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How and why to make kombucha

How and why to make kombucha

I feel a little late to the kombucha party, but recently a friend posted that she had “extra scoby” and I jumped at the chance to make my own kombucha.

For starters, kombucha is simply black or green tea that has bacteria and sugar added in and is left to ferment. The tea is brewed just like any other tea- hot water and a few tea bags. It is left to cool or ice can be added to it to cool. Kombucha, like other fermented foods (sauerkraut, sour dough bread, kimchee, miso) has several health benefits.

SCOBY (pronounced skoh bee), stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Scoby is used to make kombucha as well as other fermented foods such as sour dough bread. I’ll admit, a scoby is a bit odd looking- kind of like a slippery, large mushroom. You can obtain scoby from a friend or buy it commercially on amazon. Here is a review of the best ones for purchase: http://kombuchahome.com/best-kombucha-starter-kit-sources/

The most important reason to include fermented foods in your diet is gut health. Approximately 60% of your immune system resides in your bowels. While that may sound gross, it’s important to keep the bacteria in your gut thriving to help prevent disease. Fermented foods introduce probiotics (healthy bacteria) into your gut. The bacteria has been found to improve digestion, absorption of nutrients and may even help with weight loss and immunity. Eating a diet high in fiber from a variety of plant foods (fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes) also helps keep gut bacteria thriving.

You can buy commercial kombucha just about anywhere, though it will cost you. The cheapest ones I’ve seen will run you $2.79 per 20 oz. bottle. If you make your own, it will cost about .25 per quart!

To make kombucha, brew at least a quart of tea using a few tea bags. Allow the tea to cool. Add ¼ cup of white or other sugar to the tea. Sugar is needed to feed bacteria, so no use of Stevia, Splenda or other sugar subs allowed here. Add your scoby and let the tea sit at room temperature with a breathable cloth over it that’s “clamped down” using a rubber band. You’ll need 1/4 cup of sugar per quart of tea. If you brew a gallon, use 1 cup of sugar.

After 4-7 days, the tea will begin to ferment and become carbonated. It will take on a tangy taste. You can add flavors to the tea such as ginger, basil, lemon or other herbs and spices. You may notice a small film or disc of bacteria (scoby, also called “the mother”) develop on the top of the tea. This can be removed and another batch of tea started. The tea should be allowed to ferment up to 30 days. The longer it ferments, the tangier and less sweet it will become.

My friend had multiple batches of kombucha brewing on her kitchen counter. Once the tea is to your liking, store it in the frig and consume a little bit daily. The scoby that’s used from the first batch can be cut and shared with others. The scoby created from the new batch can start another batch or also be paid forward.

Farro salad with arugula, spinach & dried cherries

Farro salad with arugula, spinach & dried cherries

Summer is a perfect time of year to enjoy grain salads. If you’ve got a picnic, potluck or just want something delicious for dinner, look no further! This salad combines farro, fresh spinach, arugula and dried cherries in a simple orange dressing. It can be made ahead of time or a few hours before your next soiree.

Farro is a a versatile ancient whole grain that’s high in fiber and protein. It’s cooked like rice, but needs 3:1 fluid to grain. It can be cooked in chicken or vegetable broth for a savory taste, or cooked in water and seasoned afterwards. Since it takes a good 30-minutes to cook, I suggest cooking a large batch and using it in multiple dishes. The salad can “stand alone” or grilled chicken, fish or shrimp can be added to make it a complete meal. Bob’s Red Mill provided farro samples for this recipe. I brought it to a recent party and it was a hit! #samples #client

Ingredients:

1 cup farro cooked according to directions

2 cups baby spinach

2 cups arugula

1/4 cup chopped red onions

1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles

1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries

1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup olive oil

 

Directions:

Cook farro according to directions and set aside to cool in a large mixing bowl.

Once farro has cooled, add spinach, arugula, chopped onions, feta cheese, dried cherries and pepitas.

Whisk together orange juice and olive oil into a dressing.

Pour dressing over the salad and toss it.

Makes 6 servings. Nutrition facts per serving: 217 calories, 12.8 grams fat, 5 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 5.6 mg cholesterol, 85 mg sodium.

 

Raising girls in a diet-crazed society

Raising girls in a diet-crazed society

Now that my daughters (12 and 14) are old enough to realize that I counsel people about their food choices, I worry at times about what message they’re receiving about their own. What they hear from others is likely not the same as what I teach. Do they think carbs or dairy are “bad”? Are they avoiding potatoes and rice? They are fragile butterflies just emerging from the cocoon into a society that shames them for eating and God forbid, enjoying food. I’m trying to change that message.

