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Making kefir at home is easy, healthy – Baltimore Sun

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Kefir, the yogurt-like drink, is having a moment. From mainstream food magazines to an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” the fermented beverage seems to be everywhere.
People love it for its tangy taste and potential positive effect on the digestive tract. But not all kefir is created equal. Though commercially made versions of the drink are available at grocery stores all over the Baltimore area, enthusiasts insist that the best — and most beneficial — kefir is made at home.
Fortunately, kefir is easy to make. The process involves combining milk (or a nondairy alternative, such as coconut milk or sugar water) with kefir “grains”— a cluster of live cultures of yeast and lactic acid bacteria. The grains look like lumpy cauliflower or cottage cheese.
“I think it’s one of the most underappreciated forms of fermentation, and one of the easiest. It’s a very forgiving culture,” says Meaghan Carpenter who, with her husband, Shane, owns Hex Ferments in Belvedere Square. The Carpenters make and sell a variety of fermented food, including sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir.
Though kefir and yogurt are similar, they differ in terms of taste, texture and fermentation process, says Gina Rieg, a Columbia-based health coach who teaches a class called “Homemade Probiotics: Crazy for Kefir and Kombucha.”
“The taste is a little more sour than yogurt and it’s not as thick,” she says. Yogurt cultures at high temperatures, around 110 degrees, while kefir cultures at room temperature.
“It’s similar to yogurt but the difference is that it is a mix of yeasts and bacteria; yogurt is just bacteria. Kefir, with yeast, has a fizzy feeling when you drink it,” says Lina Brunton, who lives on a small farm in Millersville and has been making kefir at home for about two years.
She and her family use it in smoothies or mix it with fruit. It’s also popular mixed with a bit of honey, maple syrup or cinnamon, or served with granola.
The Bruntons prefer using pasteurized milk for their kefir; Brunton says doing so makes it easier to ensure that the culture of the kefir grains “wins” over the cultures that exist in the milk.
Carpenter has a different perspective. “Raw milk makes delicious kefir, if you can get your hands on it,” she says. But raw milk sales are not legal in Maryland. If you don’t have a source of raw milk, Carpenter says “homogenized and pasteurized is fine. Skim is fine. But get good-quality milk.”
Carpenter and Brunton agree that the milk should be as fresh as possible. “If it’s been sitting in the refrigerator, it will grow its own colony of bacteria,” says Carpenter.
Kefir is usually made with cow’s milk, but it can also be made with water, coconut water and coconut milk. In her experience, water-based kefir is somewhat more effervescent than dairy kefir, says Brunton.
Even though kefir is a dairy product, placing it on the counter — not in the refrigerator — to ferment is perfectly safe, says Rieg. “The natural fermentation process will inhibit bad bacteria from forming,” she says.
Kefir is a hardy culture, Carpenter says. “It can withstand extreme temperatures, can be frozen, dehydrated and rehydrated.” She sometimes ferments her own kefir in the refrigerator; the lower temperature slows down the process of fermentation.
There are a few environmental considerations, however. “You don’t want the jars in front of a window or vent,” says Rieg.
The key health benefit of kefir comes from its large amount of probiotics — a broad term for the yeasts and bacteria that stimulate positive growth of microorganisms in the digestive tract.
“People use kefir for the benefits like calcium and protein but also for the probiotic functions — keeping the healthy gut bacteria,” says Adina Fradkin, a registered dietitian in private practice with offices in Towson and Bel Air.
