Party Perfect: How to Make Yogurt Cheese

It’s December and the season is here…the season of food that tests our resolve to the limits. Help is here! As we gear up to face this month with an attitude of success, I plan to share some recipes that will help. First on the list: party food. Whether you are hosting a party yourself or need to bring an appetizer to a friend’s house, this week’s recipe gives you TWO beautiful appetizers made from a single base recipe that are sure to impress.

The basis for both recipes is a “cheese” that is made from strained yogurt. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first attempted this recipe, but I am pleasantly surprised by the results. What I made turned out to be a versatile base that can be used in many dishes, but be aware that while it has many qualities of cheese, it is NOT cheese. I have not tried to cook it in any way, so I’m unsure about what you might get if you did. If you are so bold as to try, please share your results here. The finished texture is creamy, like cream cheese, but tart, like the yogurt it’s made from. I’m sure that it would happily accept many different kinds of flavors, so don’t be timid about experimentation. I thought that a lemon and rosemary variation would be delicious, as would mint with a touch of Splenda®.

One other thing–this stuff is FILLING! When you strain the whey out of the yogurt, you are left with concentrated protein that will really fill you up. The night before I finished the appetizers and took photos, I experienced a case of the munchies and decided to try a little bit of my cheese spread on an on-plan cracker and topped with chopped tomatoes tossed with oil and vinegar. I had about four of the little balls I had made for the skewers, and was feeling downright stuffed. Too much for a late night snack, for sure. But better to make that error with this cheese instead of the other stuff.

I hope that you enjoy this new party-friendly addition to your recipe box…

–Kim K.

Yogurt Cheese Base

1/2 protein

  • 1 large container (36 ounces) nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 C. fresh basil leaves (or other preferred herb, such as mint)
  • 1 tsp. Morton® Lite Salt

In a blender or food processor, process half of yogurt with herbs until well combined. Basil leaves should be fully incorporated into yogurt. In a medium bowl, combine remaining yogurt with herbed yogurt and mix well with a spoon.

Set a fine mesh sieve or strainer over a bowl. Line sieve with one layer of cheesecloth and fill with yogurt mixture. Place in fridge, uncovered, for 24 hours to allow moisture to drain from yogurt. After 24 hours, turn yogurt mixture onto a new piece of cheesecloth so that top of mixture is now on the bottom. Return to sieve and allow to drain over bowl for an additional 24 hours.

Place mixture in a bowl and add 1 teaspoon light salt. Mix well and divide mixture in half. Proceed with making Faux Caprese Skewers and Cucumber Canapes.

Makes 12 servings

Faux Caprese Skewers

Zero-calorie cooking spray
1/2 batch of yogurt cheese base
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Morton® Lite Salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
72 grape or cherry tomatoes
18 large basil leaves, sliced in half vertically
36 small appetizer skewers

Line a sheet pan with three layers of paper towels.

Lightly coat the palms of your hands with cooking spray. Use a teaspoon to scoop a small portion of yogurt cheese and roll into a ball using your hands. Place on the paper towel lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cheese mixture. You should have about 36 balls of cheese. Place cheese balls in refrigerator for 24 hours, or until they are firm.

In a wide, shallow bowl, combine olive oil with salt and pepper. Toss lightly by flipping the bowl until cheese balls are coated with olive oil mixture.

Thread a tomato onto a skewer. Gently wrap a basil leaf around a cheese ball and thread onto skewer with tomato. Add a second tomato. Repeat with remaining tomatoes, basil leaves and cheese balls. Best when served within two hours of making, kept covered at room temperature. Can be made in advance and refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for one hour before serving.

Makes roughly 36 skewers

Cucumber Canapes

2 English cucumbers, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1/2 batch of yogurt cheese base
1-2 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. Morton® Lite Salt, divided
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. “measures like sugar” Splenda®
1 Tbsp. fresh basil or mint, finely minced
18 cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
2-3 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)

Arrange cucumber slices in single layer on serving platter or sheet pan. Chill until ready to use.

In a medium bowl, combine yogurt cheese with lemon zest and half of salt and pepper. Mix until well combined. Scoop into a piping bag or plastic bag. Squeeze out excess air and seal.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, cider vinegar, Splenda, basil or mint, and remaining salt and pepper. Mix well. Add quartered tomatoes and green onions, tossing to coat.

Pipe a small amount of cheese mixture into each cucumber slice (a bit less than a teaspoon). Top each with a tomato quarter, pressing into cheese to adhere. Drizzle cucumbers with any olive oil mixture remaining in the bowl. Keep chilled, allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Makes roughly 72 canapes