Category Archives: summer


Powerhouse Summer Smoothie Bowl

Powerhouse Summer Smoothie Bowl

Smoothies are a familiar way to get fruit into your diet. But you can take it one step further by adding veggies and healthy fat. This means you’re not simply getting a dessert disguised as a healthy snack, you’re actually getting several nutrient dense servings of fruit and vegetables.

If you’re familiar with the idea of smoothie bowls, then you know that there are a wide variety of bowl types as well as a never-ending list of ingredients to choose from. Smoothie bowls are a great way for you to get a lot of nutrients in an easy to digest dish. So where do you start?

This article provides a smoothie recipe that you are really going to love. The Powerhouse Summer Smoothie Bowl delivers great nutrition that’s easy to prepare and simply delicious.

Why You Should Try It

The reduced sugar in this smoothie is a definite plus. It’s more than just a fruit and fruit juice sugar bomb.  With the addition of leafy green veggies plus avocado for a healthy fat, you’re getting a more nutrient-dense smoothie. And the toppings are booster foods that add a delicious and nutritious extra.

  • Dark leafy greens are always a good choice. Rich in antioxidants and important nutrients they tend to be high in vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron and more. Due to their bitter nature, they’re also great for heart health and can help stimulate the liver.
  • The bromelain in pineapple aids the digestive function. A fabulous source of vitamin C and manganese, pineapple is also anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant-rich food. 
  • Avocados are a good source of pantothenic acid and fiber, but they also deliver a nutrient dense punch with vitamin K, copper, and folate. Studies have shown them to be supportive of cardiovascular health as well as helping to balance blood sugar.
  • Known for their phytonutrient dense qualities, blueberries are high in vitamin K, manganese and are a great source of anthocyanins. Research indicates that they are helpful for blood pressure regulation, memory support, and have anti-carcinogenic properties.
  • Using green tea instead of juice not only cuts down on the sugar, but it also bumps the antioxidant qualities of this smoothie. Rich in the amino acid theanine and EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), green tea has been shown to be supportive for brain health, boosting the metabolism, protective of brain function, and it’s anti-carcinogenic.
  • And last but not least are the toppings. The seeds are wonderful sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. The cacao is high in both fiber and iron as well as providing antioxidants and magnesium.

So all in all this smoothie is a great choice for real food nutrition. Either as a bowl or a traditional smoothie, it definitely delivers a nutrient-dense punch.

Powehouse Summer Smoothie Bowl
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup organic baby kale or spinach
  2. 1 cup frozen organic blueberries
  3. 3/4 cup green tea
  4. ½ cup pineapple
  5. ½ of an avocado
  6. 1 scoop collagen protein powder
Topping suggestions
  1. ¼ cup granola
  2. 2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds or mixed sprouted seeds
  3. 1 Tbsp. flax seeds
  4. 2 Tbsp. cacao nibs
  5. 1-2 Tbsp. blueberries
  6. 1 Tbsp. goji berries
Instructions
  1. Start by blending the blueberries, green tea and leafy greens
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth
  3. If a thinner consistency is desired (for a smoothie rather than a bowl) add a little more tea
  4. If a thicker consistency is desired then freeze the pineapple before adding to the blender
  5. Pour/scrape into a cup or bowl
  6. Use toppings of choice and garnish the smoothie as desired
  7. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

Sunscreen That’s Uv-a Protective

Screenshot 2014-03-23 20.17.58After the long dreary days of winter it seems that the sunshine is finally returning.      Or maybe you live in an area where you have a high number of sunny days   throughout the year.  Which ever situation fits your environment you probably wear sunscreen.  But are you wearing the right one?

We’ve all been told that we should be wearing sunscreen.  With more than one million Americans per year having some form of skin cancer, we’re conditioned to think about using it regularly.  Many people seek out the highest Sun Protection Factor, SPF, that they can find.   And their examination of sunscreen stops there.  But it turns out there’s more to it than that.  One of the most important things to be aware of is what’s in your sunscreen.  Unfortunately many brands contain substances that are known to be harmful.  Ingredients such as endocrine disruptors, toxic preservatives, highly allergenic ingredients, and more.  These are things that we don’t want in our food so why would we want them in our sunscreen.  Especially when we stop to consider that the skin is the largest body organ and that it absorbs whatever we put on it.

