Got Greek Yogurt?

GOT GREEK YOGURT?

from “Greek Mama Tips: An Indefinite Series by RSVB”

The Soupy Past

As a child I only ate Greek yogurt when my mother took us to her homeland or if some Greek yiayia (grandmother) had shared some of her homemade batch. I remember thinking it was like a soft but thick ice cream and I could never get enough of it. As kids my siblings and I never ate the runny sort of yogurt brands like Dannon or other yogurts on the market—Yoplait was the only one my mom would ever keep in the fridge and it was a poor substitute for that creamy paradise found on the palette by the Greek brands like Fage.

The Solid Present

I’ve been overjoyed over the past decade to notice how Greek yogurt has become popular in the American foodie mainstream. We cannot hear or read enough reports about how beneficial this yogurt is and most high-end restaurants espouse the use of it in their eclectic and unique culinary creations. Even Costco now carries both Fage in bulk as well as the rival brand Chobani for their wholesale member customers.

Practical Greek Yogurt Uses

As a wife, mother and homemaker at heart that feeds at least 7 mouths daily for dinner, I’d like to share some uses for plain Greek yogurt. My mainstay brand is Fage. If it’s not available then Cabot or Stonyfield’s Greek yogurt (formerly Oikos) is a palatable fallback. At Whole Foods there is an Icelandic thick yogurt available that is also favorable that’s called Siggi’s skyr yogurt.

Macaroni and Cheese:

• Whether you make your own cheesy mac or use an instant box with the cheese powder, I’ve personally found that substituting plain Greek yogurt instead of milk adds a delightful tang to the flavor and the creaminess of the pasta results in a yummy and well-received taste buds affair.

Mashed Potatoes:

• Substitute Greek yogurt in place of milk for either instant or from-scratch mashed potatoes. Again, a great complement to the starch of the potatoes and the texture is wonderful.

Baked Potatoes:

• Instead of offering sour cream as a side, take some Greek yogurt and gently whip it in a bowl with a soup—for garnish and flavor, you can snip some fresh dill, mint, basil or parsley. I personally favor fresh cut dill.

Smoothies:

• Most people know that this is a great way to spruce up your fruit smoothie instead of milk—I have found it’s best paired with strawberries and other berries in general. Banana is not a great mix with the yogurt–but that’s my humble opinion, it may be your favorite!

Frozen Yogurt Recipes:

• Use Greek yogurt in any recipes that call for strained yogurt unless they specifically say not to (and who in their right mind would?).

Rice:

• Except for when I’m serving an Asian-inspired stir-fry, I bring Greek yogurt to the table as an accessory for rice dishes. It is a great complement to rice in general and it can either be served plain or with desired fresh-cut herbs.

Couscous:

• As with rice, the Greek yogurt can be set at the table for diners to have the choice as to whether they want it with their couscous.

Bread:

• Yes, there are bread recipes that call for yogurt—there is a bread machine one that I love, use at least once a week and am happy to share, for 1.5 lb loaf and basic cycle setting (from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger):
Ingredients: ¾ cup water, 1 cup whole milk yogurt (use Greek yogurt, even 0% fat does great), 3 ½ cups bread flour, 1 tablespoon gluten, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons SAF or 2 ½ teaspoons bread machine yeast –place all in pan according to your bread machine’s instructions. Just check the dough after first kneading cycle to make sure it is soft enough (adding water may be necessary).

Homemade Parfait:

• My offspring have this almost on a regular basis as their 2nd breakfast: I take either frozen or fresh fruit (usually berries) as the bottom layer, I take the juices from the fruit and usually a teaspoon or so of either maple syrup or honey and mix it with about a cup or more of plain Greek yogurt (to taste as to how sweet or not you want) as the middle layer, then on top I usually put either more fruit, granola, oats (with flax seed or any other good additive), or raisin, nuts and as a treat maybe some cake sprinkles for fun—Opa! Greek parfait!

Banana Breads and Muffins:
• Since my college days with roommates that loved baking, I’ve experimented with yogurt as an additive in these batters and have found it to be a nice element akin to the “pudding-in-the-mix” cake mixes.

Pancakes:
• I have Bob’s Red Mill to thank for the following recipe that first opened my eyes to the use of Greek yogurt in a pancake batter:
Moist Yogurt Pancakes with Blueberries: 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, ½ tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 egg, 1 cup milk, ½ plain yogurt: sift together dry ingredients. Combine separately the egg, milk, yogurt and whisk. Pour liquid into flour mixture and stir until just blended. Fry on hot, greased griddle turning once. Option: fold in frozen, drained, canned or fresh blueberries or drop them into pancakes immediately after pouring on griddle. Serves: 2-3

Yiasou Until Next Time:

I hope these tried, tested and true tips are of use for you and your homestead. Looking forward to sharing more Greek mama tips in the future—yiasou!