Fradkin says that there is not much existing research specifically focused on the health benefits of kefir. But still, she says, “Food is so important. You’re not only getting the probiotic but also the other nutrients in the food. [With kefir] you’re getting calcium, protein and maybe vitamin D.”
As Rieg puts it: “The bacterial and beneficial yeast strains developed in kefir — dairy and nondairy — give our body more variety and strengthen the numbers of ‘good guys’ in our guts. … We want the good guys to outnumber the bad guys.”
People who are lactose-intolerant and cannot drink milk are still usually able to drink dairy-based kefir; the fermentation process minimizes the drink’s lactose content.
The health of our digestive tract is linked to more than just whether we have stomachaches; sometimes seemingly unrelated symptoms can be alleviated by correcting problems in the gut. “Things like asthma and allergies and joint pain and even diabetes relate to our digestion,” says Rieg. “You can have digestive distress and not ‘show’ it as a digestive complaint.”
Homemade kefir contains a higher number of cultures and probiotics than store-bought, which is typically made with a starter culture powder instead of the grains. For example, the Lifeway brand of kefir is advertised as including 12 live and active cultures and 7 billion to 10 billion probiotic strains. Experts estimate homemade kefir could include up to 30 cultures and 40 billion strains of probiotics.
Though kefir has recently captured American hearts, stomachs and counter space, it is more than a passing trend. “It’s thousands of years old and was developed by happenstance by nomadic herders in Central Asia,” says Carpenter. “A lot of Central Asians are lactose-intolerant; it helped them use a food source that’s available.
“They put the milk and grains in dried [sheep] stomachs and kept them on their horses or on the door frame of their yurts,” she says. “It was your task, whenever you passed through the door, to hit the bag” in order to stir the kefir.
The tools might have changed, but otherwise, homemade kefir is pretty much the same as it was thousands of years ago.
For more information about Gina Rieg’s classes and coaching, visit simplifiedwellnessforyou.com and to learn more about Hex Ferments, visit hexferments.com.
Making dairy kefir at home
Making kefir at home is a somewhat inexact process; those who make kefir tinker with quantities and fermentation times until they find their ideal recipe and quantities.
Meaghan Carpenter of Hex Ferments regularly keeps one jar of ready-to-drink kefir on her counter at home and one jar slowly culturing in the refrigerator. The finished kefir can be stored at room temperature for one to two days, in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, and can be frozen for one or two months.
Dairy kefir
1 to 2 tablespoons kefir grains
1 to 4 cups fresh milk
The higher the proportion of grains, the faster the kefir will ferment, Carpenter says.
Place the grains in a clean glass jar. Pour the milk over the grains and either top with a (nonmetallic) lid or cover with a cloth or coffee filter secured by a rubber band.
Shake the mixture a few times a day. If the kefir is covered with a lid, occasionally open the lid to release any building pressure.
Let sit for 12 to 24 hours (and definitely no longer than 48 hours). “You’ll notice the volume in the jar has risen,” says Carpenter.
Pour through a sieve, into a bowl, or simply reach into the bowl, with clean hands or a spoon, and pull out the culture.
For more information, kefir lovers recommend checking out YouTube videos featuring Sandor Katz, author of “The Art of Fermentation.” Katz describes himself as a “fermentation revivalist” and shares information about all different types of fermentation via his website wildfermentation.com.

