Get ready for whey in everything again  »

Thanks, Greek yogurt craze.

[Cornell dairy scientist Dave] Barbano, who specializes in filtration methods for separation and recovery of protein, has his sights set on the tiny amount of protein in acid whey. He believes it might be usable as an infant formula ingredient. But first Barbano has to figure out how to extract the protein in a cost-effective way, and his research is just getting underway.

The concept is roughly modeled on the success that cheese-makers have had selling products derived from their own byproduct — sweet whey. Sweet whey is more valuable and easier to handle than acid whey, as it has a lot more protein, and is easier to dry because it isn’t as acidic as Greek yogurt whey. Cheese-makers have developed a lucrative business selling whey protein for use in body-building supplements and as a food ingredient. And Greek yogurt makers are eager to follow suit.

Last year the industry produced more than 150 million gallons of acid whey as a byproduct of making Greek yogurt, and they have no idea how to get rid of it all. Yet. Just wait till they figure out how to make a cheap additive out of it, it’ll be a whey-in-everything party all over again. Like useless dairy byproducts aren’t snuck into enough processed foods already. Like we didn’t have enough reasons to hate the dairy industry.

Read the entire article at Modern Farmer to find out the extent of the decadence and wastefulness of Greek-style yogurt production, facts that you can tell all your yogurt-eating friends as they stand in the dairy aisle, trying to decide between Chobani and Fage. Or, more realistically, you can yell about over a drink with your vegan friends, hoping if you’re loud enough some yogurt-eaters will overhear and mend their ways. Passive-aggressive activism!

[Photo by Jared and Corin via Flickr]


Product review: Almond Dream almond milk yogurts!  »

Last weekend I saw four flavors of Almond Dream's new almond milk yogurts* sitting amid the other non-dairy yogurts in the active-cultures section of my local grocery store, all blue and adorable, and I immediately put one of each in my cart. Over the course of the week I ate them, took these photographs, and made careful notes, just for you.

First, vanilla. This was quite viscous, as evidenced by the total lack of dripping in the photo. The package says to stir before eating, which loosens it up and makes it seem less like an oval block of goo. It had a pleasant vanilla flavor (see the flecks?), but was way too sweet, like ice cream. There was basically no yogurt-y tang, which disappointed me, a person who grew up eating only plain, homemade cow’s milk yogurt.

Next, strawberry. There were a few bits of actual strawberry in it, and it had the standard strawberry yogurt pink color, but like the vanilla it was much too sweet.

Next, plain. It was sweet enough that I could see eating it like regular people eat vanilla yogurt, but the sugar didn’t totally overwhelm the tang of the cultures in the milk. Add a little vanilla to this and it would be your standard vanilla. The nutrition facts insist it contains as much sugar as the other flavors, but it didn’t taste like it, which was nice.

Finally, mixed berry. This was a deeper pink color than the strawberry, contained some berry bits, and allowed some yogurt—or berry—tang through the sugar. Very respectable.

In sum, Almond Dream brand almond milk yogurts are all too sweet, and a bit too thick, but they are absolutely edible. At least, the not-as-sweet ones. The vanilla and the strawberry are tooth-achingly sweet and I wouldn’t recommend them. However, I did buy more plain and mixed berry flavors to eat this week. I wouldn’t use the plain as a substitute for sour cream, as I have with other soy yogurts, but alone, mixed in smoothies or with fresh fruit, or put in the freezer for 30 minutes to make a semifreddo, they’d be quite good.

*Ridiculously, I can’t find a direct link to the product on the brand’s site. Get with it, Almond Dream.


Ask a Vegansaur, vol. 05  »

Three separate errands have been accomplished, a batch of seitan is simmering on the stove, and yours truly is making good on one of many 2012 resolutions: Be Less Slackerly (and five is my lucky number, so here’s hoping it sticks). I don’t want you to heading into weird Mayan apocalypse (LOL?) in December without having your questions answered, so here we go.

Erin asked: How do you feel about receiving items secondhand that contain animal products, hand-me-downs, etc.? For example, your parents give you their old couch for your apartment and it is leather, or if you buy a pair of shoes from Goodwill that are leather? Does the fact that it is second hand negate it’s non-veganism, I guess?
Hi, Erin; I don’t think it negates its non-veganism: It’s still made of animals, right? However, to me it equals out environmentally. Rather than have a company manufacture a new man-made belt for me, I’d rather just find a belt that’s already been used, or continue using a leather belt I bought before I was veg. Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer agree with me, according to How It All Vegan. If you’re asking me whether you should buy a new vegan belt or a secondhand belt of unspecified materials, I think you should do what you’re comfortable with. I have friends who are squeamish about wearing leather, fur, or any other animal material.