R.V.Saridakis Bean

1997-Siblings in Greece*my siblings and I taking the Grecian plunge…

Can We Afford to Be “Granola”? (Part 2)

In Part One of my essay series “Can We Afford to Be ‘Granola’?, I touched upon the environment and how most of the public can pitch in with helping preserve our resources by each doing our part with trash reduction and combating litter in public places like our shorelines.

I’ve thought about it over the past few days and have decided that our food choices and clothing options should be covered in Part Two.

We Are What We Eat

In the past decade there has been a clear divide forming between two main types of grocery consumers in our nation.  Those who must have mostly organic/locally produced products and those who cannot buy (literally) into this greener/sustainable streak and continue to purchase what they need at the lowest possible price regardless of content.

I’m one of the fence-sitters.  I really do want to have the pesticide-free produce.  I’d rather consume and give my family non-GMO wheat and soy products.  I like my cows to eat free-range and vegetarian instead of ground-up chick (as in baby chickens) meal and cloistered in smelly, stuffy conditions.  I do admit to buying “happy cow” milk like Horizon or Stonyfield Farm.

But practically speaking, it is very expensive to do this effectively-at least for my family’s checking account.  So how can we approach this problem with a compromise solution?

I do believe it is possible in most places to acquaint ourselves with what is locally available in our immediate geographical area.  For instance, I live in South Florida where I can actually pay less for much of my produce needs if I avoid going to the supermarket chain and instead visit the local produce stand off the side of the road or the green markets in local towns on the weekends. (check out www.localharvest.org)

For those of us unfamiliar, there are still programs like cheese (for Wisconsin residents example is: www.burnettdairy.com) and meat/poultry co-ops available whereby for a certain price you are able to receive a variety of products contingent on what’s seasonal.

Simple changes like using organic canned tomato sauce as a base for your pasta recipes instead of buying spaghetti sauce can be affordable and delicious.  It is also cheaper at times to purchase frozen veggies/fruits and still enjoy the flavors as they are frozen at their peak.

As for wheat and soy products, I have found it to be more cost-effective to eat less of those products overall so that we can afford to purchase the non-GMO types that I prefer to feed my son and husband.  That may be too far for you and of course that’s alright, these are the executive decisions we all must make for ourselves and our families based on what we believe is the best course of action.

Clothing Clutter

I don’t know if there’s ever been a poll or survey taken, but I’m curious to know how our wardrobes rank in our pack-rat tendencies in America.

After living a semi-gypsy life this past year, I’m still astounded by the amount of clothing that I possess.  I have tried to donate items and afterwards I spot something on sale or some item I must have and purchase more-ending up with the same amount.  So you can imagine my downright disillusionment when I noticed clothing that was ‘organic’ or made from ‘sustainable’ sources like bamboo.

Honestly, I haven’t delved enough into the area of textiles and how our clothing is made specifically.  Although I do sigh each time I notice that my clothing is made in China–I keep imagining sweatshops even though I don’t know how bad those places really are.

Funny enough, “granola” people seem to have this stereotypical image that they always dress in neutral colors like oatmeal, brown, beige and grays.  But if there is a true granola way of dressing, what would it be?

My theory is still in drafting mode as I am struggling to reduce my amount of clothing, but I will share it with you:  First step is what I’ve been saying, take a survey of your wardrobe and note what you haven’t worn in at least 6 months-one year’s time.  Those items should be the first you pull out for possible donation/Ebay/yard sale.  However, you may have an emotional attachment to some; write that down and read it back to yourself and ponder whether you’re truly that attached (if you are, no shame, I still own the dress my husband met me in 13 years ago!).

Next, evaluate your turnover status with your clothes on a daily basis.  In other words, do you wear an outfit just once and then throw it in the hamper even if there are no stains/noxious smells?  Consider wearing some clothing more than once if possible and professional.  I found in the past that the dryer and the iron did wonders for my suits and other items that I wore often.  Of course, this course of action excludes certain items like socks and intimates (although it has been recently surveyed that many women wear their bras more often than they should between washings-eek!)

Applying even just these two main actions-reducing wardrobe and laundry loads-can dramatically help cut down on the energy spent on cleaning and cost of clothing overall.  Once again, this would truly make a “green footprint’ if everyone participated in such an overhaul in clothing habits.  This of all my “granola” pointers has to be the most difficult for us. In the latter part of the 20th century and now early 21st century, we have no idea what it’s like for us to  have-to make our own clothing-we can buy it so cheaply at Walmart or even a garage sale.

By delving into areas like our physical environment, our grocery consumption and our clothing I have come to the yeoman’s conclusion that we all can afford to be “granola”–except that the cost is still pretty steep for us as it takes discipline and personal accountability.  These traits are tough to be consistent with when we are battered with our never-ending responsibilities and unforeseen stresses.

