kombucha

kombuchaSomewhere along my journey of learning how to heal naturally from Hashimoto’s, I began hearing about the many benefits of fermented foods and drinks. They are loaded with probiotics, and aid in gut and immune health.

Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea and contains beneficial acids and enzymes in addition to probiotic cultures. (more on its benefits here!) It’s fizzy and can be slightly sweet depending on how long you ferment it. The first time I tried it years ago, I absolutely hated it. I think it was mostly that the flavor was so unexpected, and when I finally tried it again I didn’t mind it much. Now I actually really enjoy it.

Making it at home beats store-bought in both price and freshness. It’s really easy and doesn’t take a ton of extra time. The easiest way to start it is to ask around and find a friend who can give you a scoby (the kombucha starter culture, which is very strange looking but totally non-threatening, I promise. It’s name stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”. Yum!) Scobies are always growing new top layers, so it’s great to give pieces away to friends interested in starting their own brew!

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Once you have a scoby, which should hopefully come in about a cup of starter kombucha, you’ll also need:
-1 gallon of filtered water
-5 bags of green tea (or 5 teaspoons of loose leaf- some people use black tea, but it has to be one of the two; herbal won’t work the same way)
-1 cup of granulated sugar (don’t use a substitute here- the scoby “eats” the sugar during the fermentation process, so you don’t end up consuming it)

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1. Bring the gallon of water to a boil, remove from heat and add the tea. Steep for a few minutes and remove bags or strain loose tea.

2. Add the sugar and stir. Cool to completely room temperature (heat will kill your scoby).

3. When the sweetened tea has cooled, pour into a gallon-sized glass container (like a really big mason jar—I just use two, and I have two separate scobies. This fits better in my little kitchen. Cover with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band and let the jar sit in a dark corner at room temperature.

4. Let it ferment for at least a week or up to a few weeks—it will get less sweet and sour towards the end. Taste it, and when it seems right to you, remove the scoby and all but a cup of the kombucha and pour into glass containers (mason jars or these bottles work well). Save the reserved liquid to start your next batch. Store your kombucha in the refrigerator. You can drink this as it is, or you can continue to ferment it for a couple more days in bottles in the fridge—just add in any fruit you wish (fresh or frozen- some good options include berries, ginger, or pineapple), and be sure to burp the bottle each day to release the pressure. After a couple days your kombucha will be fizzy and delicious, and you can strain out the fruit and return the kumbucha to the bottles and keep refrigerated. It will keep for up to a couple months, but I doubt it will last that long!

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Lavender Lemonade

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Lavender Lemonade

7 lemons, juiced
2 limes, juiced
1 drop lavender oil
14 cups water
1-1/2 cup organic agave nectar

Mix all ingredients together and chill.
Add more water or agave, depending on the size and tartness of the fruit.
Be careful that you don’t add more than a drop of lavender oil so that it does not overpower your lemonade.

My friend Sondra and I served this at the first oils class we taught last month and everyone loved it! I’ve made it at home since then and it’s the perfect refreshing, relaxing drink for a weekend afternoon!

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***  Any suggestions made on this blog are very specific to Young Living essential oils and should not be used with oils from another source. Statements made on this website about Young Living Essential Oils have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products and information are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Anyone suffering from disease or injury should consult with a physician. If you are currently on medication, please DO NOT STOP. This is just how I make & do things. you must make informed decision for yourself and your own family. 

“We are starting our journey with Essential Oils and have done our own research on the purity of oils.  I am confident in using oils in our recipes because we only use Young Living.  They are  beyond organic and never use pesticides, herbicides or any harmful chemicals. Their soil has never been exposed to them as well.  I don’t suggest ever using any other oil for ingestion because I don’t know of their purity. “

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Homemade Almond Milk

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I’ve used almond milk for years now in place of regular milk, and since going completely dairy free a few months ago I’ve been using it even more. It’s definitely my milk alternative of choice. I always purchased cartons of it at the store, but then I decided to try making it myself at home and I haven’t bought another jug since! It’s just as good (if not better), super easy, and requires very little time commitment.