Allison asked: As a vegan, I have enjoyed eating soy yogurt with granola (yum!) to obtain that beneficial bacteria that aids in digestion. However, I just recently saw a disturbing note on the back of a Stonyfield O’Soy carton: “Contains milk (Our live cultures are milk-based).” Not buying that anymore! Back at the store, I decided to check out a cup of So Delicious coconut milk yogurt, which only reads “Contains live cultures” on the back. So what does this all mean? Does all live cultured yogurt contain milk or is Stonyfield the exception among non-dairy yogurt purveyors?
Allison! I like soy yogurt, too! Have you tried the coconut ones? I did a little research, and Stonyfield appears to be an exception. Let’s do a quick roundup: Silk, which makes a lot of bomb-ass flavors, says its lactic acid and live cultures come from a vegetable source. Nogurt says its strains of microflora are free of dairy, wheat, gluten, and soy. WholeSoy says its strains are grown on a vegetable medium. And finally, So Delicious—a slightly trickier proposition, but all the company can say is that it uses no dairy. And you can always make your own. Does that help? More next time, folks. I’ll be Officially Less Flaky from here on out, deal? Don’t be afraid to hold me to it.

Want to Ask a Vegansaur a question? Email me, and try not to be a jerk!

[Photo credit: Ravenelle via Flickr]


Recipe: Yogurt!  »

Inspired by being broke, loving food, and having a certain amount of free time, Joel and I made yogurt last weekend. What with my love of yogurt and Joel’s love of making everything at home, it seemed like a good idea, especially considering we could make plain yogurt that, presumably, wouldn’t have that awful mayonnaise taste of commercial plain soy yogurts. We followed this this suspiciously easy-looking recipe that Joel found in The New York Times.

soy yogurt
(the ratio is one quart soymilk to two tablespoons soy yogurt)

measuring spoon
small bowl
one-quart-plus capacity jar/bowl with a lid
thermometer (optional, but recommended)
cheesecloth (optional, but recommended)

A note: We used plain, unsweetened, organic WestSoy brand soymilk (ingredients: soy beans, water); this gave our yogurt an unmistakably soy flavor. Results, I assume, will vary with different soymilks.

First, pour your soymilk into the pot; heat until it reaches between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit, or when it’s steaming and starting to bubble. Turn off the heat and let the milk sit until it reaches about 115-120 degrees F/ it is warm but no longer steaming.  Of course, this “steaming” business also depends on the temperature of your house, so it is probably better to have a cooking thermometer. Anyway, once the soymilk has cooled off, pour a little bit of it into a small bowl, and mix with the two tablespoons of soy yogurt. We used Whole Soy brand vanilla flavor, because that was what I had in the fridge. Now, pour the yogurt mixture into the pot of soymilk, and stir to combine.

Next, pour the contents of the pot into your jar/lidded bowl/some kind of insulated bottle, if you have one of those in the right size, and cover it. What you want to do now is keep this container in a warm place, like inside  your oven with the light on. That worked for the author of the Times article; because his oven doesn’t have a light, Joel heated his oven to 350, turned it off, waited until it reached about 100 degrees, and put the jar inside. Then, you wait.

During this waiting period, which the first time took something like 36-48 hours, let’s talk about why we love yogurt. You might call it an obsession, but there’s a lot to say and you have a lot of waiting to do, so let’s get to it.

Back when I was an uneducated, dairy-loving young’un, I ate as much plain yogurt as I could. My mother basically raised me on plain yogurt, homemade bread, and Moosewood recipes; she used to make her own yogurt, which was the best I’d ever tasted. Once it had cooled, you could take your spoon and skim the top layer of delicate little bubbles off, with just a smidgen of actual yogurt, and then you licked it off and smiled and plunged your spoon right into the center of the yogurt and turned it around in one perfect circle, and put that first proper spoonful of yogurt into your mouth and oh it was so creamy and tart and tangy and smooth.

In short, before I gave up dairy for the sake of the cows (the cows!), I was a goddamn yogurt connoisseur.

We never bought flavored yogurt, the option being stir some jam in it if you want taste variety, otherwise shut it because we are not buying that sugar- and preservatives-laden “flavored” yogurt ever, fruit on the bottom my ass, more like teeth- and brain-destroying fruit-like substance taking up room in an environmentally unfriendly little cup. My mother did not stand for any of that nonsense. Even now, she buys the biggest containers (read: 64 ounces) of plain nonfat yogurt she can, and then reuses the container until, well, I have never actually seen her dispose of a piece of Tupperware (or its generic cousins). Her cupboard still houses plastic containers she bought in South Korea in 1983.

