Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to Fry Eggs like an Arab: Crispy Fried Eggs in Olive Oil

Smooth or Crispy?

As a young newlywed, my husband's Pennsylvania-Dutch father taught me:  heat the pan gently, melt a pat of butter, crack the egg and wait.  Flip once, if you like.  Slide out of the pan.

I was amazed.  I had never had a fried egg like that.  The whites were tender, with a homogeneous texture, and the yolks were smooth, smooth, smooth, with all of the comfort of a diner breakfast.   My husband and I ate these gently butter-fried eggs since we were newlyweds, perfecting our technique on leisurely weekend mornings.

And then, recently, I remembered.

I remembered the crispy olive-oil fried egg of my Palestinian childhood, with all of its dramatic sizzling olive oil, the writhing whites boiling up and puffing, and the technique my own father showed me:   tilt the pan and spoon olive oil over the yolk to help it set.  I wondered, after all of those years of  tender buttered whites, would I relish the crisped, laced bottom of an oil-fried egg?

Only one way to find out.

Frizzled Whites, Crispy Bottoms, Runny Yolks: Yes, Please.  

The verdict?  YUM.

This fried egg has a completely different personality than those buttery-smooth eggs.  The bottoms are crispy and caramelized, like the bottom of a good grilled cheese sandwich, with the whites perfectly set on top and the ooey-gooey goodness of a runny yolk.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Middle Eastern Breakfast Bowl: Za'atar Skillet Potato Hash with Fried Egg

It's February now, the dreariest month of the year, in my book. Too cold to go out much, and the sniffles and coughs are passed around in my house, from preschooler to baby to mommy, and we begin to feel just a little bit, well, crazed. Know what I mean?

My Palestinian great-grandmother used to say:  If all of the old women in the village make it through February, they will live to see another year.  

Not to be bleak or anything.

I remember February in Jerusalem as being the longest, coldest months of my life. With no central heating, and not enough sunshine to heat up the water on our roof-top solar panels, we were cold, cold, cold. It was an inescapable cold, from the moment my feet touched the icy tile floors, that persisted during our (unheated) school hours, where I reluctantly sat shivering at my desk, until deep in the night, when I listened to wind wailing through my bedroom windows, hauntingly mixed with with howl of roaming dogs and the mosque's early morning call to prayer. I bathed with basins of hot water that my mother heated up in kettles, slept with hot water bottles wrapped in flannel sheets, and in the afternoons,while rain flogged the green metal shutters, I warmed my hands over the kerosene heaters, my fingers too stiff to work the piano keys.

On frosty mornings, my father warmed up frozen loaves of pita bread by setting them on the top of a kerosene heater to defrost.  I still remember the sizzle as the ice dripped down into the heater, and the smell of charring bread. My mother worked at the little stove top, frying eggs and potatoes or white cheese, or stirring a hot porridge. Warm breakfasts for cold mornings, she said.

Here, in northern Virginia, I get to watch the cold from my window, darting quickly to a car and back. February is now the month of long, snowed-in days, of blizzards, of crafts and reading inside, of snowy romps on frozen streams.

Time to stir up a little warm breakfast, I thought to myself this week:  something easy, something filling, something that I can make without leaving my house. A few minutes later, I found myself gathering ingredients to make a Middle Eastern breakfast bowl, akin to the breakfasts my mother made for us.

If you have a stocked Middle Eastern pantry, you already have everything you need to make this for breakfast.  Or lunch. Or dinner. I won't tell. Nor will it matter when you are snowed in for days on end.

These potatoes are flavored with the classic Middle Eastern seasoning, za'atar, which is a blend of our indigenous thyme, lemony sumac, sesame seed and salt.  While this seasoning is usually used for bread, such as za'atar bread (mana'eesh), or for dipping, I think that the flavors of thyme also work beautifully with potatoes. By frying the potatoes in olive oil, the same zayt-and-za'atar flavors of our olive oil-and-za'atar sandwiches comes through, and a final squeeze of lemon lifts and balances the dish.

Arabs regard za'atar as a medicinal herb for warding off respiratory infection. Perfect excuse to eat these again tomorrow? I think so.  

Add an olive-oil fried egg (have I shown you yet how Arabs fry eggs? I must do so), or scramble an egg and stir it in at the end, to make a warming breakfast dish sure to scare away the February blues.