As the author of The Pantry Principle I am passionate about helping people understand what’s really in their food.  That it’s not just what you eat, it’s what’s in what you eat.  The next logical step is to consider what we put on our body.  At this time of year sunscreen is certainly a big player in the personal care product department.

I was amazed, therefore, when I had the opportunity to test a sample of a new sunblock that is…get this…food grade edible.*  It turns out that it’s also the only FDA approved sunblock currently on the market that protects again UV-B and UV-A.  UV-B is what causes sunburn.  UV-A is what causes aging, wrinkles, suppression of the immune system, and can, potentially, lead to cancer.  So even though you’re using sunscreen, if you’re not using one which is effective against UV-A you could still get cancer and suffer other negative effects.

Developed by a Ph.D. research chemist with a crazy passion for safe ingredients this sunblock is unlike any other on the market.  Highly water resistant, no endocrine disruptors, no fillers or other garbage, it’s also high in antioxidants and provides optimal pH for skin protection.  The absence of endocrine disruptors is huge; we are so surrounded by them in our environment (think BPA in receipt paper, cans, and more) that any lessening of this toxin in the environment is a good thing.  According to a study published in the Journal of the Society of Toxicology there is a distinct difference between 3rd Rock Sunblock and mainstream competitors when it comes to endocrine disruptors.

Screenshot 2014-03-23 20.56.43

And it’s food grade edible.  In my book that’s pretty amazing given all of the chemical adulterants used in many products currently on the market.  Not that I’m going to eat it mind you, but I’m glad that it’s such a clean product.

I’ve been using it for a while now and find that it takes just a tiny bit to provide coverage.  Honestly the bottle seems generously sized when you realize how little of the product you actually need for coverage.  It seems to go on smoothly and so far I have not had any issues with uneven coverage even though in the beginning I thought I wasn’t using enough.  The website claims it’s a one time application and you’re done for the day; so far I have not reapplied at all, even on those days when I am outdoors more, and have not noticed a problem.

Overall I think this a great product and am excited to see sunblock of this quality and ingredient safety available to everyone.

*full disclosure:  I did receive a free sample of this product to try however I was not paid for my opinion and was under no obligation to give a positive review of this product.

National Watermelon Day

watermelon | photo: Beyond silence

Enrique Caruso once said, “Watermelon, it’s a good fruit.  You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

One of the most alkalizing foods, watermelon is a refreshing, hydrating, low calorie wonderful addition to summertime menus.  High in vitamin A and C while also providing some magnesium and potassium, watermelon is a great antioxidant fruit.  It also provides high levels of lycopene which studies have shown to be helpful in preventing various types of cancer.
Watermelon appears to also have some effect on lowering blood pressure.

There are many delicious ways to include watermelon into your summertime menus such as making watermelon water ice or granita, making agua fresca, fruit salads, or even a savory sweet salad.  My current favorite fruit salad is rich in lycopene and anthocyanins, those dark rich fruits which are supportive of cognitive function while helping to reduce inflammation in the body.  This salad is refreshing and satisfying, I’ve even been including it as part of my breakfast for a delicious treat.

Anthocyanin-rich Fruit Salad

2 cups watermelon, balled
1 cup blueberries, rinsed
1 cup strawberries, rinsed and sliced
1 cup cherries, rinsed, pitted, and quartered

dressing:

zest 1 small lime
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Mix together fruits
Mix together dressing in a separate cup
Pour dressing over fruits and toss gently
Let sit 30-60 minutes in the fridge before serving

ice cream

Antifreeze In Your Ice Cream?

Ah, those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.  Hot, humid, sweltering temperatures just beg for you to stop and enjoy a cold frozen confection.  Ice cream, just the thing to cool you off.  Or not.

Why is antifreeze in ice cream?

