Category: Beverage

Brew your own Kombucha!

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This post has literally been years in the making. After countless requests for a kombucha brewing method and recipe, I finally feel confident enough to write about such a HUGE topic. Considering the fact that there are entire books about this one subject, I’ll start off by saying that I do not consider myself a kombucha-brewing expert. Although I’ve brewed hundreds of liters of the stuff by now, I am still learning and just happy to share my processes and experiences with you so far. Everyone has a slightly different way of brewing and this is mine – it works perfectly for me and I hope for you too!

Making kombucha, like any “kitchen project” seems pretty daunting until you actually do it. Once you take the first step and brew your own batch, you won’t believe how simple and easy it is to make your own kombucha and be able to drink it every day of your life! You’ll also wonder why you waited so long to start. With just a 20-minute time investment every 7-10 days you’ll have access to the most delicious, high-vibe kombucha you’ve ever tasted at a faction of the cost of buying from the store. Plus, if you make it yourself, it will be 100% raw and full of those precious, digestion-supporting enzymes that our diets are typically lacking, whereas commercial kombucha has often been pasteurized – a process that destroys enzymes. You can ferment it to suit your taste, make it as fizzy as you desire, and even add flavourings. How rad is that?

What is Kombucha?
Although kombucha is experiencing a major surge in popularity, it has actually been around for thousands of years. It is essentially sweetened tea, fermented with the help of a SCOBY, transformed into a fizzy, effervescent drink. SCOBY is an acronym, which stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s an odd-looking thing – often compared to an organ, a slippery mushroom, or a rubbery pancake – but it’s the essential ingredient in making the miracle beverage that is kombucha. Its flavours can range from pleasantly vinegar-y to champagne-like, with sweetness varying according to the original brew and second fermentations.

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Where can I get a SCOBY?
Since the SCOBY duplicates every time you make kombucha, there are plenty out there in the world for free! I recommend asking at your local health food store – in my experience it seems like the place to either purchase one, or connect with someone who brews and enjoys spreading the kombucha gospel and giving their extra SCOBYs away. Alternatively, try your local Craigstlist to find a culture. You can even buy them online. Here is a worldwide source: www.kombu.de

What about sugar?
Yes, you need sugar to brew kombucha but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be consuming it – it’s only food for the SCOBY! What starts off as very sweet tea completely transforms through the fermentation process, and that SCOBY turns all of that food into a delightful mixture of beneficial organic acids, B-vitamins, and enzymes. If it’s something you are concerned about, just let your kombucha ferment for the full 10 days, or longer. The longer the tea ferments the less sugar it contains. Usually by day 10 there isn’t a trace left – but your tea will be rather acidic-tasting just so you know!

There are a few types of sugar you can use for feeding the SCOBY, but cane sugar is the most recommended by seasoned brewers. I use the least processed form of cane sugar I can find – organic evaporated cane juice – but even the most sugar-avoiding, health-conscious people I know brew with refined white sugar. Remember: the sugar feeds the SCOBY, not you!

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What about caffeine?
The caffeine range in kombucha is extremely broad, and is mostly dependent on the type of tea used to brew it. Black tea contains substantially more caffeine than green tea for instance, and since I am sensitive to caffeine, I always brew with green tea. In general, brewed kombucha will contain approximately 1/3 of the caffeine of the original tea. If black tea contains 30-80mg of caffeine per cup, the same sized up of kombucha would contain 10-25mg. Green tea kombucha may have just 2-3mg per cup. Whatever you do, do NOT use decaffeinated tea to brew kombucha. Instead, blend the black tea with green tea or simply use green tea alone.

What about alcohol?
Fermenting anything sweet with yeasts is going to produce booze, that is just nature! With kombucha you’re looking at an average of 0.5 – 1% alcohol by volume. With home-brewing, there is always a risk of more alcohol forming since it is in an uncontrolled environment, so keep that in mind if that is a concern for you or someone you are serving it to.