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5 New Vendors to Know About at This Summer's 626 Night Market – Eater LA

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After missing all of 2020, SGV’s popular food event comes back with new street food picks
626 Night Market is finally making its return for a ninth season at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia after the pandemic put events on hold for the past year. The popular food event typically takes place 10 times from May to September and attracts up to 100,000 people each weekend. Although 626 Night Market has made a name for itself as an must-stop in SGV with more than 250 food, merchandise, and craft vendors, it’s also solidified itself as an incubator for highlighting upcoming culinary talent.
Many food operations that had humble beginnings at 626 Night Market have gone on to open their own permanent restaurants. “Those with less capital can test the waters here before trying to open a brick and mortar. Those that do well here can grow their fan base and go on to be very successful,” says Annika Yip, 626 Night Market Marketing Coordinator.
Some of the most successful 626 Night Market alumni include siblings Philip and Carol Kwan, who made their stand Mama Musubi a household name throughout LA farmers markets and at Smorgasburg. The Kwans also opened at Kitchen United in Pasadena, a cloud kitchen that allows customers to order meals from many of LA’s most popular restaurants. Philip Kwan went on to create many other successful food ventures such as Mission Control, Twisted Tiki, Mcfadden Public Market, and Amazebowls. The creator of the viral Ramen Burger, Keizo Shimamoto, took part in 626 Night Markets and opened in New York and LA’s Smorgasburg. Shimamoto later opened a Ramen Burger restaurant in Los Angeles’s Koreatown and a ramen restaurant in New York that closed last year. He is currently awaiting the opening of his new restaurant, Ramen Shack, in San Juan Capistrano, slated to open later this summer.
Other 626 Night Market vendors that have gone on to open physical locations include: Jichan’s Onigiri-ya, Milk Tea Company, Takoyaki Tanota, Drunken Cake Pops, Cafe 949, Main Squeeze, Sushi with Attitude, to name a few. Although new vendors are being added constantly, here are five new vendors to keep an eye on at this year’s 626 Night Market.
Move over kombucha, there’s a new fermented drink in town. Kefir drinks are currently all the rage in Asia and Kefir Mix owner Quyna Nguyen is the first to bring the Asian flavored kefir drinks to California. The drinks are popular in Asia for being a healthier alternative to boba drinks. Kefir is a healthy, fermented food with a consistency comparable to yogurt, and research shows it could help boost immunity, aid in digestive problems, and control blood sugar, among many other health benefits.
Cultured and fermented using kefir grains, the drink has been consumed around the world for centuries. As a result of the fermentation, very little lactose remains in kefir. All the kefir is freshly made daily and served with purple rice, mango, strawberry, and even Oreo. Nguyen opened her store in Santa Ana in May 2021, and will be at 626 Night Market this summer.
WezzArepas brings traditional Colombian street food to the 626 Night Market. The stand is a new twist on the classic Columbian dish made using ground maize dough. Arepas are typically served with accompaniments such as cheese, meats, and avocado. While traditional arepas use white corn, WezzArepas uses a yellow, sweet corn cake with a mozzarella cheese center stuffing. There’s also the option of adding jalapeño or pepperoni to the arepas. In addition, the stand serves Columbian-style hot dogs cooked with shredded mozzarella cheese and bacon, then topped with three kinds of sauces: creamy cilantro aioli, pink, and pineapple sauces. Each hot dog is then topped off with potato chip bits for a crunch.
Vegano by Stick Station specializes in quality vegan popsicles designed for those with lactose intolerance and casein protein-related allergies in mind. The creamy popsicles flavors are made with rice milk which in turn produces a creamy tasting flavor using less than half the sugar other popsicles use on the market. Flavors include: cafe choco chip, matcha, rocky road, coconut, mango chili, mojito, and strawberry lemon. This will be Vegano by Stick Station’s first foray into the 626 Night Market. It operates at Hermosa Beach, South Pasadena, Playa Vista, Long Beach, Mar Vista, and Torrance Farmers Markets.
Mason’s Den will be serving up the TikTok-famous mini pancake cereal. The pandemic has led to some interesting cooking trends like sourdough bread, Dalgona Coffee, and feta pasta, but people on TikTok have made a bowl of mini pancakes covered in syrup and milk that you eat with a spoon into a viral sensation. Customers can choose between original and matcha pancake dough before rummaging through the number of potential toppings, including sour gummy worms, Fruity Pebbles, Teddy Grahams, Oreo crumbs, strawberries, blueberries, and maple/caramel/chocolate syrups, among a plethora of other cereal and breakfast toppings. In addition to the viral mini pancakes, Mason’s Den will also serve funnel cakes, corn, and other fried fair food. Owner Jerman Arteaga has already been booked for next year’s Coachella and Stagecoach festivals.
Sandoitchi is a Texas-based Japanese sando restaurant that will travel into 626 Night Market debut this year. Japanese sandos aremade on thick, fluffy milk bread aka shokupan. Sandoitchi, which is Japanese for sandwich, serves versions with egg salad, pork katsu, hot chicken katsu, and fruit with cream. The sandos are known for selling out within minutes in Texas and at all the various pop up locations. Chef Stevie Nguyen gained social media fame with a ridiculous $75 wagyu sando topped with black truffles and gold leaf in the past.
The first 626 Night Market of the year will be July 9 to 11, followed by July 16 to 18, August 27 to 29, and September 3 to 5 with hours from 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday and until 11 p.m. on Sunday.
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Smoothie Operator: Independent Blender Bringing Healthy Food To The Streets – BayStateBanner

