Yogurt holds a special place at the breakfast table and even finds its way into the lunch box. By dinnertime, this fast and easy staple is usually consigned to the refrigerator.
Time to change it up.
Yogurt is produced by fermentation of milk (mostly cow’s milk but also from goat, ewe, camel and water buffalo.) Soy, rice and nut milks are also fermented into yogurt-like alternatives for those requiring or preferring plant-based foods. Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus bacteria ferment lactose and produce lactic acid giving yogurt a creamy texture and tart flavor. Other lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are sometimes added during or after culturing yogurt. Codex Alimentarius and most other national regulatory agencies have established a minimum level of 1 × 107 colony-forming units (CFU)/g of yogurt starter microorganisms.
Yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse, providing ample protein, calcium and probiotics. It also supplies B vitamins and depending on the fat content, may also provide fat-soluble vitamins including D (calciferol), A (retinol), and E (tocopherols and tocotrienols.) As an added benefit, many people who are lactose intolerant will find that the presence of bacteria in yogurt produces lactase activity in the intestine. In addition, yogurt takes longer to pass through the digestive tract than milk, thus allowing a more effective breakdown of lactose.
Yogurt is an excellent substitute for heavy creams, whole milk and sour cream, all brimming with saturated fat and cholesterol. Low-fat yogurts—Greek or regular — add texture and tang to many recipes.
Yogurt ideas for dinner
- Creamed soups such as spinach, broccoli or tomato
- Cauliflower curry or sweet potato curry
- Garlic yogurt salad dressing
- Saffron yogurt chicken kebabs
Of course, you will have to experiment but many of your own favorite recipes can be adapted to more healthful options.
But don’t stop there. Dessert could also use some enhancements, starting with its purpose.
Dessert should be sweet, a complement to savory main dishes, but who decided it must be heavy and sleep inducing? Low-fat yogurt paired with a bit of creativity can be every bit as delicious as cholesterol and fat laden cakes and pies. Your family and friends will be impressed and perhaps relieved that their daily calorie quota wasn’t shattered with your double fudge cake.
One idea that never fails to delight in its presentation and is perfect for creamy yogurt is a parfait or wine glass layered with fruit puree.
Apple butter parfait
- 3 cups regular yogurt or non-fat Greek yogurt, drained
- 1/3 cup brown sugar or honey
- 1 cup apple butter (no butter involved!)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 4 Tbsps. chopped pecans
Mix yogurt with sugar or honey. Stir cinnamon into the apple butter. Assemble in four wine or parfait glasses: First put in the sweetened yogurt. Sprinkle each with pecans then apple butter and then repeat, dividing evenly.
Refrigerate for 4 hours.
The above recipe is moderate in calories and may be robust with probiotics, protein, and calcium.
Other ideas for yogurt desserts
- Layer seasonal fruit with cubes of angel food cake and plain Greek yogurt sweetened with honey.
- Mix Greek yogurt with a few tablespoons of cream cheese and vanilla and spoon over thin crepes. Top with fresh berries such as blueberries, raspberries or strawberries.
- Mix yogurt with honey and alternate layers with lemon curd. Serve with a shortbread cookie.
The combinations are endless: think yogurt, sweet fruit and crunchy nuts as your template.
The best part of using yogurt as a base ingredient is the banishment of guilt. Obviously, these desserts are not all low calorie but they do offer some nutritional value, which many rich sweets do not.
Dessert is a great way to finish a meal. These yogurt recipes may help ensure your meal won’t finish you.