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karissadevore

Lifestyle

Homesteading Skills: Brewing Kombucha

If you have ever met me or H, you know that we have a dream of creating a net-zero homestead in the mountains. Our goal of being maximally self-sustainable guides a lot of choices I make as I consider how to spend my free time. I have always enjoyed learning how to do new things, but now the pursuit of knowledge has taken on a special purpose. Every time I am ready to take on a new project, I consider what kind of things will benefit our family in the future when we are establishing our home.

One of these projects has been learning to brew kombucha. H and I drink it regularly to support digestion through a healthy microbiome, but buying it at the store can be extremely expensive. When comparing store prices to the affordability and ease of home brewing, it becomes a no brainer!

For those who are unfamiliar, kombucha is a fermented tea that is made using a culture of gut-healthy bacteria called a scoby. A scoby, for lack of a better description, basically looks like a thick slice of deli turkey and has a slimy feel. It’s not exactly pretty! Every time you brew it “reproduces” by growing a new layer, which can be peeled off and shared! My first scoby was given to me as a gift, and as it has grown new layers I have given baby scobys to others to start their own brew. If you know someone who makes kombucha, ask them to share their next layer with you! If not, you can also order live scobys on Amazon. I know some people who have used this one and had great results.

To start your own home brew you need:
1 gallon glass jar
A scoby
Organic *plain* black and green tea bags
Organic cane sugar (must use cane sugar- NO coconut sugar, honey or sugar substitute, these will harm your scoby!)
Vinegar (plain ol’ white vinegar)
Cheesecloth or paper towels
Rubber band or string
Mason jars with plastic lids or swing top bottles

Start by boiling a gallon of water in a large stockpot. Once the water starts to boil, turn off the heat and let sit for one minute or until there are no longer active bubbles in the water. Add 1 cup sugar, 3 black tea bags and 3 green tea bags. Do not use flavored teas, as these can upset the ph balance of your scoby. Stir to dissolve sugar, then cover the pot and let the tea steep for at least 15 minutes. I usually just leave the tea bags in until the water returns to room temperature. This won’t hurt your tea and it means you can walk away from your pot as soon as the sugar is dissolved and come back to it later in the day.

Once your tea cools to room temperature, rinse your gallon jar with water and then rinse with white vinegar. Don’t worry about drying it, leave a coating of the vinegar on the inside of the jar and dump out the excess. Add your tea, then add the scoby (which should be stored in some “mother tea” from its original jar- add this to your jar as well). Make sure the rim of the jar is completely dry, then cover the mouth of the jar with a double layer of cheesecloth or paper towels. Secure with a rubber band or tightly tied string. Make sure the covering is well secured! Using cheesecloth or paper towels allows your scoby to breathe, but prevents fruit flies or anything from else getting in. You can store the lid of the jar for some other use, you won’t need it for kombucha.

Store your jar in a dark place, such as a kitchen cabinet, and leave for 10-14 days. The longer you leave your kombucha, the stronger it will be both in terms of flavor and fermentation. Do not leave longer than 14 days.

At the end of this first fermentation period, it is time to prepare for the second fermentation. This is when the kombucha carbonates! This is also where you can get creative with your kombucha. You may prefer to have it unflavored, but if you would like to flavor your kombucha there are endless options!

For unflavored kombucha, remove your big jar from the cabinet and rinse the insides of your small mason jars or swing bottles with the white vinegar. Fill each jar or bottle with the kombucha, reserving 2 cups of it to stay in the gallon jar with the scoby as mother tea for your next batch. Seal the small jars or bottles, then put them back into the cabinet and leave to ferment for 7 more days. At the end of this 7 day period, transfer the jars to the refrigerator and enjoy within a month.

For flavored kombucha, begin by filling the small jars or bottles about 4/5 of the way full with the kombucha from your big jar. Then, top off with organic fruit juice, other kinds of tea, fruit, ginger, or other flavorings! My favorite combination is lemon ginger, which can be made by adding slices of fresh organic lemon and a little knob of peeled, fresh ginger root to each jar. Blueberry mint is also very tasty and can be made by adding mint tea and fresh blueberries or blueberry juice. You can experiment with adding rose petals or lavender, basil, etc! You can find a million other ideas for flavorings online. Just keep in mind that whatever you are adding to your kombucha needs to be organic and clean- anything with chemical pesticides can mess with your culture. Seal the small jars or bottles, then put them back into the cabinet and leave to ferment for 7 more days. At the end of this 7 day period strain any solids from the tea, then transfer to the refrigerator and enjoy within 2 weeks.

