Kombucha Pt. I: I Dream of SCOBY

Just like spiralized zucchini or unicorn-inspired nosh, kombucha is soooo trendy right now. (Note: unlike unicorns, you will find kombucha in your local grocery store.) However, rather than shelling out $6-$10 bucks for this fermented tea—a great pop substitute with apparent digestive benefits—you can start making kombucha at home and save those bucks for the Yeti Frappuccino or whatever they’re coming out with next.

I’ve been brewing my own kombucha at home for half a year now, which isn’t a ton of time compared to other people… This means I’m sure enough to know what I’m doing, but new enough to be thorough and exacting in my methods. I haven’t quite relaxed when it comes to brew management.

First step: to start making your own kombucha at home, you need a SCOBY—Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Rubbery, jelly, slightly translucent, a SCOBY looks like a huge booger. I personally think they’re so-gross-they’re-cute and like to give them names… Everyone needs a hobby.

The reason you need one of these bacterial boog colonies is because, in short, the living SCOBY will nosh on the sugar and tannins in the tea mixture and turn it into gorgeous, fermented, bubbling goodness.

So how the heck do you get one of ’em?

• Buy them on the internet. Google around, look for sites with good reviews. I have no recs for this
• Find someone you know who makes kombucha and ask them for one of theirs. (Every new batch creates a new SCOBY, so usually habitual brewers have some spares around!)
• GROW ONE! (YAAAAAS. Yep.) 

Kombucha Scoby
Makes 1 Beautiful Booger Baby
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1 bottle of raw, store-bought kombucha (350ml – 470ml)
1 tbsp loose green or black tea
1/2 c. sugar (I use raw demerera)
1L water, filtered
White vinegar (for rinsing containers)

Equipment:
Large, wide-mouthed glass container (I recommend 2L)
Coffee filters
Rubber band
Strainer or loose leaf tea bags
Wooden spoon

1. Make tea. In a large pot on a stovetop, bring the water to a rolling boil. If you’re using unfiltered tap water, I like to add a little extra water in the beginning, and let it boil for a few minutes. I have no idea if this actually helps at ALL, but it makes me feel better. (Note: if using tea bags, add about 4 for the same potency as loose leaf!)

2. Turn off the heat, adding in the tea and stirring in the sugar until dissolved. Steep the tea for at least 30 minutes—you want it S T R O N G.

3. Cool the tea mixture to room temperature. Clean a large glass container (rinse with white vinegar) and then pour in the bottle of store-bought kombucha. Follow this with the tea mixture.

4.  The SCOBY needs to breathe to form, so cover the mouth of the container with coffee filters (or cheesecloth) and an elastic band to allow airflow, while preventing the invasion of dust or insects. Place it a warm, dark place where it won’t be disturbed.

5. In a few days, bubbles should begin to form where the liquid meets the container, and then depending on the warmth and other factors, a thin film should start to form and thicken within 1-4 weeks. When the SCOBY is substantial, at least a few millimetres thick, it’s ready to brew! (So stay tuned for part II.)

Special notes: 

SCOBYS do not like metal, so if you’re ever giving one away to a friend, do so with coffee filters as a lid, or a plastic lid.

When working with making or handling your SCOBY, make sure your hands and your work area are clean. I usually make sure everything is soaked and rinsed with vinegar.

Don’t be afraid! It’s way easier than it looks!

Chickpea Pepper Burgers feat. Red Cabbage Slaw

Since I’ve taken on the #AVeryVeganApril challenge, my meals have been mostly bowls of noodles (whole wheat rotini, brown rice vermicelli) with vegetables and sauce. After awhile, I started to mouth-crave something different—burgers.

They had to happen. Homemade, spicy, flavourful, sink-your-teeth-in chickpea burgers. I wasn’t going to share this recipe, but I took one bite and knew it had to be DONE.

…Okay, fine, I took like three bites to reassure myself it was as good as I thought it was. Also, these are kind of small (burgs not burgers!), so if you’re looking to feed a whole bunch of people, double the recipe.

Chickpea Pepper “Burgs” feat. Red Cabbage Slaw
Makes approximately 6 cute burgers or 3 dope double burgers

For the slaw:
2 cups red cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrot, shredded
1-2 broccoli stems, shredded
1/4-1/3 cup hulled, raw sunflower seeds
3 tbsp oil (olive, grapeseed, etc)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1. If you don’t have a mandolin or a fancy food processor, this is your biggest step.  Finely chop cabbage, carrot, and broccoli stems in a bowl. Add the sunflower seeds on top.

