What happens when a novel experience turns into a regular routine? You get to eat creamy homemade yogurt as part of your regular diet. For me, making the homemade yogurt phenomenon started as a curious experiment that quickly turned into something bigger than I could imagine. Not only did I learn about fermentation and a new cooking technique, I realized that the act of making yogurt at home, has additional valuable contributions besides enjoying a delicious and nutritious snack.
It all started when I was reading about Middle Eastern cuisine and in particular, Lebanese cuisine. While reviewing Maureen Abood’s cookbook, Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, it became evident that yogurt was a central ingredient in Lebanese food. In many of her recipes homemade yogurt or labneh, cheese made from yogurt, was the central ingredient. As a result, I believed if I really wanted to understand this cuisine, then I must learn how to make its most central ingredient, yogurt.
Unfortunately, the very first batch of yogurt I made did not set properly. I reached out to Maureen Abood and she explained, sometimes the yogurt just does not set up. It happens. Discouraged, but not daunted I tried again with a different yogurt starter and had great success. What a triumph. It was like the first time I made a loaf of bread, something I thought was impossible was now possible.
My initial taste of the inaugural homemade yogurt was a revelation. This is one of those foods where you can taste the difference between homemade and store-bought. Homemade yogurt has the distinctive acidic tang, but it is a lot creamier in texture. I used to not like plain yogurt without any sweetener, but homemade yogurt has a je ne sais quoi taste about it. It is fresh, creamy, mild and tangy all at the same time. Can you taste fresh? Yes. It is the difference between eating an egg just plucked from the chicken coop to eating one bought from the store and is 4 weeks old. There is a presence that is hard to describe but you know it is there.
However, to change the habit and forgo the convenience of buying yogurt, it takes more than a curiosity to turn a novel experience into a weekly routine. After making yogurt a few times, I came to realize three benefits that will add up to significant changes for the better. First, I could support the local Hudson River Valley dairy industry, which consists mostly of family-run dairy farms that practice sustainable farming. Second, I could save money by not buying individual yogurt containers. Third, I will reduce my carbon footprint by buying locally sourced food and not buy all those plastic containers. This triple reinforcement, plus the desire to reduce the amount of sugar in our diet, sealed the deal and I started my weekly homemade yogurt routine.
Hudson River Valley Milk
Fortunately, my local grocery store carries several brands of milk that come from dairy farms in the Hudson River Valley. Most of the dairies source their milk from a cooperative of dairy farms that meet their standards of quality, sustainability, and humane treatment of animals. These brands are not USDA organic milk, but I know they are operating under the best practice policies to produce quality milk, maybe even better than the USDA standards. Another bonus is this milk is not ultra-pasteurized, which is crucial for making yogurt or any type of cheese. Even though it is not labeled USDA Organic, it is as organic as it can be.
Most of the USDA organic milk you find in the major grocery stores, is ultra-pasteurized. This is done so the milk has a longer shelf life. It is the one thing the industrial organic dairy farms must do in order for grocery stores to stock their product. This is because organic milk is more expensive and thus takes longer to sell. Unfortunately, ultra-pasteurization kills off good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria in the milk. It is the live cultures, the good bacteria, that help create yogurt and cheese, plus pasteurized milk has more nutritional value thank ultra-pasteurized.
Hudson River Valley Dairies
Listed below are dairies whose products are available in my area.
This post is not a sponsored post. I am just passing along my experience and research about local farming and how a person can make a difference to slow down climate change. I am sure there are other dairies out there that produce top quality milk and practice sustainable farming, even in my area. The dairies listed are just the ones available to me at this time.
Lower Your Carbon Footprint
I am lucky to live in an area that has a long history of family-run farms and agriculture, but it is only recently that they became available. Before I could buy local milk, I found a brand of organic milk that was not ultra-pasteurized in my local health-food store, Natural by Nature. This company is a family run business in Pennsylvania, so it is not too far away so I still consider it local. Fortunately, I did not have to look all over the county looking for it either. You might have to widen your circle, but hopefully, you can find an affordable source of organic pasteurized milk near you without too much trouble.
Over the years I have come to understand that any agricultural industry involving cattle has enormous environmental concerns from the methane gas released into the atmosphere, to the pollution from the runoff into our groundwater, and the health and safety of the cows. In my opinion, supporting local farmers who maintain environmentally friendly farming practices, and creates a healthy and humane environment for the cows, has a multiplier effect. There is less pollution compared to its industrial counterpart, creates food that is not stripped of nutrition because the cows eat an appropriate diet without growth hormones and antibiotics, and it helps local economies.
Helpful Tips for Making Homemade Yogurt
At its most basic, yogurt is milk with added live cultures, Streptococcus thermophilus, and Lactobacillus delbrueckii bulgaricus, that ferment in a warm environment until thick. It is the live cultures and warm incubating temperature that are essential to transforming milk into yogurt.
Yogurt is relatively simple to make but it does take some time for it to ferment and thicken. I found starting the process at night after dinner was the easiest way to work making yogurt into a weekly routine. This way the yogurt could incubate in the oven overnight and as soon as I woke up I placed the yogurt in the refrigerator for the second resting period. Later that afternoon or early evening, I strained out the whey for 3 hours.
