Starting 2015 with a bang: a better hangover

Guys. I'm a genius. 

Ok, maybe I shouldn't take the credit for this one, because I didn't create this recipe, but can I take the credit for asking someone else to mix alcohol with kombucha? Before I go into the glorious details, let me give you a little background on this drink's creator....

Dani, from Care to Pair, and I met freshman year in high school. Several middle schools in our suburban Chicago school-district funneled into our 2,000+ student high school. The people I had grown up with since 1st grade were diluted within the crowds by strange faces and other kids who had grown up along side me all my life, but of course without my knowledge. It was eerie. 

Dani was in my French class, in my gym class, and was also with me in band, which meant that not only was our nerd status indefinitely cemented, but we were bound to run into each other. By our first week of high-school, we figure out we saw each other several times a day, and by the end of the first month, we were fast friends. 

Dani and I our sophomore year homecoming, circa 2001. Dani is on the far left, and I'm on the right. Pretty sure we opted to hold hands with our dates like that all on our own. Awwwkkkwaaard. 

Dani and I our sophomore year homecoming, circa 2001. Dani is on the far left, and I'm on the right. Pretty sure we opted to hold hands with our dates like that all on our own. Awwwkkkwaaard. 

Now, Dani lives in Vegas, and she pretty much knows everyone and does everything in the beverage industry there, which is quite an accomplishment considering the whole world goes to Vegas to consume... beverages. 

Care to Pair is a blog that goes into details about wine and beer pairings, and had great insight into how flavors of meals can be drawn out by the right drink. Her most recent post, which went over everything Champagne related, was probably one of my favorites. Especially because popping bottles is something we can all get behind. popopopopopop. Ok, I'll stop now. 

Dani continues to be my go-to for anything cocktail, wine, and beer related. Although alcohol is not paleo, by any means, I do indulge in drinks semi-regularly. Life is just too short. Dani is also the one who taught me how to enjoy beer, and she's the one I went with on a VIP tour of Dogfishhead back in February. For this blog, I actually went to Dani with the idea of making a Kombucha cocktail. I have tons of the tea from brewing it myself, and I'm pretty sure everyone, paleo or not, wants a healthy, flavorful mixer for cocktails. 

Dani and I more recently: October 2014 at the Hoover Dam.

Dani and I more recently: October 2014 at the Hoover Dam.

This recipe is posted here, obviously, but also has been posted today over at Dani's own blog, Care to Pair. I'll leave the details of cocktail describing up to her, because I pretty much have no clue what I'm talking about. Serious. I can, however, talk about the kombucha.... because you know, booches are my thang

The kombucha used for this cocktail is a raspberry flavor, but any fruity flavor will do. Strawberry is currently my favorite kombucha flavor of the month, but use whatever you have on hand. If you're buying kombucha, try GT's Trilogy flavor.  (And to catch you up, the steps for making home brewed kombucha can be found here.)

Dani, and her fiance Andrew, hit a home run with this one. This cocktail is fizzy and flavorful, and perfect for a paleoish New Years. Down a few too many of these, and maybe your hangover will be a tad better than ones in years past. Can you guys let me know about that one? K, thanks. ;) (Also, one of my go-tos for ensuring a better hangover, or none at all, when I've had one too many is popping a couple coconut charcoal pills before bed and the next morning. My favorite brand is this one here, but I've also seen them carried at local drug stores. Of course, check with your doctor before taking any of these.)

Happy New Year! I hope your 2015 brings lots of joy, good health, and excellent eats!

Raspberry Kombucha Gin Rickey

  • 2 oz gin (any type)
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • Raspberry Kombucha (or any fruity flavor will do)
  • basil sprig (for garnish)
  1. Fill cocktail shaker with Ice. Pour gin, lime juice, and simple syrup into shaker and shake thoroughly.
  2. Strain all ingredients into an ice-filled high-ball glass.
  3. Top off with Kombucha and garnish with a sprig of basil.

Exciting Announcements and a BIG Thank You!

