Food, Uncategorized

Kombucha – Home brew life

Kombucha Home Brew

After a decent absence from the blogging world, I have decided to jump back in and discuss a few projects that I have been working on!

If you have been to a grocery store any time in the past year, I’m sure you are well aware of the current Kombucha craze that is sweeping the US. I was pretty hesitant to jump on this band wagon, but decided to at least give it a try. If you haven’t heard of kombucha, it is basically a fermented tea that people have been drinking for years in the Eastern world. The fermentation process leaves this beverage low in sugar, full of probiotics, and a pleasing amount of carbonation. I’ve never been a huge soda drinker, but i do enjoy a soda on occasion mainly for the carbonation, particularly when my stomach is a bit upset. When I heard about kombucha, I thought it might be a nice healthier option to replace my occasional soda. It also had a possibility of doing more to help an upset stomach than soda did…so why not?

The first brand/flavor that I tried has remained my favorite store bought variety. GT’s Synergy contains a variety of different berry flavors along with ginger and is quite refreshing. Personally, I love the tart flavor and zip that the ginger provides. If you aren’t fond of  ginger or vinegar, this may not be the beverage for you! If you would like to give a store brand a try, I would highly recommend this one. They have a wide variety of flavors, and all the ones that I’ve tried have been really good. The only downside is the relatively expensive cost. One single bottle of kombucha generally runs around $3.00 or more. The best prices I’ve found are at ALDI. You can consistently get bottles there for around $2.75. If you grow to enjoy kombucha, it can become a rather expensive part of your diet.

As my interest in kombucha grew, so did my desire to try and brew some for myself! I’m always down for trying something new and challenging!

After reading and doing some research on the fermentation process, I ran into my first obstacle….I needed a SCOBY. I’m sure you’re probably wondering what in the world a SCOBY is. Allow me to enlighten you! SCOBY is an acronym that stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. To a normal person, it looks like a big slimy pancake shaped blob. This amazing “blob” is what causes all the magic to take place during fermentation. But where does one go to find said blob? A girl doesn’t want to procure a SCOBY from just anyone. I found myself asking around to some of my friends as though I was trying to find some rare black market item. Everyone just looked at me like I was nuts. A few people were interested, but didn’t really know where to find one. Thankfully my friend that gave me the hardest time about my endeavor, actually ended up jumping on the kombucha bandwagon and got me a home brew kit that included a SCOBY!

A Similar Starter Kit can be purchased here

I was officially set to begin my brewing adventure! It just so happened that I received my kit right before a long rainy weekend. It was the perfect time to read up and get brewing! The first thing I learned was that I needed some distilled water. Water free of additives is really what you’re looking for. Chlorine will inhibit the growth of your culture. Other filtered and spring water usually has a variety of additives that help with taste when drinking plain water, but don’t really help when brewing kombucha.

You start the process by brewing a batch of good strong tea. You can use all kinds of different teas and even blends of teas. It is fun to try a variety. You get all the healthy benefits of whatever tea you use. After bringing the distilled water to a boil, turn it off and allow your tea bag to steep for an appropriate length of time. Approximately 5 minutes is a good general rule. While the tea is still hot, add in a rather large amount of sugar. This exact amount will be different, depending on the quantity you’re making. It’s important to use regular processed cane sugar. Raw sugar and honey aren’t broken down the same way by the yeast, and don’t yield good kombucha.

My kit came with a large gallon glass jar. It’s important to clean all of your brewing items well with a mild detergent. DO NOT use antibacterial soap! It will harm your SCOBY! After cleaning, I wipe down all my brewing equipment and even my hands with distilled white vinegar. After my jar was clean and wiped down, I attached an adhesive thermometer to the outside of the jar. Temperature is very important to monitor. I highly recommend placing these on all of your brewing jars.

