Tag Archives: real food

Kombucha Me Baby


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Last summer I tried all sorts of lacto-fermented treats. I even started making beet kvass and milk kefir. But over this past winter I have discovered my favorite fermented beverage: kombucha.

I never caught on to the kombucha craze a couple of years ago. I thought it was just a hippie fad. But now that I have been making it and drinking it for the past few months, I am officially addicted.

Kombucha has all sorts of health benefits. It is made with a SCOBY-a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeasts. These are the beneficial bugs that keep the harmful bugs-like e.coli and candida albicans-in their rightful place. Kombucha is also chock full of B vitamins as well as several acids that work to strengthen the body, most notably glucuronic acid, which is a natural detoxifier. Our bodies produce glucuronic acid in the liver to help flush toxins out, and it can be depleted by high levels of environmental toxins such as BPA, as well as alcohol consumption, so adding kombucha to your diet is one of the best ways to combat all the toxins in our modern environment.

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Kombucha scobies chillin’ like a villain


In order to brew kombucha, you need a scoby and some sweet tea. We got our scoby from a helpful craigslist poster-they reproduce quite readily, so if you find someone brewing it you can easily buy one off of them. Then make some strong black, green, or oolong tea. It can’t be a kind with essential oils, such as Earl Grey, and it can’t be herbal tea. The natural compounds and acidity of tea is what we want. I use plain black pekoe or a sencha green, or a mix of the two.

Steep your tea is boiling water for at least ten minutes. You want one tea bag (or one teaspoon loose-leaf tea) for each quart of water. After the tea has steeped, stir in 1/4 c of sugar per quart of water. Allow the tea to cool to body temp before adding the scoby. I have been using larger jars I got from goodwill that are 2-4 quarts each, so I will steep 2-3 tea bags in one quart of boiling water, then add 1/2 c sugar, then combine that with a quart of cold filtered water, which brings it to just the right temp and sweetness.

kombucha 002When you add the scoby, you will also need to add about 1/4 cup of kombucha from a previous batch. If you get a scoby from someone, they should have transported the scoby in some kombucha. If they neglected to do that, or you bought a dehydrated one, you can add raw apple cider vinegar. The important thing is to have the right acidity in the mix.

Now comes the hard part-you have to let the kombucha brew. Cover the jar with a thin towel and set in a warm dark place for 7-10 days. The scoby likes it around 72 degrees, so if you have a colder house, it may take longer to brew, or you might want to wrap the jar in a towel. A new scoby will begin to develop on the top of the kombucha. At first it will just look cloudy, and then a white film will form. This film will get thicker as the days pass, until it is a nice rubbery pancake floating on top of your tea goodness. When the brew is done, you can remove the new scoby and the old scoby (which will likely be stuck together) pour the finished kombucha into glass jars to be put in the fridge, and start the process again.

kombucha 001As you can see in the photo above, I like to put chunks of fruit in the bottom of my jars to flavor the kombucha. Here you see half a mango in a quart jar. I fill it with kombucha and then cap it tightly and allow it to sit out an extra day before moving it to the fridge. This intensifies the flavor and carbonates it slightly. The wait is well worth it. I’ve had fun with flavor combinations: berries, kiwi, mango, pear. You could even try some candied ginger or some fruit juice. Just don’t put more than an inch or so of fruit or juice in the bottom, to keep the ratios right.

Kombucha is refreshing, energizing, and most of all, delicious. It’s a fabulous alternative to all that HFCS-laden pop and juice drinks out there. The scoby eats up the sugar you feed it and gives you a tasty fizzy beverage in its place. I highly recommend adding it to your kitchen!


This post is part of Foodie Link Love


Posted by on March 26, 2011 in Things Edible


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Just Beet It

beet-root-bspGrowing up, I hated beets. They had a funny flavor, worse texture, and stained everything on your plate. Of course, the beets that I was eating came out of a can, so they can hardly be called beets. It wasn’t until I was an adult, out on my own and sharing an organic produce box with my roommates, that I discovered beets could actually be cooked in a tasty way.

I still wouldn’t list beets as my favorite vegetable, however. And when I first read in Nourishing Traditions about Beet Kvass, I put that recipe on the “probably won’t try” list. But the more I read about the benefits of this tonic, the more I realized that I should probably make it part of my kitchen routine.

