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.

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!)

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 http://www.elandjen.com/

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 http://www.elandjen.com/

Salsa – the 2011 garden variety

We lived in the ‘burbs, just outside of Omaha, Nebraska for a few years. Our agreement was that I’d make peace with suburb-life-in-general, the long commute to work, the cornfield literally across the street, and the mice that always appeared in our garage at harvest time, as long as I could have a giant garden and make a huge mess in the kitchen whenever I wanted to bake at 10 o’clock at night.

I convinced El that the garden space from the first summer that I lived in this suburban house was not large enough. The second summer garden was a nice sized one; approximately 3 feet wide and 10 feet long (1 meter by 3 meters). We had an appropriate sized garden full of tomatoes, hot peppers, zucchini, lettuce and carrots. I got a taste of gardening that summer – but I wanted more. The next summer while El was deployed, I enlisted the help from many people to dig and till up a massive garden space with me approximately 10 feet by 40 feet (3 meters long by 12 meters wide). This is what happens when El isn’t there to help with making decisions. We grew watermelon, cantaloupe, string beans, snow peas, habanero peppers, serrano peppers, red/yellow/green bell peppers, eggplant, basil, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, carrots, garlic, and five varieties of tomatoes. We learned about garden spacing that summer. We also learned about what to do with gallons of tomatoes at a time.

One way was canning tomatoes – a recipe that is from my good friend Erin (who received the technique from her dad). This “recipe” is to be done in the evening when you don’t need your oven. In Nebraska summers, the answer to that question you may be having: you never need your oven to be on; it is just way too hot.

Before you begin making canned tomatoes, sterilize all of your canning supplies: jars, lids, rings, and canning equipment. Preheat the oven to 250°F. The basics of this are to blanch tomatoes: boil tomatoes until the skins begin to crack, place tomatoes in an ice cold bath until cool enough to touch, peel off the tomato’s skin, and cut out the stem scar and core. Erin and I refer to these peeled and cored tomatoes as “naked tomatoes” – I know, we really ARE crazy people who both happen to be scientists that like to bake and make huge messes in the kitchen that spread to the rest of the house (exhibit A: salsa; exhibit B: sprinkles, exhibit C: apples). For El’s sake, being separated by an ocean has led to a cleaner kitchen and house in general.

Add a 1/4 tsp of canning salt to the (quart-sized) jar, then take those naked tomatoes, quarter them, then stuff as many as possible into a canning jar. While quartering the tomatoes, collect any tomato juice in a sterile bowl. You’ll want to push and squeeze the tomatoes into the jar to get rid of any air in them. The juices from the tomatoes will be filling the remaining space, which is perfect. You’re canning the tomatoes in their own juice. Wipe the jar opening with a paper towel, then use sterile technique to transfer lids and rings to the jars. Place a cookie sheet with sides on an oven rack, set the jars on the cookie, then close the oven door and allow those jars of goodness to bake for 1 hour at 250°F for 1 hour. Turn off your oven after 1 hour, and leave the jars of tomatoes in the oven overnight.

NOTE: You should technically place the jars in a large pot of boiling water (at least 1-inch of water over the jars) and process for ~15-20 minutes (this is called “processing” in a water bath) instead of baking them. I usually don’t “process” them this way – I bake ’em. I’m not an expert, so please use your own discretion for canning.

In the morning, transfer the jars to a countertop or table and ensure that the lids are sealed. Any ones that haven’t sealed properly now need to be stored in the fridge and eaten within the next few days. These tomatoes should last stored in a dark, cool place for up to 6-8 months.

Another way we used up the mountains of tomatoes was finding a salsa recipe that I could be canned and stored for at least a few months. I turned to the internet and canning books for help. What I ended up stumbling upon at the time was a fun website that was entitled “Reclaim Simplicity” who’s author was hilarious. Her name (at least on the website) is Sis. She had some really interesting stories and recipes. I can no longer find the “Doing the Salsa with Sis” recipe – sadly, I am under the impression that this site no longer exists. Because I can no longer find the recipe online and because many people have asked for the recipe over the last few years, I’ve decided to share it. The first year we made this, I’ve adjusted the amounts of a few ingredients to my liking. However, it still is roughly that of Sis. Please modify the recipe to your preference of salsa.

Salsa – the 2011 garden variety

Some upfront notes:

  • “Naked tomatoes” are blanched, peeled, and cored tomatoes
  • A “rough chop” of ingredients equates to the size that vegetable can fit into your food processor. The smaller the vegetable, the easier it will be to blend. However, do not waste too much time perfectly chopping up the ingredients – you’re about to use a food processor to chop them up.
  • How I sterilize canning supplies (jars, lids, rings, and all things needed to can): I like to wash them all in the dishwasher. Place them upside down in a skillet of water. Add a splash of white vinegar to the water, crank up the heat to low-medium. Don’t forget to add the rings and lids to the pan. And don’t forget to watch the water/vinegar levels over time.
  • For the canning: you’ll want to work in an area of your countertop where the hot jars are able to stay until they cool (usually overnight). Trust me, you don’t want to be transferring hot jars full of boiling hot salsa to another location.
  • If some of your jars do not seal properly, eat those jars of salsa first!
  • Some people like to add a little cilantro in their salsa. I recommend adding cilantro after opening up the canned salsa. I don’t can salsa with cilantro in it because the herb ends up kinda slimy in the finished product.
  • All units are in US measurements.
  • By using this template for “lazy canning,” you are doing so at your own discretion.

