Yogurt: Plain & simple

This week, I’d like to focus on a food that many of you probably have in your refrigerator – plain yogurt. Plain yogurt is so versatile, scrumptious and great for your health that it could be included in every meal! As my mother knows well, I am a voracious consumer of plain yogurt. I eat it with almonds and berries for breakfast, as a dip with spices and veggies for a snack, and as a marinade for chicken for dinner. I find it to be a particularly satisfying food, because it contains a balanced amount of fat, protein and carbohydrates that keeps me full for longer. I do not choose flavored yogurts, because there are so many added sugars rendering the yogurt too cloyingly sweet for my taste buds and less versatile. I can use plain yogurt for both sweet and savory items, but flavored yogurt can only be sweet – imagine trying to use vanilla yogurt as a replacement for sour cream, yuck! Another great thing about yogurt is that it can be digested by many people with lactose intolerance. The bacteria in yogurt help to break down the lactose naturally found in milk so that your body doesn’t have to. It’s also a fabulous source of calcium!

Tips for choosing & using yogurt:

  • Go for plain yogurt; you can sweeten or spice it to your liking.
  • Choose yogurt with vitamins A & D.
  • Choose yogurt with some fat in it. In order to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A & D, we need to consume it with fat.
  • Choose yogurts without stabilizers, pectin or gums – the yogurt will just taste better and be a whole food.
  • Use yogurt as a replacement for sour cream.
  • Use yogurt as a base for sauces, dips, soups and dressings.

As per usual, Martha Shulman has come up with a great list of recipes that use plain yogurt. This recipe, also by Martha Shulman, sounds fantastic and includes another superfood, quinoa!

We got the beets!

BEETS, SPICED QUINOA & YOGURT
Ingredients:
•2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
•2 allspice berries, ground (about 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground allspice)
•1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
•1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds
•3 cloves, ground (1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cloves)
•1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander seeds
•3 cups cooked quinoa (either red or regular; 3/4 cup uncooked)
•Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
•5 to 6 roasted beets, yellow, red or a combination; peeled and sliced
•1 cup drained yogurt
•2 garlic cloves
•1/4 cup chopped walnuts
 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 2-quart baking dish or gratin. In a medium saucepan or a large, heavy skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil, and add the spices. When they begin to sizzle, add the cooked quinoa. Stir together for one minute, and remove from the heat. Taste and adjust salt. Transfer to the baking dish, and spread in an even layer.
2. Arrange the sliced beets over the quinoa. Drizzle on the remaining olive oil, cover and place in the oven for 20 minutes or until hot. Meanwhile, place the garlic in a mortar and pestle with a generous pinch of salt, and mash to a paste. Whisk or stir into the drained yogurt.
3. Remove the quinoa and beets from the oven, and top with dollops of yogurt. Sprinkle with the walnuts and serve.
 
•Yield: Serves four to six.
•Advance preparation: The cooked quinoa and the roasted beets will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator. You can assemble the casserole without the yogurt up to a day in advance. Cover tightly and refrigerate.
 
Nutritional information per serving (four servings):
•370 calories
•15 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat)
•2 milligrams cholesterol
•48 grams carbohydrates
•8 grams dietary fiber
•134 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste)
•14 grams protein
 
Nutritional information per serving (six servings):
•247 calories
•10 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat)
•1 milligram cholesterol
•32 grams carbohydrates
•5 grams dietary fiber
•89 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste)
•9 grams protein
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