What are the health benefits of Kombucha?
First, kombucha is a probiotic drink, so it is an excellent beverage for improving digestion, and supporting healthy bacteria in the gut. Its high enzyme content also promotes healthy digestion and nutrient assimilation.

Lab tests show that kombucha has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, and the ability to improve liver function and reduce oxidative stress in the body. Many people report success in relieving their symptoms of arthritis, allergies, chronic fatigue, hypertension, metabolic disorders, and digestive issues.

What I think is very exciting and promising about kombucha however, are the acids formed during fermentation. These acids have incredible detoxifying and antioxidant capabilities. Glucuronic acid, for example, is the body’s most important detoxifier and made by the oxidation of glucose. Glucuronic acid binds to toxins in the liver and flushes them out through the kidneys. It also works in conjunction with gluconic acid, which binds with heavy metals and ushers them out of our systems. Acetic acid inhibits the action of harmful bacteria. Usnic acid protects against viruses through its antibiotic properties. Malic acid helps detoxify the liver. Butyric acid is produced by the beneficial yeasts in kombucha and protects cellular membranes and combines with gluconic acid to strengthen the walls of the gut to combat harmful yeasts such as candida albicans.

Of all the healthy habits I’ve adopted in my life, I’d say that drinking kombucha has actually made a difference in how I feel. Every time I take a sip it feels like every cell of my body is screaming YAAAAAHHHHHSSSSSS! Really and truly. To me, it is life elixir, and a fabulous drink to add to your healthy lifestyle. But I will also say that kombucha is not a panacea. The hype around this beverage has reached astronomical heights and I believe it’s important to consume kombucha without the expectation that it’s going to change your life. What works for me, may work for you and it may not. At the end of the day, kombucha is purely delicious and I think it’s best to enjoy it for that reason alone.

Can I drink too much kombucha?
Kombucha, like anything, should be enjoyed responsibly. Just as you wouldn’t eat a pound of chia seeds in a sitting, nor should you drown yourself in kombucha (although it would be a delicious way to go). If you have never had kombucha before, start out with about half a cup (125ml) and work your way up over the course of a few weeks or months. I probably drink around 1-2 cups a day (250 – 500ml) but my body is used to it and I too eased into this amount. Remember: food is medicine! You never know how your body will react, so it’s best to take things slow with such powerful potions.

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Second fermentation – flavouring your brew and making your kombucha fizzy
Although kombucha straight after the first fermentation is delish, I love to flavour it and make it really fizzy through a second fermentation. This involves adding a sweet substance, like fresh fruit or juice (I use unfiltered apple juice), to the bottles of brewed kombucha and letting it sit, sealed at room temperature for another couple of days instead of refrigerating it right away. This extra dose of sugar will feed the kombucha further and produce gas, which builds up inside the sealed bottle. This step is optional, but will make your kombucha really special and sparkly!

It’s essential that you use flip-top bottles with good seals for this step, since you want the gas to build inside the bottles at this stage. But because the pressure can be quite strong, I always recommend “burping” your bottles once a day until they have reached the amount of fizz you’re after. Simply flip the top on the bottles and you should hear the gas escaping, which is just enough to take the pressure off – there will still be plenty of sparkle in the kombucha. If you fail to burp your bottles, you may end up with an explosion on your hands! Needless to say this is quite dangerous, so set a timer for once  day if you’re a forgetful person.

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Taking a break from fermenting
There will come a time when you’ll have to pause your kombucha brewing cycle – perhaps if you’re traveling for a period of time, or simply feel like stopping – in which case, you need to know how to take a break.

Remove the SCOBY from the jar, separate the mother and the baby and put them into the same or separate glass jars (separate if you’re giving one away) with enough brewed kombucha to cover it, and seal with a plastic lid (remember that kombucha can not come into contact with metal, so stay on the safe side and use plastic). Keep this in the fridge where the temperature will slow down fermentation, and it will keep for many months. When you want to brew your new batch, remove the SCOBY from the fridge and let it come to room temperature before adding it to the sweetened and cooled tea, along with kombucha from your last batch, the SCOBY and the liquid it was stored in.