2. In a small separate bowl combine oil, vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and cumin. Whisk together and pour over the shredded veggies, tossing to coat. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or another splash of vinegar if the flavour is missing “zing.” Set aside to marinate. The secret ingredient is TIME.

For the burgers:
2 cups chickpeas, boiled
1/2 red pepper, seeds removed
2 garlic cloves
1 shallot, (or 2 tbsp yellow onion), chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 flax egg (1 tbsp flaxseed meal + 2½ tbsp water, stirred)
2 tbsp whole wheat flour (or bread crumbs? I didn’t have breadcrumbs. SO.)
Juice from 1 lime

For serving: whole wheat buns, avocado slices, veganaise, aioli, whatever-you-want…

1. Make your flax egg by combining water and flaxseed meal in a small dish. Set aside to “activate” for about 5 minutes.

2. In the bowl of a food processor*, combine chickpeas, pepper, garlic, and onion. Pulse until the mixture is finely diced but not smooth. Add in spices, salt, flour, and the flax egg and pulse to combine again. The mixture should keep shape fairly well but may seem a bit dry.

3. Empty bowl of food processor into another bowl and fold the lime juice in until it’s absorbed. Measure a third of a cup of the mixture for each burger, and then use your hands to form patties and leave them on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. You should get about 6 or 7 patties.

4. Heat up a small amount of oil in a frying pan, and cook the patties over medium heat, until each side is golden brown, about 3 minutes. (They are fairly sturdy, but flip with care!)

5. To assemble, spread slices of avo on the bottom bun, plunk a patty on top. I’ve been eating these as double burgers—second patty, a few healthy spoonfuls of slaw, and then the bun. Slather mayo or queso or whatever you want (I used vegan Mexican cheese from Minimalist Baker ) on the top bun**, cap that burger!

6. NOSH!

*I made this by using my tiny handy chopper and literally grinding the elements one batch at a time. If you’re feeling determined, use a potato masher for the chickpeas and chop everything else as fine as you can!

**I realized looking at my pictures that I put this beauty together upside down. Learn from my mistakes, peeps. Also top bun sounds like the gay remake of “Top Gun” ohwaitTopGunisalreadygay.

#AVeryVeganApril

Okay that title isn’t accurate, but #AVeryVeganFortnight didn’t sound as good. (Also, have a picture of a Highland cow, vegan creature and unofficial mascot of this post… because I like Highland cows.)

The challenge: eat vegan for two weeks, from April 1-14. No using recipes I’ve tried before to make it happen. (I could eat peanut noodles with tempeh forever, soooo…)

Why: For fun! I like cooking, and I eat a lot of cheese, so this is a good way to change things up and try new dishes and ingredients.

How’s it goin’, eh?: I eat vegetarian about six days a week, so this maybe isn’t as hard for me as it might be for someone who eats more animal products. THAT BEING SAID,  friends came from out of town and wanted to meet for the best smoked meat in Montreal so, at least ONE lunch was a delicious bust.

My kitchen has changed up too! I’ve tried new recipes, ventured into tapioca starch, and made vegan queso. (I also screwed up Veganaise by using almond milk instead of soy.)

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I’m taking care to read a lot more labels. I look at ingredients to scan for animal products, and in the process, I’m noticing all the additives and preservatives that are even in the healthy foods that I eat (especially things like breads or tortillas). Here’s to nosh with less additives?

What are you eating, dude?:

Uhm, basically whatever I want, without the cheese? It has been a lot of curious comfort food and some indulgent bites, but I’m always trying to add more vegetables to everything, and I’ve got a veggie burger recipe coming that BLEW. MY. MIND. So stay tuned for that!

Plus-sized Microaggressions

I work for a company that offers some pretty awesome benefits, and one of them is a free membership to a small gym about two minutes away from work. I hate going to the gym—trapped in four walls, every rep or minute on a treadmill reminds me of a time I could be outside or at home.

Recently though, I decided I might incorporate more weights into my routine, shoving down my hatred with podcasts and music, so I went to activate my free membership—that’s when I ran right into a wall.