You may notice when you prepare to enjoy your kombucha that a small scoby or some stringy bacterial colonies have grown in your tea. This is totally normal. The small scobys can be discarded and while some people choose to drink the stringy bits, I personally don’t have the stomach for it and I choose to discard them as well.

I like to always have kombucha brewing, since we drink a lot of it. To make this happen, I make a new batch of sweetened tea on the morning when I know I am going to transfer my kombucha to the smaller containers for second fermentation. Then, once I have filled the small jars, I move my scoby and 2 cups of reserved mother tea to a clean glass (or any non-metal) bowl, rinse the gallon jar with vinegar to keep it clean, then start my new batch just like the previous batch. If you need to take a break from brewing, you can store your scoby in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Just place your scoby in a tightly sealed glass container with 2 cups mother tea and enough fresh, sweetened tea to cover it. This basically puts your scoby into hibernation. Once you hit the 3 month mark, you will need to remove your scoby from the fridge and make at least 1 batch of kombucha with it before returning it to hibernation.

**Caution: If your scoby begins to drastically change color, omit a strong nasty odor (aside from its normal, vinegary odor) or shrivel, discard it and the tea immediately. This indicates a problem with your scoby such as contamination or a ph imbalance. It is better to discard everything and start over than risk getting sick from a compromised scoby. To be fair, I have been brewing kombucha for 5 years and have never had this problem. However, it is possible and should be taken seriously.

Have you ever made your own kombucha at home? Do you have a flavor combination that will rock our socks off? Share with us below!

KD

Lifestyle

Cycle Syncing Recipes: Ketogenic Menstrual Phase Friendly Soup

I tend to meal prep each Sunday, and as I consider what to prepare for the week I look at my cycle calendar on MyFlo (best app ever). Will I be in the same phase all week? Will I transition to a new phase half way through the week? I use this knowledge to make decisions and prepare meals that will support me, and my hormones, as I move through my cycle.

During the menstrual phase, the body benefits from foods rich in protein, healthy fats, and low-glycemic produce. These things, along with special spices like cinnamon, help to regulate blood sugar. These food recommendations fall in line with the Ketogenic Diet, so I will often combine the two. The strict requirements of Ketosis help me to avoid the pitfalls of cravings, which in this stage for me often revolve around salty soft pretzels and sourdough bread (ironically the exact opposite of what I should be eating at that time).

One of my favorite recipes to prep for my menstrual phase is this amazing, fatty, tasty soup. A small serving packs a nutritious punch and keeps me full for a long time, eliminating the urge to snack.

Ingredients:
1lb fatty organic grass-fed ground beef (I tend to grab the Simple Truth 80/20 pack from Target)
20 Brussels sprouts
3 tb Coconut oil
1 tb Ghee
1 Jalapeno, sliced into thin rounds (keep the seeds in for a spicier soup- discard seeds for a more mild flavor)
1/4 cup Red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tb Tomato paste
2 scoops Ancient Nutrition Turmeric Bone Broth Protein Powder
Handful Spinach, roughly chopped
2 quarts water
Himalayan pink sea salt
Ground black pepper
Optional: Red chili flakes, scallions to garnish

Chop the sprouts into quarters, then toss in the coconut oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 400F degrees  for 40 minutes, shaking the pan every 10 minutes to mix the sprouts.

Melt the ghee in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeno. Season with salt & pepper and sauté until soft. Add the tomato paste and stir consistently for 30 seconds, allowing the flavors to combine.

Add water slowly, continuously stirring the mixture to combine. Then stir in the bone broth powder. Let simmer for 20 minutes, adding the spinach for the last 5 minutes.

I like to divide the soup into mason jars and freeze them for lunches at work. If you do this, make sure you leave about an inch and a half of room in the top of the jar, do not fill to the top. I grab one on my way out the door in the morning, leave it wrapped in a dish towel at my desk and it’s thawed by lunch time! This also ensures that I don’t waste any soup if I don’t eat it all by the end of my menstrual phase.

Enjoy!
KD

 

Lifestyle

WTF is Cycle Syncing?

I recently posted in my Instagram story about how I was adjusting my morning routine on a specific day to accommodate my cycle syncing needs for that day, and received a barrage of responses and texts from my friends, all essentially asking me, “What the f*** is cycle syncing?”. Out of curiosity I did a poll and discovered that 93% of the women I interact with on social media had never heard of it before!

I wish I was surprised, but I can’t say that I am. I had never heard of cycle syncing myself until recently, when I saw the phrase casually mentioned on a health Q+A. I was curious and started doing a great deal of research, eventually finding myself buried in books, articles and testimonials about the myriad benefits of this practice.

