Healthy, Natural Living

Posts tagged ‘kefir’

Drinks, Drinks, and One More Drink Water Kefir

Water Kefir, oh, how I love thee! Seriously, this in my favorite fermented beverage. Between kombucha and water kefir, I do prefer water kefir. Water kefir is much more reliable, the taste is repeatable, and timing is consistent. It is also a nice option if you are trying to avoid the caffeine that is present in kombucha, but still seeking a probiotic drink. But unlike kombucha it really is not a detoxifier. They both have a place in the Ward home.


Water kefir is dairy free and just as beneficial as milk kefir. It is loaded with valuable enzymes, easily digestible sugars, beneficial acids, vitamins and minerals. Water kefir supplies your body with billions of healthy bacteria and yeast strains. Within your body there are already billions of bacteria and yeast that make up your gut flora. Your internal gut flora supports proper digestion, synthesis of vitamins and minerals, and your immune system by warding off foreign and harmful bacteria, yeast and viruses. It has long been known to promote and aid in digestion and overall health. Some studies show it may be anti-mutagenic and help manage free radicals in the body. It simply is another probiotic beverage option which has its own strengths. It offers a nice replacement to those who enjoy soda.

Kefir grains are an amazing symbiotic matrix of bacteria and yeast that work together to feed off the natural sugar in the sugar-water. Yeasts break down the simple sugars like glucose and fructose, turning them into ethanol and acetic acid. Lactic acid producing bacteria (such as lactobacilli) convert sugars (such as sucrose) and complex carbohydrates (starches, etc) into simpler sugars and lactic acid. Lactic and acetic acids naturally preserve as well as stave off harmful foreign bacteria. The result is a drink that has had much of the sugar converted to simpler sugars, lactic and acetic acids, carbon dioxide and ethanol. It also contains millions of probiotics, and is more nutritious than milk kefir in some regards because of the bio-available and digestible nutrients from the sugars including an increase in vitamin C and many B vitamins. Folic acid amongst other B vitamins increases as the length of the ferment increases.

Many people experiencing Candida issues have reported that Kefir has been beneficial for them. Kefir is a balanced symbiotic relationship of both bacteria and yeast, which is also what we strive to achieve within our bodies for optimum health. Kefir grains and kefir itself does not contain Candida Albicans and has no reason to aggravate the symptoms of Candida. Some sources say that the kefir yeast can even help to decrease the candida yeast. But as with all things, the best advice  is to listen to your own body’s response to kefir over time and determine if your health seems to improve, remain stable or if your symptoms are aggravated by Kefir (in which case you should take a break and try again at a later time).

I’ve learned water kefir grains can go through many phases through the seasons from being small and more uniform looking, or large and full of strange shapes, angles and bumps. They can even become lumpy like cauliflower, or very smooth like glass. They are always semi-transparent, but will be much darker if used with less refined sugar. Their color will also be clear unless used with less refined sugar, in which case they will be light to dark brown in color. This will be an ongoing science of observation as I create different concoctions with various sugars and dried fruit.


You can ferment minerals, herbs, fruits, grains etc. with the help of water kefir grains, thus really opening the doors to a custom blend of nutrients that you can create.

What you will need:
3 Tbs water kefir grains
1/4 cup sugar per quart of water (I like organic unrefined sugar)
Non-chlorinated filtered water (If you just have tap water, boil it to remove chlorine and cool before using)
1 Quart Jar

Dissolve the sugar in small amount of hot water.
When sugar is dissolved, fill the rest of the jar with cool filtered water and make sure the water is not warm- it must be at room temp.
Add the water kefir grains
Cover with towel, cheesecloth, or coffee filter and rubber band
Store out of direct light and away from other ferments for 24-48hrs. (I put mine in the cupboard) The longer you leave it, the more sugar ferments out. Don’t leave longer than 48hrs it can starve the grains. When the process is complete the water kefir will be significantly less sweet and the color will be lighter.

Strain the water kefir grains through mesh strainer (don’t use metal if you can help it) pouring the liquid into a half gallon jar.

Restart the process by dissolving more sugar in water, adding cool water and adding Water Kefir Grains.

The Second Ferment not only creates the carbonation, but increases the B vitamins.
Mix 1 cup of your favorite fruit juice into the strained water kefir. Recently, we discovered we really like white grape!
Citrus is not recommended for this part, as it makes stringy yeast-like things that are not tasty.
Once you’ve added the juice, cover the jars tightly with an air tight lid (I re-use old store bought kombucha bottles) and allow to sit at room temperature another 24 hours or when bubbles form on the top of the liquid, before refrigerating.