In our house, no food is off-limits. While we may have bribed our girls with jelly beans during the potty training years, for the most part, we try not to reward the girls with food OR demonize food. Sure we encourage fruits and vegetables, but we also have our share of foods that other people might see as processed or less than healthy. Let’s face it- ALL food is processed in some way whether it’s milk, fruit or frozen vegetables. Our processed foods include things like boxed cereal, whole wheat crackers and yogurt. It’s not like we’re living on Little Debbie Cakes here, but we may have Oreos on occasion.

My husband recently became a fitness fanatic, but has never stressed that our girls need to work out. Obviously, we love when they participate in team sports, but they get a daily workout when walking the halls at school and to & from their bus stops. They go on walks with me when time allows, but we are not members of a fancy gym. Having rheumatoid arthritis and pre-diabetes, my girls recognize that I need to move to stay healthy. I wan them to see physical activity as a way to be healthy, not necessarily “skinny”.

We try to handle snacks like any other food. Are you hungry? Please eat something! If you’re eating because you’re bored, go find something to do. My girls know that we’re lucky to have a full pantry and options of things to eat at any time. But they recognize that food insecurity and food waste are real. They are developing a healthy respect for food. Take the food that you want to eat, but don’t overload your plate. They know I cringe when they throw away uneaten food!

Finally, we don’t use the D word (diet) or F word (fat) in our house. Being peri-menopausal is no picnic. I feel a little thicker than usual, but they don’t need to hear that. No one wants to hear “I’m on a diet”. I stress how lucky we are to be healthy, how nutritious food helps them grow and be strong But if we bake cookies or bread, we eat it. FOOD IS FOR EATING is often said in our house when someone has eaten the last apple or cup of yogurt or sometimes the cookie.

Bottom line- use neutral language about food. Use kind words about your bodies. Teach your kids that food is for health, but also enjoyment. Little ears are listening.

 

Avocado tuna salad

Avocado tuna salad

You’ll pinch yourself when you realize how easy and delicious this tuna salad is. There’s no doubt- green is the new black! Avocados have become wildly popular for their versatility, availability and nutritional prowess. Loaded with heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fat, avocados are showing up in everything from pudding to toast.

This salad requires minimum prep time, though you’ll have to chop some onions and celery. It does not contain hard boiled eggs, but you could certainly add them if you like. In addition to mono-unsaturated fat, avocados are also a great source of potassium, a nutrient needed to help reduce blood pressure.

Ingredients:

1, 5 oz. can of albacore tuna (flaked if possible)

1/2 ripe avocado, roughly chopped

1/2 cup minced celery

1/4 cup minced red onion

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl. Using a fork, mash the avocado and break up the chunks of tuna as you mix the ingredients. Add more olive oil, salt or pepper if needed. Serve on your favorite cracker, toast or over salad.

Makes 4 servings. Nutrition facts per serving: 177 calories, 12 grams fat, 11.5 grams protein, 7 grams carbohydrate, 4 gram fiber, 18 mg cholesterol, 475 mg sodium.

Mediterranean farro salad

Mediterranean farro salad

This springs’ harvest of vegetables belong in this simple, delicious salad.  Farro is an ancient ‘super grain’ that cooks up like steel cut oats, meaning it needs more water than other grains (about 4:1 ratio, liquid to grain).  Season it with garlic or onions or light soy sauce as a side dish.  Higher in fiber and protein than other grains, farro is also a good source of several vitamins and minerals.  Farro is a decent source of iron (10% of the daily value)- a nutrient that’s tricky to obtain in vegetarian diets.  Adding a vitamin C rich food (like spinach, bell peppers or tomatoes) boosts the absorption of iron from plant foods such as beans or grains.  Adding a can of white beans or lentils adds protein, soluble fiber and iron to the dish.  This recipe was featured on Fox 19 on 5-9 and was sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill. #sponsored

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups uncooked farro

1/3 cup diced red onion

1 pint grape or tomatoes, cut in half

2 cups fresh spinach leaves

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup Kalamata olives, chopped

1 small cucumber, chopped

½ cup feta cheese

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans (or other white beans), drained and rinsed- optional

1 Tbsp. dried oregano

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare farro according to directions. Set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, oregano and garlic and set aside.
  3. Wash spinach leaves and use a salad spinner to dry. Tear the spinach leaves and place in a large bowl.  Add chopped tomatoes, red onions and cucumbers.
  4. Add farro and white beans to the vegetable mixture, then add the dressing and blend well.
  5. Add feta cheese and olives and toss into the salad and serve.

Makes 10 (1 cup) servings.  Nutrition facts per serving:  340 calories, 11 grams fat, 47 grams carbohydrate, 14.8 grams protein, 8 grams fiber, 7 mg cholesterol, 157 mg sodium, 23 % DV iron

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