The standard formula is: for every half-gallon (2 l) of milk, you need 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of yogurt starter. It is a one to one ratio: 1-quart milk to 1 TB yogurt starter. Using this ratio, the recipe easily scales up if you want to make more. Don’t be tempted to add more starter. One, you don’t need it and two, it will make the yogurt grainy.
The temperatures listed in the recipe are important for successful fermenting. Therefore, you need to pay attention and make sure the milk does not come to a boil and later, drop below 115°F when it’s time to add the starter. Also, a warm environment is essential for the cultures to do their thing. I have read, the incubation temperature is ideally at 100°F (38°C). If you have to keep it on the counter, wrap it up in a blanket and place under your kitchen cabinets or near a heating vent. If your cabinets have undermounted lights, turn them on. Room temperature is not ideal, but it might take longer for the yogurt to ferment.
I find the most reliable place to incubate the yogurt is in my oven with the oven light on. It is out-of-the-way in the oven and the yogurt stays warm from the heat of the light bulb. Because I have a tendency when something is out of sight, it is also out of mind, I place a sign on the oven door with big lettering Y O G U R T and a note of the time. Without that sign, I would completely forget about the yogurt and turn on the oven.
Not all commercial-brand yogurt are equal. Read the label and only use real yogurt with live active yogurt cultures. Stay away from brands with thickeners and stabilizers. I use Fage or Dannon, whole milk or low-fat plain yogurt with consistent results. Any good quality and real yogurt should work.
Yogurt for the Family
Would I make this if my kids were young and still living at home? Would they eat it? Maybe. Though, I would definitely need to sweeten the yogurt to get them to eat it. I found a small amount, about 1 teaspoon, of real maple syrup or honey, to a half a cup of yogurt gives a subtle sweetness and reduces the tang. Cinnamon also adds a sweet impression without the extra sugar. You can also sweeten yogurt with fresh fruit, real fruit purées or jams, and fruit compote. Even though you are adding some sugar, it is significantly less sugar than the store-bought variety. It is certainly worth a try.
An easy blueberry compote is roast 2 cups (500 ml) of fresh blueberries tossed with 2 TB of sugar in a 350°F (175°C) oven for 18 minutes. Tip the blueberries and their juices in a bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice and a 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries. Stir and allow to cool. This recipe comes from Yogurt Culture (linked below). It is super easy and incredibly delicious. When mixed with yogurt, it makes the best blueberry yogurt I have ever had. I am positive my children would have gobbled it right up.
Recipe Inspiration for your Homemade Yogurt
Like buttermilk, yogurt mixed with other herbs and spices is a great marinade for chicken and lamb.
My Inspiration and References
Here is a list of the three references I used over the past two years to learn about making yogurt and its history. If you want to really learn all about fermentation, the book The Art of Fermentation has everything you need to know about making all types of fermented food.
It may look daunting to make your own yogurt, but it is relatively simple. In the beginning, you need to keep an eye on the temperature, but mostly you just have to wait and give the cultures time to ferment. Other than the yogurt culture, the most important ingredients are time and temperature. You need 8-10 hours to incubate the yogurt in a warm draft-free environment, and an additional 8 hours in the refrigerator to finish. Once these steps are complete, you can eat it right away or strain out some of the whey for Greek-style yogurt.
Because there are only two ingredients in yogurt, use the best quality milk and yogurt you can buy. For best results, the yogurt used as your culture must contain real live cultures and no fillers, gums, or artificial ingredients. I use Fage and Dannon yogurt whenever I start with a new yogurt culture.
Seek out organic milk that is not ultra-pasteurized as this process kills off important and healthy bacteria needed for making yogurt.
You can use your homemade yogurt as a culture for up to 3-4 generations. After that, start over with a new batch of yogurt bought at the grocery.
This recipe scales up to 1 gallon of milk with ¼ cup (65 ml) fresh yogurt culture.
Yield: Makes about 7 cups (1 L 750 ml) yogurt before straining out the whey.
Serving size is a half a cup (125 ml)
- Heavy bottom stock pot or Dutch oven with lid
- Instant read thermometer
- Small bowl for tempering the starter
- Stainless steel mixing spoon or rubber spatula
- Large bowl partially filled with ice optional
- A warm and dry place like an oven for incubating the yogurt
- Triple layer cheesecloth or thin flour sack towel
- Storage container
- ½ gallon of milk whole or 2%, preferably organic and not ultra-pasteurized
- 2 TB yogurt with live active cultures like Dannon or Fage
Prepping your utensils
Make sure all your utensils, pots and bowls are clean. Clean them with hot water and soap and drip dry on a clean kitchen towel. I do not sterilize my utensils or pots when I make yogurt, but some people do. If you wish to sterilize your utensils and pot, run them through a complete cycle in your dishwasher. You can sterilize your instant-read thermometer by placing the probe in a mug of boiling water and drip dry on a clean kitchen towel.
Heat the milk
Rub an ice cube over the bottom and partially up the sides of your stock pot. This helps the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pot. If you do not have ice cubes, run the bottom of the pot under cold water and empty any water that collects in the pot.
Pour your milk in the stock pot and set the burner between medium / medium-high.
Take your starter, 2 tablespoons of yogurt out of the refrigerator and add it to a small bowl like a cereal bowl. Set it aside so it will come to room temperature while you heat and later cool the milk.
Slowly, heat the milk until it reaches 185°F / 85.5°C without stirring. Any temperature at or slightly above 180°F (82°C) but below 195°F (90.5°C). You do not want the milk to boil or be too hot and kill off the important yogurt-making bacteria.