Maybe it was the way I thought the door was stuck on my way in, and the guy at the front desk pulled it open for me. Maybe it was my large wool coat and the hoodie underneath making me look bigger than my already larger size. Maybe the guy was more French than English  and didn’t know what he was saying (which sometimes happens on Montreal) but in any case, giving me the preamble, the man at the front desk asked:

“have you exercised before?”

I think I laughed.

I knew what he really meant. He really meant, “have you been to a gym?” and “are you familiar with the equipment?” But that’s not what he said, and it got me to thinking. There is always a chance he would have asked a thin person the same question, just probably in a different way… or there’s a chance he might not have asked them at all. In any case, it had happened to me. I wasn’t even mad, I just made small talk as I filled out my form, told him I was looking to supplement my outdoor running with a weight routine—like I somehow had to back up my claim about having tried exercise EVER in my WHOLE LIFE.

Yes I move my body on a regular basis. No, I didn’t roll in here on a segue with a bucket of 7-11 slurpee just to look at the bros in the muscle zoo. 

When I was finished with my form, I went to check out the weight room upstairs. It was small, pretty standard—and yes, there were a few torture devices I had no clue about, but for the most part, gym standard. I left the place feeling off without understanding why, and texted some of my friends about it to get some feedback and opinion on it—they were more offended than I was.

Here’s what’s eating at me: this is something fat people have to deal with ALL THE TIME— whether it’s getting the stink eye for eating a Big Mac in public, or judged for wearing certain items of clothing we aren’t “supposed to” or assuming we got ever-so-lost and wandered into the gym by accident. People just like to judge us; it’s always open season on fat people. By being plus-sized, we’re visible in a way that others are not. The worst part about being this particular kind of visible in a gym, about the kind of microaggression I experienced, is that it can be discouraging.

It can make the surroundings feel unsafe or unwelcoming, make the person who experiences it feel like they have no place there. In a lot of ways, it can prevent us from breaking the cycle—if that’s something we want to do. (Yes there are people who are happy being plus sized! It’s a Thing. It’s none of your business!)

On the way home I wrestled with two extremes: ditch the gym idea and find new ways to work out in the safety of my bedroom, or stick it out and show him that I ain’t a slouch.

I chose neither, because I’m sure as hell not letting someone who doesn’t know me attempt to shove me into a box  or guide my decisions. I’ll go back there.  If I’m going to the gym, it’s going to be for me, and because I want to. I’m not here to impress anyone else.

I also thought of a great reply on the commute home: “have you exercised before?”

Yeah, dude—check my Instagram. 

 

Killer Peanut Vegetable & Noodle Bowl

So I discovered my roommates are allergic to peanuts—not one but possibly both of them, if they happen to ingest any. Thankfully it’s not a skin contact thing….but STILL.

Two takeaways from this info—this bowl is so good I’m willing to risk killing two people to make it (WYD: WASH YOUR DISHES, PEOPLE), and that if you ALSO have a deadly peanut allergy, you can sub the PB in this recipe for tahini and then, you know, live to cook another day.

This is a little bit of pasta and a lot of vegetables (That’s why veggies come first!), so stow the guilt, grab your sriracha, and get cooking. It could also be fun to just throw in whatever veg you need to use up in your fridge!

Vegetable and Noodle Bowl with Peanut Sauce (Serves 4)
Adapted from Thug Kitchen

Peanut Sauce
1/2 c. natural smooth pb (or tahini)
1/2 c. warm water
1/4 c. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. lime juice (I had none, oops)
1 tsp. maple syrup or agave
2 tsp. soy sauce

Bowl 
1 head broccoli and stem peeled, cut into bite-sized florets
1 large sweet potato, cubed

8 oz. whole wheat noodles (spaghetti, fettuccine, whatever)
6 cups kale, rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces

1/2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar

2 large carrots, halved and cut into match sticks
1/2 English cucumber, cut into matchsticks

1. Put together the sauce by putting all the ingredients in a bowl and whisking together. Set aside!

2. Preheat oven to 425—time to food prep the hell out of everything. Put cubed potato and broccoli pieces on baking trays and put in the oven. (Toss with olive oil and salt if desired.) Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until fork tender. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and cook your pasta. One minute before the noodles are cooked, throw in the bite sized kale. Then drain the whole thing in a colander and rinse with cold water to blanche it… ALSO set aside!

