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Black-hued foods

Black rice bran may help fight disease-related inflammation, says a study, "Protective Effects of Black Rice Bran against Chemically-Induced Inflammation of Mouse Skin," published online August 23, 2010 in the American Chemical Society's (ACS') bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Scientists who study nutrition and health work with lab animals such as mice because these rodents share a large percent of their DNA with humans (Just 2.5% of DNA turns mice into men - 30 May 2002 - New Scientist.)

Studies on black rice bran and black rice have shown a link to helping to reduce inflammation.
Studies on black rice bran and black rice have shown a link to helping to reduce inflammation.
Anne Hart, photography.
Black rice and its bran: Can this grain help fight inflammation?
Anne Hart, photography: Black rice and chick peas.

Scientists are reporting evidence that black rice — a little-known variety of the grain that is the staple food for one-third of the world population — may help soothe the inflammation involved in allergies, asthma, and other diseases. Mendel Friedman and colleagues point out that their previous research showed several potential health benefits of eating black rice bran. Bran is the outer husk of the grain, which is removed during the processing of brown rice to produce the familiar white rice. Those experiments, which were done in cell cultures, hinted that black rice bran suppressed the release of histamine, which causes inflammation, according to the October 20, 2010 news release, "Black rice bran may help fight disease-related inflammation."

In the new study, they tested the effects of black rice bran extract on skin inflammation in laboratory mice. When they injected the extract into the mice, it reduced skin inflammation by about 32 percent compared to control animals and also decreased production of certain substances known to promote inflammation. Brown rice bran extract did not have these effects, they say, according to the news release.

When the scientists fed the mice a diet containing 10 percent black rice bran, it reduced swelling associated with allergic contact dermatitis, a common type of skin irritation. The findings "further demonstrate the potential value of black rice bran as an anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic food ingredient and possibly also as a therapeutic agent for the treatment and prevention of diseases associated with chronic inflammation," the article notes. You also may wish to see the abstracts of other studies on black rice or black rice bran such as the following: "A Polysaccharide Isolated from the Liquid Culture of Lentinus edodes (Shiitake) Mushroom Mycelia Containing Black Rice Bran Protects Mice against a Salmonella Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Endotoxemia," or "Rice Brans, Rice Bran Oils, and Rice Hulls: Composition, Food and Industrial Uses, and Bioactivities in Humans, Animals, and Cells." Interestingly, another noteworthy study looks at smoked rice bran and antidiabetic effects--in mice. See the abstract of the research, "Antidiabetic Effects of Rice Hull Smoke Extract in Alloxan-Induced Diabetic Mice."

How to prepare and use black rice gravy or sauce

The secret to making a vegan gravy or sauce to put over other foods is to puree cooked black or red rice with a vegetable broth. To make the vegetable broth, simply cook onions, celery, and carrots in water until soft enough to chew. You can cook the washed, black, red, or mahogany rice with the vegetables. You may wish to check out the Cumin-Scented Quinoa and Black Rice Recipe |, and substitute your own ingredients for what you prefer when it comes to seasonings. You don't have to add fats or salt. Vegans can use black rice gravy poured over vegan foods. Black rice gravy is mostly for savory foods, but you also can prepare black rice pudding or coconut black rice pudding if you want to use black rice in desserts.

Just prepare black rice as you would any other rice pudding and add grated coconut. You also can use coconut milk to make the rice pudding creamier in texture. Just prepare using any rice pudding recipe and substitute black for white or brown rice, coconut milk for cow's milk, and add grated coconut to garnish. Then chill the pudding.

Now for black rice used in savory foods, when you cook celery, onions, and carrots together it produces a vegetable broth known as mirepoix. Optional, add a little kale or collards to the water. There's a website, Red Beans And Rice With Gravy Recipes, but if you're looking for no added fats/oils alternatives, leave out the oil. The same applies for those on no added salt special diets. Just leave out the salt and season with fresh chopped parsley, garlic or garlic powder (not garlic salt) or other fresh herbs of your choice.

Now when the black rice is tender, puree everything in a blender with the liquid in which you just cooked the black rice. Now you have a rich, creamy black rice gravy or sauce that you can pour over other savory foods. You can season the water in which you cooked the rice with herbs and spices, garlic, or any of your favorite seasonings or herbs. Examples could be dill, parsley, or spinach, thyme, oregano, or pepper, as you prefer. Different people like a variety of tastes in a sauce or gravy.

If you don't want to use the pureed black rice to pour over other foods, you can sip it as a creamed soup. Or if you want to make a thick dip out of it, just add cooked lentils and puree everything into a thick, creamy dip or hummus. You don't have to add fats. If you're serving a warm, savory meal such as a casserole, you can pour some pureed black rice sauce/gravy over the top to moisten any savory food.