When you reach 185°F / 85.5°C, lower the heat and maintain that temperature for 5 minutes.
It is hard to maintain a constant temperature, at least on my stove, just keep it in the 180°F - 186°F /82°C- 85.5°C range. If you go below 180°F (82°C) stop stirring and turn up the heat until you get back at that temperature.
Cool the milk
Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove. Let the milk rest until it cools down to 115°F (46°C). I allow my milk to cool on the counter and stir it every now and then to help release the steam. I set the timer to keep track of the time and check the temperature frequently. This process can take around 35 minutes, give or take.
A faster method of cooling the milk is to fill a large bowl partway with ice and cold water. The bowl needs to be large enough to accommodate your stock pot with ice water surrounding the bottom and partway up the sides of your pot. A sink will work as well. Stir the milk in a back and forth manner every now and then until it is cool. Remove the pot from the ice bath when it reaches around 118° – 120°F (48° - 49°C). Place on the counter and keep the instant-read thermometer in the milk so you do not cool the milk below 115°F (46°). If the milk does fall below 115°, place the pot back on the burner and heat it up 115°F (46°C).
Add the Yogurt Starter
Add one ladleful of the 115°F (46° C) milk in the bowl with your starter yogurt. Whisk the yogurt mixture until well incorporated then pour the yogurt culture in the pot with the milk. Stir then cover. Place the inoculated milk inside a draft-free and warm space.
Incubate the yogurt culture
Place your yogurt culture in a warm draft-free place. In my house, my oven is the best spot. Keep the oven warm by keeping the oven light on. I found it does not always work if I let the yogurt incubate on the counter. According to Cheryl Sternman Rule in her book Yogurt culture, the ideal temperature for incubating yogurt around 100°F (38°C).
Allow the cultured milk to incubate for 6 – 10 hours. Sometimes, it takes longer, up to 12 hours, but the consistent incubation time is around 8-10 hours. The yogurt is done when it looks thick and solid with some liquid, the whey, sloshing about when you jiggle the pot. It will look like plain yogurt.
One final step before eating your yogurt is to chill it in the refrigerator for several hours. Tip the yogurt in a bowl and tightly cover with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid. Add the yogurt to the refrigerator and chill for 6-8 hours or overnight. This extra step develops more flavor and a creamier consistency.
Voiá, you just made yogurt!
Before you use up your yogurt, measure out 2 tablespoons (30 ml) to ¼ cup (60 ml) of yogurt and place in a bowl with a tight fitting lid. Label and date the yogurt. You will use this yogurt for your next batch of yogurt. Store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Taste before using to make sure it is not starting to turn. You can get 3-4 generations of yogurt when using starter from homemade yogurt. After that, start fresh with a new batch of yogurt from the grocery store.
Greek Style Yogurt
Normally, I strain my yogurt for about 2-3 hours to thicken it up and produce Greek Style yogurt.
To strain the yogurt, line the bowl of a fine mesh strainer or colander with a moistened triple layer of cheesecloth or a damp tea towel. The length of the towel or cheesecloth should drape over the sides of the strainer. Place the strainer or colander over a large bowl to catch the whey.
Scrape the yogurt into the lined strainer. Draw up the four corners of your cheesecloth or towel and bring them together. Tighten them close to the yogurt and tie with a string or twisty. Place the bowl with the colander in the refrigerator and drain the yogurt until it reaches the consistency you desire. The longer it strains the thicker it gets. I like the consistency after straining for 3 hours.
When done, place the yogurt in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. The yogurt will keep for a week.
If your yogurt is thicker than you like, add some of the whey back in to loosen it up.
Reserve your whey and store in a covered container in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
Yogurt dries out inconsistently throughout the incubating and straining process. This creates some lumpy spots in your yogurt. This is normal. If you want smooth yogurt, spoon out the amount you want then whisk it right before using. Whisking the yogurt will make the yogurt looser, but it gets out the lumps.
Don’t throw out the whey. It is great in many recipes and for marinades. Use whey in any recipe calling for traditional yogurt, not Greek yogurt, or milk like in baked goods, pancakes, and bread. Whey is acidic, so it will activate the baking soda. Use in smoothies. Use as a tenderizer for meats and in marinades. Whey will last in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
One project of mine is to develop my knowledge and skills for baking with less sugar and develop recipes using no refined sugar. The challenging part of baking without refined sugars is, often sugar has more than one function in a recipe, especially in baked goods. Sugar not only adds flavor, it helps develop the structure and texture in desserts. Whipping sugar and butter together makes cakes and cookies that are tender, light and airy as well as tasting sweet. So, when baked goods do not contain refined sugar it is easy to create a dense and dry muffin, cake or cookie. I believe I averted that challenge and created my first low sugar / no refined sugar muffin with my Good Morning Glory Muffins. These muffins are loaded with healthy and fresh ingredients, and naturally sweetened and moist. They are tender without being weighted down from all the fresh ingredients. A great breakfast to start your day.
Traditional Morning Glory Muffins are easily adapted to a no refined sugar recipe because the grated carrots add a subtle sweet flavor. It also combines all-purpose and whole wheat flours in the recipe. For my recipe, in addition to using grated carrots, I added grated zucchini, grated apples, apple sauce and Medjool dates. The grated carrots, zucchini, and apples I used for texture and flavor, while the applesauce and dates help sweeten the muffins. Apples and dates have a lot of natural sugar and melt when baked into muffins and cakes. They also have a lot of fiber. This helps slow down the digestion which is important to anyone who is counting carbs or watching their blood sugar.
