Jen and El’s Indian masala

We love Indian food; I especially love a good mango lassie. In grad school, we used to go a to hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant called Kurry Xpress in Omaha (sadly, this restaurant is now closed). It’s name was a bit of a misnomer. The food was delicious, but it always took forever for the food to be made and served. It was always worth the wait.

One of the other grad students in my department taught us how to make Indian food, and her secret to making Indian food quickly included a stovetop pressure cooker and a good masala, or base sauce, for cooking all of the Indian food that you were making at the same time.

Over the years, we’ve adapted it for the Instant Pot (I am still scared of the stovetop pressure cooker) and adjusted the spices to our preferences.

Here’s how we make Indian food at our house:

1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp cumin seeds
3 Tbsp minced garlic (we use the prechopped bottled garlic)
1 Tbsp minced ginger root (best if you can find the bottled ginger paste)
1 Tbsp coriander powder
3 Tbsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp garam masala powder
2 red onions, chopped
1/2 Tbsp turmeric powder
1 Tbsp salt
2x 14.5 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
1-2 Tbsp tomato paste
smallest pinch of asafoetida powder (aka hing) for lentils
2 cups of yukon gold potatoes, chopped
2 cups of cauliflower florets
1 cup of frozen peas, rinsed
1 lb chicken, chopped
2 cups red lentils, thoroughly rinsed

What we make:
Aloo gobi matar (not a real dish you’ll find in restaurants; potatoes + cauliflower + peas)
Dal (red lentils – a thick creamy sauce)
Curry chicken

To make the masala (base sauce):
1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat.
2. Add the cumin seeds and heat until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes).
3. Add the garlic, ginger root, coriander powder, cumin powder, and garam masala powder. Stir and heat for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add the onions. Cook for 4-5 minutes.
5. Add the turmeric powder, salt, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste.
6. Cook on medium-high until the sauce reduces by about half.
7. Divide the masala base equally into 2-3 different pans (in our case: 1 Instant Pot and 2 skillets)

For the Instant Pot: Add 1 cup of rinsed red lentils + 1/3 of the masala base + 2 cups of water + dash of hing to the Instant Pot, then cook on high pressure for 3 minutes with a 5-minute natural release — these lentils come out as a thick sauce.

For one of the large skillets: add 2 cups of chopped potatoes, 1/3 of the masala base, and 1 cup of water. Cover with a lid and boil on medium-high heat until the potatoes are almost fork tender. Remember to occasionally stir. When the potatoes are fork tender, add the 2 cups of cauliflower and 1 cup of frozen (rinsed) peas and cook for 2-3 minutes. Once the cauliflower and potatoes are cooked, remove the lid and cook down the sauce to the desired consistency.

For the other large skillet: add 4 chicken breasts (about 1 lb — chopped), 1/3 of the masala base, and 1 cup of water. Cover with lid and cook on medium heat until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. When the chicken is cooked, remove the lid and cook down the sauce to the desire consistency.

Obviously, this is not going to win any awards or be true Indian cuisine. However, this is the curry that we enjoy making at home and sharing with our kids. It is a crowd pleaser in our family.

We serve with basmati rice and naan that we pick up from the grocery store (packaged and heated up in the oven).

FAQ about kombucha

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that I often get about kombucha and the process:

What is this kombucha that you’re always raving about?
Kombucha is a drink made from fermented tea. It is delicious and slightly effervescent. It can be flavored. It can be from sweet, tangy, or tart – it all depends on how it was made! The tea in kombucha can be black, green, white, rooibos, or jasmine (or a mixture of any of these).

How do I get started making my own kombucha?
The fermentation of sweet tea happens due to the presence of a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast). It is flat, beige-brown, and feels a bit rubbery. It takes on the shape of the container you use to brew kombucha. And it can have brown spot or marks on it and stringy bits hanging from it.

What’s the cost savings on making my own kombucha?
Generally speaking, you can find a 16 oz bottle of kombucha for about $3 at your local grocery store. I have seen GT’s kombucha at Aldi’s for just under $2 a bottle. Depending on the items you use (glass jar for fermenting, black tea and green tea, sugar, and glass jars/bottles to secondary ferment or flavor), it costs about $0.05 to $0.25 per 16 oz bottle to make your own kombucha. 