If you are looking for a cool summer treat you may want to consider making your own frozen confections.  It turns out that there is a little known ingredient called propylene glycol hiding out in your ice cream.  Considered a “non-toxic” antifreeze (as opposed to ethylene glycol which is highly toxic) many manufacturers use it in a wide variety of foods, especially ice cream.  While it prevents your car from freezing it also keeps your ice cream smooth and prevents ice crystals from forming.  Homemade ice cream turns fairly hard once frozen completely but this doesn’t seem to happen with a lot of commercial ice creams.  Now you know why.

Looking for it on the label provides an even bigger shock.  Propylene glycol is not listed.  Why?  It turns out there is a, little known USDA regulation which covers incidental food additive labeling.  This labeling allows the manufacturers to not include this ingredient on the label.  My research so far seems to indicate that propylene glycol is covered under this regulation.

Health risks of propylene glycol

Unfortunately it does not take into effect the “ick” factor (after all who really wants to eat anti-freeze, even if it is the “non-toxic” variety?).  Nor does it take into effect the fact that there are people who are highly sensitive to the substance.  While I don’t know how much propylene glycol is in ice cream I’m assuming it’s not a huge amount.  However if you eat a lot of ice cream, or frosting, or other foods that contain it you could be getting a significant exposure.

Apparently people who suffer from vulvodynia and interstitial cystitis can be particularly sensitive.  It’s known to cause skin problems when it appears in lotions, asthma or other allergies in children exposed through airborne sources, and large doses administered orally have been been shown to have a depressive effect on the central nervous system in animals.  The challenge with the large dose testing is that because it’s not labeled we do not know how much we may potentially be exposed to through ingestion or through osmotic skin absorption.

Avoiding propylene glycol

What can you do to avoid it?  That’s not so easy since it’s not labeled.*  Still want those creamy, cool summer treats?  Consider making your own.  Here are a few recipes that really hit the spot when the temperatures are climbing outside.

Strawberry or Raspberry Water Ice
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb. strawberries or raspberries
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 1-2 cups water
  4. juice of 1 lemon
  5. juice of 1 orange
  6. 5 tablespoons orange liqueur, or kirsch
  7. 2 egg whites (optional)
Instructions
  1. Put the fruit through a blender.
  2. Make a syrup of the sugar and 1/2 cup water.
  3. When it is cool add the puree and strain.
  4. Flavor to taste with lemon juice.
  5. Dilute with the extra water if required.
  6. Pour into a container, stirring the frozen sides of the mixture into the more liquid middle part every so often. With shallow trays this needs to be done every half hour; deep boxes can be left longer.
  7. In 2-3 hours, the time depends on the depth of the mixture, you will have a thick mush of iced granules, called a granita.
  8. IN 3-4 hours you will have a firm but not impenetrable block of water ice ready to be turned into sorbet.
  9. Beat the egg whites in a large bowl until they're stiff.
  10. Add spoonfuls of ice gradually, if properly done the mixture blow up to a mass of white foam.
  11. Refreeze in a larger container until the sorbet has the consistency of firm snow.
  12. Add the liqueur gradually at the end during the last stirring; with the sorbet add when ice and beaten egg white are mixed together.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
Vanilla Ice Cream
Print
Ingredients
  1. 3 egg yolks
  2. 1/2 cup maple syrup
  3. 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  4. 1 tablespoon arrowroot
  5. 3 cups heavy cream, (NT prefers raw, not ultra-pasteurized)
Instructions
  1. Beat egg yolks and blend in remaining ingredients.
  2. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to instructions.
  3. For ease of serving, transfer ice cream to a shallow container, cover and store in the freezer.
Notes
  1. I've found that adding 1-2 cups of fresh fruit to this is delicious
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
2 Ingredient Ice Cream
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 can Native Forest organic coconut milk
  2. 1 pound frozen fruit
  3. 1/2 tsp. vanilla (optional)
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients in order into the blender
  2. Blend until completely mixed (using tamper if necessary) -- approximately 1 minute
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
 

 

Side note: as an outcome of my research I did manage to find an online source for propylene glycol free flavoring.

