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Food & Wine

Cooking with yogurt brings benefits

Photo By: Sarah Manning/Special to the Town Crier
Photo Sarah Manning/Special To The Town CrierWild-mushroom risotto pairs rich flavors with the moderate dairy decadence of yogurt.

Every January, the hauntings of holiday indulgences cause us to make drastic promises to ourselves. We forego fat, tie ourselves to the treadmill and vow to bounce back into glowing health just in time for beach season.

Making better dietary choices is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. We start out strong, resisting every sinful craving, but many of us end up hanging our heads and reaching back into the bread basket when our excitement and momentum fade.

The real secret to success may not come as a surprise: Balance is key. Extreme measures may shrink the number on the scale in the short term, but this is the year to stop depriving yourself. Instead, make strategic substitutions that help reduce the heavy fats so prevalent in holiday baking and cooking and gain back your healthy glow. The only necessary ingredient is yogurt.




Yogurt is a superfood with a repertoire of health-promoting, waist-slimming tricks up its sleeve. Yogurt can replace half the fat content in most of your favorite recipes, and can be used in all the same ways as cream, buttermilk, mayonnaise, cream cheese, sour cream or cottage cheese. With probiotics, B vitamins, protein and other important nutrients, swapping yogurt for other fats is a choice your body will thank you for. It provides a creamy consistency, luxurious flavor and stellar nutritional profile.

Try using-low fat, European-style plain yogurt instead of butter or oil in cakes, quick breads or muffins. Greek yogurt makes a wonderful spinach dip in lieu of mayonnaise, but you can also stir it into soups, dollop it on quesadillas or even add it to frosting.

In the following recipe, risotto gets a makeover with Greek yogurt for creaminess and farro (instead of arborio rice) for fiber, vitamins and texture. You won’t miss the cream one bit.

Sarah Manning is a Los Altos High School graduate who blogs weekly about her culinary adventures. To read her food blog, visit www.thechocolatefigSF.com.

Farro Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Yogurt

• 1 cup dried wild mushrooms, such as shiitake

• 2 tablespoon butter, divided

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

• 1 cup farro

• 1/2 cup dry white wine

• 7 cups (approximately) chicken broth

• 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

• 2 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt


Place dried mushrooms in large liquid measuring cup and cover with boiling water. Allow to soak and reconstitute for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid, and thinly slice.

In large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and salt and cook until starting to brown, approximately 4 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to plate and place pan back on flame.

Heat remaining tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add farro, stir and cook until grains start to appear translucent, approximately 4 minutes. Add white wine and stir until absorbed, approximately 3 minutes. Add 3/4 cup of mushroom soaking liquid to farro. Stir until absorbed.

Once mushroom liquid is absorbed, add chicken broth in 3/4-cup increments, stirring after each addition until absorbed. After three additions, add mushrooms back to pan and continue adding chicken broth until farro is cooked through and creamy. Reduce heat to low and add Parmesan cheese and Greek yogurt, stirring constantly to prevent yogurt from curdling. Season well with freshly ground black pepper.

Divide risotto among individual plates and top with more grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Makes two to four servings.

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