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!

 

 

Undo Food the “Root Way”

Good morning to you! I hope your weekend was a pleasant one filled with lots of relaxation and happiness! This time of year, any weekend (or weekday, for that matter) is a positive one that is snow and storm free, in my opinion, for more reasons than one. Never a real fan of the cold and inclement weather that often accompanies it, the Spring, Summer and often times, Autumn, are times of year I look forward to for the warmer/sunny weather and the abundance of flowers and crops sprouting. That being said, recently, I was provided with the opportunity to experience a taste of the warmer months and the gardening that often accompanies it within the comfort of my very own home! At this point, you might be wondering, what in the world could she be talking about?! A garden within her own home? Keep in mind, I live in a relatively small condo/townhouse development where the grass and backyards are anything but plentiful. Yes, there is a small lawn the condo association takes care of, but there is minimal, if any, room for a garden of my own, much to my chagrin. Therefore, the opportunity I was presented with was appealing, exciting and a project I couldn’t wait to dig into (literally!):

ALL the “Root“WAYS: Learn How to “Undo Food” with Back to the Roots:

Back to the Roots Founders 2

A relatively new company, Back to the Roots (www.backtotheroots.com), having formed several years ago is well on its way to revolutionizing the food, nonprofit, science community and beyond! Founded and based out of Oakland, California, two friends and former roommates at UC Berkeley, Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, made the choice to forgo a career in the corporate world and focus on the unique and innovative ways/methods of nourishing the public. Having learned in a college class of the ability of mushrooms to grow entirely on “spent coffee grounds,” they made it their goal to investigate further and ultimately transformed their careers in the midst of their experimentation. Identifying themselves as “full-time mushroom farmers,” Arora and Velez operate under the philosophy they refer to as “Undoing Food.” According to their website, they “undo food,” with the goal of “reconnecting families back to where food comes from through fun and delicious ready-to-grow and ready-to-eat products.”

Back to the Roots Founders

Back to the Roots History/Mindset:

  • According to the official Back to the Roots website (backtotheroots.com), they are a multi-faceted company aspiring to meet the changing and evolving needs of families and people in general.
  • They fully operate under the belief that “all food comes from the kitchen, not a lab; and where Research & Development teams aren’t biochemists, but our grandparents”, so to speak.”
  • Community-Based: Heavily community-based and oriented with a strong interest in education and youth, as whole, emphasizing the importance of food and natural fuel. They stress the importance of making learning fun and enjoyable within the classroom through incorporating their full product lines and philosophy.

Back to the Roots logo

Back to the Roots Website/Social Media Platforms:

  • The Back to the Roots website is filled with a vast array of resources – everything from recipes incorporating their products, links to their curriculum, a Press page featuring all of their recent awards/accolades/interviews, a tour of their facility, and an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the founders and their team.
  • Online Ordering: All products are available for online ordering, with free shipping provided for orders of $25 or more, PLUS, if you subscribe to their newsletter, you’ll be entitled to a one-time discount of 15% off your next order.
  • The team at Back to the Roots is always open and welcome to feedback and encourages new customers, fans and those who are curious in learning more to reach out via their website, or social media pages.
  • Social Media: Come interact and follow Back to the Roots on their assortment of social media platforms – Twitter: @Backtotheroots Facebook: Back to The Roots Pinterest: @Back to the Roots & Instagram.

Back to the Roots PRODUCT LINES: Having familiarized yourself with the company, you might be wondering, so what exactly are these products? Well, take a tour of the products below and prepare to be intrigued and amazed:

Back to the Roots Product Line                 Back to the Roots Product Line 2

READY TO GROW Products: (http://backtotheroots.com/collections/ready-to-grow & http://backtotheroots.com/collections/ready-to-eat)

  • Mushroom Farm: Grow gourmet, organic Oyster mushrooms out of the box in 10 days! Lasts for months in the box, unopened. Simply open the box, mist with water and harvest days later (as stated on their website); non-GMO, 100% home-grown.
  • Garden-in-A-Can Set (4-pack): organic seeds and soil – plant, water and grow on your windowsill! Available in Basil, Cilantro, Sage and Dill.
  • Water Garden: A self-cleaning fish tank that grows food! It uniquely creates a “closed-loop ecosystem” – the fish feeds the plants and the plants clean the water! The garden comes with a fish tank & gravel, organic seeds/grow stones, natural fertilizer, coupon for Betta fish, fish food and a silent, submersible water pump.