*Some manufacturers, in an effort to meet consumers desire for more transparency are including propylene glycol on their label. This is, in my opinion, a good thing as it makes it easier to see that they’re using it. However just because some manufacturers are disclosing it doesn’t mean that many others use it but fail to disclose. In this case it’s still best to make your own ice cream.

stay hydrated for summer

Stay Well-hydrated For Summer

With summer just around the corner and temperatures rising it’s important to stay well-hydrated during the summer months. Most of us don’t drink enough water in the first place, add in the higher temperatures and more outdoor activity, it all adds up to sweating more, leading to more fluid loss and potential dehydration. Dehydration can cause a large number of physical problems from headaches and migraines, to constipation to deep fatigue or loss of energy.

What to drink

Before you reach for that cheap 54-oz Big Gulp think about what your body needs in terms of hydration. It certainly doesn’t need all that sugar. An 8-oz can of Sprite claims that it has 26 g of sugar, multiplied by 6.75 to equal a 54-oz drink, that comes to 175.5 g of sugar, not to mention all those chemicals. If you’re drinking sugar-free, you are taking in even more chemicals. And let’s not forget that caffeinated sodas would deliver a jolting 155 mg of caffeine.
 
Other popular summer drinks include the thought of a refreshing cold beer on a hot day, or perhaps a wine spritzer or an alcopop.  But it’s important to remember that alcohol is a diuretic; this means you lose more body fluids when you drink it. So even though after spending the day in the hot summer sun that beer, wine cooler, or mixed drink seems cool and refreshing, it won’t help you stay healthy and hydrated.

The hydration factor

To figure out how much hydration you need, calculate your body weight. Divide that in half for the number of ounces needed to be properly hydrated. Divide that number by 8 to get the number of cups of fluid.

For example:

     150 pounds
     divided by 2 = 75
     divided by 8 = 9.4 cups

Take that number, divide it by four and then set a “hydration alarm” approximately every two hours. When the alarm goes off put your beverage in front of you with the goal to drink it before the alarm goes off again.

Remember that this does not mean plain water. Too much water is not healthy either as it can dilute your electrolyte balance. Soups, herbal teas, food with lots of liquid (like watermelon), plus water all count towards a daily hydration goal. 

Rehydrate and refresh

Choose drink choices that are actually good for you. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Water – always good, water is exactly what your body needs. For a refreshing change to plain water add a slice of citrus to your water. For a cool and cleansing taste try slices of peeled cucumber or even a sprig of mint.
  • Iced tea – although tea does have caffeine if you make your iced teas with green tea you’ll be getting less caffeine overall. Or you can use herbal teas which have no caffeine and are delicious and enjoyable.
  • Spritzers – adding your favorite juice to cool seltzer water with some ice and perhaps a slice of fresh fruit can be a great way to stay hydrated. The usual proportions are 30% juice 70% seltzer. Just be sure to choose juices that are 100% juice, no additives, no preservatives, no colors.  If you are using concentrated juice you will need to adjust the proportions to your preference.
  • Agua fresca – these cool and tasty drinks, originally from Mexico, are made by taking blended fresh fruit, usually melons, and combining them with water, sugar, and a splash of lime juice. Because there is sugar, with both the fresh fruit and the added sugar, these should be consumed in moderation.  There is a delicious recipe posted below.
  • Lemonade or limeade – made with citrus juice, water and sugar this can be very satisfying and cooling. If you make it yourself you control how much sugar is in it.  There are a wide number of tasty recipes available online.
Agua Fresca
Print
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups of melon (cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, etc), seeded, peeled and diced
  2. 1 1/2 cups cold water
  3. 2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice crystals
  4. juice of 1-2 limes
Instructions
  1. Blend melon to a pulp in the blender
  2. Strain pulp to remove fibers
  3. In a pitcher mix together water and sugar until sugar crystals dissolve
  4. Add melon juice
  5. Add lime juice to taste
  6. Serve over ice
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

Containers

Instead of relying on the availability of drinks on the road, one of the best things you can do to stay hydrated is taking your container with you. Don’t drink from plastic containers if you can at all avoid it due to issues with BPA (to learn more watch my interview with Lara Adler, The Environmental Toxins Nerd). Glass or stainless steel containers are your best bet. My personal favorite is Glasstic, a shatterproof plastic cylinder around a glass center cylinder. Easy to take apart and wash in the dishwasher, the company claims these are the last water bottle you’ll ever need. I bought three over two years ago and they’re still going strong. Get 10% off with this link.

