Brew Your Own Kombucha in 3 Easy Steps

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What is Kombucha?

In its simplest form, kombucha is fermented tea. It contains a large amount of probiotics, yeast, and bacteria. The same elements in yogurt, kefir, and kimchi. All are recommended foods to keep your gut health in check. Kombucha also helps fight invading bacteria to keep us well. By having a healthy colony of yeast and bacteria in your body, you are more likely to fight off infection early and less likely to get sick as often or stay sick as long.

At any grocery store, you’ll find a shelf or more dedicated to the drink, with fun flavors like cranberry, ginger, lemon, and watermelon. While I love the store-bought brands, at $3.50+ per bottle, this adds up quickly. It takes a little investment to get started brewing your own kombucha, but the cost per batch is very low, needing just tea and sugar new each time.

Items Needed

Teapot or Kettle

You’ll need a teapot or kettle to boil water and steep the tea. I love this HadinEEon Variable Temperature Electric Kettle from Amazon.com because of its wide opening (helpful for stirring to dissolve the sugar) and built-in filter through the spout (you don’t want any tea or other particles to enter your kombucha brew). 

Black or Green  Tea

You want a plain black or green tea kombucha base. Green tea will produce a slightly sweet but subtle tasting kombucha, while black tea creates a rich yet smooth flavor.

Organic Cane Sugar

Any sugar can be used, but organic cane sugar is recommended to keep your SCOBY healthy.

Fermentation Container

While you can ferment your kombucha in any glass container of at least 1 gallon in size, I recommend a vessel with a spout at the bottom. This way, you can easily bottle your kombucha through the spot and add a fresh tea mixture to continuously brew kombucha.

Kombucha & Party Entertainer

SCOBY

Most kombucha kits will include a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), but you can also purchase on Amazon.com or get from a friend. As you brew, your SCOBY will grow baby SCOBYs that can be separated to start another batch, shared, or saved for the unfortunate event of a moldy brew. I’ve found the Fermentaholics brand to be very strong and effective.

SCOBY

Funnel & Strainer

Used for moving kombucha from one container to another without any small SCOBY’s from being transported.

Bottles

Once your kombucha has finished brewing, you’ll need to bottle it up and refrigerate it. Kombucha builts up carbonation, so you’ll want to find a strong glass bottle that can withstand the pressure. With the flip-top, these bottles can be used over and over.

Brew Your Own Kombucha

1. Brew Sweet Tea

Boil 4 cups of water. Stir in 1 cup of organic cane sugar until dissolved. Brew 2 tablespoons of your preferred tea for 10 minutes.

2. Add Scoby

Add 10 cups of cool water to your fermentation vessel. Then add your brewed sweet tea. You want to make sure to filter out all particles so they don’t attach to your SCOBY and grown mold. Once the entire mixture is room temperature, add the SCOBY and at least 1 cup of SCOBY liquid.

3. Wait

Cover your kombucha with a cover or cloth and place in a dark, undisturbed location at room temperature. It’s recommended to be between 68 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. I found that my basement was too cold, so now keep on the kitchen counter. My kit said to start tasting on day 4 and brew til your desired taste is reached. I find that I prefer stronger kombucha and will brew up to 2 weeks. At this point, you can either bottle and refrigerate to slow the fermentation or add a second fermentation

2nd Fermentation

Second fermentation is optional, but where all the fun flavors that you are used to are added. Add 2 tsp of your favorite fruit tea (or straight fruit) and 2 tsp of organic can sugar to each bottle. Filter kombucha from your 1st fermentation vessel and gently stir to dissolve sugar. Place your bottles in a dark, room temperature location. I use the bottle’s original shipping box and keep next to my 1st fermentation vessel on the kitchen counter. Taste and burp your bottles every 2 days so they don’t overpressurize. When kombucha reaches your desired taste, refrigerate and enjoy!