Why drink kombucha?
In addition to being a tasty drink, kombucha is said to contain vitamins, antioxidants, enzymes, and amino acids. Some say that all of their aches and pains go away when they drink it. Others drink it because their diet may be lacking in B vitamins. For me, it helps my digestive tract stay…regular, if you will.

Is it safe to make your own kombucha at home?
Yes! While I am a trained scientist, you don’t need laboratory equipment or fancy tools to make kombucha. You definitely do not need to be a scientist to make kombucha. The only necessity is that you need to make sure that your equipment and your hands are clean. Simple enough! Here’s a link to the recipe I use at home.

How do I know that I’ve converted tea into kombucha?
If your tea ferments even a teeny-tiny bit, then you’ve done it! You’ve turned tea into kombucha. There should be bubbles. The drink should smell vinegary. Your SCOBY will have generated a new layer. A SCOBY really is the gift that keeps on giving!
Your kombucha should NOT smell musty or moldy. If you see green or black mold growing on the surface of the SCOBY or if the tea smells anything but a bit vinegary, discard the SCOBY and the batch of kombucha. And just start over again with fresh ingredients. 

How can I flavor my kombucha?
You can use herbal teas, juice (no more than 1/5 of the total volume), fruit, fruit puree, herbs, and spices. Keith recommended the following: mint, strawberries, peaches, blackberries, pomegranate, hibiscus, ginger, turmeric, lime, lemon, basil, or combinations. You can see my past and current favorite flavors here.

I’ve heard of bottles of kombucha exploding. Is making kombucha at home a safe activity? Will my home-brewed bottle of kombucha explode?
Rest assured, I have never had a jar of kombucha explode. I’ve been ‘bootching (making homemade kombucha) since September 2017. The reasons that jar could explode is if there is too much pressure in the bottle due to too much carbonation. Unless completely left unattended for weeks at room temperature, I do not expect bottles of homemade kombucha to explode.

I like my kombucha to be fizzy. How do I carbonate my kombucha?
Once you have brewed a batch of kombucha, place it in a mason jar or glass bottle. Add any flavorings that you choose, along with a little bit (~1/2 tsp) of sugar (or honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup) and then put on the cap. Gently invert the bottle a few times to dissolve the sugar. Leave bottled kombucha out at room temperature for up to 7 days, depending on your desired level of carbonation. The residual SCOBY in the kombucha will feed on the sugar giving you carbonation. Transfer to the refrigerator to cool before drinking. Be careful when opening as contents are under pressure.

I’m concerned about the sugar content in DIY kombucha? 
The SCOBY converts sugar into carbon dioxide and probiotics. The longer you leave your tea to ferment, the less the sugar content in the overall product. However, the longer you ferment your kombucha equates to more tangy or vinegary tasting kombucha.

As always, shoot me a comment if you have any other questions. And happy fermenting!

My favorite kombucha flavors – July 2018

I’ve had two friends (and about a dozen people at the YMCA) sample my home-brewed kombucha. Both times I was asked how I flavor it and what are my favorite flavors. I’ve also been asked about carbonation, sugar content, and accidental bottle explosions. I’ve answered a few more questions below about this in a FAQ post. Please feel free to ask more questions in the comments!

I personally love my “original” (non-flavored) home-brewed kombucha after about 10 days of fermentation. Others that I know love very tangy kombucha and will ferment theirs for several weeks and will use pH strips to ensure that the acidity is perfect.
I would recommend using pH strips like this. Remember to use your straw to draw up liquid. Never dunk the strip into the fermenting tea as you may inadvertently contaminate it.

There is a direct correlation to sugar/acidic flavors to fermentation time. The longer you leave your kombucha to ferment, the less sugary (or more vinegary) the flavor.

What about flavoring your kombucha? Even though I like the “original” flavor, I also love the ability to be creative and devise unique flavors. How does one go about doing this though?  I was a bit vague on how to do this. Once you have made kombucha, you can carbonate or flavor it. I suggested the following:

“To flavor your kombucha, add fruit, juice, herbs, or additional tea. If you’d like to carbonate your kombucha, cap the bottles and set on the counter for 1-3 additional days.”

I’m going to share with you my personal favorites flavors thus far. Flavors are best enjoyed about 12 hours (or overnight) after mixed.

Very berry mint:
Brewed herbal peppermint tea (at room temperature) and a handful of berries.
I use Celestial Seasonings Magic Mint Herbal Tea and ~5-10 frozen blueberries
Steep tea bags in water for 5 minutes.
Allow peppermint tea to cool to room temperature.
Transfer cooled tea to 16 oz glass jar (or mason jar).
Add a handful of berries to the jar, then fill with kombucha tea.

Mint leaves and fresh lime juice
Chop or muddle fresh mint leaves, place in empty 16 oz glass jar.
Squeeze juice of half of a lime into the jar.
Fill jar with kombucha tea.

Summer Breeze
Ginger, cucumber, strawberry
Peel and chop 1/2″ knob of ginger and ~1″ cucumber.
Add ginger, cucumber, and frozen strawberries to 16 oz glass jar. 
Fill jar with kombucha tea.

Blackberry Cream (from The Brewkery in North Kansas City)
Blackberries and vanilla
If blackberries are large, cut in half. 
Add a ~5-10 blackberries and 1 teaspoon of vanilla to 16 oz glass jar.
Fill jar with kombucha tea.

Cocoa Cream
Cacao nibs and vanilla
Add 1 teaspoon of cacao nibs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to 16 oz glass jar.
Fill jar with kombucha tea.

Remembering our European travels: Ireland

We have a friend of a friend (my brother-in-law, Tom) who is going to celebrate their 15th anniversary by going to Europe! More specifically, they are going to England, Ireland, and Italy. Tom shared our London post with her, but I wanted to share our love of Ireland too. Just in case it helps with exploring and having a ton of fun.

We joined two of El’s cousins Kristen and Alanah. They were coming from the US and had purchased a vacation package that included a car rental; they agreed to tote us along if we packed lightly. I was incredibly grateful (being 7 months pregnant at the time). Having a car wasn’t essential for going from city to city as there is a national rail system (aka trains). But to see the Cliffs of Moher, which I highly recommend, you need to either have a car or use a sightseeing company/bus to drive you there.

Useful tip: Ireland, like the UK, drives on the left side of the road; the rest of the Europe for the most part drives on the right side of the road. Much like Europe, but differing from the UK, Ireland uses the metric system. Therefore, you’ll see speed limits in kilometers per hour (km/h) in Ireland and miles per hour (mph) in England. And the signage for speed limits are a black number on a white circle surrounded by a red circle. Signs will indicate km/h, but not mph; so if it is just a number, then it is in mph.

Our first stop in Ireland was Limerick. We checked into our hotel, then took a walk over to the beautiful St Mary’s Cathedral. After the ladies at the front desk of the church chatted with us about being Americans – they loved Irish Americans! We did a self-guided tour of the cathedral. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at an old book store and the Milk Market. At the Milk Market, we loved Bon-Appétit Crêperie, the Anne Lloyd’s Market Griddle, Tea4you, and Harper’s Coffee House. We also walked through the open market area just looking at all of the amazing craftsmanship.

Outside of St Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick

Wandering around Limerick allowed us to do an impromptu tour of King John’s Castle, which is a 13th-century castle on the River Shannon that offers a huge history lesson. It was October when we visited, so there was also a beer festival happening at the castle. We probably would have stayed for the beer festival, but I was 6 months pregnant and tired by this point in the day.

Our second day in Ireland was spent at the Cliffs of Moher. It has an amazing walking/hiking path, which you could walk forever. For me, the cliffs were definitely the highlight of our time in Ireland. I could go on about the scenery and the trails, but pictures are better for this.

The third day was Halloween; we spent it in Dublin. We checked out the Guinness Storehouse. Here, you can learn a little history of the famous beer and how to properly pour a pint of Guinness. There is a bar at the top of the building, but it generally gets more and more crowded as the day goes on. I suggest to get there early and leave before the crowd arrives. We ate lunch in one of the restaurants in the Guinness Storehouse (I recommend a cheeky pint and the stew). We also ventured into the Temple Bar area. Temple Bar was overly crowded, so we stopped into the Temple Bar whiskey and tobacco shop (2 doors down from the bar) – Kristen and Elliott did a tour of Irish whiskey while Alanah and I sat out of that experience. While I suggest checking out Temple Bar (Neighborhood), please not that it is a great place to party but that’s about it. From our experience, there are not a lot of Irish folks there as it is a bit expensive and a bit of tourist trap. However, it is a great for people watching as there are many Hen parties (bachelorette parties) and Stag Dos (bachelor parties).