The grated zucchini, grated apples and applesauce provide a lot of moisture. To prevent the muffins from getting soggy, I recommend squeezing out some of the water in the zucchini and apple. You do not have to squeeze them dry but getting rid of most of the water is helpful in creating a tender muffin.
Good Morning Glory Muffins
What I like about these Morning Glory Muffins is they are moist without being heavy and have subtle flavors including the sweetness. You definitely will taste the wheat, but it is not dry tasting. How sweet the muffins tastes depend on how well the chopped dates are incorporated throughout the muffin batter. I do not believe they need more dates in the muffins, otherwise they would be too sweet. Also, Good Morning Glory Muffins are hearty muffins without being heavy, so they won’t weigh you down.
Normally I love bold flavors, but with this recipe the spices create a deliberate subtle flavor profile. Even though I believe there is no such thing as too much fresh ginger, I wanted that flavor to come intermittently between bites like a surprise citrusy-ginger wake up call. The cinnamon is subtle as well, so it won’t over take the muffin flavor. However, each spice is easily adjusted to suit your taste. Often, cinnamon and fresh ginger contribute a sweet flavor in baked goods even though by themselves they are not sweet at all.
Switch it Up
When I first taste tested my Morning Glory Muffins, I thought they needed extra sweetener, so I added a small amount of honey. However, if the dates are evenly mixed in the batter, each muffin should taste sweet without the extra honey. I do not recommend adding more honey as the flavor will overpower the muffins. You can substitute the honey with maple syrup or agave syrup. If you want less sugar, please feel free to omit the honey or, keep the honey and reduce the amount of dates to 3.
Also, to keep these Morning Glory Muffins in the low sugar category, I did not add raisins. Like dates, raisins contain a lot of natural sugar and I was concerned adding them it would make the muffins too sweet. If you are not concerned about the amount of sugar in your muffin add no more than a 1/2 cup (125 ml) of raisins and you will enjoy a sweeter muffin more characteristic to a traditional Morning Glory Muffin.
Grated unsweetened coconut is also a nice addition adding another element in texture and flavor. Add up to a 1/2 cup (125 ml) unsweetened flaky coconut.
Determining when the Good Morning Glory Muffins are done
The hardest part about making these muffins is determining when they are done. Because of the amount of vegetables in the recipe and all the moisture from the zucchini, apples and eggs the traditional toothpick test is not reliable here because the batter does not cling to the toothpick. However, I still recommend using a toothpick to check for doneness. Instead of looking at the toothpick to see if there is any wet batter clinging to it, touch the end with your finger tips to feel if it is sticky and moist. If it is, the muffins need to continue baking. When the tooth pick feels on the dry side of moist and is not sticky, the Morning Glory Muffins are done.
Additional clues the muffins are done baking are the color and if the muffins spring back when you lightly touch the muffin tops. They should have a nice golden brown color and spring back into shape after you touch the muffin tops.
Nutritional Information for Good Morning Glory Muffins
According to My Fitness Pal calorie and nutrition calculator, when made according to my recipe each muffin has 203 calories. Has 7 grams of fat (11% DRV), of which 1 gram is saturated fat, 4 grams are monounsaturated fat and 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, plus 0 trans-fat. Each muffin has 31 grams of cholesterol (10% DRV) which comes from the eggs. All other ingredients do not contain any cholesterol. Other nutritional points of interest are: Sodium 143 mg (6% DRV), potassium 217 mg (6% DRV), total carbohydrates at 34 g (11% DRV), with dietary fiber at 7 g (30% DRV), and sugar at 10 g. Also, each muffin contains 4 g (8% DRV) of protein, 41% Vitamin A, 16% Vitamin C, 15% Calcium and 10% Iron.
Because of the power of the sugar lobby, nutritional labels do not show the Daily Recommended Value (DRV) for sugar. If must be a concerning percentage if the sugar industry does not want us to know. I was hoping to get these muffins in the single digits, but with 7 grams of dietary fiber I believe they are relatively low in sugar.
More recipes using no refined sugar or less sugar.
Low Fat Granola you can adjust the amount of sugar in the recipe by reducing the amount of dried fruit. Using fresh ginger instead of crystallized ginger is also a great way to cut back on the sugar.
Good Morning Glory Muffins
This muffin recipe is my adaptation for a low sugar Morning Glory Muffin. There is no refined sugar and are loaded with lots of fresh ingredients like apples, zucchini, sweet carrots and Medjool dates. These muffins are not sweet but will contain some sweet bites depending on how many dates are scattered about in each muffin. They are a delicious and healthy choice for breakfast.
For extra protein, serve with ½ cup (66 ml) low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt. Or Laban a Lebanese cheese made with yogurt.
Best served warm and the day it is made. Serving size =1 muffin.
