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.
Despite the recent warm up in temperatures, I still consider February to be soup season. In all honesty, I eat soup almost year-round with the exception of July and August when the temps rise above 90 in Cincinnati.
I have picked up a few tricks to making soup faster and more delicious as I almost always do soup as a food demo for companies. It’s a recipe that can easily be scaled for a larger crowd and I’ve never had a complaint of a bad recipe.
Here are a few tips to make a tastier, healthier soup:
- Sautee dried herbs and spices along with onions and garlic. This enhances the flavor of your soup. If you are adding fresh herbs like basil, cilantro or parsley, add them at the end.
- Consider corn oil when you cook. Corn oil has 10 x more plant sterols, a chemical found to lower LDL (lousy) cholesterol than coconut oil, 4 times more than olive oil and 1 1/2 times more than canola oil. It’s also less expensive than most of the above cooking oils.
- Add beans or lentils to your soup. This boosts protein and fiber and makes a more filling, hearty soup. Lentils take about 2 hours to simmer before they soften, but canned beans are pre-cooked and ready in about 20 minutes.
- Use frozen spinach or peppers to boost color, flavor and nutrition in your soup. These are inexpensive ways to sneak in more veggies without having to chop them.
- Use reduced sodium stock to cut back on the salt in recipes.It’s great if you’ve got your own homemade stock, but most of us don’t have the “thyme” (har har). Despite popular opinion, there are not any health advantages to bone broth. It does make a tastier stock, but it not going to cure cancer, anemia or any other ailment.
Below is one of my favorite soup recipes. Enjoy!
1 Tbsp. corn oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. basil
1 tbsp. rosemary
1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz can, keep liquid)
2 cans white beans (drained and rinsed)
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 box chopped frozen spinach
Turkey pepperoni (optional)
Sautee onions, garlic and spices in corn oil until the onions are translucent. Add broth, tomatoes, spinach, and beans and continue to simmer on low heat until soup thickens (~30 minutes). Serve with shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese and your favorite crusty bread.
Makes 12 servings. Nutrition Facts per serving: 160 calories, .2 grams fat, 10 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrate, 8grams fiber, 107 mg sodium
Oops! You’ve done it again. You agreed to that last beer at closing time, tequila shot with your persuasive friends, or victory champagne after the Eagles win. Here are 5 tips to get your brain and body back to full throttle today:
Ginger tea or peppermint. Ginger has been used for centuries as a natural nausea cure. It’s not just for morning sickness! Try ginger tea, ginger ale or non-alcoholic ginger beer to calm your stomach. Peppermint oil relaxes stomach muscles and can have a soothing effect. Peppermint oil is often used with IBS, but should be avoided in those with reflux, as it lowers esophageal sphincter pressure. The sugar in peppermint candy will raise blood sugar, too for energy.
Toast or crackers. Normally when blood sugar is low, your liver kicks in to release sugar from stored glucose (called glycogen). But if it’s been metabolizing alcohol all night, it can’t handle the extra work. Toast, crackers, bread or any other carbohydrates (like fruit) will bring your blood sugar up and give you energy.
Water, water, water. It’s a known fact that alcohol is a diuretic- meaning it will make you pee most of the night, resulting in dehydration and a headache. If you can, drink at least 2 glasses before going to bed the night before. If not, start drinking as soon as you wake up. You CAN over-hydrate yourself- resulting in hyponatremia (low blood sodium) and brain edema. Three liters/day is plenty for most people. Seltzer is another good option for an upset stomach.
Coffee. If you’re a regular consumer of coffee, you’ll need it to prevent a headache. But overdoing it, won’t help as it is also a diuretic. Too much can cause stomach upset. Enjoy your usual 1-2 cups, but continue to hydrate throughout the day.
Pain meds. Stick with aspirin, Naproxen or Ibuprofen for your hangover headache. Tylenol mixed with alcohol can lead to liver damage. Take your non-steroidal drugs with food or a glass of milk as they can eat up your stomach lining over time.
I take my kitchen for granted. Last year, I turned 50 and decided that what I really wanted for my birthday was an upgrade in appliances. We spend the majority of time in our kitchen, so this was the equivalent of new furniture to me. Our dishwasher with the robin’s egg blue liner survived the 50’s and our white stove top had nasty splotches of burnt yellow in several spots. The microwave was not awful, but once you replace the stove, the microwave has to match. We kept our white frig since it was still fairly new.
Today I met someone that does not have a functioning kitchen. Her frig is the college dorm type where the freezer is a layer of useless frost. She’s very limited with space and cannot keep much perishable food. She only has a microwave and a toaster oven to cook with. In addition, she’s on a limited budget. I didn’t realize how good I had it to have functioning appliances. I was so spoiled to want new ones.
Her main concern was “what can I cook given what I have and still eat fairly healthy”? She’s been living on grab and go foods at our local grocery, some that were healthy and the others pretty processed. Below are 3 simple recipes to create with limited cash, space and appliances.
- Black bean burritos.
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2% milk shredded cheese
4 whole wheat tortillas
- Place the beans and 3 Tbsp. salsa in a microwave safe bowl and mix together. Microwave for ~2 minutes, stir and microwave again for 2 minutes.