I then poured my freshly brewed tea into the jar and filled the remaining part of the jar with cool distilled water. You want the jar to be about 3/4 full. The cool water will help bring the tea down to the temperature you want it. If you place the SCOBY in the brew when it’s too hot, it will harm the culture. When your tea reaches the target range of 72-84 degrees, you can gently pick up your SCOBY with clean hands, and place it into the brew. It’s also a great idea to add a small amount (a cup or so) of a previous brew to get things moving. After adding in your culture and previous brew, you simply place a piece of cotton cloth over the top and WAIT. The culture needs to be able to get air, hence the cotton cloth. DO NOT put a lid on your jar. The temperature ranges I mentioned, are ideal for the fermentation process. If it’s on the higher end of that range, fermentation will happen a bit faster, on the lower end, it will be slower. Generally you are looking at about 3 weeks before your first brew will be ready to enjoy.

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I placed my brew up on a high shelf in my kitchen, but quickly noticed that it wasn’t warm enough in that spot. The temperature of the brew was hovering just below the ideal range. I moved my brew upstairs to a shelf that was near a heat register, and was able to easily maintain the desired range after that.

After a few days to a week, you will notice a new layer beginning to form on the top of your brew. This is your brand new culture! A SCOBY forms in layers. The newest grow on the top. It’s important not to move the jar around much or jostle it so that you don’t interfere with the growth. At around a week you can begin tasting your brew and checking the pH. A good kombucha should have a low pH of around 3.2. This helps keep harmful bacteria from growing. My kit came with a big pack of pH strips, and I would highly recommend you keep some on hand. I gently use a pipette to draw out a sample without disturbing the growing culture. When the brew reaches your desired level of tartness, you can choose to either bottle it and drink it as is, or proceed to second fermentation.

Second fermentation is really just the addition of any flavoring items to your brew. I’m a big fan of fruit, so that is what I chose to add. It’s also important to get some good glass bottles for individual serving portions. You can see the “pop top” version that I used. They are available on amazon. Just as you needed to clean all the brewing materials initially, you will want to do the same with the bottles and materials you use for the second brew.

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I gathered a few different fruits and just tried a variety of flavor combinations. Place the clean cut fruit into the bottles and then just add kombucha until they’re mostly full. You  want to leave some air in for the second fermentation so it will be nice and fizzy. You then leave the bottles out to ferment a few more days. I generally do 3 days in the same location/temp as my big brew jar, before moving the bottles to the fridge. Once the bottled kombucha is chilled, it’s ready to drink!

The flavor combinations I tried first (pictured above) were:

  • Blackberry
  • Blackberry peach
  • Peach
  • Strawberry
  • Strawberry peach
  • Strawberry lemon

They were all FANTASTIC! I must say that the amount of satisfaction I get from hearing a great big POP when I open one of my home brewed bottles of kombucha is pretty serious. I also rather enjoy finding new flavor combos and naming them when I find a winner. As soon as I bottle a gallon, I start another brew. I now have a continual brew going at my house at all times! You can also store your SCOBY if you don’t want to brew again right away. Just brew some tea with extra sugar so it can survive while it isn’t being used. I also find it comical that while I was once barren in the SCOBY department, I now produce baby SCOBYs regularly. If I change my blogging name to Mother of SCOBYs don’t be surprised.

Have you guys brewed kombucha at home? Drop and tips, recipes, or tricks that you’ve learned!

 

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Food, Uncategorized

Busy Busy

It feels like the past week or so has been one giant whirlwind! We have had so many things going on, I feel that I can’t keep it all straight! We have had some company, an adorable little orphan to care for, some great food experiences, and made a lot of memories! Here are a few of the highlights…

A few short months ago, a friend introduced me to Indian cuisine. I had this crazy notion that I hated curry, and therefore I would hate all Indian food. HAVE I EVER BEEN MISSING OUT!!! It turns out that I actually love Indian food, and even curry dishes! The first thing that I tried was a pretty “safe” chicken dish called Tikka Masala. It was fabulous! Pair that with some garlic naan….I’m not sure that it gets much better than that!

Last weekend, I was able to go back to Sitar for their lunch buffet. I would HIGHLY recommend it. I was able to try a wide variety of dishes, all of which were fantastic. As an added bonus, the cost of the lunch buffet is cheaper than ordering a single dish off the menu. Even Neyland was thrilled with her lunch! Check out the pics below.

Check out their website HERE

*Only downside- they don’t have a menu that offers kid meals or kid portions.*

 

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That same afternoon, I received an urgent text during church from a co-worker who’s friend had found an orphaned chipmunk. It needed immediate care, so after lunch we were off to go pick up an new orphaned baby to care for.

