Thursday, April 26, 2018
Cooking

From the food editor: I love Greek yogurt, and you can too

There are a few things I eat on a near-daily basis that make some people want to gag. You probably have things like that, too: Pickles (yum). The increasingly popular kimchi. Something more innocuous, perhaps, like mayonnaise.

Food judgment is real, especially if you're someone who likes to eat semihealthy on a regular basis. Let's just say I've never had anyone pressure me into eating a handful of spinach, or, inversely, chide my order of french fries. And I've adjusted to the fact that some of my favorite snacks seem to be foods that elicit strong opinions.

One of them is bananas. People have thoughts about bananas, particularly the idea of consuming them in enclosed spaces (the smell?) and eating anything other than a perfectly ripe, yellow-peeled one. (One bruise does not a ruined banana make.) But bananas are probably doing okay for themselves. If you can't appreciate the perfect compactness and nutrition of the potassium-laden fruit the way other primates do, that's on you.

But the other snack I love needs someone in its corner: plain Greek yogurt, a healthy food that has exploded in popularity in the past decade.

As one of my friends, one who likes flavored yogurt but cannot handle it plain, said: "It seems like yogurt is the food equivalent to the word 'moist.' "

Divisive. Easily dismissed.

It doesn't have to be this way. I, too, used to despise any yogurt that was not heavily altered with sugar and pectin. But slowly, I learned to love it. Now, I get cranky if I go a week without it. It shows up in nearly everything I cook that calls for a creamy element. I am actually eating some right now as a midmorning snack.

Here's a strategic three-step process to deploy if you would also like to cultivate a yearning for yogurt.

 

Start slow and work your way up

 

Do not just go out and buy some plain Greek yogurt and shovel it into your mouth. You will hate it. Start by making it resemble the kind of yogurt you already eat. First, place some plain yogurt in a bowl and sprinkle up to a tablespoon of brown sugar on top. This will take away some of the tartness right off the bat. Now, if you love strawberry-flavored yogurt, cut up some fresh strawberries, add them to the bowl, mix it up and let the whole thing sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes. The fruit juices will release and help add their natural flavor to the yogurt.

If it's the sensation of plain yogurt without any texture that bothers you, I get it. Things can get gloopy real fast. Consider adding a handful of any of the following to your bowl, with or without the brown sugar/fruit: slivered almonds, chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted oats and chia seeds. Or try the bowl listed below, and see if you still miss your container of Dannon.

 

Think about how good it is for you while you eat it

 

One of the main reasons to become a plain Greek yogurt lover is that it's just really good for you. It contains a lot of protein — a 5.3-ounce serving generally contains about 15 grams, or 30 percent of the recommended daily intake — a nutrient we often forget about with emphasis on low-calorie, low-fat healthy foods. Protein is a crucial component to everything from weight loss to recovery to hair and nail growth.

Plain Greek yogurt is also available in a variety of fat levels, from totally nonfat to low fat to full fat, the latter being the best to use in more savory preparations. For snacking, nonfat or low fat is the way to go, a cup of nonfat plain Greek yogurt containing just 100 calories.

 

Use it in your cooking

 

I have not kept sour cream in my fridge in many years. This is because, in all instances, I use Greek yogurt as a substitute. The taste and texture are nearly identical when mixed into something like a baked good, but I also put it to good use atop tacos. Buying full-fat Greek yogurt is best if you want a more creamy flavor. You can try seasoning it with salt, pepper and other spices if it still falls flat to you.

Another savory application? Dips. I've mixed plain Greek yogurt with the following for a light yet addicting condiment: ketchup or salsa (fried food dipper), whole grain mustard (great for pizza crust), cilantro (taco topper) — and honey and cinnamon, a refreshing glaze for sliced fruit. May I suggest a banana?

Comments
Seared tuna salad is quite a catch

Seared tuna salad is quite a catch

A satisfying salad of tuna and beans is a Mediterranean favorite, often served as a meal in warm weather. In my favorite version, the main ingredients ó rich tuna and creamy beans ó are accented with red wine vinegar, tomato and onion, finished with ...
Published: 04/25/18
Drunk in love with banana bread

Drunk in love with banana bread

I have a thing about bananas. They have to be perfectly yellow, with a light hint of green. And they absolutely cannot have a spot of brown on them. At all. Brown bananas make me gag. My window of tasty opportunity is small, so I love to bake with ov...
Published: 04/24/18
Cooking Challenge: Making a stovetop steak for the first time

Cooking Challenge: Making a stovetop steak for the first time

Raw meat terrifies me. Growing up, I was the kid who avoided cookie dough because it could give me salmonella poisoning. Just imagine how I feel about a slab of bloody steak. So for my latest cooking challenge, Iím diving into the deep end and making...
Published: 04/24/18
Taste test: vanilla wafers

Taste test: vanilla wafers

When it comes to cookies, our judges are all in. When it comes to vanilla wafers, most of them admitted to reaching for the familiar Nilla Wafers in the bright yellow box. Surprisingly, they liked the well-known brand least of the seven wafers sample...
Published: 04/23/18
A taste test for drinking water? They can be surprisingly different

A taste test for drinking water? They can be surprisingly different

BROOKSVILLEThey brought it in glass carboys, in jars, in 2-liter bottles. It stacked up at the entrance to the auditorium, some of it just slightly murky but most of it crystal clear.Water. For more than 15 years the members of Region IV Florida Sect...
Published: 04/18/18
Five ideas for travel-friendly snacks

Five ideas for travel-friendly snacks

Whenever I fly, I pay way too much for food. Iíve stumbled jet-lagged into fancy wine booths and nearly bankrupted myself with cheese plates. Iíve purchased granola bars that cost more than my plane ticket (okay, maybe it just felt that way). If youí...
Published: 04/18/18
Enjoy a slice of sunshine with Tangerine, Ginger and Chocolate Tart

Enjoy a slice of sunshine with Tangerine, Ginger and Chocolate Tart

There are chocolate people, and there are vanilla people. I am a lemon person.Show me a dessert menu, and Iíll choose whatever is flavored with puckery lemon or any of her citrus sisters ó lime, tangerine, kumquat, yuzu. Even as a kid, I went for lem...
Published: 04/17/18
Recipe for 30-Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs

Recipe for 30-Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs

As the name suggests, 30-Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs is no substitute for the kind of meatballs simmered for hours in your nonnaís Sunday gravy. Strangely enough, the recipe doesnít even include oregano or basil or a dry Chianti. And yet I think t...
Published: 04/17/18
Re-create that fancy spa water at home

Re-create that fancy spa water at home

It was lunchtime in the middle of the workday, so although I sat at the bar at downtown St. Petersburgís Asie Pan-Asian, I opted for a water. The bartender poured a glass and I took an unknowing sip.Cucumber. It was definitely cucumber. Iím not the b...
Published: 04/17/18
Taste test: citrus-flavored sparkling water

Taste test: citrus-flavored sparkling water

Many years ago, I took a trip to Rome and learned enough Italian to find directions and order dinner from menus. I learned very quickly that if I didnít make it clear, I would get sparkling water rather than still water at every restaurant. My husban...
Published: 04/16/18