So… let’s answer the question! Cycle syncing is the practice of adjusting your food, exercise, mental focus and sex life to the stages of your fertility cycle. Did you know that we have 4 distinct stages in our cycle, and that the fluctuations of our hormones in each stage affect us in a variety of ways? They prime us to be more successful in different types of mental tasks at different times of the month, they influence our energy/endurance levels, make us feel more/less amorous and cause our body to crave different nutrients. By understanding these fluctuations we can make decisions to support our bodies and come into a harmonious flow with our, well, flow. Benefits of cycle syncing can include reduction of PMS symptoms, weight loss and other physical improvements, increased happiness… I could go on and on.

The four stages of our cycle are Follicular, Ovulation, Luteal, and (you guessed it) Menstrual. I’ll be doing more in depth posts about each phase in the coming months, and sharing my own tips for harnessing the power of this practice for your health.

If you are feeling the pull to dive in deep with cycle syncing, I recommend this book and the MyFlo app (it’s the best couple of bucks I’ve ever spent).

With Love,
KD

Lifestyle

Ketogenic Cauliflower Fried Rice

I love being in ketosis. My body is strong, my skin is clear, my brain is firing and my energy levels are consistent throughout the day. I never feel better than when I am in ketosis.

What I don’t particularly love is living without some of my favorite comfort foods- particularly chicken fried rice takeout, which is one of my all time favorite things.

Recently while searching for frozen broccoli at the store I stumbled across a bag of riced cauliflower- basically just frozen cauliflower that has been put through a food processor to achieve a rice-like size and consistency. Cauliflower is pretty low in carbs so I figured I would give it a shot, and MAN OH MAN am I glad I did. Game changer.

It’s discoveries like this that make me believe that Keto could be a long term option for me.

Recipe:

1 cup riced cauliflower
1 tablespoon ghee
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 jalapeño pepper
1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1 egg
Cooked, shredded or cubed chicken (I use 3oz but you can adjust to your macros)
1 teaspoon soy sauce (or more, to your taste!)
1/2 teaspoon pink himalayan sea salt

  1. Heat the ghee and coconut oil over medium high heat.
  2. Sautee the jalapeños, red chili chili flakes and salt until the jalapeños are soft.
  3. Add the cauliflower and continue to cook, stirring every 30 seconds or so, allowing the cauliflower to brown but not burn.
  4. When the cauliflower is cooked, add the cooked chicken and stir just long enough for the chicken to heat through.
  5. Crack the egg into the pan and stir gently, breaking the yolk and distributing the egg throughout the mixture.
  6. Add the soy sauce and continue to stir until the egg has cooked completely.
  7. Enjoy!

Consider adding a little hot sauce or topping with green onions if you’d like! You can also add peas and carrots, just be careful and consider your macros.

Enjoy!
KD

Lifestyle

#IStandForGirls

A few months ago I joined a community of female travelers and became connected with some amazing women. One of them, Elisabetta, runs the non-profit organization Kurandza.

Based in Mozambique, Kurandza is focused on the empowerment of local women. Elisabetta’s best friend and organizational partner Percina was the first woman from her village to graduate from high school, despite having to walk more than 10 miles to school each day. Her own experience sparked a passion in her heart for the education of girls, and now Kurandza is running a campaign to send 100 Mozambican girls to school. When Elisabetta reached out asking for people to help promote the campaign launch, joining was an absolute no-brainer.

There are a couple of ways you can help support this amazing cause.

1: Sponsor a girl directly for only $20 per month

2: Shop from vendors who are supporting the cause! Check #istandforgirls on Instagram to find them! (I am supporting through all purchases made on Etsy and NuSkin through the end of October)

We are facing so many issues in the world today, and direct charity is only a temporary help. We must invest in the actions that will result in long-term change, and educating girls is clearly one of the most impactful things we can do.

I stand for girls, and I hope you’ll stand with me.
KD

Lifestyle

Colorado Crush Art Festival

Every September the RiNo Arts District in Denver hosts a week-long festival called Colorado Crush, and it is one of the most unique things I have ever witnessed.

For 7 days a group of street artists descend upon a few city blocks in the heart of RiNo and cover the walls in incredible artwork that will remain until the next year’s Crush.

During the week you can walk around the streets and back alleys, watching the artists work and talking to them about their pieces. It’s amazing what they can do with spaces ranging from a little patch of brick between dumpsters to the full side of a 3 story building.

The festival may be over, the the beautiful artwork remains to be seen! Go check it out, and maybe grab a drink at the brand new Lustre Pearl, an Austin staple that just opened a location here in Denver!