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Neyland LOVES that we occasionally are tasked with the care of injured or orphaned animals. She has such a big heart for these guys just like her Mama. I am so pleased to be able to show her how hard work and compassion can help even the smallest of God’s creatures.

She quickly got down to the important business of “naming” our little friend. For whatever reason, she was determined to name her “Coconut Honey.” I’ve just been referring to her as “coco” for short. I am happy to report that with some nursing care and bottle feeding, Coco is doing GREAT! She should be ready to release in a week or so! Check out this recent image of her munching on a grape…

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Some other highlights this week included one of Neyland’s all time favorite activities:

MAKING SLIME.

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This “Rainbow unicorn slime” came from a kit that she got for her birthday. I personally think that the DIY slime has a better texture than this stuff did, but it was still fun for both of us!

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We ended the week with another rainbow colored treat! French Macaroons!

Would you believe that I had never tried a French macaroon before? I see really delicious looking recipe videos for these things all the time, and I’ve really been wanting to try some! We stopped by the French Market & Creperie, and got a little baggie of imported authentic macaroons. They were deeeeeelicious! I would also like to give them a big shout-out for their amazing strawberry & creme Crepes. (We didn’t get crepes during this visit, but I included an image from the last time we got them.)

Check out their menu & locations HERE

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The lemon & the raspberry were our favorites!

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Uncategorized

Lyrical Challenge

Many thanks to Valleygirlwalking for nominating me for the Three Day Lyrical Challenge! Day 1, here I go!

The Rules

1. Thank the person who nominated you. Thank you once again, Valleygirlwalking
2. Share one of your favorite songs/lyrics one at a time for three days.
3. Nominate three other bloggers each day. (Or one, one is probably enough)

Nomination

Today, I nominate GypsyRD Her tagline is, “Exploring the wonders of food one bite at a time” and she is definitely doing that. She is constantly teaching me new things about food and how to eat! I am constantly in awe of the recipes she comes up with! Her creativity shines SUPER bright in the kitchen!

The Song

Revelation Song

There is so much to say about this awesome song! It is one of a limited number of songs that really portray the complete awesomeness of our God. I think it does this so well because most of the lyrics are actual scripture! As the title suggests, most of this scripture is found in the book of Revelation. What better portrays God’s awesomeness than the Word itself?

Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega- the beginning and the end,”  says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still yet to come, the Almighty One.”

Revelation 4:3-5 “The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones-jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow. Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads. And from the throne came flashes of lightening and the rumbles of thunder…”

Revelation 4:8  “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty– the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Revelation 5:12-13 “And they sang in a mighty chorus: The Lamb is worthy-the Lamb who was killed. He is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They also sang: “Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

 

 

The first time I heard this song, it was in a church I was visiting. It was being sung by my now, very good friend, Blair and her husband Danny. It’s very special to me because that song helped draw my husband back to church and ultimately to God. When he was drawn back to church, I was still very reluctant. I had experienced a deep hurt at our previous church, and I was still harboring anger about it. Thankfully, God softened my heart, and working through this song, brought me back to him.

It’s been years since that happened, and my husband is now my ex husband. This song still holds a very special place in my heart. It always reminds me of how God drew me back after all my anger and rebellion. My hope for others is that it will have the same effect. If there is one who is capable, it is the God who is worthy of all the praise expressed by this song.

The Lyrics

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is Thee
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s mercy seat
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s mercy seat
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You
Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lighting rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor strength and glory and power be
To You the only one who’s King
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You
Filled with wonder awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus Your name is power, breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery
Oh, You’re worthy, mystery
You are worthy
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You, I will adore You
There are a lot of different artists who sing this song, but Kari Jobe is probably my favorite.
Activities, DIY, featured, Parenting, Uncategorized

The Simple Things

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Gardening

I can’t recommend gardening enough. It is therapeutic for the soul, and a GREAT learning tool for kids. Each spring, Neyland helps me clean out the plant skeletons from our small raised garden out behind our pool house. She plays in the dirt, digs, sifts, and creates a huge mess. More importantly, she has a blast. Last year she was too small to really distinguish between weeds and the plants we were growing, but this year, she is doing a great job helping me keep the weeds pulled. Gardening is such a great illustration for kids to show them what hard work and patience can bring! We live in a society where everything is instant. We want what we want NOW. Instant gratification is the name of the game. While this is very convenient, is this all we want to teach our kiddos? I want to remind mine that good things take time, effort, and a lot of patience. Working to grow food helps them see value in what you buy at the store. It’s so important for them to know where food comes from.

