Remember date nights with your spouse? Yeah, me either.
With my son and his challenges my husband and I came to the conclusion a long time ago that dates were going to be few and far between. So, we always improvised date nights. It might be a date night with a special meal I'd make, or it was a lot of times a simple dinner of "fancy" cheese (store bought from the cheese case) and some type of specialty meat (like prosciutto) on crackers or home made bread.
Unfortunately, even THAT luxury is out of our budget at the moment, so I came up with this idea instead because if there is one thing you can usually get marked down in your local dairy case is plain yogurt. And I'm sure a lot of you out there are like me where you buy said yogurt on reduced thinking you are going to add jam or fruit to it to make flavored yogurt and eat healthier, you do that for a few days and then the rest of the yogurt sits in the back of your fridge for the next six months. If you get to the point where you open it at all.
I ran across the idea to strain yogurt and use it for different applications from a Graham Kerr cookbook years ago and found that strained yogurt can be used to substitute a lot of other things. For instance, you can strain it for a day and use it as a great alternative (and healthier alternative at that) for sour cream. Or you can strain it for a few days and turn it into a decent substitute for cream cheese. Or you can strain it for 4 to 5 days and turn it into this. Trust me, it's worth it.
Yogurt cheese might seem like an odd idea, but it really is tasty. And once you add olive oil and herbs to the mix, let it sit for a week in your fridge and then bring it to room temperature to eat on bread or crackers? You won't even miss that 6.00 chunk of brie sitting in the specialty cheese case.
Marinated Yogurt Cheese Balls
- 1 Container Plain Yogurt (32 oz)
- 3 tsp. salt
- 1 to 2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (depending how hot you like it)
- 1 TBS dried rosemary
- 1 TBS dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (optional)
- Olive oil...about 2 cups
1. Pour your yogurt into a wire mesh strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth or a very clean (and lint free) dish towel that is placed over a bowl (make sure it's a decently deep bowl as your yogurt whey will drain into the bowl). Mix salt into yogurt (be careful of your fabric/cheesecloth). Fold the towel or cheese cloth over the top of the yogurt once you are done and place the entire rig into your fridge for four to five days to drain (I tend to remove it once a day to pour out the collected whey...it'll help reduce the smell of yogurt in your fridge).
2. Combine all the dried herbs, the pepper flakes and the garlic powder in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Set aside.
3. Once the yogurt is a nice solid cheese-like consistency, take small handfuls of yogurt cheese and form into balls with your hands. As you form them carefully lower them into a wide mouthed pint mason jar (or quart if you have one...I did not, so I used two pint jars instead). Once you have enough balls to make a layer in the jar, sprinkle some of the herb mixture on top of the balls and then fill with olive oil until the balls are submerged. Repeat until all the yogurt cheese is used up.
4. Place balls in your fridge for two days up to a week to mingle with the herbs. When you are ready to eat, remove the jars from the fridge (the oil in the jars will set up to a solid state over time, this is normal) and let sit until the oil is back in a liquid state.
5. Carefully remove cheese balls with a teaspoon and smear on crackers, or better yet, some bread made nice and crusty in the toaster.
Consume within 3 weeks.