Homemade Yogurt

For the last few years I’ve been making my own yogurt.  It’s really easy to do, it is way cheaper than buying yogurt (1L of yogurt for the cost of a litre of milk), and it tastes amazing.  I eat it for breakfast most mornings, but I also use it to make yogurt cheese, dips, and as an ingredient in many recipes like this, this, this and this.  I also eat a lot of yogurt as a source of calcium, because as a person who is lactose intolerant I am always trying to include calcium rich foods in my diet.  The culturing process eats up most of the lactose, so it doesn’t hurt me.

The brand of my yogurt maker is Deni, and I like it because it’s the perfect size for a quart canning jar.  I just took out the little jars and insert that came with the machine, and make it in the big jar – fewer jars to wash up!

What you need:

1 litre milk, I use whole or homo, from Avalon Dairy

1/4 cup plain yogurt or yogurt starter

What you do:

1.  Heat the milk in a pot, stirring to avoid scorching.  Heat until just before it boils (110F if you want to be exact).

2.  Let the milk cool to room temperature.

3.  Mix a little of the cooled milk into the yogurt, then add a little more milk, stir it in, then mix all the rest together.

4.  Put the milk into a clean jar and screw the lid on tight.  Place it in the yogurt maker.  This keeps it a constant temperature.  I like to keep it in for 8 hours, but you can keep it in up to 12 hours.  It will taste more tangy the longer you keep it in

5.  Refrigerate the yogurt to stop the process. You can eat it a few hours later. I like to just cut up some fruit and put it in a bowl with the yogurt – a delicious and healthy breakfast or snack!

Beef Quesadilla

A great comfort food – I love fried onions and steak together, add the salsa and yogurt and it’s a dream come true!  This one is great to make if you’ve got some left over  steak from your barbecue the night before.  Another amazing addition is some slices of avocado – that puts it over the top!

I don’t eat cheese very often, so when I do but it I grate the unused part and keep it in the freezer.  Same goes for the tortilla, just pop them in the freezer to use later, maybe even in a tortilla pizza.

What you need:

1/2 onion, sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

1 beef steak

cheddar or another favourite cheese, grated

salt

olive oil

yogurt or sour cream

salsa

tortilla shells

What you do:

1.  Take the steak out of the fridge so it isn’t completely cold when you cook it.  Rub a little olive oil on each side, then liberally salt each side, then set aside.

2.  Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan.  Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the sliced red peppers and continue to cook until the onions are quite browned.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

3.  Heat the pan to medium high.  When it’s good and hot, place the steak on the pan.  Cook it for just a few minutes, depending on the thickness of the steak and your preference.  I love mine quite rare, so I don’t leave it for long, plus it continues to cook while it rests out of the pan before cutting.  Use tongs to flip the steak and cook the other side for about 2 minutes.  Remove from the pan to rest for at least 5 minutes.  Slice very thinly.

4.  Clean your pan out and place a tortilla in it, on medium-low heat.  Sprinkle a little cheese on one half, then add some onion and pepper and some slices of steak.  Add a little more cheese, then pull the other half of the tortilla over the fillings.  I like to put the cheese on the top and the bottom because I think that when it melts it helps hold all the fillings in.  Plus people love cheese, so often a little more is better.

5.  Let the quesadilla cook until that side it slightly brown and crispy, then flip it over and do the same to the other side.

6.  Serve with some salsa and yogurt or sour cream on the side.

Thanks for the great photo, Megan!

Yogurt Cheese

Yogurt cheese is a great versatile spread, and it’s really easy to make.  I usually use it as a spread for crackers or bread, as in the recipe below, and it can also be used as a substitute for cream cheese or sour cream in a lot of other recipes.  I’ve never tried baking with it though – I’m not sure how it would react when heated.  As a person who is lactose-intolerant but can eat yogurt, this recipe has been a god-send!

I like to sprinkle sumac on my yogurt cheese.  I’ve never seen it in my local grocery store, but I found it at a Lebanese shop.  It’s got a bit of a tartness to it that goes perfectly with yogurt, and it’s got a great deep red colour.

What you need:

plain yogurt, must not be no- or low-fat or thickened with corn starch!

salt

ground sumac

cheesecloth

sieve

bowl

What you do:

1. Line a sieve with cheesecloth, and place it in a bowl.  Pour the yogurt into it, then tie up the cloth and place in the fridge.  About half the liquid will drain out, so use about twice as much yogurt as you would like to have at the end.

2.  Leave several hours, up to a day or two – I usually leave it draining for just less than a day.  You may need to pour off some of the liquid that collects in the bowl.

3.  Place yogurt cheese in a bowl and top with sumac and salt. Of course you can also substitute any of your favourite herbs – I’ve used garlic salt before, and a bit of oregano.

4.  Serve with naan, flatbread, crackers or any bready substance of your choice.  It can also be used as a vegetable dip.

I make my own yogurt – it’s easy to do, and really cheap… stay tuned for that posting.

Black Bean and Corn Soup

This is my new favourite soup recipe –  hot sauce makes it a little spicy, corn adds a little sweetness, and a there’s a ton of flavour in here.  Some of the soup is pureed, but there’s lots of colour from the remaining vegetables.  Topped off with a little yogurt, it tastes decadent.

