Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to Make Water Kefir (Fermentation Series Part 1)


 One of our favorite things to drink is water kefir. If you've never had water kefir, it's comparable to pop (or soda), but full of healthy probiotics and empty of the freaky stuff they put into pop nowadays.

It's perfect for those trying to kick their addiction to pop and for introducing kids to fermented foods because it lacks the signature sour flavor of most fermented products.

Why are fermented foods important and what benefits are specifically found in water kefir?
There are more bacterial cells in our guts than cells in our bodies! If this grosses you out, please realize that without these little guys, you could not survive. They help us digest our foods, provide extra vitamins, and help prevent nasty infections from taking over, among many other things! Fermented foods provide us with the healthy bacteria that our bodies benefit from as well as help pre-digest some plant materials that may be harder to break down. Although water kefir contains sugar, the sugar is only used as a food source for the grains, which need it to survive and thrive. There should be very little sugar in your final product. The B vitamins in water kefir may boost flagging energy levels and the beneficial acids promote healthy digestion.

Next to sauerkraut, I'd recommend introducing this into a persons diet when they first begin making fermented products at home. It is a bit more expensive than sauerkraut, requires a few special ingredients and equipment, but is otherwise the easiest to introduce taste-wise. Plus, you'll be able to enjoy it in only 1-3 days!

If you want to take a break from water kefir or are leaving town, transfer the jar (loosely capped) containing grains, sugar, trace minerals, and water to the refrigerator. That way, the grains will still have some food, but will slow their growth while in the cold temps.


Basic Water Kefir
Yield: 1 quart

Equipment needed:
1 quart-size glass jar with a cover (wide mouth is preferred)
Wooden or plastic spoon with a long handle
Plastic strainer (found here or here)
Water kefir grains* (found here, here, or from a friend)
Filtered water
Liquid trace minerals** (found here or here)
Scant 1/3 cup organic sugar (we use this)

*If you buy your water kefir grains online, you may need to rehydrate them before proceeding with this recipe. Follow the instructions that come with your grains and then follow the instructions below.

**If your filtered water still contains minerals, you may not need the trace minerals.

Place your kefir grains in the bottom of the quart jar. Add in the sugar, about 5 drops of the trace minerals, and fill the rest of the jar with filtered water. Stir using a non-metal spoon until the sugar dissolves. Place a cover on the jar and leave on the counter for 24-48 hours. The warmer the temperature of your room, the faster the kefir will ferment. I usually leave it for 48 hours. The water kefir will be quite bubbly.

Using the plastic strainer, strain out the grains and place them in the bottom of a clean jar to begin the process again using more sugar, water, and trace minerals.

If you like the taste of this finished water kefir (it's pretty unique and I usually prefer to put it through a second fermentation as described below) you can bottle and drink it as is. Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTE: You may also use coconut water in place of water. If using coconut water, just omit the sugar, water, and trace minerals.

Easy Water Kefir Flavoring (aka 2nd fermentation)
Yield: 1 quart

1 quart of water kefir from basic recipe
Plastic funnel or glass measuring cup with a lip
1 liter Grolsch style bottle (found here)
1/3-2/3 cup 100% fruit juice

Transfer the completed water kefir using a funnel or glass measuring cup into a Grolsch bottle along with the fruit juice.

Tightly close the bottle so bubbles can form during the second fermentation period and leave on the counter for up to 24 hours.

Before transferring the bottle to the refrigerator, carefully crack open the cover to let some of the pressure release. You may want to cover the top with a washcloth as you let the air escape in case there is more carbonation than you expect.

More fermentation fun coming in 2015!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Back to blogging and some changes...


I know it's been an excessively long time since I've blogged here. I got to the point where strictly focusing on food/recipes wasn't as fun anymore. Of course I reserve the right to change my mind, but I've decided to start incorporating some different topics although they will still be health-related.

As you may or may not know, I'm a stay at home mom and have recently felt the urge to start learning something new, which may lead to opening my own business at some point. So I've been learning more about essential oils and have been taking a local mind/body medicine class, which have been incredibly exciting.

In the past, my primary approach to attaining improved health has been strictly through physical changes. At this point, I feel like I know so much in that area (chiropractic, nutrition, sleep habits, movement...) but I've been missing the emotional approaches to improving health.


When I was in high school I was incredibly depressed although I believe I hid it well. To this day (technically before this day), very few people were in on the secret. Although I was able to live what appeared to be a normal and happy life, I was miserable inside. I ended up seeing a therapist and at a low point, when things were seemingly not improving, she asked me if I wanted to consider medication. Not having any background information (at least compared to what I have now) on them, I instinctively said no. Thankfully, shortly after that, things started to improve to the point where I stopped seeing her and I've been improving ever since.

Four years later, once I got into chiropractic school, I began to learn about where health really comes from and began to make big changes that have improved my mental and physical health.

Fast forward to today and I've spent the last 6 years learning everything I could get my hands on about improving health. The one area I've missed has been how to affect your physical body through your emotions, thoughts, and the state of your mind.

Having a daughter has made me realize how important this piece is and I know she'll learn by observing me. I want her to be as emotionally healthy as she is physically healthy. And maybe I'll be able to help others with this once I figure out this for myself!

If there's any topics you're particularly interested, let me know! I may know a little something, or at least have another thing to research :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Grilled Plum Crumble



I've officially knocked "grill some sort of fruit" off my bucket list! And I have no idea why it took me so darn long. Normally, I'm not a fan of plums because the skins are too thick, but grilling them softens them up nicely and makes them completely acceptable to me.

Actually, much more than acceptable!

If you want to or need to skip the grilling part, you'll have to bake the crumble longer in the oven and cover the container with foil so the crumble doesn't burn.

A couple weeks ago I took a CreativeLive course on food photography from Todd Porter and Diane Cu (White on Rice Couple) and it was incredible! I was getting in a rut with my photography and although I was getting somewhat consistent results, I didn't have the thought process for changing when I needed to.

Needless to say, I ended up buying the course and hopefully I'll continue to learn and stretch in this area!

Gather up your friends, and grill them up a humble crumble. They'll owe you!


Grilled Plum Crumble
Yield: 6-8 servings


4 plums, halved and pits removed
3/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw pecans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
Pinch sea salt
Whipped cream, lightly sweetened with honey or vanilla stevia, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and a grill to medium high heat.

Place the halved plums on the grill, flat sides down and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes. Very ripe plums will only take a few minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the almonds, pecans,  butter, honey, cinnamon, cardamom and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal place. Pulse until the nuts are coarsely chopped and you can form the mixture into a ball with your hands.

Remove from the grill and place flat sides up in a 1 1/2-quart size casserole dish.

Sprinkle the nut crumble over the plums and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the crumble is browned.

Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream and serve at any temperature.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Vanilla Bean Espresso Cashew Butter Cups



Oh. My. Goodness. You know how some foods sound really good, but they taste even better? These are like that.

I was inspired by an almond butter I saw once in the store, but then decided to use cashews instead of almonds. Now I feel like it owe it to myself to go back and try these again with almonds.

Technique-wise, there's nothing too crazy going on here, but there is some special equipment, like a pastry brush and a food processor that you'll need. You may be able to get by without the pastry brush, but please don't try making cashew butter without a good food processor. This beast is the one I have and love. If you don't have a food processor, buy the most delicious sounding nut butter you can find in the store and use that instead.




Vanilla Bean Espresso Cashew Butter Cups
Yield: 18 cups


1 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon coconut oil, refined to avoid coconut flavor
3/4 teaspoons espresso ground coffee, or espresso powder
1/8 teaspoon vanilla beans seeds, or seeds from one vanilla bean
10-ounce bittersweet chocolate chips

Line 18 muffin tins with paper muffin liners.

In a large food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the cashews for 30 seconds. Add the honey, coconut oil, coffee, and vanilla bean seeds. Continue processing and scraping down the sides of the container periodically until the cashews form a thick smooth dough. You'll know it's ready if you can pick up piece and easily roll it into a ball.

Place chocolate chips in a glass bowl and set over a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and remove from heat.

