Yogurt is an ancient food made from the fermentation of milk. Prior to the industrialization of food, it was known basically as milk that had been allowed to sour and curdle; in the southern parts of the United States, it was referred to as “clabber”.
Today, yogurt is a processed milk that has been pasteurized, homogenized, and fermented with gut-healthy microorganisms, namely Lactobacillus.bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Yogurt undergoes the process of lactic acid fermentation, such as sauerkraut and fermented vegetables (tempeh, kimchi), where these specific microorganisms are added to promote lactic acid bacteria.
There is a plethora of yogurt styles and flavors in the market, representing more than two-thirds of the dairy section in many grocery stores. The fat content of a yogurt is based upon the type of milk used–skimmed, low-fat or whole-fat. Additionally, many yogurts are available with added ingredients such as fruit, honey, and granola. Unfortunately, these designer yogurts often offer more sugar and peace of mind than true nutritional benefits. The saying “less is more” is a perfect description of how to go about purchasing a truly healthy yogurt. Plain with no added ingredients is recommended as the best option; always check the label for sugar content and degree of live cultures.
The National Yogurt Association indicates to look for a “Live and Active Cultures” seal. This seal is voluntary to yogurt manufacturers whose products contain at least 100 million cultures per gram at the time of processing. Many of the yogurts on the market today are “greek” style, but a new trend is beginning to develop toward “french” style. These yogurts attempt to replicate the strict European criteria for production. However, for now the majority of the yogurts in U.S. grocers remain “greek”. It will be interesting to see if the cleaner “french style” takes to American consumers.
Yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics, calcium, and protein, as well as riboflavin and phosphorous. The primary benefit of consuming yogurt is the addition of probiotics to the digestive system. As noted before, the digestive system is one of the first indications of aging due to the lack of probiotics and digestive enzymes. When probiotics are combined with digestive enzymes, the digestive system is able to build its own protective armor, if you will, minimizing many gastrointestinal issues. Plain yogurt can be used as a substitute for recipes that call for buttermilk or sour cream, or incorporated into salad dressing recipes.
This recipe includes many spices, as well as whole grain pasta, cucumber, dill, and garlic. The greek spice blend of thyme, oregano, and paprika offer a delicious flavor in addition to medicinal attributes. Whole grain pasta is yet another plus in this recipe due to its increased soluble fiber and inclusion of the whole wheat grain. The cucumber provides a good amount of vitamin K, and small amounts of pepperocini and kalamata olives provide a daily dose of vinegar to the diet, which assists in maintaining the body’s pH balance and digestion.
Additional Ingredients for Consideration:
- Marinated artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, or raw spinach
- Nuts – walnuts or pine nuts
- Substitute red peppers with sliced grape tomatoes
Greek Penne Rigate (serves 6-8)
1 lb. Penne Rigate
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons pepperocini, chopped
1-2 tablespoons pepperocini liquid
2 tablespoons kalamata olives, chopped
Feta cheese (optional)
Parsley garnish (optional)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 1/2 cup whole fat greek yogurt
1/2 medium cucumber, grated and drained
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- Prepare sauce: combine all ingredients and refrigerate for 20 minutes
- Prepare greek seasoning mix; combine all ingredients and set aside
- Prepare pasta according to package
- Drain pasta; toss warm pasta with 1/2 cup greek sauce and combine (if sauce is thicker than you prefer, add a bit of olive oil)
- Add red peppers, olives, chopped pepperocini with liquid, and greek seasoning to pasta
- Combine until pasta is well coated; garnish with parsley and feta cheese (optional)
- Gluten-free pasta works well in this recipe
- Cooked lamb, chicken, beef, jackfruit, or tofu may be added
- The sauce can be made in advance
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