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Kombucha How-To Guide

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know about my love for kombucha. I started my journey of brewing my own earlier this summer and never looked back! Since investing in my home brewing kit, I have not consumed any store bought kombucha (unless of course I’m out of town or something). I really love it and I hope you try it too! Be sure to scroll down to read the “Kombucha Q & A” for common questions and concerns with kombucha and get my Pumpkin Spice Kombucha recipe. I linked as much as I could so you can easily pick up the items below. Let’s jump into it!

Equipment/ingredients needed:

  1. 1 gallon glass (no plastic!) jar
  2. 1 SCOBY
  3. 12 Black tea bags
  4. 1 cup sugar
  5. Tea kettle
  6. Cheese cloth
  7. Rubber band
  8. 16 oz glass bottles or re-used kombucha bottles
  9. 1 gallon distilled water
  10. 1 cup regular kombucha
  11. Plastic funnel
  12. Flavorings of your choice (i.e. blueberries, mango, black cherries, ginger, lemons, etc.)

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The Brewing Process

Step 1: Wash the glass jar, dry, and set aside.

Step 2: Boil 8 cups of distilled water then let the 12 tea bags brew for about 10 minutes. Discard the tea bags.

Step 3: While water is coming to a boil, pour 8 cups of distilled water into the glass jar. Add 1 cup sugar.

Step 4: Once the tea is done brewing, add the tea to the glass jar and stir to combine. Let cool for about an hour or so until the temperature comes down to 70-80 degrees. Kombucha 6.jpg

Step 5: Add the SCOBY and 1 cup of regular kombucha.

Step 6: Cut cheese cloth to cover the top of the glass jar and hold in place using a rubber band around the top of the jug. Kombucha 8

Step 7: Store in a dry, warm (ideally between 70-80 degrees) room away from light for about 7-14 days.*

*The kombucha can sit for up to a month like this. The longer you let it ferment, the more vinegary and acidic it becomes. It totally depends on your preference of flavor for the kombucha.

 

The Flavoring Process

Step 1: Add fruit, herbs, spices, or other ingredients of your choice to fill about 20% of the 12-oz bottles. Don’t overthink this part. Just throw in a little bit of this and that especially when using fresh fruit.

Step 2: Using the funnel, pour the kombucha into each 12-oz bottle leaving about an inch from the top. Kombucha 3

Step 3: Put the tops on and store in a dry, warm (ideally between 70-80 degrees) room away from light for about 4 days.

*Step 4: Each day the kombucha will carbonate more and more so you’ll want to burp (or open) the bottle once a day to let the air out. It is very important not to forget this step! If you forget, the potential of a Mount Vesuvius explosion is possible. I’m warning you from a place of personal experience lol. I recommend doing this in the sink of the kitchen to help avoid a sticky mess. For me, every kombucha batch has been a little different and it definitely depends on the type of ingredients you add. For example, fruit is a sugar so it tends to ferment and create more gas to let off.

Step 5: After 4 days (and burping each day), place your kombucha in the refrigerator and enjoy at any point! Kombucha 10.jpg

 

Kombucha Q & A

WTF is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea that is often considered a functional food due to its proposed health benefits. Its origins are relatively unknown but it’s said to have started in China, Russia, Europe, and eventually the United States.

What is a SCOBY?

A SCOBY stands for a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Gross right? WRONG. It’s science and this little “mother” of weirdness works kombucha magic. The yeast and bacteria in the SCOBY ferment with the sugary tea resulting in a liquid containing vinegar, B vitamins, and other chemical compounds depending on the variations in preparation. The SCOBY can be reused for multiple batches and should produce more SCOBY’s as you continue to brew.

How do I know if my SCOBY has gone bad?

I get this question a lot because in general SCOBY’s are ugly, yet magnificent creatures. If your SCOBY is actively growing mold on the top of it or has fuzzy white, red, green, or any odd color to it, it’s time to ditch the batch and order yourself a new SCOBY.

How can I preserve or store my SCOBY long-term if I’m not brewing another batch of kombucha?

For 3 months or less, you can store it in a glass jar with enough regular kombucha to cover the SCOBY. Put the top on the jar and store in the refrigerator. For 3 months or more, you can make a SCOBY hotel by taking another 2L glass jar, stack your SCOBY’s on top of each other, and pour 50% kombucha and 50% newly brewed tea mixed with sugar (cooled to room temperature) over the SCOBY’s. To make the tea mixture, brew about 3 cups of black tea and combine with ½ cup sugar. Every so often, pour more kombucha in to keep the SCOBY’s covered and provide more food (aka sugar) for the SCOBY’s. Cover with cheese cloth and store at room temperature in a dry location out of direct sunlight.

What are the potential health benefits of kombucha?

