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health

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 Once the water starts to boil, turn off the heat and let sit for one minute or until there are no longer active bubbles in the water.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

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

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

Elevation and Acclimatization

While living in Colorado I have become accustomed to hearing one phrase from visitors- “It’s so hard to breathe here!”

Denver is famous for being the Mile High City thanks to its elevation of 5,280 feet above sea level (a nickname that now has multiple meanings due to the legalization of recreational cannabis). Much of Colorado, however, is actually higher in elevation than Denver! Colorado is home to 53 fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet high) and the average elevation is 6,800 feet. To someone coming from sea level, the air feels pretty thin up here!

When we have visitors from lower locations, I always impress upon them the importance of acknowledging the change in altitude. Some people come here and think they can get by acting exactly like they do at sea level, and that’s just not the case. Here are my best tips for having a great time without getting altitude sickness!

  1. HYDRATE! I don’t mean to yell, but this is the most important tip I can give. You need water to help get oxygen to all the tissues in your body. When operating at a higher altitude, you need to drink more water than you normally would. When I first moved up here, my doctor actually recommended that I drink twice as much water as I was accustomed to while my body adjusted to the altitude. This is especially important if you are drinking coffee, alcohol or other beverages that will dehydrate you.
  2. Be mindful that alcohol will hit you harder up here. Yep, at higher elevations you will get drunk more quickly! Alternate your drinks with water or plan to drink less than normal.
  3. Consume nutrient dense foods. You want to support your body as it is working harder in this environment. When we have visitors, I start them off first thing in the morning with some sort of greens boost- either a morning pack of Onnit Total Primate Care or the Alkalising Greens mix from WelleCo mixed into coconut water.
  4. Be gentle with yourself. Move more consciously, pay attention to how your body is feeling. Altitude sickness is a real thing, and trying to push through it only makes it worse. If you start to feel poorly, it is better to back off and rest. Hike more slowly, look up and enjoy the views rather than racing to your destination.
  5. Consider a mushroom-based oxygenation supplement for any truly strenuous activity. ShroomTech Sport from Onnit is the one my husband and I use, it helps your body to utilize oxygen more efficiently. I’ve also heard great things about the Four Sigmatic Organic Mushroom Elixir Mix with Cordyceps.

If you have any more tips for handling an elevation change, share them in the comments below!

Happy Hiking (or whatever you’re doing),
KD

Lifestyle

Coffee Protein Shake

I have a drinking problem in the morning, but it’s not what it sounds like! I have too many liquids in my morning routine. I start with hot lemon water, then I like to have my Yogi Skin Detox Tea, alkalising green juice, a breakfast smoothie, and of course my coffee. Unless I want to spend the first half of my day peeing or carrying around a bunch of different cups, I have to find ways to consolidate!

One of my favorite ways to cut down on my number of cups is to combine my coffee into my morning smoothie. The healthy fats in this recipe also help prevent a caffeine spike & crash by giving you a sustained energy boost.

4 ounces Bizzy Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
4 ounces Califa Coconut Almond Milk (available at most grocery stores- I prefer this brand because they use minimal additives)
1/2 frozen banana*
1 handful of ice cubes
1 serving of your favorite vanilla protein powder (I use this one but also really like this vegan option)
1/4 tsp Organic Cinnamon
1 scoop Vital Proteins Pasture-Raised, Grass-Fed Collagen Peptides (great for nails, hair, joints and bone health!)
1 tablespoon ONNIT emulsified MCT oil (vanilla, cinnamon or coconut flavor)

*Keto/low carb, use extra ice cubes instead of the frozen banana)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon, some banana slices and cacao nibs, or just drink it up on the spot!

Have a wonderful day!
KD

Lifestyle

Golden Milk

Golden Milk has been gaining popularity recently for its myriad health benefits and delicious, comforting taste. It can be enjoyed hot or cold depending on the weather and can be made with different milk and sweetener options depending on your personal preferences.

Golden Milk

2 cups Basic Almond Milk (or milk of your choice)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon organic maple syrup -or- honey -or- 2 pitted dates
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder -or- small piece of fresh ginger -or- 1 to 2 drops ginger essential oil
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch of black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender
Blend until smooth
Pour mixture into a small pan and heat to your preference, but do not boil!

Once your mixture is heated you may choose to drink it immediately or strain it through a cheesecloth into your mug. Either way this drink is both nutritious and delicious, straining it just removes the sediment so the last few sips won’t have any solids.

If all of the above seems like too much effort, you can also order this ready to use mix and add it to the milk of your choice. The same mix is also available to Thrive Market members for less (use this link for 15% off your first purchase).

I like to drink golden milk at the end of my eating window each day, right before I start my fast. This way I am loading my body with helpful nutrients, inflammation fighters and metabolism boosting compounds to assist my body while it cleans and heals itself.

