Making My Own Kombucha

Making My Own Kombucha

Kombucha. You’ve probably heard about this fizzy, probiotic drink from plenty of food and wellness bloggers. Kombucha is the product of fermenting sweetened tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). Kombucha has been lauded for its ability to

  • Improve Digestion
  • Weight Loss
  • Increase Energy
  • Detox
  • Support Immune System
  • Reduce Joint Pain
  • Prevent Cancer

But, kombucha typically sells for $3-6 at supermarkets, which can really add up overtime! I decided to brew my own kombucha to see if it actually lives up to its health claims.

I started brewing my kombucha in February and I used a recipe by The Kitchn; it’s super detailed and explains everything step-by-step.

Just as a helpful note:

Batch Size: To increase or decrease the amount of kombucha you make, maintain the basic ratio of 1 cup of sugar, 8 bags of tea, and 2 cups starter tea per gallon batch. One scoby will ferment any size batch, though larger batches may take longer. (The Kitchn)

One of my friends’ sister was brewing kombucha as well, and I used a piece of her SCOBY.

Improving-SCOBY-Health
The scoby looked a little something like this! (Improving-SCOBY-Health.jpg)

I kept the kombucha in a dark area and let it sit and brew. Every couple weeks, I would give it a taste test to  make sure it wasn’t too sweet, but it also wasn’t too sour and vinegar-like. Finally, at the end of April, I decided it was ready!

 

 

 

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Look at that scoby!

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So, you can see that the scoby grew to be huge and super thick. The kombucha tasted sweet and vinegary, with just the right amount of carbonation. I drank 1/2 cup of kombucha a couple times every week, so here are my observations:

  • Claims to improve digestion –> From my experience, I was actually more gassy than before!
  • Increases energy –> I guess the vinegary kick from the kombucha did give me more energy…but the drink is super sugary, and the longer it was left in the fridge, the sweeter it got (something to do with the fermentation process…), and for me personally, the kombucha was too sweet.

In conclusion, I don’t really think kombucha is worth the hype based on how it made me feel. I must admit that I do feel very healthy sipping that ice-cold kombucha, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it is worth the money, or effort and time to make it.

What do you think about kombucha?

Love,

Serena

 

Easter Brunch: What I Ate Wednesday! 

Easter Brunch: What I Ate Wednesday! 

For many people, Easter is a day for celebration, complete with lots of scrumptious food.  Here’s a rundown of everything I ate and did on Easter Sunday!

In the morning, I got up early for a 7:30am sunrise service at my church. Following the service, we had a large Chinese breakfast, with four different types of congee (beef, pork, pumpkin, and century egg) with fried crullers, tea-braised hard boiled eggs, steam pork buns, man tou (plain buns), and my favorite, red bean sticky rice cake.

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  Pumpkin Congee
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Tea-braised Eggs

 

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Red Bean Sticky Rice Cake- my favorite!!
Image result for steam buns and man tou
Mantou (plain buns)

 

After church, I went out to practice golf, because the weather was 80 degrees and gorgeous. Around 1 or 2, I came home to have a late lunch. I was sweaty and starving at this point, so I quickly grabbed all the fruit in the fridge, and had a feast of papaya, mango, and jack fruit. The fruit was perfect after a couple hours in the sun. I then had two slices of avocado toast, and finished my meal with some dairy-free ice cream!

  

Almond milk So Delicious ice cream with pistachios

So much good food on Easter, it was seriously #foodgoals!

 

Love,

Serena

Banana Cinnamon Coffee Overnight Oats

Banana Cinnamon Coffee Overnight Oats

I love my overnight oats. Sometimes I think I wake up because my oats are calling my name. You might think I’m a bit overly obsessed but let me tell you they are the perfect breakfast to have in the mornings when you don’t have time to/don’t feel like making anything, but don’t want to sacrifice your health. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and you better feed your body right, from the start.

I have so many overnight oat recipes that I’ve created, and I’ll share more of them later. But for now, allow me to introduce my go to, BANANA CINNAMON COFFEE overnight oats. As with many of my recipes, each of the ingredients are selected for a purpose, so that the ingredients list doesn’t contain any unnecessary bells and whistles.