Old fashioned gravies traditionally were made of roux, such as browning flour in bacon fat, but for a vegan gravy/sauce/cream soup, instead of eating all that fatty liquid poured over a baked potato, any savory entree, or vegetable plate, just use black rice as gravy/sauce. In addition to black rice, gravy/sauce for savory entrees or cream soups also can be made from pureed cooked lentils, which produces a rich, brown gravy.

If you cook lentils with black rice and puree that mixture, you end up with a dark brown, rich gravy or sauce, that's hearty as a cream soup or sauce/gravy for almost any savory entree, to keep the food moist. One example is pouring it over vegetarian lasagna, noodles, or a baked vegetable, such as spaghetti squash. It's a sauce that you don't have to season with a lot of salt or add fat to in order to get a rich, dark brown sauce/gravy or creamed soup. Thicken with legumes or cooked black beans, and puree to make a dip similar to hummus or other bean dips.

Another alternative is frozen desserts made with cooked amaranth

Cook a cup of amaranth in water until it's soft enough to chew. In a blender, add two cut up apples with the cores removed. Leave out the seeds, as apple seeds are toxic. Add a small amount of pomegranate juice or coconut water, some unsweetened almond milk, and one or two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. Then add a cup of frozen mango chunks. If you want more sweet add a pinch of stevia or a handful of dried goji berries or raisins or prunes. If it's too sweet the mango chunks should be sweet enough. Puree all these ingredients in your blender. You should have a thick, chocolate-colored creamy smoothie.

You can add a scoop of protein powder, if desired. Basically you're making a puree in your blender of cooked amaranth and liquid. The rest of the fruit added is whatever you choose to sweeten your liquid to the taste you want. Then freeze the mixture in cups or containers of your choice. The frozen dessert should taste like chocolate sorbet, but be creamy and thick from the pureed cooked amaranth. You don't have to add any fats or table sugar. Now you have a vegan frozen dessert or smoothie made with super food amaranth. You also can use cooked quinoa, but amaranth tastes better in a smoothie or frozen dessert because the grains are tinier and more easily creamed in a blender.

One serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce 'bad cholesterol' and therefore the risk of cardiovascular disease, says Dr. John Sievenpiper, a researcher in the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

A daily serving of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce bad cholesterol, says the new study,"Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials," published April 7, 2014 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

And beans, chickpeas, and lentils are low on the glycemic index, meaning they don't quickly turn to sugar in the bloodstream. Beans, chickpeas, and lentils are also called pulses. The intake of dietary pulses, such as beans and lentils, reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. In a meta-analysis of 26 randomized controlled trials, the authors found an overall effect but substantial variation in results between trials. They call for trials of longer duration and higher quality to verify the results of the new review.

A study unveiled on April 3, 2006 gives new meaning to the word beanpole: The findings show that people who eat beans weigh less than those who don't

Presented at the Experimental Biology conference, April 1-5, 2006, in San Francisco, the study found that adults who eat beans weigh 6.6 pounds less – yet eat 199 more daily calories – than adults who don't eat beans. Similar results were found for teenage bean eaters who consume 335 more daily calories but weigh 7.3 pounds less than non-bean-eating teens.

Data for the study came from the National Nutrition and Health Examination Survey (1999-2002). The results also show that:

  • Adult bean eaters consume less total and saturated fat than non-bean eaters and have a 22 per cent lower risk of obesity.
  • Adult and teen bean eaters have smaller waist sizes – three-quarter inch and one inch, respectively
  • The fiber intake of adult and teen bean eaters is more than one-third higher than non-bean eaters

"Beans are an excellent source of fiber and previous studies have shown that high-fiber diets may help reduce body weight, so this makes sense," says Victor Fulgoni, PhD and author of the study, according to the April 3, 2006 news release, Research shows adults and teens who eat beans weigh less. "As well, they are naturally low in fat and cholesterol-free. It's no wonder that beans have been called a 'superfood.'"

The federal government has recognized the many health benefits of beans:

  • MyPyramid, the USDA's recommended eating plan for Americans, lists beans in two food groups. Beans are listed in the Vegetable Group because they are a plant-based food that provides vitamins and minerals. Beans also are listed in the Meat and Beans Group because they are a good source of protein.
  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommends that Americans triple their current intake of beans from one to three cups per week. (By the way, MyPyramid was replaced by MyPlate.)

In addition, other research has shown that diets including beans may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. The National Nutrition and Health Examination Survey (NHANES) is a continuous survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics with survey data released every two years. NHANES 1999-2000 and 2001-2002 contained data on the food and nutrient intake of 9,965 and 11,039 Americans respectively.

