Feeling Good About Creaminess


I’ve only started liking yogurt in the last year, but now I can’t get enough: smoothies, dipssoups. I go to yogurt in a pinch because it adds flavor and consistency, yet can easily adapt to a multitude of culinary situations: it can be sweetened with fruit or it can turn spicy with curry.

And then it can turn into a sauce. Ish.

The PR folks for Lifeway Kefir emailed Endless Simmer about its “healthy, nourishing, drink/yogurt shake.” I had absolutely no idea what it was about, but decided to give it a try. I already know I can’t dig the supermarket yogurt, but figured trying this “staple in much of Europe ” would be fun. Who am I to deny free samples of something that could potentially be a new healthy addiction? (And PS, Maids, this is apparently a legit alternative for the lactards, “The cultures in Lifeway Kefir alleviate the unpleasant side effects that can be associated with milk consumption, even in people who are lactose intolerant.”)

It was one of those fridge clearing nights, especially because I received NINE bottles of Kefir (3 plain, 3 strawberry, 3 vanilla) and really needed to start experimenting. I wasn’t sure how milk-like it was going to be, so I had 80 (milk drinker) take the first sip. Upon the pour I knew he would hate it: Kefir is super thick and I could smell the tang from a foot above.

He grimaced. I gloated.

Kefir Parsley Pesto with Zucchini, Peas and Udon Noodles

I poured the Kefir into a sauce pan over low heat and started the reducing process. I added in a few chunks of a frozen parsley pesto. (Side note: I made a shit ton of pesto and thought it’d be best to throw it in a ziplock for freezer storage. Now I need a fucking icepick to gnaw away any of the sauce-to-be. Any storage suggestions, because I’m not going through this again.)

After 20 minutes the Kefir remained drink-like rather than the desired sauce-like. It was rounding 9 pm and I wanted to get this dinner thing going. Now I know this is reverse order, but I resorted to the flour treatment. I added in one teaspoon of flour, whisked super hard, added another teaspoon and whisked again. The sauce didn’t clump and became much thicker. Clearly this isn’t a proper sauce, it was broken from the start with the addition of the oiled pesto to the dairy. But somehow it worked.

When the sauce thickened, I broiled zucchini rounds (salt and peppered one side) and sliced them into quarters. I also got udon noodles boiling and when they were almost finished I threw in some frozen shelling (?) peas for the last two minutes of cooking. I then mixed everything together for a creamy, veggie filled noodle dish. I love when I can turn a cream sauce into something I don’t feel guilty about.

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  • El July 20, 2009  


    I freeze my pesto in an ice cube tray to start. Once solid you can move to a ziplock. But it makes for much easier retrieval. 🙂

  • Summer July 20, 2009  

    If you want to freeze pesto or other liquidy things in a ziploc, try freezing them flat instead of upright. After you’ve put the stuff in the bag, lie the bag flat on the counter, get out as much air as possible, seal the bag and smoosh the contents until it’s a flat sheet. Then freeze the bag flat — you may want to freeze it on a tray so that the bottom of the bag is smooth and flat. When you want to use it, you can easily snap off a piece. The thinner the frozen sheet, the easier it will be to break. You can always whack it on the counter if necessary, though this sometimes results in the bag breaking as well, especially if you’re using the cheap dollar store bags I tend to buy.

    Freezing bags flat like this also makes it easier to store lots of stuff in the freezer, since they stack nicely.

  • Jen July 20, 2009  

    Oh no. I’ve frozen pesto in freezer bags as well. Why did I think it would pop right out?

    Anyway, I love the idea of substituting milk, cream etc. for yogurt in recipes. A nice healthy alternative. Thanks for sharing your find.

  • Jen July 20, 2009  

    I definitely meant “substituting yogurt for milk, cream etc.” Got the order a bit mixed up. Sorry!

  • KMango July 21, 2009  

    You might not have been aiming for their benefits anyway, but the friendly bacteria and beneficial yeast of kefir die off in a heated environment. Kudos for experimenting with the sauce you made, though, a super technique to kick the health up a notch for a typically heavy dish.

  • gansie July 21, 2009  

    wait, so all of the pro biotics melted away while i was reducing it to make a sauce?

  • gansie July 21, 2009  

    and one more thing @KMango
    does freezing it have the same effects? i whizzed kefir and blueberries together and stuck it in the freezer for a slushy-like treat. did i screw up the pro biotics again?

  • Lifeway Anna July 21, 2009  

    Heating it does indeed make the probiotic cultures inactive. But it’s still a tasty addition to recipes and you’re still getting the calcium, vitamins, etc. Freezing is perfectly fine though and will keep the probiotic cultures intact. Hope that helps 🙂

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