How to Pick the Best Yogurt For You & Your Family

Step 1: Pick the Milk Source – Cow, Sheep, Goat, Coconut, Almond or Soy Boy eating yogurt

The healthy bacteria added in the fermentation of milk may aide digestion assisting in the utilization of nutrients from other foods. Often people who have difficulty digesting lactose are able to comfortably digest dairy yogurt as much of the lactose has been turned into lactic acid as a natural occurrence of the healthy bacteria. Sheep and goat’s milk yogurt are reported to be even easier for some. Dairy yogurt is naturally high in protein, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin D and sheep and goat’s milk yogurt contain even greater levels of some nutrients than cow’s milk yogurt.

Plant-based yogurts such as coconut, almond and soy, are also highly nutritious yet dairy-free. Coconut milk contains fiber but is higher in fat than dairy yogurts. Almond and soy milk yogurts contain fiber but are lower in protein and calcium than dairy yogurts.

Step 2: Pick the Style – Traditional, Cream-top, Greek, Icelandic, Russian, French or Kefir

  • Traditional – Thin with a naturally sour taste
  • Cream-top – Made with un-homogenized milk and a layer rises forming a rich yogurt cream on top
  • Greek – Removes the whey through straining and leaves a thick consistency and a tangy taste with a higher protein content than other styles (be cautious as some marketed Greek style yogurts have added thickeners)
  • Icelandic – Similar to Greek style, the whey is removed through straining leaving a thick consistency and tangy taste with less sugar
  • Russian – Has a mild taste and gentle consistency while being a bit creamier and thicker than traditional yogurt
  • French – The ratios of the healthy bacteria are different than traditional yogurt leaving a milder yogurt flavor
  • Kefir – Contains more liquid and is a consumed as a drink

Step 3: Pick your Punch – Plain, Fruit, Flavored, “Smoothie” or Tube

Yogurt is a healthy food that is naturally high in sugar but does not taste sweet. The lactose that is fermented is actually a sugar represented on the nutrition label. On average, plain yogurt that has no added sugar has about 12 grams of naturally-occurring sugar in the form of lactose for every 6 ounce serving.  Adding sugar in the form of fruit, fruit juice or sugar can make this otherwise healthy choice a treat. Yogurt smoothies and tubes often contain fruit or flavored yogurt plus added sugar. When selecting yogurt know that fruit, flavored, smoothies and tube yogurt contain an average of 26 grams of sugar in every 6 ounce serving, approximately two tablespoons of added sugar.

Step 4: Pick Local – St. Benoit, Redwood Hill Farms, Bellwether Farms, Wallaby Organics, Clover Stornetta, Straus Family Creamery and Pavel’s

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For Customers of Paradise Market by Jen Martin, RHN
Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Nutrition Consultant

Jen’s Picks – Plain Icelandic yogurt because it is high protein, low in sugar and has a thick and creamy consistency that tastes great with fresh fruit.  She also regularly uses plain Kefir from Green Valley Organics in smoothies and Greek Yogurt from Straus with raw pistachios and honey for dessert.

What to do with Plain Yogurt

Dressings: Yogurt adds flavor and creaminess to a dressing. Use it in place of buttermilk in your favorite recipes.  Choose a traditional or Russian style yogurt for thinner dressing.

Dips: Mix with any flavors, herbs or spices to create a delicious dip for vegetables, fruits and other party platters. Choose Greek or Icelandic style for a thicker consistency.

Trying to get your kids to eat more veggies? Try mixing plain Greek or Icelandic yogurt with a packet of Simply Organics Ranch dip. Even if they use the vegetable stick as a spoon for the dip you can feel confident that the snack is still a healthy choice!

Marinades: The acid in yogurt can tenderize meat making it a good ingredient for marinades. Traditional style and Russian style yogurt are thin and well suited. Depending on your recipe, kefir may be another good choice as it is contains the most liquid.

Blended: All styles of plain yogurt are great for blending. When making a fruit or savory smoothie, kefir is a good choice as additional liquid may not be needed. You can also make yogurt based freezer desserts using plain Greek or Icelandic yogurt.

