So I’m Making My Own Yogurt Now?



In fact, as I write this post  my latest batch of lactose-free yogurt is perking along on the kitchen counter.

My EuroCuisine Yogurt Maker at work.

My EuroCuisine Yogurt Maker at work.

Now, why would I go to this much trouble when there are ready-made options available, even for the lactose-intolerant and Low-FODMAP among us? Because not all options are created equally.

I enjoy my afternoon yogurt snack both for taste as well as health benefits. I discovered ages ago that it helped keep me healthy long before Acitivia and the like started marketing as such. And, yet, the Low-FODMAP challenges showed me just how sensitive I am to lactose, even the reduced amount in most Greek-style yogurts, so I knew I needed to be a bit more careful with what I was consuming.

That left me with pretty much one option at our local grocery store: Yoplait’s Lactose Free French Vanilla

Lactose Free

image via | While it comes in peach, strawberry, vanilla, and cherry, my store only carried the latter 2

And while I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor or texture, it was acceptable and got me my live cultures at a reasonable .60 a serving. At least it did when they kept it in stock.

About the time supply was getting a bit spotty, I saw an electronic yogurt maker on one of the many flash-sale sites and, while intrigued, managed to talk myself out of buying it by the end of the day. Until, of course, I was at the not-geographically-convenient Earth Fare in town and found the other lactose-free/Low-FODMAP yogurt option by Green Valley Organics.

image via Green Valley Organics

I was thrilled to find this yogurt! I’d tried and loved their sour cream but this was the first time I’d found their yogurt on the shelf. As I reached for the cups on the top shelf, my eyes fell on the price sticker: 1.99 a piece! That’s 3 times the price of the Yoplait, and even if the taste and texture are much more to my liking, I couldn’t justify the additional cost and the weekly trips out of my way.

Suddenly the price of the yogurt maker wasn’t looking so spendy! Too bad for me that that particular flash sale had ended. Still, I was on the hunt and within a month had found a decent deal at a store I’d been given a birthday giftcard to.

Since then I’ve been making my own yogurt from lactose-free milk and either an existing bottle of yogurt or the starter culture easily found in almost all health-food stores. It takes maybe an hour, all-told, to prep the milk mix (a little time to warm it to 180 degrees F, then a little longer to let it cool to 110 before adding the starter/cultures, then to ladel it into the glasses to “cook”) and if I’m smart I’ll set it up before bed so it’ll be finished the next morning and ready to go after a few hours chill time.

I haven’t experimented much with flavoring them before putting them into the yogurt maker, but I have been adding powdered coconut milk to the mix to get a thicker yogurt without having to go through the pain of straining it myself. Most days I top it with a spoonful of Welch’s Natural Strawberry jam (the only one I’ve found, so far, that meets all the Low-FODMAP requirements) and maybe a bit of granola and this really hits the spot.

I haven’t worked out the per-price comparison of making vs buying, but I know that I like the end result a lot better.

the Medicine Cabinet in Your Kitchen

64 Arts

And I’m not talking about cold and headache pills kept in the cabinet above the toaster–I’m not the only one who grew up that way, right?

No, today I want to share with you some simple home remedies that you can find in your kitchen. Of course, the standard caveats apply:

  • If you’re allergic to something, don’t use it. Corollary: If you experience any allergy-like symptoms, discontinue use, pop a Benadryl for mild symptoms and call the doctor asap for anything breathing-related or otherwise severe!
  • If you’re on prescription medications, check with your prescribing doctor or pharmacist before adding a natural remedy to the mix (natural remedies can often interact with or invalidate prescription meds).
  • If symptoms persist see a doctor.
  • I am not a doctor, just a girl who (due to a laundry-list of personal health idiosyncrasies) wants to decrease the amount of non-essential pharmaceuticals in her system.

Have I covered my ass enough, now?

Good for More Than Just Studding a Ham

I’d often read that clove was a natural topical analgesic (pain reliever) but it never really clicked until one Sunday dinner with a friend’s family. Mrs. P had made a gorgeous glazed ham and you know the the crust is the best part. Well, after one piece my tongue started to go numb. Viola! A little too much clove on a ham yields numbing sensations. This is why clove oil (available in some pharmacies) or even the ground cloves in your spice cabinet can be applied to your gums to help alleviate your next toothache. Just make a little paste with cloves and water and place it around the achy area.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have a faint pie-spice taste in my mouth than that nasty orajel flavor I grew up with!

When the Motion of the Ocean is too Much to Bear

Thankfully, I don’t suffer from motion sickness on a regular basis, nor do I get sea sick. Growing up in Louisiana, both families had river camps and I always thought it was great fun to go out on a boat.The first two cruise ships I was on? No problems. But by my third cruise I’d developed more persistent tummy troubles in general and our ship was experiencing some propulsion issues that created a little more rocking. I came prepared with my trust ginger pills and, after the first day, all was right with the world.