What you need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 red pepper, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

1 – 398 mL can of diced tomatoes

5 cups black beans, cooked (about 1 & 1/2 cups dry)

6 cups vegetable broth

2 – 341 mL cans of corn

salt and pepper

hot sauce

plain yogurt

1 lime

What you do:

1. If you are cooking your own beans, place them in a pot of boiling water, bring back to a boil and cook for a few minutes.  Turn heat off and soak for about two hours.  I like to drain in the middle of the soaking time and bring back to a boil – this helps ward of the gas causing properties beans can have.  The last step is to rinse, then bring the beans back to a boil, then lower the heat and cook until soft.  This shouldn’t take too long.

2.  Heat the olive oil and add the onions, garlic, peppers and carrots.  Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.

3.  Add the oregano, cumin, beans, tomatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about half an hour.

4.  Puree about a third of the soup.  I just put my immersion blender in and blended until I thought it looked good.

5.  Add the corn, along with its juice, and cook just long enough to heat through.

6.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

7.  Top with a big dollop of yogurt and some hot sauce.  Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze on top.

Palak “Paneer” aka silken tofu

I’ve had this recipe in draft mode for months because I can’t seem to get a picture that makes it look as appealing as it truly is.  So now I’m going to be okay with the photo, and just let you know that it’s so good – it’s vegan comfort food.

Paneer is a fresh cheese you can make at home with milk and lemon – the silken tofu does a great job of representing the creamy, almost melty texture of paneer.  Tofu will also satisfy your umami cravings – umami is known as the fifth or savoury taste, which is often satisfied by meat.  Tofu also contains the compounds that the taste buds register to satisfy the savoury cravings.  Maybe that’s why this one seems like comfort food to me.

You need:

2 red onions

1 garlic clove

3 small green chillies

2 cm piece of ginger, grated

5 tablespoons vegetable oil (butter if you eat dairy)

500g/2 bunches spinach

1 teaspoon cornstarch or tapioca starch

1 block soft silken tofu (the “paneer”)

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 or more cups plain yogurt

salt to taste

What you do:

1.  This is great served on Brown Basmati Coconut Rice, so you’ll want to start that first.  White rice won’t take as long, so if you’re using that you don’t need to start it yet.

2.  Put onions, garlic, chillies and ginger in food processor or blender.  Process until smooth.  You may need to add a little water.

3.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil/butter in a large frying pan, then cook the spices on medium heat until fragrant.  Add the other 3 tablespoons of oil/butter and the onion paste,  cooking for about 10 minutes.

4.  Cook the spinach until wilted and add to the food processor along with the cornstarch and puree it.  Add the spinach, along with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, to the paste. Bring it to a boil and cook for about two minutes.  At this time have a taste and see if it needs more salt; it probably will.

6.  Cut the tofu into squares and add it to the pan to heat it.  Once it is hot, stir in the yogurt carefully so the tofu doesn’t break too much, and serve right away.

I enjoy this one for leftovers too!

You can substitute the spinach with swiss chard if you like.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Yogurt Dill Sauce

A branch, heavy with green tomatoes, fell off my plant the other day.  I took it as a sign that I was to make fried green tomatoes.  Now that I’ve tried them, I want to go pick some more tomatoes before they ripen so I can make some more.

What you need:

a few green tomatoes

1/4 cup fine bread crumbs

salt

pepper

egg

olive oil

For the sauce:

plain yogurt

fresh dill

What you do:

1.  Slice tomatoes about 1 & 1/2 to 2 cm wide.

2.  Crack the egg into a medium-sized bowl and mix with a fork.  In another bowl, place the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.

3.  Coat each tomato slice in egg, then breadcrumbs.  You’ll need to turn them over a few times, and press the breadcrumbs down a little to get a thicker coating on.

4.  Heat a frying pan to medium, then add a little olive oil.  When it’s hot, add the tomatoes.  Cook them for a few minutes on each side.

5.  While they are frying, mix up the yogurt and a little dill in a small bowl. I prefer yogurt that isn’t low-fat; the flavour is better, and I don’t feel the need to add sugar.

Enjoy them hot with a little sauce on the side.

Oven-Baked Coconut Chicken Fingers

This easy recipe is delicious as an appetizer with dipping sauces, or as part of a meal.  You can also use whole chicken breasts, pounding them before coating.

What you need:

2 chicken breasts

1 egg

1 Tablespoon buttermilk or plain yogurt

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

What you do:

1.  In a small bowl beat egg slightly with a fork, then mix in buttermilk or yogurt.

2.  In another bowl combine bread crumbs, coconut, salt and pepper.

3.  Cut chicken into strips.

4.  Coat chicken in egg mixture, then cover with bread crumbs.  Place chicken on a baking sheet as you take it out of the bread crumb mixture.

5.  Repeat step 4, this time just lightly dipping in egg mixture, then making sure it is coated in the bread crumb mixture.  Place chicken on a baking sheet, with some space between each piece.

6.  Bake at 350F of 15 minutes, then turn each piece over once and bake for 5 more minutes.  They should be slightly browned.

7.  If you are using this as an appetizer, serve with sweet chilli sauce or honey mustard mayo (see recipe below).  It is great when paired with a pasta dish, such as lemon-basil pasta.

Honey Mustard Mayo:

Mix 1 tablespoon mayonnaise with 1 teaspoon dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon honey.