Monday, December 6, 2010

Too Many Choices

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less is a book written by psychology professor Barry Schwartz. In the book he claims that each day we are confronted with too many choices. These choices provide the illusion of a great number of options when, in fact, not that many truly different ones exist. Schwartz says that having too many choices actually takes away from our overall happiness and sense of well being. I happen to agree with the author.

I am one of those people who freeze when confronted with too many choices. I can spend five minutes staring at the wide array of toothpastes lining the shelves in front of me, unable to narrow the choice down to just one tube. Size, price, flavor, gel or regular, whitener or not, and lately even the shape of container all have to be considered. The coping strategy I have developed is to never vary what I buy. My eyes quickly scan for the container they have been pre-programmed to recognize, which I then quickly grab and throw in my cart before I can be mesmerized by the other 50 kinds on display.

Shopping for toothpaste, however, is nothing compared to the consumer nightmare that lurks in the yogurt aisle. I used to think that the excesses that exist in the dairy section were a reflection of our capitalistic society. That is, until I went to China. Apparently the communists have the same yogurt problem as us.

I have come up with a solution to the onslaught of yogurt choices, and I wanted to share it with you. I now make my own. It is an easy process, costs much less than what you buy in the store, tastes a bazillion times better, and is much healthier. The best feature? There are no choices involved, at least not until you need to decide whether or not to put some fruit or jam into your finished product.

It is possible to make yogurt without a yogurt maker, but I decided it would make things much simpler if I went ahead and purchased one. I bought the Euro Cuisine and have been very happy with it. The link is to Amazon, but this model is widely available in health food stores. The price under $50, so for those of you still looking for Christmas gift ideas here is a budget friendly one for you.

First thing in the morning you gather the few items you will need:

-yogurt culture (this can be purchased at a health food store, or you can use a plain commercial yogurt as a starter)
-milk (I use whole milk, but you can use a partially skimmed one)
-a cooking thermometer
-a 1 liter (4 cup) measuring cup
-a medium saucepan
-large spoon for stirring
-small bowl

Measure 1 liter of milk (4 cups) and pour into the saucepan. Turn on heat to medium and place the thermometer in the pan. You want to bring the temperature of the milk just up to the boiling point, which will take about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally while heating. Once the milk has reached the proper temperature remove it from the heat and place the pan on a wire rack to cool.

Now you just wait while the milk cools to about 75 degrees. I give it a stir every ten minutes or so to help the cooling process along, but that is not necessary. With the stirring it takes about an hour and twenty minutes to get to the right temperature. Next you empty one of the yogurt starter packets into the bowl then add a bit of the cooled milk. Stir the starter until it completely dissolves.

Then add that mix back into your pan of milk and stir well.

 Now for the fun part! Pour the milk into your glass yogurt jars and place the jars in the yogurt maker. Please be aware that you do not put the lids onto the glass jars! The lids are for placing on the jars once the yogurt is finished.

It can take anywhere from 9 to 12 hours for your yogurt to incubate, depending on how creamy you like it. When your yogurt has reached the consistency you want simply remove the jars, let them cool for a bit, then place the lids on and refrigerate. You now have "choice free" yogurt. It comes with the added bonus of not having a lengthy list of non-recognizable ingredients on the container.

Stir in some homemade huckleberry jam.

Spoon on top of some homemade granola.

The perfect breakfast combo!


  1. Oh I have been wanting to do this! I like the glass jars too, the yogurt maker at London Drugs has plastic cups. Love your gnomes too!

  2. I love yogurt with granola!

    We actually have a favourite balkan-style yogurt. But I remember my mum making yogurt. I don't remember how it tasted, but I remember the yogurt-maker being out.

    As to having too many choices, I think that every day.

  3. I've often wondered how to make my own!
    This year we switched to eating plain balkan-style yogurt...we just buy the Astro brand. It took a while to get used to, but now I can't eat gelatinous, flavored stuff!
    Does the homemade stuff last as long as store-bought, and do you have to make it in big batches?

  4. That sounds easy! I think I may have to invest in (or ask for) one of those for Christmas!

    As for choices, I totally agree with you! It's overwhelming. I stick to the tried and true, whenever possible, but sometimes I can't help looking for the better deal, and it drives me crazy!

  5. I'm always suspicious of the actual content of yogurt on store shelves--Do they really have the active cultures? Your homemade version looks like a much better alternative. Now if I could just find some homemade huckleberry jam! =)

  6. :o) At times, Bandit's legs twitch and he lets out muffled yelps in his sleep. We think he dreams of herding real sheep, instead of just us humans.

    I like your new profile picture. It has a "Sound of Music" feel to it.