After 7 years of spending way too much money on GT Dave’s Kombucha (which is delicious, but in Hawaii is almost $5 per bottle), I decided to take the plunge and started brewing kombucha myself. Kombucha offers an extensive list of health benefits including but not limited to hormone balance, cancer prevention, detoxification support, and even improvements to bone and tooth quality. I personally drank it through both pregnancies to prevent nausea (which I never had, thank goodness!) and when not pregnant would drink it for the week prior to my period to prevent migraines and PMS during that time. At $5 a bottle that really adds up! To be brutally honest, I was resistant to brewing my own kombucha because in my mind the next step after entering the world of home fermentation is Birkenstocks and hairy armpits (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things!) but I realized I was being ridiculous and my resistance was costing me money that could instead be spent on practical, important items like stilettos and waxing (okay, now I’m really being ridiculous but I’m too hopped up on coffee and homemade kombucha today to have a filter and I’m perceiving myself as funnier than I actually am). But back to the point – making kombucha at home was shockingly easy to do and my very first batch (pictured above) turned out well so I wanted to share the recipe with all of you who may also be skeptical of home brewing. Here’s what you do:
- Find a SCOBY (the starter – stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). I recommend checking on Craigslist.org for someone in your area (just type in “SCOBY” or “Kombucha”) or contacting your local Weston Price chapter leader. If you can’t get a SCOBY from either of these places, you can get them on Amazon, but this tends to be the most expensive option. I found someone through Craigslist here on the North Shore of Oahu (relatively far from me) who referred me to their friend in Waimanalo (close to me) who was nice enough to meet up and gave me a free SCOBY. Here’s what they look like: While it may seem a little disturbing to meet up with a total stranger and leave with a ziplock baggie full of something that looks like an alien organ suspended in a solution of brown liquid, it is totally worth it.
- Get a half gallon glass jar (or gallon, or any size glass container really, but my recipe is for a half gallon because that’s the biggest jar I have), fill it with purified water, and then dump that water into a pot and bring it to a boil. Stir in approximately 3/4 cup sugar, but don’t dump it in all at once or it might boil over. White sugar is actually the best (and cheapest) but you can use any type of sugar you have on hand – white sugar, brown sugar, organic sugar, I’ve even heard of people using molasses. The sugar is just to feed the fermentation so the bacteria and yeast should eat most (if not all) of it anyway. Just don’t use honey since it has antibacterial properties.
- Remove solution from heat and add 2 black tea bags (any type of black tea, I used plain old Lipton’s because I had it in the cabinet but since then have started using organic black tea from Vitacost). Steep for 10 minutes to brew a strong tea. (You can also use an equivalent amount of loose tea, you just have to strain it and that’s 5 seconds I’d rather spend doing something else.)
- Cool to room temp. If you’re in a hurry you can throw in a few ice cubes and put it in the fridge to cool faster, just make sure you stir well to avoid any “hot spots” that might kill the bacteria in the SCOBY.
- Once the solution is cool enough, add your SCOBY along with 1-2 cups of kombucha from a prior brew (use storebought kombucha if you didn’t get liquid with your first SCOBY, or if storebought isn’t available add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar to make the tea acidic enough for fermentation) and cover loosely with a cheesecloth or other breathe-able cloth (I used a thin dishcloth, but Gerber diaper cloths work well also) and secure with a rubber band. Place this in an area where the temp is around or slightly warmer than room temp (between 74 and 84 degrees F) and leave it alone. Here’s how my first brew looked:
- Depending on how sour or bubbly you like your kombucha, you can let it brew for a minimum of 3 days up to a month. My first brew I fermented for 5 days (it was sour and tasty, but not too bubbly), my second brew I fermented for 2 weeks (more sour and tasty, and more bubbly) and my third brew is in the works now. You can check the fermentation process by gently dipping a clean spoon into the mix and tasting to check how sour and bubbly it is. Also, one of the fun things to notice as your kombucha is brewing is that the SCOBY “mother” produces a “daughter” which starts out as a thin, clear film on the top and eventually turns into a perfect little disc the exact shape of the top of your brewing container. Mine looked like this:
- Once the kombucha has fermented to your liking, you can pour off what you want to drink and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy it! Be sure to reserve at least 1-2 cups of your brew as the starter for the next batch, which you can store at room temp if you’re going to use it in the next few days or in the fridge if it’s going to be a while before your next batch. You can drink the kombucha straight, or add juice or fruit for flavoring. It is sweet on its own so doesn’t require additional sweetener but I find that it mellows nicely when you add something tart for balance, such as lemon juice or frozen berries (but I personally don’t recommend adding these to the fermentation unless you really know what you’re doing – I would wait until your brew is complete to add them to the final product).