The study was featured in two Experimental Biology poster sessions ("Bean Consumption by Adults is Associated with a More Nutrient Dense Diet and a Reduced Risk of Obesity" and "Bean Consumption is Associated with Better Nutrient Intake and Lower Body Weights and Waist Circumferences in Children") and was sponsored by Bush Brothers and Company. For delicious bean recipes and serving ideas, visit the Bush Beans site. Or if you're looking for beans without added salt and not in a can, you might try the dry beans.

Soaking the beans

Soak beans overnight in your refrigerator and cook them yourself. Then store them overnight cooked in a glass jar so all you have to do in the morning is warm them up or serve cold in a salad. Or you could emulsify/puree the beans with herb and spice-flavored water in your blender and make a bean dip, or turn them into hummus by adding lemon or lime juice or some apple cider vinegar and a handful of sesame seeds, then puree them in a blender and use as a dip with crackers or bread or as a salad dressing.

When you look at studies on any particular food, many times, the studies are sponsored or funded in part by the corporations that manufacture processed versions of the food or farmers who grow the food, depending upon which food is involved in studies of how that food promotes health.

Clear labeling is a big issue that customers want when it comes to food or any other item

Experience helps restaurant managers stick with local foods, says a new study, "Restaurant's decision to purchase local foods: Influence of value chain activities," published in the May 2014 issue of the International Journal of Hospitality Management. Restaurant chefs and food purchasing managers who have bought local foods in the past are more likely to continue adding them to menus and store shelves, according to a team of researchers.

"Past experiences will have an impact on buying local foods," said Amit Sharma, according to the April 7, 2014 news release, "Experience helps restaurant managers stick with local foods." Sharma is an associate professor of hospitality management at Penn State. "Restaurant managers who buy local foods currently are significantly more likely to keep purchasing locally."

In a study of the cost and benefits of purchasing local foods in restaurants, managers and chefs indicated that certain actions of local food producers stand out as reasons why they continue to buy local foods. For instance, managers said that a local farmer's or producer's response time -- the time it took a business to respond and process an order -- was more important than delivery time -- how long it takes to actually receive the goods -- as a factor when they considered buying local food products.

"Interestingly, we did not find that delivery time mattered as much for those who purchased food, not to say that delivery time wasn't a concern at all," said Sharma. "However, what was more important to these managers was the response time of a local food producer."

Food purchasers also indicated that they would not stock local food just because it is local. Local foods must have a unique selling point, according to the researchers, who report their findings in the May 2014 issue of the International Journal of Hospitality Management.

For instance, a special variety apple used in an apple pie may be more important to the food manager than just a locally grown apple

"Simply saying 'local food' was not enough, chefs really want to provide their customers with a dish that is unique," said Sharma, according to the news release. "You can't just slap a label on it that says it's 'local', and expect it to sell, in other words." While many studies have explored the reasons that customers would want local food, this study was focused on management's buying decisions.

"We're not discounting customer demand, we recognize that consumers have to want it -- in fact our previous studies suggest consumers are willing to pay more for local foods," said Sharma. "But the manager has to make decisions before the food is served."

Clear labeling is another selling point for restaurant managers who are purchasing foods in grocery stores and markets

The labels should be accurate and easy to read, containing specifications including weight, date and product details, for example, according to Sharma, who worked with Joonho Moon, doctoral student in hospitality management, Penn State, and Catherine Strohbehn, state extension specialist and adjunct professor in apparel, events and hospitality management, Iowa State University.

Training staff to handle local foods properly and to communicate the advantages of local foods with customer was also an important factor that could explain the decision to purchase local foods.

Commitment of a business to offer local foods

"Training tells us a lot about the commitment of an operation to local foods," said Sharma. "Local foods may or may not be delivered or processed in the same way as non-local foods, so the staff should be trained and, particularly, chefs need to be trained in developing unique menus using local foods."

Managers did not seem to think food safety was an issue with handling local food. "That's not to say food safety isn't important to managers, it just isn't an obstacle to purchasing locally," said Sharma, according to the news release. "It's not a constraint."

The researchers sent surveys to independently owned restaurants in Midwestern states to investigate management's attitudes toward the decision to purchase locally grown foods. "In this project, we investigated the cost-benefit analysis of restaurants purchasing local foods, along the foodservice value chain, which ranged from the sourcing of local food all the way to serving local foods to customers," said Sharma in the news release. The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University supported this work.

When food crises spill over

You also may wish to check out the abstract of another article also published in the May 2014 issue of the International Journal of Hospitality Management. "The negative spillover effect of food crises on restaurant firms: Did Jack in the Box really recover from an E. coli scare?" In that study, the abstract notes that despite the enormous impact of food crises on restaurants, limited understanding of their long-term impacts and associated factors has undermined crisis managers’ ability to handle crisis situations effectively.