Back to the Roots Garden in a Can

READY-TO-EAT Products: (http://backtotheroots.com/collections/ready-to-eat)

  • CEREALS: No bag-in-box (sold in recyclable cartons with non-toxic vegetable inks, 18% less paper and 25% less plastic than traditional cereal boxes). Available in the following varieties:

Back to the Roots Cereal Line

California Whole Wheat Stoneground Flakes: 100% whole wheat from Califiornia; organic cane sugar from Florida and sea salt from San Francisco Bay)

Cocoa Clusters: 100% organic stoneground whole wheat from California, pure-non-alkalized cocoa from the Dominican Republic, organic cane sugar from Florida, sea salt from San Francisco Bay)

Purple Corn Flakes: 100% non-GMO purple corn from Minnesota; organic cane sugar from Florida; sea salt from San Francisco Bay.

  • Organic Breakfast Toppers: add flavor, texture, variety and color to your favorite cereal (hot or cold), yogurt, pudding, and/or other recipes/foods. Available in the following varieties:

Back to the Roots breakfast toppers

Raisins, Sunflower Seeds and Buckwheat

Blueberries, Almonds & Buckwheat

Dates, Coconut and Chia Seeds

My PERSPECTIVE/Experience:

As I previously mentioned, much to my chagrin, my living space does not allow for much of a garden or growing environment for plants, flowers or other crops. Therefore, Back to the Roots provides the unique opportunity to fully grow my own herbs, mushrooms, and other plants right from the comfort of my own home! It is a company like no other and one that is truly dedicated to providing wholesome, safe and nutritious foods for all. The herbs grown in the can are fresh and flavorful and it takes a short period of time to grow them!

As the daughter of a teacher, their strong belief and presence in the world of education is one I fully support and appreciate and am glad to see their full integration.

From the mushrooms sprouting from the mushroom farm, to the ready-to-eat cereals like the Cocoa Clusters (my favorite – I’m a huge fan of the crunchy, cocoa taste, which is sweet, but not overly so with the right amount of texture, holding up well in milk and yogurt!), the possibilities are endless. The concept of the breakfast toppers is one I’ve never seen before, either, and one I truly appreciate, especially the variety with blueberries, given blueberries are relatively pricey this time of year! With Back to the Roots, it’s hard to be disappointed!

Now, let’s take a trip back into the different projects and initiatives Back to the Roots incorporates into its culture:

Back to the Roots education

Back to the Roots within the Classroom (http://backtotheroots.com/pages/curriculum):

As a unique facet of the company, Back to the Roots offers a fully-developed curriculum which accompanies each Back to the Roots Ready-to-Grow-Product. The curriculum helps children understand each product while still enforcing the common core for science. The curriculum is comprised of three units:

  • Unit 1: Mushroom Farm
  • Unit 2: Water Garden
  • Unit 3: Garden-in-a-Can

On the website’s curriculum page, teachers/educators can find and download the curriculum, associated activities, and other teacher resources for each unit. Plus, teachers/educators may be able to receive discounts on the product line and are urged to contact the appointed point person on their website. Plus, as an added bonus, for each photo Back to the Roots receives of the crops grown in classrooms, Back to the Roots will proudly donate a Ready to Grow product to the classroom of their choice!

“Grow One, Give One & Pour it Forward” Campaigns/Initiatives:

  • After buying a Ready-to-Grow or Ready-to-Eat product, simply take a photo with a product or recipe you created with the product(s) and upload it onto the Back to the Roots website and a product donation will be made in your honor to a classroom of your choice! When purchasing and enjoying Back to the Roots products, it is truly an opportunity to both enjoy and contribute to your community or a community in need!

Well, there you have it! I’d like to give a world of thanks to Morgan and the entire team at Back to the Roots for providing me with this incredibly unique and eventful opportunity to sample all the Back to the Roots products! It was one I thoroughly enjoyed and was impressed with; they truly are “undoing food,” in all the “root” ways!

Back to the Roots mushrooms