- ½ cup 43 g shelled walnuts
- 1 ¼ cup 179 g all-purposed flour
- ¾ cup 120 g whole wheat flour
- ½ tsp 2 g Kosher salt
- 2 tsp 10 g baking powder
- ½ tsp 1 g ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg less than a gram
- 1 ½ tsp minced fresh ginger 7 g
- 4 Medjool dates 62 g minced
- 1 zucchini 8 oz / 239 g about 1 2/3 cups grated
- 2 carrots 6 ½ oz / 185 g 1 packed cup grated
- 1 apple 6 ½ oz / 185 g ¾ cup grated
- ½ cup 125 ml apple sauce
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup canola oil or 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 TB honey
Preheat the oven to 375°F/ 190°C / Gas Mark 5 and place the rack in the middle position. Spray each muffin cup with cooking spray. Soak up any excess oil with a paper towel. Or fill each muffin cup with a paper liner.
Toast the walnuts
Heat a small skillet over high heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the shelled walnuts to the skillet and shake the skillet to move the walnuts around the pan. Keep the walnuts in motion by moving the skillet back and forth, shake the skillet or toss with a spoon. The walnuts are toasted when you begin to smell a nutty scent, about 30 seconds. Do not let the walnuts brown or burn.
Immediately turn off the heat and pour the walnuts onto a cutting board to cool. Chop the walnuts to small bite size pieces. Set aside.
Prepare the Zucchini and Apple
Place the grated zucchini in a fine mesh strainer and squeeze out most of the excess water. Squeeze several times to get as much water out. Place on a plate and reserve.
Add the grated apples to the fine mesh strainer and squeeze out some of the water from the apples. Place on the plate with the zucchini. Add the grated carrots to the plate. Set aside.
Make the batter
Add the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, Kosher salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, minced ginger to a large mixing bowl. With a wire whisk, stir until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
Add the minced dates into the flour and toss the dates around to coat with flour. Use your hands to separate the clumps of chopped dates to get them evenly distributed in the flour.
Slide the grated zucchini, grated carrots, grated apples, and chopped walnuts into the flour mix and stir to mix.
Add the applesauce, canola oil, eggs, vanilla, and honey then stir to mix. Carefully stir until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated. You want to be careful to not over mix the batter, but it does need to get all mixed together. It is a thick batter.
Scoop up a heaping ¼ cup of batter with a dry measuring cup and pour the batter into a muffin tin. Repeat to fill all 12 muffin cups. Divide any remaining batter around to even out the muffins.
Bake in the oven for 35– 40 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and the top of the muffins spring back when touched. Also, when a toothpick is no longer sticky to touch after it was inserted into the center of a muffin.
Remove from the oven and cool the muffins in its' pan placed on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, cool in the muffin tin, or remove each muffin and cool on the rack.
Best eaten the day they are made, but will last for 2-3 days stored in an air tight container. Reheat in a microwave or oven.
Can be frozen individually wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for up to one month.
Because there is a lot of fruit and vegetables what have a lot of water it creates a very moist muffin. The traditionally reliable toothpick method of checking to see when a baked good is done, does not work here. No crumbs and batter cling to the toothpick even when they need more baking.
I still recommend using a toothpick, but in a different way. After 30 minutes, insert a toothpick into the middle of a muffin and take it out. Pinch the end of the toothpick that was inside the muffin, if it feels very moist and sticky, the muffins need more time. The muffins are done when the toothpick feels on the dry side of moist, plus is not sticky. These muffins take longer to bake because of the amount of moisture in the batter, anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Are you a sweet or savory breakfast person? If you are like me, someone who finds it difficult to choose between the two, frittatas are a wonderful choice and a healthy(ish) alternative to quiche. Because frittatas lack an all butter pastry crust, heavy cream and extra cheese, they are not as rich as quiche, Plus they are much easier to make. What this means is, you can serve up a savory frittata as a main course and include all the pastries or coffee cake you crave. Sweet and savory satisfaction without the guilt, (kind-of). I created this spinach frittata with the dual purpose of making something elegant and savory to serve for breakfast or brunch that also leaves room for something sweet, like The Best Damn Lemon Cake or Apple Muffin with Lemon Glaze.
Spinach Frittata Inspiration
My spinach frittata recipe combines two ideas from my favorite egg dishes. The first idea is from Deborah Madison’s cookbook, In My Kitchen. She adds saffron to her Swiss Chard Flan recipe, giving the custard an exotic floral nuance that I love. Saffron compliments custards and leafy green vegetables nicely, so I decided to use it instead of freshly grated nutmeg for some extra elegance in the frittata. I love saffron and don’t mind spending the extra money to buy it. However, if you rather not use saffron, add some freshly grated nutmeg directly into the egg mixture. Fresh basil or mint provides a brighter and fresher tasting substitution for saffron, and it pairs very nicely with the spinach frittata.
The second idea is the addition of fresh ricotta, whipped smooth and spooned on top of the spinach frittata. The first time I tasted a ricotta topped frittata is when I made Joshua McFadden’s Red Pepper, Potato, Prosciutto Frittata with Ricotta from his cookbook, Six Seasons. The ricotta transformed an ordinary western omelet into a very special occasion. The ricotta gets soft and warm baked with the frittata and you want every bite filled with this light creaminess. I totally got hooked on ricotta topped frittatas and now want to add ricotta cheese to just about everything.
It pays to buy the freshly made ricotta cheese, there is a big difference in taste. Usually you can find good quality ricotta near the deli department at your grocery. Or make a small batch of ricotta cheese. It takes a lot less time than you think and tastes like real milk.
