In the mid 1990s I had a roommate from Belgrade, Serbia, who introduced me to a whole new world of food. She taught me how to work with Phyllo Dough – both sweet and savory – and she blithely made homemade yogurt, all the time, as if it was a simple as pouring milk. Which, it turns out, it is.
Yogurt is such a staple in the Balkans/Greek/Turkish diet that they eat it daily, if not with several meals a day. Natasha was no exception. And since her mother in Serbia always made it, she did too. Once I learned how to make it, yogurt became a daily staple in my diet as well. In fact, one of my prized desserts for dinner parties (and I don’t do desserts!) is a yogurt cheese pie, the simplest and most tasty (and inexpensive!) dessert in my repertoire. Simply strain yogurt (they sell it as “greek” yogurt), add in some sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and pour into a graham cracker crust and chill. Voila! Instant (low calorie and low cost) dessert. I used to make a quick berry glaze – blend frozen berries with a little sugar and lime or lemon juice and spread on top. Done!
This post, however, it about granola and yogurt, one of my favorite breakfasts or snacks. The fun thing about granola is that you can tailor it to your own taste, spruce it up with dried fruit and nuts and various flavorings, or go basic like I did here.
You will notice that my recipe differs dramatically from others out there because I soak the oats and grains overnight. I learned this while volunteering at Three Stone Hearth, where they follow the Weston Price model of cooking that soaks any grains prior to cooking. The soaking technique increases the digestibility and the nutritional value of the grains. I find that it makes a more flavorful granola and denser, so I feel fuller eating less.
Feel free to add other seeds or nuts – pumpkin, sesame, flax, walnuts, chopped almonds, cashews or even pistachios – would all work well. If you’re adding dried fruit, I would go ahead and add them in with the soaking grains so that they soak up the yogurt as well; simply increase the yogurt by 1/4 of a cup for every cup of dried fruit.
Homemade Yogurt and Granola
1/2 gallon whole milk, best you can afford, unpasteurized
1 cup yogurt
Heat milk in double boiler (place metal bowl in large sauce pan with at least 2 inches of water in it, making sure bowl doesn’t touch water. Bring water to boil and heat milk in bowl up to 180 degrees. Remove from heat and place in a ice water bath (plug the kitchen sink and place bowl with hot milk in cold water bath). Remove from ice water bath once the temperature drops to 110 degrees. Pour milk into mason jars with 2 tablespoons of yogurt in each and cover. Place in oven and turn on light and allow to “cook” for 18 hours until yogurt is formed. Place jars in refrigerator to set. Yogurt is ready when it is completely cooled.
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat)
1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups yogurt
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil (or other vegetable oil, peanut, safflower, sunflower)
2 teaspoons salt
flavor extract (vanilla, almond, walnut, orange, lemon) 2 teaspoons
Combine oats, and kasha and sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Melt butter in small pan, add coconut oil if using and melt completely. Remove from heat and add honey and salt and pour over grains and toss well. Add yogurt and blend well and add flavor extracts if using. Cover with a dish towel and allow to soak overnight or at least 12 hours. Grains will increase in size and become moist. Spread out over two large cookie sheets and place in an oven at the lowest temperature possible, no higher than 175 degrees. Bake for 10-12 hours until lightly toasted and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely for at least 1 hour. Store in airtight jar.
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