What are these benefits? Besides being a lacto-fermented beverage providing loads of probiotics for healthy intestine function, beet kvass is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, a natural multivitamin, if you will. Most importantly, it supports the liver, which is sadly much abused in our modern world. The liver is our primary cleansing organ, filtering out the toxins in our food and the chemicals we are exposed to in our everyday life. When the liver gets overburdened with toxins, the body responds by either storing the toxins, causing long-term problems, or they look for other methods of getting rid of those toxins, such as through the skin. Acne and eczema can both be results of an overtaxed digestive system.

I can tell that drinking beet kvass regularly helps with my skin issues. If I am feeling itchy, a glass of kvass will calm my system. When I was ill over the holidays, my blood tests showed that my liver enzymes were elevated, a sign that my liver function was impaired. As soon as I got home I started drinking beet kvass every day, and when I went back to the doctor for my follow-up, my liver enzymes had begun to drop, and a few weeks later all my tests were normal.

It may take awhile to get used to the taste of kvass if you are not a fan of beets.  Sally Fallon admits that “you wouldn’t serve it to guests.” But I’ve found that I don’t mind the taste when it is mixed with filtered water or fresh juice or kombucha. And you can also add in carrots or ginger with the beets to give a different flavor if you like. The recipe is very simple, but it is truly worth your time.


Beet Kvass

from Nourishing Traditions

2 medium beets

1 Tbsp. sea salt

1/4 c homemade whey* (or an extra Tbsp. of salt)


Peel and chop beets into one inch chunks. Don’t cut it too small, or the fermentation will occur too quickly and it will turn alcoholic. Place beets with salt and whey in a quart mason jar and fill jar with filtered water. Cover and let sit on counter at room temperature 2-3 days, then transfer to refrigerator.

Drink a few ounces each day, either straight or mixed with filtered water. When most of the liquid is gone, refill the jar with water and let sit out on the counter for another 2 days, After the second batch, discard beets and start again.

If the kvass gets thick and slightly syrupy, that is normal-it means you have a good batch! Just thin it out with filtered water when you drink it.


*Homemade whey provides a starter culture and can be made from yogurt fairly easily. Line a sieve with cheesecloth or a coffee filter and place over a bowl. Put one cup of yogurt (whole, plain, with active cultures and no fillers) into the sieve and allow to drain for several hours or overnight. You will end up with whey in the bowl, and the yogurt will have become thick like Greek yogurt or a soft cream cheese.

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Posted by on January 31, 2011 in Things Edible


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Chocolate Cream Pie

My brother doesn’t like pie.

Well, I should clarify. I have four younger brothers, a pack of big lovable brutes, and the oldest of the four (who turns 21 next weekend, oh-em-gee) dislikes pie. If we are all having pie and ice cream, he will just have the ice cream, even if the pie is Mom’s perfectly cooked apple pie, for which she is famous.

The only pie that turns this brother on is chocolate cream pie. It makes sense-it’s sort of like chocolate ice cream in pie form, something between cheesecake and pudding, both of which he does enjoy. Our family holiday tradition has been to include a chocolate cream pie every year at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. In years past this has meant standing over a saucepan stirring boxed pudding mix into milk, and then pouring into a prebaked pie shell. But I knew I could do better than that. With my foray into the world of real food and slightly more sophisticated cooking, I could leave the pudding box with its ingredient list of scary chemicals in the dust.

So I did some searching through recipes and blog posts and finally decided to try a decadent-looking mousse recipe from Orangette. Molly knows her chocolate, and I figured the mousse would do just as well in a pie shell as in a teacup. I tinkered with the recipe a little, to give it my own flair, and just to gild the lily a bit I brushed the baked pie shell with chocolate ganache, which I then chilled before spooning in the mousse. It’s a little thing, but it takes the whole package right over the edge.