Here it is:

Servings: 1

Time: 5 minutes active (yes, actually 5 minutes I timed it :)), 7-8 hours fridge overnight

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 tbsp. chia seeds (or sub flax seeds)

1/2 banana

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp instant coffee powder (equivalent to about 1/2 cup coffee worth of caffeine)

1/2 cup + a little bit more almond milk (or milk of choice)

honey to taste

optional toppings: almond slivers, dark chocolate chips, etc.

Instructions:

1.) In a mason jar or some resealable jar, mash the banana. Add oats, chia seeds, cinnamon, coffee powder, honey, and milk.

2.) Screw on the lid and shake until well combined (or you could be fancy and mix with a spoon).

3.) Pop it in the fridge, and enjoy right out of the jar the next morning! (ideally 7-8 hours in the fridge, but the timing is flexible)

Yeah, that’s it. Just a throw everything in a jar and shake kind of recipe. You DO NOT have to have any kind of cooking skill to make this oatmeal, and it turns out creamy and satisfying every time!! You can heat it up in the morning as well, but I find cold/room temp oats to be just fine. I even have overnight oats for snack sometimes 😛

Let me know if you try out this recipe and your thoughts! Happy oatmeal eating 🙂

Love,

Serena

 

 

Asparagus for Any Day

Asparagus for Any Day

I’ve always loved asparagus because of how fun it is to eat! Asparagus isn’t like spinach or lettuce where I feel like a cow eating it with stems and leaves sticking stubbornly out of my mouth. Instead, asparagus is crunchy and texturally satisfying. Also, fun fact, 1 cup of asparagus has 100% of the daily value of Vitamin K for blood clotting and bone support.

If you follow our Avolicious Instagram, you’ll know that I was sick this past week. I had a fever and I still have a sore throat, but I made this delicious asparagus dish that was both healthy and satisfying. My recipe was based off of my spiced fried rice recipe in that I used similar super healthy spices.

Here’s the simple recipe and I hope you give it a try!


Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 pound Asparagus (duh)

1 tbsp Minced garlic/garlic powder

1/2 tsp Turmeric

1/2 tsp Black Pepper

(That’s it!! only 4 ingredients!!)

Process:

1.) Wash asparagus and chop into 1.5 inch pieces.

2.) Heat 1 tbsp. water in a pan and add minced garlic if using

3.) Once water is hot, add asparagus and cook for 2 minutes

4.) Add turmeric and black pepper

Yay!! All done. This recipe is easy easy you really don’t need to have many cooking skills for it! Plus, the turmeric is amazing for fighting inflammation, and black pepper helps the body absorb the nutrients from the turmeric.

Enjoy!

-Serena 

How I Stay Healthy When Eating Out

How I Stay Healthy When Eating Out

You’re stuck in a restaurant that you didn’t want to go to in the first place. One look at the menu and you know this will be a major cheat meal-fried chicken, ribs, steak and potatoes, with not a mention of a vegetable in sight!

I’ve experienced this little scenario many times before, I visit my relatives from New York about once a month, and whenever we eat out, they always choose to go to either a chain steakhouse or a Chinese restaurant.

So, over the years, I’ve developed some techniques to staying healthy when eating out. I think these tips can be applied to many different scenarios, like if your friends all decide to order takeout from a restaurant that you know does not have healthy food, or if you are at a fast food restaurant because you have no time to sit down and eat a slow meal.

Also, I just want to note that I am pescatarian, but these tips can definitely apply to vegetarians, vegans, or just health-conscious individuals.

1.) Look at the salad options. Maybe this is a no-brainer, but the salad might be your best bet to eating a plant-based meal. If the salad has an element that you would prefer not to have, just ask for it to be removed or replaced. Since you are still paying for that element of the dish, you could just give it to the people dining with you.

2.) Sides are your best friend. I’ve been to steakhouses that offer no vegetable dish at all. Even the salads contain some kind of meat, whether that be chicken or steak. However, I can guarantee you that you’ll find at least one plant based option among the sides. Take this menu from Outback Steakhouse for example. All of the sides are plant based (with the exception of theFullSizeRender mac and cheese). You can also usually make potatoes healthier by asking for no toppings (getting rid of fatty sour cream) and just add salt and pepper to your taste. You could also ask for condiments on the side, so instead of the Sweet Potato with Cinnamon Sugar and Butter that is on the menu, you could add these two ingredients to your liking.