Is golden milk a part of your life? Do you have a dynamite recipe we should try? Share your experience in the comments!

Happy Milking,
KD

Lifestyle

Yogi Tea

I was given this recipe during my yoga teacher training by a master teacher who has studied under Yogi Bhajan. It’s a healthy, delicious tea and if you include the black tea it can be a more beneficial alternative to coffee.

According to yogic science, the spices used possess the following properties:
Black Pepper- blood purifier
Cardamom- digestive aid
Cloves- beneficial to the nervous system
Cinnamon- strengthens bones
Ginger root- healing for colds and flu, increases energy, helps with nausea
Star Anise- antibacterial and antioxidant

I generally buy my spices in bulk at the grocery store, but you can also order most of them at a great discount if you join Thrive Market (use this link for 15% off your first purchase) or on Amazon, as linked below.

Yogi Tea by the cup:
10 oz boiling water
3 whole cloves
4 whole green cardamom pods, cracked
4 whole black peppercorns
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon loose black tea (optional)
2 slices fresh ginger root
Small piece of star anise (break one arm off of the “star”)
1/2 cup milk (whole grassfed milk, almond milk or coconut milk)
Organic maple syrup to sweeten as desired

Combine all spices in a mug and add boiling water. Let steep for 3-5 minutes, then strain (optional) and add milk & syrup as desired.

Yogi Tea by the pot:
12 cups water
2 tablespoons whole cloves
3 tablespoons whole green cardamom pods, cracked
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
3 whole cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons loose black tea (optional)
6 slices fresh ginger root
2 whole star anise
Milk and organic maple syrup to add to individual cups

Add water and spices to a large stock pot and bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for 2 hours. I make my tea this way and keep it on my stove all throughout the cold season. I boil it every day and just add water or more spices as needed.

If you want this tea on the go, these tea bags are a more portable option!

Enjoy!
KD

Lifestyle

Peppermint Cacao Coconut Balls

I recently attended a DoTerra demonstration where the consultant had made these amazing little chocolate coconut balls. They were so yummy, I had to get the recipe from her and try them for myself! I adjusted the recipe to suit my own preferences and maximize nutritional benefit.

1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour (I make my own! Instructions here.)
1/4 cup solid coconut oil
4 tablespoons raw maple syrup
1/2 cup cacao powder (I like the Thrive Market brand for quality and price- use this link for 15% off)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 drops DoTerra or YoungLiving peppermint essential oil (I recommend only these two brands because I know they are safe to ingest- many brands available at health foods stores are for topical and aromatic use only)
Generous pinch of Himalayan salt

Reserve 1/2 of the shredded coconut for rolling the balls. Combine the other 1/2 and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined. I find a fork to be helpful for breaking up the solid coconut oil. I would not recommend using a hand mixer, as it creates a consistency that is too gooey.

Once combined, form the dough into small balls and roll in the remaining shredded coconut. Place on a baking sheet and freeze for 15 minutes to harden. These tasty treats can be stored in your refrigerator for a week, or in your freezer for months! They’re rich and sweet- perfect for a sweet tooth attack without any harmful sugar or additives!

Enjoy!
KD

Lifestyle

Rose and Lavender Bath Soak

At the end of a long day there are very few things that are more relaxing than a hot bath with Epsom salt. Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate, which can be beneficial when absorbed through the skin. Its two most significant benefits are stress relief and soothing sore muscles.

I like to make my own Epsom salt soak using essential oils and dried flowers, especially when I have roses that I can dry and use. This salt soak can make a great gift, and the 4 oz jars linked below are perfect for that purpose! One jar = one bath.

 

Rose and Lavender Bath Soak
1/2 cup Epsom salt
20 drops Lavender essential oil
3 tablespoons roughly chopped dry rose petals
4oz glass jar

Mix the Epsom salt and Lavender oil in the jar and layer the rose petals on top. That’s all! Easy peasy. If you feel like getting creative, you can experiment with this by trying a bigger jar and layering in different salts, such as Himalayan salt or Dead Sea salt. You can also add a layer of dried lavender buds.

You can order dried rose petals as linked above, or you can dry your own! If you grow roses in your garden or receive some as a gift, it is easy to give your dying blooms new life by drying them and using them again. However, I would not recommend buying fresh roses specifically for this purpose, as it is more cost effective to buy the dried petals in bulk.

If you do have some fresh roses, keep an eye out for the point when they start to look a bit wilted and are no longer perky. At this point, trim the stem about 1/2 inch below the flower. Take a needle with thread and pierce each stem, stringing the roses on the thread. I like to double the thread to make sure it doesn’t break. Then, find a warm, dry place to hang your thread horizontally so the roses hang upside down. A dark place is ideal, but anywhere out of direct sunlight will do just fine. Leave the roses for 2 weeks, then check to make sure they are completely dry. Once your roses are dry you can remove the petals for use!

Happy soaking,
KD