Making a frittata is fairly straight forward and quick. The only challenging part in this recipe is to julienne the leeks. For a change I decided to julienne slice the white and light green parts of the leek instead of cutting them into circles or half-moons. It doesn’t really matter how they are prepared as long as they are thoroughly cleaned and cooked till soft and translucent. The julienned leek disappears into the spinach and eggs but adds lovely sweet onion background flavor.
To julienne the leeks, cut the leek in half lengthwise then clean between the layers. Then cut across the leek dividing it into chunks the size of your desired length, mine where about an inch and a half (3.5 cm). Then slice the portioned leeks, lengthwise in very thin strips, mine were about 1/16-1/8 of an inch (about 2-3 mm). Because you won’t see the leeks you do not have to worry about being precise like you would for julienned carrots in a vegetable sauté, so don’t fret about it.
Check out this video for a live example of how to julienne leeks. In this video he discards the root end of the leek. I do not discard it and julienne cut the root as best I can.
Coming up with a name for this spinach frittata was challenging. With all the special ingredients, it could easily have a name that takes longer to say then it does to cook. Yet the mood of this frittata is all about spring and representing new life and the warming of the earth and air. Fresh farm eggs give the vegetables its foundation with a salty bite of Romano cheese. Young spring spinach and leeks provide a sense of newness to the frittata which in turn is gets grounded from the floral but earthy notes from the stamens of spring crocuses, otherwise known as saffron. Warm, creamy fresh ricotta tie all the flavors together for a sunny “Good morning” greeting. All that goodness is invigorating but not filling leaving plenty of room for pastries or dessert.
Frittatas are delicious for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a light supper. For a spectacular Mother’s Day brunch (or any brunch), serve the spinach frittata with your favorite sides like sausage, bacon, green salad, fruit salad and your favorite pastries.
Ricotta Spinach Frittata
An elegant frittata recipe for the times when you want a special breakfast or brunch that is also easy to make. It is a lighter and healthier substitute for quiche.
- 1 pinch of saffron 1 TB boiling water
- 6 eggs
- ¼ cup 24 g finely grated real Romano cheese
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1-2 TB olive oil
- 1 leek about 6 oz (187 g) Pale green and white parts only
- 5 oz 142 g spinach cleaned, and stems removed
- ½ cup 117 g real ricotta cheese
Prepare your ingredients
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6 and place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Place a pinch of saffron in a small bowl and add 1 TB of just shy of boiling water to the saffron. Set aside and let the saffron steep.
In a medium size bowl, mix the eggs together with a fork until there are no egg whites visible in the mix. Add the Romano cheese and mix again until combined. Set aside.
Thoroughly clean and julienne slice the white and pale green parts of the leek, about an inch and a half in length and about 1/16 of an inch wide. See blog post for a video demonstration.
In a small bowl, whip the ricotta with a pinch of Kosher salt and a few grounds of black pepper until smooth. A fork works nicely for this job. Set aside.
Place an 8-inch (20cm) skillet, preferably a non-stick skillet with an oven-proof handle, on a burner and turn the heat to medium-high. Pour in the olive oil and heat up. Add the sliced leeks and turn down the heat to medium then sauté until soft, but not browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add the prepared spinach, in batches, and cook down until completely wilted and soft, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the saffron and water to the eggs, making sure you get every last drop and all saffron threads, and whisk together with a fork.
Make the Frittata
Pour the egg mixture into the skillet with the spinach and leeks. Tilt the pan to make sure the egg mixture is evenly distributed across the whole skillet. Turn the heat to medium and let the eggs cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes.
Run a thin rubber spatula around the edge of the frittata to loosen the eggs. Pull the eggs toward the center with the spatula creating pockets for uncooked runny eggs to fill up. Repeat this step going around the circumference of the frittata. Continue to gently cook the frittata until there is a thin liquid layer on top of the frittata.
Drop spoonfuls of whipped ricotta cheese around the frittata, about 6-8 spoonfuls. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until it is solid all the way through, about 6 minutes. You may need to place the frittata under the broiler to brown the top. It is not necessary, only if you want browning on the top. If you do, watch the frittata carefully because it should only take a few minutes.
Remove from the oven and run the frittata around the edge of the skillet, then slide the frittata on to a serving plate.
Frittata is best eaten warm the same day it is made.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
One of my earliest posts on my blog was a story about when I first learned to make an omelet. It was a treasured moment between me and Aunt Bunty. I will never forget it. The post included two omelet recipes. Currently, my recipe plugin only allows one recipe per post, and now each recipe must stand on their own. Fresh herb omelet has bright flavor from the fresh herbs, goat cheese and roasted peppers. I believe it is outstanding, and compare all other omelets to this one. Click on this link to read the story and recipe for Cheese Omelet.
I still stand by my premise from my original post: If you can only learn how to cook one thing let it be with eggs. An omelet is perfect for any meal of the day, inexpensive, and provides a nutritious meal. Fresh herb omelet with goat cheese is fancier than the standard cheese omelet, but it is worth knowing how to make. You never know when you will need to make something impressive.
No matter what age, starting out on your own is daunting. Learning to cook is no different. Having the skill of making a meal, such as an omelet, can help soften any transition be it work, school or learning how to cook. There will come a time when friends and/or family members will put out a call to action for the in-house “chef” to satisfy a hankering of a home cooked anything. The person, who can satisfy this need, usually reaches celebrity-nobility status for life.
