How much more ECONOMICAL could you be than to make your own yogurt at home, just using regular milk? That, my friends, is KEFIR.
|Kate-ster chugging a kefir-strawberry smoothie
Now, to be clear, kefir isn't exactly yogurt, but it is a cousin of yogurt. It looks, smells, and tastes like plain yogurt; perhaps a little runnier, depending on if you use whole, 2%, 1% or skim milk (I used heavy whipping cream one time and it turned out exactly like greek yogurt - awesome!).
HEALTH TIP: I buy plain yogurt (when I am not using kefir) and then mix in fruit, sugar, vanilla, jam, or whatever flavorings I want -- that means I know exactly what is in the product I am feeding to my children. Kefir is the same.
Thrifty Nana clued me in to kefir about a year ago. She got a kefir starter or 'grain' from a co-worker, grew hers to a larger size, and split it to give to me. We gave another 'grain' to Lori when she was in town recently.
The history and health benefits are explained on Wikipedia, and other sites I googled. In one sentence: the origin is in Eastern Europe and the Middle East; the health benefits are ROCK ON good for you! Evidently the combination of proteins, yeasts and bacteria in kefir make healthy probiotics for your body. Good folic acid too!
So here's the skinny: kefir takes 1 day to make using your 'grain' in milk, out on the countertop. If you put the milk and 'grain' in a glass jar (cover with lid or plastic wrap) at bedtime, it will be ready in about 24 hours.
|Nugget going into 1% milk!
The consistency will be like runny yogurt and will smell like plain yogurt. You can keep it on the countertop longer, but I think it makes it too sour.
|After: creamy and smooth!
Kefir can be blended as smoothies with fruity combinations, it can be sipped like thick milk, and it can be used in place of buttermilk - like I did in this loaf of bread in my bread machine. Click the link here for the recipe.
You can find kefir 'grains' online, but I can't vouch for any specific place since my mom gave me my 'grain'. I know that 'grains' can be purchased at grocery stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Or get one from a friend! The beautiful thing is that 'grains' last FOREVER, literally, as long as you take care of them. And, they grow with use, so you can split the 'grains' and share them in no time.
When you have your kefir 'grain', you will need: any glass jar or large glass, container lid or plastic wrap, a plastic strainer (I recycled the plastic strainer and tray from a Healthy Choice frozen dinner), a plastic spoon (kefir doesn't like metal, not sure why), and milk of your choice. That's it!
Bottom line: Making your own kefir is HEALTHY, ECONOMICAL, VERSATILE, and EASY. Go WOM!
DISCLAIMER: If you have concerns about allergies to dairy and/or kefir, you should consult with your doctor or nutritionist first.