Happy Monday night! I wanted to write a quick post to update you all on some exciting announcements!

Have you guys noticed a new page on the website? This new events page is a calendar that lists, you guessed it, upcoming events. I’ve recently been asked to teach a few paleo cooking classes and speak at seminars on everything ranging from brewing Kombucha to grain-free pasta substitutes to the link between cognition and nutrition. I’ve added this page so you can see when, where, and what I’m speaking about. I would love to meet and see you if you are in the area! The calendar doesn’t have any events listed yet, but the dates will be finalized by the end of this week. The calendar will list all the information about each event, and it even has a button allowing you to import the event details directly onto your own personal calendar with just the click of a button. (Technology is so cool.) I will let you know when those dates are up!

Second, I’m excited to announce that this week, I will be guest blogging on the fantastic website Health Starts in the Kitchen. The writer of the blog, Haley, is such a kind and clever blogger, and I’m beyond excited that she invited me to post on her behalf. I’ll be posting on this Wednesday, August 20th, and I will let you know when that post is up and ready to read. In the meantime, here a little teaser of what I will be writing about:

Want another clue? This dish is both savory and sweet. Yummm. It will be posted on Health Starts in the Kitchen on Wednesday, August 20th. 

Want another clue? This dish is both savory and sweet. Yummm. It will be posted on Health Starts in the Kitchen on Wednesday, August 20th. 

Guess what? There are even more announcements. I know I know, this is becoming a long update, but I'm trying to not bombard your email inboxes with bunch of small updates throughout the week. I hate junk mail just as much as you do. Bear with me while I tell you guys everything all at once. But first, let me take a selfie…..

photo 3.jpg

My one-year anniversary of becoming Paleo is approaching, and I’m in the middle of writing some posts to celebrate. (How has it been a full year already?!) Among other things, I am now coining the word Paleoversary. Soon, it will make it into the dictionary right next to gazillion and selfie. Webster, watch out.

Lastly, I wanted to take the time to thank each and every one of my readers. I’ve noticed a big jump in subscribers and views especially over the past two weeks, and it makes me incredibly happy that people (other than my mom and my dog) read South of Vanilla regularly. Also exciting? I am now the first result when you search for South of Vanilla on Google. This gives me motivation to keep writing posts, and I’m starting to learn more and more from the site statistics about which recipes readers enjoy reading the most. (Currently, 67% of you love my Paleo Protein Pancake recipe the best.) Thank you everyone so much for reading! Please make sure to post comments or ask questions if you need any help in your cooking or paleo endeavors! I’m always willing to help J

Hope everyone is enjoy these last sun-filled summer days.




That's One Nice Booch

Its March 1st! Does that mean it can be spring yet? Apparently, not in the U.S, as the temperatures are 15-20 degrees below their typical averages for this time of year in most places. Excellent. I'm not sure about you guys, but I'm getting some serious winter blues. BUT spending a lot of time inside means that I've done a lot of recipe experiments lately, so hopefully I'll get those up on here soon. But in the meantime….


Mushroom Tea, Fungus Tea, Champagne of Life.  In France they call is the Champignon Miracle, or Miracle Mushroom, in Germany, its named Zaubersaft, or literally “magic juice”.

You’ve heard of it too: Kombucha! Kombucha is definitely the trendy drink these days, and its quickly pushing those juicers aside and sliding right into a permanent place in the kitchens of foodies and health nuts alike. Thanks to the fermentation process required to make Kombucha, the drink is filled with gut flora boosting probiotics, and acts as a natural energizer. Kombucha is said to clear up skin, enhance liver function, boost immunity, increase metabolism, decrease inflammation….and the list goes on and on and on. (For even more health benefits, do a quick Google search- you’re be amazed.)



Kombucha is probably the recipe I get asked about most, and I am more than happy to share my experiences, advice, extra SCOBYs, and even give lessons if you’re in the area about making this fun, fizzy drink….but I can’t take all the credit for establishing my home brew methods.

