Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Kefir

It’s pretty common knowledge that yogurt is a good source of probiotics, beneficial bacteria that help maintain digestive health.  What many people don’t realize is that probiotics are also naturally found in a variety of other foods.  One of these foods is kefir, a centuries-old cultured milk drink that originated in the Caucasus Mountains.  Besides being rich in gut-healthy probiotics, kefir is also an excellent source of calcium, protein, and Vitamin D, and a good source of Vitamin A.  It helps to think of kefir as a drinkable yogurt; it’s creamy and has a slightly tangy taste.  Kefir is sold alongside yogurt in most grocery stores, and, like yogurt, it comes in a variety of flavors (to keep added sugars low, choose the plain, unsweetened variety).  If you’re looking for a portable, protein-rich snack, reach for a bottle of kefir.  Its smooth, creamy texture also livens up a variety of dishes, like the one below.

Veggie Noodles with Kefir Cauliflower Sauce

Ingredients
¾ cup plain kefir
6 large garlic cloves, paper skin on
6 cups cauliflower florets
6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
4-5 medium zucchini
2 bell peppers, one red and one orange, seeded and thinly sliced
2 large handfuls of baby spinach, finely sliced
5-6 fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Olive oil, as needed
Black pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, to taste (optional)
Pumpkin seeds, to taste (optional

Instructions

  1. To roast the garlic: preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and add the garlic. Drizzle the garlic with olive oil than fold over foil into a packet. Roast for 40 minutes, or until done. Remove and let cool before peeling.
  2. To cook the cauliflower: bring the vegetable broth to boil in a large pot than add the cauliflower.
  3. Cover and boil for 8-10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is fork tender. Remove the cauliflower with a slotted spoon and add it to the pitcher of a high-powered blender, reserving ½-1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  4. To make the sauce: add the garlic, a hearty pinch of pepper, ½ cup of the cooking liquid and the kefir to the blender with the cauliflower. Puree on high until desired consistency is reached, adding extra broth or kefir as needed. If desired, add a squeeze of lemon juice and/or Parmesan cheese to the sauce.
  5. To make the zucchini pasta: Using a spiral slicer, julienne peeler, or regular vegetable peeler, cut the zucchini into spaghetti-like ribbons or strips.
  6. Add the zucchini, bell peppers and spinach to a large mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and toss to coat before allowing to marinate for 10-15 minutes, or until ready to serve.
  7. To serve, divide the veggie pasta between bowls and top with cauliflower sauce and basil to taste. Stir to coat well. Season with additional pepper, if desired, and add Parmesan cheese and pumpkin seeds for extra crunch.

Recipe adapted from Lifeway Kefir 

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