Man oh man do I feel defeated. The back to school germs hit us with a vengeance and honestly, I am a bit irritated.
After posting the back to school fruit and veggie smoothie with immunity booster, blabbing on about vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids its still wasn’t enough to keep those germs away.
Three weeks into a new school year and my 3 kiddos have collectively missed 5 days of school. Painful strep, thick goopy pink eye, bulging ear infections and dense boogery colds kept them home.
Three weeks into the new school year 2 of my kiddos on antibiotics. Ahhhhhhh!
We are also ever appreciative of the rebound cold picked up as soon as the course of antibiotics was over.
In reality, they are kids. They get sick, it’s how they build immunity.
According to the CDC, elementary kids get 8-12 colds or cases of flu every year. Older kids get about ½ that. Washing hands frequently, plenty of sleep, exercise and eating healthy are the best ways to combat these numbers.
Super - but that isn’t good enough. Back to school boogers have driven me to start something new. The last several weeks I have been working on my own homebrew to improve our chances staying in school.
No, this isn’t something fruity, mixed with yeast brewing in a dark corner.
It’s kefir. I’m making my own and it goes into our smoothies each night.
Cultures have been fermenting food for eons as a method of preservation. Milk kefir hails from the Black Sea region and was fermented traditionally in a repurposed animal stomach. Nifty!
I bought my grains on amazon.com and I also ordered a fine mesh nylon sieve so I could strain my brew each day.
Kefir grains (symbiotic yeast and bacteria) eat the lactose in the milk and the end product is a slightly sour, full of excellent bacteria beverage.
What is it?
Fermented milk, with a buttermilk consistency. It’s packed with literally gazillions of beneficial bacteria that actually colonize in your gut competing with the bad bacteria. When good bacteria outnumber bad bacteria your chances of getting sick go waaaaay down.
Worth the bother?
Kefir grains (they have nothing to do with grain though) + a nylon fine mesh sieve = $6. One bottle kefir at the grocery store = $3.50. I have math skills, smoothie skills and now kefir skills.
I make my own kefir with kefir grains that will last indefinitely and we can have kefir every day for a fraction of the cost. And when the grains grow too big for my needs, I can share them!
Each night we add 1 cup of kefir to our smoothies. Purchasing kefir at the store, would run me about $7 a week for just that one ingredient. Ummm, no thanks. That is why WE work OUR cans off freezing hundreds of pounds of produce each year.
How does it taste?
Plain – it’s sour milk and one would have to be quite bold just to chug it straight. Mixed in a smoothie it’s totally delicious.
Our fruit and veggie smoothies actually taste better with kefir - the kids will even admit it. For lack of a better way to describe it, it “softens” the flavor.
Case in point. My son has a super picky friend who was over just as our dinner smoothie was blended and I had extra. I asked him if he wanted some and he looked at me with leary eyes and slowly said, “shhuuuure.” It helped that another neighbor buddy was also in the room and he cheered at the offer of a smoothie.
Picky neighbor, slammed the first glass and started LICKING it out. I refilled his cup and he gulped it down again and licked it out AGAIN. AWESOME! His mom called it a miracle, especially when she learned what was actually in it that day (kefir, blackberries, peach, carrots, kale, tomato, zucchini and a few apricots).
How do you do it?
Watch a few youtube’s to get the feel for it then just jump in. My teaspoon of grains that I received in a tiny packet is the perfect amount to ferment 1 cup of milk. It takes some trial and error but I know a few things now.
If your kefir looks like this:
It will taste the way toddler milk throw-up smells. Ewwww!
You CAN drink it but it WILL make you gurgle and perhaps splat which can be dangerous in certain social situations, especially work. Really though, DON’T DRINK IT. But do run it though you sieve to save the grains to start a new batch.
It should look like this:
A little bubbly, thick like buttermilk. But NOT separated into curds and whey.
After chucking several batches I finally figured it out:
- one cup of milk and 1 tsp of kefir grains will ferment in about 12 hours when our house it kept at 72-76 degrees
- strain it directly into the blender for your fruit and veggie smoothie at night
- start a fresh batch (add 1 cup of milk to the strained grains) and leave on the counter until bedtime
- put the kefir in the fridge when you go to bed
- In the morning, take it out of the fridge, cover it with a towel and by 5 pm-ish it will be ready to add to your smoothie
- If I know we won’t be having a smoothie a particular night I simply get it to the kefir thickness I want then put it in the fridge. It will slow down and hold for a few days just fine.
Brewing your own makes adding a super powerful probiotic to your daily routine affordable. It improves the taste of your smoothies and will hopefully help your kids recover faster from the back to school goop and keep them in school for more days this year! I know my fingers are crossed!!!