Your friends might not remember your record-breaking accomplishments throughout your tenure in college or successful career, but they will remember your late-night comfort food and thank you for it. An omelet is a great place to start. If you can only cook one thing, make it with an egg.
The fresh herb omelet with goat cheese and roasted red pepper is inspired by a Barefoot Contessa episode “Fines Herb Omelet”. It is a creamy and luxurious omelet. Fines herb is a French term for the fresh herb combination of tarragon, chervil, chives and parsley. Unfortunately, I cannot get chervil at any market around me, so I usually use whatever fresh herbs I have at home. Use equal amounts of fresh herbs in any combination of 2 to 4 fresh herbs to your liking. Great combos are: 1) basil and parsley (you could also add mint), 2) chives, tarragon and parsley, 3) Fines Herbs, 4) dill, 5) whatever suits your taste.
Fresh Herb Omelet with Goat Cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 1 oz 28 g goat cheese (crumbled)
- 2 TBS mixed fresh herbs any combination of minced herbs, tarragon, chive, parsley, basil, mint, chervil
- 1 oz 28 g chopped roasted red pepper
- 1/2 TBS 7 g butter
Mise en Place
Get all your ingredients prepped and ready for cooking.
Mix the two eggs in a small bowl until they are completely combined.
Chop the herbs and mix half of the herb mixture into the eggs.
Chop the red pepper.
Measure and gently crumble the goat cheese. Set all ingredients to the side of the stove for easy access.
Get all your cooking utensils and pan ready. I use an 8-inch frying pan, a heat proof rubber spatula and a pancake spatula.
Cooking the omelet
Place an 8-inch frying pan on a burner and turn the heat to medium high. Heat the pan and melt the butter.
When the butter is completely melted, lift the pan and swirl the butter around so that the butter completely covers the bottom of the pan and up the sides.
Pour the mixed eggs into the center of the pan. Let the egg mixture settle for a few seconds. Using your utensil, (fork, wooden spoon, heat proof rubber spatula), gently pull the eggs from the edge of the pan towards the center. If needed, slightly tilt the pan by lifting the handle, to help guide the eggs into the cleared space.
Repeat this step 3-4 times going all the way around the perimeter of the pan.
Before the eggs are cooked all the way through, the eggs will still be a little wet on the top, place the rubber spatula between the edge of the pan and the eggs and slide it all the way around the perimeter to make sure that the eggs are loose and not sticking to the pan.
Slide the spatula under the eggs then flip the omelet over like a pancake. Once flipped, immediately sprinkle the goat cheese, roasted red pepper and half of the remaining herbs down the middle of the omelet.
Turn off the heat.
Tri-fold the omelet: Using your spatula, fold over one side of the omelet over the center of the omelet to cover the cheese and herbs
Continue to gently roll the omelet over, using your spatula to encourage the omelet to roll over onto itself, towards the other side of the omelet.
Place your serving plate at the edge of your pan and slide the omelet onto your plate seam side down.
*A slightly easier way to tri-fold your omelet after you have sprinkled your fillings down the center of the omelet, fold over one side of the omelet to cover the cheese filling in the center, then fold over the opposite side toward the center to cover the filling. Use your spatula to lift the omelet out of the pan and place it seem side down onto your serving plate.
Sprinkle the omelet with salt and pepper and the remaining fresh herbs and serve.
I prefer to make an individual omelet with two eggs verses a larger omelet with more eggs and for more portions. The one portion omelet cooks quickly and more thoroughly. If you want to make larger omelet you should use a 10-12-inch skillet, (depending on how many eggs), and possibly not flip the omelet over like a pancake, just fold the omelet in half. A larger sized omelet will be more fragile and it could rip. Once folded in half the eggs will continue to cook while the cheese melts.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
It’s time for me to revise my list of brunch meals and come up with more selections. I have a couple of good options, like Zucchini Frittata or Maple Apple Dutch Baby Pancakes, but I wanted something different and made with eggs. One of the best ways to cook eggs for a crowd is to bake them in the oven. Oven baked eggs are very convenient and becoming more popular. One dish that is particularly popular now, is Shakshuka. I wanted something similar in style, but with hearty greens as the base instead of tomatoes.
Ultimately, I decided to combine the two and sautéed hearty greens with tomatoes as the foundation for the baked eggs. Additionally, I wanted a bright creamy sauce to drizzle over the eggs, but nothing too heavy because I did not want it to detract from the vegetables and eggs. I pushed myself to stay away from cheese and heavy cream and try something lighter instead. It is rare to come across a healthy and creamy combination, but recently I discovered yogurt is a great substitute for heavy cream. Yogurt brings more tang to the meal, but it has a similar smooth texture as cream without the weight. As a result, baked eggs in sautéed greens with zesty yogurt sauce was born.
I love baked eggs with greens, but they are usually cooked with lots of heavy cream and melted cheese. I live for creamy-cheesy foods. Yet, there are times I want a lighter start to my day and not require a nap after breakfast. Yogurt comes to the rescue. I first learned about how well yogurt and eggs taste together when I made Julia Turshen’s Olive Oil Fried Eggs with Lemon Yogurt Sauce. These eggs are delightful. The lemon yogurt sauce invigorated the fried eggs with a creamy and bright citrus flavor. Keeping the flavors of this dish in mind, I set about to create the same zesty flavor with baked eggs and greens.