And then there’s the savings: I figured out that making it myself cuts the cost almost in half. I buy blanched slivered almonds from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, but really I could go even cheaper and get whole raw almonds with skin on.

The first time I tried this I used cheesecloth to strain it, and there was a lot of grittiness from the pulp left in the milk. Then I saw nut milk bags mentioned somewhere online, and purchased one of these on Amazon, and now I’m a total convert. Completely worth the money, and less wasteful than using cheesecloth and throwing it away!

So here’s how to do it:

Soak 1 cup of raw or blanched almonds in twice as much water for several hours (or over night).

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Drain and rinse the almonds and place into a high-powered blender (mine is a Vitamix). Add 3 1/2 cups of filtered water and blend on high for 30-60 seconds until it looks like you’re just blending milk.

Place your nut milk bag into a medium-sized bowl, and hold it open while pouring the contents of the blender into the bag. The lift the bag over the bowl and squeeze, starting at the top and working down. I finish by kind of sectioning off pieces of the pulp and squeezing those, just to get every last drop.

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Use a funnel to pour the milk into a 32 ounce glass container (a quart-sized mason jar is perfect).

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Try to use within 4-5 days, and shake it up before each use. Keep the pulp in a container for up to 4 days.

 

The first time I made it, I saved the pulp but wasn’t really sure what to do with it. After a bit of googling, I found this cracker recipe and fell in love (there is a serious lack of crackers in this frugal gluten free girl’s life lately!). These are sweet and the flavor reminds me of graham crackers; I’m definitely planning to try making some savory almond pulp crackers as well!

Every single time I make a batch this creamy white goodness, I get this hilariously awesome feeling of self-sufficiency and green domestic goddess-ness. I mean, I just made milk.

Yes I realize you’re laughing at me right now. But seriously, try it! It’s pretty empowering.

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avocado mango salad

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This salad. I’m a little obsessed. I could eat it every day, at any time of the day. And it’s super seasonal right now (here at least). Yum!

How to make it:

1 avocado, cut into cubes
1 small-medium mango (I love those small yellow “honey” mangoes!), cut into cubes
juice of 1/2 lime
handful of chopped fresh cilantro
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt, kosher, whatever)
optional: 1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained

Combine all of the above in a bowl. Mix and enjoy!

 

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The Juice of the Week | 01

Hello there! Life has been so full lately. Isaac turned one (whaat?! I know!), and we threw a party for him and Seth, whose birthday was a few weeks ago. I’m preparing to shoot my first wedding of the year- actually my first since Isaac was born, this coming Saturday. I’m so excited to get back to weddings, and this one is going to be amazing!

Something interesting happened concerning my headaches. A friend of mine told me about her acupunnturist, and strongly encouraged me to give him a try. I’ve had acupuncture before, with mixed results, and I ended up deciding that it wasn’t working for me. She explained that different acupuncturists can work differently though (makes sense), and this guy had worked wonders for her and her husband. So I made an appointment, and went last week. Dr. M seemed to know exactly what my problem is, and was totally confident that I would feel completely better with as little as one treatment and an herbal supplement he prescribed. He also told me to avoid caffeine, but was confident that gluten sensitivty isn’t an issue for me. I left feeling so hopeful and encouraged by his confidence. It’s been one week, and I’ve still had headaches every day, but he did say it could take a little while and that I may need more treatments. So I’m still hopeful (though I’ll admit I was hoping for an immediate change), and I’ll be booking another appointment soon. I’ll keep you updated as I continue with it.

Even though I’d only been off gluten for a bit over a month, I decided to try eating it again after what Dr. M said. The verdict is still out. I’m not sure if it is a cooincidence or not, but a day after I intruduced it back into my diet, I had the most awful, painful bloating (tmi? I’m sorry). My digestive system is so sensitive, and it’s always been pretty hard me to figure out what ticks it off. So I may remove gluten again after all.