Blueberry Bliss

I recently went blueberry picking with a friend.  We went to our local blueberry orchard, Moorhead’s Blueberry Farm.  The owner, Sid, told us that his dad started the place 35 years ago and he worked there every summer as a kid.  Now he owns it and works there every day during the season.  They don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers which is a plus in my book.*

These bushes were fabulous!  Over six feet tall and loaded with berries.  In just 30 short minutes I managed to pick two and a half pounds of plump delicious berries.  As I was picking I was hearing parents with small children scattered throughout the field.  I laughed to myself as I remembered blueberry picking with my girls when they were little.  The three of them were more interested in eating the berries.  They would pick for a while, eating as they picked, and then when they were tired of picking they would come raid my blueberry bucket for handfuls of sweet berries.  Quite frankly I never managed to pick enough to satisfy three hungry tummies and have some for home.  I often had to go back without them in order to have a reasonable amount of berries.

I consider blueberries super-fruits, very high in antioxidants they are one of the few native American fruits.  I’ve written about some of their health benefits in the past.  New research appears to show that higher consumption of blueberries may be helpful in warding off conditions such as Alzheimers and Parkinson’s as well as improving general cognitive function in aging adults.

Whatever their health benefits, no one can deny that they taste wonderful.  After my husband and teenaged daughter plundered the batch I brought home I had just enough left to make a gluten free blueberry coffee cake.  Obviously I’m going to have to go back for more….I guess some things never change.

Gluten Free Blueberry Coffee Cake

Preheat oven to 350 F
grease and flour a 9 x 9 baking pan

1 C. buckwheat flour
1 C. gluten free oat flour
1 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1 C. blueberries
1 C. chocolate chips
4 T. butter, cold
1/2 C. Greek yogurt
1/2 C. unsweetened almond milk
1 large egg
1 t. pure vanilla extract

topping:

1/2 C. gluten free rolled oats
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1 t. pure vanilla extract

Mix together all of the dried ingredients
Shred butter into flour mixture using the large side of a box grater
Mix butter into the flour mixture with your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs
Add blueberries and chocolate chips and toss well to coat
In a separate bowl mix together yogurt, almond milk, egg, and extract, blend well
Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and quickly blend together, do not overmix the batter
In a separate bowl mix together topping ingredients
Spread topping evenly on the coffee cake
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top of the coffee cake springs back lightly when tapped
Remove from oven and cool
Serve warm or room temperature

*Sid did share that he uses roundup for weed control (obviously not on the blueberries) because it is  a short-lived weed killer.  I’m hopeful that he will consider switching to something else like vinegar which is shown to be effective. 

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard | Jonathunder

I love Swiss chard.  Of course I love all of the dark leafy green but Swiss chard is one of my favorites.  Colorful, delicious and easy to use in so many different ways it’s really a fabulous green to add to your food plan.  I just finished planting some in my garden and am eagerly awaiting it’s growth so that we can enjoy it.

Apparently originally from Sicily one of the great things about Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) is that you can eat the leaves when they are young and quite tender but they are still tasty when they are larger and more mature.  The ruby and rainbow varieties are more colorful and I confess a preference that is totally related to that color as  I enjoy seeing their beautiful stems and leaves in the garden or in my dishes.  For productivity however, the plain green variety does seem to produce more heavily.  On the other hand, like beets, the red and rainbow varieties are higher in betacyanins, which are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and believed to support detoxification.

Nutritionally, like all the dark leafy greens, Swiss chard is a powerhouse food to add to your diet.  One cup of the cooked greens provides more than the RDV for vitamin K and vitamin A and around 50% of the RDV for vitamin C.  It also delivers a substantial amount of minerals like magnesium, manganese, potassium, and iron.

Recently I came across these two recipes for Swiss chard from Martha Rose Schulman in her New York Times column and they look so delicious they will definitely be included in how we eat this fabulous green this summer.