Our fourth day was spent meandering through Trinity College Dublin and touring the Old Library Exhibition to view The Book of Kells, which is an manuscript written in Latin that contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. Its name is derived from where the book was housed for centuries (Abbey of Kells). The library displays only a few pages of the book at a time, but you can view a digital version of the book without even going to Ireland!

Our final stop was at St Patrick’s Cathedral, another must-see place in Dublin. The grounds and architecture around the Cathedral are picturesque and stunning, even in November. The inside of the Cathedral does not disappoint either. The stained glass on each arch of the cathedral is beautiful.

Our biggest advice is to book tickets online. Tickets are usually are cheaper in advance and will reserve your spot for a certain time and date. This is great for brewery and distillery tours, which can be sold out in advance.

Notable mentions for Dublin include: Teeling Whiskey Distillery, Jameson Distillery on Bow St (skip the Irish Whiskey Museum Tour). If you have the time, check out the National Gallery. We enjoyed St Stephen’s Green (and nearby shopping centre), Beehive Coffee, the Palace bar, and Peadar Kearney’s pub.

We loved visiting Ireland and hope that you will too. Happy 15th anniversary to you both!

Weekly sourdough bread recipe

We love sourdough bread. And there is nothing quite like the smell of fresh baked bread. This bread recipe is adapted from the clever carrot blog. The creator of the clever carrot blog, Emilie, has great information on making a sourdough starter and how to feed and maintain it.

Adapted from: The Clever Carrot
Serves: 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves

This is a low-hydration recipe (bread has “tight” crumb aka small holes) and is great for peanut butter on top of toast and for sandwiches.

200 g active, fed starter
250 g warm water
25 g olive oil
10 g (2 tsp) Himalayan salt, ground finely
2.5 g (½ tsp) granulated sugar
5 g (1 tsp) baking soda
5 g (1 tsp) instant yeast
500-600 g bread flour*
fine ground cornmeal, for dusting Dutch oven

*Use bread flour, not all purpose flour. The amount of flour used will depend on the humidity of your environment.

Mix: Using a fork or whisk, combine the starter, water, and olive oil in a large bowl. Add the salt, sugar, baking soda, and yeast then stir to combine. Add the flour, only 100 g at a time. At around 300 g of flour, you’ll need to switch from using your fork or whisk to using your hands to mix. Combine by squishing and kneading until all of the flour is absorbed. The dough will look rough and shaggy at this point. And you’ll doubt your bread baking abilities and this recipe. Please don’t do either. Just roll with it. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and a kitchen towel.

Autolyze: Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Then, work the dough around the bowl into a tight ball (about 15-20 seconds).

Bulk fermentation: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Leave it in a warm spot to rise for 3-12 hours. The bulk fermentation is done when the dough has doubled in its original size.

Optional stretching and folding during bulk fermentation: After at least an hour of rising (or up to 10 hours of rising), stretch and fold the dough. To do this, stretch the dough upwards, then fold it in half over itself. Rotate the bowl 45°, repeat the stretch and fold. Do this until you’ve gone in a full 360° circle. Recover with the saran wrap and kitchen towel, and allow the dough to rise again.

After 1 hour of rising, stretch and fold again as described above. Recover again and allow the dough to continue rising for another hour.

Note: You can make this into two small loaves of bread or one larger sized loaf of bread. We like a larger loaf. If making two loaves, split into two before shaping (below) for the second rise.

Shaping: Lightly flour your clean counter (I also dust my hands with some flour) while keeping some counter space clean from flour. Transfer the dough from the bowl to your floured spot on the counter. If making two loaves, split the dough into two equal parts. Then transfer the dough (or one of the portions of dough) to the clean section of the counter. Starting at the top (the 12 o’clock position on a clock), fold the dough over toward the center. Rotate the dough 45° and fold the dough over toward the center. Continue rotating and folding until you’ve gone in a full 360° circle. Flip the dough over, so the seams are “face down”. Using your hands, cup the sides of the dough and rotate it in a circular motion. Repeat this until you’re happy with the dough’s circular appearance. Repeat for the other portion if making two loaves of bread.