Anyway, since juicing is a huge part of my life now- I juice at least once, and sometimes twice, a day- I thought I’d start sharing some of my favorite concoctions here. We just upgraded our juicer, and I couldn’t be more excited about my Omega 8006. Seriously, I’m in love! It is a masticating juicer, where the one I had before was a centrifugal. (You can read about the different types here if you’re interested.)

So without further ado, here’s the juice of the week!

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This is what I’m drinking at this very moment as I type, and it’s delicious! I keep the stems from all our broccoli for juice, because there are nutrients there too, and I try to use every part of the produce we purchase.

I bought my sunflower sprouts at Whole Foods yesterday, but I would really love to try growing them myself. I may need to wait until we move due to space constraints. Have any of you grown your own sprouts? Any tips? I think sunflower sprouts need a bed of dirt, but maybe I’ll try a different kind that I can do in a jar for now…

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Breakfast Quinoa

In these first weeks as a mom of two I’ve been learning that in order to eat the way I want (whole, unprocessed foods, mostly plant-based), I must prepare in advance. I try to make things for the week when Manny is home from work, including basics like grains and beans, and snacks that are easy to grab during the day.

One of my staples is quinoa. I love it, and usually try to have a batch cooked and ready in the fridge. I’ll pull it out to top a salad, or eat with sautéed veggies or as a quick side for dinner. It’s pretty awesome stuff.

Even if you don’t cook it ahead of time, it is a pretty quick food to prepare.
Just combine 2 cups of water per 1 cup of quinoa in a saucepan. {I rinse my quinoa in a fine strainer first to get  rid of any residual bitterness that might be left.}
Bring it to a boil. Then turn it to low and let it simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes.
And done.

I’ve been dressing it up a bit for breakfast lately, like this:

Breakfast Quinoa

Combine 1 cup of rinsed quinoa and 2 cups of water in a saucepan, and set to high heat.

While this is heating, add in:
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup chopped apple
pinch of salt
dashes of cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon
*all measurements approximate. adjust to tast. I’m one of those toss-it-in type of cooks :)

Once this comes to a boil, turn the heat down to low, cover, and allow to cook for 15 minutes.
Drizzle with some honey, and enjoy!

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A few interesting things about quinoa:
~ It has 14 grams of protein per serving, and is a complete protein on its own (unlike other grains).
~ Quinoa is actually a seed, and more closely related to beets and spinach than to grain species.
~ In its natural state, it has a bitter-tasting coating called saponin, which is removed for distribution as food. This saponin has been used in South American cultures as a soap, and as an antiseptic for skin injuries.

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Seasonal Sweetness

My husband’s parents have the most amazing backyard. Hammocks, sitting areas, and so many beautiful (and delicious) plants. Thankfully, we spend a fair amount of time with them and are able to enjoy it all.
Right now, the mango tree is reaching its peak. We have the tastiest mangoes I’ve ever eaten, literally anytime we want. Here’s a glimpse of the bounty…

It’s things like this that make me thankful to live in this place.

If you know any awesome mango recipes, please post in the comments. We don’t want any to go to waste!

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Drink to your Health

Today on my photography blog, I posted this photo for the 52 weeks project I’m part of. Our theme this week was beginnings, and I wrote a little about the changes I’ve been making to the way I eat, and the beginnings of my journey into running.

I mentioned the Crazy Sexy Diet in my last post. When I first started reading it, I knew that it was going to spur change in my life. I was almost scared to start it, but I am so glad I did.

I was a vegetarian for years before I got married, and afterward kind of off and on. I started eating meat and dairy again because it was easier- easier to get protein that way, easier not to cook separate things for myself and my husband, easier to eat out or at other peoples’ homes. Still, I have known all along that it is not the ideal way of eating, and that my body just doesn’t like those things. Animal products and processed foods clog up the system and cause all kinds of problems, and this was always in the back of my mind while I was consuming them and then suffering from stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, heartburn, and skin problems. Well, Kris Carr’s book has brought it to the forefront of my mind again, and I am choosing to treat my body better. I may like the flavors of the food I’ve been eating, but it just isn’t worth feeling awful now and jeopardizing my long-term health. And I know from experience that after a while, those toxins leave your body and you don’t really crave the same foods you once did.