Obviously, after 3 batches at home I don’t consider myself a kombucha expert but I did want to share this info with you to let you know that you don’t have to be an expert to make your own! For more practical tips, I recommend visiting the SustainabiliTEA site on kombucha. I did not read the entire site (yet), but what I did read was very helpful and concise and explains some important issues such as how to avoid and detect mold.
TURD IN THE PUNCHBOWL ALERT: For the sake of full disclosure, I must confess that the frozen berry mix used in the beautiful picture of the finished kombucha at the beginning of this blog is the very same organic antioxidant mix that was recently recalled from Costco for containing pomegranate seeds from Turkey that were giving people Hepatitis A!!! Luckily I only used it once to flavor that particular glass of kombucha. I didn’t like the flavor (maybe my body could innately taste the Hepatitis A – but more realistically it’s because I didn’t like the flavor of the variety of cherries used in the mix) so it stayed in my freezer untouched until it ended up on the news. Now it’s still in my freezer until I can take it back to Costco and exchange it for something with a little less communicable disease. I don’t have any hepatitis symptoms and thankfully my kids and husband didn’t have any of the berry mix, but just to be safe I’m taking milk thistle herb (for liver support) and eating lots of coconut oil (for its anti-viral activity). In the future I will try to stick to flavoring my kombucha with fresh fruit that I have washed myself.
June 5, 2013 9 Comments
The amount of laundry required for 2 kids and a husband who works outside is staggering! To save money and ensure a non-toxic product, I’ve started making my own laundry soap. It’s a “quick and dirty” version of my friend Annie Tryon’s recipe and takes about 5 minutes to assemble (not counting cooking time). Here it is!
Ingredients needed: 2 cups Borax, 2 cups Washing Soda, 1 bar Castile Soap (I use Kirk’s castile because I can buy it locally but any natural castile brand is fine, scented or unscented depending on your preference). This makes 4 gallons of laundry soap or enough for 128 loads.
Using a food processor or hand grater, grate the bar of soap into a pot. The larger your pot, the faster your soap-making will go because you can add more water to make everything dissolve faster. As I type this I’m realizing you could probably just buy liquid castile soap if you want to skip the step of grating the bar soap, but I’ve found the Kirk’s castile bars to be a lot cheaper than any liquid castile soap out there. And I don’t know how much liquid soap is equivalent to a bar of castile so if there are any soap experts out there who want to share that info in the comments section I would appreciate it!
Add the Borax and Washing soda and enough water to cover everything. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until everything is dissolved. You can turn the heat higher if you want it to go faster but do not step away for even a minute on high heat or you will have an overflowing volcano of crystalline soap that gets down in your stove and takes so long to clean up that you will WISH you had just gone to Costco and bought expensive and possibly toxic laundry soap instead. Not that I know from experience…
Personally, I set it to low and then go about my day around the house stirring it whenever I’m in the kitchen and within an hour or so it has all dissolved to a clear (if I was really good about stirring occasionally) or somewhat cloudy (normally the case since I forget to stir) solution. Once everything has dissolved and there are no large chunks, you can pour it into your containers. If you have a 4-gallon container that’s great but if you don’t, just use any combo of containers that will add up to 4 gallons. The best way to do it is to have several of the same container so you can eyeball it when dividing it up rather than having to measure it. I personally use 3 empty vinegar bottles from Costco. Since they are plastic and the soap solution is hot, I fill each halfway with cold water and then divide up the soap in thirds, pouring it through a heat-resistant canning funnel. Then I fill each container to not quite full since each holds 1.5 gallons (I fill each to approximately 1 and 1/3 gallons to make 4 gallons total). Give each a good shake, and continue to shake each time you walk by them for the next couple of hours to help everything homogenize as the solution cools. Here’s a photo to help you visualize this, sorry it’s out of focus – it was hastily snapped before the little Godzilla attached to the tiny brown foot in the photo was able to exert destruction on his intended target (my laundry soap).
After the solution has cooled you should be good to go! Just give it a quick shake before you use it each time to help break up any little clumps that might have formed in the cooling process. Use 1/2 cup (4 ounces) per load. Works well for everything from baby clothes to super dirty work clothes and anything in between.