I advise to not open your water kefir until it is chilled, warm water kefir is REALLY fizzy.
Repeat the process.

As your grains grow and multiply you will be able to share with your friends.

Check out for more info.


Green Smoothie

A couple times a week we have smoothies for breakfast. I don’t have a set recipe. I have a bag in my freezer for bananas that are more ripe than we like for fresh eating. Make sure to peel them before you freeze them. The base of my smoothie always includes, cultured dairy, raw eggs, bananas, and flaxseed. This morning I took inventory of what I had and then decided on the theme of our smoothie. I had an avocado in need of being eaten and with no festive plan for dinner in the near future, that had to go into the smoothie. What else….?

2 cups Kefirimage
2 cups Kale (raw)
1 Avocado
1 frozen banana
2 Raw eggs (from my chickens)
2 tbls peanut butter
1 tbls honey
1 tbls flax seeds
1 tbls cocoa nibs

Add all the ingredients into a blender. I always put my liquids into my blender pitcher first, this seems to keep the mixture spinning. This turned out so creamy, smooth, and yummy with just the right amount of peanut butter cup flavor!

The benefits of these ingredients:
See my Kefir post
imageRaw Kale is not only a very nutritious vegetable, but including it in your diet may help lower levels of bad cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease as well. Kale is a very rich source of vitamin K, vitamin A, beta carotene, calcium, and vitamin C. It also contains minerals; copper, manganese, and potassium. Kale contains the antioxidants carotenoids and flavonoids which are thought to help prevent the development of cancer.

Avocados may be fatty, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad for your health. Healthy fats account for around three quarters of the calorie count of an avocado. Most of it is monounsaturated fat, in the form of oleic acid. Monounsaturated fat is considered to be a “good fat” which reduces levels of bad cholesterol in your blood and lowers your risk of stroke and heart disease. Avocado contains around 4 grams of protein. Avocados are an excellent source of potassium (containing more per weight than bananas). In addition, avocados are rich in vitamin K, Vitamin B9, vitamin B6, vitamin B5 vitamin C, and vitamin E. A medium avocado contains 11 grams of fiber, which is close to half of the daily recommended minimum intake.


Bananas provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, including: vitamin B6, vitamin C, and vitamin A, folate, riboflavin, niacin, manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron.


Fresh ‘Pastured’ Eggs~Egg yolks are the richest source of two superstar carotenoids—lutein and zeaxanthin. These fat-soluble antioxidant nutrients combate macular degeneration, and cataracts and support overall healthy vision. They have a long list of other benefits, including protecting the skin from sun damage and even reducing one’s risk of colon and breast cancer. Besides providing all eight essential protein building amino acids, a large whole, fresh egg offers about six to seven grams of protein and five grams of fat (with about 1.5 grams of it saturated), which comes in handy to help in the absorption of all the egg’s fat-soluble vitamins. One egg also serves up around 200 milligrams of brain-loving cholesterol and contains the valuable vitamins A, K, E, D, B-complex and minerals iron, phosphorus, potassium and calcium. Choline, another egg-nutrient, is a fatty substance found in every living cell and is a major component of our brain. Additionally, choline helps break up cholesterol deposits by preventing fat and cholesterol from sticking to the arteries.


Raw local honey~Raw honey is an alkaline-forming food that contains natural vitamins, enzymes, powerful antioxidants and other important natural nutrients. Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It promotes body and digestive health, is a powerful antioxidant, strengthens the immune system, eliminates allergies, and is an excellent remedy for skin wounds and all types of infections. Raw honey’s benefits don’t stop there. Raw honey can also stabilize blood pressure, balance sugar levels, relieve pain, calm nerves, and it has been used to treat ulcers. Raw honey is also an expectorant and anti-inflammatory and has been known to effectively treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma.


Flaxseed are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that may be helpful for heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and other health problems. In addition to the important omega-3 fatty acid ALA, flaxseed also has a group of chemicals called lignans that may help protect the body from cancer. Lignans are phytoestrogens, substances in plants that act like the hormone estrogen.


