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Water Kefir

In Food, Health, Home Creation on March 12, 2014 at 10:44

Doof In

<…continuation from Kombucha and Water Kefir>

My choice to brew water kefir was its huge range of acceptable temperature for brewing: from 39F to 86F, with the ideal range from 65F to 82F.

This temperature range worked naturally for our climate in the NW without any mention of encouragement of harmful bacteria growing in this range.

To me, that was safe and low maintenance.

…and I took the plunge, and it had been fun.

I got my grains from Keysands and I got the live ones (rather than dried).

The ratio for brewing was super easy to remember: 1 tablespoon of sugar to 1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon of kefir grains.

kefir grains at the bottom of pitcher

kefir grains at the bottom of pitcher

The kefir grains liked aerobic environment, hence I had it set up in a pitcher with cheese cloth on top, secured with a rubber band.

It took a while for the grains to “wake up” from their travel.

My first batch hardly had any activity and did not yield any extra grains after the first batch.

In subsequent batches, I could see bubbles actively forming – a sure sign that there was fermentation going on.

Every batch I brewed was supposed to yield double the starting amount of kefir grains; however, I had only been yielding about 1 tablespoon extra each batch.

I believe it was because I was brewing at the low-end of the desirable temperature range.

Turned out according to Keysands, I should add some refined sugar in my mix.

I used coconut and palm sugar that I bought from Trader Joe’s for my brew, which was 100% unrefined sugar.

By mixing little bit of refined sugar, there were more readily available sugar in the system for the kefir grains to digest.

Most instruction said that a batch could be done in 24 to 48 hours; however, I found the resulting drink still was too sweet for me, and I had been brewing them for 3 days (the longer a batch was brewed, the more sugars being digested by bacteria and yeasts).

I have also been playing around with second fermentation.

Second fermentation happened after the first brew was filtered and kefir grains removed.

Most of the time it was done to increase fizziness of the drinks; consequently, it was important to use air-tight containers.

If increasing fizziness was not important, I had second fermentation done in pitchers and the water kefir tasted perfectly delicious.

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Juices or fruits were added to give flavors during second fermentation.

My goal was to keep my kefir grains clean, so I did not add anything other than sugar and water in my first brew.

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So far, I tried dried blueberries, dried cranberries, dried golden raisins, mango puree, guava juice, coconut and passion juice, Chinese sour plums and frozen cherries in my second brew.

My favorite was mango puree and guava juice because the flavors were stronger, while the dried fruit options seemed to have subtler flavors.

The Chinese sour plum was interesting since it made the brew sweet, salty and tart — a little foreign in the beverage, but also an element of surprise.

With my slow reproduction, I was able to give out kefirs grains to two friends so far.

I hope that as temperature warms up and with the addition of refined sugar, I could yield more grains to share with my friends.

The best part about kefir grains was that it could be consumed directly, and I would not have to run into over-producing problem as the kombucha mother.

The grains could also be stored in the refrigerator with some sugar water if a brewing break was needed.

I also loved the fact that the whole brewing process was not an exact science, and there were many trial and errors, adjustments and experimentation to brew for individual liking.

It had been fun journey!

Kombucha and Water Kefir

In Food, Food Product for Home, Health on March 10, 2014 at 10:12

Doof In

We used to drink a lot of store-bought Kombucha.

Kombucha was a fermented tea and sugar drink which contains bacteria and yeast.

Similar to the making of alcoholic beverages, fermentation of sugars yielded alcohol and carbon dioxide.

The amount of alcohol in Kombucha was very low (about 1%), however, some brands in the market still had warning labels on them.

Kombucha had its origin traced back to China before 1910.

There were many other health benefits from drinking kombucha such as easing joint pain and high blood pressure etc. but there were not enough evidence to substantiate these claims.

We drank it for the good “bugs” that would aid in digestion.

Since I could not have dairy all the time, and other yogurt had not been the best tasting (I had tried coconut, soy and almond milk yogurt), kombucha was a good alternative.

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DH liked the Bucha since it was sweeter, more added flavor with very low alcohol content.

I liked Synergy better as it was less sweet.

The kobucha flavor was more prominent and the company offered one high (black wrapping around the top) and one low alcohol version of their products.

Kombucha, however, were very expensive at the store.

I only bought them when they were on sale and it was still $3 a bottle for 16 oz.

I decided to look into brewing kombucha myself to reduce cost, and started research on home-brew kombucha.

I was looking into getting the “mother”, which was the bacteria/yeast mass for brewing, and a continuous system for brewing (similar to a water cooler with sprout to release brewed kombucha rather than batch by batch with lots of “mother” handling).

However, there was plenty concerns and warnings about keeping the brew within its desirable temperature range (74F to 84F) to discourage other harmful bacteria growth.

This desirable temperature range was really high for us in the NW.

My house was constantly heating at 68F.

I would have to purchase a heating mat for the brewing system – additional expense.

Furthermore, I could not quite figure out what I was going to do with the new mother from every new batch.

It could not be stored too long, and there were limited people I could give them away; I supposed I could sell them — but all seemed to be a hassle.

Then, when I went home to Hong Kong, my aunt introduced me to water kefir.