Cost breakdown vs. Seventh Generation Free & Clear Concentrated Laundry soap from Costco:
- Costco natural soap: $24.72 for 1.17 gallons @ 1.5 ounces/load = 25 cents/load
- Homemade natural soap: $8.23 for 4 gallons @ 4 ounces/load = 6 cents/load
April 24, 2013 5 Comments
My blog software has a function that tells me what search terms bring people to my website. Despite the numerous entries I have written on health, children, pregnancy, and nutrition, the #1 search term that brings people to my site is still “the benefits of bacon”!!! This tells me that even if I posted the cure for cancer, the answer for world peace, or the quantum formula for staying young forever naturally, you people would all just scroll down until you found more info on bacon. And that is why I love you. So, to give the people what they want I thought I should share with you the bizarre discovery that I made last night – the best way to cook bacon is in water!
I buy the natural, nitrate-free bacon in bulk at the Whole Foods butcher counter because it is $8.99/pound versus $8.99/ half-pound shrink-wrapped package in the cooler. The only downside to this is that the butcher counter bacon is like 3 times thicker than normal bacon which means I either cook it for a ridiculously long time on low heat resulting in a not-burned but rock hard carbonized piece of bacon or I cook it at higher heat for less time which results in partially charred bacon with completely raw fat. Neither of these options helps my reputation for burning food, which started in college when I set a piece of toast on fire in a friend’s toaster oven and which continues to current day with my toddler staring up at me with his big eyes and furrowed eyebrows while I cook, pointing at the pan and saying repeatedly, “Mommy it’s buh-ning, it’s buh-ning.” Parenting is hard enough without the commentary, thank you very much! So last night, planning BLT’s for dinner, I decided to get educated and googled “best way to cook bacon” while nursing my 6-month old (really, what did we do before smart phones? Figure things out on our own?). I found this video:
If you don’t have time for the 1-minute video or if you’re at work and shouldn’t be reading this blog in the first place let alone watching a video about bacon on company time, here’s the summary:
- Put bacon in skillet, cover with water (like 1-2″ of water).
- Heat on high until water boils, then turn down to medium high.
- Once water has evaporated turn to medium low and keep cooking until bacon is to your liking.
The results were perfect! The bacon was crispy, not burned, and so good that my toddler and I ate almost all of it before my husband came home from work so I had to pretend like grass-fed hamburgers with bacon crumbles (made from the 1 piece of bacon left after our mother-son bacon rampage) were what I was planning for dinner all along. Poor guy.
September 10, 2012 1 Comment
Tomorrow is Father’s Day! Mr. Milk (my toddler – need to think of a new name for him since he’s been weaned for quite a while – at 2 years old Mr. Mischief seems appropriate) is at a birthday party with Daddy and Mr. Muscles (the newest addition to the family) is napping so I took this rare moment of peace and tranquility to whip together some homemade shave oil scrub to add to my husband’s shave-inspired Father’s Day gift. We’ve recently gotten into reruns of Queer Eye on Netflix and he is especially intrigued by their shaving advice so I thought to get him some aftershave in his favorite fragrance which would be a true classic Father’s Day gift from his two boys. Below is the recipe for the shave scrub I made just now in less than 3 minutes from ingredients I already had in the house! Now he can exfoliate once a week before shaving just like the guys on tv tell him to.
The ingredients you need are:
- Exfoliant – I used fine grind Celtic salt that I had in the cupboard. Finely ground salt or sugar are the best because they dissolve and don’t clog your sink drain but ground oatmeal, almonds, or flax are good also.
- Oil – I used coconut oil (of course!) but olive oil, almond oil, jojoba, or avocado would work. Really almost any oil works, just don’t use a janky oil like canola or vegetable oil or something that will become rancid like cod liver oil or flax oil unless you like the smell of dead fish on your man!
- Fragrance – I used jasmine essential oil to go with the coconut and appeal to my husband’s Hawaiian DNA. Originally I was going to use peppermint oil but it was in the bedroom with my napping infant and there was no way I was going to go in there to retrieve it! You can use any essential oil or combo of fragrances that you like.
- A container – I had a nice glass flip-top container that I picked up at one of those organizational stores for $3. A small glass mason jar would have worked also.
You want a ratio of 3 parts exfoliant to 1 part oil. I had limited time so I just eyeballed it and filled the jar halfway with Celtic salt and then added about 1/3 that volume of coconut oil.
For a traditional body scrub the consistency should be like wet sand, but for shave scrub I wanted to add a little more oil to act as a moisturizer so the consistency was more liquid. Safety note: don’t forget that this is oil so if you use it in the shower the floor will get slippery!
