No way. Whey.

You may have noticed that there’s a lot of mention here, in these parts, about whey.

No, it’s not the protein powder. It’s the stuff of Little Miss Muffet.

You remember her — she sat on her tuffet (questionable action), eating her curds and whey.

Now, I’ll stop here, and admit that the first time I made mozzarella cheese (no eye-rolling — it’s remarkably easy, I’ll tell you all about it sometime), and realized that I was actually stirring a pot of of two ingredients that completely flummoxed me during my formative Mother Goose years, I was delighted. But that delight quickly fell way to further confusion, because the whole point of cheese-making is that you remove the curds from the whey — you don’t eat a bowl of them together.

Now that I’m thinking about this again, I’ll probably lose sleep tonight.

Anywhey.

See? There’s no end to this.

So what is this mysterious liquid of Miss Muffet and her curious arachnid? Whey is the liquid that separates from milk solids when making yogurt or cheese or other cultured dairy products. When making cheese, this separation occurs in dramatic fashion when acid is added to the milk. With yogurt, it requires a little more time, and often requires straining (though sometimes yogurt separates on its own in the container — that liquid in your yogurt cup? yep — it’s whey). It’s full of enzymes, beneficial bacteria, and lactic acid — and is good for digestion and nutrient absorption.

Whey is used in all sorts of lacto-fermentation. Many folks put it in their cultured vegetables — I use mine in bread-making, overnight-soaking of grains and legumes, fermentation of fruits and homemade mayonnaise, and lately in making beet kvass (a fermented beet beverage, my new favorite). I always have whey in my refrigerator — which is pretty easy to do, since it lasts in a jar for about 6 weeks.

One of the greatest things about whey-making day is the byproduct of this method: yogurt cheese. It’s the consistency of cream cheese, though more tart — and with a little honey, vanilla, and cinnamon added, it makes a fantastic probiotic dip for fruits and crackers. I have at least two children who gobble this stuff up — and the third gets mocked by the whole family when she doesn’t. It’s fun times.

Oh, and greek yogurt? It’s nothing more than strained yogurt — just like what we do here in this process (you’d just stop after the first straining step, when the yogurt is very thick but still creamy).

So get off your tuffet and give this a try. Helpful hints: my favorite cheesecloth is this brand — and I’ve been using and washing the same cut-off 18″ square now for about 6 months, so it’s worth the tiny extra investment. Also, if you’re not into sweet dips, then by all means just use some chopped garlic, fresh herbs, and sea salt for a lovely savory dip. I’m sure Miss Muffet and her voyeuristic spider would approve.

 

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Kids’ power smoothie

Sometimes, it feels as though 90% of my energy on any given day is spent figuring out how to get as many nourishing foods into my kids’ bodies as possible, given their standard-fare pickiness, a limited budget, and their battle-weary mom.

Another 5% is spent doing the laundry.

I don’t know if you’re keeping up with the math, but that leaves 5% of my energy for doing things like brushing my teeth, showering on occasion, keeping up with social media, and watching my library-loaned copies of Lark Rise to Candleford (a BBC period-dramedy chosen specifically for its solid escapism capabilities).

I’m not (always) bitter, just constantly surprised by how much energy it takes to feed kids well. And looking for better solutions.

Thankfully, last spring I landed on an easy, sure-fire way to get loads of good probiotics into the bellies of my kids: the smoothie. We’ve been enjoying them all summer, but school starts Monday (!) — and my goal is to pack them full of friendly gut-flora, daily, year-round, to give their immune systems that much-needed school-year boost.

The great thing about smoothies? You can sneak things into them. Things like greens, kombucha (a how-to-make-your-own post is coming soon!) beet kvass (a lacto-fermented beverage made from beets — great for the liver, not-so-tasty for the kids), or brain-boosting fish oil (tastes like lemon!). I like using probiotics from multiple sources — yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and a powdered kids’ probiotic supplement — to get as much variety as possible in beneficial bacteria.

If you want a protein boost, you can add a spoonful of nut butter (almond and cashew butters are more neutral in flavor than peanut butter). For constipated kids, grind some flaxseed and throw it in (1 tsp should do). And my personal favorite for getting some extra brain-boosting fats? A quarter of an avocado makes the smoothie thick and creamy, and you can’t taste it at all.

The best part of all? No complaining. At afternoon snack time, when my kids hear the blender running, it’s like a Pavlovian reaction — they come to the table, ready to drink. It keeps them satiated until dinner, and gets those good bugs into their adorable little bellies.

Leaving me just enough time to switch out the laundry, check twitter, and change out of my pjs before dinner.*

* Of course I’m kidding. I’m totally done with laundry by dinner.

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