Despite the multiple steps, this is actually a very simple and easy recipe, and depending on the quality of chocolate you get, it’s not too unhealthy. There is very little added sugar and the focus is on the chocolate, eggs, and cream. While I wouldn’t recommend it as an everyday menu item, if you use good ingredients you can certainly enjoy this as part of your next celebration, without too much guilt.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Pie shell:

1 1/4 c flour (I use 3/4 c whole wheat pastry and 1/2 c all-purpose)

1/2 tsp each salt and sugar

1 stick cold butter + 2 Tbls lard (or just more butter)

1 Tbls liquid whey (optional, but it helps break down the flour, making it more tender and digestible)

1/4-1/2 c cold water

A food processor makes pie crust easy: Pulse flour, salt, and sugar with the butter and lard until fat is pea-sized. Then mix whey into 1/4 c cold water and add slowly, pulsing until dough starts to come together.  Use more water if needed. Form dough into a disk, wrap, and chill overnight. The next morning, roll out, press into pie plate, and bake 15-20 min  at 375 or until golden.


Mix about half a cup of chopped chocolate-dark, semi-sweet, or bittersweet-with about 1/4 c heavy cream. Melt and stir until smooth, then spread on the baked pie crust. Chill while you prepare the mousse.


8 oz bittersweet chocolate (the first time I made this, I only had semisweet chocolate chips on hand, and it turned out fine. But the second I used a nice Callebaut baking chocolate, and the difference was worth it)

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp instant espresso or very finely ground dark coffee

1/4 tsp cinnamon

5 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp bourbon (Molly uses whiskey or brandy, but we only ever have bourbon and scotch around here)

2 pastured eggs, separated

2 tsp  sugar, divided

1/8 tsp salt

1 c plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream

Combine chocolate, cocoa, espresso, water, and bourbon in a double boiler or a glass bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water.  Melt chocolate, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth and glossy.

Remove from heat. Whip egg yolks with 1 tsp sugar and 1/8  tsp salt until slightly thickened, about a minute. Combine egg yolks and chocolate slowly, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. When chocolate is again smooth, set aside and turn to the egg whites. Beat them with the other 1 tsp of sugar in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Molly recommends detaching the whisk and bowl from the mixer and using the whisk to scrape up any unbeaten egg whites from the bottom, then using the whisk to mix about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate. Then use a large spatula to gently fold in the rest of the egg whites, until they are mostly incorporated and only a few streaks remain.

Using the same bowl and whisk, beat the cream in the stand mixer to soft peaks. Again, use a spatula to gently fold  the whipped cream into the chocolate, until fully incorporated. The mousse will be very soft and have turned a lovely light chocolatey color. Spoon into the pie shell and chill, at least two hours but overnight is best. Serve with lightly sweetened whip cream.

There you have it-a much tastier and healthier answer to the desire for chocolate cream pie. Next year I’ll have to tackle the other pie that used the boxed pudding: lemon. I’m sure with some fresh lemon juice and pastured eggs we can turn that one into a real food dessert as well!

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Posted by on December 27, 2010 in Things Edible


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Getting Back in the Kitchen

Three weeks ago I was deep in the throes of Thanksgiving planning, trying out pie crust recipes and trying to figure out how to best utilize my oven to cook both tasty free-range turkeys we had purchased, along with squash and potatoes and sourdough rolls and of course, lots and lots of gravy. My parents, brothers, and in-laws were all coming, bringing traditional family dishes like candied yams and green bean casserole. My only concern was whether the snow surrounding our house would melt soon enough for me to go out to the store for more butter and eggs.

Unfortunately, my grand feast never quite materialized. I came down sick on Wednesday, and spent most of Thursday on the couch while my wonderful husband and his fabulous parents did almost all of the cooking. My family ended up stuck at home with a touch of the stomach flu, so no tasty stuffing graced my table (I’m still waiting for a taste of mom’s stuffing and candied yams!). We did the best we could, but it wasn’t the holiday I had envisioned.

It went from bad to worse as I got sicker and sicker, and ended up in the hospital the following Monday with a nasty viral infection. While I have come to resist the idea of taking conventional drugs needlessly, I was so dangerously sick as to require IV antiviral and antibiotic medication, as well as narcotic painkillers and a steady dose of fluids and vaccines. Fortunately, though prayer and good doctors I made it through and was allowed to come home after almost a week in the hospital.

I’m still regaining my strength and healing from my little adventure, but it has been good to be home and in control of my diet again. There are only so many good options on the hospital cafeteria menu. Fortunately I had a good stock of beet kvass and kefir already fermented to help the healing process, as well as several quarts of turkey stock that my husband had made and frozen before we had to leave the house. I’m planning to make a couple batches of fermented veggies this week, and I’m loading up on all the healthy fats I can.  With the Christmas season upon us, I am looking forward to trying new real food recipes, like homemade egg nog and new cookie recipes using some sprouted flour I recently purchased.

