Taste “Life” By the Spoon!

Good Morning! I hope your weekend has been a pleasant and enjoyable one, thus far. Now that the weather is beginning to turn warmer and humid at times (yesterday was one of the first humid days of the season, here in suburban Pennsylvania!), I find myself spending more time outdoors and will often crave something cool, creamy and refreshing. With that being said, yogurt has always been one of my staples, as a go-to snack and light meal of choice, excellent when enjoyed on its own, or paired with something like cereal, granola, or fresh fruit. However, enjoying the same yogurts over and over can be redundant, boring and quite frankly, lacking when it comes to variety.

Therefore, I was recently presented with the unique and exciting opportunity to sample and review a newer kind of delicacy (at least to me!) packed with protein, nutrition, flavor and uniqueness! The new find I speak of is Kefir, an equally enjoyable counterpart and alternative to yogurt, available in numerous forms, such as drinkable versions, frozen options, squeezable tubes, Farmer Cheese, and beyond! As a versatile option, the possibilities with Kefir are endless and the health benefits extend well beyond that of similar foods, providing consumers with a product that is easy to enjoy and nourishes the mind and body.

By now, you may be wondering, what exactly is Kefir, anyway? Well, more on that in a minute! There are numerous companies which produce Kefir, though one company in particular, who supplied me with a vast array of Kefir varieties to sample – Lifeway Kefir (lifewaykefir.com), is now the largest Kefir manufacturer within the United States!

Lifeway Kefir 2

Lifeway Kefir History: (via lifewaykefir.com)

  • Originated in 1986, when Michael Smolyansky began making kefir his basement at home in Skokie, Illinois. Eager to publicly share and promote kefir, within two years, he publicized the company and is now the largest Kefir manufacturer within the US, as previously stated.
  • Family Driven – Lifeway Kefir prides itself in promoting family, as founder Michael, passed along the torch of company ownership in 2002 to his children, Julie and Edward, serving as President/CEO and Chief Operating Officer, respectively.

Julie Smolyansky              Edward Smolyansky

  • Lifeway Kefir is based in the Chicago, Illinois area and even has the Lifeway Kefir Shop, a chain of Frozen Kefir cafes within the Chicago metro area!

Lifeway Kefir Shop

Lifeway Kefir Mission: (via lifewaykefir.com) Commited to four ideals

  • All Natural and Hormone-Free Ingredients
  • Philanthrophy
  • Environmental Responsbility – Lifeway Kefir offers and promotes BPA-Free packaging, recycling and renewable energy.
  • Local Farming Sustainability

Lifeway Logo 2

Lifeway Kefir Social Media, Website and Newsletter: Connect and keep in touch with Kefir and the latest happenings by choosing to follow, like, share and subscribe to their various social media channels, newsletter, blog and website –

  • Lifeway Kefir Blog – Lifeway offers a blog on their official website (lifewaykefir.org), updated weekly with pertinent and helpful health and nutrition articles.
  • Facebook – Follow and like Lifeway Kefir on their official Facebook page (Facebook.com/lifewaykefir
  • Twitter – Follow Lifeway Kefir on their official Twitter page (@lifeway_kefir)
  • Pinterest – Follow and pin with Lifeway Kefir on their official Pinterest page (@lifewaykefir)
  • Instagram – Follow Lifeway Kefir and be delighted in their photos and posts on their official Instagram page (@lifewaykefir)

Lifeway Kefir Product Offerings: The product line up is vast and comprehensive and includes the following –

Lifeway Product Lineup 2

Kefir (Beverages/Smoothies):

  • Low Fat (in 15 flavors)
  • Seasonal Flavors (5 flavors)
  • Perfect 12 Kefir (4 flavors)
  • Protein (4 flavors)
  • Nonfat (5 flavors)
  • BioKefir (3 flavors)
  • Traditional (9 flavors)
  • Kefir with Oats (3 flavors)
  • Organic Low-Fat (7 flavors)
  • Organic Whole Milk (6 flavors)
  • Organic Helios (7 flavors)

Lifeway Drinkable KefirLifeway Blueberry

ProBugs (for kids):

  • ProBugs Squeezable Pouches (5 flavors)
  • ProBugs Bites (3 flavors)
  • ProBugs Blast (4 flavors)
  • Frozen ProBugs (3 flavors)

Lifeway Probugs      Lifeway Probugs Frozen

Frozen Kefir:

  • Frozen Kefir Bars (3 flavors)
  • ProBugs Frozen Kefir (3 flavors)
  • Frozen Kefir Pints (4 flavors)

Lifeway Frozen Kefir new

Kefir Cups (individual cups with a spoon attached!):

  • Kefir Cups (4 flavors)
  • Organic Kefir Cups (7 flavors)
  • Farmer Cheese Cups (6 flavors)
  • Organic Farmer Cheese Cups (5 flavors)
  • Farmer Cheese (3 flavors)

Lifeway Farmer Cheese cups 2  Lifeway Cups   Lifeway Farmer Cheese Lifeway Farmer Cheese cups

Supplements: (Coming soon!)

