Morning Yogurt and Oats

Yogurt is a super versatile ingredient or dish in itself. You can dress it up, dress it down, and even make it yourself!

As you know, over the last few years I’ve been doing some serious food reading. Not about cooking per se, but about nutrition, portion control, eating habits, our food source, government regulations on food, and the way marketers try to get us to buy stuff.

Four books have had a tremendous impact in how I think about food:

It’s through the reading of these books that I’ve made slow shifts in how I shop and cook and in how my family eats. We’re not as “crunchy” as they come, but we don’t eat out of a box, either.

I cook more from scratch, and we try to avoid chemicals, artificial ingredients, processed sugars, and unfermented soy.

One of the new wrinkles in this healthier eating paradigm, has been to examine the yogurt we eat.

Yogurt for breakfast!

Yogurt has always been one of my very favorite breakfast foods. In my non-pregnant and nursing years, I haven’t really been a milk-drinker, so yogurt and cheese help me keep up on my calcium.

Years ago I was a diehard Yoplait or La Creme fan. Coupons and sales were plentiful for those items so I could keep the refrigerator stocked to the brim, buying as many as 60 cartons at a time. I thought that I was buying “health food.”

It was only later when I started to reduce our intake of processed sugars and processed foods in general that I found out how SWEET these yogurts actually were. Plus, often they had all kinds of ingredients I couldn’t pronounce.

Switching to plain yogurt

So, I made some changes. I started buying large 32-ounce cartons of plain, or sometimes vanilla, yogurt, preferably Cascade,  Mountain High, or Fage brands.

Not all my kids liked that change. But most of them have gone along with it, especially when honey or maple syrup is drizzled over the top. Occasionally I buy Trader Joe’s vanilla and blueberry cups, but not often.

Slowly but surely we’re embracing plain yogurt. It’s taken some time, but it’s great to use in baking instead of buttermilk. My resident Smoothie King uses it in his smoothies. And I eat it almost every morning for breakfast.

A few weeks ago I tried a portion of Yoplait from a hotel breakfast bar and was stunned at how sugary it tasted! I guess my taste buds have adapted.

Making yogurt at home

Earlier this year, you all suggested that I make it myself. There were SO MANY comments about our yogurt eating habits, that I decided to give it a go. I was skeptical because we like really THICK yogurt.

One night I tested two different methods:

I also read about the microwave/oven and cooler methods, but decided to go with these first two methods.

The next morning I compared the yogurts I had made. They were like Laurel and Hardy, one was thick, the other thin.

The slow cooker method was good, but thin like buttermilk. Folks suggested that I strain the yogurt to thicken it, but it was so thin it went right through the sieve. I used it in baking and churned it into frozen yogurt.

The yogurt incubated on the heating pad was thick and creamy. Since we like THICK yogurt, you can guess that I’m now a fan of the heating pad method.  It’s great with berries and Maple Vanilla Almond Granola.

Try them both out and see for yourself which you prefer. I’ve heard rave reviews about both methods. I originally tested with whole milk, but this weekend tested with nonfat and it turned out fine and thick. It’s a little on the tart side in comparison.

Updated 1/20/13 – I recently tested a new version of the Simple Bites recipe. I used 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 of powdered milk and I incubated the mixture for only 5 hours. It turned out perfect. No excessive tartness whatsoever. Love it!

Morning Yogurt and Oats

Last summer I reread The French Women series by Mireille Guiliano and was encouraged by many of the suggestions she had to offer for life, work, and good eats.

One of those habits that I’ve adapted for my own is what Ms. Guiliano calls “Magical Breakfast Cream”. I can’t vouch for its magical properties, but I know that I like it, at least how I tweaked it.

Her recipe calls for shredded wheat cereal instead of oats, flax seed oil instead of meal, and orange instead of lime, as well as the addition of ground nuts. My tweaks are thanks to what I normally stock in my pantry. (If you have very tart yogurt, you might want to omit the lime or try the orange instead.)

It’s not super-photogenic, but it’s yummy!

This variation has become my daily breakfast, replacing my regular yogurt parfait. It has less sugar and is just as filling.

Yogurt is a regular in our family’s refrigerator. This summer I’ve made it into popsicles as well as frozen it into little jewels for our Smoothie Station. We regularly use it in baking, in smoothies, to replace sour cream, and just to eat for breakfast.

I still buy the large cartons, but I’m amazed every time I open my quart jar that’s been resting on a heating pad to see that I made yogurt!

How do YOU enjoy yogurt?