Za'atar Skillet Potato Hash with Fried Egg

(serves one)

1 large white potato
2 tbsp olive oil, approximate
Small clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp za'atar*
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Lemon wedge

1.  Scrub potatoes. You may leave skin on or off, as desired. I like them on.

2.  Optional, time-saving tip:  microwave potatoes (or you could also  parboil in salted boiling water) until slightly tender, about three minutes in the microwave, flipping once. Then cool slightly until you can handle them. You can also prepare potatoes in advance and refrigerate until ready to proceed with the recipe.

3.  Coat a skillet with a layer of  olive oil and heat over medium heat. Dice the potato in a 1/2 inch dice. When the oil is hot, add potatoes in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Stir only occasionally, letting the potatoes fry until golden brown. If they are precooked, this will take 5 minutes.

4.  Sprinkle potatoes with za'atar and stir to coat. Add another drizzle of olive oil, and minced garlic, and fry for another minute or two until golden brown and fragment. Remove from heat; squeeze fresh lemon juice over the potatoes, toss and pour out into a bowl.

5.  Serve with a fried egg on top. Or, leave the potatoes in the skillet and scramble in some eggs. Sprinkle with a little more za'atar.

*Za'atar can be purchased at large grocery stores, Middle Eastern grocers, or online.  If you want to make it, combine 1/4 cup ground thyme, 1/4 cup ground sumac, 1/4 cup sesame seeds and 1 tsp sea salt.


Related Posts:

*Ancient Herbs: Za'atar and Sumac

*Za'atar Bread, or Mana'eesh

*Zayt-and-Za'atar Sourdough Crackers

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How to Stock a Middle Eastern Pantry

Food shopping was (and is?) a laborious affair in the Middle East, with many stops to make and many heavy bags to carry home, but the enticing smell of spice and coffee, or a chance to nibble on fresh "pita" bread in the backseat of my father's marroon Opal Ascona, always brought me around.

Spice shops down winding, stone-flagged streets of the Old City of Jerusalem offered up bins of spices, and for a few shekels, hefty spoonfuls of spice could be measured out and captured into a plastic bag.  Visits to the butcher were more traumatic.  In Cairo, my young sister once mistook the rows of rabbits and chickens in crates outside of a butcher shop for a pet store, and while we admired and stroked the little animals, the butcher behind us slaughtered the chickens my mother had picked out.  It was some time before my sister could manage to eat chicken after that.  We bought produce from villagers, their cabbages, cousa, prickly pears spread on mats in front of their laps. Other times, my mother laughed and announced it was time to go to THE GARDEN OF EDEN, our loftily-named neighborhood produce market, where bins of grapefruit and eggplants waited for customers under dusty fans, and faded tropical wall art.  Finally, we purchased our milk, eggs, mustard and coffee from our small neighborhood grocery store, Ja'fars.  It had parking spots for five cars, and many times we would have to circle back, waiting for one of their five customers to leave.  Its narrow aisles were stuffed with bottles and jars, packets and tins -- all expensive, I was told.  We filled a little basket, and sometimes I would look at the imported foods with wonder - a cake mix!  Look at that! But we usually shopped simply, for olives and nuts, butter and cheese.

Today, people would say that "we shopped local and in-season."   But we didn't do this by choice, we did this by necessity.  We built our menu around a basic list of available ingredients.  Our food was predictable.

In many part of the world now, simplicity is not something that our culture gives us, but something we have to choose for ourselves.  We have So. Many. Choices.  We cook Italian pasta one night, Indian curry the other.  We can cook classic French on Valentine's Day and classic American on Super Bowl Saturday.  Grocery store aisles go on for days.  Variety is the spice of life, we say. But that is sometimes the problem.  In the face of Pinterest, food blogs (yikes!), recipes abound, but with so many choices, comes choice paralysis.  And every week, you face the same questions, what to make, what to buy.  And this takes time, time that you could be using to just make dinner.

In the face of so many choices, choosing to to centering your food purchases around one regional cuisine isn't just fun, it's smart. Stocking ingredients for one cuisine relieves your wallet and your cupboards, as they are no longer littered with  half-used bottles, and forgotten ingredients. The ingredients just work together, so dishes suggest themselves.  Lemon and lamb, rice and almonds, cucumbers with minted yogurt- these beckon from the kitchen.  And so while my Garden of Eden days are behind me, I have learned that one of the best ways to keep my kitchen simple is to keep a kitchen stopped with basic ingredients for one cuisine.