We’re back in the saddle here at Ruminations-more recipes on the way!

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Posted by on December 15, 2010 in Things Edible


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Grain-Free: Trial and Errors

It’s been a week since we officially ended our grain-free trial (by consuming a wonderful meal of sushi and tempura, oh yum) and I am just now starting to recover. The wave of detox and die-off symptoms that were instigated by our experiment have been frustrating to say the least, but I have definitely learned a lot that will inform our future ventures into GAPS territory. If you are thinking about trying GAPS, SCD, or any other detox program, here are a few things we’ve learned:

1. Just one change can make a huge impact

We weren’t doing full GAPS, just cutting out grains.  Not hard, I thought.  We still ate lots of nutrient dense foods, fairly limited amounts of sugar, and probiotic-rich foods. But just that one thing of eliminating grains was enough to cause a HUGE reaction, as it took away one of the primary food sources for toxic bacteria in the gut, causing a lot of die-off. And what happens when bad bacteria die? They leave behind their toxic corpses for the body to flush out, overwhelming the natural systems that would usually handle those toxins. And where do excess toxins show up? Why, in the skin and lymphatic tissues, as the body tries to get rid of them any which way it can. And that means excema, flu symptoms, and headaches. Fun times.

2. For goodness’ sake, GO SLOWLY

When the books and experts tell you to go slowly, believe them. You can’t eliminate grains and sugars and dose your body with a bunch of probiotics all at once.  Because I didn’t think I was going to cause such a change, I didn’t reduce my probiotic supplements or the amount of probiotics foods I was eating. All those things, while good, cause the war in your intestines to rage even fiercer, and accelerate the die-off, to the point where the healing is actually more damaging to you than the toxins. If you go on a detox, carefully evaluate the foods and supplements that you are taking and reduce the amount of probiotics until after you have tried the diet for a few days and you feel like you can handle the detox.

3. And speaking of supplements…

Know what is in them! I had stopped taking my probiotics but was still experiencing a lot of die-off symptoms, and was confused as to why they were not abating. Then this week I discovered that my multivitamin has a full dose of probiotics already built in! So I was still intensifying the die-off without even knowing it.  Stop as many supplements as you can and focus on eating good foods, then slowly add supplements back in, testing for reactions.

4. Rest

You can’t expect your body to go through this hard work of cleaning out toxins and expect to have a lot of energy. Getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep and keeping your stress levels down is essential. Our modern fast-paced society already has a problem with adrenal fatigue, and we should all try to get more sleep and less caffeine, but it is even more crucial when your body is trying to heal. If you had the flu or a sinus infection, you would stay home and rest and drink lots of homemade chicken soup, right? Well, I hope so, because that’s what would help you get better, and that’s what will help you on GAPS, SCD, or any detoxing program. Not only did I not get any extra rest, but we had busy weekends and long workweeks that just made things worse.

5. Just because you eat healthy now, doesn’t mean you are healthy

Part of the reason I didn’t expect such a huge reaction is because we have changed our diet so much this year already. We’ve reduced our grain consumption overall and mostly eat sourdough or sprouted grains. We eat pastured eggs, grass-fed beef, and organic produce. I make most of our food from scratch and eat homemade fermented veggies to provide nutrients and probiotics. In general, my health had improved greatly. But a few months of good eating is not enough to undo decades of antibiotics, steroids, bad diets, and environmental toxins. Toxins are generally stored in your fat tissues, and when you lose seven pounds in two weeks, you flood your system with a lot of bad stuff that it has been hanging on to for years. You have to be prepared to deal with that.

All in all, despite the struggles, I feel that this was a good learning experience and will pave the way for future excursions into the GAPS diet which will ultimately lead to further healing in my life. Next time I’ll be smarter with it, starting with the Intro Diet and progressing very slowly. I’ll also be sure to have some calendula salve on hand to help the eczema!  One thing I do know, however, is that I don’t want to continue to walk around with all these toxins in my body.  It might take a long time, and be a hard road, but I want to be healthy.

