Yogurt Cheese: The Miracle
HEALTHFUL & DELICIOUS
by Shelley Melvin
I love food! I love its colors, textures, flavors, aromas
and tastes. I have also had a weight problem since the age of
Like many people, my problem is not only at mealtime; I am a
snacker too. But carrot sticks or an apple simply are not satisfying.
I want potato chips, peanut butter, cookies, ice cream, cheese
and crackers! I had to learn to control these cravings. I finally
did, with the discovery of a versatile, "perfect" food
called yogurt cheese. I haven't looked back.
First I blended it with a packaged onion soup mix, and couldn't
tell it wasn't made with sour cream! So, with my spice cabinet
open and garlic press handy, I started mixing and matching until
I had a nice little repertoire of low-fat recipes that tasted
rich and creamy.
With many new tastes to choose from, it was a small step from
dip to salad dressing; it's great to be able to have a tossed
salad with thick creamy dressing. Then I added the mixtures to
tuna and then to chicken, fish and potatoes. Next I added yogurt
cheese to baked goods and reduced the fat. Many of these experiments
worked, and the results were exciting! Now I can count on a collection
of cakes and brads that don't spoil my diet.
Yogurt cheese is so easy to work with that you, too, can do what
I've done here. You can "de-fat" and "decalorize"
your own favorite recipes by substituting yogurt cheese for cream
cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise. For those times when you crave
something that's "forbidden," you may be able to have
just a little by combining it with yogurt cheese to make it lowER
in fat and calories. The cheese takes on the flavor of whatever
it's mixed with.
People diet for different reasons and in different ways. In testing
the recipes for this book, I kept in mind how they would fit into
my Weight Watchers program. What could be better than a cup of
cream soup that counts as one milk or protein and two vegetables?
For those of you on other programs and diets, each recipe includes
nutritional information and the exchanges developed by the American
Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association.
Just about everyone seems to be on a diet of some sort—to
lose weight, lower cholesterol, or reduce sodium intake. Yet it
is hard to stay on a diet that is bland, boring, tasteless or
unsatisfying. Now when that hungry feeling attacks—mealtimes
or in-between—you have a selection of tasty foods that fit
into your total dietary plan.
So next time you want a snack, entree, soup, salad, bread or
dessert that's quick to make, fun to eat, and tastes delicious,
try one of these recipes and feel good about the healthy choice
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Here are a few principles to guide you as you make the recipes
in this article.
Yogurt Cheese: Most recipes specify a quantity
of yogurt cheese rather than yogurt. In general, you will get
about 1 cup of yogurt cheese from 16 ounces of yogurt. Quantities
are not critical. You can also change one flavor of yogurt cheese
to another. For example, when a recipes calls for vanilla, you
can subtitute plain nonfat and add a little sweetener and a drop
Cheese: Some recipes include Cheddar and other cheeses that, as
everyone knows, are high in fat and cholesterol. By combining
them with yogurt cheese, the fat and cholesterol are lowered so
you may be able to allow yourself a small amount without breaking
your diet. You can also substitute low-fat versions, though the
flavor will be milder.
Eggs: You can substitute egg whites in recipes
that call for whole eggs: 2 whites for 1 whole egg. Your final
product will be a little richer and creamer with whole eggs and
lower in fat and cholesterol with just the whites.
Sodium: Most of the recipes are low in sodium
and offer options for lowering it. Yogurt cheese is naturally
low in sodium because about half the sodium in the yogurt drains
out in the whey. And because yogurt cheese tends to absorb the
flavors of other ingredients in the recipe, it is usually not
necessary to add salt.
"Holding": Yogurt cheese mixtures
are their firmest when taken from the refrigerator, and tend to
soften at room temperature. When mixed with other ingredients,
the flavors blend and develop more if they are held for a while.
You can firm-up texture and blend the flavors by refrigerating
several hours or overnight. If whey continues releasing after
the mixture has been held, simply pour off any accumulated whey
(or stir it in).
Sugar: Although I have used sugar in these recipes,
you can readily substitute another sweetener, such as honey, grain
sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, spreadable fruit (with no
sugar), or even an artificial sweetener.
