Posted by: thehungryrunner | April 12, 2010

Greek Yogurt in This, Greek Yogurt in That….6 Yummy Suggestions

I don’t remember specifically what or who brought me to buying my first container of Greek yogurt about five years ago, but I sure do remember the instant delight I felt upon experiencing its unique texture, which HOORAY! is thick!  I have always preferred thick yogurt and lamented the day when my favorite health-food-store brand, which up until then had come the closest in approximating that thick, custard-like consistency that I relish, “sold out” and changed container shapes from wide and deep to the more common taller/thinner cups.  I swear with that change came an entirely different product.  Bleh.

I also humorously recall an interaction with a friend that served as a reminder that not everyone is enchanted by super-dense yogurt.  The friend had made a batch of homemade yogurt.  What could be better?  But as she spooned up bowls for each of us — to my joy it appeared on the thick side — she made a face and apologized for the consistency.  “Here, not to worry,” she then said, stirring the yogurt in my bowl rapidly until it turned into a mixture just slightly more viscid than the milk it had been made from.  She then did the same thing for hers.  The horror!

But I digress.  This Greek yogurt truly struck me as manna from heaven, and I’ve been an ardent fan ever since — part of why I was inspired to experiment with straining my own yogurt (read the adventure here).

Now truth be told, this kind of deliciousness need no doctoring in order to partake of its splendor — and the majority of the time, that’s just how I enjoy it:  cup of Greek yogurt + spoon + mouth.  Maybe a drizzle of honey or sprinkling of sweetener tossed in for good measure.  But its thick texture and tangy goodness gives  it a unique versatility in recipes; I have thus found numerous ways to use it to liven up various dishes, often lightening up the calories while improving the nutrient profile (home run!).  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Thick Fruit Smoothie, no ice or frozen ingredient needed:  It never fails that the times I’m suddenly craving a fruit smoothie….are those times when my loving husband has just tapped the last of the ice cubes for his tall glass of water, we only have fresh bananas (I try — but alas don’t always succeed — in wrapping and freezing at least a few bananas at a time), and we’re out of any bags of frozen fruit.  And since my attitude about smoothies is, if it can’t be eaten with a spoon, it isn’t a smoothie, this can be a problem.  But not if there’s a container of even nonfat Greek yogurt available!  My absolute favorite is a container of plain Greek yogurt, a banana, a drizzle of honey, and (optional) a spoonful of peanut or sunflower butter.  I have actually had to add a little skim milk or orange juice, it’s that thick!  Another great combination:  plain Greek yogurt (in this case, I prefer the low-fat as opposed to the fat-free) with either no-sugar-added applesauce (the flavored kind — my choice du jour is the blueberry or pomegranate flavor) OR fruit-juice-pack crushed pineapple, a small sprinkling of cinnamon and (optional) a handful of chopped almonds for crunch.  So simple and yet so good! 
  • Quick Baked Potato Topping:  Combine an equal amount of Greek yogurt (nonfat or low-fat, take your pick) and low-fat cottage cheese.  Add some freshly ground black pepper.  This alone is terrific on top of a baked potato, but I also sometimes add either a teaspoon of Dijon mustard or a tablespoon or two of chopped green onion or both.
  • With Granola or Other Dense Cereal:  I make it no secret that granola is normally NOT a food I can limit myself to eating just the “serving size” suggested on the box.  A half a cup?  Have you actually measured out how small a half a cup of granola really is?  Not happening for me.  EXCEPT, as it turns out, when I enjoy said half cup either on top of cottage cheese or in yogurt.  There’s something about the thickness and tang that each of these foods bring that slows me down and allows me to fully enjoy the crunch and all the flavors, and to actually feel full and satisfied with even just a small serving — a miracle!  And if that yogurt happens to be Greek yogurt, all the better!
  • As a Healthy Topping for High-Protein Pancakes:  I make this distinction because…..I have a special place in my heart (and stomach) for “real” pancakes — you know what I mean, the kind they serve at McDonald’s and the kind you get from a package of Bisquick mix.  And as far as I’m concerned, if that’s what you’re eating, you may as well have the butter and “full octane” maple syrup and enjoy the treat in all its sticky, buttery splendor.  To do otherwise, for me, would be akin to ordering a root beer float from an ice cream parlor known for its over-the-top rich ice cream….and asking if they can use diet root beer for it.  There’s a time and a place, yes?  But in the case of Greek yogurt, that place is most definitely that of high-protein pancakes (need a recipe?  Check here).  There’s something about the thickness of the Greek yogurt, the tang, yet the moisture it still brings, that make it the perfect foil to the warm, golden brown cakes.  Lately, my absolute first choice is a stack of high-protein pancakes with sliced ripe banana, spoonfuls of plain Greek yogurt, and drizzles of (sorry, guilty as charged) “light/low-calorie” pancake syrup, which I’m quite sure contains no actual maple syrup if I were to brave the ingredient list.  But it makes a darn good Sunday breakfast that won’t weigh down my Sunday run, this much I know!
  • Salmon Salad, Yogurt Style:  For some reason, I’m kind of not into mayonnaise at the moment.  This is quite unlike me, as I normally have always enjoyed mayonnaise, both in salads and spread on bread for sandwiches.  Oh, the mysteries of the fickle palate.  Anyway, I still like a certain creaminess to my tuna and salmon salads, and I have found quite the friend in Greek yogurt for this.  A can of salmon, some spoonfuls of plain Greek yogurt, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and a chopped pickle (or some dill relish) and some thinly sliced red onion is all I need to make a bed of baby greens a terrific light meal.  OK, a nice piece of artisan rye bread is a nice accompaniment, but the salad stands alone even minus the bread.
  • PB&GY?  Yes, I have actually found that fruit-flavored Greek yogurt, in all its thick glory, makes a fine stand-in for jelly or jam on a peanut butter sandwich!  In this case, I recommend a hearty whole-grain bread, and it’s best if you prepare the sandwich just before eating it, so as to not render the bread soggy from the yogurt’s moisture content.  But it’s neat to see that the good ol’ pb&j has not yet been exhausted in its many variations!

I hope this has inspired you to try out some of these Greek yogurt delights — and to submit some suggestions of your own!

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