In the article, researchers investigated the long-term impact of food crises on the financial performance of restaurant firms and identified the factors that influenced this impact. This explanatory study examined the case of Jack in the Box, whose 1993 Escherichia coli scare was the first and largest restaurant-associated food crisis in modern times. An event study method was used to uncover stock price movements of Jack in the Box, in conjunction with 73 unrelated food crises that occurred from 1994 to 2010.

Stock prices of Jack in the Box exhibited significantly negative responses to other firms’ food crises, moreover, the negative spillover effect was stronger if the crisis occurred closer in time, was similar in nature, and was accompanied with no recall execution. These findings shed light on the long-term financial impact of food crises and offer insights for crisis managers to develop more effective crisis management strategies, according to the study's abstract.

Food quality

Climate change is hitting home -- in the food pantry, this time here in Sacramento. Meanwhile, in Kansas, researchers there are attempting to reverse what they consider to be a critical mistake our ancestors made some 10,000 years ago - the planting of annual crops instead of perennials. They want to replace standard wheat with wheatgrass. See, "New Wheat Crop in the Works - WTVY." But here in Sacramento and Davis, a new field study, "Nitrate assimilation is inhibited by elevated CO2 in field-grown wheat," of wheat demonstrates how the nutritional quality of food crops can be diminished when elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide interfere with a plant's ability to process nitrate into proteins. Findings from this wheat field-test study, led by a University of California - Davis plant scientist is published online since April 6, 2014, in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Food quality researchers from the University of California, Davis, say this new field study shows why food quality will suffer with rising CO2 levels. For the first time, a field test has demonstrated that elevated levels of carbon dioxide inhibit plants' assimilation of nitrate into proteins, indicating that the nutritional quality of food crops is at risk as climate change intensifies.

"Food quality is declining under the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide that we are experiencing," said lead author Arnold Bloom, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, according to the April 6, 2014 news release, Field study shows why food quality will suffer with rising CO2. "Several explanations for this decline have been put forward, but this is the first study to demonstrate that elevated carbon dioxide inhibits the conversion of nitrate into protein in a field-grown crop," he said in the news release.

The assimilation, or processing, of nitrogen plays a key role in the plant's growth and productivity

In food crops, it is especially important because plants use nitrogen to produce the proteins that are vital for human nutrition. Wheat, in particular, provides nearly one-fourth of all protein in the global human diet.

Many previous laboratory studies had demonstrated that elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide inhibited nitrate assimilation in the leaves of grain and non-legume plants. However there had been no verification of this relationship in field-grown plants.

Wheat field study

To observe the response of wheat to different levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the researchers examined samples of wheat that had been grown in 1996 and 1997 in the Maricopa Agricultural Center near Phoenix, Ariz.

At that time, carbon dioxide-enriched air was released in the fields, creating an elevated level of atmospheric carbon at the test plots, similar to what is now expected to be present in the next few decades. Control plantings of wheat were also grown in the ambient, untreated level of carbon dioxide.

Leaf material harvested from the various wheat tests plots was immediately placed on ice, and then was oven dried and stored in vacuum-sealed containers to minimize changes over time in various nitrogen compounds

A fast-forward through more than a decade found Bloom and the current research team able to conduct chemical analyses that were not available at the time the experimental wheat plants were harvested.

In the recent study, the researchers documented that three different measures of nitrate assimilation affirmed that the elevated level of atmospheric carbon dioxide had inhibited nitrate assimilation into protein in the field-grown wheat.

"These field results are consistent with findings from previous laboratory studies, which showed that there are several physiological mechanisms responsible for carbon dioxide's inhibition of nitrate assimilation in leaves," Bloom said, according to the news release.

3 percent protein decline expected

Bloom noted that other studies also have shown that protein concentrations in the grain of wheat, rice and barley — as well as in potato tubers — decline, on average, by approximately 8 percent under elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. "When this decline is factored into the respective portion of dietary protein that humans derive from these various crops, it becomes clear that the overall amount of protein available for human consumption may drop by about 3 percent as atmospheric carbon dioxide reaches the levels anticipated to occur during the next few decades," Bloom said, according to the news release.

While heavy nitrogen fertilization could partially compensate for this decline in food quality, it would also have negative consequences including higher costs, more nitrate leaching into groundwater and increased emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, he explained. What do you think is happening to the quality of wheat? Now, that's a topic to explore regarding various possible causes of the decline in food quality as revealed in recent research studies. Comparing the data is a valuable research topic in itself.