If you can time it properly, it’s a nice to be able to bottle your last batch right before you leave so that you can put your SCOBY away at the end of a cycle. I time it so that my second fermentation ends on my travel day so that I can store my bottles in the fridge while I’m gone. If it doesn’t exactly line up, you can do this by increasing the first or second fermentations by a few days. Remember that if you bottle early, it will be sweeter, and if you leave it longer it will be more acidic. Some people will leave their kombucha brewing for up to a month and that may suit you, but I personally wouldn’t leave mine for more than 2 weeks. If you are flexible on the taste and don’t mind these flavour variations, it will be a lot easier to time your break.

Whatever you do, don’t start a brew right before you leave for more than a couple weeks (unless you like very vinegar-y kombucha), and definitely don’t leave your second fermentation bottles out at room temperature! You’ll come home to an epic mess or worse.

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I know that this seems like a lot of information, but I wanted this post to be thorough so that you could have all the information you need to start brewing! If you have another variation on brewing, or tips and tricks that you think others would find helpful, please let me know in the comments! And because I know you’re going to have a lot of questions, I’ll try to check in on this post more often to answer them.

Here are some great online resources for those who want more information on brewing kombucha:

Remember that it may take a few batches (and a few SCOBYs) to get your kombucha just the way you like it, but it’s a really fun, empowering and delicious project that will make you feel like you can do anything in the kitchen! Did I mention you’ll get to drink kombucha every day for the rest of your life? Yes, there’s that too.

All love and happy brewing,
Sarah B.

Show me your kombucha on Instagram: #MNRkombucha

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More news!

The My New Roots recipe app now has an updated iPad design and it synchronizes your favorites, shopping list and recipe notes between your iPhone and iPad. In other words: make your shopping list on the iPad, and you’ll have it right on the phone when you’re in the store. Neat!

If you already have the app, just update it. If not, click here to go to the App Store.

Healthy Vegetarian Recipe app by My New Roots

Beet, Raspberry and Vanilla Smoothie Bowl

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Hey buddy, how’s your blood doing these days? Is it healthy and flowing? Full of oxygen and freshly-made red blood cells? Have you ever even thought about this?! The answer is, not likely. And that is nothing to be ashamed about. We are never really taught to think about our blood, how to nourish and take care of it, how to tell if something is missing.

When I studied Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) I learned about “blood building”, a term to describe nourishing the body with the nutrients required for ample and healthy blood. For some reason, I took a particular interest in this field, and have been a passionate blood builder of my own ever since. If this sounds dorky (it is) and a little confusing, think of your blood almost like a muscle. We are more familiar with the idea of muscle building, in that our muscles require specific macro and micro nutrients to grow and thrive. Same as blood. Pretty simple, except you can’t do it at the gym – you gotta get in the kitchen. 

The role of blood in our body is to transport nutrients, oxygen, immune cells, and hormones, along with removing toxins and waste, and disperse heat. The components that make up our blood are used and disposed of extremely quickly, so there is a high cell turnover, which also means high nutritional requirements.

Iron, folic acid, vitamin B-12, and protein are the major building blocks of blood. All of these things work synergistically to make your blood as potent and healthy as possible. Besides folic acid, you can see from the list that most of these nutrients are found abundantly in animal foods, but not so abundantly in the wonderful plant kingdom. So how do vegetarians build blood anyway?

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First and foremost eating a wide variety of fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and superfoods is a good place to start. Hey wait! That sounds like a balanced diet. So if you’re already there, great. If you’re just starting out, your blood is about to get real strong.

