I have a thing for yogurt. I’m convinced it’s one of those basic foods that’s responsible for good health. Those stories about finding Bulgarian peasants living in the mountains whose ages were verified to be in excess of 120 years – and whose diet was confirmed to consist of primarily yogurt didn’t hurt. And then I had heart valve surgery in 2007, and on the way out of the hospital, my surgeon said, ‘We’ve killed every single bacteria in your system, so you’ll need to take one of those active pro-biotics from the heath food store, and …, oh yeah, eat a lot of yogurt.’
In the last several years, I’ve developed an interest in fermenting my own foods, especially those from my garden. Lots of people are surprised to learn that at one time all pickles were fermented, and today sadly very few are, unless you search them out – it helps to have access to some ethnic grocery stores in large urban areas. I’ve also started to make my own Kim Chee (or Kimchi), since you can make it as hot or as mild as you wish when you do it yourself. And I make my own sauerkraut too, which, BTW, is very closely related to fermented Kim Chee, just without all those spices.
All of the above are basic fermented foods, and they are all naturally fermented – which is an amazing thing, both in its simplicity, and in its production. All one needs is a vegetable and a little salt – and the only thing the salt does is to keep the bad bacteria out of the picture while nature is allowing all those good bacteria to get established and do their magic. And once you experience the magic of fermentation, you realize that we -as Americans- have for years been throwing out food that we assumed was spoiled, when it was simply on its way to being naturally fermented.
But it’s yogurt I’m talking about today, and frankly, I don’t make my own yogurt because I buy my yogurt at Grocery Outlet, which surprisingly is an outlet store for groceries – it is always priced at less than I can make my own, and frankly, the stuff I’ve made myself wasn’t as good as what I can get at Grocery Outlet. My only regret is that for some reason, the American public is fixated on the idea that yogurt must be fat-free in order to be eaten, when actually, yogurt is one of those milk products that simply is much better in its whole milk form than in its low-fat version. Canadians know this, but Americans don’t get it! (Should you ever be so lucky, try the Quebec made, Liberte yogurt – their basic yogurt is made with whole milk and cream too – you’ll thank me.)
I remember not always liking yogurt, and once I made up my mind to learn to like it, I recall it wasn’t a short learning curve. And for many years, I could only tolerate the heavily fruit-sweetened varieties. But eventually, my taste adjusted, and today I wonder why I ever disliked the taste. Today, it is a regular item in our fridge, and I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate more yogurt into our meals -and snacks.
The subject of my post today is something I fear everyone knows about -except me! I’m sure you too have had those ‘Duh’ moments, but I think I have more than my share. I have, regrettably, reached that point in my life when I don’t know if something I’ve just discovered is actually new to me, or if I’ve simply forgotten that I once knew it – this is a sad suspicion, because one can never verify it – it just remains a haunting recognition of getting old.
OK, sorry for that, but in my search for new ways to use yogurt, I discovered a yogurt pudding that is so simple as to practically put itself together, and is so good as to be shocking. I speak of the creation of yogurt pudding from yogurt and instant pudding mix – and I’m serious, it is good!
I am a pudding lover. Always have been, and will go to the grave as a pudding lover. When I was a kid, my mother would often make those cooked puddings from a box, and as far as I was concerned, they were fine – even more than fine. But when the instant kind hit the markets, I did not like the texture, and I wrote it off and never have bothered with it since. Nowadays, I’m more likely to play around making one of the cooked corn starch puddings, or to bite the bullet and make a mouse – but let’s admit it, that’s a project.
So I put ‘yogurt pudding’ into my search engine, and spent the next hour or so looking at the world’s ideas on how to make puddings using yogurt. For the first page or two, what I found were mostly complex, fancy-dancy recipes, and I wanted to find something very simple, so it could be judged on basics first. And then I saw one that cut to the chase – yogurt, instant pudding, and fruit. My first thought was, ‘How good can this be if I’ve never heard of it before, or it isn’t higher in this search?’ OK, these are both weak questions, but they were still in my head. My second -better- thought was, ‘Let’s just make it and see how good it is.’
A quick check of our fridge showed I had a quart size container of plain yogurt, and a check of the pantry revealed a pack of Lemon Sugar Free Instant Pudding Mix (As a diabetic, I always try to use sugar-free) – I was in business. I threw them together into a big bowl, and with a big whisk, mixed them well. Immediately, the mixture took on a very ‘puddingish’ texture, which would only get better after being refrigerated – I spooned the pudding into some small serving containers and found a place for them in the fridge. I almost bent to the temptation to immediately have one, but instead, I just stuck my finger in the bowl, and licked it off - Oh wow! Not only were these two flavors complementary, but the texture was so much better than an instant pudding made with milk. I’d be looking forward to my nightly snack while watching my Netflix streaming documentaries after dinner.
I’m not going to insult your intelligence by posting a recipe for this pudding, anymore than I’d give you a recipe for buttered toast – just mix these two things together and enjoy. I did make one adjustment due to me using a thicker Greek style yogurt – I added 1/2 cup of milk while mixing, and it smoothed out to a silky softness, not the thick, paste-like texture it was at first. Regular yogurt will need no extras. And if you really want to use a no fat yogurt, it’ll still be delicious (I used a no fat yogurt to make this pudding today – but I will admit that it’d be better with a whole milk type.). BTW, last week, when I used the lemon flavored instant pudding mix, I mixed the single box with 32 ounces of yogurt, and the taste was great. This week, all I had was 16 ounces of the Greek yogurt (with the extra 4 ounces of milk), which I mixed with a single box of vanilla instant pudding mix, and again the taste was great. I need to think about that before commenting further.
Yes, this makes a wonderful partner to all fruits, or as a topping for plain cake. In my intro shot, I have topped a piece of Gram’s Banana Cake with the vanilla yogurt pudding and a dollop of apricot jam – who needs icing? If you do make this pudding for eating at a later time, slip some plastic wrap over the top to keep other fridge odors out while your pudding waits for you.
And if you’d like to do me a favor, please let me know below if you’ve ever heard of this pudding before – Yeah, regardless of your answer – I can handle it.