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Hyde Park couple ready to buy historic building
Tanisha Sullivan announces bid for secretary of state
Rollins takes reins at U.S. attorney office
Hyde Park couple ready to buy historic building
Tanisha Sullivan announces bid for secretary of state
Rollins takes reins at U.S. attorney office
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NEW ORLEANS — Good food and music are staples of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Unfortunately, that food usually comes in the form of seafood, gumbo, jambalaya, king cake and beignets — items that make your taste buds happy and your waistline expand.
However, 5th Ward native Domonique “Dinero” Meyers offers a delicious alternative to the city’s famous, but sometimes greasy fare. His Ascent Blends brand of organic smoothies had a modest start on the sidewalks of New Orleans, just a blender and organic fruits.
His efforts at healthy living didn’t go unnoticed — he recently secured a distribution deal with Rouses Markets that will soon see his smoothies and ginger shots on its store shelves. (Rouses started in Houma, Louisiana, more than 40 years ago and is one of the largest independent grocers in the U.S.)
Meyers — who prefers to go by Dinero — understands that health is wealth and hopes his Ascent Blends will create a healthier city. He recently talked with Zenger News about the success of his company, how the Rouses deal came to fruition and much more.
Percy Crawford interviewed Domonique “Dinero” Meyers for Zenger News.
 
Zenger: Tell us about the name of your company and the mission behind it. 
Dinero: It’s Ascent Blends; everything is handcrafted, made fresh daily. We’re your jump-start to becoming healthier. We are community-driven, and we care about your health.
Zenger: From what I understand, you were making smoothies in the hood and that turned into something big. How did it get started?
 
Dinero: Being mindful of my diet over the years, I started this company in July 2016. So, five years ago, I was riding on a pink scooter in my neighborhood, the 5th Ward. And I see a building that used to fix motorbikes and scooters for lease. I said: “This could be a smoothie business right here.”
I reached out, talked to the owner and the numbers were good. But I really wasn’t ready to start a business there. I had never even made a smoothie to sell. The idea just kind of sparked. I worked at a nonprofit, so I asked a few people there what I should do. They said: “Well, if you can’t get the building, just get started by setting up a stand at the barbershop in the neighborhood.” And that’s what I did.
They also told me to get quality ingredients. I wanted to make sure my smoothies are healthy. I wound up using non-dairy agave, which is better than sugar.
I started selling smoothies at the barbershop. They were an instant hit. I was out there 24/7, all over the city. I would have the entire sidewalk lined up with people wanting smoothies, which weren’t available anywhere else. We didn’t have any healthy options there — the 5th Ward is crammed with liquor stores and fried foods.
I was working out every day on the sidewalk, people were joining in with me, and I also started running and doing 5K runs. We are definitely about health education and informing all of our customers, leaving them with literature and inspiration on changing their lifestyle. It’s much more than just a smoothie.
Zenger: Was it hard to get these healthy smoothies to take off in a city not known for having healthy dining options? 
Dinero: it was a bit challenging, but it wasn’t hard. About three or four years ago, things were shifting in the city. You started seeing some healthier options come around. I think that I had a lot to do with people being able to have access to that kind of product. It helps that my smoothies really taste good. I’ve had people looking at my green smoothie like:“Man, that thing probably tastes nasty.” Keep in mind, I’m dealing with the hood, so it was straight like that. It was: “Ugh, I don’t want that green one, give me the pink one.” But then they would taste the green one and find out it’s amazing.
I actually shook the culture from understanding that looks can be deceiving when it comes to things like a healthy smoothie. You have to give things a try.
Zenger: How did the deal with Rouses come about? 
Dinero: One of my homies had a meeting with Rouses about figuring out how to do something together. He brought in a few people who had businesses already, from the farmers to people who cooked to products. He said he wanted to do a vendor market every week or something like that at Rouses. So, I took the meeting. I’m community-based, and there were a lot of things at stake, as far as them righting their wrongs. So, if they were willing to do the undoing, I’m with it.
That was my whole pitch in the meeting. This is not just about me. It’s about creating opportunities for jobs. It was a decision I had to make for myself and others. We are about four or five months in now, and every Saturday, we do the market at Rouses on Tchoupitoulas. And very soon, they will have my fresh-pressed juices and ginger shots on the shelf in their CBD [Central Business District] location.
(Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Fern Siegel)
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The post Smoothie Operator: Independent Blender Bringing Healthy Food To The Streets appeared first on Zenger News.

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What to eat while recovering from Covid – The Week

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What to eat while recovering from Covid  The Week
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