To make yogurt popsicles, add 1 C plain yogurt with 1 C chopped fresh fruit to a blender and puree. Fill an ice cube tray with the mixture. Freeze for 5 minutes, remove and add the sticks, then freeze again for about an hour and serve.

Soups: Plain yogurt is an excellent alternative to other forms of dairy in many soup recipes. Substituting yogurt can often reduce the fat and calories and increase the protein while improving digestion, all without sacrificing the creamy texture and taste.

Baked: Muffins, cakes and breads bake well with a little added yogurt as it tends to add moisture to the mix.

Banana Berry Cupcakes

Ingredients: 2 C whole grain flour, 2 bananas, 1 C berries, 1 egg, ½ C honey, ½ C plain yogurt, 2 Tbsp avocado, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Instructions: Preheat oven to 325. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a food processor puree the bananas, egg, avocado, vanilla, honey and yogurt. Mix in the puree with the flour and fold in the berries. Pour batter into a cupcake pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Snacks: Add a little plain yogurt to a bowl of fresh fruit with nuts and a natural sweetener such as honey, or sprinkle a bit of fresh granola on top to make a protein packed snack.

Desserts: Add a dollop of yogurt to a fresh fruit crisp or favorite baked treat to add a bit of creaminess.

Marin Mama Cooks Broccoli Lemon Pasta

Looking for an easy, family friendly, one-bowl pasta dish?  Look no further because this pasta fits the bill.  This is my weekly go-to pasta because it’s super easy to make (I could literally make this blindfolded) and it’s a one-bowl meal. It’s one of those pastas that my kids request often and I happily make.  It’s our family’s favorite comfort food.

Zoe often brings the leftovers to school for lunch and I now have to pack a huge container as all her friends all want a forkful 🙂  This pasta is the dinner of choice at all sleepovers.  You have to believe this is good if a bunch of 12 year olds are preferring a bowl of broccoli pasta to pizza!
Broccoli Lemon Pasta:

recipe from Barefoot Contessa
serves 6

  • 4 broccoli heads – use as much broccoli as you want here, the more the merrier
  • 1 box of your favorite pasta – we like to use cellentani
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 garlic cloves)
  • zest of 1 to 2 lemons  – the recipe calls for the zest of 1 lemon but we like to use 2
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground pepper (for the grown ups)
  • optional – 1/4 cup toasted pinenuts

I love to prep all my ingredients ahead of time so they are ready to go when needed.  Wash and chop up the broccoli into small florets, zest the lemon/lemons, mince the garlic and squeeze your 1 tablespoon lemon juice; set aside in small bowls.  I put the lemon zest and minced garlic into the same bowl because they both get used together later.  Get out a small glass measuring cup and add the 2 teaspoons of salt and set aside.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil for the pasta.
Put your broccoli in a steamer over about and inch of water (or however you steam your broccoli), you can also blanch the broccoli in the boiling pasta water for about 3 minutes if you want.  Put the lid on and steam away.  I like to steam my broccoli while the pasta water is cooking so I get it out of the way.  We like our broccoli to be a bit underdone so it has a bit of a crunch.  You want to make sure not to overcook or undercook it.  Once my broccoli is cooked, I pour it in a bowl and put it aside.
Meanwhile, while the pasta is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and lemon zest and cook for about 1 minute.
Pour this mixture into the glass measuring cup (that the salt is in) and then add in the tablespoon of lemon juice, mix the ingredients together.
Once your pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the bowl that the broccoli is in.  Add the lemon mixture (see above) and mix everything up together really well so all the pasta and broccoli is coated with the lemon mixture.
Serve the pasta up into individual bowls.  I make sure that each bowl gets a good amount of broccoli and then I add the pasta.  I top the kids pasta off with some freshly grated parmesan and I add freshly ground pepper and toasted pine nuts to John’s & my bowl.
The pepper just adds a bit of flavor and the pine nuts add a nice nutty crunch.