Stir Fried Swiss Chard and Red Peppers

Swiss Chard and Chickpea Minestrone

What’s your favorite way to eat this wonderful leafy vegetable?  I’d love it if you’d share a recipe or two.

Delicious Creamy Yogurt

Delicious Creamy Yogurt

Styles of Yogurt

There are changes in the yogurt section of the grocery stores lately.  It used to be that yogurt was mostly a gelatinized “Swiss-style” fruit mixed in or on the bottom kind of product.  At least that’s what was presented to us at the grocery store.  Then came those tubes, the squeeze-able yogurt. Also appearing more and more at the grocery store is kefir, a fermented yogurt that is drinkable.  The fermentation increases the probiotic activity of the yogurt and can be very healthy for you as long as the cultures are live.  Soon enough I expect that we’ll start seeing bottled containers of lassi which is a similar fermented yogurt drink from India.

Now there are a lot of different kinds of yogurts from different cultures. Greek, Australian, Icelandic, Bulgarian, and more. There’s also goat’s milk, coconut milk, and almond milk yogurts.

Many people seem to prefer Greek yogurt due to it’s heavier, creamy consistency. It’s higher in protein, almost 50% more according to the Berkeley Wellness Letter.  The whey is strained out leaving a thicker product with a longer shelf life.  Straining out the whey, creates a product that is higher in fat and lower in calcium but also lower in lactose (the milk sugar that some people have trouble digesting). 

Ingredients In Yogurt

Although yogurt is generally thought of as a healthy food, store-bought options are often packed with chemicals, potentially genetically modified ingredients, artificial flavorings, artificial colors, and added sugars or artificial sweeteners. Choosing healthy yogurt isn’t always easy. Low-fat options are often packed with negative ingredients while fruit yogurts not only contain the natural sugars of the fruits but may have added sweeteners as well and artificial colors.  Reading the label is critical to ensure a healthy choice.

Plain yogurt is the best option as it will have the fewest negative ingredients.  Fresh fruit or jam can be added for sweetness without the chemicals or other adulterants.  (Of course, this does require checking the label on the jam as well if it is not homemade).  Additionally, you need to choose yogurt which does not contain rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) a hormone which has been linked to increased rates of diabetes and other health issues.  Look for the label to state that the milk was from cows not treated with rBGH or choose organic.  It’s also highly recommended that you purchase of full-fat yogurt; this provides the fat needed for the body to properly process vitamin D (a fat-soluble vitamin).

Making Yogurt At Home

To make yogurt you’ll need a starter.  While it is possible to use store-bought active culture yogurt as your starter in order to ensure a good balance of probiotics or beneficial bacteria it is often helpful to purchase a yogurt starter culture. Simply follow the instructions in the packet to make your initial batch of starter.

Once you have yogurt that you can use, either the starter or a store-bought active culture yogurt, you will be ready to create subsequent batches of yogurt.  You will need about half a cup of yogurt for every half a gallon of milk that you use.

  • Heat your milk on the stovetop in your Dutch oven or a non-reactive saucepan; stir gently as it heats
  • When it reaches 200F, or just below the temperature when it would boil, let it cool to 115F
  • Take a half a cup of the warm milk and whisk it together with your yogurt in a separate container
  • Add this mixture back into the rest of the milk and whisk it together
  • Keep your mixture at 115F for about 4 hours; you can simply heat your oven to 115F, then turn it off
  • Place a lid on your saucepan or Dutch oven, wrap it in a few layers of towels and place it back in a draft-free space such as your oven or a microwave oven overnight or until it has set and looks like yogurt
  • When it’s ready, pour the yogurt into containers and store in the refrigerator

Making Greek Yogurt

Many people don’t realize how simple it is to make a Greek-style yogurt of your own.  

  • Take a 32-ounce container of whole milk, organic, live culture yogurt
  • Line a colander with cheesecloth (you can also use an unbleached coffee filter or a cloth napkin) 
  • Place the colander on top of a bowl and pour the yogurt in
  • Put the whole thing in the fridge overnight
  • In the morning you have a thicker, Greek-style yogurt plus the whey which has strained out

Whey is wonderful for soaking beans, it can also be added to soups or smoothies. Some people even drink it straight.  If I have too much I usually feed the extra to the dogs, they consider it a great treat.

