Sep 27, 2010

Yogurt Cheese

Today I've decide to try my hand at making yogurt cheese. It should take at least six hours for the finished product, so I might as well talk about the process while I'm waiting!

The main idea behind making yogurt cheese, or any cheese for that matter, it getting the extra milk product liquid, or whey, out of the yogurt. I've concocted a drainage system using a mesh strainer, coffee filter and a bowl. I put about a cup of plain non-fat yogurt in the contraption, covered it with plastic wrap and placed in the fridge. Now, I just have to rely on the magical powers of gravity to draw out the excess moisture over the next several hours!

I've never tasted yogurt cheese, but my sources say both the flavor and texture will be like a cream cheese or neufchatel. I'm thinking that once it's complete, I'll pour some homemade jalapeno jelly over it and sample it with a cracker.

 I wonder what I might be able to create using the whey...

Sep 23, 2010

Applesauce: a substitute for oil

I've decided to stray from yogurt for a day and talk a little about another healthy substitute used in baking; applesauce. You can easily substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil in any baking recipes such as cookies, quick bread, or cake. Doing this will cut back on fat and calories quite a bit. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN) showed that the substituting 1 cup of applesauce for 1 cup of oil in a cupcake recipe led to savings of 220 g of fat and 1900 calories (9 g of fat and 80 calories per cupcake).

The research substituted 1:1 like we did with the sour cream/yogurt. The science involved with the baking process wouldn't suggest using a 1:1 substitution,  which is explained well in this post.  Generally you'll want to start out by substituting about half of the oil called for in the recipe - if the recipe calls for 1cup of oil, use 1/2 c. oil + 1/2 c. applesauce. 

Using applesauce WILL change the taste and texture of the finished product no matter how much you use. Cookies will be a little flimsy, or won't crunch, cakes will be more dense and moist since fats aerate baked goods and allow them be light and fluffy. If you decide you like the difference, slightly increase the ratio- 1 cup oil =1/3 c. oil + 2/3c. applesauce or 1 c. oil = 1/4 c oil + 3/4 c applesauce.

If baking cakes from scratch isn't your bag, try getting one of the boxes of cake mix that just calls for oil and eggs, then substitute half of the oil for applesauce and see what you think. Also, keep in mind this will only work correctly when substituting oil or shortening in a recipe. Substitution for butter is not recommended. I'll go into more detail with butter substitution in later posts.

Note: If you don't buy unsweetened applesauce you can use the sweetened variety, but be sure to cut back on the sugar in the recipe.

Sep 22, 2010

Other Substitutions

Yogurt can be used as a substitute for several things in the culinary world. Over the past few years I have done more cooking than ever, and I'm discovering some recipes that include ingredients that I will either never have on hand because they're either expensive or hard to find, or I opt not to use them for health reasons. Buttermilk is the most common of these recipe elements that I have found. For a long time, I used what I thought was a very simple alternative for the fatty, sour milk which was:

1 cup buttermilk = 1 Tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in measuring cup then fill with enough milk to make 1 C.

I still use this from time to time but have also discovered something much more effortless (which is always a plus); simply substitute 1 cup of plain yogurt for 1 cup of buttermilk!

There are surprisingly several other substitutions that use yogurt which I will share in later posts so that I can draw this blog out for as long as possible, and also because I have yet to try some of them.

I've decided to post a baking recipe that uses yogurt. I can't remember if this recipe originally called for sour cream or buttermilk but it's decidedly better for me either way, and quite tasty I might add.

Jam Filled Muffins
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 c. vanilla yogurt (you can add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract to plain yogurt)
1/4 c. butter, melted
3 T milk

1 egg
1/4 cup jam (any flavor)
(1 T sugar + 1/2 tsp cinnamon)

-combine the first 5 ingredients, make a well in the middle. -combine the next 4 ingredients in another bowl, then pour into the flour well and mix. - fill each muffin tin/paper with 1 T batter, 1 T jam, top with more batter until about 3/4 full. -mix the cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle on top. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

Sep 21, 2010

Substitute for Sour Cream

Plain yogurt. PLAIN yogurt. PLAIN YOGURT?! Don't let its drab title scare you away! Plain yogurt is a miracle food, I'm convinced, and I plan to convince as many people as possible of this. I first discovered its usefulness while living in Missoula, Montana. There wasn't an Indian restaurant within 100 miles so I had to experiment with making my own Chicken Tikka Masala, a yogurt and spice marinated chicken dish, at home.

The Tikka Masala turned out beautifully and afterward I considered the possible love affair that this simple, creamy package of nutrition and I could have. After trying a spoonful for the first time, I noticed a striking similarity to sour cream and immediately decided that I would make some sort of Tex-Mex meal the next day that would require sour cream as a condiment. The next day I prepared tacos and scooped the plain yogurt into a modest dish that sat next to the cilantro, onions, and other toppings. No one that ate dinner with me that evening even considered the possibility that what they so generously spread over their dish was anything other than sour cream. At the end of the meal I disclosed my little secret to my future husband. He congratulated me on my discovery, which encouraged me to do some research.

Consider this simple comparison from

Sour Cream (1 Tablespoon)
  • 61 calories
  • 6 g fat
    • 3.7 g saturated fat
  • 15 mg sodium
  • .9 g protein
  • 32.9 mg calcium
  • 40.8 mg potassium
Plain Yogurt (1 Tablespoon)
  • 17 calories
  • .9 g fat
    • .6 g saturated fat
  •  13 mg sodium
  • 1 g protein
  • 34.3 mg calcium
  • 43.9 mg potassium
The difference in calorie and fat content is amazing! Realistically, the products are very similar. Yogurt is made by essentially the same process as sour cream - fermentation of a dairy product. The main difference is that sour cream is fermented cream and yogurt is fermented milk, which means you get all the nutritional value of milk, less fat, and some of that pro-biotic stuff that everyone's talking about these days.

I know that sour cream probably isn't a common condiment in most households, but if you consider the difference in nutritional value it's worth it to at least try plain yogurt as a substitute. I challenge you to get a small 8oz container for taco night, don't tell anyone that will eat with you, and see what happens. 

Don't forget the option of fat-free plain yogurt is out there, but I understand if baby steps are needed.