Be sure to take a camera, because these murals are seriously Insta-worthy.

Happy Mural Hunting!
KD

Lifestyle

Reading Challenge Update

We are almost 3/4 way through 2017, and I can hardly believe it! What better time to check in on our 2017 Reading Challenge?

So far I’ve finished these books from the challenge:
The Alchemist
East of Eden
1Q84
Rich People Behaving Badly
Field Notes from a Catastrophe
Letters of Note
Hemingway in Love
Travels with Charley
The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems (Bilingual Edition)
Between the World and Me
Rich People Behaving Badly

Plus these from Book of the Month Club:
The Association of Small Bombs
The Nest
Modern Lovers
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

I love having Book of the Month Club as a way to discover new literature that I might not otherwise find on my own! The best part is that they don’t ship my box or charge me unless I pick a book, so it’s not a big deal if I forget about it, as I tend to do with subscription services. Anyone else have that issue? I am seriously the worst at forgetting so skip a month. Fortunately I only subscribe to books, wine and more wine, and I’m never mad about forgetting to skip a month of wine.

Update us on your challenge progress in the comments, or share a book we should add to our list!

Happy Reading!
KD

Lifestyle

The Concept of Value Added

If you have known me for an extended period of time, and especially if you have ever helped me move, you know that I have long struggled with having a lot of stuff. I owned a condo and lived there for years before I married H, which meant that I had a whole life already set up. I had all the pots, dishes, towels, furniture, etc. When he moved in (along with all of our beautiful wedding gifts) my cute, spacious place became our crowded little place very quickly. Add that to the fact that I have never been a very organized person outside of my work, and I’m sure you can see how this quickly became an issue.

In the 4 years we have been married, we have moved 6 times. Each time I let go of so many things, and feel like I am making real progress- but it is never enough. Every time the next move comes around I discover the same problem. We have too much stuff- and I have had to recognize that aside from the things we had received as wedding gifts, most of it has been brought in by me.

We recently moved into a much smaller apartment, which is forcing me to be more aggressive about elimination. I have been toying with the KonMari Method (will be fully committing to that when I return from this long month of traveling) but I have been adding my own twist. With each thing that I examine, before I decide to keep it or release it, I ask myself, “Does this add value to my life? Does it fulfill a truly necessary function in my daily existence?”

This approach has been working wonderfully for me so far, and I am expanding it to examine my life outside of my material possessions. When I consider how to spend my time, in whom to invest my energy, and what I consume for entertainment/knowledge, I consider these questions.

I have added a page to the top of this site called Favorites, where I will be listing the things that I find truly add value to my life. Feel free to scope it out if you are curious about incorporating this practice into your own life! I would also love to hear about the things that add value to your life! Share in the comments below!

Seeking Value,
KD

Travel

Travel Diaries: Tokyo

Japan has been on my bucket list for years. It has long been one of those places that has held a special fascination for me. I can’t explain it- but it’s like that Carly Rae Jepsen song, “before you came into my life I missed you so bad…”. I missed Japan before I ever set foot there.

This visit was attached to a business trip for my dad, and we were also escorting my aunt & uncle (who have never traveled outside the US) to see their son, who is currently stationed at Yokota. Because of this our visit was strictly confined to 8 days and we divided our time between Tokyo & Kyoto.

Day 1: We arrived into Narita Airport around 3pm. Passed through customs quickly & easily, then went to the Japan Rail Office to exchange our rail vouchers for our passes. I strongly recommend purchasing this pass if you will be in Japan for more than a few days. We easily got double the value out of our passes, especially considering that they cover reserved seats in the premium car on the Narita Express (to/from the airport) and select Shinkansen (bullet trains connecting major cities) lines. In Tokyo we also found that we could get almost anywhere we wanted to go using the JR Yamanote Line combined with a short walk. It certainly helps that all the signs are translated into English and the JR attendants are extremely helpful when you are looking for a line to your desired destination. After receiving our passes we boarded the Narita Express to Shinagawa, where we checked in to the Tokyo Marriott there. I certainly would not recommend this hotel for budget travelers, but for anyone who uses Marriott rewards or is traveling for business, this is an excellent option. They have a wonderful breakfast that includes western and Japanese items, and the location (an easy walk from Shinagawa Station) can’t be beat. Quick dinner at the hotel with aunt/uncle/cousin (hotels are generally a safe bet to please less adventurous palates), then they departed for the base and we met a strict bed time to fend off any jet lag.

