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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

home brewed kombucha



I recently won a kombucha workshop through my son's preschool. This was totally up my alley! I am a fair weathered kombucha drinker, except when I'm having stomach upset (read: plugged up) and then I have a favorite farmer's market stall where they sell it for $6 a jar. Yeah, my constipation can be very expensive.

So when I had the opportunity to learn how to home brew my own, I was so excited!

Please note that this is not a tutorial on how to make Kombucha (I'll leave that to the experts) but I just wanted to share my experience so those who haven't done this before could have a better understanding (and perhaps I'll inspire some home brewers?)

Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that has it's roots in ancient Chinese culture and becomes carbonated as it brews. It is an acquired taste that can be altered with fruit and herbs or other flavorings. 

To make Kombucha, you need a SCOBY ( symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) Sounds kind of gross, right? Well it looks even more disgusting. I liken it to a mucous plug. Delicious!

So, this mother scoby has these flat pancake like babies each time she ferments. So, my friend gave me one of her baby scobys and I was off and running. 

Basically, in a big glass vat, (the largest mason jar I could find) I placed water containing two bags worth of brewed tea and then 2/3 of a cup of sugar. I let the sugar melt into the water, then I filled my large vessel all the way up to the top with filtered water. I gently placed my scoby at the top, allowing it to float gently. I then place a paper towel over the top and made it stay in place with a rubber band. 

I keep my kobmucha in my dining room credenza where it is dark and not too hot. I let it sit for a full week. The scoby works hard eating the sugar I added and spitting out kombucha goodness in return. 

A week later, I removed the jar and prepared my little mason jars for a second fermentation. This is where the kombucha becomes carbonated and this is where you can add flavors. I decided to go with fresh strawberries, ginger and mango in various combinations. I poured the brewed tea over the fresh fruit strips (you can use juice or dried fruit) and I will let it sit for three days outside the fridge where the bubbles will form and then 5 more days in the fridge to continue to ferment. The longer you let it sit, the more vinegary it tastes (some people leave it for 3 weeks.) The less it sits, the sweeter it is. I like mine somewhere in between. 

The stuff is chalk full of probiotics. 
To read about how to brew it, try here
To read about health benefits, look here!




This was my second batch….nectarine and ginger, kiwi and ginger and plain ole cherry. Five more days til I can try them! 

I hope you're not eating….here's the part where I post a photo of my scoby……not for the faint of heart. But I love this photo because you can see the baby mushroom that is spawning from the mother. Eventually, (and rather quickly I might add) it will spread out to be the width of the fermentation jar. 


My scoby is making babies every week, so if you and I happen to be "real life" friends and you want a scoby, I'm happy to share!! The rest of you can look into ordering online scobys through the following company. 





Monday, April 28, 2014

the anna dress

So for the first time ever, I wore a dress I made to a dinner party!!

It is the Anna Dress from Hand Made London.

There are three different versions of the dress, I chose the shorter version. 

This is definitely an intermediate sewing pattern. I would call it advanced, but a real seamstress would call this intermediate. 

I love the textured black fabric I purchased for the dress. It gave it a lot of body and was very forgiving of my sewing. 



In general, I think this dress turned out pretty well, except for the back. Boy did I struggle with that invisible zipper. So the back kind of pooches out in a funny way, which lead me to exit the room backwards, so no one would notice the mistake. (And I'm sure no one thought I was weird for walking backwards the whole night.)



I would definitely make this dress again after some practice with invisible zippers. I would also only ever make this dress in a thicker, more textured fabric. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

what I ate #18

So many good eats to share!! It's spring! The box of produce is becomming more colorful and flavorful, leading to exciting new recipes!!

These vegan samosas (baked, not fried!) were labor intensive but tasted amazing! especially with a bit of mango chutney! 



A take on vegan beet ravioli stuffed with cashews (I omitted the heart-shaped mandolined beets because who has time for that?) served with a side of swiss chard veggie roll up. 


swiss chard soup!


mandolined potato, chard and beans:


salmon burger with a side of cabbage slaw and parsnip fries:


My friend Lily whipped this up for lunch one day: soba noodles, tofu, salmon, scallions and mint…delicious!!


and then I made my own version for friends a few days later:


My first time making macaroons! I used this recipe from smitten kitchen but I omitted the cocoa powder and instead made a few chocolate covered macaroons by dipping them in chocolate and then placing them in the fridge to harden. 




These veggie dumplings were delicious, filled with tofu, quinoa, peas and cabbage from It's All Good: 


And there you have it!! The good thing about writing food posts is there's always good eats happening here!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

writing critique

Did you know I started a writing blog a few months ago? I wanted a place where I could keep track of all of my published work as well as discuss all things related to writing and literature. 

I have also opened up my services to writers who would like feedback on their work. Have a short story or novel lying around? Send it to me, get valuable feedback and take it to the next level!




I hold an M.A. and an M.F.A. and I was a college writing instructor for five years. You can check out my other website to see my list of publishing credits. 

Click here to learn more about my critiquing services! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

what does the fox say pajamas



To round out Kids' Clothes Week, I made these button down pajamas for Doodle. 