Eggs and spinach is a classic food pairing. Unfortunately, cooking spinach causes it to wilt down to nothing. You need five times the amount of fresh spinach to make one small spoonful of cooked spinach. I decided a combination of Swiss chard and spinach would provide more foundation to bake the eggs in. Swiss chard is one of my favorite hearty greens to cook with. It’s texture and flavor are somewhere in the middle of spinach and kale. Spinach is soft and mild, and kale is hearty and tough. Swiss chard is the perfect compromise of the two. Combining the two greens with the tomatoes adds more depth of flavor and body for the eggs to nestle in.
To give this recipe some pizzaz, I decided to layer the spices and seasoning by steeping them in the juices from the canned tomatoes. Then, I divided the perky tomato sauce between the vegetables and the yogurt sauce. My seasonings include minced ginger, saffron, and mini pinches of ground cayenne and cinnamon. There are many flavors here and require a delicate touch for everything to blend as one. The main flavors are saffron, ginger and lemon. The cayenne and cinnamon round out the flavors and highlight the swiss chard and tomatoes.
A small pinch of cinnamon adds warmth and sweetness to the sauce. The amount is intentionally small. Too much cinnamon will ruin it and be overbearing.
In my opinion, Swiss chard tastes better with a little dash of chili pepper. The spice helps reduce the bitter taste. Be cautious when adding both the cinnamon and cayenne so they do not overpower the other spices. Keep in mind when you taste the steeped tomato liquid the flavors will seem strong, but become less potent when added to the vegetables and the yogurt. If needed, add more granulated sugar and/or Kosher salt to balance them out.
I find the most difficult part of making baked eggs, is determining when the eggs are done. Just like making any egg meal, it takes practice to learn the visual clues. It is not like you are going to cut one open to check. For this recipe, the eggs bake in the oven nestled in sautéed tomatoes and leafy green pockets. Ideally, the eggs are done when the egg whites are just cooked through. Hopefully, at the same time the egg yolks are cooked, but are soft and runny. Have faith and trust your intuition and experience. 10 minutes was the perfect amount of time in my oven set at 400°F (204°C), but your cooking time could vary.
Baked eggs with sautéed greens and zesty yogurt sauce has the right balance of spunk and comfort to ease into your day. It is creamy, bright and nourishing. If you are not a fan of yogurt, substitute it with crème fraîche. Serve baked eggs with crusty artisan style toasted bread, like a baguette or sour dough batard, to mop up the vegetables laden in runny egg yolk and sauce.
Baked Eggs with Sauteed Greens and Zesty Yogurt Sauce
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 1 TB boiling water
- 1 14.5 oz can (411 g) diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- Shy 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- Shy 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon optional
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 oz plain Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon
- 1 TB Extra virgin olive oil
- 1- 8 oz (227 g) bunch Swiss chard cleaned and stems removed
- 1- 8 oz (227 g) bunch spinach cleaned and stems removed
- 1/4 cup (125 ml) vegetable stock
- 2 TB heavy cream
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 4 large eggs
- 4 slices of toasted and buttered baquette
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the rack in the middle position in your oven.
Place the pinch of saffron into a small bowl and add 1 TB boiling water to the saffron. Let the saffron threads steep for 5 minutes.
Drain the liquid from the diced tomatoes into a small bowl. Reserve the tomatoes and pour the tomato liquid into a small sauce pan. Turn on the heat to medium and add the minced ginger, the saffron threads with their water, and a tiny pinch of each cayenne pepper, cinnamon, sugar, and Kosher salt to the liquid and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the liquid steep for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, zest your lemon and reserve it for later. In a small bowl add the juice of one lemon, a small pinch of Kosher salt and the yogurt. Stir to combine. Set aside to rest.
Fold the chard and spinach leaves in half and slice in one-inch slices across the width. Heat an
8-inch skillet on a burner over medium-high heat. Add the extra virgin olive oil and when the oil starts to shimmer add the chard leaves and spinach. You will need to add them gradually into the skillet, so they do not spill over the sides. Turn the greens over to get coated with olive oil and begin to cook the greens. Sprinkle a small pinch of Kosher salt and a few rounds of freshly ground black pepper. Add the diced tomatoes and stir to combine.
Drain the tomato liquid through a fine mesh strainer and reserve the liquid. Add the collected minced ginger and saffron from the strainer, 3 TB of tomato liquid, vegetable stock, and heavy cream to the skillet. Stir. Cook until the greens are tender and most of the liquid is almost completely reduced, about 10-12 minutes.
While the greens are cooking, add the remaining tomato liquid to the yogurt. Add just enough to reach your desired consistency. You want the yogurt to have some body, but thin enough to easily coat the vegetables. Add any remaining liquid to the chard, spinach and tomatoes. Make sure you scrape out any stubborn saffron threads from the strainer and add to the greens or the yogurt.
If you added more liquid to the skillet, cook it down with the greens a few minutes more.
Use the back of a wooden spoon to make 4 impressions in the cooked greens, creating a nest for the eggs. One at a time, crack the eggs and carefully add them to the vegetable nests.
Place the skillet into the oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until the eggs are done. The whites will be set and the yolks runny. Or to your desired level of doneness. I check the eggs after 7 minutes to see how they are progressing.
Garnish the eggs and yogurt sauce with the reserved lemon zest.
Serve immediately family style, or plate for individual servings. One egg with greens and one piece of toasted bread.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.