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We start seeds off in the spring in old cardboard egg containers and toilet paper rolls. She waters them carefully until they are big enough to be transplanted into the garden. This part can also be a fun biology lesson. It’s a great time to try the “place a Lima bean & a moist paper towel in a ziplock bag and watch it grow” experiment.

In addition to growing seedlings, we also recycle a lot of produce when we can. I usually purchase at least a few boxes of hydroponically grown artisan lettuces and some romaine to use in cooking. As I use the lettuce, I simply save the stem, cut the tip to freshen it’s ability to take up water, and place them in a shallow dish of water in the window until roots sprout.  It begins growing and producing more lettuce remarkably fast. I personally use the lettuce so much and so quickly that I leave the constantly growing batch right in the window. Occasionally I have transplanted them into the garden once the roots were growing. I’ve done the same with scallions, and other herbs. My only issue is that my cats want to graze on the greens if I keep them on the counter for very long!

We get to go out and check the garden daily. This is something she always looks forward too. She is super independent and always wants to water by herself. She gets to watch the plants grow and change, and finally to harvest what they produce. It’s also a GREAT way to get her to try some veggies that she might not sample otherwise. Growing it yourself always makes her more excited about trying things.

We also have a special “root garden” just so that Neyland can watch the veggies grow in the soil. We made our own, but there are a lot of commercially available ones on the market these days. The basic idea is similar to an ant farm. Create a thin garden, using plexiglass for the sides, so that curious eyes can watch all the growing action. (See below) We planted radishes, carrots, and scallions in it this year!

What are your favorite gardening projects to do with your kids?

Check out our harvest! It’s not a lot, but plenty for the two of us & loads of fun & memories!

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featured, Food, Uncategorized

Fried Green Tomatoes

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So last wednesday I got home from work a bit later than usual. I was somewhat at a loss about what to cook for dinner since the majority of my week had been spent cleaning up an recovering from Neyland’s Circus birthday party. I poked around in the fridge, but nothing seemed to jump out at me. Neyland had already informed me that she just wanted leftovers, but I was in the mood for something more exciting.

I walked out to toss some chlorine tablets into the pool and just happened to peek over the fence and glance into the garden to see if anything needed my attention. My tomato plant that was stunted by a late frost, had recently decided to “earn” his keep, and start producing. Upon closer examination I noted 4-5 medium sized tomatoes looking big and beautiful hanging from the vine. Only 1 problem- They were completely green. Then it hit me…..FRIED GREEN TOMATOES!

For the record, I have never made fried green tomatoes before, and it had been some time since I had eaten any. I shrugged off the uncertainty. After all, how hard could it be?

Neyland helped me harvest 4 of them and I got to work searching for a quick recipe. The one thing I KNOW about fried foods is a complete necessity to “double dredge” and get a good crust. I found a recipe that included this vital step, it was pretty highly rated, and seemed relatively simple. Hmmm…maybe too simple? It seemed like perhaps I could kick it up a bit in the flavor department. I quickly gathered the ingredients, with the exception of buttermilk (which I didn’t have on hand.) Thankfully if you ever find yourself in a pinch (which this certainly was) there is a handy way to make “cheater buttermilk” using regular milk with a splash of vinegar.

I prepared my dry dredging ingredients that I kicked up with extra flavor along with my “buttermilk” + egg mixture and got my pan/oil preheated while I sliced the tomatoes and coated them. Always make sure and let your pan/oil get up to temp before attempting to fry anything. If it isn’t hot enough, it will just cook the food slowly and make it mushy rather than crispy.

Fried Geen Tomatoes 7/25/18

When the oil is hot enough, you quickly get a nice golden brown crust that forms. It helps keep the inside from getting too soft, while creating a magnificent crunchy shell on the outside.