If you want to center your kitchen provisions around Middle Eastern Dishes, here is what to do:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Making "Fawaffles": An Experiment with Arab and American Cultural Identity

Last week, I ran across this post from the blog Food Republic, describing a collision of two of my favorite foods:  waffles and falafels.   

Enter the fawaffle.  


Really?  Fawaffle?  Make falafels in your waffle iron?  

I jumped right up on my soapbox, and began to mentally enumerate all of the ways that this dish was just.  plain. wrong.  Leave it to Americans, I thought to myself, to take a perfectly good falafel and squish it into a waffle iron.  Always innovating.  Always trying to change things up.  Always trying to improve on perfection.   


But.  I kinda wanted to do it.  My leftover falafel mix in the fridge beckoned me.  It would be so easy, I thought, so fast.  And who knows?  Maybe it will also taste all right.  Even if it doesn't, won't it be fun?

I walked around the house for a while, taking care of this and that, and listened to the two competing voices in my head.  One voice, calling for tradition and authenticity.  The other voice, calling for playful innovation.  And as I listened, I really heard these two voices clearly, maybe for the first time.  One, the collective voice of the neighbors, relatives and friends from my childhood in Palestine, extolling the virtue of authenticity, the beauty of tradition, vying between them to produce the best versions of classic dishes, laughing at strange variations. The other voice a quieter one, Western and pragmatic, but just as compelling.  It just shrugged and said, seductively:  what if it's great?  

What if?

I can't believe I'm about to do this.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blackstrap Molasses Milk Steamer {Naturally-Sweetened, Kid-Approved}

On the first nippy fall day every year, my children begin clamoring for hot cocoa. And once the snow falls in earnest, they come in, icy cold from their romps, with snow-whipped rosy cheeks, peel off their wet, frozen clothes, and plonk down at the kitchen table to wait for a hot beverage.

And I can't help but think, as I heat up the milk, how much my Palestinian grandmother would approve.  

You see, Arabs are serious about their hot milk.  Yes, they love traditional coffee, and they serve up glasses and glasses of hot mint tea to their guests.  But in the privacy of their homes, at the kitchen table or in the drafty glassed-in verandas of the West Bank, you will find the mamas and the aunties drinking steaming mugs of milk, scalded in saucepans on the stove top and then poured into heavy mugs.  My grandmother always had one of these mugs nearby.  In the morning, my mother added a spoonful of Nescafe instant coffee (why instant coffee is all of the rage in the Middle East is beyond me, but it is).  In the afternoon and evening, she switched to plain milk, or a little Ovaltine before bed.  But milk, always hot milk.

In fact, nothing made my Palestinian grandmother, my Teta, cringe more than when she saw my sister and I drinking glasses of cold milk for breakfast in the winter (well, venturing outside with damp hair or without an undershirt provoked a great deal of dismay). My mother had tried to convert us and served us hot milk for breakfast, but we simply refused.  Perhaps, if she had offered us this beverage we would have warmed up to the drink (wink, wink).

Now that snow is falling and my little ones are asking for hot cocoa, my thoughts have turned back home, to the nourishing power of a mug of warm milk.  I am still not overly fond of plain hot milk, but I love a warm mug of creamy milk, as long as it has a little bit of flavoring.  I make homemade chocolate syrup (not my recipe, but find the link here) for this purpose, which we enjoy.  Still, I wanted something easier, faster, and even more nourishing for my family, so  I experimented in the kitchen to see if I could create another flavored hot milk drink.  I dug through my cupboard and found a jar of blackstrap molasses, and this new favorite drink was born.  It has all the warm creamy sweetness of a mug of hot chocolate, but with the warm spicy flavors of your favorite molasses cookie.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How to Stock a Kitchen for Healthful Eating in a Busy Season

There are times in life when you just can't spend much time in the kitchen.

Right now I have a sweet little baby who, added into an already full day of caring for a family and a home, makes kitchen prep time pretty limited.  But there are other reasons we find ourselves in survival mode.  Maybe you are packing up a home and moving (we've done this many times), or in an intense school season (like when my husband studied for the bar exam), or work season (like my first year of teaching).  Maybe someone is ill or pregnant.   Or maybe it's just holiday season!   No matter what the reason, it is suddenly challenging to keep up with your kitchen routines, even if they are simple.