But I digress. Have you checked on your jar lately? Is it yogurt yet? Don’t worry, soon enough it will look like this, and you will be the envy of all your friends:

When I finally said NO MORE to dairy, I was going through a particularly insane part of my life, during which I ate mostly Kashi GoLean with super-reduced-fat soymilk (plus calcium! and fiber!), fruit, and the occasional sandwich. Soy yogurt will never live up to the perfect yogurt of my childhood, I would say to myself on one of many, many six(ish)-mile jogs. There is obviously no point in trying it because it will only disappoint, now keep running, lazy. Then I would go home and make a super-duper-low-calorie-high-protein shake with exactly 1/2 cup of the aforementioned soymilk and a tablespoon of flaxseed meal. Sometimes I added frozen berries. Yes, it was grayish-pinkish in color and tasted like sweet, cold sludge, but it was very precise. VERY PRECISE.

Today, three years later, with the help of drugs, a nutritionist, and a very patient and gluttonous boyfriend (lifetime member, Clean Plate Club), I eat lots of food, I prepare lots of food, and have discovered that among other things that I make a mean vegan cinnamon roll. Still, this did not solve the soy yogurt problem. Problem, you say? Lots of vegans don’t eat soy yogurt and have very good diets and lead fulfilling lives full of joy. However, thanks to many many years of crazy behavior, my digestive system still doesn’t trust me to give it adequate nutrition on a regular basis. So, it revolts.

Break time: check your yogurt! It should look something like this:

the soymilk has solidified into yogurt! Awesome! If it doesn’t, put it back in the oven and wait a while.

To stop the bacteria from doing any further work, which you must do!, immediately put your new yogurt in the fridge until cool. When it’s cool, you can eat it, hooray! If you want really thick, creamy yogurt, though, you need to strain the whey out of it. Further instructions to follow.

Lorraine, I said to my nutritionist one day, none of my pants fit your eating plan has turned me into a monster and I hate you. You’re probably bloated, she said, rolling her eyes, and you haven’t gained any weight so calm down and try eating yogurt. That’s when the dearth of edible soy yogurts became a problem. Bravely, I confronted the problem head-on, determined to fill my gut with the happy bacteria it loves.

For a while, Wildwood was the yogurt for me. Then, just like Soy Dream in 2003, Wildwood changed its “formula,” so what had been good yogurt was now weird-textured glop (DAMN IT). I used to hate Whole Soy, but it grew on me, I don’t know, and now, for flavored yogurt, it’s all right. Some of So Delicious’ soy and coconut yogurts are all right, too. Everything has been pretty adequate, you know? Sure, yogurts cost about $1 per six-ounce cup and sure, buying them individually isn’t environmentally friendly, but what else can a person do?

The answer, DUH, is make yogurt. And it is time to check yours. We were straining it, right? OK. Here it is, all wet and fresh from the fridge.

Now, pour the yogurt into some cheesecloth, suspend the cheesecloth over a bowl, and let it stand for a couple of hours (seriously, somewhere between two and three). The longer you let it drain, the thicker your yogurt will be.

When you and the yogurt are ready, take the yogurt out of the cheesecloth and put it into a container. Apparently you can mix the whey with some sugar or salt and drink it cold, or use it to make bread, or, I don’t know, use it in a smoothie instead of water. The whey is full of riboflavin, a.k.a. vitamin B2. As for the yogurt, throw it back in the fridge until chilled, and serve however you like. Joel enjoys it with b-grade maple syrup, which makes a nice contrast to the super-tart, super-“earthy” flavor of the yogurt. I recommend the following recipe:

Mash one banana, as ripe as you can stand, with a fork in a bowl. Add around one cup of plain yogurt, and mix with fork until combined. Add cardamom—don’t be afraid to use a heavy hand. Mix again, add more cardamom if necessary, and a dash of cinnamon. Ta da! Banana yogurt. The combination of cardamom and banana and yogurt is just heavenly, tart, sweet, delicious. If you have fresh strawberries or raspberries, throw some in as well, you will not regret it.

There you go, you have yogurt! Minimal effort, and after your (again, optional but recommended) initial investment in a thermometer and cheesecloth, all you have to buy ever again is the soymilk! Most important now is remembering to save enough yogurt from the last batch to make the next one. Now you are free to blend and bake and cook with yogurt whenever you like; no more ridiculous 7 a.m./10 p.m. trips to the store because you promised you’d make whatever without checking to see if you had yogurt because HA HA you will always have some. Aren’t you healthy and economically minded and environmentally concerned and clever?

Also very good-looking. Good digestion contributes to glowing skin.

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