I forget that new people are visiting my blog and may not have any idea what I'm talking about when I say kefir or kombucha etc. If you look on the left side bar under 'Labels' I have one called Nourishing Traditions and have some posts about how I cook over there.
For a quick explanation, kefir is a cultured milk drink, similar to yogurt or buttermilk. The difference is that you use kefir grains, which resemble small blobs of cauliflower. I'll have to take some pictures of it so you can see. You drop them in the milk and let sit till the milk separates into 'curds and whey'. Then you strain out the grains, refrigerate your drink, and start over. The grains reproduce themselves, and many times you will end up with a surplus of grains. I've passed mine out to a few people so far. The kefir tastes like mild plain yogurt and I either mix half a packet of flavored gelatin into it or blend it with fruit. Then I store it in a mason jar in the fridge for whoever wants to drink it. I also keep some plain for use for cooking. It is an excellent replacement for buttermilk and I use it to soak my grains/flours/beans as well.
Kefir has over 15 strains of good bacteria and yeasts I believe and is better than buying probiotic capsules because you're never really sure how many good guys are alive in those capsules. Probiotics are the key to good digestive health and strong immune support. Just google 'kefir' and 'probiotics' and a wealth of information will pop up. Plus, after the initial investment of buying the grains (usually less than $10) you don't have to buy them again-if you take care of them :)
About soaking grains and flour. The book, Nourishing Traditions, gives instructions on this but it's very simple to explain. If you are planning to make oatmeal for breakfast, then you would measure out your oats (I usually do 1.5 cups) into a pot, add water to cover, then add something acidic or cultured such as buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, vinegar or lemon juice, or whey. You only add about two tablespoons- this assists in breaking down the phytates so that the whole grains are more digestible to your body, thus you get all the nutrients in the grains, not just the bran or hull of it keeping you 'regular'. I do this for all whole grains except brown rice because I usually forget and it has much less phytates. Then in the morning you add about another cup of water and cook on medium heat for 5-10 minutes. (I use Scottish oatmeal which is steel cut, so I'm not sure how long it would take for rolled oats.)
For something like pancakes, you would measure out your flour, say two cups, then add 1-2 cups buttermilk and leave overnight or up to 24hrs. Sometimes I will just use 1 cup kefir and 1 cup water to 'loosen' the mix so its easier to mix in the morning. In the morning you add the rest of the ingredients such as baking soda, salt, sweetener or whatever your recipe calls for. For beans and legumes I soak them around 24 hrs because we seem to be sensitive to the, ahem, effects of eating the beans if not soaked well :) I cover them with water, add some raw apple cider vinegar, let soak for 12 hrs, then pour off the water and add more for another 12 hrs or sometimes I cook them on low in the crockpot as long as possible. Depending on what it is, they sometimes sprout, which is even more nutritious. Lentils, black beans and split peas usually sprout after 24hrs.
Again I am not perfect and do not always remember or make the time to do this. My goal is to do it, but if things don't work out then it's fine. We always pray over our meals and we know that God will make it nourishing to our body. I'll just give an example: this morning I cooked fried eggs in coconut oil and defrosted some soaked zucchini bread muffins and topped them with cream cheese. We all drank strawberry kefir with it and actually I ate half a pink grapefruit instead of the muffin. I also drank decaf organic coffee with French Vanilla creamer, Sarah drank goat milk and ate a banana. (she's not a big breakfast fan)
At lunch time Leiah and I ate a Whopper Jr. and a coke...the other two ate Chef Boyardee at Granna's. For supper I am making stuffed peppers with ground beef and brown rice, baked potatoes with butter, homemade yogurt and cheese and a big salad. I will make some iced tea sweetened with local honey. So no, we aren't perfect in our eating, but I am going for balance, especially for my children.
You really don't need any special equipment to cook this way. I have a standing Kitchen Aid mixer given to my by dear hubby a year ago and I LOVE it- I use it almost everyday, sometimes twice a day! You need some glass mason jars if you plan to culture veggies or make kefir or yogurt. Just the basics-pots and pans, cutting boards and knives, colanders and bowls...a food processor and blender are nice too :)
Maybe after the Easter holidays are done I can do a picture post on making soaked foods. Oh, yes I do make our own bread with sourdough starter. I really like it, but I plan to also make regular yeasted bread too since it's softer. If I have a mix of both then everyone could be happy. I really enjoy making and eating bread and don't really consider it a chore. I get sad if there's no time to do it, but I do try and make at least two loaves each week. I got my starter, yogurt starter and kefir grains from here.
I have more 'health' posts planned, so stay tuned and feel free to ask more questions.