Park & Friend Pictures, New Oak Barrel & Kombucha Making, Wine & Vineyards, Kitchen Time, Green Thumb or Plant Killer


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Hi Friends!  How has your day been?  I went to the gym, ran a few errands, and came back home have been busting my tail in the kitchen.  It was one of those days that every cooking project I needed to tackle all had to get done, today, tons of produce needed washing and cleaning, and I had a few UPS Surprises that I needed to unpack and photograph for all you inquiring minds.  More on what I got in a second, but first here are the pictures of my park meetup I mentioned yesterday that I had with my friend, Flo, and her girls.

Woman sitting with two young girls
Here are the details and Photos of our Previous Meetup


Skylar and Juliet chasing each other
Two girls chasing each other


Skylar loves slides
Young girl on playground equipment
Young girl sliding down slide


 My Self-Portrait
Woman in sunglasses smiling

It was great seeing Flo and having an hour of girl talk!  Trust me, we covered a lot of ground and it was very needed and very fabulous.  Thanks, Flo, and can’t wait til our next gabfest!  We need to try it without kiddos some time, with wine in hand some night, I am thinking!  

We parted ways because she had to get to an appointment and I needed to come home.  Because look what was waiting for me: an Oak Barrel that I ordered for my kombucha making, and a heating plate and thermostat. 

Oak Barrel and Heat Panel


Oak Barrel with Wooden Spigot
Close up of Oak Barrel
Barrel Tap

Heating Plate and Thermostat

Kombucha Brewing PadDigital Thermostat
 The thermostat is like having central heat or air.  It turns on or off at whatever temperature I program it at.  

I put the warming plate underneath my current batch of kombucha and turned the ‘stat up to 80F and it started to warm up.

Jar of kombucha on pad with thermostat
Hand holding thermostat

I also ordered another Mother Scoby Mushroom.  I wanted to see what theirs are like.   

White Kombucha Mushroom in bagClose up of White Kombucha Mushroom im bag
Not much different looking than the ones I’ve been growing.  
Which makes me feel like I’m doing things right!

It was time to Prep my Barrel.  It has to Cure for 24 hours.  Meaning, I filled it with water and put in two of these tablets.  They will prep and sanitize the barrel so the bacteria and yeast will be happy. 

Kombucha Tablets in packageOak Barrel

The water will cause the barrel to expand and once it has expanded and I am sure there are no leaks, I can brew my first batch of ‘booch in the barrel.  It will be much easier than having all these glass jars on my countertop.

I also have a 70 page book on everything you could possibly want to know about Kombucha and making it.

Book of Kombucha 2.0
Side view of thickness of book
Exert from book about barrel

Why an Oak Barrel you’re wondering?

From the Happy Herbalist’s Site:

“Hard woods, like American Oak or French Oak really stand-alone. Here the actual leaching process of an active ferment is encouraged. There are hundreds of years of research into perfecting these barrels – just for fermenting.    
Consider Balsamic Vinegar. Balsamic is considered by many to be the “King of Vinegars”. The best Balsamic vinegar is aged between 10 and 30 years in wooden barrels just like the ones we are presenting. Anywhere from 5-12 casks, all of different woods are used. Each wood gives a different aroma to the product.  Typical woods are oak, chestnut, cherry, juniper and mulberry. The wood becomes impregnated with the vinegar bacteria and helps maintain the ideal ferment. The aromas released by the barrel wood enrich the ferment. The barrel becomes a true treasure.  
Why we chose American White Oak, medium toast for our barrels.
Oak adds a nutty, buttery flavor and additional tannins to the ferment. Each year the beneficial probiotic bacteria and yeasts impregnate the wood. Over time each barrel will develop a unique character of health and flavor.

Our Continuous Brewing Method produces from 10 fluid oz to 60 fluid oz daily (roughly 4 gallons week).  Once under way just add fresh pure water, sugar and tea. Be sure to order a supply now of sugar and tea so you’re ready.”  

So between the flavor that the Oak Barrel will impart and the fact that I will be using the continuous brewing method (dumping in fresh sugared tea daily and pouring off/drinking about 10 ounces or so per day) from the easy spigot dispenser, I am even more excited about my kombucha making!

My fridge is well-stocked with ‘booch

Multiple jars of Kombucha in refrigerator
And I’ve been drinking about 6 to 8 ounces a day or so and loving it! 
Almost empty jar of kombucha next to filled glass
Overhead of glass full of kombucha

From Yesterday…
I’m glad my Vegan Gluten Free Blueberry Streusel Muffins were a hit!

