Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Easier than you thought: Fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt cups

As I've learned more around the kitchen, I have a harder time grocery shopping. It seems that the produce section shrinks while the pre-packaged, processed food aisles grow. I'm always a little surprised by just how much convenience foods there are on the market. While I find the homemade stuff better, I can understand the appeal of bottled pasta sauce and jars of mayonnaise... I don't always have the time to cook things from scratch. But things like pre-cut apple slices and celery sticks? Seriously? How pressed are you for time that you can't make 4 cuts into an apple? If it comes down to that, you need to seriously re-evaluate your life.

One of my favorite 'convenience foods' to make at home are yogurt cups. As a kid, I remember grocery shopping with my mom and as a treat I'd get to pick out a couple of the individual sized fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt cups. I didn't particularly care for the pre-mixed stuff, the fun was in stirring up the yogurt to get to the good stuff at the bottom! And as an adult, I still like them... I also like that they're less expensive and healthier when I make them myself. All you need to start with is some jam:

Blueberry jam is surprisingly difficult to photograph!

Fresh fruit can be used as well, though since I use plain yogurt, I find the added sugar in the jam helps sweeten the finished product. You can, of course, use any combination you like. So, in a container that has a tight-sealing lid (I used small canning jars or tupperware) place a few spoonfuls of jam at the bottom. Don't get carried away... a little goes a long way, especially in a single serving like this. Tap it to settle the jam and then add the yogurt on top:

I go for the local stuff (this place is literally down the street from our place) and I prefer the plain as opposed to the flavored/sweetened kinds. If I'm going to have something with sugar in it, I prefer to be the one adding the sugar. You could also use a bit of honey or maple syrup instead of jam. Since I have a ton of jams and jellies hanging around the house, I'm always happy to find a new use for them, but again, go with your tastes.

Finally on top I add a bit of trail mix:
This gives a bit of crunch and some protein. You can skip it or substitute granola, dried fruit, mixed nuts, flax seed or whatever else you like.

Once you've got everything layered, simply pop the top on tightly and put it in the fridge. You can easily do up a week's worth of yogurt cups in a few minutes (think assembly line!) and have them ready any time for snacks or to take to school or work with your lunch. These can also make a cute addition to a holiday breakfast or brunch... get creative with the presentation. You can use unusual containers (see-through will give the most visual impact) and mix-and-match spoons . The kitchen section of your local thrift store can be a great resource. Or, if you're feeding a lot of people, try a buffet-style set up so the guests can build their own from a few types of fruits, jams, yogurts and toppings. Simple, inexpensive, enjoyable, and most of all, healthy! :)

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