Nutritional Analysis: Whenever there is more than one choice for
an ingredient or an amount, the nutritional information for the
recipe is based on the first one listed. Not included in the analysis:
optional ingredients and those for which no quantity is given.
All figures are approximate; actual values may very depending
on season, brand of product used, etc. Nutritional values of yogurt
cheese will also vary with draining time and method used.
Exchanges: Exchanges are based on the 1995 revision
of Exchange Lists for Meal Planning, developed by the American
Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association. If
you use them, remember that the exchange for 1 carbohydrate is
equal to 1 starch or 1 milk or 1 fruit.
YOGURT CHEESE: THE KEY INGREDIENT
The recipes in this article are based on one special ingredient:
yogurt cheese. So, if yogurt cheese is unfamiliar to you, your
first step is to get acquainted.
Start with Yogurt: Use any natural yogurt, either
plain or flavored, that does not contain gelatin. Gelatin holds
the whey in the yogurt and does not allow it to drain off. Sometimes
other stabilizers affect draining. You may have to experiment
to find the best yogurt in your area.
How To Make Yogurt Cheese: Spoon yogurt into a draining device,
place it over a tall receptacle to catch the liquid (whey) that
drains out—the yogurt cheese must not come in contact with
the whey—and put in the refrigerator. As the whey drains
off, the remaining cheese gets thicker. After 2 hours the cheese
will be creamy. Eight to 12 hours creates a dense cheese. After
24 hours the yogurt probably will not release any more whey and
the cheese will be very stiff.
The drained-off whey is about half the original quantity of yogurt
(8 ounces whey from 16 ounces yogurt). Discard whey, unless you
wish to use it for soups, etc.
Keep yogurt cheese refrigerated in a covered container. It will
keep for about a week. Whey may continue releasing, so pour off
any liquid before using.
Mixing, Cooking, Freezing: Yogurt cheese has
a creamy, spreadable consistency that mixes easily. You can use
anything from a fork or wire whisk to a food processor or blender.
Like all milk products, yogurt cheese is sensitive to heat, so
heat gently and do not allow to boil. You can prevent separation
or thinning during cooking by combining it with flour or cornstarch.
It is best to add yogurt cheese to hot foods at the end of the
cooking time. Yogurt cheese freezes well. If the texture becomes
grainy, stir until smooth.
Yogurt Cheese is Remarkable! A remarkable feature
of yogurt cheese is its versatility. Make a party dip, for example,
and thin the leftovers with a little milk and it becomes a creamy
soup. Change your mind and turn the soup into a baked potato topping.
Or a salad dressing. It's easy to experiment! Yogurt cheese mixtures
are never boring because they can be used in many ways.
It's own flavor is part way between cream cheese and sour cream,
varying with milkfat content and brand of yogurt. But when you
add another ingredient, it takes on the flavor of what you've
Yogurt cheese has been around for a long time. In fact, laban
(the Arabic name for yogurt cheese) has been a part of Middle
Eastern cuisines for centuries. Now it's time for Americans to
get acquainted with it and start reaping the benefits.
VEGETABLE CHEESE PIE
Makes about 1 3/4 cups (serves 6-8)
1 cup non-fat yogurt cheese
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 drops Tabasco sauce, or more to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
8 small pimiento-stuffed olives, chopped (2 Tbsp)
2/3 cup cheese cracker crumbs
In a medium-size bowl, whisk yogurt cheese, lemon juice, Worcestershire
sauce, Tabasco sauce and paprika until smooth. Stir in the green
pepper, celery, onion and olives.
Line a 2-cup souffle dish with plastic wrap. Spread with half
the cheese mixture; sprinkle with one-third of the crumbs. Repeat
with a layer of cheese mixture then one-third of the crumbs. Cover
and chill until serving time.
To serve, turn out on a platter, remove the plastic wrap and
sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Cut into small wedges and surround
with raw vegetables such as cucumbers, celery and carrot strips.
1/4 cup: Calories 68; Protein 4 gm; Carbohydrates 8 gm: Fat
2 gm; Cholesterol 0 mg; Calcium 91 mg; Sodium 188 mg. Exchanges:
1 vegetable and 1/2 milk. Diet note: For low sodium diets, omit
part or all of the olives.
