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Personal Reasons My Family Eats Cultured Foods

Everybody I know leads busy lives, but did you know there is always help for you? My family had a lot of big changes in 2017, but a constant through it all was the way each member of my family used and ate cultured foods. Maybe this could be the answer for you, too. But first, the journey . . . it was  March 18, 2017, and I was sitting in a truck with a convoy behind us with all our worldly goods, driving across the country to a new destiny. Both of our older kids had moved to southern California and wanted us to join them. Since we have our own businesses, we can live anywhere; and with one 16-year old kid still at home missing her two older siblings, we made the big decision to move. Not knowing all this would entail, we sold our home, packed up our stuff, and headed towards our new home hoping to be a family again. My side of the family all lives on the east coast and my husband’s family is in Colorado and Nebraska. We were in Kansas City and had nothing holding us there anymore with our kids gone. We left on my birthday and the stress of moving got to me.

I have lived far away from my family since the age of 18. I moved away to college and never came back except to visit. My mom and dad lived on the east coast and my sisters did, too, and it was hard for my family to visit since we all lived so far from each other. Ron’s mom had died many years ago and his dad didn’t really communicate with us but maybe once a year with a phone call. Watching my kids grow up without a lot of extended family was different from everybody else I knew, but I was determined to make my family something that would sustain us all. It would be something special and something we could build a strong foundation upon. Ron and I are a strong team. With over 35 years of marriage, both of us having our own business and not having a lot of outside support, these pressures and struggles have made us really strong and I'm so thankful for that!  We had to depend on each other, so Ron and I our three kids did everything together. When people talked about us they always talked about us as a unit. We were mostly alone, far from extended family, but we had each other and it was enough. Until our oldest daughter and husband moved to California. Then my son went to visit and was offered a job, and my son said he would only go if we would eventually come too. We sure did miss our kids and felt bad for our youngest who was missing her brother and sister. So we made the decision to sell our house and move closer to them.  As we got our house ready to put on the market we renovated the kitchen, painted, and redid all the rooms. And it was something else - all the while writing my book Cultured Food in a Jar. At this busy time, I was living out of jars with cultured foods in them as our kitchen was torn apart and in disarray. I never realized how much I would need my own recipes to sustain me and get me through this challenging time. I can remember sitting on the kitchen floor on a towel amidst the wreck in my kitchen eating miso soup out of a jar, drinking raspberry kombucha punch, and being so thankful that I had something easy to eat. My own foods from my book saved me again and again. We all reach for easy foods when we're busy and I created ones that not only nourished me but kept me calm too. Cultured foods do this with their powerful combo of microbes that work with me from the inside out.

Fast forward many months later . . . we sold our home and had all our trucks and trailers packed, ready to move and a tornado hit right down the road from us. And I heard my husband say, “If that tornado picks up my trailers and puts them in the neighbor's yard after I  spent all this time packing them I’m not going to be happy!" I closed my eyes and prayed and although the tornado did hit not too far from our home, we were left untouched and left the following morning on our journey which just happened to be my 57th birthday. I was sitting in the back of the truck because I felt horrible and was trying to sleep and discovered after missing several nights of sleep I had gotten a cold. This was my first cold in years and I felt like I was going to die. The body can only take so much stress and lack of sleep before it shuts down. I'm not used to being sick and I forgot how horrible this can be. I knew my body was reacting to all the stress I was feeling and it was trying to get my attention.  On that day, nobody remembered my birthday which at this point I didn’t care about anymore, but I was running a fever and couldn’t breathe out of my nose and thought I made a terrible mistake moving across the country. Tornados and sickness . . . well, it felt like all the forces were converging to stop me and that’s when I saw the cooler sitting next to me. I grabbed the new spicy kimchi jar out of the cooler. It was a recipe I had made from my book and then I grabbed a q tip from my makeup bag. I ate some of the kimchi and then dipped the q-tip in the kimchi and swapped the inside of my nose. I had a  reader tell me this got rid of a six-month sinus infection she had. A lot of sinus problems are yeast related so adding probiotics to your diet, and in this case up my nose, made my sinus clear and I was able to breathe, finally.

Three days later we arrived, and I saw my kids for the first time in almost a year and I couldn’t stop the tears. I couldn’t believe I had made it there, thousands of miles, to be a family again. Halfway there I thought I had made a terrible mistake but drinking three jars of kefir, gallons of kombucha, and kimchi got me there in one piece. My own recipes have sustained me through some of the hardest times of this last year and helped me back to my family. The Schwenks are a strong unit and if you come to my classes you will see everybody there helping and working as a team. We love each other and we also love helping you, too. I feel truly blessed, to live my life with my family by my side. FYI, moving to California allowed me to go to Disneyland (see picture above) for the very first time in my life. What a day that was and my kids have dubbed me "Disney Donna" but then that's another story for another time!

