Thursday, January 31, 2013

Know Yogurt Know Peace

Well, I've done it... I completed the 30-day yoga challenge! That's right, 30 yoga classes down for the month of January! And I went today, too, even though I completed the challenge yesterday. In celebration of my amazing feat, today's blog entry pays homage to my yoga studio, Know Yoga Know Peace, in Bloomington, Indiana. It's a great little place to practice yoga, just a few blocks from home in the downtown area. As I mentioned a few days ago, I started going there after a car accident last August. Yoga has been very good for me, I'm still not the most flexible kid on the block, but who's comparing, I feel great! Whether I'm sweating out last night's beer in a hot yoga class, or flowing through a vinyassa, or pressing my forehead to my knee and squeezing out all of my crazy female hormonal stuff... I love yoga. But, there is one thing I will perhaps always love more than yoga, the food I've been eating since I was a toothless baby: yogurt.

When I was checking out at the local food co-op a few days ago one of the cashier's noticed I had my yoga mat with me in a tote bag slung over my shoulder. And he also noticed I was buying some yogurt. "Hm," he said, "I wonder what the etymology of yoga and yogurt are, they seem to have a similar root... they must be from the same culture." He absolutely intended the pun with "culture" and I went off to yoga class having a silent laugh with my inner-nerd. Even if the words don't come from the same root, I still lump yogurt and yoga into the same box of things in life that make me a very happy person. I've had fantasies of a restaurant/café that could be created that makes several different batches of plain yogurt every day and then offers a slew of toppings and add-ins, fresh fruits, grains, honey, nuts... oh, be still my heart. The fantasy goes on to make the location of this heavenly yogurt bar right next to my yoga studio, so that you would have Know Yogurt Know Peace right next door to Know Yoga Know Peace! Siiiiiighhhhhhh...

Some of my favorite yogurts from my trip to England last summer.

My mother used to make homemade yogurt when I was little. She had a plug-in electric machine in which sat several quart-size containers with a cover over the whole lot of them. This is where the yogurt would stay at that magic temperature where the cultures multiply and thicken the milk. When I was in college, I bought a glass kitchen thermometer and began playing around with making yogurt using a big pot and low-temp oven with the door slightly cocked. Now, I chiefly buy my yogurt, but a short stay at a hotel in Sweden this past summer had me dreaming again of making my own. All of the yogurt in Europe, the English and the Swedish yogurt I tried last summer, has a quality to it that is somehow missing in most yogurt I find on the American market, including the "European style" yogurts. The American yogurts seem to try to hard. They seem overly-gelatinous, and too sweet. Yogurt is tangy, it is creamy and almost liquid but not liquid. I will eventually get to making yogurts again and share recipes with you for that, including almond milk yogurt! For now, I want to share with you some concoctions and recipes I enjoy creating with yogurt. Enjoy!

SP's Breakfast Yogurt
Don't limit this concoction to breakfast, I eat it as lunch, dinner, a pre-bedtime snack when dinner wasn't quite enough...

- 1 cup or so of your favorite plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup raw oats
- 1-2 TBSP honey

Mix together and eat. If you let it sit 5-10 minutes the oats will be softer. I am always playing with variations on this basic recipe. My current favorite is the maple nut variety. This involves using 100% maple syrup instead of honey and chopped nuts (I use a mix of almonds, pecans, cashews). One thing I love about this variation is the added protein, which is especially important to give your body in the morning for your first meal. Also, as a vegetarian, I'm always glad to find tasty ways to slip more protein into my food!

Just a dollop!...
A dollop of yogurt is just the thing to cool off a spicy Indian dal or a plate of black beans and rice! A dollop of yogurt with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and a couple slices of fresh jalepeno can really dress up a simple beans or lentils and rice dish. If you make borscht or some other kind of thick soup or stew, a dollop of plain yogurt on top with some chopped fresh herbs can be a brilliant addition. In the picture, I've made a dal and fennel soup with a dollop of yogurt and a sprig of fennel. Oh là là. Dollop off into the sunset!

Sexy Dessert Yogurt
That's right, if you never thought of yogurt as sexy, then you just haven't seen it from the right angle yet.

- 3 cups plain yogurt
- 1/2 pint of whipping cream
- sliced peaches and raspberries (or choose your favorite fruit combination: strawberry and banana, blueberry and blackberry)
- 1/4 cup plus 4 TBSP agave nectar
- dash of ground cinnamon

Beat the whipping cream in a chilled metal mixing bowl (just chill the bowl in the freezer 15 minutes first). Once the cream is stiff and fluffy, fold the plain yogurt and 1/4 cup agave nectar in with a spatula. Divide the fluffy yogurt mixture among four desert bowls or glass dessert cups. top each with fruit, a tablespoon of agave nectar and a dash of cinnamon. I love the fluffy mousse-like mixture of yogurt and whipped cream, but if it's not your cup of yogurt, I suggest trying this recipe with greek yogurt instead, minus the whipped cream!

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