In addition to Bloom, the research team on this study included Martin Burger, currently in UC Davis' Department of Land, Air and Water Resources; and Bruce A. Kimball and Paul J. Pinter, both of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's U.S. Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa, Arizona. Funding for the study was provided by the National Science Foundation and the National Research Initiative competitive grants program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Black bean smoothies, brownies, or frozen desserts

If your older children won't eat their plate or bowl of cooked black beans, try a black bean smoothie or frozen dessert. Mix a cup of cooked unseasoned black beans with the liquid it's cooked in along with a cup of coconut water (not from concentrate) and a cup of unsweetened almond milk. Add a 1/4 cup of organic grated coconut and two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and puree in a blender. If you add enough flaxseed meal, oat bran, or garbanzo bean flour to thicken a smoothie made from pureed black beans, you can bake the batter as a brownie. Just add enough raisins or goji berries to sweeten or other cut up fruit such as figs, prunes, apples, blueberries, or dates and bake like a brownie or thick chewy cookie.

For a black bean smoothie, add a small package of of frozen strawberries or a cup of fresh strawberries (unsweetened) and 1/4 cup of grated coconut. If you want it sweeter, add two small apples cored with the seeds removed, since apple seeds are toxic. Puree the fruit with the black beans and coconut water until you have a thick chocolate-looking smoothie. Pour into a glass and serve the smoothie chilled. Or freeze into a sorbet-like frozen dessert in small serving bowls and serve like sorbet. It tastes somewhat like a liquid brownie.

Or make a purple corn kernel punch

Make a healthy purple corn kernel punch without sugar using purple corn kernels, apples, and pineapple with a squirt of lemon juice. Make their own cheecha morada, a drink made from purple corn mixed with citrus juices and apple juice and spiced with cloves and cinnamon.

See the uTube video, How to make cheecha morada. Instead of adding sugar as so many recipes direct you to sweeten the beverages, you can puree two apples in a blender with the juice of one lemon and add a few chunks of pineapple to adjust the sweetness. Notice the variant spellings of cheecha and chicha morada on the video titles.

Check out this uTube chicha morada recipe video. Also see, Eva Maria Delaney, Peruvian food. Also see this other uTube video on how to make cheecha out of quinoa grain ground into a flour in a coffee grinder or dry grinder. I use a Vita-Mix dry grinder to turn quinoa into meal or course flour.

Here's how to make cheecha morada and also how to make kefir. Cheecha morada is a corn and fruit drink made by mixing purple corn, spices, and fruit juices. There is a version of cheecha that's fermented and alcoholic, but this type of Cheecha Morada, served all over Peru is not fermented.

When made and consumed in its non-alcoholic form as a beverage for the entire family, Chicha Morada is a purple corn drink that is super high in resveratrol. Purple corn may contain four times more resveratrol than red wine. So if you don't drink alcohol, try Chicha Morada.

Home brewers who want to make beverages that are non-alcoholic and are more antioxidant than sugary might try making cheecha morada or kefir. Cheecha Morada is made from corn. And kefir is made from milk of any type, including coconut milk. First, here's the recipe for how to make Cheecha Morada, a Peruvian drink made from corn. The kefir recipe follows the recipe for Cheecha Morada.

According to the uTube video, How to Make the Chicha Morada (Super Peruvian Resveratrol Drink) : The Renegade Health Show Episode #607, here is the recipe for Chicha Morada. Also watch the video for the demonstration. You can see this recipe and click on the video link on the Renegade Health Blog, "How to make the chicha morada super Peruvian resveratrol drink."

Here’s the recipe for Chicha Morada:

- 1 lb dried purple corn kernels
- 4 qt cold water
- 6 Ceylon cinnamon Sticks
- 6 Whole cloves
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup fresh pineapple juice
- 1 c fresh apple juice
- 1/4 cup finely chopped apples

Bring the corn, cinnamon and cloves to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for an hour, drain off the liquid and let cool. Once cool add lemon juice, pineapple juice and apple juice and stir together. Serve in a nice wine glass with piece of apple. Chicha Morada usually is served to the entire family over the age of six. (Do not serve to infants, of course.)

Making Your Own Cultured Coconut, Almond, and/or Milk Kefir

In some supermarkets, natural food markets, and health food stores, you may have a difficult time finding kefir in the natural foods sections or aisles made from anything else but cow's milk, goat's milk, soy milk, and coocnut milk. So if you want to make your own kefir by culturing almond milk, rice milk, oats, hazelnut, coconut milk, or hemp milk substitute, you should know that you'll have to start culturing your kefir grains in dairy milk because because kefir culture grains won't grow in non-dairy milk and will eventually die.

You may find a delicious coconut milk kefir at many natural food stores and in some supermarkets, particularly in the natural food aisles. You can make your own kefir from almond milk or from any other milk make from nuts or grains if you grow your starter grains in dairy milk.

