Yogurt remains my secret weapon. It’s a no-brainer snack and dessert.
One summer in Crete, I stayed with the kindly and petite wife of a sea captain; she told me that when he was away, she practically lived on yogurt and fruit except for a small piece of fish and some greens at dinner.... After ten days following her program—walking and swimming each day—I left Crete floating in my clothes. (I later discovered I had lost three pounds yet have rarely felt so pampered since.)
Of course, nothing equals a yogurt from Crete, made with goats' milk. I've learned that island's entire food chain is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, present in all the edible wild plants. Cretan women still pick various herbs and plant, and since the livestock feed themselves, poultry, eggs, and milk contain two or three times more of that beneficial nutrient.
Even some French store-bought yogurt contains the host of undesirable ingredients you find in the American versions--artificial preservatives, colors, flavorings, sugar, and other sweeteners. So in Crete I made sure to learn from the Captain's wife how to make my own.
It requires some starter—either a commercially available combination of live bacteria cultures or simply a spoonful of good store-bought yogurt, provided it contains active cultures—and a yogurt machine, one of the best minor investments I've ever made.
Here is the recipe: quick and easy... the machine does the work.
Homemade Yogurt With a Yogurt Maker
1 quart whole or 2 percent milk
1 tablespoon plain yogurt as a starter or 1 tablespoon of a commercial starter culture (available at natural food stores)
Yogurt maker with cooking thermometer (I use the Donvier brand with eight jars)
1. Warm up the milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat until bubbles appear around the edge and steam rises from the surface. Remove the saucepan from ehat and insert a thermometer stirrer. When the temperature reaches 110 to 115 ddegrees, add teh starter to one of th ejars. Add some of the heated milk and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, a little at a time stirring well.
2. Fill all 8 jars, cover securely with lids, and place the jars into the "machine" (which is really a temperature-controlled warmer) and follow the cooking instructions. It will take 6 to 10 hours (easy to do overnight), depending on the tartness and firmness desired.
3. When done, chill the jars in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. You can keep the yougurt for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
If you don't want to invest in a yogurt maker, here's a foolproof, centuries-old recipe.
Homemade Yogurt Without a Yogurt Maker
1 quart whole or 2 percent milk
1-2 tablespoons plain yogurt as a starter or 1-2 tablespoons of a commercial starter culture (available at natural food stores)
1. Warm up the milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat until bubbles appear around the edge and steam rises from the surface.
2. Pour the warm milk into a large bowl to cool until the temperature reaches 110 to 115 degrees on a cooking thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer, do what the locals do: the temperature is correct when you can keep your index finger in the warm milk for 20 seconds.
3. Put the starter in a small bowl, add some of the heated milk, and stir until well blended. Return the mixture to the large bowl, a third at a time, making sure to stir and blend well after each addition. End with a final stir, making sure all is well blended. Cover with a heavy towel and keep in a warm place 6 yo8 hours or overnight (a gas oven with a pilot light is fine, or placing a saucepan of hot water in the oven to raise the temperature will help if your home is not warm enough).
4. When set, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours before serving. If thicker yogurt is desired, empty chilled yogurt in a muslin bag or cheese-cloth, suspend over a bowl, and drain.
Excerpted from French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, Copyright 2005 by Mireille Guiliano. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.