I fried them in batches to prevent overcrowding and slowed cooking. After they were all done, I drained them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil and simply sprinkled them with some Himalayan pink salt. Most FGT that I’ve had in the past needed some type of dipping sauce, but these were simply fantastic straight from the pan. I was astonished when Neyland agreed to try one and she LOVED IT!

For a great southern recipe, give this one a try!

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Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or “cheater buttermilk”- see post above)
  • 1/4 cup All purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp Smoked paprika
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (depending on if you like heat)
  • 3-4 medium sized green tomatoes, sliced in 1/4-1/3 inch slices
  • Vegetable oil- for frying
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Combine the egg & buttermilk in a shallow bowl and set aside.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl and set aside.

Dredge the tomato slices first in the dry mixture, then dip into the egg mixture, and follow again into the dry mixture.

Pour oil into pan (preferably cast iron skillet) to a depth of 1/4 inch. Heat on medium heat until hot. Approximately 375 degrees. Drop the slices in batches into the hot oil and cook 1-2 minutes per side, or until a crispy golden brown crust is formed. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy while hot.

*For an extra “southern” experience, eat these guys while watching Fried Green Tomatoes the movie!

 

Informational, Uncategorized

Just jump in!

B.loved Images_Christmas 2016_0041Write a blog they said…

It will be fun they said….

Well, here’s to hoping that “they” were right.

As a recently single, working Mom, time is not something that I have an excess of. How will I find time to keep up with one more thing? I’m really not sure. As I’ve discovered often with motherhood, many things that I once thought were impossible, somehow seem to get done. Instead of overthinking, sometimes it’s best to just take the plunge. If you wait until you’re ready, you never will be.

With all of that in mind, I find myself here. I’d like to share my thoughts and experiences with the hopes of encouraging other Moms walking the road of motherhood. I especially hope to connect with and encourage other single mamas out there. God has called us to lift one another up and provide encouragement. I’m ever so thankful for those who encourage me.

A few things about me and what you can expect:

If it isn’t pretty obvious by now, I am a single mom to one amazing little girl. As any mother will know, my baby provided me with instant purpose the day she was born, and lit a passion within me for motherhood that I honestly wasn’t sure that I had before that moment. She is a constant source of adventure, comedy, and (yes if we’re being honest) frustration. Many of my posts will likely center around our activities and adventures. We plan fun and educational activities regularly, and want to share those with others!

I’m also a Christian. I make mistakes and fall short every day, but I am so thankful for God’s mercy for me. I’ve dealt with a difficult season, and am learning every day to walk by faith and trust God more and more. The valley areas certainly test what we’re made of, and what we really believe at our core. I’ve learned through this time that many things I thought I understood were so shallow. God takes me deeper and deeper every day as my faith and willingness to surrender are tested. I’m not sure where the end of this current valley is, but I’m trying to walk each day with purpose and a willingness to be teachable and present for my creator.

I LOVE FOOD. I love to eat food, cook food, and grow food. Thankfully my current life journey has allowed me some time to engage in this passion, and share it with some very special people.

I enjoy decorating and craft projects. I suppose I come by this honestly as my mother, brother, and father are all florists. I can and do arrange flowers, but it isn’t my profession. I’m also about doing my projects on a dime and getting bargains. Yard sale? I’m there. Thrift store? Sign me up. Re-purposing random old objects? I love it.

Finally I am an avid lover of all things animal and outdoor. I’m a Licensed Vet Tech by profession and have always carried an unshakable passion for animals. Their love is so incredibly pure when humans can be so much the opposite. My job is not for the faint of heart, but it is incredibly rewarding to regularly save lives. My personal fur babies include: 2 geriatric huskies (1 of which is diabetic and epileptic), 3 crazy cats, an aquarium full of fish, hermit crabs, and occasional random orphaned critters. Along with animals, comes my love of nature and the outdoors. I truly feel so peaceful and at home all alone in the woods. My love for nature has taken me on some pretty thrilling adventures, including bigfoot research! I’ll be sure to share all of it with you.

This is a place for all things Mom. A place to help navigate the difficulties of life with fun and adventure. A place to learn to live life again with purpose, one adventure at a time.