In these seasons of survival, my husband and I  have learned how to be extra kind to ourselves, to be gentle with our expectations, and to try to do the best that we can with what we can.  Move softly, I tell myself, when I feel my heart squeeze in panic over the day's schedule.  And even as I swaddle a baby, or wipe a face, or tell a story, I try to remember that I am worthy of the same gentle care.   I accept help.  I even (swallow) ask for help.  And then I let things go.

For me, though, I have realized that I can let go of the toy situation on the floors or leave piles of laundry for later, but I cannot completely let go of feeding myself healthful foods.  After my second pregnancy, my body was so depleted that I was finally driven to search for a way of eating that could more deeply replenish my body; that is was brought me to traditional foods.  Since then, I have enjoyed a diet rich in nourishing fats, broths, and fermented foods, and my body has grown stronger and more resilient.  After this third pregnancy, then, I committed to try to care for myself as well as I could during the pregnancy and afterwards.  I packed my freezer with wholesome meals, broth and grassfed butters, stocked my fridge and pantry with as many ingredients as I could, and then asked friends to bring me home cooked meals for the first few weeks, so that I could avoid eating out.  But while dinner was brought to me, lunch and dinner were more challenging.

So, what did I do?  I spent a little more at the grocery store and a little less time in the kitchen.  I made sure that I had plenty of easy-to-grab foods in the fridge (because when the little boy is hungry, he wants to eat now, even if the baby needs to be nursed). And then I set aside either an hour (Sunday afternoons work for me right now) to prep a few things for the week, or I set aside a few minutes here and there to restock as my supplies run low (I only have three minutes at a time, so none of these require much hands-on time).

Everything listed below I was able to purchase at my regular grocery store, but I am also fortunate enough to live near a grocery store with a well-stocked natural section.  The list below is long, and I do not buy or make all of these every week, because that would be too much time and too much food for my family, but instead, rotate between them. These are the "extras" that I spring for, or the foods that I do take time to prepare, to help pull me through the rough patches.

Quick lunch - mixed greens salad with blue cheese and homemade vinaigrette, boiled egg, sourdough toast with liver pâté

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I Am Back, For Three Minutes

And here he is.

If the pictures are blurry, that is just because life has been a bit blurry for the last few weeks.  And the months before that, when pregnancy just went on and on.

But blurry can be beautiful.

We have been leaning hard on our people, who have really been bringing it.  Bringing food. Soups, breads, brownies, covered dishes, lasagnas.  We have been fed by others, which is good, because most days its hard enough just to get food into my mouth, let alone from the store to the stove.

As you can imagine, my ferments have been abandoned  (move over guys, there's a new baby in the house).  More than one jar of milk kefir has over-fermented on my counter, my kombucha jar turned into an extended-stay hotel, my pickling cucumbers are just sitting in the fridge, but I keep trying to make yogurt.  It has not gone well:  I scald the milk, and put it on the counter to cool down.  And then I forget all about it.  One day I heated it up three times without actually culturing it.  Late that night, as I headed to bed with a finally sleeping baby, I saw the cold milk sitting on the counter.  YOGURT!  I said to my husband.

It's over, honey, he said.  Let it go.

I laughed hard, bumping the baby against my jiggling stomach, and let it go.  They say that it's good to laugh hard once a day, just to ward off the blues.

For the moment, I know that if I can't do it in three minutes, I can't do it.  Or, if I can't do it in a series of three minute intervals, I can't do it.  In three minutes, I can move a load of laundry from the wash to the dryer, I can send an email, I can make a sandwich. And in between those three minutes, I will do the rest of life.

My three minutes is up, I hear the baby.  But I will be back, soon, friends, for another three minutes with you.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

When the Fire is Starting to Blaze: Pray for Peace in Israel and Palestine

I am in my mother and father's house now, my friends.   

We are in Western Michigan,  enjoying the sweet, cool breezes. Our days are filled with summery bliss, with sailing and swimming, with late morning cups of coffee and mounds of my mother's incredible food (sorry,  honey, my husband says sheepishly, but your mother's grape leaves are a little better than yours). 

But our nights are spent in Palestine.   

After the children are finally asleep, we fold away the day's activity, the dishes, the laundry, the stray cups.  Then we go home.   