4. If you’re waiting for your veggies to bake and your noodles to boil, use this time to cut up your carrots and cucumber into thin matchsticks (or however you want them, I’m not a perfectionist so mine get pretty…expressive.)

5. In a large (I mean large) skillet, cook garlic in oil until fragrant and toasty brown. Add potato and broccoli pieces and stir for about a minute. After that, add in ginger, soy sauce, and rice vinegar, cooking for 30 seconds or so longer. Turn off the heat.

6. Here’s the fun part! Add in the kale/pasta mixture and 1/2 – 3/4 of the peanut sauce, tossing to mix everything well and coat. (You may need to use all of the sauce, but it’s nice to have some for leftovers.)

7. Serve up in bowls, topped with 1/4 of a serving of the carrot and cucumber matches on each one, and sriracha if desired. (Note: it’s amazing cold as leftovers too!

 

 

Sorry For Talking About Poop

I know that I’ve achieved a true friendship with someone when we can talk about poop on the regs. My sister Kacy and I have frequent text exchanges about out digestive struggles (#shittalk), and for good reason:

Poop is EVERYTHING. 

If reading that made you squirm, you can click away now, but I hope you won’t. You probably need to hear this.

For the past few weeks I’ve had a plateau of weight loss. Slightly frustrating, but since I’ve been focusing on healthy routine over numerical results, I just kept moving forward, getting my runs and strength in, shovelling (mostly) healthy food into my face.

Today the change finally came. Not only did I have a great weigh in this morning, finally crushing back the weight loss barrier, but right after, I had a great poo. A poo I had been waiting for for WEEKS. LIFE AFFIRMING POO. There’s potential that tomorrow, I could step on the scale and see a new low, kind of poo. It was award-winning. basically. Congratulations to me and my butt.

The long story short of this is that sometimes you have to forget about numbers and focus on taking care of yourself: take care of your mental health, mind your digestive health, and keep moving. The results will all come and fall in line!

Also, here have some bonus, my sister @saccharine.lemon‘s tips for keeping things moving smooooothly:

#1. Add a tablespoon of ground flax to a glass of water 10 minutes before meals
#2. Dried prunes/dates/figs are your friend, try for a few a day
#3. If you’re struggling, try limiting dairy
#4. Try food pairing (look this up, I have no time to explain the ins and outs)
#5. Try probiotics (kefir is a good option!)
#6. Try for variety! Your body likes to keep things fresh!

 

The Fitspo Dumpster #1

Becoming inspired to get fit > fitspo.

For the uninitiated, fitspo is what happened when the internet age collided with motivational cards and posters trying to encourage people into moving their booties. You see a lot #fitspo posts on Instagram, and while some of them are fun and effective, enlightening or thought provoking, there is also a LOT downright stupidity running rampant out there, wearing the disguise of being enlightening and encouraging.

Recently I collected a bunch of my worst favourites, and now, I present this beautiful #fitspotrash for you. Let’s go dumpster diving.

“I Wish I Was Dead”

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Okay so… are you doing deadlifts or dying? Or having an existential crisis? Have you discovered that bicep curls are the key to living forever through high-key machismo and military font? WHAT HAPPENS ON THE 15th REP?!?!?!?

“I WILL BEAT HER”

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Did anyone else get a jaw drop at this!? The first line of this one reads like a manifesto for domestic violence. I can’t fathom the rest of it—I’m too busy marvelling at how tone deaf it is, while ALSO staring at the way they laid the font out specifically to show off the gleaming belly button.

Your “Inner Fatty” is Probably Cooler Than You

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For the record, I am the sort of evil bitch who starts missing my cupcake when I’m still EATING it and I haven’t even finished the last bite.

Cut Up and Deep Fried?

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This one almost gets away with it because the emojis mean that it’s laughing at itself. Unfortunately, like your loud uncle at every single large family gathering, it is laughing at itself because it genuinely thinks it is funny and not because it realizes it’s stupid.

That’s Not What Google Said

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You can’t beat the classics: this one can be found on tons of sites and accounts with different fonts and colours for every aesthetic except the one that understands the way the human body works, or the one that sees exercise as something other than self flagellation.