Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kefir, Kefir, Kefir

Move over yogurt, I have a new love in my life- and it's name is Kefir. 

Not to be confused with Kiefer, but wow can I not get through talking about Kefir without breaking out in that lady's accent!! Anyways, I digress... Let's move on.

Time to make some Kiefah! Gotta talk about my boyfwieeeenndddd.... 

Alright, seriously, here we go: 

Kefir is a fermented food which I'm all about these days. It's made by placing kefir grains in milk and then left out at room temperature until it thickens and takes on a consistency similar to thin yogurt.  Yogurt drinks/smoothies are pretty popular now so this fits right in with that. Also, did I mention how EASY it is to make this? Even easier than making yogurt!  

I drink it for the probiotics, same as with yogurt, but if you'd like to hear about some of the other benefits, lookie here. I'm super shocked that I haven't tried this stuff sooner! If you don't have access to kefir grains or want to give it a try before committing to making it yourself, you can find kefir (flavored or unflavored) at most grocery stores and for sure at your local health food store or co-op.

If you wanna be adventurous please continue reading: 

Everyone, please meet Kefir.

I think they look like cottage cheese. They're kind of spongy and wow do these puppies grow after a few ferments! The grains will continue to grow and multiply so when you get overwhelmed with the amount you have, give some away to friends!

To prepare your kefir grains for fermentation, simply toss the grains in a clean mason jar, top with milk, give it a stir, and then cover with cheese cloth.

I cover with the cheese cloth and then put the ring back on the jar to hold it in place. Then you just leave it out on your counter for 24-48 hours until the liquid thickens.

Oh well, you can't really tell from this photo but, it's thick and barely moving when I tilt it. Trust me.

You'll need to drain the kefir grains out so you'll want to get a mesh sieve and put it over a bowl. I just pour it into the sieve and then stir to remove most of the milk product from the grains. This is secretly my favorite part because I like seeing how much the grains have grown in just a day or so! I'ma nerd, I know.

Here you can better see it, sometimes it gets bubbly like this..

Then I just pour it into a glass with some honey and vanilla extract- instant vanilla smoothie!

Step by step: 

  1. Put kefir grains in clean mason jar
  2. Cover with any cow's milk (organic is best, I use pasteurized and they grow well, any fat content works)
  3. Stir with clean spoon to disperse grains
  4. Cover opening of jar with cheese cloth
  5. Secure cheese cloth with rubber band or canning ring 
  6. Set out of the way on a counter for 24-48 hours
  7. You'll know kefir is done when it has a pleasant tangy smell and is thickened 
  8. Strain kefir grains out using sieve, repeat steps
Important things to know:
  1. It's very important that the milk be at room temperature and be exposed to air for it to ferment in a decent amount of time. 
  2. If you want to slow down fermentation, cover the grains with milk, put a lid on it, and then put it in the fridge. The cooler temperature slows down the fermentation but they'll still have milk for food while you're taking a break! I've left my grains in the fridge for up to a week before I have to feed them again. 
  3. You have to make sure your kefir grains have food or they will die. They're kind of like having a pet. 
  4. Kefir grains are very resilient but extreme heat WILL KILL THEM!! 

After you've been making kefir a while, you may build up a surplus if you don't drink it everyday or perhaps don't know what all you can do with it. Here are some ideas:
  • Smoothies, (Der, but you can do vanilla or fruit or CHOCOLATE or PEANUT BUTTER *blows into a paper bag* You get the drift, experiment!) 
  • Overnight oats (Just replace the yogurt and milk with allll kefir baby) 
  • The most amazing waffles you will ever eat
  • Salad dressings (Such as these)
  • Soaking your flours or grains if you're into that sorta thing
  • Also, this is on my list: Banana Bread
  • Adding to soups, stir into cereal, whatever dude

So anyways, that's the schpeal on my new love.

But let's not forget an old love of mine....

The cutest little nugget I have ever seen.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Birthday Musings

Earlier this week I was talking with one of my good friends about my upcoming birthday and I made the joke, "I don't know why I'm getting recognized, my mom did all the work that day!" She just smiled and said something to the effect that it wasn't about that, but more a day to celebrate that I was alive, to be glad that I was on the earth and in their lives. I found it incredibly touching and that idea has just stuck with me- went right to my heart, ya'd say.

I guess deep down I knew that, it's just sometimes important to be reminded of it - especially for someone as bashful as myself. Ever since she said that, I've made today a day not only to reflect on my experiences and achievements, but to celebrate how grateful I am to be alive. I'm so thankful for the experiences I've had in my life, both good and bad. The good ones warm my heart and make for precious memories, and the bad ones I wear like a badge of honor- grateful for the lessons and wisdom I've garnered from my mistakes and misfortunes. 

One of my favorite, probably overused phrases is "with age comes wisdom" and I'm definitely loving the age I'm at. 

Alright, alright the entire quote is:

“With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.” - Oscar Wilde

but that doesn't really drive home my point... anyways, we're off topic. 

I'm still young enough that I have the whole world ahead of me, but I'm old enough to have a better sense of priority and self-identity. Gone are those teenage years marked by insecurity and self doubt. I'm comfortable in my own skin and I'm pleased with who I am becoming. I'm at an age where I no longer care what others think about me, and have realized that only I can determine my own self worth. To me, a sense of accomplishment and happiness is what I value- and that's what I strive for. I'm sure some people might  find me a bit radical and 'hippie' with my homesteading pursuit, not understanding my desire to make my own soap, bath products, cleaning products, cheese, kefir, kombucha, vinegar, etc etc etc. But I absolutely love it and I'm so proud of myself for what I've learned to do and create with my own two hands. There is an incredible sense of self accomplishment and achievement when you create things by hand, and it's so cool that I don't have to depend on others for certain items. 

I pride myself on my honesty, sense of humor, and compassion- as I've mentioned before, what is on your inside is so much more important to me than what's on your outside. Looks fade, y'all! Don't put that much stock in them! Trust me, I'm already wondering where these wrinkles are coming from and metabolism, I miss you, please come back.

Lastly, I'm also so incredibly grateful for my friends and family. I have never, ever been a social butterfly but more someone who finds amazing people and holds tight to them- I know a good friend when I see one! I have such incredible and loving people in my life and I'm so thankful for each and every one of them. I cherish the wisdom and advice freely given by them, and I find it so interesting how various their walks of life are. I have friends in Australia, all over Europe, Canada, Africa, China, and many spread all over the U.S. Some I've seen face to face, some I haven't seen in a decade, and some I've never met in person before- but that doesn't make some any less valuable than others. This doesn't even touch base with my own family and how fortunate I am to be close to my parents, my brother and sister in law, and my grandparents and what a blessing it is that I get to see them all for my birthday. 

So today, I'm going to celebrate and cherish the love, the friendship, and experiences that my 27 years on earth have brought me. I hope to have many, many more! Thank you each and every one of you for making me feel so loved and special on my birthday- I love you all.