We’ve probably all been given ginger ale when we were kids with an upset stomach, right? There’s a reason for that. Ginger has a wonderfully calming effect on roiling tummies and can help with digestion in general. For the cruise I bought ginger pills at the local health food store (powdered ginger in capsules) but I’ve also had good results eating bit of Australian chewy ginger licorice and even candied ginger slices. You do want to watch out on the sugary options, though: too much sugar can make a bad situation worse (it draws extra water into your gi tract to deal with the sugar and can throw things out of balance).

The Go With the Flow Trio

In my 20s I suffered through numerous bladder infections for which we were never quite sure of the cause(s). On top of that, I was also getting bronchitis a couple times a year, and the antibiotic load frequently took it’s toll on the good bacteria in my body causing yeast infections. It was a vicious cycle. And really uncomfortable.

Since then I’ve discovered my own little cocktail of all-natural products to help keep the girlie bits happy and healthy. It’s not exactly a secret, chances are you’ve heard of this before, but I’m going to tell you anyway because I’ve learned to no longer assume folks know what I consider to be common information: cranberry juice, yogurt and baking soda mixed with water are your new best friends.

Not all together, of course!

The cranberry juice needs to be as close to natural as possible. If you don’t like the taste you can use the blends but it’s best if you use the brands available in the organic or natural section of the grocery as they won’t have as many sugars (sugars are bad news for these kinds of issues–they feed the bad bacteria!) or artificial ingredients. Drinking cranberry juice regularly keeps your urinary tract happy.

Oh, and about those blends? My girlfriend’s doctor told her any blend was find EXCEPT Cran-Grape–one half makes you go, the other makes you stop and you’re body won’t know what to do. Just something to keep in mind!

Yogurt is teeming with those active cultures that make yogurt, yogurt and they do wonderful things like build up the good bacteria in our bodies that antibiotics can strip away. Again, the idea is to go as natural as possible and avoid overly sugary versions or ones with excess chemical enhancement. My favorite, these days, is naturally fat-free Greek yogurt with fruit and honey.

Back when I’d get those infections often the doctor would give me a pain killer along with the antibiotic. I wasn’t really fond of the technicolor side-effects these things brought on and hated yet another pill to swallow for the duration. Instead, I read that mixing baking soda in water will act as a natural pain reliever to get you over the hump if you feel a little uncomfortable in the nether regions. Thankfully I’ve only had to use this once in the last 6 years but it does work!

But Wait–There’s More!

Nagging cough? Dissolve 1 tablespoon of honey into 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and drink to quiet that tickle. Yes, it’s strong-tasting, but it’s still better than the artificial stuff on the drugstore shelf!

Nutmeg is a natural anti-inflammatory and can be taken in pill form just like the ginger–look in your local health foods store for this one.

An infusion of basil in hot water (you can even used dried basil for this! 1/4 cup water per 2 teaspoons basil and steeped for 10 minutes) helps reduce gas and bloating. 1 cup, twice a day for no more than 8 days in a row followed by a 2 week break. Just don’t lay on the basil if you’re pregnant.

What’s stocked in your kitchen medicine cabinet?

It’s All Greek for Me!


Yogurt, that is.

I keep a pretty repetitive eating routine (at least during the week when I’m on a schedule) that involves regular meals and snacks, primarily to keep my blood-sugar from dropping. Mid-morning means a dose of yogurt which has the added benefit of live cultures and, over the years, I’ve tried most of the brands and styles available on the market. I’d pretty much settled on an organic, non-fat vanilla yogurt, bought by the quart and spruced up with dried blueberries, frozen strawberries or all-fruit spread.

Occasionally I’d dally with a really yummy plum-lavender-honey yogurt from another organic line (preferred for its eschewing of artificial sweeteners) but I do like the ability to buy larger quantities and pack my own servings in reusable containers as opposed to single-serving varieties. And then, in February, I was down in Orlando for MegaCon and missing my yogurt routine when I saw a yogurt parfait at a local Starbucks: it was Greek yogurt, honey and granola with pepitas and dried fruit and, oh, it was good. Have you tried it? Greek yogurt in general, I mean, though the Starbucks offering is very good, too.

Compared to most low or no-fat yogurts, non-fat Greek yogurt is thick, the consistency of a rich sour cream with some of the bite of that, as well. One thing I dislike about most low-fat yogurts is the texture, so this was a revelation. Calorie-wise, it’s about 60 per 8 oz serving but I usually stick to 4 oz at a time for my mid-morning snack so, even with the addition of a dollop of honey and a small shake of organic granola, my mid-morning snack is both satisfying and low-cal all in one.

Even though most Greek yogurt is non-fat, there are some 2% versions out there, so watch the label of the brand you buy. Also, unlike other yogurts that come in quart sizes of plain and vanilla, the largest I’ve found locally is plain as a pint. It also tends to be a bit more expensive than even the vanilla organic non-fat that I was buying, but I think the benefits of taste and texture are worth a tiny increase in price.