Perhaps if you’ve taken the extra few minutes to read this you’ll think about what you can do and apply it slowly to your daily habits until it takes root like a seed that’s sprouted slowly and thoroughly in the soil after constant care.

RVSB

Can We Afford to Be “Granola”? (Part 1)

What is Granola?

I believe it was about 5 years ago when one of my friends mentioned the state of being a “granola mom” when recalling her birthing experiences with her two children.  At the time I thought it was a pretty corny way of describing being “earthy”, “natural” and the tendency to lean toward products labeled “organic”.

As usual, in life we sometimes end up swallowing our own sarcasm as we walk right into the realm of possibilities we earlier thought ourselves immune.  I currently refer to myself as a “granola mom” but with a stipulation that I aim for the 80/20 rule (80% of the time I try to do the best for my family in terms of food and home purchases–that’s not to say I actually make that goal consistently).

In recent years as “living green” and propaganda films like former Vice-President Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” have become common jargon and an underlying mantra for Americans and other citizens of planet Earth.  Yet, I have noted flaws in the system of environmentally friendly living that set up many folks for failure when they try do better for themselves and their families.

THE ENVIRONMENT

Let’s begin with one of the most ominous terms; the connotation is so heavy and complicated when we dwell on the word: environment.

As compelling as “The Inconvenient Truth” may have been to some of us and other programs by local groups or cable networks like Discovery and History Channel, these messages have rarely been able to mobilize the majority of those who view them.  My guess is that although books and media presentations can espouse protecting the environment, saving the environment and such as strong messages, they lack the simple instructions that the everyday person truly needs.  How can I, a mother, a father, a single person help to save the environment?  Forget owning a Toyota Prius, it has to be more involved than just one major purchase.

Here’s one idea, how about our personal waste habits?  I’m not just talking about having your multicolored recycling bins–although that is a start for many who still just throw everything into the same trash bag at home.  Picture this if you can’t get motivated:  take a shovel and dig a hole in your backyard (if you have one, if not, imagine a large open trash bin outside your door).  After digging the hole, proceed to dump your daily trash into that hole and watch it pile up over the course of the week.  In addition to the stench and attraction of bugs, et cetera, you may be getting the idea of how this will go without actually doing it.

That’s what we are all doing every week: we are dumping all of our trash into a big pile in our soil, the soil that feeds us, feeds all the animals around us, some of which we eat, some of which fertilize the other living things called plants that you eat if you are a vegetarian or a vegan.

So my offering is that perhaps all of us (including my flawed self) should actually do something we have sincere control over.  Let’s minimize our trash.  It costs us next to nothing to do so.  It just means we have to be more (gasp!) accountable to ourselves and make the extra effort.  Maybe we buy less products that aren’t already packaged in recyclable materials.  For those more ambitious, you can email or send snail mail to those companies who don’t use recycled or recyclable packaging.  Get your children involved in how they discard trash, they are much more adaptable than us rigid adults–perhaps they could show us the better example!

Another simple instruction that I can envision most people being capable of evolving as a part of their daily habits is directed to those who live near bodies of water used for recreation: beaches, rivers, streams, springs, ponds, lakes and the like.

I love taking my son T.A. to the beach, I’ve always been drawn to the intersection of land and water life crashing into each other on the shores.  As I’ve grown older I’ve become highly sensitive to the amount of trash found on the sand at public and private beaches: even the millionaire Palm Beach island is not immune to this tainted condition.

After several years of personal “tsk-tsking” and so-called goals to attend the next annual beach cleaning event (which I NEVER get around to), I finally found initiative after my son tangled himself in beach trash as an infant last year.  I grabbed one of my plastic grocery bags usually reserved for the surprise #2 item diaper and used it as both a glove and trash receptacle to pick up the trash around us.  A sense of peace descended on me as the sand finally was free of trash around and the bag was chock full of discards.

As I left the beach that fateful day, I looked back as we walked up the stairs to the street level and saw that a young woman was seating herself where we had been and was sitting in what seemed to be the start of a yoga meditation.  My heart warmed that we had helped someone else enjoy the beach for their personal purposes without the stress of enduring unnecessary trash.

Ever since I always pick up trash with my son during our beach visits, I know it may not make a huge difference in the big scheme of things.  However, imagine the possibilities if everyone who stepped foot onto a beach around the world either picked up trash or avoided littering?  The sad reality is that even my beloved Greece’s postcard-worthy beaches are becoming shore landfills with sometimes up to an inch thick of junk on the rocky and sandy shores.

Again, it doesn’t take throwing hundreds and thousands of dollars into drives to clean the beaches and advertising beach cleanup days that even the independently wealthy scarcely attend.  It simply takes you and I not allowing ourselves to trash or to ignore the trash by our water hole of choice.

To be continued…in Can We Afford to Be “Granola”? (Part 2)

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"