Kombucha Making...Made Simple!

Hey there, kombucha lovers! I hope you're enjoying the long weekend. Me, I'm doing great - except for the fact that I haven't had a kombucha in 2 days. That's pretty much a world record for me, considering how addicted I've become! But, my little glass bottles filled with kombucha are fizzing up and should be ready to drink within a day or two. Ah, sweet relief.

Lately, I've been getting asked this question fairly often: "How do you make kombucha?" Followed by "Is it hard? Do you have to tend to it several times a day or week?" So, I've decided to just write out the instructions as simple and directly as possible. I'm a keep-it-simple kind of girl, and I find that far too often instructions give you t.m.i. (too much information) and confuse you right into giving up. But, the truth is that making kombucha couldn't be easier! And, for those who are new to this wonderful beverage, kombucha has been associated with everything from anti-aging benefits to curing cancer to just plain rejuvenation. Whatever your reasons for drinking kombucha may be, I think you'll find that it feels great in your system and is a fantastic, healthy beverage to incorporate into your life.

Tess's Kombucha 101

1. Score a scoby. What's a scoby, you ask? It's a starter mushroom that you'll need. I find that if you ask, you'll very often receive. So, just put the word out in your community (and at your local health food store) and see if anyone has a starter for you. They probably will. You should also receive a little liquid with your scoby. This is your starter liquid.
2. To make a gallon jug of kombucha: Boil 3 quarts of water. Add 2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon of organic black or green tea. Add one cup of organic sugar to the hot tea, stir, and let cool. Remove the tea bags.
3. Wash your hands very well (it is very important that every step of the kombucha-making process be clean and sanitary - and the containers you use should always be sanitized as well). Place the kombucha starter (scoby and liquid) in a gallon size glass container. Add the cooled sugar-tea mixture.
4. Cover the opening with a cloth or organic paper towel. Place a rubber band around it to secure. This is to keep air flowing through to the kombucha (and it will also prevent any bugs from entering). Place in a cool (room temperature), dark place for 10 days. Don't move or disturb it, as it's pretty antisocial during that time. It will also start forming a cute white baby scoby on top of the mixture. At first, you might even think it looks like mold. Leave that baby alone and go about your business.
5. After 10 days, you'll want to check it every day or two to see if it has become perfection. What you're looking for is the perfect sweet-sour flavor. If you want really sweet kombucha, you can let it ferment for less time. However, the longer you let it ferment, the less sweet it will become (and healthier, in my opinion). However, don't let it get too sour or you'll end up with kombucha vinegar! Find that fine line. And, of course, you'll want to be sanitary about testing the kombucha. Enough said.
6. Once your kombucha is at just the right level of sweet-sour-ness, you'll need to take immediate action. With your very clean hands, remove the scoby(s) and wash well under room temperature water. Place in a clean glass container along with about 2 cups of the kombucha liquid. That will be your new scoby starter and starter liquid.
7. Do you have several old GT (Synergy) kombucha bottles that have been sanitized (run through the dishwasher, for example)? Good, you'll need them. Place the rest of the kombucha in your old GT kombucha bottles this way: Fill each bottle with the kombucha liquid, leaving about two inches of space at the top.
8. Now for the fun part! The fizz part. Place another one inch of juice in each bottle (so that you still have one inch of space at the top). You can try grape juice, cranberry-pomegranate juice, fresh berry juice (blackberry, strawberry, or blueberry), and/or ginger juice. Or any other kind of natural, organic juice that sings to you. Finally, cap each bottle tightly and set aside in a cool dark place (at room temperature) for several days. Personally, I find that four days is the perfect amount of time to let the kombucha become fizzy paradise. However, if you prefer your kombucha less fizzy, you can let it sit for less time. From there, place the bottles into the fridge. Once cold, follow your bliss and drink up!
9. Do it all over again...and once you get too many scoby starters, spread the love!

I hope that helps, and be sure to let me know how your kombucha adventure goes!

Can vegans eat chocolate?

Mmmm, chocolate. Come to mama.

