Got kefir?

Sep 28, 2007 at 9:29 p.m. ET

Cook for someone who is lactose intolerant? You should know that according to a study conducted at Ohio State University, kefir, a type of fermented milk, may be a better option than yogurt as a milk replacement. Researchers found that kefir, while providing the same nutritional benefits as yogurt -- such as calcium, potassium and protein -- contains a wider array of beneficial microorganisms that were able to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of lactose intolerance in test subjects.

Kefir may be slightly more difficult to find than yogurt and a bit more expensive than regular milk, but because it's part of the trendy Mediterranean Diet, you should be able to pick it up in gourmet or organic markets. More tart in taste than yogurt, kefir also has a more liquid consistency, so you can drink it straight. If you have a hard time introducing new tastes into your family's diet, you can also incorporate kefir into smoothies or substitute it for yogurt in many traditional recipes. Here are a few to get you started.

Banana-Berry Muffins
1 3/4 cup organic unbleached white flour
3/8 teaspoon Stevia extract powder
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup plain kefir
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup mashed banana (1 large)
3/4 cup chopped raspberries (substitute chopped strawberries or whole blueberries)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Oil the muffin tins. In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, stevia, baking powder and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix egg, water, kefir and oil. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid ingredients. Beat with hand mixer until well blended. If the mixture is too stiff, add a little more water. Add the fruit and stir until combined. Spoon batter into muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Makes 12.

Fruit Smoothie
1 banana
2/3 cup fruit juice (not made from concentrate or with added sweeteners)
1 cup mixed fruit of your choice
1/2 cup kefir
2 tablespoons maple syrup
6 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Kefir Cornbread
1 cup whole wheat or rye flour
1 cup stone-ground corn meal (blue or yellow corn)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 to 4 tablespoons organic cane sugar (optional)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups kefir

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place cast iron skillet in the oven to heat. Combine the dry ingredients and make a well for the liquid ingredients. Mix the liquid ingredients and stir into the dry ingredients. Remove skillet from oven and grease. Pour the batter into the hot skillet and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Kefir Potato Salad
6 medium new potatoes
1 1/2 cup cooked carrots
1 cup string beans, cooked
1 cup peas, cooked (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups kefir
Salad greens
Chopped tomatoes Directions:
Cook potatoes in enough water to cover until tender. Drain and cool the potatoes, then dice them into a large bowl. Add next eight ingredients and toss until well combined. Cover and chill for several hours. Line a bowl with crisp salad greens and tomatoes and serve potato salad on top.

Salad Dressing
1 cup plain kefir
1 cup mayonnaise
1 clove minced garlic
2 green onions chopped
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
Salt to taste
Sweetener to taste

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth