Kombucha

It has been two years since my last blog post. I plan on starting to post recipes again, and will begin another Whole30 on February 15th. My blog is generally a “paleo” food blog, but I’ve decided to make my first post back about Kombucha, considering the time I started drinking it coincides with my last blog post.

A question I’ve heard dozens of times over the last 2 years since I started drinking it…

What IS Kombucha?

My response is usually “Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage.”

This answer doesn’t usually suffice. People have more questions… and that’s where this post comes in.

I started drinking Kombucha (AKA “mushroom tea”) two years ago when I was getting recurrent throat infections, on a different antibiotic every month and was having stomach problems because of it. I couldn’t eat much, my stomach was upset all the time, I was losing weight and lost my appetite. And if you know me at all you know how much I love to eat and how terrible this was for me. Kombucha detoxifies, provides vitamins and amino acids, and helps with digestion through its probiotics.

Kombucha is pretty expensive, but with its popularity growing, more people are starting to brew themselves to save money. I have to say, I was pretty scared to brew it myself. I was afraid of mold, cultures and bacteria… but the more I read about it, and the more people I met that had done it themselves, the more excited I got at the thought of making it myself. A friend from work told me she had been doing it for a few months, so I decided to buy the book “Kombucha Revolution” by Stephen Lee after having borrowed it from her for a couple of days. I ordered a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) online (Amazon) from Karma Cultures and started gathering supplies.

This is my first time trying to make Kombucha for myself, so I decided to take some pictures and take you along the journey with me.

The Karma Cultures Company sends you an Easy Brew recipe for a 1 Gallon jar along with your SCOBY, and in only 5 steps it was pretty easy to follow.

What will you need? A SCOBY and “starter tea” (included with the SCOBY at Karma Cultures), purified water, 6 tea bags (organic high quality is best, green, black, oolong or a combination), organic evaporated cane sugar, a tea kettle, a wide mouthed gallon glass jar, a thermometer and patience.

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Step 1: Make the Tea – Boil 4 cups of water and let 6 bags of tea steep for 10 minutes.

Step 2: Sweeten Tea – Stir until the sugar has dissolved. This is the food for the culture to “eat” over the next 7-28 days

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Step 3: Cool Tea- putting a SCOBY in too warm water can kill it or cause mold

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Step 4: Add healthy bacteria (SCOBY)

Step 5: Wait, ferment. Cover with a cloth and elastic band, and keep in a warm dark place (in the cupboard above my fridge.)

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Day 3: You can start tasting at this point. Take a straw and go to the side of the jar and take a sip. If it’s still too sweet, let it sit for a few more days. 7-28 days is the suggested

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Primal Skin Care- Dealing with Acne

Since I was 16 years old I have been using Proactiv. It’s an acne product made with Benzoyl Peroxide. It’s pretty harsh on your skin in the beginning, I had very dry and sensitive skin but after a while my skin got used to it and it started working quite well. It should be noted that this was around the same time I started taking birth control pills.

I started the paleo diet about a year ago, and a few months later I started thinking about not only what I was putting in my body but the products I was using on my body. I took a big step and stopped taking the birth control pill, and after that my skin started getting bad again. And I continued using proactiv for a few more months but it wasn’t helping much. My acne had changed, it was on the sides of my face, my jaw line and hairline, they are deep and painful, not like they used to be.  I figure it’s hormonal.

I did the 21 Day Sugar Detox by Diane San Filippo http://the21daysugardetox.com/ hoping that this would help my acne. It didn’t. I also completed the Whole30 http://whole30.com/ and saw improvements after around day 35.  (sometimes you need a Whole60 instead of a Whole30)

I stopped using Proactiv in November 2013 and decided to try Primal Life Organics Paleo Skincare http://www.primallifeorganics.com/. The concept is basically that using natural oils on your skin will not dry out your skin and therefore your skin won’t produce as much sebum, balance out your normal skin pH and therefore less acne. The products are also supposed to reduce inflammation and bacteria.

It was pretty expensive, but I figured it would last me a couple of months and I really wanted to see if it would work. It came with a face wash, toner, serum and moisturizer. I have to admit, they were really stinky. I didn’t even think I could use them again after the first time. But they did feel good on my skin, made my skin feel very soft, and the moisturizer was very effective. After a week I thought I saw a difference in my acne, and after a night of sleep with the serum on my face I thought I could see the acne disappearing before my eyes… unfortunately this did not last.  I continued to use it for a few more weeks but the acne continued and even got worse, the pimples were deep and painful.

Sadly, I returned to Proactiv and even considered going back on birth control.

A few people have suggested that I keep it simple. You know… those people who can wash their face with any soap and never have a pimple in their life (oh, except when they get a tiny little white head that they have to point out for you to see and its the biggest zit in the world*sigh*). But anything is worth a try at this point. I tried the pH balanced “Spectrum” gel with no avail. I also had people tell me about just putting coconut oil on your face… but I was skeptical about that.

I started seeing more and more posts about coconut oil and its benefits, especially for the skin. It’s antibacterial and antimicrobial benefits… I also started looking into the healing benefits of Vitamin E, and how it smooths and protects the skin. I found a recipe on pinterest for whipping together coconut oil and vitamin E to apply to the face and I decided to give it a try.

I have to say I saw some improvements after only 2 days.  I am putting it on morning and night, after washing my face with soap, all over my face and neck. Some of the discoloration on my face from acne scars have started to diminish, my face always feels moisturized, never dry, and I have not had one new zit since started to use it a week ago. I hope the benefits continue! It’s only been a week but I’m going to keep going!

Whole30 – La Fin

Here we are, I finished my first Whole30.

I ordered the book by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig “It Starts With Food” at the beginning of my Whole30 and read it throughout my last two weeks. I learned a lot, and I think I will be able to use this knowledge and do it better next time.

I explored some new foods options, and learned breakfast doesn’t have to be eggs and bacon. I learned I do not NEED coffee when I wake up or at the beginning of a shift nor do I need to chew gum to get through my night shifts. I finally committed to finding and buying meat from a local, organic source, and buying grass fed beef. I also was able to get some bacon that is free of sugar and nitrates.

Although I didn’t see any drastic changes, I did see some changes.

Better Sleep: My insomnia is definitely much better than the last few months, although I still am not sleeping as soundly as I was a year ago it is much better. On top of eliminating alcohol and coffee, I also started taking a Magnesium, Zinc and B6 supplement before bedtime.

Better energy levels: I found I was better functioning off less sleep than I was previously, and this was without the help of coffee. I’m also not as hungry as often as I was before.

Better Hair: My scalp isn’t as dry and itchy as it has been all winter, and my hair feels softer and looks shinier.

Quick Healing: I went sledding and crashed into a tree during Week2 of the Whole30, my face was all scratched up and bleeding and I had a fat lip, within 3 days it had healed completely and no one could tell (with the help of applying coconut oil topically as well).

For a list of 30 reasons to do the Whole30, visit The Clothes Make the Girl blog: I scratched off about 18 of the 30.

http://www.theclothesmakethegirl.com/2012/12/30/30-reasons-whole30/

As I finished reading the book, I realized it’s important to go into the Whole30 with no exact expectations. If you’re doing it simply to lose weight, or get rid of acne, or get rid of sugar cravings, or whatever, you might lose sight of what is important and miss out on the bigger picture.

I had previously done the 21 Day Sugar Detox to help with my acne, and I have to admit, it’s one of the main reasons I went into the Whole30 as well. Unfortunately, I have not seen much improvement. But this just tells me that there are other things I need to work on. I know my stress levels are high and my hormone levels are off because my sleeping patterns are a complete mess because of my shift work. Sometimes, a clean and healthy diet just can’t overcome the other things we do to our bodies. I know I should exercise more, I know I should go outdoors more, I know I should have a more regular sleeping pattern, I know I shouldn’t work overtime… these are things that I have learned I need to work on. Next Fall, after my sports season has finished (I’ve already paid and committed for the summer), I’m going to try to commit to a regular yoga routine.

When I started the Whole30 back in February with a friend of mine, I said to her “Just think about it, by the end of the 30 days it will be warmer outside and Spring will have arrived!” Boy, was I wrong. This winter has been incredibly long and dreary, and it takes a toll on people’s mental and physical health. I’m extremely excited for the spring and summer so I can start going outdoors more and go to the Farmer’s Markets for my produce.

As I said in a previous post, there’s nothing I’m going to jump to eating or drinking simply because I am done the Whole30. Although I do plan on drinking alcohol on St Patrick’s Day. Cheers.

Beef and Kale Frittata

Looking for an easy breakfast that’ll give you some leftovers for a day or two? Once a week I usually make a quiche or frittata that will last me for a few of my night shifts so I have something to eat when those early morning cravings hit or when I wake up with hunger pangs there’s something ready right away for me to eat. I usually put bacon in my quiche or frittata… but since I am doing the Whole30 and can’t find or afford sugar and nitrate free bacon I’ve been experimenting with different meats. Ground beef makes a yummy frittata! (Can you tell I love the word frittata? count how many times I use the word frittata in this post)

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You will need a cast iron skillet for this frittata recipe.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound lean ground beef (grass fed if you can get it!)

1/2 sweet onion, chopped (I like to use sweet onions in my recipes because they don’t make you cry as much)

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 large zucchini (shredded and drained of excess liquid with cheesecloth or paper towel)

A few kale leaves (washed, dried and cut up)

10 large organic eggs

1/4 cup coconut milk 

2 tbsp ghee, divided

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Place the cast iron skillet on medium heat, melt ghee. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add garlic and onion to pan and fry until onions are translucent. Then, using your hands, crumble the ground beef into the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until you can’t see any more pink. Drain the fat. Place the beef in a bowl.

Add a bit more ghee to the skillet, and sautee the kale and zucchini for a couple of minutes, until the kale is wilted. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs together in a bowl with the coconut milk and sprinkle with salt and pepper and whatever other herbs you like. 

Then place the beef back in the pan. Then pour the eggs on top. They should just about cover the beef and kale. I don’t usually stir it at this point, but if you want to spread things out you can. Decrease the heat and leave on the element for about 5 minutes, don’t stir, to let the bottom set, until you see the edges are about cooked and the eggs are bubbling a bit in the middle. Then use an oven mitt and place the entire cast iron in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then slice it like a pizza and enjoy your frittata!

Whole30 Week 2

You know how I know this is working? You know how I know this Whole30 that so many people read about and think is impossible is actually very doable?

Because I’ve stopped counting the days.

A friend of mine asked me at work the other day “What is the first thing you’re going to eat when you’re done?”. My initial thought was… well… nothing.

I don’t actually miss anything.

In the end, my answer was something like a glass of wine or a cup of coffee with some stevia and coconut milk, maybe some pumpkin pancakes with maple syrup.

But really, I’m not craving anything, I’m not thinking about food all the time, I’m actually not hungry. If you know me… that is a crazy notion. I’m always hungry, something I got from my father’s genes. We are simply hungry all the time. These last few night shifts I worked… I could not believe it. I wasn’t eating all the food I was bringing. I wasn’t eating all the food I was preparing, I had so much food I was actually sharing it! I’ve been eating paleo for over a year now but still found myself snacking and eating all the time and still was hungry 2 hours after meals filled with protein and fat, but not nearly as bad as before when I would have a piece of toast for breakfast.

I’m also feeling very fueled in this Whole30 because of the support. My friend Myriam is by my side and was actually the one who asked me to try it out with her, it’s great to have someone to talk to and bounce ideas off of and support each other when out with friends. And after having a few phone calls with my mom she decided to start it as well with my father!

I’m getting many questions from friends and family and it really makes me happy that people are interested in making their lives better.

