Easy Yogurt Parfait

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Yogurt is a super versatile ingredient or dish in itself. This recipe for a yogurt parfait contains all kinds of extra goodies to help you start the day right.

mug of yogurt nuts and oats with spoon

 

You love yogurt. It’s a health food, isn’t it? It’s even what they call a super food. But, is it really all it’s cracked up to be, or are there some things you should take into consideration when you choose yogurt to enjoy at home?

Yogurt has long been considered a healthy food to enjoy on a regular basis. Not only is it high in protein and important nutrients, but it also can aid digestion, boost your immunities, protect against osteoporosis, and promote heart health and a healthy weight.

However, for years yogurt companies have stuffed their yogurts with sugar and additives making it a little less impressive as a healthy food. The junk they put in can detract from some of yogurt’s innate benefits.

So, how can you enjoy yogurt without all the bad stuff? 

Buy or make it plain and dress it up yourself.

Is Yogurt Parfait Healthy?

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 sources, government regulations on food, and the way marketers try to get us to buy stuff. It has been an education to be sure.

Some of the books that have had a tremendous impact in how I think about food include:

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 exclusively out of a box, either.

Slowly but surely, I’m making changes to improve my family’s diet without busting our budget. I cook more from scratch, and we try to avoid chemicals, artificial ingredients, processed sugars, and unfermented soy. I am working on making healthy eating easier over all.

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

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.

Someone holding a spoonful of yogurt and oats in a cup

 

How to switch 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.

If you or yours are slow to be won over to plain yogurt, consider one or more of the following toppings for plain yogurt:

  • maple syrup
  • honey
  • jam
  • fruit syrup
  • fresh fruit
  • granola or nuts

It may take some time, but you’ll be a convert before too long.

Uses for plain yogurt.

Plain yogurt is an incredibly versatile ingredient to keep on hand.

  • It’s great to use in baking instead of buttermilk. Just mix half yogurt and half milk as your buttermilk substitute.
  • Use it as a thickener in smoothies.
  • Mix it with whipped cream to reduce the fat and increase the protein in your favorite sweet topping.
  • Substitute it for sour cream in recipes to give an equivalent tang without all the fat.

homemade yogurt in large glass bowl and glass jar

Can you make yogurt at home?

Believe it or not, it’s incredibly easy to make yogurt at home! A few years ago I experimented with making yogurt myself. 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, the yogurt went right through the sieve. I used some in baking and churned the rest 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 a fan of the heating pad method.

Try them both out and see for yourself which you prefer. I originally tested with whole milk, but have since made homemade yogurt with nonfat milk and it turned out fine and thick, albeit a little on the tart side in comparison.

My preferred method for making homemade yogurt is to combine 1 quart milk, 1/4 cup powdered milk, 2 tablespoons yogurt with live cultures, and to incubate it for 5 hours according to the heating pad method.

red mug of yogurt oats and nuts on gingham napkin

How Long Are Parfaits Good For?

You can assemble these and keep them in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Now that’s an easy grab and go breakfast if you ask me.

So you can prep several at one time and enjoy them throughout the week!

Enjoy Yogurt and Oats for Breakfast.

As a born Francophile, I’ve loved reading The French Women series by Mireille Guiliano and have been encouraged by many of the suggestions she has 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.

I’ve made some significant changes to her recipe. 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.

This variation has become my daily breakfast, packed with protein and filling enough to get me through the morning.

Morning Yogurt and Oats
Prep Time
5 mins
Total Time
5 mins
 
Yogurt is a super versatile ingredient or dish in itself. This recipe for yogurt and oats contains all kinds of extra goodies to help you start the day right.
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: American, French
Keyword: oatmeal, oats, yogurt, yogurt and oats
Servings: 1
Author: Jessica Fisher
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats not cooked
  • 1 tablespoon chopped roasted almonds
  • 1 teaspoon flax seed meal
  • the juice and pulp of half a lime
  • 1 teaspoon honey
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, layer the ingredients in the order listed. Stir or not, depending on how you like it.

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Cup of Yogurt and Oats

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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Comments

  1. Steph says:

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

  2. Sally says:

    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

    • BethB says:

      @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.

      • Jessica says:

        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.

    • Jessica says:

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

  3. Karen says:

    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. Sally says:

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

    • Jessica says:

      @Sally, yeah, I used several layers of cheesecloth which is an equivalent and it was still too thin. Really. It was THIN.

  5. Melissa says:

    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

    • Jessica says:

      @AllieZirkle, ha! I guess they are a trend now. I started using this last summer back before it was cool. 😉

    • Jessica says:

      @AllieZirkle, and I’m not putting no chia seeds in my yogurt. Eww.

  7. Mandy says:

    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.

    • Jessica says:

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

  8. Jessica says:

    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. Rebecc says:

    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!

    • Jessica says:

      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. Stacy says:

    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. Ellen says:

    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. =)

    • Jessica says:

      @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. Julie says:

    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!

    • Jessica says:

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

    • Sandi says:

      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.

    • How can you make the sweetened variety be thick and solid in the container. I’d like to make that happen. Then my people would eat it more often.

  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! 🙂

  17. I love a good yogurt bowl! I’ve never tried lime and honey, but I can’t wait to!

  18. Katy says:

    I’ve made yogurt for years with good success using the water bath method. Now I have the Instanpot and I will never make yogurt any other way again! It’s sooo easy. I read those comments from the past and I am so thankful I don’t have to worry about failed yogurt anymore. Also, the morning oats and yogurt is delicious Btw.

  19. Amy L says:

    So, I literally just jarred up a gallon of homemade plain organic whole milk (for my skinny kids and hubby) yogurt right before sitting down to read your blog today ?
    I make mine in the Instant Pot and incubate for 24 hours so that it is lactose free. I totally agree with the healthier plain option. Flavored yogurts sometimes have as much sugar as a donut does ?
    I usually serve it with granola on top, but I’m excited to try this recipe instead! Thank you!

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