Cocoa nibs are high in potassium and magnesium. One ounce of cocoa nibs provides almost 80 milligrams of magnesium. They also provide a small amount of calcium in addition to trace amounts of vitamins D, vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. Eat a serving of cocoa nibs and you’ll be getting a boost of healthy antioxidants. In fact, chocolate contains more health-promoting catechins, a type of antioxidant, than does green tea. You’ll also get the amino acid tryptophan along with small amounts of phenylethylamine and theobromine — all of which can improve mood.


Now, What Are You Drinking?

imageKombucha (kom-bu-cha)
What in the world is that? Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) also called mother or mushroom, tea prepared with sugar, and some kombucha tea from a previous batch. Kombucha is a traditional fermented tea that has gained popularity in the United States as it is increasingly associated with health promoting effects. Kombucha is a slightly sweet, acidic tea beverage currently consumed worldwide, but historically in China, Russia, and Germany
The beneficial properties of Kombucha have been well documented in past centuries. Early to mid 20th century, mainly German medical research, documented Kombucha primarily as an intestinal regulator and as having excellent effects on general body functions, but also progressively established specific efficacy in cases of digestive disturbances, constipation, hemorrhoids, kidney stones, gall bladder problems, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, cholesterol, high blood pressure, angina, gout, eczema, arthritis, rheumatism, atherosclerosis, irritability, anxiety, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, tiredness.
By the 1960’s kombucha research fell victim to the cold war, with the Russians withholding details of their research, with many known documents still remaining classified. Regardless of the lack of scientific evidence, the fact remains that this beverage has 2,000 plus years of tradition behind it. Although it may seem new to most of you, kombucha is not at all new, it is truly ancient. In fact the name derives from a Korean physician, Kombu, who was called to treat the Japanese Emperor Inkyo back about the year 415 AD.
The kombucha ferment contains various acidic metabolic by-products, including acetic, citric, malic, tartaric, succinic, pyruvic, ascorbic, butyric , glucuronic, hyaluronic, lactic, usnic and chondroitin sulphate acids, as well as glucosamines, heparin, beta-glucans (cell-wall only), B-vitamins, including B-12, more than a dozen yeast strains and also other active antibiotic substances.

Glucuronic acid in the liver binds up all poisons and toxins both environmental and metabolic and rushes them to the excretory system. Toxins once bound by glucuronic acid cannot be resorbed into the system, they are rendered water soluble and made capable of being passed through the kidneys and eliminated with the urine. Kombucha appears to offer an abundance of this key detoxifier.image
Because of our polluted environment, processed food, chemicals in our water, medicines, and stress our liver is overloaded with toxins. A healthy liver producing adequate glucuronic acid is critical to rid toxins that can accumulate. To ensure our liver is healthy and functioning properly, detoxifying the liver is important. Detoxification produces healthy livers and aides cancer prevention. One of kombucha’s greatest health benefits is its ability to detox the body. It is rich in many of the enzymes and bacterial acids your body produces and/or uses to detox your system, thus reducing your pancreatic load and easing the burden on your liver. Even Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the recently deceased Russian author and nobel-prize winner, in his autobiography, claimed that kombucha tea cured his stomach cancer. Because of this testimony, President Reagan used Kombucha to halt the spread of his cancer in 1987.
In my post What Are You Drinking, I cover the importance of good gut flora. Kombucha is also a probiotic beverage that will promote good gut health.
I will be covering water kefir too, but before you start wondering, what is the difference? I’ll say this, when comparing water kefir versus kombucha, it seems that water kefir acts primarily as a wide spectrum probiotic, whereas kombucha acts as a digestive aid, a probiotic and detoxifier.

How to ferment Kombucha tea:
I make a 1/2 gallon, but this can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc
You will need:
1/2 gallon glass jar

4 tea bags-The type of tea used to brew kombucha is one of the most important influences in how the finished kombucha will taste. However, not all teas are appropriate for use when making kombucha. Click here to read more about which teas are best to use for the health of the a scoby

1/2 cup sugar (this is a good place to use the white stuff  and the only place I recommend using it).

Water-While tap water can be used, it is recommendeed that filtered water free of as many contaminants as possible is used. Contaminants such as chlorine, chloramines, and fluoride can be detrimental to a batch of kombucha and the health of the scoby.

SCOBY  along with 1  cup of kombucha tea from a prevous batch

Brewing Tea & Dissolving Sugar

Brewing Tea & Dissolving Sugar

Put sugar and tea bags into the jar. Fill a third of the way up with boiling water.

