for the rec Olivia!

Anna turned 16 in January and though she doesn't have her license yet (we aren't looking forward to the giant hike in insurance premiums and she needs more practice with 3 point turns), she will get it soon. Even though I will be a nervous wreck, it will be nice to have someone else run to the store to grab some milk or she can drive herself to/from school and tennis and I'll be off Mom-Uber duties.

I can't believe it's already time to start registering for 11th grade classes for next year! We went to a meeting last week about taking college classes in high school for college credit (for free! I'm all about free) and Anna will be taking advantage of that. It takes some planning to see if the classes offered will transfer to the college you want to go to and also do you need the class for your intended major. Anna wants to be a dietician and the only math she needs for that course of study in college is statistics. Statistics isn't offered through this community college program for high school students, pre-calculus algebra is. So if she took pre-calc algebra, it would count as a math elective in college and she would still have to take statistics! Anna wants to take as few math classes as possible so she'll stick with AP statistics class in high school and hope she passes the AP test and won't have to take math in college. She enjoys planning for the future, she's the polar opposite of a procrastinator, which is good. I'm surprised she doesn't have a white board in her room with her 10-year plan on it.

Next up: for Valentine's Day, I made a simple cheesecake, not one that needed to be put in a fiddly water bath or that called for a lot of esoteric ingredients. I have a 9" spring form pan but I didn't want to be eating cheesecake for 2 weeks. I bought a 6" springform pan from and I really like it! It's the perfect size for small desserts, next I'm going to make an ice cream cake.

Since I needed a recipe using a 6" pan, a-Google-ing I went and I found a recipe on Urban Only 7 ingredients (I threw in some chocolate chips) and it was easy! I didn't have to reduce down a 9" pan recipe and this one turned out perfect and so, SO good! Here's a photo, I'm not a food photographer and I don't use Photoshop to make my photos look better so this unfiltered photo is the real deal:

That about sums it all up!
Have a wonderful weekend everybody, enjoy this nice weather while it lasts.
Until next time,

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thanksgiving Decor by Melissa and Sandy

Happy Thanksgiving readers! How's it going?

We are on the countdown to Thanksgiving, the kids are out of school for the week and I'm working tomorrow then it is eating/shopping/resting before we dive into Christmas!

I usually don't decorate too much for Fall but I got a wild hair and decided to step it up this year. Mom always decorates for fall-her fall decor is on point, unlike my feeble attempt to decorate!

So before all this comes down this weekend and Christmas goes up, here is my decor:

I discovered a photo collage maker,, and it's really cool. I'm still learning (obviously) but I thought it showcased my photos well. Clockwise from left to right: one side of my mantle, the other side of my mantel, my fall flag, and a fake pumpkin and mum. I bought real pumpkins too and set those by the front door. I didn't carve them, I left them au naturel.

Here is Mom's decor:

Clockwise from left to right: Her front table by the picture window, the kitchen window, the front door, the dining room table, and a floral arrangement in the den. Just beautiful!

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember we have so, so much to be thankful for! A roof over our heads, a pantry/fridge full of food, and family and friends who love us.

Until next time!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Caramel Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Hey Readers! Happy Saturday!

As promised, here is the recipe and recap of my latest adventures in baking, a caramel brown sugar pound cake.

A friend of ours made this and brought us a few pieces. It was SO GOOD and I asked her for the recipe. Thanks Jennifer! This cake was the bomb!

Caramel Brown Sugar Pound Cake
2 sticks margarine
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
1 (1 lb.) box light brown sugar
1 c. sugar
5 large eggs
3 c. plain flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts
1 tsp. butternut flavoring (optional, this was hard to find so I skipped it)

Preheat over to 325. Cream margarine and shortening with sugar until light; add eggs one at a time. Sift dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt), add alternately to batter with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Add vanilla and nuts. Spoon into a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan (not Bundt/fluted pan, it won't hold all the batter). Bake at 325 for about 1 1/2 hours. Cool. Remove from pan and cover with caramel icing.

1 1/2 c. light brown sugar (I used a little less)
1/2 c. margarine
1 1/2 c. confectioners sugar (I used a little less)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. milk

Combine brown sugar, margarine and salt in saucepan. Bring to a boil, add milk and boil slowly for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Add confectioners sugar and beat until thick enough to spread.

I made one batch of icing and it slid off the sides (what?) of the cake. So thanks to Google, I found out I had too much sugar in the icing. I patched the icing I had on the top of the cake then I made another batch, but I halved it and backed off a little on the sugars. It was perfect, the icing stayed on the sides this time.

We ate the cake and immediately went into a diabetic coma (just kidding, it is really sweet though). It was amazingly good. I took it to work and not a crumb was left.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Next post: fall decorating.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

What's Lidl Like?

Hey Readers! Happy weekend!

