"Even if you're not a fan of Greek yogurt's distinctive flavor for snacking or breakfast purposes, you can still tap the health benefits of this popular dairy product," says Laurie McNamara, author of the blog Simply Scratch. "You can incorporate Greek yogurt into a variety of recipes by using it to replace less healthful options like sour cream and mayo, or less nutritionally powerful ones like regular yogurt."
The approaching holidays are a perfect opportunity to begin incorporating Greek yogurt into your family's diets - and your entertaining menus. It's possible to reap the health benefits of this super food in every course of your holiday meals.
What holiday buffet - or other occasion, for that matter - would be complete without a veggie tray and dip? Store-bought dips are often loaded with preservatives, sugar, salt and/or fatty ingredients. Making your own is a great way to reduce fat and calories, amp up nutritional value and ensure fresh, organic flavor.
McNamara has partnered with Simply Organic, purveyors of quality organic seasonings, to create ideas for serving Simply Organic Greek Yogurt Dip Mixes. Dips made with Greek yogurt add zest to vegetable platters, and can be a healthier complement to more decadent treats like chips and pretzels.
The dip seasonings can also pair with Greek yogurt in other appetizers, too. "If a recipe calls for regular yogurt or sour cream, you can substitute Greek yogurt," McNamara says.
Try this recipe for a flavorful dish that can work on an hors d'oeuvres table or as an appetizer on a buffet.
Spinach and bacon-stuffed mushrooms
1 package-(16 ounces) baby portabella mushrooms (about 20 baby bellas)
1 1/4 cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt-
4 tablespoons-turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled (about four slices)
4 tablespoons-finely shredded 2 percent milk Colby Jack cheese
1 package-Simply Organic Zesty Spinach Dip Mix
1 1/2 teaspoons-fine bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a large glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Remove stems and scrape out gills of mushrooms with a spoon, being careful not to puncture caps of mushrooms.
In a large bowl, combine yogurt, bacon, cheese and dip mix until evenly mixed. Stuff mushroom caps with yogurt mixture, and sprinkle with bread crumbs.
Place mushroom caps in baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes, until the filling is hot and bubbly.
Entrees and sides
Think of all the dishes that call for sour cream, milk, heavy cream or regular plain yogurt. From mashed potatoes and chicken salad to soups and marinades for meats, Greek yogurt can replace those less healthful ingredients, allowing you to reap its health benefits while making the flavor subtle (or even undetectable) and enjoyable. And you don't need to confine yourself to Greek recipes; Greek yogurt works regardless of a dish's ethnic origins.
Here's a recipe from Simply Organic in which Greek yogurt cuts the fat in a traditional Hungarian classic:
Smoky chicken paprikash
2 -8-ounce chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
2 tablespoons-ground flax seed
1 tablespoon-all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon-smoked salt
1/4 teaspoon-finely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon-smoked paprika, divided
1/2 teaspoon-garlic granules
1/2 -white onion, chopped
1/2 -red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 -yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup-sliced mushrooms
1 -tomato, chopped
1/2 cup-chicken broth (made with chicken flavored broth powder)
3/4 cup-non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon-lemon juice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 11-by-7-inch baking dish with non-stick spray.
Combine ground flax seed, flour, salt, cayenne, black pepper, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and garlic granules in a small bowl.
Dredge chicken pieces in dry mixture and place in non-stick pan. Surround chicken breasts with onion, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, mushrooms and tomato. Pour chicken broth over chicken and vegetables, then evenly sprinkle vegetables and chicken with remaining smoked paprika.
Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until done. Chicken's internal temperature should be at least 165 degrees when done.
Combine Greek yogurt and lemon juice in a saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/2 cup liquid mixture from baking dish. Stir into yogurt and lemon juice and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about five minutes. Pour yogurt sauce over chicken and vegetables.
Cakes, bread puddings, pies - even cookies - practically any holiday dessert can work with Greek yogurt as an ingredient. Vegetarians and vegans have been replacing eggs with regular yogurt for years, and Greek yogurt is an even healthier substitution. Generally, if your recipe calls for a cup of creme fraiche, sour cream, mayonnaise or cream cheese, you can substitute a cup of Greek yogurt. It's also a great-tasting, creamy and healthier alternative for homemade frozen yogurt.