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…

America and Greece: More Alike than Some Would Like to Admit

Veteran’s Day Morning in SoFla

This morning at Saint Mark Greek Orthodox Church in Boca Raton, Florida we had a color guard and an acting officer in our U.S. military present both the American and Greek flag in celebration and honorance of Veteran’s Day.  As a congregation we sang in unison both respective national anthems with our hands over hearts. The speeches, music and unified revere for both nations created an emotional atmosphere.  It was a reminder that the United States and Greece are still bound with more similarities than we realize.

U.S. Presidential Election Redux: So Easy to Throw Punches

It’s less than a week since our nation had our elections and already the discussions abound as to how our country can move forward and actually tackle some of the immediate problems that affect our citizens: among some of the major topics being a sluggish economy, widespread debt in personal lives as well as the municipalities and the ongoing threats to our active military posts.

It was just a few weeks ago during the second publicized debate between President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney that Greece was mentioned in a less than favorable manner.  In short, Mr. Romney verbally attacked President Obama’s notions and policies as sending America down the path of becoming like Greece.  Just in case you missed it, this was a grave insult hurled at Greeks both in America and abroad.

Roots, Entanglements and Exercises

Documented and debated history points to Ancient Greece as the cradle of what we know as modern democracy today.  For instance, about 2400 years ago in Athens they would draw 500 names from the citizens of Athens (excluding women, children and slaves/servants) who would serve as the law makers and all eligible citizens were required to vote on proposed legislation and such—the formation of various city-states like Sparta and Athens were formed around 1000 B.C.

Fast forwarding to the 20th century, modern Greece entered World War II in late 1940 and the country itself suffered through a famine that killed thousands between the years 1941-42.  By January 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was persuaded to create a new 112nd Infantry Battalion to be based in Camp Carson, Colorado.  Incidentally, the number “122” had a symbolic meaning at the time representing 122 years of Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire.  This battalion was comprised of Greek-Americans who would be sent over to help Greece as she fought against the Nazis’ occupation and such.

Whether it be by infused political and military philosophies, shared love of food and fun, the athletic contests of the Olympic Games and several articles that could be written on the subject matter we have in common—The United States and Greece have a historic love affair with each other that we can readily embrace or with weak arguments try to disguise the existence of such a liaison.

Dollars, Euros and Sense?

In today’s the New York Times, there is an article referring to Greece’s most recent struggle to face the specific realities of its current economic problems—“Friedrich Schneider, an economics professor…in Linz, Austria estimates that about 120 billion euros in Greek assets lie outside the country…representing an extraordinary 65% of the country’s overall economic output”.  The piece outlines the current idea to create an amnesty program for those who have evaded taxes in the past with a lure of a 15-20% flat tax on everyone. For more of the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/12/business/global/greece-renews-struggle-against-tax-evasion.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Here in America, the latest from newly re-elected President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have been trading sound bites on their hope that both sides can work together avoiding the infamous coined “fiscal cliff”.  Although President Obama should be able to garner support with House Republicans since he’s going into his second and final term and doesn’t have the political pressure to stay sole party line—in turn, Republicans should be willing to work the President for the common goal of bringing American back to financial health and onward.

From President Obama’s 2012 Campaign: How Do We Go “Forward”?

I’ve only mentioned a couple of items that both Greece and the United States have to tackle despite the general consensus of negative attitudes toward the government and the sparring respective political party factions.  When will the goal of government leaders become to harness power to work for positive change in the interest of their citizens rather than trying to convince their citizens as to why they are the better ones to have the power over their political opponents?

What Greece and the United States have shown in their respective election cycles and financial meltdowns is that a change in philosophical mindset and public discourse is happening whether those in governmental power recognize it or not.  Greece will forever hold a place in the United State’s history of a democratic influence and today the U.S. is linked with her still as we are trying to navigate this new ground of adjusting our economic policies and trying to energize our population to continue its education, creativity and overall American way.

Americans and Greeks alike have changed the course of human history when they summon the courage to go forward for the right reasons and sacrifice the wrong reasons to blaze a positive and resounding trail forward.