Day 2: Here I made a critical error. I have this rule about not taking organized tours, but I saw online that there was a half day bus tour that had great reviews and it went to 4 of the sites that were on my Tokyo list! Having never been to Tokyo before, I had no idea that the two of us could have easily traveled between these 3 sites by rail much more quickly and efficiently… so I signed us up for the tour. Honestly it was a bust. We spent more than half the morning on the bus and less than 30 minutes at each of the Meiji Shrine and the Imperial Palace Gardens. It felt like we were racing around just to try to see everything- there was certainly no time to explore or really soak up the experience. When we reached the 3rd stop, Asakusa, we bailed on the tour and spent the rest of the day exploring on our own. No hate for this tour, it would have been great for people who are not comfortable using public transport in a foreign country or who have trouble getting around for health reasons. It just wasn’t a good fit for more independent travelers who can get around via rail/foot quite easily.

For lunch we stopped into a tiny ramen shop in Asakusa, a long narrow room with a counter for 7 people and 4 options on the menu. For 2 huge bowls of fantastic ramen we paid a total of 700 yen- less than $7.

After finishing in Asakusa we were super sweaty (Japan in July is HOT) so we decided to head back to the hotel to shower and find a place to eat dinner. We opted for tempura and I found a local place, but we failed to make a reservation and so ended up having ramen again at Kimi Ramen in Shinagawa. This place was so cool- you order and pay through a machine, which prints you a ticket. You then put the ticket on the counter and the chef takes it as he is ready to prepare your bowl. Since the whole machine was in Japanese we required a little assistance, but the guys who worked there were very kind and helped us with just one small error in translation- we didn’t realize at one point when he asked us “small, medium or large” that he was asking my dad about how many bean sprouts he wanted on his bowl. It ended up being a mountain of bean sprouts! Hilarious.

Finished the day with a cold sake, feeling very satisfied.

Day 3: We woke up early to start our day at the Tsukiji Fish Market. We didn’t wake up as early as some, who arrive at the market around 4am for the daily tuna auction. They only allow visitors (non-industry folk) in for the auction on certain days and even then they only allow a few. I’ve heard it’s quite the spectacle but we didn’t feel like waking up that early to maybe or maybe not get in. We spent the morning wandering through the rows of stalls, purchasing beautiful Japanese ceramics (I fulfilled my mission of buying some ramen bowls), teas and street food. My favorite find were these shrink wrapped dried octopuses, which had faces drawn on their wrappers! So funny! The fish market was easily one of my favorite experiences of the entire trip. It definitely tops my recommendation list for Tokyo, and is a great place to buy authentic gifts to take home.

For dinner we ate at Inakaya in Roppongi, and it was one of the coolest things ever. I imagine that restaurants like this one were the inspiration for Benihana and some other westernized Japanese restaurants. We sat at a long table that faced two chefs, who were separated from us by several feet of fresh foods resting on ice. There were all kinds of fish, squid, crabs, mushrooms, vegetables, etc. We would tell the chefs which of the foods we wanted and they would cook them, then pass the food to us on long wooden paddles.

It ended up being a bunch of small plates extended throughout the evening, and we got to try quite a variety of things! One of the coolest details of the dinner was drinking sake from a wooden box. The waiter set the little box onto a ceramic dish and poured sake into the box until it overflowed into the dish, representing abundance. The belief is that the spirit from the tree infuses the sake. To drink it you first have to lean down and slurp out the first bit so the sake won’t spill when you lift the box. Once you have made enough room in the box, you pour the overflow of sake from the dish back into the box, and keep drinking!

Day 4: I had read online that the Samurai Museum in Tokyo us supposed to be wonderful, and it did not disappoint. It is a small museum but I found it to be quite spectacular. They have dozens of suits of original samurai armor (one even had bloodstains on it) and our English-speaking tour guide was incredibly knowledgable about the history of the samurai and the way the changing shoguns (samurai leaders) affected the culture of Japan throughout history. It was fascinating to learn about how the armor was made differently from European armor in order to be more light and flexible. I also enjoyed the guide’s stories about the personalities of the different samurai and the significance of their crests.

We also spent some time in Harajuku, walking around and just witnessing the general spectacle. It was quite a lot to take in- this is the area where, from what I gathered, Japan’s teenagers go to dress up, wear colored contacts and wigs, eat tons of sweets (there were literally 6 crepe stands) and bask in anime culture. This is also where we found a Daiso, which is a 100 yen store (equivalent of a dollar store in the states). A great place to buy cheap souvenirs if you have kids in your life back home.

In the afternoon we took the Shinkansen to Kyoto, which turned out to be one of my favorite cities in the world. More to come…

Happy Exploring!
KD