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Comments

  1. I’ve been planning on making homemade yogurt for weeks now and it keeps not happening. Hopefully tonight.

  2. I’m a brand new yogurt maker; just made my third batch last night. I use a combination of stovetop plus crockpot method.

    First, I plug in my crock pot and set it to low. Then, I heat the milk to 185* on the stove. Next, I set the pot in a sink of cold water and let it come down to 112*. Then I take out a cup of the warm milk, stir in my starter and pour it all back together. I turn off the crock pot, pour all the milk mixture into it, wrap it in towels and let it culture for at least 4 hours.

    I keep my culturing time short (currently 5-6 hours) because I am training family member’s taste buds to enjoy yogurt. Longer culturing causes tangier yogurt.

    This method keeps my hands on time very short. I was absolutely astonished to find the process so easy and the flavor so delicious.

    Respectfully,

    Sally

    • @Sally,

      This is similar to what I’ve been doing based on an article Tammy’s recipes. The key to getting it thick is to put the crock of cultured yogurt in the fridge WITHOUT DISTURBING IT for at least 8 hours. The biggest challenge I have is making yogurt during the time of the week I have enough room in my fridge for the crock.

      I’ve been making yogurt on and off for ten years now. My challenge is to find a starter that produces the most consistent consistency (ha!). So far the best thing for me has been to just shell out for powdered starter. My current batch I bought from New England Cheese supply.
      http://www.cheesemaking.com/store/p/301-Yogurt-Sample-Pack-Y1-Y3-Y5.html) It’s a bit more than $1 a batch (2 quarts) but that’s still cheaper than store bought yogurt and the other ways I’ve obtained starters. The kicker is you can only make 2-3 batches per starter. I spent around $15 on 11 packets so I’m guessing that will be 20-30 batches of yogurt.

      When I use store bought yogurt I the only brand that works consistently is Danon and even then I end up having to buy a new one every month or so. That’s still using more plastic tubs than I’d like.

      Last year I tried buying a reusable culture from Cultures For Health. It worked for awhile but it has to be cultured every 7 days. I got behind, probably made an error during the next batch, and started getting runny, gummy, yogurt. Yuck.

      • Thanks for sharing all your experience. I’ve been reading lots of articles about cheesemaking and that New England Cheeese Supply site is continually referenced.

    • @Sally, that’s interesting about the tartness. I’ll try reducing my time next go round.

  3. Thanks for a terrific post. A question about the French Women series, would you mind sharing which of her books you read? There are several on Amazon. Thank you, Karen

  4. To strain thin homemade yogurt, line your sieve with a coffee filter.

  5. I use plain yogurt instead of mayo and sour cream in recipes. When I make macaroni salad I use mayo and yogurt and no one has ever known. I’ve been doing this for atleast 6 years.

  6. AllieZirkle says:

    I’m glad to hear about the two tests, the differences between their outcomes. I’m going back to oats soon. I use yogurt and eggs now, separately. :)

    Seems like oats & yogurt are a hip trend. I’m going to try some overnight fridge oats tonight.

    Allie

  7. When you replace buttermilk with yogurt, do you use the same proportions? I make a lot of buttermilk biscuits for my son who is a picky eater and would like to substitute yogurt.

    • I usually mix yogurt with some milk to make an equivalent in consistency, usually about 1 part yogurt to 3 parts milk.

  8. We’ve been making our own yogurt for a few months now. I use the cooler method from Katie at Kitchenstewardship. She does a great job explaining all the details. We make 3 quarts a week and if I use regular ole milk, that means I’m making a quart for .75 !! It kills me to buy a quart now.

  9. I was so excited when you mentioned a slow-cooker yogurt, but then was quickly bummed when you said it turned out thin and runny. I wonder if there’s a better recipe out there? I love yogurt and really want to make my own, but there always seems to be some contraption you need. A slow cooker recipe would be perfect!

    • Do you have a heating pad? I really like that method and it is super easy. On the other hand, lots of folks LOVE the slow cooker method. You could try it and then see.

  10. I eat it often for breakfast, Fage 0% mainly, with some Kashi Lean Crunch cereal and/or organic berries. I’ve been working on losing weight, and Fage has been a real lifesaver in terms of providing fat free high protein small meals. I’ve wanted to make my own, but got kind of sidetracked on cooking this summer while I was working at just eating small meals and exercising a lot more. I’ll try yours now that you’ve worked it out–we get to benefit from your trial and error, so thank you. I also sometimes use yogurt instead of mayo on sandwiches, as a substitute for sour cream in tacos and burritos or whatever else, and in smoothies. My family has yet to take to the plain yogurt even with sweetener, but I sneak it in here and there since it’s good for them–in the tacos and with fruit.

