Friday, January 15, 2010
A few years ago I wrote about making my own yogurt. Seeing as we are half way through the first month of the new year, I feel like I need to revisit that topic today.
So many people have good intentions and want to embrace the "New Year New You" philosophy, and i'm all for helping people with that. However, the other day a coworker brought in a yogurt that was studded with Oreo cookie bits. And I have to say, are you kidding me? This is how companies are getting people to buy their product? What gets me is that there are so many inferior quality yogurts out there, and then the manufacturers have to do something dumb like toss in some Oreo cookies to make people think that, Gee if I’m going to be forced to eat yogurt, it might as well have something I like in there; but because it’s mixed with yogurt I feel better about eating it with Oreo/cheesecake bits/chocolate chip cookie. This is wrong on so many levels.
We’ve all seen the ads on TV for yogurt, claiming it’s healthy and good for you and can keep you regular. It’s all true (see probiotics). But one ought to be careful with choosing which yogurt is right for you. Store bought yogurt falls into that category of you get what you pay for. The stuff that is best quality and better for you tends to be slightly more expensive (e.g. Stoneyfield Farms) but they’re really not that much more than a Yoplait, which in my opinion is one of the worst brands out there. Look for products which have live active cultures (should say so on the label). It pays to spend the extra few cents and get a decent product. Or, you could make your own.
The flavor of plain yogurt does take some getting used to if you’ve never had it before. It has a pleasant tanginess that I like. You can add sugar to it if you want (that’s how I used to eat it as a kid when all you could find in the stores in France were plain yogurt , yaourt nature), or add it to granola or some chopped up banana for a really good breakfast or afternoon snack.
The yogurt maker I have is this Donvier one and since I’m the only one in the house who eats yogurt regularly, this works for me. The best thing about making your own is the quality control. For eight portions, I use 4 cups of 2% organic milk and a ¼ cup of nonfat dry milk powder. For the starter, you can use a commercial brand like Yogourmet (can be found in natural food stores or Whole Foods), a yogurt from your previous batch, or a couple of spoonfuls of good quality store bought yogurt. Occasionally i might add a dollop of vanilla extract or a drizzle of honey to the milk prior to heating. However, lately I’ve been making a variety of savory yogurt based sauces, so I’m keeping my current yogurt batches plain in case I need to snag one for tsatsiki or a nice cooling sauce for a really spicy curry.
So all this to say, please be smart about what you're ingesting. do a little homework and make the effort. after all, you want to start this new year off right, don't you?
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Look, I’ll admit I’m not too fond of this ridiculous cold weather that we’ve been experiencing in the South lately. If I wanted to be cold right down to my bones, I would have stayed in Maryland. However, it seems to be warming up slowly, so I ought to not complain too much.
One good thing about winter is the abundance of citrus at the grocery store. I took the picture above after a recent shopping trip. All those clementines, grapefruit, blood oranges, bananas, and apples will be gone in about a week flat. The boy can eat an entire box of clementines by himself in a matter of days. It’s nice to be addicted to something healthy, isn’t it?
A few months ago while we were browsing the meat and seafood department at our local Kroger, the boy stumbled upon a bag of frozen swai fillets. Neither one of us had heard of swai before, but we bought the bag and went home to do some Googling and cooking.
About swai on Monterey Bay Aquarium's site
What the heck is Swai?
I know they say it’s a catfish, but it doesn’t taste like the catfish I’ve had here in the South (which I’m not particularly fond of). Swai is being touted as the new tilapia, which is fine with me as I’m really not a fan of tilapia, which tastes ‘off’ to me and not pleasant at all. Swai is affordable, abundant and healthy, and has been making the regular rounds on our dinner table, usually in the form of a soft shelled taco.