There are a lot of resources out there to help with the process, and if you are considering GAPS, I highly recommend you check out the support groups on Yahoo (just go to yahoo groups and search for GAPS) as well as the bloggers that are going through GAPS themselves or have found good results from it. Here’s a few for you to check out:

GAPS Guide

Health, Home, and Happiness

Healthy Home Economist

Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Kat’s Food Blog

Kitchen Stewardship

Here’s to your health, and creating a legacy of health in your family.


Posted by on October 22, 2010 in Things Edible


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Whole Foods for the Holidays: Soup is So Simple

I’m excited for the Whole Foods for the Holidays Progressive Dinner being hosted by several real food bloggers over the next few weeks. Today it starts out with soup. I posted my summer zucchini soup a few weeks back but it is so versatile that I find it can be used in any season just by switching out the main vegetable-it’s more of a formula than a recipe. Last week I made it using leeks and cabbage with some kale, skipping the coconut milk. The week before I made it with fish stock and leftover salmon. It’s a wonderful, budget-friendly, nourishing soup that is great on a cold day.


Simple Garden Soup Formula

1 medium onion, diced or a large leek, sliced into half moons

2 carrots, sliced

2-3 Tbsp butter, lard, or coconut oil

3 small zucchini or a small head of cabbage, sliced

2 Tbsp fresh herbs-basil, thyme, oregano, and/or parsley, chopped or 1 Tbsp dried

juice of one lemon

1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced

3 cups bone broth

1 can coconut milk (Native Forest has BPA-free cans!)

salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion or leek and carrot in fat of choice (I used pork drippings from a roast). After 5 minutes, add zucchini or other vegetable and herbs, along with salt and pepper. If you wanted to add heat, you could put in a minced jalapeno or some cayenne pepper here. Then add in lemon juice and tomatoes. After a couple more minutes, add stock and bring to a low boil, 2-3 minutes for zucchini, 5-10 minutes for cabbage. Reduce heat and add coconut milk. Allow to simmer on low for a few minutes so flavors meld.

Seafood soup adaptation: use fish stock instead of bone broth and also add some shrimp or chopped white fish when adding the stock. It’s a great way to use up leftover fish.

What other vegetables would you use?

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Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Things Edible


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Health vs. Weight

As I go through my journey of researching healthy ways to prepare food, make beauty products, and detox from my years of prednisone, steroid creams, and antibiotics, I’m still struggling with my goal of losing weight. After my illness last winter I put on a huge amount of weight in a very short amount of time, and even though I have lost a lot of that I am still the heaviest I’ve been in many many years. While I have a loving and supportive husband who still makes me feel like the most beautiful woman in the universe no matter what, I am personally dissatisfied with how I look right now.

The thing is, I know that I could go on some crash diet program or workout regimen or whatever and drop twenty pounds pretty easily. Heck, I lost seven pounds in two weeks cutting out grains. But I also know that my body has a lot of things it needs to recover from-the eczema, nutritional deficiencies, the stored toxins that those two weeks off grains released into my system.  Now is not the time to put my body through a rigorous and potentially damaging fad diet.

And besides, I keep reading about how dieting puts our bodies into starvation mode, leading us to gain even more weight back after we fall off the wagon. I certainly saw that-I lost fifty pounds through a low-carb diet and extreme exercise schedule, but once I didn’t have time to go to the gym for an hour every day I put back on all the weight that I lost, plus a bit more. And eating restricted diets can cause the nutritional deficiencies that are often at the heart of issues like eczema, low thyroid, blood sugar imbalances, etc. Some health bloggers out there, like Matt Stone, actually contend that the key to weight loss is increasing your metabolism and getting your body out of starvation mode by  eating a lot, so your body sees that it’s not in danger, and it builds up a good storehouse of the nutrients it needs.  I’m still researching this, and don’t plan on overfeeding anytime soon, but it makes a lot of sense.

I felt best this summer when I was eating a lot of really excellent, whole foods that I made from scratch. I lost weight very slowly, but still, I slimmed down. I had energy to do yoga or lift weights a few times a week.  This to me seems a lot healthier than trying to cut my calories down to a level where my system wants to shut down. I know that I want to have a diet that helps to heal gut dysbiosis, so I probably will continue to keep my sugar and grain consumption low, and implement some or all of the GAPS diet as a way to help with some of the health problems I have. With my medical history, that seems the smartest thing. But I’m not going to try to starve myself into a smaller size. My health is much more important than my weight.

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Posted by on October 18, 2010 in Things Edible


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