What To Do With Yogurt?

Yogurt is delicious just as it is but can be used in a wide variety of ways. It can be served both sweet or savory.

  • Make parfaits by layering granola with fresh fruit (a tasty treat for breakfast or delicious as a dessert)
  • Thickened yogurt can be used as a substitute for sour cream
  • Adding herbs to yogurt also makes a savory dip
  • Yogurt and fresh lime juice are just two of the ingredients needed for a really delicious chicken marinade
  • Yogurt can even be added to some baked goods to help make them moist
  • One of my favorite ways to eat yogurt is to mix it with cottage cheese and a bunch of fresh vegetables, such as cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and chunks of sweet peppers. Add a pinch of sea salt and a grind of fresh pepper and you’ve got a tasty summer lunch. 

Yogurt Around The World

In addition to different types of yogurt culture, many cuisines have a yogurt dish of some kind mixed with different spices or foods to make a condiment. 

  • In India there is a shredded cucumber yogurt dish with scallions, garlic, cumin and pepper that helps to cut the spicy heat of the cuisine called Raita
  • A similar dish can be found in Greek cultures and is called Tzatziki; it’s made with yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and mint
  • There’s an Israeli yogurt called Labneh which has a little salt in it. Sometimes it’s thickened and turned into a Labneh cheese
  • Bulgaria even has a cold soup called Tarator which is made with yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, walnuts, and oil, it makes a great starter for a meal on a hot day

Whatever style or type of yogurt you are eating (or drinking) it is important to remember that you want the real stuff.  Live cultures, no added artificial ingredients, just good, healthy, probiotic, digestive supporting yogurt.

 

Alicia Lawrence contributed to this article.  She is a content coordinator for WebpageFX and when not at work she enjoys cooking with her ceramic cookware, shopping at farmers markets or blogging about travel, nutrition, and public relations.

photo credit: Patrick Neufelder

watermelon for agua fresca

Quench Your Thirst With Agua Fresca

Agua fresca is Spanish for fresh waters. It’s a refreshing non-alcoholic summer-y drink with origins in Mexico where it is sold by street vendors.  In South and Central American stores or restaurants you can sometimes you can find it in large containers where it is ladled out by the glassful.  Agua fresca is a great drink for warm weather. It’s a hydrating and satisfying thirst quencher that is much better than soda or over-sugared bottled drinks and fountain drinks.

Agua fresca is usually made with fruit, lime juice, and water.  Watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberry, and pineapple are popular flavors.  When you make them at home the ingredients can be adjusted for personal taste.  Often there’s no need to add sugar, because the fruits are sweet enough on their own.  Because you don’t strain the agua fresca after blending it (unless it’s too thick in which case you can lightly strain to remove larger pieces) you’re also getting some of the healthy fiber.

What fruits to use

Just about any fruit or fruit combination is fair game when it comes to agua fresca. Of course you’ll need water and lime juice.  Substitute lemon if you’re out of limes, but trust me it’s somehow better with lime juice.  Mangos, peaches, pineapple, there’s really no limit to the tasty and refreshing combinations you can make.

One of my personal choices for a great agua fresca is watermelon which is abundantly available in the summertime. Juicy and delicious, watermelon is in vitamin C  and lycopene, as well as being rich in the electrolytes potassium  and sodium.  This makes it a fabulous choice for summer time when we tend to lose a lot of electrolytes through perspiration.  

Luciano Pavarotti once said, “Watermelon, it’s a great fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”  If you’re eating it that’s certainly true.  With an agua fresca you can still enjoy the wonderful flavor and not have to worry about the wash your face part.  Here’s my favorite recipe:

 

Agua Fresca
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Ingredients
  1. 2 C. strawberries, dehulled
  2. 3 C. watermelon, removed from the rind and pitted
  3. juice of 1/2 a lime
  4. 1/3-1/2 C. of ice cold water
  5. mint leaves for garnish
Instructions
  1. Place berries, watermelon and lime juice in a blender
  2. Blend until well mixed
  3. Add water until you reach a consistency that you prefer
  4. Garnish and enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/