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Start with a good quality SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) also referred to as the “mother”. The scoby transforms sweet tea into kombucha. (It took me a while to be able to handle it without being squeamish; but once I realized the delicious power “she” holds I have been handling my mother and passing on her babies regularly.) I acquired mine from a friend and have been passing on scobys as my mother divides. Use white vinegar to to wash your hands and utensils. Never use bleach or soap/detergent when washing your hands and utensils to prepare the kombucha or handle the scoby, these will kill the beneficial bacteria and yeast. Use glass, ceramic, plastic and wood utensils; no metal.

Below is a recipe that uses 4 cups of sweet tea. Adjust based on your rate of consumption and available containers for brewing. Simply divide/multiply as needed.

1/2 (+) gallon glass jar*
scoby with at least 1 cup of the starter tea from a previous batch
4 cups water; boiling
4 black tea bags (I recommend organic)
1/2 cup sugar (I recommend organic)
coffee filter

Pour 4 cups boiling water over 4 tea bags and allow to cool to room temperature. Remove the tea bags, add 1/2 cup of sugar and stir with a wooden or plastic spoon to dissolve. Place the scoby and the starter tea from a previous brew into the brewing jar*. Tip the jar and pour the sweet tea carefully along the interior edge of the jar so as to disturb the scoby as little as possible. Secure a coffee filter** to cover the jar (the scoby needs to breathe) with a rubber band and place out of direct sunlight but not in a closet/cabinet.

The average brew time is 7 days but it can vary depending on the scoby, temperature of the brewing space and how you like your kombucha (slightly sweet or more tangy). Taste test using a pipette; carefully insert a straw into the brewing kombucha, cover the top of the straw with a finger, withdraw the straw, hold the straw over a glass and lift the finger to release the kombucha for tasting.

When you are ready to stop the kombucha from brewing pour it into a large jar or individual bottles to be placed into the refrigerator. Pour slowly so the scoby is disturbed as little as possible. Use a plastic or glass funnel, no metal, if transferring into bottles. Leave 1 cup of the starter tea in the brewing jar and start the next batch with the above directions.

*a glass or ceramic bowl can also be used.
**a kitchen towel secured with a cord can be used to secure over the bowl.



Puerto Rican Rice and Pigeon Peas, Spicy Coconut Shrimp, Sautéed Spinach and Onions and Plantain Fries

IMG_1749Puerto Style Rican Rice and Pigeon Peas
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion; diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 red pepper; diced
1-2 cloves garlic; crushed
(¼ cup olives; optional)
½ cup tomatoes sauce
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1/4-1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
14 ox bag frozen pigeon peas (found in the frozen Goya section)
2 cups brown rice; soaked in water 3-8 hours, rinsed and drained
3 1/2 cups water

Preheat a heavy bottom pot over medium heat, add olive oil, onion and salt and sauté until soft and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add peppers and garlic, sauté for 3 more minutes. Add optional olives, tomatoes and spices. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add pigeon peas, rice and water. Bring to a boil, stir and turn down heat bringing the rice mixture to a slow simmer. Simmer without a lid until almost all the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Do not stir as this can make the rice sticky. Cover, turn heat to low and allow to slow cook/steam until rice is tender and all of the water is absorbed, another 10-15 minutes.

Spicy Coconut Shrimp
2 lb raw shrimp; peeled
2Tablespoon coconut oil
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
ground cumin

Preheat oven to 375. Meanwhile, melt coconut oil into a cast iron skillet (or any broiler proof pan). Arrange peeled shrimp in a single layer on coconut oiled skillet/pan. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices and oregano. Turn on broiler, broil shrimp till they curl, turn pink and just crisp on some thin edges (7-10 minutes depending on size of shrimp).

Plantain Fries
2 yellow plantain
extra virgin oil for the pan
sea salt to taste

Preheat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Peel the plantain- this can be difficult depending on how (not) ripe they are when picked. Cut along one ridge from stem to end and begin to feel sideways. I keep a paring knife handy to slice away any left over peel. Cut as you like into roughly 1/4 inch thick pieces. I normally do disks but wanted to try “fries” today. Add olive oil cover the bottom of the pan. Place the sliced plantain in the pan and fry until yellow-golden just turning brown. Turn each piece till cooked on all sides. Place on a serving dish and sprinkle with salt.

Sautéed Spinach and Onions
1 onion; quartered and sliced
22 oz baby spinach
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
pinch fresh ground black pepper

Preheat a large stock pot over medium heat. Put the butter in first followed by the onions sprinkled with salt and top with spinach. Cover and stir occasionally until the spinach is wilted. Toss in the black pepper.

Whole Wheat Blond Mushroom and Spinach Pizza

IMG_1333This recipe makes one pie.

½ cup white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur Flour; they are GMO free)
1 package/ 1 Tablespoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
1-2  Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup warm water (slightly warmer than body temperature)
2 1/2+ cups white whole wheat flour
extra virgin olive oil for the pizza stone, pan, or baking sheet.