Second rise: Sprinkle a thin, even layer of fine cornmeal on the bottom of your Dutch oven (no need to preheat your Dutch oven). Place the dough into the Dutch oven, seam side down. Cover your Dutch oven with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise again for about 1-2 hours.

Baking: Preheat your oven to 450°F (232°C) when you’re ready to bake. Make a shallow slash about 2 inches long in the center of the dough using a very sharp knife. Remove the plastic wrap, place the lid on the Dutch oven, then place it in the oven. Reduce the temperature to 400°F (205°C). Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid and continue to bake (uncovered) for 30-40 minutes (until the bread has a deep, golden brown crust).

Note: We’ve noticed that if the oven just barely reaches 450°F and we’re Johnny on the spot (err…quick for all of my foreign friends) about putting in the bread to bake, then it takes a bit longer for the bread to bake. However, if the oven is up to temperature for awhile (say 10 minutes while you’re wrestling with an alligator a baby during a diaper change), then you’ll need less bake time overall.

Cooling: Remove the bread from the oven and from the Dutch oven. Cool the bread on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing into it (resist the urge to cut into it right away!)

Westy Blonde Clone

Westvleteren 12 is said to be one of the best trappist beers in the world. It is produced by the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Vleteren, Belgium. On our last European adventure (and second adventure with Oliver), we visited the abbey-owned cafe and visitor centre called In de Vrede, which is across the street from the monastery.
We have tried all three of the beers: the blonde (5.6% ABV), the Westvleteren 8 (formerly called Extra; 8% ABV), and the Westvleteren 12 (formerly called Abc; 10.2% ABV). I personally love the Westvleteren Blonde the best. Due to my preference and because both the Westvleteren 8 and Westvleteren 12 are bottle conditioned (something we have yet to attempt), our next beer on the docket was to attempt to clone the Westvleteren Blonde.

This brew was adapted from The Mad Fermentationist and BeerSmith recipes.


Westvleteren Blonde Clone

6 lbs Belgium Pale Ale
3 lbs Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsner Malt
½ lb Weyermann Acidulated Malt
1 oz German Northern Brewer (5.3 aa)
1 oz German Hallertau (2.7 aa)
2 oz Styrian Goldings (5.7 aa)
¾ lb granulated sugar
Yeast: Safale BE-134 Belgian (dry)
1 tablet whirlflock
Gypsum, if needed

Total grain bill: 9.5 lbs (10.25 lbs with sugar)


  1. Heat 4 gallons of water at 147°F (63.9°C)
  2. Mash for 60 minutes
  3. Check pH during mash, adjust pH to 5.2-5.5 using acidulated malt and gypsum
  4. Mashout at 165°F (73.9°C) for 20 minutes
  5. Sparge 3.5 gallons (13.25 L) to 6.5 gallons (24.6 L).
    Target SG=1.053
    If SG is a bit lower (1.047), add sugar to increase the SG.
    In our experience, 0.25 lbs of sugar increased SG by ~0.0025
  6. Boil for 75 minutes
    Hop 1 @ 60 minutes: 1 oz German Northern Brewer
    Hop 2 @ 20 minutes: 1 oz German Hallertau
    Hop 3 @ 12 minutes: 2 oz Styrian Goldings
    Target OG=1.063
  7. Rehydrate 1 sachet of yeast in 1 cup (250 mL) room temperature water
  8. Oxygenate wort in fermentation vessel as much as possible
  9. Pitch yeast at 68°F (20°C). Target volume = 5.5 gallons (20.8 L)
  10. Allow fermentation vessel to warm up to 76°F (24.4°C)
  11. Primary for 1 week, secondary for 2 weeks

BrewDay Notes:
We accidentally added 1 lb of acidulated malt to the water (good thing it was the first thing we put in the tank). We scooped out what we thought was half of the malt.
We therefore ended up with a pH of 3.2.
We sparged with 2¾ gallons (10.4 L) because we were concerned about hitting a specific SG. We sparged to 5.5 gallons (21 L) with a SG=1.054.
We transferred 4.25 gallons (17 L) of wort into the fermentation vessel with an OG=1.063.
After 5 days in fermentation vessel, we transferred beer into a corny keg and force carbonated to 7 psi. We then placed the keg into the kegerator for its secondary.