If none of the main dishes are speaking to you, you can order solely sides, or a combination of appetizers and sides.

 

 

 

3.) Your waiter is your best friend. As I’ve stated before, you can always ask for an ingredient to be removed, replaced, or put on the side. Your waiter or the cashier is your go-to person for making these requests. One time, I went to TGI Friday’s with my family because it was the only restaurant open at the time we wanted dinner. With the exception of a garden salad, there was not a single non-meat item on the menu. I didn’t really want to have the garden salad because it was just lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. So instead, I ordered the mac and cheese with broccoli and chicken, and asked for all of the chicken to be replaced with broccoli.

4.) When eating a family-style meal, take charge of ordering food. When you are eating with a large group of people (like my extended family, with 13 people) it’s easy to engage in side conversations while the ordering is occurring. There have been many times where other people have ordered, and as a result, I may only have one dish that I can eat as a pescatarian, or as a healthy person in general! So, if you are in charge of ordering the food, you can order what you want to eat because anyways, it will benefit the group to have at least one or two healthy dishes on the table.

So I hope these tips will help you when ordering food! Fast food doesn’t have to mean unhealthy, and steakhouses don’t always have to mean steak. Happy eating 🙂

Love,

Serena

 

Quick and Easy Fried Rice

Quick and Easy Fried Rice

Sometimes, I’m just too tired to cook. I know, shocking, but after a long afternoon of shopping, all I want to do is lay down. So, on these days, I usually  just take whatever I have in the fridge. throw it all together, and call it a meal. But there are times when these haphazard cooking days actually turn out amazing. One example of this is my spiced fried rice.

I’m not going to lie, there were a lot of ingredients I used (mainly from spices) as this is a spiced Fried Rice. But trust me, it is good. Especially when you’re tired because the heartiness of this dish just warms you right up.

Also, each spice that I use has a plethora of health benefits associated with it. For example, turmeric is strongly anti0inflammatory, has powerful antioxidant effects, and prevents common diseases overall. I use pepper in this recipe because it helps the body absorb the turmeric more effectively.

Servings:2
Ingredients:
-2 eggs
– 2 cloves garlic minced
-1 tsp ginger
-1 carrot chopped
-1 stalk celery chopped
– 2 handfuls dark leafy greens
– 1 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tsp turmeric
– 1/2 tsp pepper
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp Chinese five spice
-2 tsp olive oil
-1/4 cup broth or water as needed
-1/4 cup cashews
– 2 tbsp sesame seeds
-2 cups brown rice
– optional: any type of meat/meat substitute leftover, I used 2 scallops, chopped up
Note: These ingredients can be substituted for other similar ingredients! This recipe is meant to be a clean-out-the-fridge, whatever-you-have-on-hand type of recipe. For example, you can switch out brown rice for white rice, or the dark leafy greens for broccoli. The possibilities are endless.
Procedure:
1.) Heat half of the olive oil (1tsp) in a pan, and then scramble the two eggs. Remove from pan.
2.) Heat the remaining olive oil on high heat with the minced garlic and ginger
3.) Once the aromatics smell fragrant, add the chopped carrot, celery, and meat leftover and sautée everything for about 2 minutes. The meat should be heated through, and the carrots and celery should be a bit crunchy
4.) Add the leafy greens and sautée until wilted. Meanwhile, add the scrambled eggs, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, and Chinese five spice
5.) Add the rice, and some liquid to help break up any clumps. I used bone broth that I of course had leftover, but you can also use water or another type of broth. Add the soy sauce, cashews, and sesame seeds.
6.) Give everything a good mix and you’re done!
What is your favorite leftover recipe?
Love,
Serena
Gaining Weight and Finding Balance

Gaining Weight and Finding Balance

So about a month ago, I decided to step on a scale. I hadn’t weighed myself for months, and I was curious to see what the result would be.