The pattern comes from Oliver and S



It was the first time I ever made a buttonhole and once I figured out how to use the buttonhole attachment (that took two hours, lots of YouTube videos and my husband looking up the online manual to my sewing machine) it was easy! As in you place the button in the attachment and it magically figures out how large the buttonhole needs to be!

 

There were a lot of components to these pajamas; I'd say they were intermediate level for sure. Also, let me talk about the pants for a second. There are double cuffs at the bottom that I think would be worth the effort had I made a two toned pair of pajamas, but since i didn't you don't get the full value of the double cuff. Also, the pants are seamless (another first for me) and let me just say, they were a lot more complicated than the Made pants that I can whip up in ten minutes. I think if I made these pajamas again I would follow the directions for the top and then use Made's pattern to make the bottoms. 



I made these in a size 6 (a year older than Doodle) so they'd last a nice, long time. 

He seems to like them!



And clearly they help him go to sleep!



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Winner: More Felt Friends from Japan

Congratulations to Nora who wrote, "My kids would have a wonderful time with this book."

you will be receiving a copy of More Felt Friends from Japan.

I will email you shortly for your shipping information!



Monday, April 14, 2014

gourmet matzo

** Please note I've updated this recipe. Scroll down for the update**

Well, I can't say that I've ever tried to make matzo before, but I have to say, it was beyond the easiest thing in the world to do. So easy, in fact, that it felt like I was getting away with something, so I decided to challenge myself by making the matzo a bit more gourmet. 


gourmet matzo cools after baking

So I offer you matzo, four ways:

To make the dough: (yields 8 flats)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

It's a two to one ratio of flour to water. In my case, I used two cups of flour and one cup of water. 

A note on flour: I used plain ole white flour, but you could try a variety of types here. Mix whole wheat with white, how about rye or even spelt?? The possibilities are endless. 

Mix flour with water and then knead dough by hand for about five minutes. 

Break the dough in half again and again until you have eight sections that you will roll into balls. 

**this is where you'd insert your gourmet ingredients, should you go that route - see below. 

Each ball will get rolled with a rolling pin on a flour-covered surface until it is as flat as possible. I noticed the edges were the most likely to remain a little bulky, so I had to really work that pin to flatten them out. 

Using a fork, piece many, many holes up and down the flour (to ensure that it won't rise or bubble).

Place on baking sheet (I could fit two flats per sheet.)

Bake for about 4-5 minutes (until the matzo is crisp)

Let cool.

***now for the gourmet options****

Up first is olive oil and oregano. Once your dough is rolled flat, simply drizzle olive oil and then rub it all over the dough, then shake dried oregano. 




Next is olive matzo. For this one, pulse olives in food processor until they are chopped. Mix the olives in with the dough BEFORE flattening. Your dough will become a bit wet, so have some extra flour on hand and keep adding flour until all wetness is gone. 




Third we have sun dried tomato and basil (from our garden!). As with the olives, pulse tomatoes and basil in food processor, then mix with dough before rolling out. 




Finally, curry matzo. Simply shake curry powder over rolled out matzo. I envision eating this one with some peach chutney I have in the pantry. 




Store matzo in airtight plastic bags. I think plain, salted matzo would make the perfect after school snack for the boys!!

** UPDATE**
After transferring the matzo to my mom's house last night, it turns out the olive and sun dried tomato and basil matzo was a bit soft and uncracker-like. My mom brilliantly recommended popping them in the microwave and zapping them in 30 second increments and it solved everything! They crisped right back up - and actually became crisper than ever!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

more shorts!

As part of Kid Clothes Week I decided it was time to make the boys some more shorts. They were both busting out of their previous, undersized pairs. 


Doodle was at school, so I chose this wave-like pattern for him and added "roarange" pockets. (that's Mr. P.'s name for the color that is a mix between red and orange.)




Mr. P. was home on break so we narrowed down his fabric choices to these five:

chemistry beakers:


yoyos:


Vintage Polaroid cameras (I was secretly hoping for this one)


Old newspaper headlines:


and sushi!


My vegetarian child, of course, picked sushi. 



I've said it before and I'll say it again, Made's shorts pattern in the easiest pattern! And there are so many ways to shake the pattern up…pockets, no pockets, trim, retro style. I love them all! Once the material is cut it now takes me about ten minutes to complete a pair of shorts! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Doodle turned 5!

It happened over a month ago already, but it's taken me that long to catch up! He's a whole hand now!






Usually, we have an intimate party for the kids here. Doodle especially, is not one to like large crowds and lots of noise and chaos. However, after having attended a few parties at My Gym, he couldn't get it out of his mind and insisted upon having his party there. I tried to remind him that he's not fond of chaos and crowds, but he was adamant, so I listened. 

Brother loved the party:




But Doodle spent most of the party finding various places to hide among the gym equipment. 





He managed to come out for a few games. 







And for the cake. 



And when everyone had left the building, it was time for him to brave the zip line. 

He couldn't have been any happier. Or tired. 



I decided on simple succulent party favors:

 

I placed the succulents and pots in a bag with some soil. 

There were even follow up parties at friends' houses who couldn't make it. 




This is my child who is already lamenting his lost childhood. He wants to stay a kid forever (isn't that supposed to be my sentiment?) Well, who can blame him? Life is pretty darn awesome when you're five.