Drop 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate into the bottom of the paper liners and spread it slightly up the sides of the paper with a pastry brush. If you don't have a pastry brush, you may be able to tip the chocolate up around the edges of the liners.

Once you have filled all 18 liners, place the pan in the freezer for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.

Roll and teaspoon-sized ball of the cashew butter between your hands and flatten into a disc that will fit into the hardened chocolate (see image above). Fill each cup this way and return to the freezer for an additional 5 minutes.

Remelt the chocolate if it has thickened and pour 1-1 1/2 teaspoons of chocolate over the cashew butter discs, using the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate out to the edges to seal in the cashew butter.

Return to the freezer to set for another 5 minutes.

Store in a covered container in the fridge or freezer.




Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Jacked-Up Honey Face Wash



I realize that many people out there have already talked about washing your face with honey: Lauren, Kate, and Leslie are the ones that introduced me to the idea. If you haven't read what these ladies have to say about it, you may wonder why anyone would want to spread that sticky stuff all over your face. Well, here's why:
  • Since honey has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, it helps fight bacteria that may be contributing to acne. That little fact alone was enough to convince me to try it initially.
  • Honey also is a humectant, which means it gently moisturizes.
  • Since it's gentle, even those with sensitive skin, rashes, or eczema benefit from honey.
  • It's great for all skin types and once you rinse it off, you have a "glow" to your face you didn't have before.
  • It can help scar tissue.
  • PS: It does remove dirt and oil!
Pretty impressive, right?

Although quality matters, you can still get some pretty impressive results with the low-brow stuff.

Honey ranges wildly in price and quality anywhere from the little honey bears at your average grocery store to manuka honey. I'd encourage you to at least spend a little extra to get raw and/or organic because it will last you quite a while and the cost over time is fairly low.

All the tutorials I've seen so far use plain honey, but I wanted to add another level of customization for different skin types.


If you want to try it plain, here's what you do:
  1. Spread up to 1 teaspoon over your dry face, massaging it in with your fingers. A very grainy honey may not be ideal unless you don't mind the extra friction. As your skin warms the honey, it will get easier to spread.
  2. Either let it sit for 30 minutes or more (more time to get those benefits to your skin), or rinse it off immediately with warm water.
  3. Pat dry with a towel.
  4. If some stickiness remains, just give it another splash of water.
I keep a little jar of honey in the bathroom and always wash my face this way in the morning.

I kept this tutorial simple by using stirred honey, so if you want to use a honey that's truly "creamed honey," you can follow this tutorial, but you'll need to buy a small amount of creamed honey to begin with.


Adding one or two special ingredients to the honey allows you to benefit your skin type even more:

Normal, aging, or sun-damaged skin: carrot seed essential oil + rosehip seed oil

Acne or scarred skin: helichrysum essential oil + rosehip seed oil* OR tamanu** oil

Normal skin: lavender essential oil + jojoba oil

Acne-prone skin: neem oil**

Aging or damaged skin: macadamia nut oil infused with chamomile or macadamia nut oil and chamomile essential oil

*Rosehip seed oil may exacerbate acne, so if your acne gets worse, you should switch to tamanu or neem oil.

**Although tamanu and neem oils are strong-smelling and may be hard to get used to, their benefits far outweigh the smell so please don't dismiss them! :)

If you usually have normal skin with the occasional breakout, I'd mix up a full batch of the face wash using the formula for normal skin. When you break out, you can mix up a dollop of plain honey with a few drops of neem or tamanu oil in your palm and use that until the breakout passes, then go back to using the formula for normal skin.




Jacked-Up Honey Face Wash
Yield: 1/2 cup


1/2 cup honey (raw and/or organic is best)
1 teaspoon base oil (such as rosehip seed or tamanu)
5-10 drops essential oil, optional (depending on your skin needs)

In a bowl, combine all ingredients with a spoon until thoroughly combined and honey lightens in color and becomes creamy in consistency.

Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature. If you're using essential oils, a glass container is best.

To use:
  1. Spread up to 1 teaspoon over your dry face, massaging it in with your fingers. A very grainy honey may not be ideal unless you don't mind the extra friction. As your skin warms the honey, it will get easier to spread.
  2. Either let it sit for an extended period of time (I usually aim for 30 minutes), or rinse it off immediately with warm water.
  3. Pat dry with a towel.
  4. If some stickiness remains, just give it another splash of water.
NOTE: If you simply stir the honey to combine the ingredients, some of the creaminess will go away over time, but it will still be thicker than your original honey. You can always give it another quick stir every so often if you want!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

Monday, June 9, 2014

How to Infuse Herbs in Oil {Chamomile Infused Macadamia Nut Oil Recipe)



First things first: I've got to give a huge thanks to my friend Evelyn for fixing my link color woes. Now my links should be more visible! I've got a lot to learn in this arena...Sigh.

This is my first official recipe using foraged ingredients! Not that I'm promising many more, but it sure was exciting when I found chamomile growing near our house last summer (and that I figured out what it was).

When I dried it last summer, I assumed I'd be sipping chamomile tea all winter, but I kept forgetting about it. Now that it's warm again, hot beverages are slightly less appealing and I'm only vaguely interested in cold tea.

My solution? Infuse it! I knew chamomile was incredible for skin and since I didn't have the essential oil, I'd have to pull out the calming and anti-inflammatory benefits from my dried flowers.

Using a more neutral smelling oil will really allow the chamomile scent to shine, but I'd been looking for an excuse to use my macadamia oil for way too long. If you'd prefer to make a chamomile scented oil, use sweet almond or jojoba oil.

Of course you can always use this recipe as a guide to infuse almost any herb in almost oil you choose. Just be aware that if you are infusing a "harder" herb such as rosemary, you may want to chop it slightly before adding the oil.

I used the sunshine method to infuse the flowers, but if you're in a rush, you can gently warm the oil before adding it to the flowers and strain out the flowers after a few hours.

In my next post, I'll show you how I used part of this "sunshiny" oil!

Chamomile Infused Macadamia Nut Oil
Yield: varies


1/2 cup dried chamomile flowers, found in the wild, or bought online
Enough macadamia oil to cover flowers

Place dried chamomile in a small glass jar. Pour enough macadamia oil in the jar to cover the flowers, plus a little extra because some of the oil will be absorbed by the flowers.

Cover the jar. Place the jar in a sunny spot and shake it every day. Let it sit for 1-2 weeks.

Using several layers of cheesecloth, strain out the chamomile, squeezing out as much oil as you can and discard the flowers. Transfer the strained oil to a tightly covered jar.

Refrigeration should not be necessary.




Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, May 23, 2014

Moisturizing Protein Hair Mask for Naturally Curly Hair





As far back as I can remember, I've appreciated the fact that I have naturally curly hair, but I never could show anybody why. The bun was my signature style because wearing it down made me look like I was trying to hide under a teepee. Frizz was the dominant feature, but I never stopped liking it, despite all that.

I didn't really see how curly my hair actually was until last year when I discovered Curly Girl and learned that curly hair shouldn't be shampooed. Really! Before you dismiss this because you'd never want greasy hair, hear me out. Rather than drying and stripping your hair with shampoo, you use products that can be washed out with water (so no sulfates or silicones), and focus on moisture, moisture, and more moisture.

You still give yourself a nice scalp massage with a small amount of conditioner (or sulfate-free shampoo), which helps remove any build up and rinse out like shampoo before conditioning.

Aside from using my silicone-free conditioner, I do some sort of moisturizing or protein treatment once a week. When I don't want to start completely from scratch, I doctor up something store bought. This is my most recent concoction!




Moisturizing Protein Hair Mask
Yield: 1 mask

Shea Moisture Masque
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon honey

In a small bowl, add at least 1 tablespoon of Shea Moisture Masque (more for thick or long hair) together with the yolk and honey. Combine well with a small spoon until smooth.

Apply evenly to clean wet hair and cover with a shower cap for 30 minutes. Rinse out thoroughly and apply additional conditioner if necessary.

I usually follow with conditioner, but only need half the usual amount and a healthy blob of gel.




Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”