kombucha
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5 from 3 votes

Kombucha

1 gallon
Prep Time15 mins
Fermentation4 d
Total Time4 d 15 mins
Course: Drinks
Yield: 6 bottles

Equipment

  • Teapot or Kettle
  • Strainer & Filter
  • Fermentation Jar
  • Bottles

Materials

  • 14 cups water separated
  • 2 tablespoons tea black or green
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 piece SCOBY

Instructions

  • Boil 4 cups of water
  • Stir in 1 cup organic cane sugar until dissolved
  • Steep 2 tablespoons of tea for 10 minutes
  • Add 10 cups of cool water to fermentation vessel
  • Add brewed steep tea to vessel, filtering to ensure no particles
  • Once tea mixture is cool, add SCOBY and at least 1 cup of SCOBY liquid
  • Cover the vessel with a dark cloth and leave in a warm place where it can be undisturbed
  • Allow to ferment undisturbed. Check taste after 4 days, but can take up to 2 weeks.
  • Once kombucha has reached desired taste, bottle. Can add aditional flavoring for a second fermantation or refregerate.

Get Started

Many starter kits are available to get started on Amazon.com. I started with the Sipology by Steeped Tea Kombucha Collection which includes: Kombucha & Party Entertainer (great container that can be used to serve lemonade or tea at any party, 1 set of 4 Brew n’ Serve Bottles, Funnel & Strainer, Kombucha Green Base, Kombucha Black Base, Universal Kombucha Cover, SCOBY, and Kombucha Guide.

Kombucha Kit

 

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Dry January – Should You Participate?

I was recently listing to The Chalene Show podcast episode “9 Bad Habits to Drop ASAP” and she mentioned a survey that 25% of Americans admitted to drinking more in 2020. It got me thinking about my own drinking habits and it’s not unusual for me to drink a glass or two of wine after the kids have gone to bed or a hard seltzer with dinner. I had thought about giving up alcohol for January like I had done for Lent last year. A quick Google search revealed this has been a popular trend for years, with the name Dry January. But should you give up alcohol for a month? I’ll go over the benefits of abstaining, along with any potential risks.

 

Dry January Benefits

It May Improve Your Mood

Alcohol can make symptoms of anxiety and depression worse. While Dry January won’t cure your depression, stepping back from that nightly drink can provide the distance you need to assesses your motivation for drinking. When not self-medicating, you’ll be in a better position to recognize that you’re going through something that perhaps you need additional help with. At the very least, Dry January can provide valuable insight as to why you’ve been regularly drinking.

 

Better Sleep

After a night of drinking, it’s usually pretty easy to fall asleep. But as the National Sleep Foundation explains, levels of the sleep-inducing chemical adenosine rise to help you nod off, but it then crashes, waking you up in the middle of the night. Even if your body doesn’t fully awaken, you’ll likely rise groggily anyway. Alcohol degrades sleep quality; drinking moderate or high amounts of alcohol decreases “restorative” REM sleep, according to a review in the journal Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research. Giving up drinking for a month may help you get a sounder sleep, and better rest means more energy to devote to the things that matter.

 

Weight Loss

As much as we’d like them to be, alcoholic drinks are not calorie-free. And they are liquid calories, which research shows don’t fill you up the way food calories do. It’s been found that when people stop or cut back on drinking, they don’t replace those calories. This one change helps you lose weight. You may also be consuming more junk food when under the influence, as booze has been known to knock down your willpower when you get a case of the munchies.

 

You’ll Save Money

As I write this, we’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so we’re not dining out as we once did. But remember those cocktail prices of $9-$10 a drink. Those add up! Your dinner bill will go down significantly without those added drinks. Even drinking at home adds up. We frequent Aldi’s, but going through a couple of $5 bottles of wine a week can put a dent in your wallet over time.

