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Kombucha

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented drink, made by feeding a sweet tea to a kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic community/colony/culture of bacteria and yeast). The resulting beverage is a slightly carbonated, acidic beverage comprised of sugars, organic acids (like butyric acid which is an important anti-inflammatory), vitamins, and minerals (this is a nice detailed analysis). It will contain vinegar, vitamin B, traces of the kombucha SCOBY, and whatever constituents the original tea had (caffeine, polyphenols, volatile oils, etc). As vinegar is produced by acetic acid bacteria (in this case Acetobacter xylinum) feeding on ethanol (that’s regular old alcohol) in the presence of oxygen (open jar), there can also be tiny traces of alcohol.

Kombucha has been around for thousands of years, and has long been used by traditional cultures to improve digestion, boost immunity, eliminate kidney stones, reduce high blood pressure, and create sustained and lasting energy.

14 cups water
8 tea bags
1 cup sugar
1 SCOBY
paper towel
elastic band
1 gallon jar
bottles for bottling
2 cups reserved kombucha from last batch

IMG_00001216Bring the 14 cups of water to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add tea bags and sugar and stir to dissolve sugar. Cool the tea completely. Tea that is too hot will kill the SCOBY.

While the tea is cooling, IMG_00001211get area prepared:  clean surfaces, clean bottles, IMG_00001214clean any spoons, clean measuring cups, clean a plate.  If soap is used, rinse really well as soap can affect growth.  Ideally just use very hot water and sterilize everything. Get your bottles ready to take the new batch of kombucha. Metal kills kombucha. Don’t use metal lid or store in anything but glass.

Bring out last weeks brew and gingerly remove the SCOBYIMG_00001218 from the batch and place on a plate. Remove yeast if too much has grown. The yeast is the brown hairy things that are growing and sticking to everything. Measure out two cups of the kombucha and set aside. Pour remaining kombucha into bottles. I don’t carbonate mine as I prefer room temperature, non carbonated kombucha. Others bottle with pop tops and the kombucha then carbonates. BE AWARE… that when you do this, you create a champagne like environment and I have also inadvertently sprayed kombucha all over the kitchen… you want a brewery smell? that is a sure way to get one….

bottle kombucha

bottled kombucha

Pour tea into gallon jug til about 3/4 full,  add SCOBY, add the 2 cups reserved tea from previous batch. It should fill up until the ‘shoulder’ of the jar. You need a bit of room for expansion of the SCOBY.  Cover with paper towel and an elastic or a piece of cloth.  Don’t use cheesecloth as fruit flies know how to get through cheesecloth.IMG_00001192

Invest in some jars you want to bottle with. I purchased a very great jug at London Drugs for $7 that has a rubber twist seal on it. We leave it on the counter and keep the kombucha close at hand so we drink frequently. Keeping it at room temp also means that it continues to grow. If you put in fridge, it will stop growing. Growing means that you will always get the start of a new SCOBY as slimy scum on the top of your kombucha. I just chuck these little guys into the compost.kombucha jug

I make kombucha each Saturday morning. I have a warm environment to store it in so our batches grow quick… and we like the taste of 1 week kombucha. Others brew for 2 weeks and it becomes much more vinegar like as the sugar gets all eaten up. You will find your happy medium. It should not be too sweet. The longer the brew, the healthier for you supposedly. Less sugar, less caffeine and the like.

Other instructions and observations suggest a variety of methods and tips: -Don’t move the jar too much for the 1 week – 2 weeks its brewing -Use tea that does not have too much oil ie. earl grey -A few bags of herbal tea can be added for a different taste experience -Without too much disturbing, ensure the SCOBY continues to be covered in the tea and to not get too dried out at the top -Green tea works but the batches seem to take longer -When bottling, flavours can be added… ie… herbs, fruit etc.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Food, Recipes

 

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Its raining zucchini… actually its more like flooding…or maybe its time for pizza?

Zucchini season is in full swing. When I was looking up new zucchini recipes last week, I found that August 8 is actually ‘National Leave Zucchini on Your Neighbours’s Porch Day’  The idea was that you snuck over to your neighbour’s place and stealthily placed zucchini on their porch… this if your neighbour has a porch of course… or doesn’t have a gate… or a dog…. or ?     I think that concept is more figuratively than literal, but I did have a good chuckle as I pictured myself dressed all in black, at night…. sneaking around with baseball bat sized zucchini….
What I did find was some great websites for recipes.  One gal had 20 ways to use zucchini.  In amongst all of them I found a few that really caught my eye. This one seems to be the winner.  I put up a brief description on FB already but thought I had better follow with a blog.