R. Saridakis Bean

Sources:

http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wwii/articles/ossgreece.aspx

http://www.ancient-greece.us/democracy.html

www.wikipedia.com

www.nytimes.com

Jesus Christ Had It Right: Be Like Our Children

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it'” –Luke 18:16-17

This particular New Testament Bible passage has always fascinated me–especially when I was a Greek Orthodox girl in an elementary Roman Catholic school where the nuns outnumbered the lay teachers.  I didn’t understand or know many of Christ’s teachings during those years but that one stuck with me because it told me that Christ loved us kids no matter how noisy and unruly we could be.

Taking this thought a step further, this passage came to my mind again in recent weeks as I’ve had the honor to witness my youngest child take his first steps and continue at an unbelievable pace.  My son is almost a year old and the progress he makes on a daily basis makes me feel like as busy as we adults can be, it doesn’t seem we’re making the same advancement as this little guy.  He greets each day with an awe-inspiring smile in the morning, ready to receive whatever the adventures du jour are.

So in simple framework exegesis, we can agree that this short passage alludes to the impatience and annoyance that Christ’s inner circle initially felt at people crowding him with their babies and children beckoning for touch/acceptance/blessing.  They tried to shoo them away and Jesus immediately “rebuked” them and then called the young to him directly while declaring that it should be understood that we must try to be like our children in order accept the gift of the kingdom of God.

While in church with my children, I must remind myself to not get trapped by the concerns of sticking to the current status quo in regards to how well we sit, stand and whatever other physical ritual we have in our worship time.  What is most important for our children to know and understand?  That they are loved and accepted.  That they are desired and destined for greatness in their individual development.  That love is God’s gift to us all and we are able to receive it and share it.

These restless and tiresome years with the little ones are so fleeting and one day they’ll have more challenges than we’d care for them to have to encounter.  However, we can learn from them right now how to accept that there is nothing we can do to earn or win the love of God.  It just Is.  Love without fear, doubt or rejection–let’s be like a little child with the kingdom of God at our fingertips.

R.V.S.B.

Bilingual Education: A Two-Way Street of Learning

When people ask me what language I learned first as a child, I find that question difficult to answer one way or another.  The fact is both my parents had recently left Europe when I was born a mere few weeks later in the United States.  I assume that I heard them speak both languages (Greek and English) and just used English more during my scholastic years.  It actually wasn’t until my early twenties that I had a renewed interest in speaking more Greek among my peers when I joined young adult groups through the Greek Orthodox church.  I was thankful that my mother had instilled a basic vocabulary in me so that I could build on it.

After I found out I was pregnant with my son back in 2007, I knew immediately that I wanted to speak to him in Greek.  When folks would ask me if I would I answered them affirmatively.  Then I realized that I did know a little bit of French from my school years and would also like to share that language with him while also learning more myself.

The first year of my son’s life I found it quite easy to settle into speaking Greek to him when home alone with him.  Usually my words were simple and sentences short, I figured this would be easier than I thought. How silly right?

Now as my son has barreled past his 2-year-old birthday, I have begun to realize my limitations.  Reading his English books have become a little more complicated in Greek, explaining things around us like a mini-lecture series for toddlers has also become dicey in Greek.  In fact, I’ve been humbled by the fact that my vocabulary is limited in Greek and now I need to learn more.  So together I’ve sat with my son through Greek video or computer programs.  My mother-in-love sent us the Rosetta Stone for Greek.

As my son T.A. spouts out words in both English and Greek everyday, my husband and I find ourselves going to “school” at night with our educational assistance.  It turns out that teaching your child another language benefits yourself as well.

I still share some French with my son and am blessed by the fact that there are loved ones in his life that also know French like his great Aunt and music teacher.  I have asked these ladies to let loose in French to him, I suspect it’s also been great practice for them.