You can, at home, make delicious kefir from many types of nut milks or grain milks such as rice, hemp, or oats, as well as coconut milk and soy milk. Or try hazelnut milk mixed with almond milk made into a kefir, that is cultured with kefir starter grains that you first grow in dairy milk.

You begain by keeping some kefir starter grains growing in dairy milk to replace what you used up making almond milk kefir, coconut milk kefir, any other non-dairy milk substitute kefir using the original starter grains you began to culture in regular dairy milk. Check out the article, Real Food Recipes: Almond milk kefir.

Instructions are the same as for milk kefir, according to that article. You place the liquid to be 'kefired' in a clean jar with the grains, leave for 24 hours, strain out grains and drink.

You've seen some of the Sacramento supermarket shelves lined with almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, hemp milk, hazelnut milk, rice milk, coconut milk and other types of nondairy milk substitutes, either unsweetened or sweetened. But what you haven't seen too frequently is cultured nondairy milk, except for cultured coconut milk and cultured soy milk.

If you're tired of the taste of your unsweetened almond or soy milk, try adding a culture to your nondairy milk substitutes. Making kefir from almond milk is one feat you can try at home. Or you can make kefir from various dairy milks other than cows milk, for example, cultured goat milk (kefir). You might find at your city's Natural Foods stores, full-fat goat milk kefir.

Here's how to make your own nondairy kefir from almond milk

View the video, How to Make Almond Milk. Also see, Sprouted Sunflower & Almond Seed Cheese. And check out the site, What is Kefir? Also see, Coconut Milk Dairy.

Kefir is a cultured milk beverage which is popular in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and parts of the Mediterranean and Russia. It is made by inoculating a milk with kefir grains, a mixture of yeasts and bacteria which will sour the milk slightly, creating a drink which is almost like liquid yogurt.

Traditional kefir has a tangy, rich flavor which may be altered with the addition of ingredients like pureed fruits and sweeteners, or consumed plain. Some markets and natural food stores stock kefir, and it is also possible to order kefir grains from suppliers to make kefir at home.

The word "kefir" is Russian, and it is probably derived from a Turkish word which means "to froth." Traditional kefir was made from camel's milk, although milk from other animals can be used as well. People who prefer not to use dairy may also make kefir from plant or nut milks such as soy or almond milk. The beverage is typically made at room temperature, and it takes around 18 hours to mature fully, although in cold climates this may take longer.

Also look at the article, Make it Yourself - Cultured Dairy Products | Passionate Homemaking. It's best to watch videos on making kefir rather than reading instructions in text, but there's an excellent recipe at the U.K. Seeds of Health website, "How to Make Kefir." According to that website, here's part of the recipe.

See the website for the entire recipe with all the details in depth. And don't begin until you've watched at least two videos on how to make kefir. That way you have a choice of using coconut milk, soy milk, dairy, or any other milk substitute with the kefir fermentation process. You don't want any explosions of glass bottles or sharp glass to go flying. So be careful and watch the videos on how to make coconut kefir.

You're warned: Kefir easily can explode. The glass jar explodes and the glass shatters and gets in your eyes, taking out your sight. It's a scary warning, but you are forewarned. One way to cope with this possibility is to always use a jar with a rubber seal that will allow excess pressure to escape, otherwise you run the risk of explosions, according to the variety of how-to instructions found online for making coconut milk kefir and kefir from any type of milk, including dairy.

The same warning goes for kids or pets standing near a glass jar of kefir with a lid. The danger of explosion is there. So make kefir at your own risk.

Now, let's get started with safety goggles, a hard hat, and gloves making coconut milk kefir. Basically, you put the culture in the coconut milk and let it ferment. That's how it was made for hundreds of years.

You let the milk with the kefir culture in it stand at room temperature for about 12 to 24 hours depending on whether you want thick or thin culture. If you let it stand for 48 hours, it will make a thicker, sourer kefir. If you let it stand for just 12 hours, you'll taste a thinner, sweeter kefir. The temperature will effect how quickly the culture works. During the summer kefir will ferment faster.

When it's the thickness and sourness you want to taste, then strain the kefir into a clean jar. While it's fermenting the kefir grains will float to the top of the milk along with any cream. It's a good idea to stir it gently with a wooden spoon to mix up the solids and liquids to make it easier to strain. Use wooden not metal spoons.

Scoop out the culture from the kefir. It will be thick. Separate the kefir from the liquid. The kefir culture produces a jelly like polysaccharide substance that develops around the grains as they lengthen. It has unique properties and it's own name 'kefiran'.

Grains may be coated with a gel. This is the kefiran. Stir the kefir to distribute the kefiran in the kefir. This helps to thicken the finished kefir. You'll get a wide variety of kefir thickness. Some will be thin and other kefir types will be thicker.