Lifeway Supplements  Lifeway Supplements 4   Lifeway Supplements 3   Lifeway Supplements 2

  • Probiotic Supplements (3 flavors)
  • Probiotic Chewables

What IS Kefir?

  • According to the official Lifeway Kefir website, Kefir is described as a tart and tangy cultured milk smoothie offering an abundance of nutrition, such as great sources of protein, calcium and vitamin D, which are all critical components to a healthy diet and regimen. Healthy and with a  taste comparable to both Greek yogurt and cottage cheese (in my opinion), Kefir supplies tang, creaminess and a rich texture and is an excellent protein source, along with other vitamins and minerals.
  • Kefir orginated over 2000 years ago, in Caucasus Mountains.

Lifeway Kefir Facts

What’s IN Kefir?

  • 15-20 billion colony forming units (CFU), which are live and active Kefir cultures.
  • All products are naturally gluten-free, certified by Gluten-Free Certification Organization.
  • Natural Flavors = free of any artificial ingredients/preservatives, Lifeway Kefir products are all made with fruit juices, fruit essences and essential oils. The hints of sweetness in certain Lifeway products are strictly derived from the fruits themselves (as detailed via LifewayKefir.com)
  • Milk = Milk is the essential ingredient in Lifeway products. The milk within Lifeway products hails from small co-op and family farms from within the Midwestern portion of the United States. Therefore, consumers can feel confident knowing the milk producing Lifeway Kefir is free of any synthetic hormones and antibiotics, rBGH and rBST.

Health Benefits of Kefir: Lifeway Kefir fully stands by their beliefs that Kefir supplies a vast array of health benefits which includes the following –

  • Probiotics – Live microorganisms which aid in digestion and immunity.
  • Immunity – Nearly 70-80% of one’s immune system is located in the digestive track and the probiotics within Kefir contributes to maintaining immunity.
  • Healthy Weight – As a rich protein source, Kefir helps keep one fuller and guards against pesky hunger and cravings.
  • Skin – Nourishing not only your internal body, Kefir contains Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) often found in skin care products. Therefore, Kefir can assist in promoting healthy, glowing skin.
  • Digestion – Given the probiotics, Kefir has the ability to support and promote optimal digestion.
  • Protein SourceKefir is a quick, easy and tasty way to take in 11 grams of protein in an 8 oz serving!
  • Lactose Digestion – Fear not, those of you who may be lactose intolerant, Kefir is lactose-intolerant friendly, as it is 99% lactose-free due to Kefir‘s fermentation process and cultures.
  • Mood – When it comes to Kefir, feel good not only physically, but also mentally/emotionally, as Kefir is a source of tryptophan, an amino acid naturally increasing the brain’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter affecting mood balance and regulation.
  • Bone Density – Help keep your bones strong and in good form with Kefir, as it provides 30% of one’s daily calcium needs in a serving!

Unique Kefir Facts:

  • Cook/Bake with KefirKefir can be used commonly as a replacement for buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt and mayo! Check out the official Lifeway Kefir website (via lifewaykefir.com) for their recipe page to help get you started!
  • Safe for Pregnant/Nursing Women and Children – Lifeway Kefir even offers a line designed for children by the name of ProBugs and Frozen Kefir options!

Now that you’re familiar with Kefir in general and Lifeway Kefir, as a company, it’s time to share what I received from Lifeway Kefir and offer my perspective and experience with Lifeway Kefir products!

What I Received:

Kefir Delivery

Drinkable Kefirs:

  • Birthday Cake Low-Fat Kefir
  • Madagascar Vanilla Low-Fat Kefir
  • Apple Pear Cobbler Perfect 12 Kefir
  • Nonfat Plain Kefir
  • Plan Lowfat Kefir

Kefir Cups:

  • Kefir Cup with Granola
  • Organic Kefir Cup with Orange Vanilla
  • Natural Kefir Cup
  • Organic Natural Kefir Cup

Farmer Cheese:

  • Natural Farmer Cheese Cup
  • Black Cherry Farmer Cheese Cup
  • Organic Natural Farmer Cheese Cup
  • Organic Peach Farmer Cheese Cup

My Review:

Upon the arrival of the large and generous shipment from Lifeway Kefir, I was excited, eager and delighted to sample all of these innovative and healthy products! As a vegetarian, it is a goal of mine to be able to take in adequate protein and with Lifeway Kefir products, I was convinced it would be easy task!

