Now if only it came with a spoon

Yogurt, the anti-fries of convenience food, has a lot going for it - light and guilt-free. But while outsized generic-brand containers can be cheap, the fruit-packed, brand-name versions run to 80 cents for a six-ounce serving - and tend to be laced with fructose, thickeners, and coloring. It can be made for less, and with less. Buy an active-culture starter kit and use the heat of your oven's pilot light (if you can spare your oven for six to eight hours) - or operate in a more controlled environment: the EuroCuisine Yogurt Maker (about $20 at Williams-Sonoma.com and Sears.com, among other sites).

Because we couldn't find a freeze-dried starter kit, we used plain, store-brand yogurt as a base, making the simple machine more of an "extender." With just six ounces of yogurt (about 27 cents' worth), 42 ounces of boiled whole milk, and a couple tablespoons of frozen blueberries, we made seven six-ounce jars. For our panel of tasters, the homemade stuff tested favorably against blueberry offerings from Dannon, Breyers, and Yoplait, finishing second in two of three blind tests and evoking such descriptors as "healthy," "refreshing," and "different." A natural sweetener such as honey can be used to attain a more store-bought taste.

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