Donna Schwenk prepares cultured food daily. But Schwenk’s “cultured” isn’t highbrow or refined; it’s fermented and alive with good bacteria.
After a series of health problems, the Greenwood, Mo., resident introduced kefir — a fermented milk drink that has been around for thousands of years — to her family’s diet. Foods like kefir, kombucha, sprouted grain and sourdough breads, and vegetables such as kimchi and sauerkraut are rich in probiotics that aid in digestion and overall health.
“After I saw the dramatic health benefits that cultured foods bring to restoring the balance of good bacteria to the body, I wanted to share my story with everyone,” Schwenk says. “But I think it’s important to meet people where they’re at. You don’t have to make your own fermented kefir or bake your own sprouted breads: There are pre-made options in today’s grocery and health food stores.”
Even food guru Michael Pollan’s most recent book, “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation” (Penguin Group), touts the benefits of grandma-style pickled vegetables, preserved lemons and yogurt. Schwenk’s second cookbook, “Cultured Food for Life” (Hay House), was released last October, and her website, CulturedFoodLife.com, shares cooking videos, recipes and an online store to get people started fermenting their own foods.
“So many people are feeling unwell and are hungry for well-being,” Schwenk says. “Never would I have thought that I would be writing cookbooks on cultured foods and sharing my fermented food story with so many people, but it all feels really good.”
Kefir Breakfast Pudding
Makes 1 serving
1 cup kefir, any flavor
1 1/2 teaspoons chia seeds
1/4 cup uncooked oatmeal of choice, old-fashioned, steel-cut or rolled oats
1/2 cup fresh fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mandarin orange slices or peaches, cut into bite-size, plus more for topping
1 teaspoon sweetener, such as maple syrup, honey, stevia or agave nectar, optional
The night before: Pour kefir into a clean, wide-mouth, pint-size canning jar. Add chia seeds, uncooked oats and fresh fruit of choice. Place lid tightly on jar and shake vigorously. Refrigerate jar overnight.
In the morning: Remove lid and stir in optional sweetener of choice and top with more fresh fruit, if desired.
Per serving: 340 calories (48 percent from fat), 15 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 31 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein, 22 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber.