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Friday, April 30, 2010

Kefir Smoothies

Our family enjoys a healthy, nourishing, kefir smoothie every day.  For my daughter with Celiac, this has completely changed her bowels and made her so much happier and healthier.

For four children, I use 2 cups whole milk kefir + 2 ripe bananas + 1-2 cups frozen berries + 2 cups blanched spinach + 2 TBS honey.

We tried these without the spinach and the kids all agree the smoothies are better WITH spinach. 

There have been a lot of flavor experimentation going on... the favorites are either mixed berries/banana or strawberry/banana.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kefir Sour Cream and "Ranch" Dressing

Kefir can make an excellent (not to mention a nutrient dense super food) sour cream!  Here's how:

Once your kefir is done and the grains are removed, line a large mesh strainer (I ordered mine from Cultures for Health) with a couple layers of cheesecloth.  Place strainer in a bowl or other collection container.  Pour desired amount of kefir into the cheesecloth/strainer.  Allow to sit in the fridge for a couple of days, until the whey has drained off and you have soft curds.  Whisk gently and enjoy this tangy treat! 

Another option at this point is to whisk in a few tablespoons of your favorite jam and enjoy it as a cream cheese on your bagels or crackers.  You can also sweeten lightly with honey and enjoy on fruit!

Add a flavorful punch (and enjoy as a veggie dip or spread on whole grain crackers) by whisking in a garlic seasoning blend of your choice.  Here is a recipe for a kefir dressing, this uses fresh kefir (not whey strained/thickened).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How to Make Dairy Kefir

Now that you've obtained some dairy kefir grains, it's time to culture your first quart.  It's simple and really only takes about 5 minutes to get a batch going.

First, choose your "milk".  Nonfat is NOT a good idea, it doesn't seem to work well.  The best option is RAW, milk (goat or cow).  Second best is non-homogenized whole milk (We buy ours at Whole Foods in glass 1/2 gallon jars).  A great dairy-free option is So Delicious brand coconut milk (refrigerated, 1/2 gallon carton).

Second, wash and sanitize your quart sized glass jar.  I wash in the dishwasher, then pour boiling water in and over the jar and allow to cool on the countertop.  (Wash and sanitize your jars between batches.)

Next, fill the jar to about 1 inch of the top with your milk.  Allow to sit on the counter for an hour or so to bring to room temperature or place in a pan of hot water to heat slightly.  Don't overheat, the kefir grains can be killed with heat.  Many times, I don't warm the milk at all.  Cold won't hurt it but will slow the culturing process.

Now, simply add your kefir grains to the jar of milk, cover with a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band.  I then put my jar in the cabinet and allow to culture for 12-48 hours (12 for warmer areas, up to 48 for cool houses like mine).  Be sure to keep several feet of space between your cultures (water kefir, kombucha, yogurt, etc...) to prevent cross contamination.

When I allow the culture to sit for longer periods, I get a separation of whey.  This isn't a problem, but does give a more tangy flavor.  I simply stir it back in.

*Note on using coconut milk- we are using So Delicious Vanilla Coconut Milk and it is FABULOUS in kefir.  I kid you not... when using this in smoothies, I don't even have to sweeten them! Yum!

Kefir, What's That?

That's the question I'm hearing a lot of lately.  Last night Hubs called me "The Kefir Queen", we both laughed and then he said, "that's your new blog!". So, here it is!

What is kefir?
Kefir is simply good bacteria.  For those of you who are thinking, "Bacteria? Ewwww..." think of yogurt.  There's no disputing that yogurt is healthy.  Most of us have probably been told to take probiotics (good bacteria in capsule or liquid form) while on antibiotics.  

Donna Gates, The Body Ecology Diet is quoted in Nourishing Traditions (Sally Fallon, pg. 86) with this information on kefir:

"Kefir is a cultured and microbial rich food that helps restore the inner ecology.  It contains strains of beneficial yeast and beneficial bacteria (in a symbiotic relationship) that give kefir antibiotic properties.  A natural antibiotic-- and it is made from milk! The finished product is not unlike that of a drink-style yogurt, but kefir has a more tart, refreshing taste and contains completely different microorganisms... kefir does not feed yeast, and it usually doesn't even bother people who are lactose intolerant.  That's because the friendly bacteria and the beneficial yeast growing in the kefir consume most of the lactose and provide very efficient enzymes (lactase) or consuming whatever lactose is still left after the culturing process... kefir is mucous-forming, but... the slightly mucus-forming quality is exactly what makes kefir work for us.  The mucus has a "clean" quality to it that coats the lining of the digestive tract, creating a sort of nest where beneficial bacteria can settle and colonize..."

Kefir comes in two varieties, dairy and water.  In our household, we use both!  To order your own kefir bacteria starter, check out the International Kefir Community (free or low cost cultures), Cultures for Health (or see if your friends have any to share, if you are a member of WAPF, you can likely find some through your local chapter).

Now that we know the why of kefir, it's time to learn how to make it.