And the winner is zucchini pizza!  It’s really simple and works tremendously on the hot days as it’s all on the grill.  Most people have not picked zucchini at its prime when its nice and slender, so once it gets to about 3 inch diameter, its perfect for this.  Any larger and the centre gets a little too weak.
Get the grill hot and oil it for non-sticking purposes. Slice the zucchini on the round, about 3/4 inch thick. Grill for 8 minutes with the lid closed.  Remove the slices to a pan, grilled side up, and bring to where the rest of your ingredients are.  I found it easier to just bring back into the kitchen to assemble instead of bringing all the ingredients to the grill.

I started with pizza sauce, then added diced ham and pineapple tidbits.On this occasion I made 12, so I did 6 for Don and 6 for me. For his I used goat mozzarella.  For mine just regular.

In the picture, the top cheese is the regular, cow’s mozza, and the lower stuff is the goat mozza.  You can see that the regular one is more yellow… it’s because of the fat content….its higher.  I have made mozzarella from scratch… (see one of my earlier posts) and the full fat mozza comes out far more yellow.

I had some left over bacon bits and chives from last night’s baked potatoes, so I decided to add them to the tropical theme.
Now they went back on the grill for another 8 minutes.  I did them over low heat but had the other 2 burners on high.  The grill then operated like an oven and the cheese got nice a browned up.

And then they were ready to eat.  Bon appetit.

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Food, Recipes

 

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Vita-Mix, Rice cooker, Polenta and Parchment. You wanted GF croutons didn’t you?

As the bounty of summer is upon us and at the same time a heat wave, I decided I wanted to try some new and cool ways to enjoy some of the veg.  I have a Vita-Mix so the concept of making cold soups was quite appealing.   Unfortunately, sometimes I mix a few too many things in… I clean out little bits of things left in the fridge and end up with… shall we say…a pale beigy green soup…. ummmmmm…

One time I even didn’t attach the lid on and had the nice green goop all over the kitchen ceiling.  When they tell you to ensure that the lid is attached properly.. THEY ARE NOT LYING.

Anyways… with the Vita-Mix, if you puree to your hearts content, the soup actually gets hot but not boiling so the enzymes are still alive ( which makes it healthy incase you were wondering).  It has a 2 amp motor so it can whiz and whir like a commercial robot coupe.  But back to cold soups… in order for things to be cold in the Vita-Mix, it is usually necessary to add ice cubes to the mix… or…. make the soup and put it in the fridge.  So my next attempt is going to be a green gazpacho with ice cubes. You whiz it and then immediately serve it.  Ideally it will taste OK as I am going to be serving it to company. I know, I am nuts.

Well on one of the cold soup websites, one of the garnishes was Polenta croutons.  As Don is GF, this seemed like a great idea.  The only problem being is that you have to cook them at 450 in the oven and who wants to do that in the heat? Good concept, bad timing.

So I cooked up a batch of Polenta in the rice cooker.  My cooker has a porridge setting which is the ideal one for Polenta.  Just don’t forget to stir at least once. If you don’t, you will have goo on the top and crust on the bottom… not palatable at all. I set a timer for 25 minutes and give a really, really good stir to get all the lumps smoothed out.  When it was cooked, I mixed in a bit of cayenne, olive oil and sea salt.

Anyways, now I had Polenta and I had to find a time to heat up the oven that didn’t make the house unbearable.  I laid it out on cookie sheet, shredded some hard goat cheese on it and stuck in the fridge and then proceeded to forget about it.  But… that’s what worked.  It got nice and coagulated and was very easy to cut into small crouton sized dice.

I put them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and baked for 30 minutes, stirring them up twice.  For a more crispy product, you could individually turn each crouton… I of course did not have that patience…  the brown, crispy side was actually the down side.

So now bring on the green gazpacho and we shall see if it all goes together.  Will keep you posted.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Food, Recipes

 

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ah-nyuh-LAHT-tee… really? Agnolotti or priests’ caps… you choose.

agnolotti   Pronunciation:  ah-nyuh-LAHT-tee  Notes:   Italian for “priests’ caps,” agnolotti are small, stuffed crescents of pasta.    A specialty of Italy’s Piedmont region, they’re great in a broth or pasta salad…

On May 11th it was my parents 50th wedding anniversary.  It was also Don’s 49th birthday.  Our whole family… all 8 (plus 1, so 9 to tell the truth) of us headed to Harrison Hot Springs Hotel for an evening of good food, good dancing and a just an all round good time.

On the menu was an Agnolotti.  As I am the resident foodie, when one person in our party did not know what it was… I could explain that it was almost like ravioli except in crescent shapes.  Agnolotti starts with a circle instead of squares as in ravioli.  Its easier to make but has more waste because you cannot use up the portions in between the circles.