The proposed health benefits of kombucha include reducing inflammation and improving gut health and digestion due to the healthy bacteria or probiotics found in kombucha.

Does Kombucha have alcohol in it?

Yes. Kombucha has about 1% or less alcohol content depending on the duration of the fermentation process.

What’s your favorite thing about brewing kombucha?

I really enjoy the process of trialing different flavor combinations. As the seasons change and different ingredients come into season, I’m enjoying it more and more. With fresh fruit, it’s truly hard to go wrong with flavor combinations. The only flavor addition I didn’t love was grapefruit, but I’m already not a big grapefruit lover so I think I’m just bias. 😉

Now, it’s time for my favorite flavor combination, Pumpkin Spice Kombucha! I hope you guys enjoy and feel free to leave comments with any additional questions. -EAB

Pumpkin Spice Kombucha

Course Drinks
Keyword kombucha
Servings 1 16-oz bottle
Author Liz Bissell

Ingredients

  • 1 heaping tbsp 100% Pumpkin puree
  • 1 heaping tsp Pumpkin pie spice
  • 16 ounces Homemade Kombucha
  • 1 16-ounce glass bottle

Instructions

  1. Using the funnel, add the pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice to the bottle.

  2. Next, fill the bottle with homemade kombucha. Store the bottle in a dry place out of direct sunlight.

  3. For 4 days, burb (or crack the lid to let air out) the bottle once a day (ideally over the sink). After the 4 days, refrigerate the kombucha and enjoy once chilled. Keep refrigerated.

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TOFU: Everything you need to know

When the word tofu gets mentioned, I often get a bewildered look from my patients as if I am asking them to try astronaut ice cream or alien food. Tofu is commonly used in Asian cuisine. It is made into a bean curd by coagulating soy milk and pressing the milk curds into a soft, white block.

Unfortunately, tofu often gets a bad rap for being tasteless or a “health” food. However, people often knock it before trying it or don’t prepare it correctly, resulting in an adverse flavor or texture. However, tofu has some really important health benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked. Not to mention, tofu can really take on some amazing flavor if prepared correctly.IMG_1778

Tofu is incredibly versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. It is low in calories and cholesterol, high in protein and a good source of isoflavones, phosphorus, iron, calcium, manganese, copper and selenium. Tofu is particularly useful for anyone trying to find ways to increase their protein intake without the risks of raising bad cholesterol. Now let’s talk about the need-to-know information on preparing and cooking tofu.

Watch my WZZM 13 segment here!

Prepping:

  • Eat raw: any tofu can be eaten raw, but most often silken or soft tofu is used for eating raw.
  • Draining and Pressing: With any tofu, be sure to drain off the water from the package before using. Tofu contains quite a bit of water, so it’s also important apply pressure to the whole block or slices of tofu to extract additional water. Place the tofu on a paper towel-covered plate with another paper towel on top of the block tofu. Next, place a canned good or baking sheet to apply more pressure. Allow about 5-10 minutes for the excess water to drain off.IMG_1772
  • Freezing: Freezing tofu is a great way to pull a good majority of the water from tofu. It is recommended to drain and press the tofu block before freezing. Similar to meat, it can be defrosted in the refrigerator or microwave.
  • Marinating and Glazing: Tofu is a great vehicle for flavor, just like any meat. Therefore, marinating it overnight (after pressing!) or even for 15-30 minutes prior to cooking will help when it comes to adding flavor. If baking, the key is to save some of the marinade for after the tofu is done cooking and brush the tofu with the remaining marinade right before serving. If pan-frying firm tofu with or without oil (canola, peanut, or extra-virgin olive oil), glaze the tofu pieces with the marinade throughout the cooking process. As the tofu continues to fry, re-glaze the tofu until it turns into a syrupy mix that clings to the tofu. This will lock in the marinade and flavor. Whether you are baking, broiling, pan-frying, or grilling, cooking time for tofu generally ranges between 20-30 minutes (flipping halfway through).

Types of tofu:

  • Firm or extra firm: this tofu can take on quite a bit of flavor and is perfect for pan-frying, sautéing, grilling, or roasting.
  • Medium: this tofu still can fall apart on you pretty easily. It is best added to soups or salads depending on your taste preference.
  • Soft/silken: Soft tofu is best eaten raw, lightly fried, or blended and added to recipes, such as a creamy savory sauce or fruit smoothie. Do not press soft tofu due to the soft texture and likelihood of it falling apart on you.

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RECIPES:

Vanilla Banana-Nut SmoothieIMG_1770

Servings: 3-4 servings (1 cup each)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup cubed soft silken tofu
  • 1 1/2 banana, ripe or frozen
  • 2 tbsp. 100% natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. ground flax seed (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
  2. Serve immediately or freeze for later use.

  

Pineapple Stir Fry with Baked Tofu (courtesy of Veggie Inspired!)