We scroll through the headlines, the news feeds. We jump from news sources to first-hand accounts from our friends,  posting updates from our old neighborhoods.  It's a strange thing, you know, when your old hometown becomes a war zone.  Your friends from home, from your old neighborhood, start posting on their social media pages things that you wish you had never seen. 

But we cannot look away.  We sift through the reports, piecing information together, trying to reconcile ourselves to what is happening at home.  The news is raw, and yet we pick and pick, to keep peeling back layers and layers of skin.  To reach what?  The flesh?  The bone?
We do not talk much of food this time.  It is hard to have much of an appetite.  We set our plates aside for now: the feast must give way for the fast.  

Some members of the Christian community in Palestine are calling for a day of fasting tomorrow.  If you are able, and if you are a person of faith, please light a candle, or say a prayer, or spend some time fasting and praying for peace, and for comfort for the many families who are suffering right now.   

Here is an inspiring perspective, recorded in a recent post by the Telos Group, a nonprofit organization that seeks to positively encourage relations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: 

"The answer is not to seek revenge, because we will never meet our beloved ones, but will instead create additional victims. Peace is the answer. Our blood is the same and our enemy is the same: occupation, oppression, hatred, and fear." Bassam Aramin, Bereaved Father,  Palestinian Spokesperson

Praying with you for peace,


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Turkish Onion Salad + Shortcut Grilled Lamb Kefta Burgers

Turkish onion salad - or Arabic salsa, as my mother likes to describe it to foreigners - is an easy way to bring a sense of adventure to your mezze spread. Mildly piquant with the bite of onion, this smokey-sweet salsa has tomato, honey and cumin, but you can spice it up with other add-ins, like parsley and a kick of hot pepper. There is really no wrong way to eat this simple onion salad.  Drop a spoonful onto a platter of hummus.  Top your chicken kebabs or lamb burgers with a spoonful.  Scoop some up in a loaf of Arabic bread.  Spread a little on a slice of grilled bread.  Or, if you're really crazy (like me), mix it right into your ground lamb patties destined for the grill.  I promise, you won't regret it.

So . . . I'm basically eating onion, I asked my mother, when I watched her make this dish for the first time. We were in her glossily tiled kitchen in Bethlehem, and I watched her mince the onion finely, and then salt it, and drain away the liquid in a sieve.  Yes, she laughed, this is just onion.  But here is the secret.  You have to salt the onion and drain away the onion juice, so that it becomes mild instead of scaring away the neighbors.  Still, she said.  You don't eat much.

Onions occupy a comedic role in the mind of the Arab.  Though we love to eat them and fry them up for many of our dishes, they don't have much, well, honor.  Meats, nuts, spices--these are the jewels of the kitchen. The lowly onion, or bussul, which my mother and father always pronounced in an exaggerated, throaty manner, is the butt of jokes and insult.  Take, for example, this colorful little Arabic insult, which my mother translated for me a few months ago:  Why don't you take your idea and go plant some onion with it?

Maybe it has more acridity in the Arabic?

So, yes, we insult with onions, and also save with onions.  There is a lovely story from the first intifada, the Palestinian uprising, of a Palestinian woman who tossed onions down from her window whenever the Israeli army tear-gassed her street, so that demonstrators could use onions to counteract the effect of the tear gas. As the story goes, several people escaped the tear gas only to be hit by onions.

If you can't cry anymore, you might as well laugh, they say.

And so, we laugh, especially when we eat bussul salad.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Middle Eastern Cabbage Salad

Looking for a new cabbage slaw recipe to take to this summer's picnics?

Check out this classic Middle Eastern salad, which is as pretty as a rainbow, mayo-free, and as easy as it is delicious.  Dressed lightly with lemon and olive oil, and with a sprinkle of mint, parsley and green onion, this salad is a refreshing break from the classic coleslaw.  

Find the recipe over at MidEats!

And if you need other picnicking ideas, be sure to check out my last post, a Middle Eastern picnic recipe round-up.  


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Picnic Like an Arab: A Recipe Round-Up

For Mother's Day, my family went on a lovely hike at the Great Falls national park.  It was the kind of perfectly gorgeous day that you get in Northern Virginia a handful of times a year - brightly sunny and breezy, and the park grounds were packed with picnickers from all around the world.  Cigarette smoke wafted down few European tourists resting on some rocks, and beautiful (and fancy-dressed) Latin-American women walked by in their heels, dads with babies slung into backpacks trudged by.  In a rocky crevice, I rested on a rock while my children and husband scrambled across a stream, and a little girl with shiny black hair asked me if I knew where she could find a salamander.