Brew tea 10-15 minutes.

Remove tea bags and be sure sugar is dissolved.

Add cold water to jar until it is 3/4 of the way full.

Add your SCOBY and kombucha tea from previous batch

Add more cold water if needed to fill jar.

Cover with a breathable cover (cheesecloth, coffee filter, towel)

Place jar in a spot out of direct sunlight, at room temperature, and several feet away from any other cultures you may have going. Now, forget about it for 7 days. As the kombucha ferments, the scoby consumes the tea and sugar producing vitamins, minerals, enzymes, carbon dioxide, etc. After 7 days using a straw sample your kombucha tea. If it is still too sweet,, allow it to ferment couple more days or until it gets to a flavor you like.

Mother Under the Baby SCOBY

Mother Under the Baby SCOBY

Remove the SCOBYs-You will have two, because there is a baby every batch. You can use both in your next batch, give one to a friend, or search the internet for other ideas. Never use reactive metals when handling your SCOBY.
Bottling your kombucha tea-Whether  you’re keeping your kombucha plain or flavoring with juice, fruit(fresh, frozen, or dehydrated), extracts, or herbs a second ferment is recommended. A second fermentation period allows the flavors to meld and achieve a deeper and more complex flavor. When bottled in an airtight container, the live yeast and bacteria in the kombucha will continue to consume the tea and sugar that remaines, and a byproduct of second fermentation is that the sugar is turned into carbon dioxide giving the kombucha the fizzy texture it is often known for. Allow the kombucha to remain bottled for 2 to 14 days at room temperature. Cultures for Health is a great resources for all things fermented and has several flaovoring ideas.

Frozen Blueberrie

Frozen Blueberrie



This batch I used frozen blueberries. 1/4 berries to 2 cups Kombucha….YUM!

More science of kombucha check out the Happy Herbalist posted study from Cornell University.

To get a t-shirt click here.

Overnight Oatmeal

One of our favorite breakfast is ‘Overnight Oatmel.’ Several months back I kept seeing post for a recipe called, refrigerator oatmeal on Facebook. The bases of the recipe is mix all the ingredients into a jar, pop it into the refrigerator and in the morning grab and go. That recipe was made in 1/2 pint jars. Well, I am not going anywhere and the less dirty dishes the better. The first change I made to that recipe was mixing it in a quart sized jar. The first few times I made it, I basically followed the directions. I say basically because I always change a recipe. We did enjoy it that way, but I also know there is benefit to soaking grains in an acid medium at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Properly soaked grains are easier to digest and allow your body to absorb more minerals and nutrients from the whole grain and other food sources at the same time. This process begins to pre-digest the grains, including breaking down complex starches and tannins that can irritate your stomach, as well as beginning to break down proteins like gluten. I am not going to go into great detail on this topic because one of my favorite bloggers has done extensive research, interviews, and has several links to reference. Check out the Kitchen Stewardship’s page.

One night I decided I had to leave the jar out on the table. What did I have to lose? Not much. My husband’s grandmother always encouraged me. I can still hear her saying, “just try it, Di, you won’t know until you do.” It is because of her encouragement to fail, that I can now really cook. I’ve had to toss a few things out, but I have had way more success than failure.

We love my version! It is creamy, smooth, and just the right amount of sweet! I have had to increase the amount I make. Roman eats 1/2 the jar by himself! This is the only dish I serve that he has seconds and sometimes thirds! I make a pint jar for Jeff to take to work. He really appreciates that.

Blueberry Overnight Oatmeal

Blueberry Overnight Oatmeal

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup plain kefir
2 tbls chia seeds
1 tbls pure maple syrup or 2 tbls sucanat
1 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 cup fruit

Apple & Manago

Apple & Mango

In a quart jar, add yogurt, kefier, chia seeds, maple syrup, and oats. Mix together. Add in fruit. We like bluberry, strawberry, apple & mango, apple cinnamon raisin with almonds. Be creative, you won’t know until you try! Set it in a warm spot overnight and enjoy in the morning.

Simply cut the recipe in 1/2 for a pint sized jar.

I do make my own yogurt and kefir. But you can purchase plain yogurt and kefir. I recommend full fat dairy (that will be a future post). Both Brown Cow and Stoneyfield make  a whole fat plain yogurt. I am only aware of kefir made by Lifeway.