Well, let’s just say I was shocked. I had gained 7 pounds since the start of the school year, and I don’t gain weight very easily at all! Freshman year, while many students had their “Freshmen 15” due to the buffet-style meals in the dining hall, I remained the same weight throughout the year. I didn’t eat less then anyone else, I just didn’t gain weight very easily. And all this time I had been basking in the gift of a wicked fast metabolism…until recently when I realized that I could no longer take advantage of it.

Stepping on the scale for me was shocking, but it was also the motivation for me to change my eating habits. I called myself a “healthy” person, and even though I was eating mostly plant-based, nutritious meals, I was consuming unhealthy, out-of-control portions. For dinner, I would have 1 full plate of sautéed veggies, a bowl (sometimes two) of carbs and salad, and a bowl of yogurt or cereal. It was way too much food for my body to handle, and as a result, I did not feel so great after. Yet I would still eat more because it had become a sort of addiction. And I knew I was unhealthy and I was gaining weight, but every day, I refused to believe it. Until I stepped on that scale.

It was a wake up call. The shock of my weight gain made me realize that my stomach aches and bloated feeling at night, after eating a humongous dinner (and “midnight snack” afterwards), was not healthy at all. I had to make a change.

So, I started portion controlling-I would still eat mostly the same foods I used to eat, but I would regulate how much I ate.

For breakfast, my usual mason jar of oatmeal (equivalent to 3/4 cup oatmeal with 3/4 cup milk) was cut down to the actual recommended adult serving size-1/2 cup oatmeal with 1/2 cup milk. And I mindfully ate my breakfast-meaning I would take 1 minute breaks periodically to assess whether I was still hungry, or whether I was just eating because of the availability of food. A couple times, I found myself not even finishing the oatmeal because I was full already, but staying satisfied for the entire morning! So I realized that the 3/4 cup of oatmeal I used to eat was actually sometimes double the amount that I needed.

My usual lunch used to be a sandwich and salad on the side. But when there was “good” food in the hot bar, I would take that as well. This might include salmon, eggplant parm, roasted veggies, green beans, etc. And I would also take cereal or yogurt for dessert. So this time for lunch, I decided that I would either eat a sandwich and salad, or the hot food and a salad, without any dessert.

The snacks that I used to eat after school (trail mix, KIND bar) I still ate, but I portioned out the trail mix to recommended adult serving sizes of 1/4 cup and kept more fruit around.

Then for dinner, the 1 plate and 3 bowls of food that I used to eat turned into one bowl of salad and sautéed veggies/other hot food. Also, no more dessert, because I knew that I would snack at home anyway.

So after this experiment, in a month, I lost 6 of the 7 pounds that I had gained. But more importantly,

  1. I wasn’t feeling bloated and I didn’t get stomach aches
  2. I rekindled a healthy relationship with food through mindfully eating, not just shoving food down because it was available.
  3. I ate healthier and better quality meals, without all the excess and unnecessary dessert. Before having a buffet-style dining hall, I used to eat fruit for dessert, if anything at all. So, I’ve now attempted to go back to that healthy habit because dessert is truly unneeded. If I crave dessert, then I’ll have something sweet-like a banana with peanut butter, or a very small but full bowl of cereal (smaller full bowls give the illusion of eating more)

The bottom line of this month-long journey has been: eat in moderation! Don’t deprive yourself of the foods that you love-I think that’s my best advice for losing weight, ironically. I didn’t realize how much excess food I was eating until I ate a proper amount. And I hope you learned from this experience that I’ve shared.

Love,

Serena

 

Winter Roasted Veggie Bowl

Winter Roasted Veggie Bowl

After seeing hundreds of amazing looking roasted veggie bowls on Instagram, I have been craving a good one for the last couple weeks. Well, I finally got to making one this weekend and it was sooo satisfying!

Honestly, you can put anything in roast veggie bowls. Potatoes, squash, mushrooms, cucumbers, tofu, the possibilities are endless! For mine, I put roasted organic sweet potato that I baked in the oven for 35 minutes and 425 degrees.

I drizzled some olive oil so that the potatoes would crisp up, and added cinnamon for a boost of added nutrients.