Servings: 5

Ingredients:

Tofu

  • 1 lb firm tofu , drained, pressed*, and cubed
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (or liquid aminos or tamari for a gluten free version)
  • 2 tbsp pineapple juice
  • 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger , peeled

Stir Fry

  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger (peeled and minced)
  • 3/4 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup halved snow peas
  • 1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
  • 3 scallions (sliced)
  • 2 cups cubed pineapple
  • about 1/2 cup water or broth for sautéing

Stir Fry Sauce

  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free)
  • 2 tbsp pineapple juice
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp water

Garnish, optional

  • sliced green onion
  • Sesame seeds
  • drizzle of sesame oil

Serve with your choice of brown or white rice.

Instructions:

  1. Press the tofu if you haven’t already — see note below. Cut it into cubes.
  2. Pour the marinade into a plastic Ziploc bag: 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp pineapple juice and 1/2 inch of fresh peeled ginger. Add the cubed tofu and mix around so it’s all covered with marinade. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  4. When the tofu is done marinating, remove the tofu and place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping each piece half way through the cooking time.
  5. In the meantime, whisk together the stir fry sauce: tomato paste, 3 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp pineapple juice, maple syrup, and vinegar. Mix together the cornstarch and water and add to the sauce. Whisk well and set aside.
  6. Heat a large skillet with 2 tbsp water (or broth) over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 3 minutes.
  7. Add the carrots and 1/4 cup water (or broth), cover and let cook about 5-7 minutes. Check every few minutes and add more water/broth if the pan is getting dry. Add the snow peas, water chestnuts, scallions and pineapple chunks and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  8. Add the stir fry sauce and mix well. Add the baked tofu and mix again.
  9. Serve over rice and garnish with sliced green onions, sesame seeds and a sprinkle of sesame oil, if desired.

Recipe Notes:

*To press tofu – place paper towels or a clean dishcloth on a plate and place block of drained tofu on top. Cover with more paper towels or another clean dishcloth, add another plate on top, and weigh it down with whatever you have. I used bags of dried beans or grains.

*To save time, chop your veggies while the tofu is marinating. You can make the stir fry sauce at this time too.

*The stir fry comes together quickly if you have everything prepped ahead of time. Don’t start your stir fry until you have about 15 minutes left for baking the tofu. That way everything will be ready at the same time.

 

References:

https://www.thekitchn.com/tofu-varieties-whats-the-difference-201345

https://www.veggieinspired.com/pineapple-stir-fry/

https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/02/the-food-lab-how-to-grill-tofu-vegan-experience.html

-EAW

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Plant-Based Diet: How to optimize your side dishes

A few weeks ago, we (as in myself, another dietitian, and our chef at the hospital) finished up our plant-based diet series on WZZM 13. We capped off the series with strategies for optimizing side dishes. In other words, how to make side dishes as nutritionally dense as possible. On average, at least 75% of Americans do not consume enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Therefore, when it comes to following a plant-based diet, here are a few guidelines to follow to get the most antioxidant-packed side dishes.

Purchase what’s in season.

Buying produce that is in season or grown locally will not only taste better, but often save you money. What’s in season right now (winter) in West Michigan?

  • Apples
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Beets
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Clementines
  • Grapefruit

Buy locally at the Fulton Street Market on Saturday mornings or at the Downtown Market. Kingma’s Market also features produce and protein from local Michigan farms.

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Use a combination of pre-cut and fresh ingredients to save time.

Many of my patients find the idea of cutting a whole butternut squash a little daunting and as a result, they often just avoid it. No need! Science is an amazing thing and nowadays there is pre-cut butternut squash along with other vegetables in the produce section. Short on time? Buy a combination of pre-cut and whole, raw vegetables to create a healthy dinner without “slaving” in the kitchen. Note: Pre-cut vegetables tend to break down quicker so be sure to use them within a couple days of purchase. Really, really short on time? Use frozen, cubed butternut squash. You may sacrifice a little flavor, but nothing a little additional seasoning can’t fix. If buying frozen, avoid any frozen vegetables that come with added sauces.

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Aim for at least 3 fruits and/or vegetables in one dish.

The key to reducing your risk of chronic disease and cancer is variety! The more variety, the more likely you are to get a broader spectrum of antioxidants and nutrients. By including at least 3 fruits and/or vegetables in a side or main dish, you really pack in the maximum antioxidant and phytochemical power. An easy way to do this is utilizing one-sheet pans! They save on so much time and are perfect for a quick and healthy weeknight dinner.

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Try these options below for some of my favorite go-to plant-based side dishes. Keep in mind, any of these can easily be made into an entree by adding a protein (chicken, beef, pork, lentils, beans, tofu, etc.)

Be sure to check out the WZZM 13 visual guide here 🙂

-EAW