Tasting Notes:
Nose: banana, wheat, almond, hint of footy
Palate: pleasant sweetness, hint of clove, orchard fruit (apple, pear)
Finish: fairly dry, bit of “funk” though not unpleasant, no lingering flavors
7% ABV

Final Thoughts:
We love this beer. It is not exactly Westvleteren Blonde, but it is a great tribute and has a nice Belgian flavor to it. 
The ABV is a bit on the high side, but the beer is still an easy-drinker. 
We’d love another go at this. Next time, we would sparge with 3.75 gallons 

DIY Kombucha

I love kombucha. I was introduced to it (and hated it) when I was an undergrad. My friend John re-introduced me to it several years ago in graduate school. That’s when I fell in love with ‘bootch and discovered two things:
1) you can get a small discount at Whole Foods if you buy a case of it at a time and
2) I love kombucha with chia seeds floating around in it. I’m kind of a weirdo that likes that texture.
Drinking the probiotic elixir daily didn’t last long; it was an expensive habit that took up a lot of fridge space. 

Skip ahead to the DIY Kombucha Recipe below.

Fast forward to the end of September. My in-laws were in town visiting us Oliver. And I somehow convinced my mother-in-law and one of my sister-in-laws to go to the kombucha class with me at Grain to Glass in North Kansas City. Grain to Glass is a fun little homebrew shop that has a little bit of everything: supplies for brewing (beer, cider, wine), a bar with rotating beers on tap, and a few fridges with bottled beer. It also hosts brewing competitions, beer tastings, and classes for all things related to brewing.

Both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law already make their own kombucha, but their interests were still peaked to learn more from a guy named Keith who has been making kombucha for years and teaching others to do the same. The bonus features of this class were that you had the opportunity to try his homemade kombucha, receive a SCOBY (more below on this), see his “SCOBY Hotel”, and acquire some of his kombucha knowledge. Grain to Glass also had kombucha kits available for purchase (for $12, I believe) that included everything you needed (minus the SCOBY) to get started. 

Now that I’ve successfully made three batches of kombucha at home and feel a bit more comfortable with the process, I’ve also made a post with some knowledge that I learned from Keith, the internet, and making my own kombucha. I also answer the questions I get the most at kombucha on that post.


DIY Kombucha
Serves 14
1 serving of kombucha is 1 cup (~250 mL)
Write a review
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
56 calories
14 g
0 g
0 g
0 g
0 g
277 g
10 g
14 g
0 g
0 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 56
Calories from Fat 0
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 10mg
Total Carbohydrates 14g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 14g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 14 cups (3.5 L) water
  2. 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  3. 8 tea bags
  4. 1 SCOBY
  5. 1-2 cups (250-500 mL) kombucha (starter tea)
  6. Coffee filter or muslin cloth
  7. 1 thick rubber band
  8. 1 gallon glass jar (4 L glass jar)
  9. Soda straw
  10. Tongs
  11. Plate
  1. 1. Bring 2 cups (500 mL) of water to boil.
  2. 2. Remove water from heat and add sugar, stirring to dissolve.
  3. 3. Bring another 12 cups (3 L) of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add 6-8 tea bags. Allow them to steep*
  4. 4. Let the tea and sugar water to cool to room temperature (at least 1 hour, but up to overnight).
  5. 5. Add the room temperature sugar water and tea to the 1 gallon glass jar.
  6. 6. Add the 1-2 cups (250-500 mL) of kombucha (starter tea from the previous batch of finished kombucha**) to the jar.
  7. 7. Add 1 SCOBY to the jar.
  8. 8. Cover the jar with a coffee filter. Secure filter with the rubber band. Set the lid aside as it is unneeded.
  9. 9. Let the sweetened tea + SCOBY sit at room temperature in normal lighting*** for at least 5 days and up to 1 month.
  10. 10. At the 5 day point, draw up a sample of the freshly fermented kombucha using the straw. Taste for desired sweetness/tartness. Fermentation may take longer than 5 days (or up to 4 weeks), depending on desired taste. The longer you allow the tea to ferment, the more tart and tangy it becomes.
  11. 11. When brewed to you desired taste, remove the original SCOBY and the newly generated SCOBY with a pair of tongs and place them on a clean plate.
  12. 12. Check the SCOBYs for green or black mold. If you find mold, discard the SCOBY and the kombucha/tea - start over with fresh ingredients!
  13. Remember that brown or stringy bits are totally normal as are shades of brown.
  14. 13. Set aside 2 cups (500 mL) of newly finished kombucha and one SCOBY to begin you next batch of kombucha.
  15. 14. Pour the remaining kombucha into bottles. If you'd like to carbonate or flavor your kombucha, then now is the time. To flavor your kombucha, add fruit, juice, herbs, or additional tea. If you'd like to carbonate your kombucha, cap the bottles and set on the counter for 1-3 additional days.
  16. 15. Chill the bottles before opening.
  17. 16. Take care when first opening your kombucha as the contents will be under pressure.
  1. *I usually allow my tea to steep for 5-10 minutes. You can steep the tea bags overnight.
  2. **You can use unfiltered, unsweetened, commercial kombucha as the starter tea.
  3. ***Keep the solution out of direct sunlight, but don't keep in a cupboard or out of the sun.
Adapted from from Keith Krieger
Adapted from from Keith Krieger
The Adventures of El and Jen