Also, I’m not sure what kind of sweet potatoes these are, but they have a slightly milder sweetness than conventional orange sweet potatoes.

Next, I roasted some zucchini and carrots in s&p for 20 minutes.



Finally, I added a bed of spinach, the roasted veggies, and a fried egg to the bowl and dug in!


This bowl turned out so delicious, especially with the runny yolk from the egg. You definitely need to give it a try cause I’m telling ya it was GOOD.

What are your favorite ingredients for roasted veggie bowls?

Love,

Serena

Benefits of Korean Ginseng

Benefits of Korean Ginseng

A few days ago I talked about ginseng as part of the daily supplements I take.

After reading the comments as well as thinking over that post a bit, I obliged to write a blog post about the benefits of ginseng.

When we talk about ginseng, we are talking about specifically the ginseng root. There are two different types – the American ginseng and the Asian (also called Korean) ginseng (I take the Korean ginseng). Unlike other supplements, ginseng cannot be found naturally in foods. Thus, ginseng has to be taken in the form of tea, energy drinks and food.

Korean-Ginseng.jpg

I’m going to talk about Korean ginseng here as this is the type that I take. Korean ginseng is grown 100% organically, takes 6 years to mature in soil, and requires a 10 year resting period between the planting season.

While they are sold at a high price, ginseng has a high amount of active, grown without the use of pesticides, and contains three amount of ginsenosides.

Ginsenosides are valued to be able to boost mental efficiency and relieve mental fatigue. They work as natural adaptogens in the body which means they allow your body to adpat to stress in a natural manner.

Korean ginseng is also said to work on the nervous system as a natural tranquilizer and to boost metabolism function.

In terms of nutrients, Asian ginseng contains vitamins, amino acids, essential oils, and natural enyzmes. It contains 42 natural minerals, to be exact. Like whoa … has unparalleled nutritional content.

It is also great for a natural detoxifier, reduces cortisol levels, and has anti-inflammatory properties.

Obviously, ginseng has a lot of benefits which is one of the reasons a lot of Korean people take it. I really encourage those to try it – although the bitter taste may deter some – the nutritional benefits are worth it!

 

Have you tried ginseng before?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

 

3 Overnight Oats Recipes

3 Overnight Oats Recipes

Whenever I have a really late night spent doing homework, I know I won’t be able to sit down and enjoy a long breakfast in the morning because I’ll likely wake up late. My solution used to be to make a really simple breakfast that morning to eat in the car, like an almond butter banana sandwich. But that still took too much time in the mornings. So, my solution this year has been to make overnight oats!

Most of the time, I’ll make chocolate banana oats. I love the banana chocolate combination so much!

Ingredients:

2/3 cup rolled oats

2/3 cup almond milk

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 banana mashed

1 tsp sweetener of choice (honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.)

1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all of the ingredients in a mason jar or Tupperware and leave in the fridge overnight. The oats will soak in the almond milk, making them soft. In the morning, you can grab it and go, or you can heat it up too. Also, you can add additional toppings. Some of my favorites include  pomegranate seeds, dark chocolate, almond shavings, and blueberries.

  


Sometimes I even mix in chia seed pudding (3/4 cup almond milk with 1/4 cup chia seeds 1 tsp vanilla and sweetener of choice.

When I don’t have banana or cocoa powder at home, I  make vanilla overnight oats.

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Here I layered chia seed pudding, chocolate banana overnight oats, strawberries, vanilla overnight oats, and blueberries.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup almond milk

2/3 cup rolled oats

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

3 tbsp apple sauce

Procedure:

Same as above! I add applesauce to bind the oats, but they’re optional. I also add cinnamon because it’s a nutrient-packed super food! It’s filled with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, vitamins, minerals, and so much more. Even 1 tsp can have positive impacts on your body!

Finally, chocolate peanut butter overnight oats.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup rolled oats

2/3 cup almond milk

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp peanut butter

1 tsp sweetener of choice (honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.)

1 tsp cinnamon

Procedure:

Again, same as above, so easy!!

Overnight oats are my GO-TO breakfast. They’re fast, simple, and nutritious, and they give me something to look forward to in the morning!

What is your favorite flavor of overnight oats??

Love,

Serena