More specifically, the best blood building foods are the darkest of dark leafy greens and their powders, such as spinach, kale, beet greens, wheatgrass, barley grass, spirulina and chlorella, and deeply pigmented red foods such as beets, cherries, raspberries, goji berries, raisins, kidney beans, adzuki beans, and blackstrap molasses. I also find that drinking a cup of nettle tea every day, which contains high amounts of iron, is really effective in helping to tone the blood.

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This smoothie bowl is a one tasty blood builder. It’s got a solid dose of greens (think iron, folic acid, and protein) from the spinach and wheatgrass, with beet, raspberry and prunes (lots of deep, dark, iron-rich goody goodies!) plus lemon for a vitamin C boost – since we can’t absorb iron from plants unless we have a little help from vitamin C. 

Although you may think that putting raw beetroot in a smoothie is a little odd, I was shocked at how utterly DELICIOUS the combination was with the raspberry. It’s altogether earthy, sweet and tart, with a divine vanilla kiss that makes me swoon. Plus can we talk about the colour?! I can practically feel it feeding my blood with all of those juicy pigments and nutrients. Gosh. Isn’t life grand?

Smoothie bowls are a divine invention because you can eat them with a spoon, and you can top the heck out of them for a real meal situation. Although I’m sure it’s just a psychological thing, I sometimes feel a bit under-fed after a smoothie in a glass. Plus I like chewing a lot, and chewing a beverage can sometimes be boring without some chunks involved. Don’t you agree? I’ve topped mine here with raspberries, pomegranate, sea buckthorn, bee pollen and almond butter, but get creative with this on your own! I’ve listed some other topping ideas in the recipe. And I will also say that taking just one extra minute to decorate your bowl delivers major self-love points and satisfies the creative genius in us all. There are no wrong answers or unattractive smoothie bowls! Go wild, you strong-blooded creature, you!

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I hope you guys are fired up to build your blood now. Happily, it involves eating and not donning spandex and running on a treadmill. Although, that is important too. The running part. The spandex I’ll pass on, thank you.

Cheers to your blood,
Sarah B.

Show me your smoothies on Instagram! #MNRbeetsmoothie

 

A Winter Weekend Cleanse

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Simple 3-Day Cleanse // My New Roots

Happy 2015, dear friends!

I wasn’t sure about doing a detox post this year simply because it seemed predictable, but over the past couple weeks, my body told my brain to stop thinking so much and just do what I feel. Smart body.

There are many reasons people feel the need to press the reset button this time of year. Overindulgence, chronic stress, feelings of fatigue or sluggishness are the usual suspects, but there are also positive grounds for clearing out the cobwebs such as wanting to gain more energy and increase vitality, achieve higher levels of clarity, and realign with our internal guidance systems. I know the telltale signs for myself, and they usually involve a slight disinterest in eating (sounds crazy, I know), along with the desire to examine my food-body-mind relationship. Since I am often cooking everyday for a living, I can sometimes lose sight of the total magic that food is. If I slice open a head of red cabbage and fail to swoon, or that pomegranate doesn’t bring me to my knees in awe, I know it’s time to take a break, simplify, and make space for those feelings again.

But how can we make this really easy? I’ve gotten so much positive feedback from my past cleanses and detox programs for Oprah magazine and Whole Living magazine, (all of which are still online here, here and here), but one thing that people mention is how much food there is! Taking that into consideration, I thought I would design a super-simple plan this year with only two recipes and you can make the decision how long you want to go for.

One smoothie. One soup. Both are alkalizing, filling yet detoxifying, mega green but super tasty. In fact, I’ll wager that you’ll love both of these recipes so much that you’ll be enjoying them long after the cleanse is over! The Ginger-Mint Pear Smoothie is luscious, sweet-and-spicy with cooling mint and creamy avocado. The Cilantro Spinach Sweet Potato Soup is like eating a crazy-delicious hug.

Simple 3-Day Cleanse // My New Roots

Detoxifying Habits

It’s true that certain foods and herbs can aid in the detoxification process, but what else can we do to boost our cleansing process on a daily basis?