Toppings can really be whatever you like. Featured today:
8 oz crimini mushrooms; cut into bite sized pieces
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion; quartered and sliced to 1/4 pieces
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cloves garlic; crushed
1 cup parsley; finely chopped divided in half
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8-10 cups fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese (I use Locatelli)
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 500ºF (the oven should be warmed for a long time so this is always my first step) with a rack at the bottom of the oven.

Mix together ½ cup flour, yeast, salt and olive oil then add the warm water. Mix with a wooden spoon or dough hook. Continue adding enough flour to make a firm dough that releases from the sides of the mixing bowl. If mixing by hand, get your hands in there and knead to form a ball. Cover dough and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour depending on the freshness of the yeast and temperature of your kitchen).

Meanwhile, prepare the topping(s). Preheat a large skillet that has a lid over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms, cover and let them “sweat” ( cook until the moisture comes out of the mushrooms). Once they are swimming in their own moisture, remove the lid and continue to cook until the water has evaporated. Add the olive oil, onion and salt, stir and cover to sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, 1/2 cup parsley and black pepper, stir and cover to sauté for 5 minutes. Add the spinach cover and cook until the leaves wilt, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir and set aside.

Brush olive oil on your pizza stone, pan or baking sheet. Shape the dough once it has doubled; punch it down, knead it for 5 minutes by hand or 2 with a machine and roll out on a lightly floured board (adding more flour if the dough sticks to the counter or rolling pin). Place dough into prepared stone/pan/sheet and let rest for 15-30 minutes.

Spread the prepared topping to evenly cover the dough. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup parsley, pecorino Romano cheese and mozzarella.

Bake in the bottom of the preheated 500 degree oven until the cheese is melted (maybe starting to get golden) and the crust deepens in color, 10-15 minutes depending on your oven.

“Karinshu” Quince Infused Cordial

This recipe is from “Preserving the Japanese Way” by Nancy Singleton Hachisu.

2 lb (6) quince
1 lb (3 cups) sugar
2 qt (8 cups) vodka

Wash, quarter and core the quince. Remove any blemished areas and worm holes. Place the prepared quince in a jar with the sugar and vodka. (I divided everything in half because I didn’t have a large enough jar on hand) Seal tightly and shake.

Store in a dark place and shake occasionally for 3 or more months while the liqueur infuses. The flavor of the cordial will deepen and mellow with age. The cordial will keep indefinitely. Serve cold or over ice as an aperitif.

Stay tuned for the final results in 3 months!

Freshly picked quince

Brown Sugar Cookies (Gluten, Grain and Dairy Free)

DSC_0005This recipe, adapted from “Sju Sorters Kakor”, makes 36 cookies

2 cups almond flour
2 egg whites
1 1/3 cups brown sugar

3 (+) Tablespoons raspberry jam
36 dark (or vegan) chocolate chips

Lightly beat egg whites. Mix in the sugar and almond flour until well combined. Preheat oven to 300. Form a teaspoon of dough into small balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Press a small indent in the top of each ball with a finger and fill with jam. (Tori recommends a larger hole and more jam since raspberry is her favorite) Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes. Top with dark chocolate chip, remove from baking sheet and allow to cool on a cookie rack.

Pickled Yellow Wax Beans with Garlic

DSC_0022This is a reposting of a recipe I used last year with a photo from this year’s batch. Last year I pickled for the first time to honor a request by my daughter. I am repeating this post as it was a successful recipe and one of my family’s favorites.

6 cups yellow wax beans; washed and ends trimmed
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
3 1/2 Tablespoons natural sea salt (no anti clumping agents or iodine)

2 quart jars (or 4 pint jars)

2 teaspoon garlic; minced
8 whole black peppercorns (or mixed peppercorns)
1 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

Sterilize jars by boiling for 10 minutes. Pour boiling water over lids and rings and leave until ready to use. Bring vinegar, water and salt to a boil and simmer until the salt dissolves and turn off heat.
DSC_0006Fill each hot sterilized jar with 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 4 whole black pepper corns, 1/2 teaspoon dill weed, 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds, 1/8 teaspoon mustard seeds (if using pint jars divide the ingredients in half per jar).
DSC_0001Then fill each “spiced” jar with prepared yellow wax beans to 1 inch from the rim and pour the hot brine (vinegar, water and salt) into each filled jar leaving 1/2 inch of head space. (if there isn’t enough brine add a 50/50 mixture of water/vinegar to fill the jars) Wipe the rim of the jars with a damp paper towel, place the lid on the jar and secure with the rings. Place the jars into a water bath, bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Open after 6 weeks when the flavors have matured.

Rhubarb from the Garden to the Dessert Table

DSC_0006The rhubarb that I divided in early spring is not mature so I carefully picked only enough stalks to make the amazing rhubarb upside-down cake using the recipe from Marth Stewart. Rhubarb is one of Xav’s favorites and it is in season, conveniently, for Father’s Day. There are a few adjustments I recommend from the original recipe.
Use a larger pan than the recipe calls for (I had too much batter and wound up with 9 mini muffins)

1 lb of rhubarb? I used 3 cups but could have gone to 4 if I had used a larger pan.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan then flip it onto the serving plate/platter.

Don’t have an orange? I substituted with lemon; 1/2 teaspoon  rind and 1/2 Tablespoon juice