Raw foods, juices, and smoothies are a big part of the Crazy Sexy Diet.
I love smoothies and juicing- they are one of my favorite ways to “eat” my veggies. Kris Carr’s “Make Juice Not War” Green Juice is awesome. You can use romaine lettuce in place of the sprouts, or play around with different greens like spinach and parsley.

Green smoothies are also amazing. I’m not sure I have ever made two exactly the same, but this is one of my basic recipes:

Creamy Greenie Smoothie

1/2 avocado (or 1/4 of one of those really large, lighter-colored ones)
1 banana
handful of spinach
about a cup of coconut water
a drizzle of agave nectar

Then you can go nuts and be creative. Use only half a banana and then add some berries, kiwi, or pineapple. Use cucumber instead of (or in addition to) the avocado. Throw in some broccoli or alfalfa sprouts if you have them. You get the idea. Enjoy :)

{p.s.- Even my 2 year old will drink this. I’m not kidding.}

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Thinking of Spring

I feel the season changing- even though I am in Florida, where the seasons do not really change. Still, the impending Spring is affecting me. The outdoors call to me. I want to play outside and soak up the sun all day. I am gardening again- growing basil and snap peas and lettuce. I’m going to plant more seeds this week. I adore the green markets and going for walks with Seth. Our sliding doors are open very often these days.

I yearn for change, for newness. I’m getting new ideas and starting new projects. I have even been thinking about doing something totally different with my hair. I’m reading Kris Carr‘s new book, Crazy Sexy Diet, and I am loving it. I have been getting more and more migraines again, and am so tired of feeling that way and letting it affect my life so much. I know (and have always known) deep down that food is the root of it, and am ready to make drastic changes. I have such a desire to eat in a way that makes me feel vibrant and alive and healthy. I also want to be more active- even possibly start running. (Dare I type that where others can see? Now I have to try!)

In the grocery store recently, I decided to buy myself some flowers. (If you have never done this, I highly recommend it! It’s such a simple way to feel love on yourself.) Tulips especially signify Spring, newness, and vibrancy to me- I thought these white ones were so pure and lovely.

How do you feel Spring making its way into your world lately?

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A {LOVE}ly Breakfast

This morning I made and enjoyed these heart-shaped pancakes with my two funny valentines.

This is my favorite pancake recipe, adapted only slightly from The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook. They’re whole wheat, so they’re better for you and keep you feeling full longer. I usually put chopped bananas in the batter, but they would also be great with blueberries, chocolate chips, or just by themselves with some real maple syrup and butter.

What I love about this recipe is that you make the dry mix ahead of time and store it. It lasts through several pancake mornings, and we get from-scratch pancakes without tired mama having to think too much too early :)

The mix:

4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

Whisk all ingredients together until well combined, and store in an airtight 2-quart container.

Whole Grain Pancakes:

1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons oil
1 1/2 cups of the above mix
{optional: chopped bananas, blueberries, chocolate chips, apples, etc.}

Preheat griddle or skillet on medium heat. Beat egg and milk together until smooth, then beat in the oil. Stir the mix into the wet ingredients. If you’re adding bananas or anything else, stir in gently now. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more milk. Batter should spread on griddle but not run. Cook on  preheated, lightly oiled griddle or skillet until golden brown on both sides.

One things my mom told me about pancakes, that always  stuck in my mind, is that when there are lots of bubbles coming to the surface of side one, it’s about time to flip it over.

To make a heart, drip little by little, starting with one side of the heart, spreading it down, and then dripping the other side of the heart and spreading it down to join the two. Other fun shapes include butterflies, snowmen, and funny faces (with ears and hair, and kids can used fruit for the eyes, nose and mouth).

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I hope you’re having a love-filled Valentine’s day. Seth is going to grandma’s house tonight, and we’re staying to make dinner and watch a movie together. I’m looking forward to a leisurely and uninterrupted evening with my hubby!

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