 

Your Skin Might Look Brighter

Alcohol is a known diuretic, which means it will cause you to pee more than if you just drank water. As a result, it’s harder for the body to hydrate itself. Lack of hydration can lead to dry, lusterless skin. Alcohol also has the potential to increase hormones like estrogen and cortisol, as well as spike your blood sugar (depending on how sweet you like your drinks). This is a recipe for breakouts. Research has shown that the toxins in alcohol can speed up your skin’s aging process. Yuck!

 

Stronger Immune System

Binge drinking (more than four drinks in a single occasion for women) may suppress your body’s immune response. A 2015 study found that when healthy folks (who normally consume low or moderate levels of alcohol) had an episode of binge drinking, their immunity initially rose. However, two to five hours later, levels of disease-fighting immune cells (like NK and white blood cells) decreased. Researchers can’t say how this may play out— as in if it means you’re more likely to be saddled with a cold or flu virus — but it’s certainly not a good thing if your immune system is taking a break.

 

Improved Digestion

“Alcohol lingers in the stomach for a while, being absorbed into both your bloodstream and small intestine,” says Peyton Berookim, a double board-certified gastroenterologist in Los Angeles. “It can affect acid production, diminishing your stomach’s ability to destroy harmful bacteria that enter the stomach.”

Berookim also notes that beverages with more than 15 percent alcohol by volume can delay stomach emptying, which can cause bacterial degradation of food and abdominal discomfort.

And, according to Berookim, booze immediately impacts the structure and integrity of the GI tract.

“Alcohol alters the numbers and relative abundances of microbes in the gut microbiome. These organisms affect the maturation and function of the immune system,” Berookim says. “Alcohol disrupts communication between these organisms and the intestinal immune system.”

Berookim goes on to say that drinking elevates blood pressure and levels of blood glucose, blood cholesterol, triglycerides, liver fats, and rice acids. If a person’s levels are already sky-high, fortunately, they can be lowered by participating in a sober month.

“Our digestive system, including the liver, is resilient and recovers rapidly in the absence of alcohol,” Berookim says.

 

Dry January Risks

Blood Pressure

If you are a heavy drinker and give up alcohol cold turkey, it can temporarily increase blood pressure to elevated levels. It is better to gradually reduce alcohol consumption.

 

Social

Going into 20201, we have the benefit of limited opportunities for happy hours and other get-togethers, but if you regularly get together with friends for drinks, participating in Dry January is likely to get you some weird looks and odd comments. Your partner at home may even give you grief for abstaining if they are used to sharing a bottle of wine with dinner. Look for opportunities to communicate your intention for a Dry January. Find accountability buddies who are also participating.

 

 

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DynaBites – Your Family’s New Favorite Protein Energy Ball Recipe

DynaBites Protein Energy Ball Recipe

Protein Balls…Energy Balls…DynaBites…Whatever you call them, they are very much the rage for quick and easy kid-friendly snacking. The recipes are endless, but this is my favorite basic protein energy ball recipe, with ingredients that I nearly always have on hand.

With just 4 ingredients – oatmeal, nut butter, honey & Juice Plus+ Complete – prep time is super simple! Kids can even do it and enjoy rolling the ingredients into balls.

While oatmeal is naturally gluten-free, many manufacturers process the oatmeal in the same facilities and sometimes, the same equipment, as grains containing gluten, so have some cross-contamination. I always like to look specifically for gluten-free grains to minimize inflammation.

You can use any nut butter of choice for this recipe, but I usually use creamy peanut butter, because that’s what we have on hand. Almond butter also provides a nice creamy nutty taste, while crunchy varieties add some texture.

Juice Plus+ Complete is my protein powder of choice because it is vegan and contains 13g of plant-based protein and 7g of fiber per serving with no added sugars. This recipe uses two servings of Complete and makes approximately 20 balls.

Place the prepped balls on a cookie sheet and leave in the freezer until firm, about 2 hours. Once firm, DynaBites should be stored in the fridge.

