"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Pet

Yes, it's true. We have a new pet.

Now wait! Before you alert the landlord, let me tell you... it's not that kind of pet.

The girls lovingly named him "Cuteness".

He lives in the kitchen, and makes breakfast for us every morning. He drinks milk. Or juice. Or even sugar water, but for now he is still a baby and just sticks to milk. He grows very quickly and must be fed every day or two.

He has lots of talents and skills, and even a few vices (as with all pets).

He was given to us by a kind neighbor. Are you dying to know what he is? (Probably not.)

Cuteness is a Kefir granule:

Isn't he sweet? What, no? Well, my girls seem to have a slightly different aesthetic than most children as exemplified by their love of bugs, reptiles, and other creepy crawlies. They think "Cuteness the Kefir" is the cutest little thing ever.

I used to buy kefir milk at the grocery store to add into my smoothies. I had no idea where it came from. I just thought it was like yogurt or something. It is not the same thing as a living kefir granule. That stuff you buy at the store is just what the kefir MAKES. A kefir granule is a living probiotic organism. (is organism the right word?) Well... let me tell you, this stuff is cool.

Kefir is a super powerful probiotic - many many times stronger than the cultures in yogurt or probiotic pills. It has been used since ancient times and is just amazing. You take a living kefir granule like Cuteness and place him in a jar, add some milk (or juice, or coconut milk, or sugar water), and 24 hours later you have perfect kefir milk (or water or juice, depending). Kefir even digests the lactose in milk making it easy to digest for those that have lactose intolerance. You strain out the living granule and place Cuteness back in a clean jar for the next day, and then enjoy the kefir he made you in a smoothie or other recipe. Kefir can even be used to make cheese, sourdough bread starts, cream cheese or sour cream substitutes for baking, etc. There are tons of culinary uses I am excited to explore.

And another cool thing about kefir, is that it grows and can be shared with friends. Mine is still a baby, but in a while it will grow and multiply and I will be happy to share him with anyone that wants to try. The kefir milk tastes a lot like sourish butter or maybe sour cream. It has the consistency of thin yogurt. It's pretty tart alone, so I add some sweetener to the smoothies until the kids get used to it. It has a slightly yeasty smell, but doesn't taste the way it smells. It's a fascinating product.

Here is a "recipe" for a smoothie we made with it this morning. The children all loved it and proclaimed it delicious:

Brittany's Kefir Breakfast Smoothie
1 quart strained kefir milk
1/4 cup uncooked oatmeal (whole oats)
2 Tb. flax seed
1 large carrot
1 peeled cutie (mandarin orange)
1 banana (not over-ripe!)
8 frozen strawberries
1 cup spinach leaves
dash cinnamon
sweetener to taste (stevia, honey, agave, sugar, whatever floats your boat.)

I'll be making this one again.
We have also tried kefir with only frozen berries and a little sweetener to make a sort of ice cream. Yummy!

Now as to kefir's "vices"... I guess he can effect other yeast processes, such as bread rising. So if I make bread I should have Cuteness sit on the opposite side of the kitchen from where my bread is rising. Isn't that funny? My kids thought it was hilarious. They thought that cuteness would climb out of his jar and attack the bread dough so it wouldn't rise. Such active imaginations they have. Another "vice" is that you have to take care of it every day or two or the culture will actually die. It must be kept between 65 and 85 degrees(depends upon who you ask), and must be put to rest in hibernation mode in the fridge if you go on vacation. It is a bit of a commitment, but I'll take it over cleaning up doggie doo, dealing with barking, digging, fur, and destruction that comes with other pets. For now, Cuteness will make us a perfect pet. Just don't tell the landlord.

Here are some links if you are interested in reading more about kefir:
a place to buy a start (if you don't live near enough for me to share with you...)
kefir source website (lists health benefits of kefir)
{and many, many, more... isn't the internet awesome?}


wienerhoneymooners said...

That is just plain wierd, but cool in a scientific way!

Reminds me of a tribble. (from star Trek, my husband cannot seem to stop streaming Star Trek. DS9, etc..Ok now I am off on a tangent.)

I am back...I am sure Kefir would be great for me, I am lactose intolerant.

How big do they grow?

Debbie Murdock said...

We get the Kefir drinks from Smith's down here. To me they burn a little going down but for some reason I always want to drink more. I had no idea that is what it stemmed from.

Alicia said...

I take a probiotic everyday. I swear by them. They have healed my sick stomach that I battled for 20 years. I HAD NO IDEA I could grow my own at home. Brilliant!! And scary! I'm a little scared of it.

Kelsey said...

Ummm.... I'm super grossed out right now. Mom has some weird snot-in-a-jar thing growing on her counter. I may need some convincing of it's "cuteness". haha

carol said...

hmm. Interesting. But would Cuteness II survive a Fed-Ex trip or do I have to find my own? I'm super interested dur to Alicia's comment...Lindy's got herself a fickle belly, maybe this would help. You're a life changer, girlie!

Hilarie* said...

Yummmmm. I can't wait to get some after your baby grows into a mommy, so I can have one of her babies. I would like to try a up before I get totally invested though!!!! Your recipe looks good too!