  11. GREAT ideas! I’ve just recently gotten into yogurt – mostly because I’ve started flavoring it myself instead of buying fruity or sweetened varieties.

    BTW – I LOVE your tagline “act your wage”. How cute – and true – is that? Great blog! I’m enjoying looking through your posts.

  12. I tried the the breakfast cream, and I LOVE it. I’m trying to get off some baby weight, so I also picked up “French Women Don’t Get Fat” from the library. Have you tried or adapted any other recipes from the book? I’d be curious to hear more about how you’re using this philosophy in your life with lots of busyness and children. It’s a little challenging to slow down when eating at our family dinner table. =)

    • @Ellen, I have not tried many other recipes in the books, but they inspired me to start making the things I ate when I lived in France. The biggest take-away about eating (one of them, anyway) was the idea of portion control. When we go out, I divide my plate in half. If I’m still hungry, I do that again. SHe recommends it in one of her books, and it’s proven to be a great strategy for curbing over eating.

  13. bob taylor says:

    we have been making our own yogurt for about a year now- a couple observations from our short time doing this. 1- we have had good success using a hot water bath in an insulated water cooler to keep the yogurt warm for the required processing time- just be sure you do not get the water too warm at the start. for us, the hot water bath seems a lot simpler than using a crock pot, but that is just our preference. 2- we did an experiment- bought 9 different live culture yogurts (plain flavor) from the store, and tried making our own (using powdered milk from the LDS dry pack cannery- we used powdered milk because we do not normally use milk because of past food allergies with our boys))- all processed well, but the point is that if your original yogurt starter has live cultures in it- then you are good to go and will not need to buy any more starter cultures. we settled on Chobani yogurt, but any commercially available yogurt containing live cultures can be used as a starter for making hour own at home.

    from our experiment, we settled on the greek style yogurt for flavor and texture– for those who do not know, greek style refers to how the yogurt is further processed after it comes out of the incubator- in this case, by straining to remove some of the whey- it has nothing to do with it being greek or any other nationality :)

  14. My family really loves vanilla yogurt, but I’d really like to try making my own. Can you start with a vanilla yogurt or do you have a recipe to make vanilla? Thanks!

    • I don’t think you can incubate it with the flavorings. I’ve only had experience making plain. Sorry, I’m not much help.

    • It’s been a few years since I made vanilla yogurt, so I don’t quite recall proportions. I didn’t use vanilla yogurt for the starter, as I was not sure how the sugar in that would react. After heating/cooling the milk and whisking in the starter, I then added the vanilla extract before incubating it. As far as I recall, it came out okay, but was not as sweet as the store-bought stuff so might have benefited from added sweetener after it developed. I’m thinking it was maybe a tbsp of vanilla? Really not sure since I did not have a recipe and was simply trying to wing it. I only did it once or twice before reverting to simply making plain since I learned to like it that way. :)

  15. Julie – you CAN’T start with flavored or sweetened yogurt. Your starter must be plain. However as soon as your batch is done you can add vanilla and sugar (honey, maple syrup, agave…) and you’ll have homemade vanilla yogurt. It’s a great way to offer the vanilla yogurt your family loves for less, while perhaps easing off the sugar over time.

    I’ve been happy with my crockpot yogurt: http://economistathome.com/2013/10/homemade-yogurt-another-great-use-for-a-slow-cooker/. If you have a need for whey, I think straining it to get a thicker product is great. If not, I’d recommend adding dry milk so you don’t have to throw away a quarter of your batch (in the form of whey).

    I’ve had good luck with Trader Joe’s plain organic European style yogurt as a starter, but only for the first batch. The next made from my homemade yogurt was lumpy. Not sure what that’s about but it tasted fine.

  16. Deanna Furrey says:

    When I make yogurt,I mix in powdered milk to thicken it. Then I heat it on the stove to between 180 and 185, then cool to 115 or so. then I take some out and mix in about 1/4 I think it is, of yogurt as a starter. Then, I put it in the crockpot and wrap it with two blankets, or a towel and a blanket and leave it for 12 hours. Sometimes it ends up being longer than that if I forget, am busy, or gone. I like Nancy’s yogurt and I think the other one is Mountain High. They do not have pectin or anything, just milk and Live Probiotic Cultures. Nancy’s has 5, so it’s my favorite but I believe the minimum should be 3. The yogurt is pretty thick this way and my husband loves it. I have to sweeten it to eat it, but that’s fine with me. You can add honey and fruit. We usually add our homemade jam. It’s yummy and super good for you! Take care! :)

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