Similar idea to Kombucha, kefir were grains of bacteria and yeasts, and also provided probiotic benefits to human when we consumed it.

Some folks called the water kefir drink “the healthy soda”.

It was slightly bubbly tingling in the mouth, low in sugar, with a hint of tartness, alcohol and yeastiness.

There were milk-based kefir products at places such as Whole Foods in their dairy aisle.

The milk kefir and water kefir were different strains of bacteria and yeasts; and water kefir was attractive to me because it required no dairy.

All I need was sugar and water!

<…to be continued…>

Mid-way Detox Check in

In Food, Health on September 19, 2013 at 16:30

Doof Home

We are more than half way into detox.

Eight more days to go and counting down.

DH was almost at the end of his tolerance couple nights ago.

He wanted a kielbasa.  He wanted a hot dog.

I kept selling him the vegetables dishes we had at home.

The eggplant hummus that I made.

I also stir-fried some romano beans with Chinese sweet black bean sauce, and made a stew with squash and heirloom beans.

He did not want any of it.  He wanted something substantial.

He wanted cashews.

That was ended up what he had for snacks after dinner.

Me?  I want chocolate.

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.

Creamy, smooth, dark chocolate.

I have been thinking about chocolate, chocolate cookies, chocolate molten cake since the first day of detox.

We were watching TV last night and Olive Garden’s ad came on.

The shrimps and the tomatoes looked exceptionally delicious.

Soy, is the other food I really want.

I would love to just have a nice cup of soy chai right now.

I tried making chai with rice milk.

Rice milk just cannot make the cut.  The mouthfeel was very thin, and flavor was not right.

I would also love to have tofu and soy sauce, so I can cook Chinese properly.

I also really miss tomatoes.

I made a beet-carrot sauce for pasta the other night, but it did not taste quite right as everything was naturally sweet.

With the detox program, we are consuming anywhere between 1 to 3 cups of what we called “yucky stuff” every day, depending on the stage of detox.

It is basically supplements (vitamins and minerals) with bean protein and some detox compounds such as green tea extract.

The powder are meant to supplement the meals.

We, however, find the powder really unappetizing and spoil our appetite.

With my appetite spoil, I also feel loss of interest in cooking since I am no longer hungry.

Or sometimes hungry but there is nothing I want to eat.

Couple with all the restrictions, it is hard to feel jazz about cooking.

I was teasing DH as he wanted his kielbasa.

I reminded him that we talked about going vegan (honestly, I think vegetarian is more reasonable).

We will have to revisit that now!

As of now, I have promised to cook him lamb in a couple of days so he can have his substantial meat.

The benefit of detox: my body feels great.

My digestive system feels clean and I feel light, even though I have not shed a pound.

My skin feels smooth and I am mentally a lot more alert (even though physically I am tired.  My naturopath had said that is normal reaction because the body is working hard to rid any toxin out of the body).

We will have our bodies cleansed, and jump-start organ health.

I have suggested that perhaps I will cook vegetarian at home, and leave eating animal products when we eat out.

We shall see.

Annual Detox Program

In Food, Health on September 6, 2013 at 17:17

Doof Home

First day of my annual 3-week detox program.

Welcome the challenge to cook with limited ingredients!

My first experience with this detox program was about 3 years ago, based on the recommendation from my Naturopath.

We were interested in finding out whether I had any mild food allergy.

The plan was to go on this fairly restrictive diet for 3 weeks.

After that, slowly reintroduced one food at a time back to my system.

Any reaction in my body would indicate that I had mild allergy towards certain food.

At the end of the first year detox, we did find out that I am mildly allergic to dairy.

Reason why I am not having dairy every day now, but about 2 times a week with days in between consumption.

It is culinarily challenging during detox because of ingredient limitations.

Some foods are easier to let go than others.

Wheat, eggs, seafood, corn, beef, pork, dairy products, added sugar processed food, grapefruit, peanut, tuna, processed meats, alcohol, soda, and caffeinated products.

These are the easy ones.

The most difficult for me is to let go of soy-based, tomato-based products and chocolates!

Particularly, the second week of the detox program is vegetarian only.

It is difficult for me to cook without tofu or consume soy milk, especially cooking Chinese without soy sauce!!!

I found it also extremely difficult to cook delicious vegetarian without tomatoes.

I remembered the first year I did detox.  It cost me every ounce of energy!

I had lots of cravings.

I felt weak the second vegetarian week – low energy, sleepy all the time.

Recalled calling up my Naturopath and she said “go have some chicken”.

Later on, I realized that I kept removing foods I could not have, but did not think of what I needed to add back in.

We generally do not eat much nuts or beans/legumes.

Those were the perfect foods to add back in. I got smarter during the second year of detox.

I never thought I would detox again.

It was so tough getting through the first year; kept thinking that I only needed to do this once in my life and “I can do it”!!

Boy, did I feel good after 3 weeks!

Great energy, felt lighter and cleaner. It literally felt that everything bad were flushed out of my system.

Cravings had gone down after detox, and it made me really aware of what I am putting in my body.

Sure enough, I went for the second, and now the third year.

Every year I got wiser with my cooking and managed not to starve myself during detox the last go-around.

I am looking forward to new recipes and experimenting in the coming 3 weeks!