After straining, the grains are placed straight back into a clean jar without washing them first. Fresh milk is added to the grains to make the next batch.

Keep the bacteria from your hands out of the kefir culture
Bacteria from your hands, hair, and the air will get into the kefir. Use a clean wooden spoon and a clean kefir-making jar. It's a living culture, a complex system of bacteria and yeasts. Don't contaminate it. Use freshly cleaned hands, clean jars and clean non metallic implements.

Refrigerator Kefir
A cooler temperature slows the fermentation down and makes a thicker kefir too. Some people like to ferment their kefir in the fridge, leaving it for 5 days or more to compensate for the much slower fermentation process.

Double Fermentation
Maybe you'd like to try the double fermentation technique that you can read in depth at the Seeds of Health site. First ferment by adding the culture to the milk and leaving for 12-24 hours. Then strain out the culture and leave the kefir out to ferment more slowly for another 12-24 hours before putting it in the fridge.

Continuous Fermentation
Then there's the traditional 'continuous fermentation' approach. You store your kefir in a large jar but don't put it in the fridge. As each new batch is ready it's added to the existing kefir in the main storage jar and then the lid goes on. See this method also at the Seeds of Health site.

You could ferment for five days in the refrigerator rather than for up to 24 hours in a warm place full of all types of bacteria that could contaminate your kefir. It's your choice. If you're working with raw animal milk, advice from scientists is to heat the milk and simmer it. For more information on making kefir from raw animal milk, see the video, "Dr. Marshall Talks About Kefir." The biochemist and nutrition radio talk show personality making kefir from raw milk in this video explains all the steps.

Kefir continues to ferment as it is a live food. When it's outside your refrigerator fermenting, it will become very sour and begin to fizz. Again, this warning is repeated: always use a jar with a rubber seal that will allow excess pressure to escape, otherwise you run the risk of explosions.

Storing the Culture
Real kefir from live culture is an endlessly self propagating process, according to the article and recipe, "How to Make Kefir." After each batch you'll have a few more grains as the culture grows. Eventually you'll have a large batch of grains and they'll speed up your fermentation time. Spare culture can be stored for a time in a jar in the fridge with some milk.

The fermentation will slow right down and you can store spare culture for a few weeks this way. Rotate your spare culture with the grains you're using for your regular kefir-making time so that the grains get a chance to warm up and restore vitality to their microflora. Don't make too much spare culture, though. Just make what you need for a specific time.

Storing the Kefir
Store the kefir in a glass jar in the fridge. The kefir will keep a long time in the fridge. Add new batches of kefir to the storage jar as they are made and give it a shake to mix them.

You can store it on the kitchen counter instead of the fridge but be aware that it will continue to ferment, although not as fast as it would with the kefir grains in it. If you want to do that you should, for the third time, be reminded here to always use jars with a rubber seal that will allow excess pressure to escape and prevent possible explosions. It can be a very vigorous culture and has caused jars to explode when stored out of a fridge over a period of time. A kilner jar is good.

The beneficial bacteria and yeasts help to prevent the kefir from spoiling but it gets very sour and fizzy. In the United States, a jar sealed with a metal hinge leveraging down a glass lid and rubber seal is said to be using a "bail closure." A Kilner jar is a rubber-sealed, screw-topped jar used for the storage of food, which was invented by the Kilner family and produced by John Kilner & Co, Yorkshire, England, according to the Wikipedia site.

Classically, it was a glass plug with a rubber seal attached to it in the top, with the whole being secured with a metal screw-top lid. Contemporary "Kilner-style" jars usually have a lid made entirely of metal. Kilner jars are used for storing and preserving home-made jams, marmalades and other relishes.They are also used for pickling food such as eggs, onions and garlic.

It's spring, and eggless vegan coconut kefir is popular as the weather warms. You can make coconut milk with lime juice or culture the coconut milk and add vanilla, rum flavoring or almond flavoring and a pinch of stevia or a tablespoon of your favorite sweetener, such as pureed raisins with cinnamon and cloves, or two tablespoons of pineapple juice concentrate to a quart of coconut kefir.

You can buy the flavoring, a pinch of stevia, pureed, spiced raisins, or fruit concentrate at any supermarket. The trick is to make your own coconut kefir from scratch and then add any sweetener such as pureed raisins spiced with cinnamon and cloves to the basic coconut kefir. To start, here's how to make (or buy) the coconut kefir.

Besides cow's milk kefir, either non-fat or whole milk, there's also soy milk kefir and goat milk kefir. You can buy kefir flavored with berries or the unsweetened types. To make coconut milk kefir, the recipe is at the site, How to Make Coconut Milk Kefir | Passionate Homemaking.

