Happy Labor Day! I hope you’ve had a good long weekend and have enjoyed the same kind of lovely weather I saw upstate.
In honor of my last post, I’m featuring yet another one of my “client request” recipes. (In case you missed the last one, these are recipes that I’ve concocted at the behest of my clients; usually, these are raw approximations of cooked favorites). This time, I’m taking a humble stab at a well-loved favorite: Greek yogurt.
When I went vegan, I was happily surprised at how few non-vegan foods I missed. In fact, when asked whether or not I “missed” things—which I often was—I could respond with a very honest “nope”! I had stopped eating red meat as a kid. I’d always found eggs pretty repellent. I’d kept fish in my diet not because I liked it (I didn’t), but because I was self-conscious about restaurant dining, and at that point in my life I was still a bit too shy to defend my own food choices. And with a recent diagnosis of lactose intolerance to deal with—plus the fact that I’d always wrinkled my nose at the smell of cheese (even mild cheeses)—I figured it would be a breeze.
And it was, 95% of the time. If I had to name a single food I missed, though—in spite of how damaging I’d come to believe cow’s dairy was to my digestive system—it would be Greek yogurt. Perhaps it’s the one culinary vestige of my Greek heritage that stuck (because Lord knows I did not inherit a love of lamb, kasseri cheese, or fish). Perhaps it’s that rich texture; I’m a sucker for all “mushy” foods (hummus, guac, nut pate, banana soft serve—you guys can fill in the rest), and Greek yogurt fits the bill. Or perhaps it was the joy of drizzling sweet raw honey over cold, sour yogurt. Whatever the case, I admit it: I missed it.
My stomach, however, did not. And the improvements in my digestive health, to say nothing of the sudden absence of seasonal colds and allergies, soon made me forget that I’d ever been attached to dairy.
In the time since I became a vegan, other foods have given me the things I used to seek out in yogurt: fruit puddings provide sweetness; raw hummus and guacamole serve as dips and spreads; coconut shakes are a decadent breakfast treat.
Many of my clients, though, still miss their yogurt. And as a raw coach, I aim to please.
There are numerous ways to experiment with yogurt in a raw diet. The first is the most obvious, but only applicable for non-vegans: kefir. This fermented milk drink (which can of course be made raw) is popular with many non-vegan raw foodists. The internet is littered with articles on how to make your own, or you can check out my friend Anthony’s blog for thoughts on his recent experiences with raw dairy foods.
The second option is to try a truly faithful approximation of raw yogurt—which is to say, a fermented food that’s rich in healthy bacteria. Google “raw vegan yogurt,” and you’ll find numerous recipes, many of them nut based, which call for probiotic powders or rejuvelac (a grain-based, fermented liquid) to aid in the fermentation process. These recipes are highly intriguing, but from my vantage point they all present a fundamental problem: time. I don’t really have the time, patience, or foresight to ferment blended cashews each time I crave something that is yogurt-like, and I doubt that my busy clients will, either.
Which brings me to my own experiments with raw yogurt—or stuff like it. The first food I like to recommend is my banana soft serve. Sure, it’s much sweeter that Greek yogurt, but if you add a few drops of lemon to it, you’ll find that it tastes surprisingly yogurt-like (pinkberry, anyone?). And the texture is reminiscent of yogurt, as is the infinite variety of fun toppings. You can also play around with a nut based yogurt—start with something like my raw whipped cream, and adjust it to suit the texture and flavor you like. The problem with nut-based yogurt is that it’s a bit rich—too rich, perhaps, to fill a simple yogurt-craving.
Below, you’ll find my favorite raw “yogurt” yet. It uses one of my favorite raw ingredients—young thai coconuts—and if you don’t count the time you’ll spend hacking your coconuts with a cleaver, you’ll find that the recipe is unbelievably simple. Ready?
Raw Greek-style Yogurt (yields about one cup)
Meat of three young coconuts
½ tsp lemon juice
Place coconut meat and lemon in a blender or food processor (if you have a conventional blender, I recommend a processor for this job; if you have a Vitamix or high speed blender, that’s ideal). Do your best to blend it up with as little water as possible. This may mean scraping the bowl frequently, but it will be worth it when you get a thick texture. When the mix is reaching a creamy, rich consistency, throw in any flavorings you like. I made mine with some fresh vanilla; you can also add some berries, chocolate, or anything else that suits you. Continue blending till the mix is as smooth as you have patience for, and voila:
You’ll be amazed at the rich, creamy taste of this stuff. It’s reminiscent of coconut in a way that regular yogurt is not, but the lemon does a good job of cutting the sweetness. Best of all, for those of you who have a hard time digesting dairy, this yogurt will leave you bloat free, cramp free, and constipation free. For those of you who are striving to eat a vegan diet for ethical reasons, you can rest assured that you’ve made an animal-friendly choice.
Top this with your favorite yogurt toppings, and enjoy!
I hope you have a great Labor Day. See you back here soon for a recap of my weekend upstate and an exciting product review!