The lifestyle change we instilled back in September is still going on (after all, it is a Lifestyle Change). I faltered a bit at Christmas – that was to be expected, what with the potatoes cooked in duck fat (aka Fancy Duck Taters) and the abundance of champagne around every corner. I also didn’t work out as much as I had in previous months, but I knew going into December that I would have a hard time towards the end of the month. That was one of the main reasons I embarked on this change. Segue into January, and we’re right back on that wagon. I’ve no time for regrets, no time to moan about how I shouldn’t have eaten that many Fancy Duck Taters and heavy cream added to everything. Regrets are a waste of my time. So lets start this new year on the right note and use some of that citrus in our cooking, shall we?
Fruit salsa and fish tacos
For the marinade:
One swai fillet
juice from one clementine
For the salsa:
One ruby red grapefruit
One ripe avocado
Some minced red onion
Some minced green bell pepper
Half a red jalapeño, minced (deseed if you want)
Cilantro, chopped (optional)
Soft flour tortillas (whole wheat preferably)
Mixed salad greens
1. The swai we’ve been finding has always been frozen, so defrost by placing a fillet in the fridge overnight, or place it in a large bowl and run a trickle of cold water over it until defrosted. When defrosted, remove from packaging and pat dry with a paper towel. For this particular meal, which was my lunch the other day, I put the swai in a bowl, liberally salted and peppered it, drizzled it with a bit of olive oil, and squeezed the juice from a clementine all over it. Turn the fish around in the marinade to coat evenly. I didn’t keep it long in this type of citrus marinade (I only kept it in there for the length of time it took to warm up the oven). Then, cook the fish however you want – if it’s warm outside, by all means grill it. I used our countertop convection oven and baked the swai on a bed of clementine slices in a moderate oven (350 deg F) for about 20 to 30 minutes; it’s done when it’s white throughout (no more milky opaqueness in the middle) and can easily be flaked with a fork. Pull out of the oven, move the fish to a cutting board and set aside to rest while you get your salsa on.
2. Cut the rind off of the grapefruit and cut the segments out individually and into a large bowl. Squeeze whatever’s left of the grapefruit into another small bowl and keep to the side; you may need to add that extra juice to the first bowl later, but it’s likely you won’t need to if your grapefruit is really juicy. Anyway, keep it to the side until needed (and if not needed, tip the bowl’s contents into your wide open mug. Yum).
3. Cut avocado in half, discard the pit, and cut flesh into large cubes and add that to the bowl of grapefruit segments. Mince up some red onion (by “some” I mean about a tablespoon or two – start with the smaller amount, as you can always add more later). Mince up some bell pepper, doesn’t matter the color although green tend to be less expensive. Cut a jalapeño in half, de-seed it if you like, and cut it into wee small dice. You will probably only need a fraction of the pepper, depending on how spicy you like your salsa. I used half of a red jalapeño and kept the seeds, as I’m a big fan of heat. Add a good sprinkling of salt, a small drizzle of olive oil, and gently stir with a large spoon. Taste for seasonings (you’ll probably need more salt), and see if you need to add any more of the vedge or juice. You can add cilantro to this if you want to, and in fact I meant to but forgot.
4. To assemble:
Heat up your tortillas in your preferred way (mine is to chuck them on a plate and microwave for 30 seconds). Move one tortilla onto a plate. Add a liberal amount of mixed lettuce greens. Slice the fish into bite sized pieces and put some of the pieces on top of the greens. Top with a couple of spoonfuls of the grapefruit salsa. Roll up. Eat. Repeat.
A note about whole wheat tortillas. Since we eat a lot of wrap type sandwiches in this house, I made the Executive Decision a while back to switch to whole wheat ones; however, not all whole wheat tortillas are made the same. It pays to take a few moments to read the labels of the different packages of tortillas at the store. Even though something is labeled as “Whole Wheat” or “Whole Grain” or “High Fiber” doesn’t mean it’s low in fat and calories. Some of those can be up to 300 calories PER TORTILLA… I KNOW! Insane. So read the labels the next time you’re at the store, and choose wisely.