DynaBites

A kid-friendly protein energy ball
Prep Time 5 mins
Freezing Time 2 hrs
Course Snack
Cuisine American

Equipment

  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Cookie Sheet

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup oatmeal gluten-free preferred
  • 1 cup nut butter peanut, almond, etc
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup Juice Plus+ Complete Dutch Chocolate or French Vanilla

Instructions
 

  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Form into 1 inch balls
  • Freeze until firm ~2 hours

Notes

Optional Add-ins: 
  • Chocolate chips
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Dried fruit
Keyword Kid-friendly, Protein

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Protein Energy Ball Recipe Pin

 

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One Ingredient Ice Cream

Disclosure: This article may include affiliate links, upon which I will earn a commission.

School is officially out, so that means one thing…summer!

And with summer comes ice cream. But the more I get in tune with my body, the more I know that dairy does not agree with me, not to mention its inflammatory nature. And don’t forget the sugar in traditional ice creams. This got me looking for an ice cream recipe that I could make with almond milk, and led me to The Kitchn’s article on making ice cream with bananas.

Can you really make ice cream with just bananas? YES!

 

One Ingredient Ice Cream


One Ingredient Ice Cream - Prepping Bananas

Start with ripe bananas. I used 3 bananas, which resulted In 2 adult bowls and 2 kid-size bowls. First, cut bananas into smaller sections (~1/2 inch). Place into a small baggy and freeze for at least 2 hours.

You may remember the Yonanas machine that was all the rage a few years ago, but no special machine is required. Just use your blender or food processor. I used our Vitamix.

One Ingredient Ice Cream

Once frozen, place your bananas into the blender and start pulsing. Break up the chunks of banana in short bursts of power. You will need to help move the mixture around a lot as it is very thick. It will look crumbly at first. With continued pulsing and blending, the bananas will start to cream together. Be careful not to overblend, as the heat of the blender will start to melt the ice cream. Serve immediately.

My family’s favorite part was the toppings! We used fresh berries, mini chocolate chips, and walnuts. You can also blend peanut butter, avocado, or honey directly into the ice cream for different flavor variations. Wait until the bananas are creamy before adding any flavors.

One Ingredient Ice Cream Pin

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Don’t Let Your Easter Ham Go to Waste – 9 Unique Uses for Ham

Easter 2020 will be one to remember. Unable to celebrate in person with extended family or church friends, families have had to find new ways to celebrate. I was given the opportunity to perform a mystery shop at the Honey Baked Ham store. Included in the shop was reimbursement for a 7-8lb ham (which is designed to feed 11-12 people). I have a family of 4, with 2 little ones who don’t eat much meat. That means we had SO much ham to eat. That began my research of recipes and uses for ham. Here’s my compilation of the best and most unique uses for ham. Click any picture for the full recipe.

9 Uses for Ham

Sandwiches

I’ll start with the obvious, but sandwiches are fun and can be easy to elevate. Start with some homemade or specialty bread. We love Hawaiian bread in our house! You can even use leftover rolls or make biscuits or cornbread. Add different cheeses, veggies, and sauces for endless combinations.

Southern Ham and Cheese Biscuit Sandwiches
Southern Ham and Cheese Biscuit Sandwiches / The Spruce Eats

 

Monte Cristo
Monte Cristo / She Wears Many Hats

 

Croque Monsieur
Croque Monsieur / Tastes Better From Scratch

Eggs

Omelets and egg scrambles are a perfect fit for leftover ham. Dice it up and add with your favorite cheese and veggies.

Ham and Vegetable Omelet
Ham and Vegetable Omelet / Ready Set Eat

Casseroles

Casseroles are great because you can usually prep it and forget it or even freeze for later.

Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole
Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole / The Spruce Eats

 

Ham Casserole with Broccoli and Rice
Ham Casserole with Broccoli and Rice / The Cozy Cook

 

Soups

Potato and Ham Soup with Cheese
Potato and Ham Soup with Cheese / The Spruce Eats

 

Simple Navy Bean Soup with Ham
Simple Navy Bean Soup with Ham / The Spruce Eats

 

Cheesy Ham and Potato Soup
Cheesy Ham and Potato Soup / The Cozy Cook

Potatoes

So many options to go with potatoes, including hashes, scalloped and au gratin varieties, and even baked potatoes with diced ham.

 

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes
Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes / Love Grows Wild

 

Easy Ham and Potato Hash
Easy Ham and Potato Hash / The Spruce Eats

 

Pasta

Creamy Pasta with Ham and Asparagus
Creamy Pasta with Ham and Asparagus / The Spruce Eats

 

Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta
Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta / The Spruce Eats

 

Ham and Cheese Manicotti

Ham and Cheese Manicotti / Recipe Girl

Creamy Parmesan Noodles with Ham
Creamy Parmesan Noodles with Ham / Recipe Girl

 

Ham and Cheese Baked Gnocchi
Ham and Cheese Baked Gnocchi / Recipe Girl

 

Mac and Cheese with Ham
Mac and Cheese with Ham / Spicy Southern Kitchen

Pizza

Homemade pizza can’t be beat! Go with a traditional ham and pineapple or any combination of flavors.

Homemade Ham and Pineapple Pizza
Homemade Ham and Pineapple Pizza / Foodlets

Quiche

These muffin tin quiche are great because you can cook a big batch, freeze them, then warm up a few for a quick breakfast.

Muffin Cup Ham and Cheddar Quiche
Muffin Cup Ham and Cheddar Quiche / The Spruce Eats

 

Muffins

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Muffins
Ham and Cheese Breakfast Muffins / She Wears Many Hats
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How To Pack School Lunches That Your Kids Will Actually Eat

school lunch

Packing school lunches is a great option when your child isn’t too fond of what the school has to offer or you want a little more control over what your child is eating. In our household, we pack lunches to avoid the nearly daily gluten in the school lunches (sandwiches, pasta, pizza, breaded chicken).

Of course if your child has dietary restrictions or food allergies, packing lunches is a must. Frankly, packing a lunch allows you to include healthy foods your child will actually eat and it doesn’t have to cost any more than what you would be paying for lunch at school.

Of course packing a lunch every day doesn’t do any good if your child doesn’t eat it or ends up trading most of it away for junk food. The key then is to find things that your child loves and enjoys eating.

The best place to start is to get your child involved. Depending on the age of your kids, you could even put them in charge of making their own lunches. Not only do you know that they’ll pack something they will eat, being in charge of packing lunch will teach them responsibility.

Start by talking to your kids about what they want in their lunch box. Make a list of options and then head to the store so you have everything you need for the week. Getting the kids as involved as possible will make sure that they end up with lunches they will eat. For older kids that may mean making their own lunches (under your supervision of course).

Younger children can help. Even your kindergartener can wash grapes and put them into a container, or pick a snack for his lunch box. Get in the habit of making lunches together the night before. Over time you can give the kids more and more responsibility for their lunches. This alone will help make sure they eat what they’ve packed. After all, it’s the lunch they made. Along the way you’re teaching them independence and important life skills.

Of course you want to encourage your kids to pack and eat healthy foods. Insisting on all healthy, organic food options all the time may not be your best strategy though. Strike a balance and make compromises. If your kids pack and eat a healthy wrap or salad for example, let them have some cookies for dessert. Teach them to make good choices, but don’t freak out if they decide to pack some Cheetos or a pack of Oreo cookies. Your goal is to get them to eat fairly healthy and make smart food choices, not restrict all access to junk food, causing them to trade with friends for forbidden Twinkies.

how to pack school lunches

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EveryPlate – A New Meal Kit Review

Disclaimer: I was not paid to review EveryPlate or any other meal kit, but this post does include referral links which will credit me if you choose to sign up. 

