Posts Tagged ‘cultures for health’

yogurtSeeing as dairy and I don’t always get along, but given how much I love creamy concoctions, I’m always on the hunt for good substitutes. Luckily, I prefer my homemade almond milk (not pre-packaged!) to regular cow’s milk. There’s that very subtle anise flavor that makes it taste much better in my opinion, and it’s just as creamy if not creamier in texture. And I recently discovered a good cream cheese substitute. I rarely use cream cheese, but occasionally I like to spread it on a cracker with a little lox.

I’ve also tried several brands of coconut milk yogurt, but they’ve all been subpar–too watery, too sweet and/or too gelatinous in texture. I’ve tried making my own several times using agar agar, xantham gum and other (from my perspective) difficult to work with ingredients. But I finally found a recipe that is incredibly simple, and the yogurt comes out exceptionally creamy and with a perfect consistency. This recipe, like the Rosemary Raisin Crackers I posted last week, comes from Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain cookbook. The only variation I’ve made is to exclude the 2 tbsp of honey she uses in hers. I think 2 tbsp seems like a lot of sweetener for 27 oz of yogurt, and I find if you use good quality coconut milk (Native Forest is my favorite), the yogurt comes out sweet enough. I’m also wary of sweetening a pure white “plain” yogurt when I live with people that then automatically assume they need to add sweetener once the yogurt is in their bowls. Danielle insists on the honey because she believes it’s what encourages the good bacteria to culture, but I’ve heard mixed things about culturing with honey, so for now, I skip it.

I don’t have a fancy yogurt maker (see photo below). I mistakenly didn’t build enough storage space into my kitchen remodel four years ago to house a lot of large gadget items (e.g., yogurt makers, dehydrators, etc.). I also don’t care to mess around with all those individual little glass jars that most yogurt makers come with. So I bought a very simple insulated tub. It doesn’t take up much space, it’s super easy to clean, and when the yogurt is ready I simply pour it into a large glass jar (which had been a pickle jar in a previous life). I also know people who also just wrap towels around a large glass jar and leave it in a warm place for 24 hours.

yogurt maker



2 13.5-oz cans unsweetened coconut milk, divided

3 tsp unflavored gelatin (1 packet)

1 tbsp raw, organic honey (optional)

1 50-billion IU probiotic capsule or 1 dairy-free probiotic yogurt starter packet*



Place 1/4 cup of the coconut milk in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and set it aside for 10 minutes so it can “bloom.”

Heat the remaining coconut milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it reaches 150F. Stir in the gelatin/coconut milk mixture and honey if using. Stir until thoroughly dissolved.

Allow the milk to cool to 110F (you can submerge the bottom half of the saucepan in a bowl of ice water to quicken the process), then whisk in the contents of the probiotic capsule or yogurt starter.

Pour the mixture into sterilized jars (if you have a regular yogurt maker) or place in a large glass jar and screw on the lid(s). Ferment for 18-24 hours. I place my insulated tub in a sunny spot on my deck during the day and on the floor of my bathroom which has radiant heat at night. I think allowing the yogurt to ferment for 24 hours results in the best consistency.

After the fermenting period, place the jar(s)/tub in the refrigerator for 4 hours to further thicken and set. Once set, if any separation has occurred, whisk vigorously or blend the yogurt in a blender for a super-smooth consistency.



*I get my vegan yogurt starter from Cultures for Health, but I don’t see why you can’t use more than one probiotic capsule to get to the 50 billion IUs Danielle suggests in her recipe. The Nature’s Way probiotic I regularly take contains 35 billions IU per capsule.

yogurt starter

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We are a family of four, and three out of the four of us have become kombucha addicts. It’s supposed to be good for you–good for your gut, that is, which means good for your whole body. However, several months into this addiction, I saw a big jump in my grocery bills as a result. At roughly $4 a pop, those 8 oz bottles were beginning to take a larger than acceptable portion of our whole paycheck.

I know lots of people make their own kombucha, so I figured I’d join the movement. However, just about that time, I drank a larger-than-average-sized bottle (12 oz) of kombucha, and got a very upset tummy. My tummy wasn’t just a little gurgly, it was downright knotted up and in pain! (And as luck would have it, this happened the same day one of my dearest friends flew in from NYC, and we had a reservation at one of my favorite wine country eateries– Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch.) Had I been the only one to drink a “bad” bottle kombucha, I would have shrugged it off. But as things stand, I know several people who have experienced a very rough day (and night!) or two due to a bottle gone bad.

water kefirSo that was the end of my relationship with kombucha…. Well, sort of. I was determined to find a probiotic drink, and I’m not a fan of regular probiotic drinks, such as kefir, since they’re made with dairy and incredibly high in calories.

By chance, I had recently read about water kefir. It was marketed as a delicious, lightly-carbonated drink rich in probiotics, and since it didn’t carry any of the bad baggage I had with kombucha, I decided it would be my fermented drink of choice. (In all honesty, water kefir is remarkably similar to kombucha.)

I ordered my water kefir grains from Cultures for Health, the same company from which I got my yogurt starter. Through CFH, you’ll initially spend $16.99 for the grains plus shipping, but then settle in to a joyous period of spending just pennies for quart after quart of water kefir. Once activated, the grains can be used indefinitely!

Water kefir grains after rehydration

Water kefir grains after rehydration

It takes me 5 minutes–read: 5 minutes–to prep two quarts of water kefir, after which, you let the grains work their magic for 48-72 hours. Then voila! You have a lightly-carbonated, refreshing drink that’s delicious as is or flavored any number of ways. (I added fresh-squeezed lemon juice to the first few batches, which made the water kefir taste just like an Arnold Palmer, but now I love it best just plain.) Two quarts lasts us several days, which is how long I ferment my water kefir, so I always have one glass jar in fermentation, and one in the fridge for drinking.

But was it too early to start rejoicing? During a recent excursion to Whole Foods, I happened to overhear an employee lamenting the high sugar content–28 grams(!!), of a particular brand of kombucha (which I won’t name here because if you’re a kombucha drinker and you’re reading this post, I’m betting you’ll take 10 seconds to look at the “nutrition label” next time you reach for a bottle). Due to my nature, I panicked and contacted CFH the second I got home, asking the sugar content of water kefir.

CFH said, “About 80% of the sugar you use in kefir will be converted to glucose, which is used by the grains for nutrition and reproduction, leaving about 20% by volume of fructose. The fructose will continue to ferment and reduce. So if you start out with about 200 calories of sugar (about 1/4 cup) per quart, you’ll end up with about 40 calories of fructose after two days.”

They cautioned that this is a very rough estimate with many variables. However, considering I let mine ferment for three days, I can safely assume there is less than 2 grams of sugar per 8 oz. Whew!

In case you decide to make your own–I really can’t stress how easy and incredibly economical it is, you might like to know that I use 1/4 cup evaporated cane juice crystals and 1/4 cup sucanat per 2 quarts of water.

To happy tummies everywhere!

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