 The broccoli tastes amazing as the lemon gives it such a nice flavor and takes away the bitterness.  I can honestly say that I’m not the biggest broccoli fan when it’s just steamed, but I can eat a whole bowl of broccoli when its made this way.
You might even want to make this lemon sauce and just add it to a mess of broccoli one night.

My kids rate this dish a 10!
I hope this pasta becomes a family favorite in your house.

Did you know that organic broccoli is on sale this week at Paradise?  It’s the perfect reason to give this recipe a try.

Check out my blog at Marin Mama Cooks for more great family friendly and healthy recipes.

Kale is the new green

Marin Mama Cooks

Hi everyone! I’m Jackie of Marin Mama Cooks, and I’m here to share some nutritional facts on kale as well as some delicious kale recipes that will not only get you eating kale, but also get you to love kale.  Paradise Foods is helping you out this week by offering organic curly green kale on special this week for only $1.99 a bunch.  That is one great deal folks, so make sure you take advantage of it as it will not only benefit your wallet but your health as well 🙂

We all know dark and leafy greens & vegetables are nutritious, but kale stands a head above the rest. It’s one of the best sources of beta-carotene, which is one of the antioxidants believed to be a major player in the battle against cancer, heart disease and certain age-related chronic diseases.  One cup of kale has only 36 calories and zero grams of fat, which makes it a great diet aid and that one little cup also provides a whopping dose of vitamins A, C and K.

Kale is also an incredible source of well-absorbed calcium.  Eating kale is a great and easy way for women to get their calcium in, especially if they are not big fans of dairy.  There are so many different varieties of kale out there so you have lots to choose from.  Below are the two types I eat the most, lacinato/dinosaur kale and curly kale (the one that is on special this week).

Kale is high in protein, which is probably why I can sometimes eat one to two bunches of kale and call it dinner.  It’s also high in fiber so it helps create the bulk you need to fill you up and keep you full for a good amount of time.

Kale has so many other nutritional benefits that I could go on and on, but I’m not a nutritionist.  So, lets just end this nutritional post by saying that kale is “king” among the vegetables and call it day.  Sound good?

The Marin IJ, recently interviewed me for my blog, and the first question that the interviewer asked me was, “what’s your obsession with kale?”  I laughed, (you know that kind of snicker laugh that John Travolta does in the movie Grease) because I honestly didn’t think I was obsessed with kale.  I mean, I have a few kale recipes posted, but nothing to over the top.  Do six recipes equate a kale obsession?  Maybe they do, but I don’t care.  I would rather be obsessed with kale than obsessed with chocolate, (well, I am a bit obsessed with that as well, but that’s another post).  I thought I would share with you some of my favorite kale recipes!  All you have to do to view the recipes is click on the link below the picture and it will take you directly to the recipe on my website.

green smoothies

lacinato kale salad

vegan kale, cranberry, apple & toasted almond salad

kale salad with tahini & lemon dressing

I hope that these recipes inspire you to give kale a try.  If you do try one of these recipes, please comment below or at my blog and let me know how you liked them.

Don’t have time to make one of these delicious kale salads or smoothies?  No worries, Paradise has you covered as they have a delicious freshly prepared kale salad in their deli case.  Want to make your dinner plans even easier?  Paradise has opened their outdoor grill for the season so you can grab some grilled chicken, ribs or steak to go along with that salad.  Now, how easy is that?

Marin Mama signing off by saying cheers to you and your health!