Exercise: Moving our bodies is essential for balance and overall health because it creates the conditions to breathe deeply, stretch, circulate the blood and lymph, and sweat. The more we move, the more efficient our body becomes at circulating and flushing out toxins. Gentle, low-intensity exercise such as yoga, stretching, or walking is best during a juice fast or reduced-calorie diet (such as this weekend cleanse), while high-impact exercise is recommended at least 3 times a week once you are back to eating a regular, healthy diet.

Dry skin brushing: Dry skin brushing helps stimulate your lymphatic system, which is responsible for ridding the body of toxins. Skin brushing improves the surface circulation on the skin and keeps the pores of the skin open, encouraging your body’s discharge of metabolic wastes, and resulting in an improved ability to combat bacteria, plus helping your skin to look and feel healthier and more resilient! Skin brushing also strengthens the immune system and helps aid the digestion system, both of which are greatly involved in the detoxification process.

Take a sauna: Although it is a major eliminative organ, most people’s skin is very inactive. Sweat is a most important elimination route for toxins. Repeated use of the sauna can help slowly restore skin elimination. Viruses, toxin-burdened cells, and tumours are weaker than normal cells and tolerate heat poorly. The heating of the tissues, which takes place in a sauna helps the body heal from infections and disease more quickly. I make it a habit to go to the sauna once a week for a deep, cleansing sweat. It feels amazing and does a body good!

Simple 3-Day Cleanse // My New Roots

Below is a sample plan for the Winter Weekend Cleanse. You can do the program for just one day, but I would recommend at least two to really feel the benefits. You can also go longer if you like, and include one or more of the recipes from my previous programs to compliment the new one, just so those taste buds of yours stay excited! Drink as much water as you feel like / need, but consume at least 1½ liters throughout the day. Always begin the day with warm water with lemon, as this will assist in flushing your digestive system, preparing your tummy for food by increasing stomach acid, and alkalizing your entire system. Herbal teas are acceptable, but choose ones that are particularly detoxifying. Burdock, cleavers, chickweed, yarrow, nettle and plantain are some of my favourites. I also have a wonderful Detox Tea Blend recipe here.

You can eat your smoothie for breakfast and afternoon snack, but it also fills in for a lunch if that is all you feel like. You can make up the entire batch for a day (the recipe makes about 3 cups / 700ml) if you know you’ll be on the go and sip on it when you need a pick-me-up. Or you can divide the ingredients in half and make it fresh if you’ll be near a blender.

Since we are in the colder months of the year here, I’d encourage you not to use frozen fruit, as it’s important to keep warm when the weather is not! I like to enjoy this smoothie at room temperature, and I promise it’s just as delicious as its cold counterpart.

The soup can be eaten for lunch and dinner or as a snack too. I really like it blended, but feel free to keep it chunky too!

Simple 3-Day Cleanse // My New Roots

Winter Weekend Cleanse Plan

Upon rising: warm water with lemon

Breakfast: Ginger-Mint Pear Smoothie

Throughout the day: water! Aim for 1½ – 2½ liters a day (about 6-10 cups), depending on your activity level

Lunch: Cilantro Spinach Sweet Potato Soup

Snack: Ginger-Mint Pear Smoothie

Dinner: Cilantro Spinach Sweet Potato Soup

Repeat on the following day, for as many days as you like.

Things to Avoid: caffeine, sugar, alcohol, tobacco, computer time, television, stressful situations.

Things to Embrace: sleep and rest, time outdoors, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, sauna, dry skin brushing.

 

I hope you all find your own reasons for trying out this simple cleanse, and that it proves to be as helpful as it is delicious! Remember to take things slow, set realistic goals for yourself and be celebrate each small victory! I truly wish you all the best for 2015 – this year is going to be the cleanest, greenest yet.

Love and light,
Sarah B

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Check out my interview with the gorgeous McKel over at Nutrition Stripped!