EveryPlate bills itself as the “Affordable Meal Kit for Everyone” with kits starting at $4.99/serving. I’ve been a long time proponent for meal delivery service kits, starting with Hello Fresh and am currently using Sun Basket and Blue Apron. You can see my review of these services here. I’d been seeing EveryPlate advertised online and received a 40% discount for my first 3 weeks.

Each week, you can select 3 recipes from  9 different options. Some options (like steak) are an extra charge per serving. It is also easy to skip weeks if you won’t be home or don’t like the menu options. I’ve been ordering the 2 serving meal kits for my family of 4 (kids aged 7 & 3) and it provides us a nice reasonable sized meal. My 3 year old hardly eats anything, so I would consider it really 3 servings. I’ve also found that pasta dishes are much larger servings than other meals and many times we have leftovers.

Every recipe indicates that it can be cooked in 30 minutes, but I’ve found that so far I’m usually done quicker. EveryPlate also relies on your home “staples” more than other meal kits I’ve tried. They assume that you will have milk, flour, oil, and butter on hand. Oil is the only one of these ingredients that I regularly have, so I have to be prepared and stock up in advance.

Like other meal kits, the food is shipped to you on ice, within a bag designed to stay cold. The box is smaller than the other meal kits I’ve used, so a little friendlier on the environment. Within the box, you’ll find each recipe on its own recipe card, the meat in the lowest section right next to the ice, and the remaining ingredients in a nice little cardboard crate that fits nicely in the fridge. The ingredients are delivered in their purest form, so some prep is required.

EveryPlate is a great option if you want to save money and like simple options for your family that are quick to cook.

EveryPlate finished product
The finished product

 

Meal Kit Comparison

 

EveryPlateSun BasketBlue ApronHello Fresh
Weekly Menu Options9 recipes18 recipes11 recipes20
Starting Price / serving$4.99$10.99$7.49$7.49
Key DifferentiatorsPriceOrganic produce; Lots of weekly options; Plans for multiple diets (paleo, gluten-free, etc.)Good middle of the road optionGreat entry to the space; Long history in the industry

For a comprehensive look at even more meal delivery kits, check out ConsumersAdvocate.org. They studied different meal delivery options and analyzed their costs, the freshness of their ingredients, eco-friendly packaging, and their variety to find the best option for everyone.

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The Juice Bar Review & Giveaway (Ends 1/28)

The Juice Bar book

When we purchased our Vitamix, it included a copy of “The Juice Bar”, which bills itself on having 80 recipes to boost health. Given that only about 15% of individuals eat the recommended serving of fruits and vegetables each day, adding a juice regime is an easy way to quickly boost that number. Studies show that people who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, obesity, and some cancers.

The book is broken down into chapters on “Jump-start”, “Rehydrate”, “Energy”, “Health”, and “Detox”, after an introduction to juicing and how to properly prepare different fruits and vegetables. Some recipes require a juicer, but many can be prepared in a blender for a smoothie. While the recipes look amazing, the photography and tips are the real winner.

The book is available on Amazon, but today, you could win your own copy. Just fill out the Rafflecopter below.

The Juice Bar book

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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November – What’s In Season

As the cold sets in, it can be hard to imagine that there is any produce in season. But California and other southern states can grow all year long and some items prefer the cold weather.

Whether shopping at the grocery store or farmer’s market, it pays to shop what’s in season. You’ll get the most bang for your buck and nutritional value when the produce you seek was just harvested out of the field.

Here’s what’s in season during November in the United States.

 

What is your favorite dish to make with what’s in season this month?

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October – What’s in Season

Whether shopping at the grocery store or farmer’s market, it pays to shop what’s in season. You’ll get the most bang for your buck and nutritional value when the produce you seek was just harvested out of the field.

Here’s what’s in season during October in the United States.

What is your favorite dish to make with what’s in season this month?

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