After almost 20 years as a happy, healthy vegan it still surprises me that many people think you can't eat chocolate (let alone primo chocolate!) if you eschew animal products. That myth couldn't be further from the truth. The best chocolate in the world is vegan, in my humble opinion. You have chocolate cake, chocolate pie, chocolate truffles, all manner of raw chocolate goodies, chocolate bars, chocolate "ice cream," and, yes, chocolate shakes. Such as my "Dark Chocolate Shake" from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth.

So here's the recipe. It may be a bit decadent, but I say: All things vegan can be enjoyed in moderation and balance without any damage to your health (ok, aside from really bad stuff like msg and hydrogenated oils). As long as you're focusing the main part of your diet on fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and other whole foods you can have your chocolate and eat it too - guilt free and all. Enjoy!

Photo by Michelle McCluggage

Dark Chocolate Shake

Are you craving the taste of pure chocolate goodness? Want to feel relatively good about indulging in said goodness? Look no further. This shake is delicious, rich, satisfying, and still manages to be good for you.

2 frozen bananas
1-2 cup(s) nondairy milk (unsweetened or regular)*
1 cup nondairy ice cream (vanilla)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons maple syrup (you may omit if using sweetened milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (don’t use artificial vanilla)

Place the bananas and a little of the milk in your blender. Blend until the bananas are smooth. Add all of the other items and just enough of the milk to blend. Serve immediately. This is a chocolate emergency.

Serves 2; 30 minutes or under! GF/SF/Blue (according to the guidelines in Radiant Health, Inner Wealth and The Two-Week Wellness Solution)

*The less liquid you add, the richer and thicker it will be. I give an estimated amount here, as it will depend on your blender and size of the bananas as to how much milk you’ll have to add. Simply start with the lesser amount given, and add a little more at a time until you have just enough liquid to blend with.

Contest winner announced...and New Vegan Cookbook Giveaway!

Hey, friends! I just picked the winner of the last cookbook giveaway at random & the winner is....

Laura Daniels!! Congrats, Laura! You are the proud new owner of a big fat box of cookbooks. Hope they provide you with loads of fun and inspiration!

And now for the new contest. . .

As many of you know, my latest book is finally, finally done (it'll be for sale by next week)! That's the front cover, to the left. So, for the next giveaway, I'd love to gift someone with a signed first edition copy, as well as a FREE one-hour phone coaching session as part of the fun prize. You can use the one hour for wellness coaching, weight loss coaching, a dietary analysis, or just as a fun chit-chat on my dime. Your prize, your call.

To enter, all you gotsta do is. . .

1. Follow this blog (scroll down the left side where it says "followers" and click follow. Go through the 30 second rigamarole that is involved with completing that transaction.

2. "Like" my facebook fan page - it takes about 10 seconds & you can start by clicking here.

3. Reply to this post, answering this question: "What is the best health or weight loss advice you've ever gotten?"
The last day to enter is June 4th and winner will be announced on June 5th. Good luck!

For the Love of Nettles

Nettles!! Few people think to use nettles in their food, but they are truly amazing. Super for increasing energy, nettles also thicken the hair, enrich the blood, and boost the immune system.

This time of year, you can look for nettles while you're out on a hike - they do need to be picked with care though, as they can sting! Sting bad. Real bad. But, if you wear gloves and don't eat them fresh and raw, you'll be fine. How DO you use nettles? Well, I like to steam fresh nettles just as I would spinach leaves. They cook quickly, leaving behind all of their stinging qualities. Add a little olive oil and lemon juice for some flavor - plus some fresh garlic and sea salt. Yum!

However, dried nettles are even easier to use. You can dry your own, or purchase them already dried from the health food store. They're very inexpensive and versatile. I like to add them to teas and green drinks mostly. But you can also add them to foods as a flavor and nutrition booster.

Here's my super quick and easy recipe for Nettle Energy Snacks:

1/2 cup raw walnuts
3/4 cup raisins
3 tablespoons dried nettles
pinch of sea salt

Blend all of the ingredients in a food processor, then shape into small balls. Store in the fridge (in an airtight container) for several weeks. I like these because they're very high in Omega-3s, iron, fiber, and other nutrients. And they really perk me up when I'm on the go or need a little energy. Hope you enjoy!! xo

The Perfect Pizza

Good morning, sunshines! Hope you are all doing well and enjoying springtime.