Lidl in Gastonia/Grand Opening Day photo cred: Gaston Gazette
Whenever something new comes to town or close by, we have to check it out! A new Lidl (rhymes with needle) grocery store opened up ten days ago in Gastonia and one in Shelby. Tim and I decided to check out the Gastonia location last weekend and then we went back again yesterday for a Date Night destination. For the curious, here's my impressions about Lidl and these are my opinions only, I wasn't compensated by Lidl.

So Lidl is a large discount grocery store with the prices about the same as Aldi. They have the weekly specials or "new surprises" including a larger selection of clothing. I noticed Heidi Klum's Esmara brand of clothing there. They also run Super Deals which are deeply discounted prices and Fresh 5 which is discounted produce and meat, with some discounts running for 4 days, and some for 3 days.

The biggest draw for us was the bakery! Oh my goodness, the pastries! The bread! The vegetable quiches for .99! We got a box of pastries last week and here's what we got this week, clockwise from top left:

Hazelnut filled croissant, .99 each; cinnamon pinwheels, .59 each; white chocolate macadamia cookies, .59 each; maple pecan braided pastry (this is SO GOOD), .99 each. Not pictured-pretzel rolls, .59 each; Vanilla & chocolate twist pastry, .99 each; apple turnover, .99 each. The bakery selection is about 1/2 pastry, and 1/2 bread. We haven't tried the loaf breads yet but it all looked good. I was eyeing the olive ciabatta bread which also comes in jalapeno.

I grabbed a box of decaf k-cups last week, those were $4.29 for a box of 12. I'm drinking a cup now after eating 1/2 a maple pecan pastry, and it's really good and strong. They had a good selection of k-cups, most under $4.00. I'm going to try the donut shop blend next. As a special next week, they will have a box of 36 fall flavored k-cups for $9.99. Flavors are pumpkin spice, apple crumb donut, cinnamon roll, and pecan pie flavors. I'm not a fan of pumpkin spice or apple, I'm a peppermint kind of gal so I'm going to hold out for a holiday flavored box.

The big door buster specials we were wanting to buy were mostly out of stock. Mom sent me with a list to get block cheese for .72, pizza for .99, sweet potatoes for $1.49, and 100 oz. of laundry detergent for $2.64. The only item that was in stock was the sweet potatoes. I noticed there were empty shelves for the door buster specials, including raisin bran for .84 and a sewing supplies box for .99.  I'm thinking it's supplier growing pains since Lidl just came to NC and everybody wants to get in on the discount grocery action. The specials start on Thursday and run through Wednesday, so I suggest going on Thursday. Hopefully the supplier issues will resolve. They did have lots of items in stock aside from the big specials, and the produce looked really fresh.

So I grabbed the bag of sweet potatoes and a gallon of milk for Mom (since Camden drank all her milk last night, ha!) for $2.19. I noticed yesterday Aldi dropped their price of milk to $2.17, just saying. Tim got a gallon of chocolate milk for $2.19. We picked up a dozen eggs for .36, a Lean Cuisine Marketplace meal for $2.50 and I pay close to $3.30 for the same thing at Bi Lo. Tortilla chips for .95, avocados for .49 each. We got a bottle of Moscato wine last weekend for $3.99, I believe. It was good, I would definitely buy it again. Picked up another bottle of sweet red wine for $4.99, we haven't tried that yet. Tim bought a big package of St. Louis style ribs last weekend and he seasoned them and we had those for lunch last Sunday. They were GREAT! I wish I could find our receipt from last weekend but it was good deals.

The store was really clean, despite the throngs of people coming through there. Lots of employees were around, cleaning and putting out stock. There was more than two registers open, which is a gripe of mine about Aldi. The restrooms were clean, even at 8:30 pm on a Saturday night. I thought it was kinda cold in the store, so dress accordingly if you are cold-natured.

I'm thinking Lidl will give Aldi a run for its money. This store in Gastonia is right down the street from Aldi! At Lidl, you don't have to pay for your grocery cart and they have the little carts and the regular size carts, plus the mini carts with the flags on them for kids to push/run into you with. Like Aldi, paper bags are .07 and you can buy plastic and resuable bags too. Or you can do like us and grab a cardboard box, more sturdy that way. The prices were comparable for some things but really lower on other items. Lidl offers coupons through their app, such as .50 off a bottle of barbeque sauce.

We want to check out the Shelby store soon and see how that is. Overall, it's a very nice store to be a discount grocery store with much more square footage than Aldi. If I'm ever in Gastonia or Shelby, I'd definitely make a point to drop by but maybe not take a special trip just to go, unless it was a super discount special. Click here for the write-up from the Gaston Gazette with much more information.

Y'all have a great rest of the weekend, stay dry, and I'm going to see what else I can sample from the pastry box before Anna and Camden get a hold of it :)

Until next time,