First up, I opted to try the Birthday Cake Low-Fat Kefir! Just hearing the phrase – Birthday Cake associated with any type of food product is inviting and appealing to me! I even figured it would be appropriate, given my actual birthday is this Wednesday! The taste was a unique one and reminiscent of vanilla cake frosting/batter! Immediately upon taking the first sip, I was greeted by a taste that reminded me of Funfetti cake mix! The texture was full-bodied, creamy and rich, with just the right amount of thickness to feel satiating. After trying several other Kefir products, I consider this my favorite one of the bunch!

The next trial was Apple Pear Cobbler Perfect 12 Kefir, which has hints of sweet apple and creamy, sweet pear with notes of a tart and tang. It was refreshing and the notes of apple and pear complemented the overall texture and flavor.

In the realm of Kefir Cups, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a spoon is tucked in the clear lid of each, which is convenient and functional, great for enjoying it on the go, or at any time! It is a generous serving packed inside each Kefir Cup and is thick and rich, providing a similar tang noted in the Kefir smoothie/drinks. The granola mix-in in the one variety provides a sweet oaty crunch for a balance of texture. It is a great alternative to Greek yogurt and is equally healthy and nutritious!

Unique and new to me are the Kefir Farmer Cheese varieties. As a fan of cottage cheese, I was eager to try this new offering and loved the thick, rich texture. It is chunky and filling, packed with protein and is great on its own, or with fruit mixed in and even can be enjoyed savory as a dip, perhaps mixing in favorite herbs, spices or chopped veggies! In my mind, it could even be used as a topping for bagels, toast, and beyond!

Overall, it was an incredible and exciting experience to have the unique opportunity to sample and review Lifeway Kefir products! In my mind, they are a commendable and admirable company, truly dedicated to community, facilitating partnerships and producing healthy foods to nourish all! There is truly an offering for everyone when it comes to Lifeway Kefir products.

Many, many sincere thanks to Erika and the entire team at Lifeway Kefir for their generosity and kindness in providing me with these products to sample and review; it was a true honor and one I greatly appreciate!

 

 

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Inspiration by the Minute

It’s a beautiful day, weather-wise here in the suburbs of Philadelphia and has been for the past several days, much to my delight. There is a difference in the air, demeanor of my fellow neighbors and beyond, when the weather is warm, sunny and pleasant in comparison to cold, blustery and dreary. With that being said, each day and nearly each minute, I find something, no matter how minuscule to be inspired by or at least provoke a consideration or stream of thoughts within my mind. This past weekend, on a trip to Hallmark to purchase some holiday cards as I browsed through the store, several bits of merchandise caught my eye and had me enraptured for several moments. Unfortunately without being able to purchase all of them, I took advantage of the next best thing and snapped some quick photos from my iPhone, hoping to recall and remember them the next time I’m in need of inspiration or food for thought.

Taking in this aforementioned merchandise, I thought, why not share this find with others? So with that, I give you, the photos I took this weekend of the Hallmark merchandise I spotted in-store:

Hallmark photo                    Hallmark photo 2

Hallmark photo 3

Hallmark photo 4

Also, several months ago, I spotted a company on Facebook whose merchandise and overall initiative caught my eye: Mantraband (mantraband.com). If you’re not familiar with them, they are a company producing inspirational jewelry (bracelets and necklaces). Hailing from California, these bracelets and necklaces are available in countless different inspirational “mantras” or quotes, arranged on their website according to category (i.e. happiness, love peace, strength and journey) They are also available for purchase in Hallmark stores (I spotted them by the checkout counter!). Necklaces are the newest addition to their lineup and are as beautiful as the bracelets. They are extremely active on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram and are always hosting giveaways. Speaking of giveaways, back in January, I was announced the winner of one of their Facebook contests where they asked followers to submit their favorite mantras, or quotes. My prize was the opportunity to choose any Mantraband bracelet I’d like. Here is my choice:

Mantraband

The “Brave” mantra in particular resonated with me and actually, I took the cardboard portion and posted it on my refrigerator for easy reference and inspiration. Each mantra is imprinted on the outside of the small cuff bracelet, so it is easy to see and refer to at any given time.

One of my other favorite means of inspiration are books and the small, but poignant quotes or phrases I seem to come across every so often. Most recently, I spotted one in one of the novels I read and the quote, from Nora Ephron, the late director and writer, stood out to me and has stuck in my mind ever since. It is a quote with much personal meaning to me and I often remind myself of it when I feel overwhelmed by personal faults or worries and snapped a photo for easy reference:

Book Quote

Anyhow, that’s all the inspiration I have for you today, but I do hope it was able to provide you at least with a fresh perspective, insight and even the momentum you might need on this mid-week day.