What Are You Drinking? “Milk Kefir”

When I began my journey to health I discovered a whole new world of ancient foods.  There were so many things I had never heard of before.  Where have these things been my whole life?  It has been very interesting to see these things start to hit the supermarket shelves over the last few years.  But I have to question their purity to the original design. Anytime things are massed produced, I have to believe the art of the process is lost. In this post (per request) I am going to introduce you to milk kefir. In the days to come I will cover water kefir and kombucha.  These beverages can be cultured in your very own kitchen.

It is estimated that 80% of immune system comes from the gut.  According to, Dr. Charlotte Mathis a senior medical editor with WebMD she says, “Quite simply, a well-nourished immune system is better able to ward off infections.”  Gut bacteria is vulnerable to your diet and lifestyle.  Gut bacteria can be harmed by antibiotics, conventionally-raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, processed foods, chlorinated and/or fluoridated water, antibacterial soap, agricultural chemicals. Generally speaking these can destroy healthy microflora and feed bad bacteria and yeast.

There is a “new study” that proves what we eat effects our brain function.

UCLA researchers now have the first evidence that bacteria ingested in food can affect brain function in humans.  Researchers have known that the brain sends signals to the gut, which is why stress and other emotions can contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms. This study shows what has been suspected but until now had been proved only in animal studies: that signals travel the opposite way as well.

“Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,” Tillisch said. “Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”

Re-seeding your gut with healthy bacteria is important for the prevention of virtually ALL diseases, from colds to cancer. This is why we Wards, drink fermented, full of good bacteria beverages.

What is Kefir?

Kefir is pronounced kə-FEER if you live in Russia. In the U.S.A it is typically pronounced kee-fer or keh-fur.

Kefir is a fermented milk product that originated centuries ago in the Caucasus mountains. It is slightly sour and carbonated due to the fermentation activity of the symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that make up the “grains” used to culture the milk (not cereal grains). The various types of beneficial microbiota contained in kefir make it one of the most potent probiotic foods available.

Besides containing highly beneficial bacteria and yeasts, kefir is a rich source of many different vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids that promote healing and repair, as well as general health maintenance.  Kefir contains high levels of thiamin, B12, calcium, folates and Vitamin K2. It is a good source of biotin, a B vitamin that HELPS the body assimilate other B vitamins. The complete proteins in kefir are already partially digested, and are therefore more easily utilized by the body. Like many other dairy products, kefir is a great source of minerals like calcium and magnesium, as well as phosphorus, which helps the body utilize carbohydrates, fats and proteins for cell growth, maintenance and energy.

3 tablespoons kefir grains (I got mine from ebay)
3 1/2 cups milk (preferably organic, raw milk from grass-fed cows)

Put kefir grains into a clean quart-sized mason jar.

Step 1

Fill jar 1-2″ from the top with milk

Cover with breathable top I use a piece of old sheet, but cheesecloth or coffee filter would work, too.

Allow to culture 24 hours.  Once it starts to layer it is ready to strain.


Put a lid on the jar and shake.


Strain using a nylon strainer.  Reactive Metals should never come in contact with kefir or the grains. I use a plastic spoon with small holes.


Place grains into a clean jar and repeat process.

To increase the vitamins a second ferment is highly suggested . Pour the strained kefir back into the jar and loosely cap. Allow it to sit for another 24 hours.



After the second ferment I pour it into a 1/2 gallon jar.  While consuming one jar I am filling up a second jar to keep a rotation.  Milk kefir will keep for in the refrigerator for several days/weeks.  Do not consume anything that looks, tastes, or smells unpleasant.

We enjoy kefir sweetened with maple syrup or molasses. I use it in our smoothies. I use this to soak grains overnight (that will be another post). I often use this in place of buttermilk.  I also add the grains to heavy whipping cream. This makes a thick, rich, sour cream type substance.  I use this in place of sour cream and to make ranch dressing/dip.


I forgot to tell you that kefir grains multiply. Once there are too many grains to milk, kefir will form in less that 24 hours and there will be separation of curds and whey.  The whey will settle at the bottom while the curds will rise to the top.  Your kefir is still good, but to get the best nutritional benefit a minimum 24 hour ferment is recommended. Remove a spoonful of grains and store them in the refrigerator with a little bit of milk in a small jar. When you have enough share with a friend.

For an in-depth understanding of the science behind kefir, check out Dom’s website, he has a several years of research and study available.