An ode to the Instant Pot

An ode to the Instant Pot
Oh, Instant Pot! I already have a rice cooker, yogurt maker, slow cooker, and more!
Do I really need another “thing” (and you of all things) from the store?
I was the latest to succumb to temptation
that we all are buying into as a nation.

You, Instant Pot, seemed too good to be true.
I thought my purchase would be a rue.
I figured we would try you out, see how it goes.
If you failed, resale would be easy, heaven knows!

We tried just one recipe to give you a test,
Then let our tastebuds be hard-pressed.
I thought your claims to greatness were biased and bold,
But it only took making brown rice (in half the normal time) to be sold.

Others still wonder about you: “How can one appliance really be so great?”
Well, I am here to set the record straight.
When it comes to cooking in a hurry,
You make the finest, done-in-under-25-minutes curry!

And then there’s that yogurt; you make
the best tasting greek-styled, for goodness sake!
In just seven minutes, eggs that are perfectly hard-boiled,
At this task, you were not foiled.

And have I mentioned that you even sauté?
You make “one pot cooking” easy for everyday. 
You cook meals that are delicious and healthy?
Vegetables don’t need to be hidden, I don’t need to be stealthy.

Making baby food for Olly is even a cinch.
Steamed apples, sweet potatoes, and carrots are ready in a pinch.
You’ve really been put through our family’s test.
Even your clean up is easy, you’re simply the best!

You have been a hit in this household, an instant success!
I don’t know why I you were given a second-guess.
Weeknight meals are simply a breeze.
Because you, sweet Instant Pot, make tasty food with ease.


Brenda’s Muesli

We learned to appreciate oats to their fullest when we lived in the UK. Those close to me might think this is funny because “granola” definitely comes to mind as a word people use to describe me. Yes, I love granola and all that hippy stuff. But I never truly diverged from granola until I ate Bircher Muesli whilst traveling around Australia in 2015. After that trip, I had a slight obsession with Bircher Muesli, overnight oats, and chia pudding.

Fast forward to 2 years later. My mother-in-law, Brenda, was visiting for the second time in 6 months. One of her first stops in England is to Tesco; she had previously purchased a bag of their muesli and fell in love with it. The other thing she fell in love with was sticky toffee pudding (but that’s another story for another time). But now that she was visiting with my mom to meet Oliver, she had the opportunity to grab another bag of it to take home for recreation purposes. And for those not in the know, Tesco is a British grocery store. And their muesli is pretty darn perfect. Not too sweet, a bit of crunch, and a lot of flavors for a breakfast, brunch, or snack. I love it with greek-style yogurt and berries. El loves it topped with almond milk.

Brenda figured out a close recipe, and I thought I’d share it with you. And to be honest, I’m sharing it for El to find later. Because Lord knows he’d rather look up a recipe online than in a cookbook or recipe box.


