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3 Healthy (and Delicious!) Dairy Recipes

Use yogurt and kefir for a refreshing summer breakfast, lunch and dinner

En español | My dad remembers growing up on his family farm, where one of his chores was to milk the cows. Back then milk wasn't homogenized, and he vividly remembers skimming and drinking the cream that rose to the top. Working the fields every day, he needed rich milk's health benefits and calories. Few of us work hard enough to justify such an indulgence regularly, but we still benefit from dairy's many nutrients.

See also: Recipes for early summer vegetables

Chicken Souvlaki Salad is light dish made with yogurt. (Maggy Keet)

Consider chicken souvlaki salad for dinner or try another healthy dish, packed with vitamin D and other nutrients. — Maggy Keet

Yogurt and kefir, which is similar to yogurt, are wonderful sources of calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein for us over-50 folks. They're also low-cal, low-carb and low-sodium, and contain special strains of probiotics, or good bacteria, which regulate digestion and fortify our immune system.

Start the morning with a Greek yogurt breakfast parfait, resisting your immediate instinct to go sweet. Experiment with Middle Eastern flavors by using savory ingredients such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Crumbled pita chips are a crisp alternative to granola in this colorful parfait.

Include dairy at lunch, too, with Creamy Avocado Soup. Unlike yogurt, kefir has lower milk solids, giving it a drinkable consistency. You can use it (along with a little garlic and dill for flavor) to thin healthful avocados into soup for a refreshing warm-weather lunch. Look for kefir in the refrigerated section at natural or health food stores — I get mine at Whole Foods. If you can't find it, substitute buttermilk, which is similar in taste but is made by a different process and contains only one probiotic strain versus kefir's 12 microorganisms and cultures.

And serve up hearty Grilled Chicken Souvlaki Salad for dinner. The yogurt, flavored with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and oregano, works efficiently as both marinade for the chicken and dressing for the salad. This time of year you can fire up the grill to cook both the chicken and the bread, or stay indoors and use a stovetop grill. You can also sauté the chicken on the stovetop and toast the garlicky pita in the oven.

Savory Tomato-Cucumber Breakfast Parfaits

Serves 2

  • 1 generous cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup small-diced cucumbers
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup coarsely crumbled pita chips

Spoon a generous 1/4 cup of yogurt into each of 2 small bowls (or goblets if you like). Top each with 1/4 cup of cucumbers, drizzle with half the olive oil, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Spread each with a portion of remaining yogurt, then 1/4 cup of tomatoes. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Top each with pita chips and serve.

Next page: Creamy avocado soup and grilled chicken souvlaki salad. »

Creamy Avocado Soup

Serves 4

Dice a little of the avocado to reserve for garnish, if you'd like.

  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves
  • 2 avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups kefir or buttermilk
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Mince garlic in a food processor or blender. Add dill, avocados and kefir; process or blend until smooth. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste; continue to process to incorporate. Adjust seasonings, including additional salt, pepper, lemon juice or dill, and add enough water (1/2 cup or more) to thin puree to a thick soup. Serve. (Can be refrigerated, if covered, for a few days.)

Grilled Chicken Souvlaki Salad

Serves 4

If you're not grilling the pitas outside, bake the pitas in a 425-degree oven (or toaster oven) until crisp and golden, about 8 minutes.

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 4 teaspoons for pitas
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 minced garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 large chicken breasts (about 1 pound), halved crosswise to make 4 thin cutlets
  • 8 cups baby arugula or other prepared salad greens
  • 2 cups each: halved cherry tomatoes and seedless diced cucumbers, lightly salted
  • 1 cup each: thinly sliced red onion and crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup pitted chopped kalamata olives
  • 4 large pocket-less pitas

Mix yogurt, 3 tablespoons of the oil, lemon juice, 1 of the garlic cloves, oregano and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour half the yogurt mixture in a 1-quart zipper-lock bag; add chicken and let stand at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. (Can be refrigerated for 2 days.) Reserve remaining yogurt mixture as the salad dressing.

When ready to serve, heat a gas grill igniting all burners on high for at least 10 minutes or build a hot charcoal fire. Clean grate with a wire brush and then lubricate well with an oil-soaked rag. Meanwhile, put arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, feta and olives in a large bowl. Mix remaining 4 teaspoons of oil with remaining 2 garlic cloves and brush over one side of each pita.

Place chicken on hot oiled rack and grill until impressive grill marks form, about 3 minutes. Turn chicken over with a spatula, and continue to cook until chicken is just cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Add pitas, oiled side up, the last 2 minutes of grilling. As chicken comes off the grill, turn pitas and continue to grill until golden brown on remaining side, another 1 to 2 minutes.

Place a pita on each of 4 pasta plates. Toss salad with dressing, mounding a portion of salad on each of the pitas. Serve.

Pam Anderson is a best-selling cookbook author, successful blogger and AARP's food expert, writing twice monthly.

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