Marin Mama Cooks Recipe: Kale Salad

lacinato kale salad

I know this photo is not quote on quote “food porn” quality or pinterest worthy, but I guarantee it’s tastebud worthy.  It’s so tastebud worthy that I was literally licking the bowl after this salad.  I never thought I would be licking the bowl of a kale salad, but I was licking this one, seriously!  Who am I these days?  When did I start getting excited over kale of all things?  You won’t even realize that you’re eating kale as the garlic and lemon take away the bitterness of the kale.  You might surprise yourself and find that you just ate a whole head of kale with this salad.
I was interviewed the other day for the Marin IJ and the first question that the interviewer asked me was, “what’s your obsession with kale’?  I laughed, (you know that kind of snicker laugh that John Travolta does in the movie Grease) because I honestly didn’t think I was obsessed with kale.  I mean I have a few kale recipes posted, but nothing to over the top.  Do six recipes equate a kale obsession?
So, I did the phone interview the other day, and today the photographer is coming over to take the pictures for the paper.  He is going to photograph me while I make this salad and my sausage skillet pizza (see photo below).  I’m a bit nervous about being photographed cooking as I am not a pretty gal when I am cooking.  I get all flustered and crazy messy as I am constantly using my apron and clothes as a towel.  This time I have to look pretty and relaxed while cooking.  I’m not sure I can pull that off.
So let’s get back to this salad.  I made this for lunch on Monday because I had too much birthday cake over the weekend as we celebrated Zoe turning 12.  I wanted to do a mini Monday cleanse, so I made this salad for lunch and then paired it with some of my cauliflower soup for dinner.  I couldn’t have been happier and my body was thanking me for this mini cleanse.
This salad pairs with just about anything because the dressing is so simple.  It’s also a great make-ahead salad.  I made it in the morning and had some for lunch then refrigerated it and had some for dinner as well.  It’s the perfect bring to work salad because it gets better as it sits.  Do you hear this Yvonne?  Here is a salad you can bring to work!   Yippee!
Lacinato kale salad
Recipe adapted from Dr. Weil
  • 1 bunch Lacinato/dinosaur kale, large stems removed, thinly sliced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of salt & pepper, to taste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste – If you don’t like things spicy you can omit the red pepper.  I loved it though.
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese – you can use more or less here, it’s up to you.  I used about 2/3 cup as I love cheese!
Ok, I thought I would treat you all to some step-by-step photos for de-stemming kale as well as cutting it into thin strips.  Thank you to Cathie for photographing me 🙂
Grab a stalk of freshly washed and dried kale, holding it by the stem with one hand while placing the pointer or middle finger and thumb of your other hand around the stem just above the leaves.  Pull your fingers along the stem, tearing the leaves off.
 See how easily the leaf pull away from the stem?
Here is how to cut your kale into thin strips.  You can also use this technique for any sort of lettuce and herbs.  Take the kale leaves and lay them on top of one another and then roll them up tightly.
 Take your knife and slice the kale into thin strips until you get to the end.
Aren’t the kale slices so pretty?
Throw your kale slices into a large bowl.
This recipe calls for the juice of one lemon.  Now, if I was to hand squeeze the juice out of a lemon, I would not get ton’s of juice, but when I use my hand juicer below, I get an ample amount of juice. I would highly recommend picking one of a hand juicer.  You can literally find them anywhere from your local kitchen supple store to your grocery store.
Now lets move onto the dressing.
Whisk together in a small bowl or glass measuring cup the following:
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch (or more to taste) of red pepper flakes
Make sure to whisk the ingredients together well.
Pour the dressing over the kale and mix well so that all the kale absorbs the dressing.  I actually massaged my kale a bit so the kale really absorbed the dressing.  You don’t have to go crazy massaging this kale salad.  When I say, “massage” your kale, I literally mean, get your hands in there and massage it.
After your kale is well tossed, add 2/3 of the parmesan cheese and toss again.
Let kale rest for at least 5 minutes to an hour.  This salad can be made hours ahead of time, even in the morning.
I think my body and taste buds are both thanking me today, as this salad is uber healthy and uber delish! This is such a simple salad but sometimes it’s the simplest things that turn out the best.
If you’re a fan of kale or just want to try more recipes that include kale, then check out my other kale salad here and my kale smoothies here .
Please let me know how any of these recipes turned out for you.  I would love to hear what you thought of this salad as well. My friend Cathie tried this for the first time the other day (and she is not a kale salad fan). She was amazed that she was eating kale as it tasted so good.  She is now a kale salad fan!
I want to make you one as well if you’re not already!
Have a blissful weekend and please include some kale in your plans 🙂