With Don headed out on a boat trip for a few days, I took the opportunity to ‘flour’ up the kitchen.  And what a better item to make than these crescent-shaped stuffed pasta.  For the filling I used some swiss cheese, honey ham, red onion and arugula.  I bound it with bread crumbs and bit of water.

I used a crystal glass that had a fine rim to make the perfect circles, I put a small amount of filling on half, circled the edges with egg wash and then sealed.  I think I will cook them with burnt butter and sage sauce….  With the left over ‘wasted’ pasta, I made some spaghetti.  I also used my very cool pasta rolling-pin that Char made me.

And the most ironic part of the Agnolotti on the menu was that when the entrée came… it was ravioli……

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2012 in Food, Recipes

 

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Icewine Marshmallows… or should I say Marsh…mellow…?

My friend Carla Johnson,  who hails from the greater Toronto region, is a fabulous writer and public speaker.  When she was growing up her mother would add wine to the food that was being cooked and her Mennonite Granny, suitably horrified, called it ‘cooking with sin’. hee hee.

Fast forward a generation and Carla pens a book that weaves recipes and stories together in a wonderful tale.  Cooking with Sin is born.

Occasionally Carla links to one of my recipes if it includes alcohol.  Recently on her facebook page she had a link to a recipe for Icewine Marshmallows.  This intrigued me.  I had never thought about making homemade marshmallows…. why would I?  We don’t consume that many of them but as I am always on the hunt to expand my cooking repertoire… I decided to give it a go.  I have to admit I am not that much of a fan of icewine… I know, here in BC we make fabulous icewine… we have the perfect climate in our grape growing regions.  Well I did have some icewine on hand, so it seemed like a very good idea to use it to try this out.

I had never made candy of any sort but had the most important tool….the candy thermometer.  When I started the process, I was a bit nervous….but really… how hard could it be?  So I dove right in.  Marshmallows are basically sugar… and more sugar…. oh yah and corn syrup….  Guess this is why they are not that popular around here.

First off you soak the gelatin.  This is to be done in a stand mixer… I didn’t think I had one of these… I know… why wouldn’t I have a stand mixer?  Well I don’t do much baking and so it never has been a priority.  What I did find out is that my food processor has an attachment to turn it into a small stand mixer… and when I say small… I mean almost too small for marshmallows that is.  It was quite funny.  Marshmallow goop that expanded and took over the machine.

But I am getting ahead of myself,  first you have to cook the sugar, more sugar and the corn syrup and get it to what is called a ‘soft ball’  ??   and what do you know… these exact words are on my candy thermometer!  Goat yogurt never gets this hot so I always have ignored the wording on it.  Now I know.

I

It was definitely an interesting test. When the recipe says, use oil to coat the pan….they are not joking.  When the recipe says coat the square marshmallows by dusting with icing sugar…. they are also not joking.  Marshmallows are best described as ‘self sealing.’  When they are cut, they become un-cut if you don’t remove them from the pan.  And the end result?  They texture and taste was EXACTLY like a marshmallow…. well actually a marshMELLOW with icewine added to it…. Enjoy!

Original recipe

Icewine Marshmallows

Jason Parsons, executive chef at Peller Estates, says it can be challenging to cook with icewine, but if chefs are mindful of the alcohol content, they should be OK.  Makes 12 squares.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup Icewine
  • 3 envelopes Unflavoured Gelatin
  • 3/4 cup Water
  • 2 cups Granulated Sugar
  • 2/3 cup Corn Syrup
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla
  • Icing Sugar (to taste)

Methods/steps

  1. Place Icewine in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Simmer until reduced to 4 tsp, watching closely to prevent scorching; cool.
  3. Pour half a cup of water into mixer bowl, sprinkle with gelatin and let stand 10 minutes to soften.
  4. Combine remaining water, sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan, bring to a boil then boil vigorously for one minute.
  5. Stir into gelatin mixture with the salt.
  6. Beat with whisk on high speed for eight minutes.
  7. Add vanilla and reduced Icewine and continue beating two more minutes.
  8. Transfer mixture into 9-inch square pan lined with oiled plastic wrap, using an oiled spatula to spread evenly.
  9. Allow to set several hours in a cool but non-refrigerated area.
  10. When firm, remove from pan, cut into squares with a lightly oiled knife and coat each square in icing sugar.
 
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Posted by on April 28, 2012 in Food, Recipes

 

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Blood stain on your new shirt? no problem…really, no problem at all.

This is just a random post. Do you know how to remove blood from clothing?  It always amazes me when I can successfully remove it.  I learnt my lesson a few years back,  I cut my finger just before going on holiday… I actually tend to do this quite frequently, I think the distraction factor of an imminent holiday makes me careless in the kitchen.  Last February I actually went as far as slamming my thumb into my car door… yes, the car door I use most days and close successfully.  And had to then go to Hawaii with stitches and finger rubbers….  oh yah, it was all very attractive.  And no I did not take pictures… I was too mad at myself.