Once you have the scrub to desired consistency, add a few drops of your essential oil for fragrance and you’re all done! Father’s Day gift complete – and it was so easy that our sweet boys could have almost made it themselves
June 16, 2012 No Comments
As a person who can never turn down free kitchen gadgets from friends who are moving or trying to get rid of clutter, I have assembled a collection of those 16 ounce “Little Dipper” crockpots for ants that come free with the normal size crockpots. Each time I accept another free tiny crockpot, it is wrapped in the original packaging, which means that my friend never used it in all the years they had it in their possession. Despite this, I get visions in my head of an amazing Mexican-themed dinner party with several flavors of homemade cheese dip being kept warm in the little baby crockpots, all snuggled in a row. Well, after 2 years of storing a family of tiny crockpots still in their original packaging in my cabinet, I have finally come up with a daily use for them – making oatmeal!
My husband leaves for work pretty early and I always want to send him off with a warm breakfast (especially during the winter when it gets down below 70 degrees here in Honolulu at night – freezing!) but there’s no way that this pregnant lady with a toddler is going to get up early enough to make something fresh for my hard working honey. He really loves oatmeal and it’s actually quite a healthy and filling breakfast if it’s prepared properly by soaking before cooking to reduce levels of phytic acid (a nutrient blocker that makes grain difficult to digest). Here’s what I do:
- Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of oats in the crockpot and add twice as much water. I like to use steel cut Irish oatmeal but just get whatever you can find at the store that seems the least processed. If you are a gluten-free person make sure the oats are labeled as “gluten free” because many times, oats and gluten-containing grains are processed on the same equipment so there is cross-contamination. Gauge how much you soak based on how much cooked oatmeal you want – using 1/4 cup of oats will expand to about a cup cooked, and 1/2 cup will expand to about 2 cups. If you have time, let this soak for a few hours. I like to put this on before I make dinner since I’m in the kitchen anyway. Once in a while I don’t have time for this step so I skip right to the next one and my husband seems to survive okay!
- After the initial soak, dump out this water and then add about 3 parts of water to 1 part of soaked oats. You can also add a dash of buttermilk or whey if you have it to help make the oats even more digestible. I add a pinch of Celtic salt at this stage to increase the mineral content, and a dash of cinnamon so the kitchen smells warm and comforting when my husband wakes up to eat.
- Plug in your tiny crockpot and let cook overnight!
- In the morning, mix with any toppings that make you happy to be awake: butter from grassfed cows, coconut milk, minimally processed cow’s milk or cream, chopped raw nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, raw honey, shredded unsweetened coconut, chopped dates, apple sauce, protein powder – whatever your heart desires. If you’re more of a savory person, you can also mix an egg and some bacon or sausage in for a salty pudding reminiscent of a big hairy Irish man.
- Fill crockpot with water to soak so it’s easy to clean up and use for the next day, unless you’re like me and have several tiny crockpots that can be switched out so there’s no hurry to clean up the used one and it can just sit on the counter taking up space and waiting to be washed. Not that I ever do that.
If any of you readers out there have uses for tiny crockpots (other than cheese dip, I figured that one out already) please share them in the comments section! I love finding new and exciting uses for all my kitchen gadgets.
December 7, 2011 2 Comments
One of my favorite readers of all time emailed me a while ago to confess their obsession with coconut milk and to suggest that I make a top 10 list of things to do with coconut milk. Since I am also one who loves coconut and coconut products with a love beyond that which is deemed normal between a human and a plant product, I was happy to oblige. Here it is! If you have other ways that you love to use coconut milk, please share them in the comments section!
- In a smoothie.
- In Thai curry or other creamy soups.
- As the base for hot chocolate, just dilute to desired consistency first with water.
- Mixed with apple sauce for a healthy fat and fiber-filled snack.
- Poured over cereal or oatmeal for breakfast (dilute to desired consistency first).
- As the base for pudding, one of my most favorite snacks of all time. I make homemade pudding cups by pouring the pudding into small glass Mason jars (4 or 6 oz.) that come with plastic screw on tops, which makes it easy to pack pudding in lunches.
- In stir-fry. Mix with soy sauce, nut butter, and/or hot chili sauce for a creamy stir-fry sauce that helps you burn fat.
- Mixed into baby food or other purees for your toddler. Coconut helps to make smart babies!
- In coffee…this is extra good on those holiday mornings when you can also mix in some coconut rum
- As a moisturizer. Simply apply to skin, allow to absorb for 30 minutes, and then wipe off excess. This is especially nice for sun damaged skin.
June 20, 2011 6 Comments