- Place 3 Tbsp. black beans on a whole wheat tortilla with 2 Tbsp. shredded cheese.
- Roll up and eat with additional salsa.
Makes 4 servings.
- Green eggs, no pan
1 tsp. water
Non-stick cooking spray
1 cup fresh spinach leaves or other chopped veggies (onions, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.)
1 tsp. shredded cheddar cheese
1 whole wheat English muffin (optional)
Spray the inside of a small, glass cereal bowl with non-stick spray.
Crack 1 egg and add 1 tsp. water and scramble the egg in the bowl.
Place fresh spinach over the egg and microwave for 1 minute.
While the egg is cooking, toast the English muffin.
Take the egg out of the microwave and sprinkle cheese over the spinach.
Microwave the egg again for 20-30 seconds until the cheese is melted.
Take the muffin out of the toaster and put on a plate.
Fold the egg over twice and place on one half of the muffin, then place the other half of the muffin over it to make a sandwich.
Makes 1 sandwich, but more can be made.
- Thai peanut noodles with chicken
1 (16 oz bag) cooked pasta (Barilla)
1 can cooked chicken, drained
2/3 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp. Teriyaki sauce
1/2 cup water
Place cooked pasta and chicken in a bowl
In a separate bowl, combine 2/3 cup peanut butter, ½ cup water and 2 Tbsp. teriyaki sauce.
Microwave the sauce for 2 minutes and stir when done.
Pour peanut sauce over the noodles and serve.
Makes 6 servings.
It’s hard to believe it’s almost mid-January. If you’re like many of my clients, you might be beating yourself up over the cookies and/or alcohol you consumed over the holidays The past is past. It’s time to move forward! Below is a great article with tips from dietitians from all over the country (including yours truly) on getting back into the swing of things after an indulgent 6 weeks.
Farmer’s Daughter: Get down with a new diet — the right way
Growing up in an Italian family, calories, fat and fiber were not exactly on the forefront of my mother’s brain. I admit that I grew up on sausage, meatballs and white pasta. Pizza, olives and all varieties of cheese were staples in our home. But, I give the woman props. She raised five children on my dad’s salary alone. We were a busy family, too- being taxied from band practice to track meets to swim lessons. But unlike today’s families where a trip through the drive-through is a regular outing, eating out ANYWHERE was a treat back then. My mom made sure we had a hot meal on the table every night.
Fast forward 26+ years. I have paired my love of food with my love of health with a career as a dietitian. And while I only have two children, life is still hectic. I made a promise to my husband that unlike my mom, I would work out of the home BUT continue to cook the majority of our meals. And while I’m no chef, I’ve acquired a few simple tricks to make food healthy, while still being yummy. After all, if it doesn’t taste good- who will eat it? Below are some tips to reduce calories and fat and boost fiber in your meals.
To lower calories in your meals, start with vegetables. Today’s meals don’t have to be meat based. Aim to eat at least six servings of vegetables per day. While that sounds like a lot- consider that 1 cup of spinach cooks down to nothing and can be added to your morning omelet. You can also add salsa to your scrambled eggs or snack on pepper strips, cherry tomatoes or snap peas between meals. At lunch, pack frozen vegetables or a side salad to add fiber and fluid to your meals, which has been found to curb appetite.
Another way to reduce calories (as well as fat) is to use leaner meat. When buying ground beef or turkey, look for varieties that are 90% lean or higher. For example, Laura’s Lean beef is 92% lean and 8% fat. Ground turkey can contain just as much fat as ground beef if it is 85% lean and 15% fat. Trim skin off chicken and turkey before cooking as well as fat around pork and steak. Choose lean cuts such as pork tenderloin in place of chops. Grill, bake or broil meat instead of frying. Or go meatless entirely and opt for black beans and brow rice or quinoa for your meal.
To limit fat in recipes, choose dairy products made from skim, 1% or 2% milk. As long as cheese melts- it’s cheese to me! Shredded varieties are often made with reduced fat milk. Butter, oil or other fat can be reduced by 1/4 in baked goods without changing the flavor or texture. Sautee vegetables or lean meat in non-stick cooking spray or broth instead of oil to cut the fat content in your recipes. Try it- you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Another sneaky trick when making dips or dressings is to substitute plain Greek yogurt for sour cream. The tart, tangy taste mimics sour cream and boosts the protein and calcium content of your meal without fat. Don’t even tell your guests you’ve made the switch. It will be your little secret. Try Greek yogurt cream cheese in place of the original. It contains more protein and less fat, with the same great taste.
To boost fiber in your diet, make the switch from white, processed grains to whole grains. While the calorie count is the same in white and brown rice, brown rice digests slower than white, which has been found to regulate blood sugar. Whole wheat pasta boasts 5-6 grams of fiber per serving VS a wimpy 2 grams in traditional white pasta. Go for 100% whole wheat bread over white bread and bran cereal over corn flakes. Eat whole fruit and reduce intake of fruit juice. Add beans to sauces, salads and soups. These are loaded with appetite-killing fiber and your colon will thank you!
Finally- be conscious of portion sizes. It’s fine to eat lower calorie food, but all calories add up. Use a smaller plate, drink plenty of water and stop eating before you’re stuffed.