Then there is the peer exposure.  My son and I have started a friendship this summer with another mother and son–the mother is from Slovakia.  She and I continue to chat in English while we also speak our Greek and Slovakian to our sons together.  We have noticed how the boys have swapped some words with each other and use them in their limited toddler conversations.  “Kok” means kick in Slovakian and my son says it repeatedly now when we go swimming in the pool and ocean.  I get a kick out of the fact that my son is speaking even one or two words of Slovakian without me even trying to teach him.

If you haven’t begun another language for your child or children, it’s never too late.  What’s better is if you participate in their learning process, even if you have a foreknowledge of the language.  I believe there are only benefits to knowing another language or two or three, et cetera. 

Many in the U.S. will pick Spanish as a second language to teach their children, that’s not a bad thing but it’s also not the only language you need to consider.  Try to pick something you and your partner in parenting will both be enthusiastic about so that the child(ren) will sense that this is something worthy to know and speak.

There is so much I can say on this subject but I just wanted to get the message out that teaching your kids more than just English is really a great idea and promotes extra-curricular education for both you and your child.  We have so many resources at hand now, like children videos, computer software and even classes for little ones pre-kindergarten.  If you have older kids, pick a country/region you would really like to vacation to one day as a family and make it a goal to learn that language on a conversational level.  Bilingual education is most effective when it becomes an activity involving the entire family, not just sending the kids to a language class in school.

RVSB

Fasting: Good for the Soul and Body – A Short Commentary

As an Orthodox Christian wife and mother, my mind tends to focus on the fasting days on our religious calendar.  It has only been in recent years that we have really started to pay mind as it was about 2005-2006 when my husband entered a Greek Orthodox church with me in Northern Virginia in the DC Area where we lived at the time.  He was born and raised a Protestant from South Carolina. I’m what they refer to as “cradle Orthodox” as I was baptized in the Church and then went on a life path of Catholic school upbringing and church-hopping as a teenager and college student. 

So when my husband and I finally rested in the Greek Orthodox church as couple and later small family, we encountered the complex world of fasting not only effective during the 40 day Lenten season, but also weekly and during other special festive occasions.

For instance, unless there is a special time ongoing like Lent or Advent season, every Wednesday and Friday in the Orthodox church we are called to fast.  The fast on those days is supposed to be a ‘strict’ one meaning omitting meat and dairy products.  We are also supposed to abstain from eating the morning prior to receiving communion on Sunday morning.

It was a bit daunting when we came across these calls to fasting.  At first we were pretty sure this stuff was reserved for the monks and nuns up in some remote monastery in the Greek mountains and foothills.

But slowly we both decided that we’d like to make an effort to honor these days of fasting and found that it made us look at our days differently.  Certainly our home dinner menu was adjusted fairly easily.  It was the work day lunches that were a little more complicated but we navigated that by packing our own lunches especially on those days and if we had a business function, we tried to make mindful choices based on the fast.

Overall we have found that habitual fasting throughout the year, whether it be the Lenten season or the regular Wednesdays and Fridays, helps us get our souls in tune with our Lord’s Holy Spirit.  But I’ve also noticed that it’s cleaned up our bodies as well.

If we think about it, Americans really do consume a lot of meat.  Definitely more than many of our ancestries did a few hundred years ago on a daily basis. Most of that is because of supply being greater and more easily accessible, however, that doesn’t mean it’s all the more good for us.

By fasting I’ve found out just how much of meat and dairy we seem to rely on habitually but do fine without when we take the effort to do so.  While spiritual tuning we are also cleansing our bodies ritually speaking and it does both soul and body good.

If you’re not a Jew, Christian, Buddhist or affiliated with any other organized religion, you may not be familiar with fasting at all.  Yet, your doctor may have asked you to ‘fast’ the night before a health test or procedure.  It lends a hiccup to your routine, but not usually a harmful one.  Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to abstain from certain foods at times to help our souls and bodies recalibrate.

In my own family’s case, it isn’t easy to do so especially during the throes of busy and inconsistent schedules.  Still, we continue to try to seek our Lord through not focusing so much on carnal desires and at the same time find our bodies reaping the benefits as well.

RSVB

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"