Vegan Gluten Free Blueberry Streusel Muffin on plate
Side of Vegan Gluten Free Blueberry Streusel Muffin on plate

When I create recipes, I try to think of busy people with basic ingredients on hand.  This recipe is one bowl and a spoon, stir it by hand, and other than perhaps having blueberries (Fresh or Frozen on hand) you probably have everything you need to make these.  And you can always use peaches, nectarines, plums, etc instead of bloobs!

I’ve already had a report from two readers who’ve made these:

Reader Amy omitted the vegan butter and used applesauce because that’s what she on hand (you could skip the vegan butter/margarine and use coconut oil, another oil, no oil, applesauce, it will all “work”)

And WinkingAnnie used strawberries instead of blueberries.


Both of them had great results so that makes me happy!
Overhead of Vegan Gluten Free Blueberry Streusel Muffin on plate

And I enjoyed your comments about working out and Pushing Yourself vs. Taking it Easy.  I was really proud that most of you seem to be on-board with Rest Days and Honoring Your Body and what it’s calling and asking for.  As I said yesterday, I do love working out so I find it hard to take total rest days, but I am all for doing gentle yoga and a light walk rather than lifting like an ape and running 8 minute miles if that’s what my body needs.  Good to hear most of you are in tune like that, too!

I had mentioned I was going to be working with a virtual trainer, Lindsey of Lean Bodies, and it was interesting to see how many of you push yourselves on your own and how many of you need a little push.  I would say it was about half and half, self-starters vs. needing a little help motivating. 

Moving On…
My Stevia Plant has had a Growth Spurt!

Stevia Plant on countertopStalks and leaves of stevia plantClose up of leaves on stevia plant

Here was what it looked like the day I brought it home, June 25, about 3 weeks ago.

Stevia plant on first day of purchase
 Under my care, it’s grown a half dozen inches on some branches and to me it looks healthier.  I don’t consider myself a gardener so I am happy it’s living and doing well and that I didn’t kill it.
In honor of my stevia plant, I made a Stevia Leaf Salad with Romaine, Stevia Leaves, Tomatoes, Edamame, and Artichoke hearts (I used TJ’s frozen ‘choke hearts that I’ve been eyeing on Christine‘s blog.  I steamed them for 1 minute in the micro in a shallow pool of water with plastic wrap over the top of the bowl)
Stevia Leaf Salad
Close up of Stevia Leaf Salad


Dressed With Homemade Vegan Slaw Dressing using Reduced Fat Veganaise.
The dressing seeped into all the crevices of artichoke heart, just the way I like it: well coated with every bite!
Vegan Slaw Dressing with ingredients in background
Stevia Leaf salad with Vegan Slaw Dressing
 For my thoughts on the Stevia Leaves and if it’s Worthwhile to Get a Stevia Plant, Click Here

Dessert:  Raw Vegan Almond Butter Cookies

Raw Vegan Almond Butter Cookies on plate


 Three Raw Vegan Almond Butter Cookies on white dish
You Can Stir it all by Hand, and 5 Minutes Later, Cookies are Ready!

Gym & Weights Workout Today From This Tab: Arms/Chest/Back



Tip of the Day: My $100 Shopping Spree CSN Stores Give Away!

If you want your Shot at $100 Bucks,  and who doesn’t, You Better Enter Now 
Click Here to Enter!

1. It’s always been my dream to own a Winery.   If I ever stumbled into a million dollars, or more, I’d buy a vineyard.  Oh the fun I would have!  I love, love, love vineyards and wine-tasting and the whole wonderful experience.  Elise, could you adopt me please?

Before Skylar was born, Scott and I used to go to San Francisco, Marin County, the whole Bay Area, and would drive up to Napa or Sonoma and vineyard hop during the day, bar hop at night, and stay in swanky hotels or Bed & BreakfastsIt was kinda fabulous.  I also joined plenty of wine-of-the-month clubs and had amazing wines showing up in the mail left and right. I love the Bay Area and if it wasn’t for the weather (too cold in the winter for me), I would move there in a heartbeat but I am a SoCal girl at heart.  Plus, we have Temecula Valley here.  Not exactly Napa or Sonoma, but it’s 45 minutes away and suffices.

Do you like wine?  Have you ever been to wine vineyards or would you like to go?  Do you love tasting flights as much as I do?  If you’re a wine drinker, do you have any favorites?