Anyways, a few years back I cut my finger in the kitchen, got the blood on a pair of grey jeans I needed to take with me to Europe.  And then I didn’t do what I normally do and tried something new and then I ruined the jeans.  I went as far as bleaching them, then I went to the store that sold clothing dye and tried to dye them back to the correct colour.  Ok,  what was I thinking?  I was completely out of my mind.  The end result was that I changed the colour scheme of what I was travelling with and re-packed.  This was all on the DAY WE WERE LEAVING.  Insane.

So I never waiver from this method now.  If you get blood on your clothes,  take them off… then run cold water over onto the stain and let the stain soak in cold water.  It has to be cold.  This even works on blood that has set.  I know cause I just tried it.  I had blood on a shirt that I didn’t realize had blood on it until I took the shirt out of the closet to wear again.  After a few hours, the stain was almost gone.  Then I just squirted some Oxy Clean Baby stain remover on it while it was still wet and the blood was completely gone.  This was on a baby blue shirt.

I use Oxy Clean Baby stain remover because I want to believe that anything with the word Baby on it is gentler on me, we and the environment. I may be out to lunch on this but as we use a lot of stain remover on Don’s shirts for the necks…I feel that maybe its gentler on his neck the next time he wears the shirt.  And we all know that not all the soap residues wash out of our clothes…. or do we?   Soap doesn’t wash completely out of clothes.  That’s why people with soap allergies have issues… there is only so much rinsing a washing machine can do.

And there you have it,  a random blog on getting blood out of clothes.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Sharing

 

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Lemonade from lemons, Bouillabaisse from the open freezer door?

I admit it… I once again left the upright freezer door open. I know, I need to slow down and make sure I shut it without anything hanging off the door to prevent its sealing… I have done it before…and not just once before…  For me this is like blasphemy. Losing food because of bad actions.  One year I had freezer issues 3 times.  First our little 20 year old 2 cubic chest freezer threw in the towel… actually she threw in the motor… and I didn’t open the freezer for probably a week.  By then, I had wine.  I used that particular freezer for fruit and veg. Don’s dad found me crying in the freezer room because we had spent so much time freezer everything and now it was all gone!  I replaced the little one with an upright that has an alarm on it… but that only works if you actually hear the alarm.  At least the next time, I didn’t lose the whole freezer.  Then I left the meat freezer open. It doesn’t have an alarm.  I lost about 1/3 of the meat that time.   Now I don’t cry… I usually just swear and get really mad and stomp around. And vow to not be so careless.

Fast forward to yesterday and the meat freezer had been open overnight.  I have gotten a little smarter, I put things that aren’t as affected by warmth in the areas of the freezer that lose coldness first when the door gets left opened.  Might as well play to my weakness.  Tonite’s dinner was determined then.  My parents are coming over for an Easter meal so now we are having pork blade… it was one of the items that thawed. Actually half of it did.

We were going out last night to friends place for dinner so instead of making this last night, I made the best of the lemons I got handed and today’s lemonade was Bouillabaisse with scallops and shrimps.

Awhile back at the hairdressers I read a magazine that had what sounded like a fabulous recipe for the seafood soup.  I googled it when I got home, made some adjustments and now have a fantastic recipe for Bouillabaisse.  Here is the recipe from the magazine:

  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 900 ml container of chicken broth
  • 236-mL bottle clam juice
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1 Spanish or red onion
  • 3 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 small orange grated rind.
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp each dried thyme leaves and salt
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads,
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 lb mussels
  • 1 lb sea or bay scallops
  • 1 lb fresh or frozen large uncooked tiger shrimp
  • 1 cooked lobster

The adjustments that I made are:  I used crab stock because I had some frozen.  I replaced the clam juice and chicken broth with the crab stock.  I used 4 frozen whole tomatoes from last summer’s garden.  I just removed their skins and cut them up a bit. I didn’t have jalapenos, so I used dried chilis.  I had cilantro and forgot to put it in.  I used some shallot and red onion.  I used lots of thyme and twice as much orange rind.  I also only used shrimp and scallops.

Chop the onions and saute in butter.  Meanwhile heat the stock etc, when simmering, add the softened onions and butter. Add everything but the seafood.  Bring to a good simmer and cook for 5 -10 minutes for flavours to blend.  Turn down heat and add seafood.  If using mussels, start by only adding them and cooking until they open.  Then add the rest of the seafood and only cook until opaque.

This will keep in the fridge for 2 days.  It is actually a better dish the next day.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2012 in Food, Recipes

 

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