A Cryptic Attack: The Importance of Prevention

Each morning, I follow a fairly simple routine. It truly is nothing out of the ordinary, at least not me, and it is one I’ve come to adapt to. Both during and after breakfast, NBC’s The Today Show is my companion. Throughout the course of several years, I’ve come to know the hosts, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Dylan Dreyer and Al Roker as though they are my close confidantes, turning to them for both breaking and lighthearted news. Their interactions, true passion for journalism and news is captivating and leads me to trust to them, turning to them for a daily synopsis of the latest happenings.

With that being said, I took note of the commercial airing last night as NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt, briefly detailing the exclusive live interview set to take place tomorrow (this morning) with Bob Harper, the renowned personal trainer, star of The Biggest Loser, and frequent guest on talk shows such as The Rachael Ray Show. While I’ve never been that much of a fan of Harpers, his recent heart attack caught my attention. When I first learned of his heart attack, I was in shock and disbelief. How could someone so fit, so into health and fitness, with such knowledge and awareness suffer something as potentially-devastating and life-threatening as a heart attack? Often times, as you are probably aware, when hearing of a heart attack, it is quickly attributed to poor health and eating habits, weight or obesity, perhaps family history, lack of self-care, etc. Of course, with that being said, naturally, there are an assortment and vast array of other contributing factors not related to any of the aforementioned risks.

Bob Harper photo             Today show

This morning, I watched the interview unfold between Bob and Savannah Guthrie, captivated as he spoke and detailed his experience, suddenly collapsing mid-gym workout. Though an interview, it felt much more like a conversation between two acquaintances or friends detailing one’s life-threatening episode and experience. During the interview, Harper stated this was his first time publicly recounting all he’d been through and though he has no recollection of that particular day, he stated that he was told it was how the day all unraveled. To his benefit, shockingly numerous doctors just so happened to be working out at the same time as his collapse, ultimately saving his life with the assistance of the defibrillator, thankfully on-site at the gym. As he spoke, tears began to build in his eyes, overcome with emotion and gratitude. He noted that he was “on that ground dead, with nothing more than a 6 percent survival rate.”

Bob Harper photo 2

As it was to countless of others throughout the world, Harper was nonetheless stunned by his sudden heart attack, coming without warning. Looking back, however, he stated he recalls dizzy spills in the weeks leading to the heart attack. During the interview, he issued imperatives statements to those watching, “It was hugely shocking for me, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned a lot about the fact that genetics played a part in this. It is so important to know your health.”

For me, hearing about how important it is know one’s health and to really take note of the feelings, both physically and emotionally one experiences, truly resonated with me. There is nothing more important, in my mind, than paying attention to one’s body, no matter how subtle those “signals” or “feelings,” may be. In my mind, it is always worth it to pursue those sensations, those little pains that may seem so small and insignificant. Even though they may be benign or of little concern, it is still worth it to be proactive and to be an advocate for oneself.

As the interview continued, Harper stated, “I think about before the heart attack I was having dizzy spells and I thought, maybe I should have really taken that more seriously. It’s been a huge wake up call for me. In addition, he has a family history of heart disease, as his mother passed away from a heart attack. Though he is now on the mend and progressing well, he made it a point to note, “It’s been hard. I’m going through some depression. You really face your mortality and I’m really understanding what’s important in life.”

Bob Harper recovery

His interview with Savannah today was eye-opening. For me, I cannot even begin to explain my own experiences with health and how important it has been throughout my life to trust my body. Those personal experiences have led me to encourage family, friends, acquaintances and whomever I may cross paths with, including those who might be reading this today, to really take the time to listen to yourself. No worry or concern is really ever too small, it is worth it to be considered and if you find you are nervous or afraid to reach out and question doctors or professionals on your own, I encourage you to ask for help, ask for someone to accompany you to those appointments to help you ask those questions, or to serve as a reminder, or even as a support, just being there physically present FOR YOU. Whether that person is a family member, a friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance, if it provides you with the support, confidence and reassurance you might need to be proactive with your health, then I strongly encourage you to ask for that help and for that hand. Sometimes a helping hand and a listening ear may be all we need to get us to where we need or want to be.

I’m truly grateful for the interview between Savannah Guthrie and Bob Harper today, for it’s shear honesty, truth, and imperative message of self-care and personal health maintenance with the take-away message being prevention is key.

Your health is worth it and YOU are worth it – worth the time, the energy and compassion. Take care of you, because you deserve health and happiness.