2. MicroClimates. 
Yesterday when I left my house in the coastal part of the city about 10am it was cloudy and cool.  By the time I met Flo at 1:30pm in north county coastal, it was about 82F and super sunny.  Then, I drove back home about 3pm and it was cool and overcast again.  In the span of 5 hours and 10 miles, the weather was changing all day.  Before I lived in San Diego, I didn’t realize that the coastline produces tons of fog and cooler weather and that inland it’s usually sunnier and hotter, but that there are pockets where it gets really hot, windy, stay cool, etc. compared to other areas.

Have you ever lived in a place with MicroClimates?  I carry shorts, pants, hoodies, sweaters, and tank tops in my trunk for both me and Skylar!

3. Fave Veggie (or Fruit) to buy that’s canned or frozen and not fresh
99% of the veggies and fruit I buy are freshI buy canned goods about once a year.  Just not my thing.  If anything, I will buy frozen before canned.  However, artichokes are one of those raw veggies that I can never seem to really get clean, by the time all the leaves are removed and it’s been cleaned, it just seems there’s very little left to the artichokeNot to mention, I have ruined more artichokes from my CSA than you want to know about in years gone past do to not knowing how to properly cook them.  So for now, I buy frozen.

Another thing I do is that if I know a particular item is going to be used within a recipe, and not eaten on it’s own, i.e. blueberries for my Vegan Gluten Free Blueberry Streusel Muffins, then I purchase frozen berries rather than using fresh. 

The texture change on frozen and then thawed fruit can get a little weird but if you’re baking with it or using within another recipe there’s no sense paying money for fresh if I’m using it in something else.

Overhead of Chocolate Princess Smoothie in princess cup
Like my Chocolate Princess Smoothie recipe
I use frozen fruit for that

4. How many minutes or hours is your limit in the kitchen from where it goes from fun to ohmygod get me outta here!
I kinda hit that point today after 3 hours.  And it was one of those sneak attack days that I never saw all that time investment coming at me.  It was just chop, wash, bake, Vita, clean, unwrap, unload, baggie, prep, cut, boil, pour, and it just kept going and going.  Normally, I can handle anything up to about 90 minutes at one stretch.  After that, I just want to sit down and bail on the project!  As a mom though, I am in the kitchen making food for everyone and prepping, chopping, washing, etc. all day long.  20 minutes here, 40 there, 30 here.  It just goes on and on.  And when I was in my early 20s, I lived on vodka, triscuits, and PB.  I had zero time in the kitchen!  Boy, life sure changed!

5. Do you consider yourself a gardener?  Are you a Green Thumb or a Plant Killer?  haha!  Do you like to garden or want to get more into it?  Or not your thing?
I never used to garden at all but about 18 months ago I did a few container gardens on our urban front patio.   Now that we’re back in San Diego I know I could grow lots of things in container gardens, but so far I am just rockin’ the stevia plant.  Hey I make my own kombucha, my own salad dressings, my own chips, 99% of everything I eat, I make myself…so I cut myself some slack on not growing my own veggies and herbs. 

Stay Tuned For The $100 Give Away Winner…

About the Author

Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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  1. Your site was mentioned in a reply to the CFHealth forum question I asked about kombucha. I’ve been brewing for just two to three months and am near purchasing the five gallon oak barrel from the Happy Herbalist and am delighted to see, from your photos, an excellent rendition of the barrel. My husband and I have been studying nutrition and farming and gardening organically for over fifty years. We have six children, by choice, four in-law children, and twelve grandchildren at this time. I am giving all of them a chance to try my kombucha at Thanksgiving dinner this year, along with green fermented tomatoes, fermented cranberry and apple chutney, and sourdough dinner rolls, (as well as the standard fare) and hope to addict several of them to this healthy drink and foods which my husband and I have consumed and have benefited from already. I plan to make kombucha for whomever asks. Our one son is keeping a quart of it in his business refrigerator and enjoying it throughout the day.

    Are you using your barrel as a continuous brewer? I haven’t gotten to that place yet, but soon. I have nine gallons in that many containers that need to be bottled and restarted this afternoon so I’d better get moving.

    I’m delighted to see the younger generations becoming wiser about what goes into and onto their bodies. I read somewhere that if you won’t eat it, don’t use it anywhere on your skin or hair and I’ve been making my own body care products since then. It certainly keeps me busy and out of trouble.

    Janny S.