See the YouTube video on how to make kefir from coconut milk, "How to Make Coconut Kefir." If you price coconut milk kefir in most markets, you'll find prices close to $5 for a quart.

So it's more cost effective to make your own coconut milk kefir. You can make it using a can of coconut milk. See, 7 Companies You Can Trust to Use BPA-Free Cans: TreeHugger and BPA-free Canned Food Options | The Soft Landing Blog. For example, the brand: Native Forest/Native Factor, all canned foods, including the company's canned coconut milk uses a BPA-free can.

Coconut milk is naturally rich in medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Two of the primary MCFAs found in coconut milk, lauric and capric acid, are known for supporting the body's immune system, according to the article, How to Make Coconut Milk Kefir | Passionate Homemaking. Coconut products contains monolaurin, a fatty acid found in human mother's milk, which has proven antiviral, antibacterial, and fungal properties that support natural immunity.

It has a creamy taste and texture that's similar to cream (with half the fat and calories) or milk (when diluted). It tastes on the flavor of what you mix it with, making it ideal for both sweet and savory recipes. It is completely free from any dairy, gluten, and soy. View the Healthy Cooking Coaches recipes for Strawberry & Vanilla ice cream using coconut kefir.

Since kefir can be found in most supermarkets, you might try making your own kefir. Sometimes a bottle of coconut milk kefir can cost up to $5. The fat in milk makes the kefir thicker.

That way you choose what kind of milk or nondairy product to use. Here's how to get started. It's all about finding a liquid that has its own natural lactose sugar and using the kefir cultures to convert the lactose sugar in the milk, be it cow's, goat's or coconut milk or soy milk, into glucose and galactose. That's why kefir usually can be consumed by some who can't tolerate plain cow's milk.

You can make kefir from coconut milk, soy milk, cow's milk, goat's milk or even raw milk. Kefir converts the sugar, lactose into glucose and galactose. This helps many lactose-intolerant people enjoy kefir. To make kefir using raw milk, view the video, "Dr. Marshall Talks About Kefir."

The three items you need are a special type of glass jar like a kilner jar with a rubber seal that allows pressure to escape, a tablespoon of kefir culture, for example, from a container of kefir you buy in the store or freeze-dried kefir culture, and fresh milk. You can use whole milk, nonfat milk, coconut milk, soy milk, or any other milk substitute that will ferment with a kefir culture.

Chocolate-blackberry smoothie that hides two cups of raw spinach

To make a chocolate-blackberry smoothie with a hidden package of raw baby spinach in it, rinse about two cups of organic baby spinach leaves and place the spinach in a blender with two tablespoons of flax seed meal or flax seeds (that you'll grind in the blender with the liquid content). Now add one or two tablespoons of unsweetened natural cocoa powder. An optional step is adding a scoop of protein powder.

Add a cup or two of almond milk or a cup of almond milk and a cup of decaf green tea, the drink, not the dry powder or tea. Now place a peeled banana (green banana almost turning yellow) in the blender. Emulsify everything to a liquid puree. Next, add a package of frozen blackberries or a cup of fresh, cleaned blackberries. Liquefy everything so you have a thick smoothie. Blend until the green mixture changes color from the blackberries. Blend until everything is liquefied/emulsified into a smoothie/shake. Add more blackberries, if desired, until the rich dark chocolate color appears. The unsweetened cocoa powder will flavor the smoothie to taste more like a chocolate beverage.

Notice the color will be chocolate-like, like a deep fudge color. And the spinach is hidden and liquefied. You can't taste it. If you want it sweeter, another banana will do the trick. Serve like a dark chocolate fudge beverage. What makes it taste so good and chocolate-like is that the blackberry or raspberry goes well with cocoa flavored desserts or beverages. You can check out the site, "Liquid Lunch: How To Hide Spinach In A Smoothie | Food Republic."

You can freeze this into a sorbet-like dessert, if desired, or drink as a thick smoothie. Meanwhile, the taste is great, and the person drinking the smoothie gets a package of spinach in the concoction. It makes about 64 ounces of beverage, depending upon how much liquid mixed in the blender. The sweet taste comes from the banana and the berries, the color from the unsweetened natural cocoa powder, which enriches the taste and flavor to somewhat resemble dark chocolate. See, "Berry Spinach Smoothie - Hidden Vegetable Recipes - Redbook."

When you mix red, purple, or blackberries with the green color of the liquefied spinach, it turns the color of dark chocolate. You can change the color to a lighter chocolate tone by adding a carrot or some carrot juice or a few mango chunks, or a little beet juice or beet juice powder. The idea is mixing vegetables and liquids to resemble dark chocolate fudge and using bananas to sweeten the beverage. You may wish to check out, "How To Make A Green Smoothie Without The Bitter Flavor Of Greens."

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