Today, I thought I'd share a favorite recipe with you...we all love pizza, right? Who doesn't? (Even my picky kid loves it!) But most of us also tend to think of pizza as an unhealthy, decadent splurge. Well, my friends, let me tell you - it doesn't have to be that way! Pizza can be a health-supporting treat as well as totally delicious. Plus, you gotta admit - pizza just fulfills that comfort food craving that we all get sometimes.

This pizza is no exception. Sure, it's made without animal products, refined flours, or unhealthy fats. But it's overflowing with delicious flavor as well. Skeptical? Try this recipe and let me know if it's not some of the best pizza you've ever tasted.

(Photo by the fabulous Michelle McCluggage)

The Perfect Pizza

• One homemade crust (please see recipe below)
• Organic tomato sauce (I use Muir Glen's "Garlic Roasted Garlic")
• Daiya vegan cheese (available in many stores or online - Vegan Essentials and Pangea are good sources)
• Toppings: You can obviously put whatever you like on your pizza - it's your pizza after all! But here is what I'd put on my dream lover's pizza: sliced garlic, roasted garlic (I really don't like garlic, can't you tell?), artichoke hearts, sliced onions, chopped kalamata olives, thinly sliced roma tomatoes, and shiitake mushrooms.
• Final Flair: When your pizza comes out of the oven, I suggest sprinkling it with fresh basil leaves (cut into thin ribbons). If the basil is baked with the pizza, it loses most of its flavor (and sexy cuteness), so I recommend adding it last.

To a-make-a your pizza...

1. Prepare the crust according to the directions below.
2. Preheat your oven to 400 F. After pre-baking the crust slightly, top it with the tomato sauce (I like a fair bit of tomato sauce, but some prefer their pizza to be more "dry" - you make the call).
3. Sprinkle with the cheese and add whatever toppings make you smile. Bake until the crust, cheese, and toppings are golden-brown. You know the rest.

Rosemary Herb Pizza Crust (From Radiant Health, Inner Wealth)

Here is a delectable 100% whole grain pizza crust that is also very easy to make. Please keep in mind that this recipe makes two crusts. If you only wish to make one pizza, you can either cut the recipe in half or follow the suggestion at the bottom, marked with an asterisk. Enjoy!

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1½ cups water, heated to about 110° F.
¼ oz. baking yeast

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1½ cups whole wheat flour
1¼ teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon each: dried basil, dried thyme, dried rosemary, dried oregano, and garlic granules
2 tablespoons olive oil (or sunflower or safflower oil)

1. Place the maple syrup and water in a large bowl and stir to combine. Drop in the yeast (do not stir) and allow it to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes, until it is foamy.

2. Stir in all of the remaining items. Knead on a floured surface for about 5-10 minutes. Ideally, the dough should be a little annoyingly sticky, as that will yield a better crust. However, if the dough is way, way too wet (which can happen with certain kinds of coarse flours), just add in a little more flour.

3. Cover the bowl with your pizza pan. Allow the dough to rise in a warm spot, covered, for about 45 minutes to an hour, until it has doubled in size.

4. Divide the dough into two balls* that are equal in size.

5. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Lightly oil two pizza pans (or one if you’re only making one pizza now) and set aside.

6. To shape your pizza crust, place the dough in the center of the pan and evenly push the dough toward the outer edges of the pan. Form the outer rim by pinching up about ½-inch of dough around the edge of the pan. Make sure there are no gaps in the crust anywhere. If there are, simply pinch the dough together to “patch” it. Prick the crust with a fork a few times to ensure that it will not poof up too much while it’s baking.

7. Pre-bake the crust for about 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

8. Top with pizza sauce, spreading it evenly over the crust using the back of a spoon. Add your desired toppings and bake for another 10-20 minutes, or until the toppings and crust are golden brown. Allow the pizza to cool slightly (yeah, right) and cut into individual pieces.

Makes two pizza crusts; SF/Blue (according to the guidelines in Radiant Health, Inner Wealth)

*If you will only be making one pizza now, you can place the other ball of dough in an airtight plastic bag at this point. It can be refrigerated for several days or stored in the freezer for a month or more. Simply allow it to thaw at room temperature (or overnight in the fridge) before using.