Foods as Medicine

Why We Each Need Cultured Foods

So much has happened since that day. My daughter Maci and her husband, Jeff, bought and moved into their first home. Maci consumed every cultured food known to mankind as she was so stressed out from buying a home and jumping through all the hoops they make you jump through. She found that upping the amount of kefir she drinks is one of the most helpful things. Cultured foods can help you so much through difficult times. Our bodies need nourishment but especially when we're under stress; and kefir, kombucha, and cultured veggies are all nutrient dense and predigested so eating them not only nourishes the body but helps all those stress hormones from getting the upper hand. Water kefir is another drink Maci makes a lot, and if you go to my classes you'll get to sample her many creations!

My younger daughter, Holli, is soaring to new heights. I was most worried about her when we moved. Being 16 years old and leaving your friends is not an easy thing to do. But Holli wanted to come and loves theatre and found several wonderful theatre groups, did tons of musicals, and was Awarded Best Over-All Performer of the Year at Star Repertory Theatre - one of the most highly awarded theatre groups in San Diego. She also has lots of new sweet friends, but never in my wildest dreams did I think she'd be doing the things she does now. Holli is a strong advocate for kefir, kombucha, and veggie juice too. I've watched her drink this every day to keep her acne under control. She swears that it's the only thing that has worked for her and I myself was shocked that even though it took a month of having this every day, the results speak for themselves.

My husband, Ron, was retiring but that didn't work out so well for him. He's not someone to sit around, and he casually mentioned to an acquaintance that he used to have a roofing business in Kansas City. One thing led to another and now he's working for a large San Diego roofing and solar company. He told them he just wanted to work a few days a week and now I never see him!! One thing I love about Ron is how he rises to the top in everything he does. He has a lot of integrity and so much wisdom that everyone takes notice and you can't be around him very long before he commands your respect. My husband loves cultured veggie dip and cultured veggies help him stay regular along with kefir which he swears helps him sleep like a baby and keeps acid reflux at bay. Kombucha is his go-to drink and he has it constantly. We drink a lot of kombucha and kefir soda in our house!

My son, DJ, is a master mechanic and got a job right near the beach in beautiful San Clemente, California. He lived with us for a few months and asked for my help to fix an ulcer that was bothering him. He started drinking kefir every day and lost over 40 pounds and his ulcer is no more. He actually makes his own kefir now at the mechanic shop for himself and for anyone else who wants some. He goes to the local Sprouts grocery store for lunch to get a salad and kombucha almost every day and they actually know him by name now. He spends the weekends with us and I've been watching him transform and I gotta tell you, it's a wonderful thing to see.


Even my little Yorkie dog, Tank, started acting sick after we moved and was not doing well and I noticed blood in his urine. I started giving him kefir and he was right as rain within a day. Check out this blog for more on how kefir can help your kidneys.

Me, I have kefir for breakfast every morning along with my Einkorn Sourdough Bread. I have this wonderful granola recipe that’s in my book Cultured Food in a Jar. It's made with fresh bananas as a sweetener and is so crazy good I can't keep it in the house. My son just sent me a picture of his kefir he made this morning, I just made a batch of kefir no bake cookies today and Ron was grabbing kombucha for work and Holli was off to one of her rehearsals with a jar of kefir. This is my life. Not so much different from anybody else; we have all the stresses and struggles that others have, we just have these foods we eat that help us. Probiotics in jars that give us all the different things we need, we’ve just made it a habit that's fun.

So how about you? Do you have certain foods you eat when you're under pressure? It can make all the difference and it can be delicious. I make a lot of recipes for you but the truth is I need them more than anybody. Kefir changed every aspect of my life and I shall never be the same. Cultured veggies and kombucha - I need them, too. And water kefir and sourdough bread and yogurts and cheeses and fermented lemonade and the list goes on. These are the foods I love that help me and my family and they can help you too. You don’t have to believe me but one day you’ll need them and you’ll remember me and I’ll be waiting for that email that you will share with me about how it changed your life. And then we will both be changed cause after all, my friends, we're all in this together. It's worth the effort to stay healthy . .. It can change everything!

Here are some of our favorite recipes

Lemon Curd Kefir

Cultured Border Salsa

Ron's Kefir Onion Dip

Einkorn Sourdough

Hibiscus Kombucha

Lemon Ginger Kombucha

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Everybody I know leads busy lives, but did you know there is always help for you? My family had a lot of big changes this past year, but a constant through it all has been the way each member of my family uses and eats cultured foods. Maybe this could be the answer for you too?

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