Brenda's Fruit and Nut Muesli
Serves 20
Delicious adaptation of the Tesco-brand muesli. Great topped with fruit and yogurt or milk.
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
204 calories
28 g
0 g
9 g
6 g
2 g
48 g
3 g
7 g
0 g
6 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 204
Calories from Fat 75
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 2g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 3mg
Total Carbohydrates 28g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Sugars 7g
Protein 6g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 400 g old-fashioned oats, raw
  2. 100 g raisins
  3. 100 g dates, chopped
  4. 100 g dried apricots, chopped
  5. 100 g raw sunflower seeds
  6. 100 g raw hazelnuts
  7. 60 g unsweetened coconut flakes
  1. Chop the dates and dried apricots into the approximate size of the raisins.
  2. Combine ingredients.
  3. Stored in a sealed container.
  4. Enjoy with your choice of dairy or non-dairy yogurt or milk.
  1. Use unsweetened dried fruit.
  2. Pecans or other nuts can be used in place of hazelnuts.
  3. Add each of the dried fruits separately and toss in the oats.
  4. Tossing the fruit in the oats leaves a layer of "oat dust" on the outside to prevent clumping.
The Adventures of El and Jen

What we miss about Cambridge

We started living a strange life of sleeping on an air mattress and living out of suitcases at the end of April. El had the idea of shipping our things over to the States as early as possible so that we wouldn’t have to wait for them for very long. We were very lucky that we only had to wait a week in the KCMO area for our things. Since living back in the US, we have had time to reflect on our experiences in Europe. Going from Cambridge to Kansas City was a bit of a shock. We miss many things about living overseas, and specifically Cambridge.

Being a tourist in Cambridge

  • Walking. Seriously. No one walks here unless it is for exercise. I walked the 3 blocks to the grocery store pushing Oliver in his stroller the other day. The looks I received from motorists and the cashier were priceless and made me feel a bit foreign. It may have been nearly 100°F (38°C) and super humid, but I was still going to walk!
  • A pint and a biscuit. Actually, a pint and a scotch egg. The pub scene is on point in Cambridge. It was also great seeing other moms out with their wee babies at the pub. We miss that the pub was an extension of your living room, a meeting place, and a restaurant.
  • History. Everywhere you go in Cambridge, there is history. You pass 500+ year old buildings that are still standing and being used. Things are preserved and used to their fullest. With the exception of some of the buildings on the military base (ahem….Army post), most of the older buildings in our local area are maybe 50 years old at best.
  • Quiet Conversations. The stereotype is very true. Americans are loud. Our friend Bill has a saying that you can always hear Americans before you see them. And it is true. And quite a few Americans are quite proud of it. People in England and in Europe just understand that you can hold conversations without speaking loudly or over each other. I miss it.
  • Cheese. The English cheddar is better, hands down. We had a cheese board from Trader Joe’s the other day. It was disappointing.
  • Bicycling. You can bicycle safely to basically everywhere in and around Cambridge. It is mostly flat and the cars share the road decently with bicycles. Oh, and 3 foot bicycle lanes. Those are nice. There is a bicycle scene in KCMO. But it is surprisingly hilly in this area. We’re working on building up our cycling skills.
  • Proximity to epic traveling. We travelled to about a dozen other countries while living in England. And we feel like we didn’t properly take advantage of this as much as we should have.
  • Fashion. I remember the Cambridge News having an article about people being offended by consumers shopping in their “pyjamas.” And it was funny. I am not fashionable. I’ve only recently decided to buy a pair of skinny jeans (I. still. hate. them.). But you don’t see Brits out in about in sweatpants. It when it happens, it makes the local news!
  • Hand car wash. You can pay to have your car washed by hand while you’re shopping at the grocery store. Something we didn’t take advantage of nearly as much as we should have.
  • Roundabouts. The traffic flow with roundabouts is just better and more efficient in England. There are stupid roundabouts (I’m looking at you, Five Ways!), but these are few and far between. There are a few roundabouts in KCMO and at least one on post; both times, I just about lost it with excitement!
  • Adverts. The advertising on billboards here is everywhere, blocking the scenery. But at least you know there’s a McDonald’s up ahead.
  • The River Cam. We lived on the river. And as silly as it sounds, we loved watching boats and rowers go by. The bicycles and joggers as well as the tourists. They were all along the river. Have a cuppa and watch the world go by is what we dearly miss about living in Cambridge.
  • People. More than anything, we miss the friends we made while living overseas.

We loved our time in Cambridge. It was difficult being away from family and friends while living there but it was still an excellent opportunity to experience the world.

What are the things that you miss from the countries and cities that you’ve moved away from?

In front of Kings College Chapel