I think a big part of this is the incredibly long and dreary winter we are having here in Canada, and there seems to be no end in sight. I even told my friend that one of the things I’m most excited about finishing the Whole30 is that the weather will be more springlike by then! (I’m starting to doubt that even…) 

People are feeling depressed and tired and stressed out, and the Whole30 is something to get excited about and challenge yourself and make yourself feel better!

Sweet Potato Buns

My computer has been in and out of the shop since the beginning of December so I haven’t been posting.

Today I have been working on my sweet potato bun recipe. I made these a lot last summer when we had BBQs.  My husband basically lives on hamburgers in the summer so I had to figure out an easy way of eating them (lettuce buns just don’t seem to be the same…). I’ve found many recipes for sweet potato “pancakes” and this one in particular from Dawn of Paleo that I used for a while: http://dawnofpaleo.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/sweet-potato-buns/

But I played with this recipe a lot and found that if you puree the sweet potatoes and bake them they stick together perfectly. I’ve even made them in huge batches and frozen them to use later. My husband even prefers them to use for his burgers over regular buns!

Here’s the recipe!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Use 2 medium sweet potatoes

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Peel them and grate them either using a grater or a food processor.

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This should yield about 6 cups of shredded sweet potatoes. Add 6 large eggs, 1/4 cup coconut oil and pulse a few times.

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In a bowl, mix together 1/4 cup coconut flour, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp paprika and 1 tsp rosemary (really you can use what ever spices you want, sometimes I add cayenne pepper to make them spicy). Add to the food processor and pulse a few times again.

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It should be mushy, not liquidy or chunky.

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Place a large spoonful on parchment paper lined baking sheets and shape into round buns and flatten a bit. It should make about 12 (6 buns total).

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, then flip them, and bake for another 30 minutes.

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You can use them for hamburgers, breakfast sandwiches, pulled pork, whatever! yum yum yum.

Winter Food

If you live in Canada then you know how freezing it has been over the last month. Yesterday the temperature reached -39 degrees celcius in Ottawa with the windchill. If you live in Canada, then you also know there are tricks to surviving winter. My main survival technique is food, and lots of it.

My four favourite winter comfort foods are Chili, Soup, Stew, and Shepherd’s Pie. It’s been too cold for me to venture to the grocery store so I had to come up with something based on what I had in the fridge and freezer, and it’s turned out to be delicious.

Jasmine’s Sweet Potato Mash Up Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients:

1 lb extra lean ground beef

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

2 large turnips, peeled and chopped

1/2 sweet onion chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp bacon fat

1 tbsp ghee (or butter or coconut oil)

1 cup frozen peas and carrots

1/2 cup beef stock

1 tbsp tapioca flour

salt, pepper, any spices and nutritional yeast for seasoning

Recipe

In a large pot, cover sweet potatoes, carrots and turnips (cut carrots and turnip into smaller chunks as they take longer to soften) in water, sprinkle with sea salt and bring to a boil. Turn the temp down to medium and cover until you can easily stab a fork through the pieces (approx 30 minutes).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees C.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown the ground beef on medium with the bacon fat. Once you only see a little bit of pink, drain the fat. Return skillet to stove top and add onions and garlic. Sautee for a couple of minutes, sprinkling with salt, pepper and oregano. Once onions are soft add 1/4 cup beef stock, with the other 1/4 cup in a small bowl add the tapioca flour and whisk until well mixed. Add this to the skillet, it will help thicken the juices. Once everything is well mixed add the frozen peas and carrots, stir for 5 minutes until the veggies are no longer frozen.

When the sweet potato mixture is done, drain the water and return to the pot. Mash with potato masher and add sea salt and pepper, along with 1 tbsp Ghee.

In a large oven safe glass or ceramic casserole dish, place the meat on the bottom and spread the sweet potato mixture on top, patting it down with a fork to cover all edges. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast, sea salt and pepper. Bake on middle rack at 350 for 30 minutes then broil for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes before serving (it’s hot hot hot!).

Enjoy it with some home made paleo ketchup!