In the green, open areas, some families were positively feasting - huge families congregated, with children scampering everywhere and grandparents, aunties and uncles lounged on plastic chairs, blankets, and impromptu hammocks, listening to music and stoked their charcoal grills (one family had actually wheeled out a sizable gas grill.  I was impressed.). I of course, tried to sneak peaks at what people had smoking on their grills and spread on picnic blankets.

The scene brought back so many memories from my childhood, where picnicking and barbecuing was serious business. We could just gather and eat food cooked out under the sky, or near water, with loads of friends and families spread out on picnic blankets and chairs, the mamas washing parsley and cucumbers for the tabbouleh under an open water tap.  I remember the green grassy hills and the palm trees by springs of Sachne, grilling fish with my aunts and uncles on the shores of Tiberias, and then, the teenage years of barbeques at in the local Jerusalem parks.  Other times, we grilled kebabs in the evenings on our flat, stone rooftop, under the canopy of stars, stoking the charcoal in tiny little grills while listening to the call to prayer, and then, afterwards, lying on mats and pillows to watch for shooting stars.

This was the Palestine that I loved.

In honor of the the start of picnic season, I have rounded up a few Middle Eastern picnic-friendly recipes, both mine and others.  I wish you joy this picnic season.  After all, is there anything better than the combination of good food, prepared and shared with good friends and family, and shared in the midst of beauty?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

All about Milk Kefir + A Step-by-Step Tutorial on How to Make Milk Kefir at Home

Milk what?

Milk kefir (keh-feer) is a fermented milk drink, similar to a drinkable yogurt.  Thick, creamy, tangy, with a slight effervescence, some describe it as the "champagne" of dairy because of the lovely light fizz in this creamy drink.  When homemade, its flavor changes with the seasons, becoming thicker and milder in the summer, and yeastier in the winter. A living food, kefir is cultured with wild yeasts and bacteria, and depending on the milk, fermenting practices, and strains of microorganisms, its taste ranges from mild or pungent, tangy or sour.

What is Old is New Again

Kefir originates from the ancient the Caucasus region, where it was lauded as a gift from the gods, a traditional elixir for health and longevity.  Traditional kefir was made from fresh raw animal milk, and hung from skin bags near the doorways, so that the family's movements in and out would agitate the grains and the milk.  Today, you can find kefir just about anywhere in the world, but it remains popular in eastern and northern Europe. I remember sampling it when we traveled through Europe, and loved it immediately. I also remember seeing it on the shelves of the Jewish supermarkets in Jerusalem, which is why I had the impression for a long time that it was an Israeli drink. Arabs also drink it (my mother tells me that families in her childhood neighborhood in Nazareth brewed it) and it is often strained into a thick cheese, very similar to yogurt cheese, or labaneh. It is also rising in popularity in the United States, and you can find it in pasteurized forms in most natural food stores or in larger markets.

Milk is transformed into kefir when it is mixed with "kefir grains," usually left at room temperature, and left to ferment until it has thickened. "Kefir grains" are live active cultures, forming a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY).  These small, gelatinous particles develop into complex cauliflower-like structures. My toddler, who likes to help me make the kefir, describes the grains as "wet popcorn," which is a very apt description.

While this all sounds exotic, obscure, and (perhaps a little terrifying?) making kefir is very simple. All you need is a couple of grains, add them to milk, and leave them on your counter to ferment until thickened. If you are lucky, you can inherit some from a kind friend, or join a free culture-sharing Facebook page, where people mail them off or give them away freely. Otherwise, purchase them online.

Drink to Your Health

I am in love with this drink.  Have you ever tried something for the first time and you were instantly hooked? This tangy, fizzy, creamy, thick drink, just won me over at first swig. But it wasn't just the taste that drew me in.  It made me feel good.  Happy.  Relaxed.  And I thought that this was strange until I read that the word "kefir" is thought to derive from the Turkish word "keif" which means "good feeling." It turns out that kefir is rich in tryptophan, that amino acid that raises your feel-happy seratonin levels in your brain. After just a cup, I do notice that I feel slightly calmer and more relaxed.