FETTUCINI WITH SCALLOPS AND ARTICHOKES
1 Tbsp olive oil
15 oz bay scallops (or imitation scallops)
1/2 cup sliced green onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, diced (or use canned)
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup non-fat yogurt cheese
1 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
3 cups cooked spinach fettucine, hot
3 Tbsp grated fresh Parmesian cheese
In a large skillet, heat the oil. Saute the scallops for 2 minutes,
stirring; remove scallops and set aside.
In same skillet, saute onions, garlic and tomatoes 1 to 2 minutes.
Season with pepper and add wine. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes.
Combine cornstarch with the yogurt cheese; add artichokes and
Return scallops to pan along with yogurt cheese mixture, and
cook, stirring constantly until thickened and scallops are cooked.
To serve, divide cooked fettucine among 6 plates, top with the
scallop mixture, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Per serving: Calories 195; Protein 17 gm; Carbohydrates 21 gm:
Fat 3 gm; Cholesterol 11 mg; Calcium 111 mg; Sodium 128 mg. Exchanges:
2 meat and 1 starch.
CURRIED PEA SOUP
Makes about 5 cups
2 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock (low-sodium)
10-oz pkg frozen green peas
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp curry powder, or more to taste
1/2 tsp dry mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup non-fat yogurt cheese
Major Grey's chutney, optional garnish
Combine chicken broth, peas, onion, garlic, curry powder, dry
mustard, salt and pepper in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil,
then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Allow
In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt cheese until smooth.
Working in batches, puree the soup mixture in a food processor
(metal blade) or blender. Strain through a fine sieve, then whisk
into the yogurt cheese. Thin to desired consistency with a little
chicken broth or water. Cover and chill for about 4 hours.
Just before serving, add a little water if soup has thickened,
and adjust the seasonings. Garnish each bowl with a dollop of
chutney, if desired.
1 cup: Calories 105; Protein 8 gm; Carbohydrates 15 gm: Fat
1 gm; Cholesterol 0 mg; Calcium 138 mg; Sodium 124 mg. Exchanges:
2 vegetables and 1/2 milk. Diet note: The water you add will automatically
lower all the nutritional values.
MIXED GRAIN CORNBREAD
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup wheat germ
1 Tbsp baking powder
4 egg whites
1/4 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup honey
1 cup non-fat yogurt cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch round pan with nonstick
In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, whole wheat flour, wheat
germ and baking power.
In a small bowl, combine egg whites, oil, honey and yogurt cheese,
and whisk until smooth. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until
Pour into the pan and bake for 35 minutes. Cut into 12 wedges
and serve warm.
1 wedge: Calories 122; Protein 4 gm; Carbohydrates 15 gm:
Fat 5 gm; Cholesterol 0 mg; Calcium 113 mg; Sodium 106 mg. Exchanges:
1 starch/bread and 1 fat. Diet note: To lower sodium, low-sodium
baking powder may be used.
Makes about 4 dozen
3 cups rolled oats (old fashioned or quick)
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup chopped nuts or raisins, optional
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup non-fat yogurt cheese
2 egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick
In a large bowl, stir together oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda,
nutmeg and nuts.
In a medium-size bowl, combine the brown sugar, yogurt cheese,
egg whites and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Stir into the dry
ingredients and mix well. Drop by level tablespoons onto the prepared
cookie sheets, flattening the dough slightly with the back of
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove immediately
from cookie sheets and cool on racks.
2 cookies: Calories 99; Protein 3 gm; Carbohydrates 20 gm:
Fat 1 gm; Cholesterol 0 mg; Calcium 33 mg; Sodium 21 mg. Exchanges:
1 fruit and 1/2 milk.
Excerpted from Not Just Cheesecake: A Yogurt Cheese
Cookbook 2nd ed by Shelley Melvin. Copyright © 1997
by Triad Communications, Inc. Excerpted by arrangement with Triad
Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. $16.95. Available in
local bookstores or call 800.525.6902 or click