~1.5 gallons of “naked tomatoes” cut into halves or quarters
(this amount is a rough estimate – you need a ton of tomatoes; you can use a mixture of tomatoes: plum, roma, beefsteak, etc)
2-3 small bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
3-5 jalapeño peppers, serrano peppers, or habanero peppers – depending on what spiciness you’d like to achieve, seeded if you’d like (depends on the spiciness you desire), roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
2 angry red onions (or 3 normal red onions), peeled and chopped into quarters
3-5 green onions, ends removed and roughly chopped
1/3 cup lime juice, fresh squeezed is the best
2 Tbsp cumin
2 Tbsp black pepper
3 Tbsp canning salt
2 Tbsp sugar (optional)

  1. Gather, wash your ingredients. Put on some great tunes to dance to while making salsa!
  2. Wash and sterilize your canning equipment, jars, rings, and lids
  3. Blanch and peel your tomatoes – working with naked tomatoes is better for canning!
  4. Next, chop your your tomatoes in the food processor. This will probably need to be done in batches. Transfer to a large, non-reactive pan
  5. In a food processor, chop your onions, garlic, and both kinds of peppers. Transfer to the same large, non-reactive pan that contain tomatoes
  6. To the tomato mixture, stir in canning salt, lime juice, black pepper, sugar, and cumin
  7. When no one is looking, give the salsa a taste – Go ahead! Try it on a tortilla chip. Adjust the flavors to your liking – including spiciness of the salsa.
  8. Bring salsa to a boil. Stir occasionally to reduce the scorching
  9. As soon as the salsa is boiling, it is time to can it. Fill hot jars with boiling salsa. Continue to keep the remaining salsa boiling on the stovetop.
  10. After filling the jar with salsa, wipe the top of the jar with a clean paper towel. Ensure there is approximately 1/2 inch of headspace at the top of the jar.
    11.Sterilely transfer the lid on the jar and screw on the ring (finger tight)
  11. You should technically place the cans in a large pot of boiling water (at least 1-inch of water over the jars) and process for ~15-20 minutes) before moving onto the next step. I usually don’t “process” them in the a water bath.
    I let the jars sit on the counter until they’re completely cooled and sealed. You will hear the lids pinging when they seal.
  12. Store canned salsa in a cool, dark place for up to 8-12 months (though ours never lasts that long).
  13. Enjoy your fresh, homemade salsa!

Pumpkin Spice Lattes

In the US, I didn’t drink coffee like I drink it here in England. Most weekdays, I would drink a cup or two of tea. When we found out that we were moving here, I upped my tea intake thinking it would help me fit in. I couldn’t have been more wrong. For being known for its tea-drinking, I drink more coffee and less tea now that I live in England. You see, my last job didn’t really allow for breaks into the daily routine. You made time if you wanted to get coffee with a colleague. It definitely wasn’t incorporated into the daily plan. In England, the story is completely different. I drink coffee with co-workers not once, but twice per day. The lab incorporates this into a schedule. You have responsibility to the lab to be a part of the team; there is a rotation of who is making coffee every day for a week. And it isn’t American-styled coffee; it is European-styled: dark and strongly brewed. And my co-workers take their coffee time seriously. Don’t mess up, be off schedule, or miss making coffee; if you do, you’ll be making a cake to please the crowd (cake offense).

As the temperatures cool down and the sun begins to set earlier, I realize that autumn is now upon us. While unpacking, we found all of our autumn decorations (all three of them) and are thinking about turning on the heat soon. Autumn is also marked in the US by the addition of a few things, notably a lot of pumpkins, winter squash, and apples at the farmer’s markets and grocery stores, pumpkin picking with hayrack rides, and by what the coffee stands are turning out: pumpkin spice lattes, spiced vanilla chai lattes, and hot apple ciders. This year, one of those big coffee chains debuted pumpkin spiced lattes at the end of August. I haven’t seen them here yet, so this is my attempt to make them at home. Ultimately, I will say that this is a work in progress and may never completely replace the original. That being said, these are still cheaper and healthier than the real deal.

Single serving of Pumpkin Spice Latte*:
*US measurements used in this recipe

To the vessel of a single-serving blender, add the following:
1 shot of espresso (or concentrated coffee)
2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice mix**
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp pumpkin puree
1/4-1/2 cup almond milk
Optional: 1 tsp cocoa powder

Blend or pulse for approximately 30 seconds, creating a frothy drink.

To heat, place in microwave until desired temperature. Alternatively, add hot water to the blended mixture to warm and dilute it. For me, the blended drink goes straight into a coffee mug, where another shot of espresso goes in along with some very hot water to fill the mug.
Alternatively, you could mix and heat the ingredients over low heat on the stove.

**I use the following for pumpkin pie spice mix:
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves

By addicting the cocoa powder, something glorious happens in my kitchen. I feel like I’m eating something that is totally sinful. In reality, this is not the worst thing in the world for you, especially in comparison to its original counterpart. For now, this chocolatey pumpkin spiced latte is my favorite morning drink.