Thanks to some ingenuity and lots of time spent researching by my boyfriend, I am happy to report that we have been home brewing our own batches of Kombucha for almost 6 months now. We’ve experimented with lots of flavors, played around with fermentation times, and saved tons of money in the process. Kombucha here in DC regularly runs from $3-$4 for a 12 oz. bottle. Now, we brew 2.5 gallon batches for about $2.50….. total.

Once you gather all the tools you need and run through making a batch just one time, you’ll be a pro, I promise. The hardest part about brewing is obtaining everything you need to start. (Oh, and waiting for your Kombucha to ferment!)


Here is everything you need to get started:

Nonfood items:

  • One large glass container for brewing (I use 2.5 gallons), preferably with a nonmetal spigot for easier pouring/bottling
  • Large wooden spoon
  • Cheesecloth
  • Rubber band
  • Large pot for boiling water (capable of holding 2 gallons)
  • 10, 12 Oz glass bottles with lids

Food items: (recipe based on 2.5 gallon brewing container)

  • 10 bags of organic black or green unflavored tea (Can use loose leaves if you prefer)
  • Live SCOBY culture
  • 1 cup of plain white sugar + 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 gallons of water
  • ¼ cup distilled vinegar one time only
  • Small fruit pieces, fruit juice, or other items of your choice for flavoring optional


Before I go any further, you may be asking yourself “What on Earth is a SCOBY??” A SCOBY, or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, is the flat pancake-like living culture that ferments your tea, creates the vinegary flavor, and adds all the health benefits to your brew. The first SCOBY you have is called the “mother”, and as you brew more and more batches, it will reproduce more layers that will eventually separate. These are called the SCOBY babies. Once you have several, you can give them away, start brewing even more Kombucha in separate containers, or just throw them out. (I’ve heard that they’re great fertilizers for plants, but haven’t actually tried that one.)

You can obtain live SCOBY cultures from places like craigslist or online sellers (like Amazon or Cultures of Health), but the best way to get one is through someone you know. (Chances are, if you start asking around, you’ll find someone who knows someone who has some extra SCOBYs.)

SCOBYs aren't the prettiest things

SCOBYs aren't the prettiest things


If you like your Kombucha to be fizzy or flavored, a second fermentation step is necessary. If you don’t, your Kombucha can be enjoyed after only the first fermentation step- I’ve included both so you can choose!



Homemade Kombucha

Makes about 2 gallons of Kombucha


First fermentation:

  1. Bring 2 gallons of water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Immediately turn off the heat, and add your bags of tea. Let steep and then remove. (You can use loose-leaf tea as well, but make sure that all the tealeaves are contained.)
  2. Add sugar and stir well.
  3. Let the water cool to room temperature. If the tea is hot, or even too cold, it can hurt the SCOBY.
  4. Once at room temperature, add your sugary brewed tea to your brewing container.
  5. Add ¼ cup of vinegar and stir. You only need to add vinegar the first time you use your SCOBY! If you continue to make more batches, skip this step and do not add more vinegar.
  6. Add your SCOBY to your tea and stir a few times.
  7. Put cheesecloth over the top of your container and secure with a rubber band.  You do not want anything to fall into your tea while it is fermenting!
  8. Keep your Kombucha in a warm place out of direct sunlight and let brew for 7-30 days. The longer you let your Kombucha brew, the stronger it will taste!
  9. Once you’ve let your Kombucha brew you can enjoy right away, or move into the second fermentation process!
  10. If you would like to continually brew Kombucha, make sure to leave a little less than ¼ of the fermented Kombucha in your brewing container with your SCOBY. This jumpstarts your next batch, keeps your SCOBY alive, and eliminates the need for more vinegar in future batches.

Second fermentation:

  1. This step adds flavor or more fizz due to the build-up of gases!
  2. Add fruit pieces or add a small amount of juice into your glass bottles. Below, I’ve made a list of flavors I’ve used in the past, but you can add almost anything to Kombucha.
  3. Add your fermented Kombucha to your bottles, but do not fill all the way to the top. Leave a few inches of air in each bottle.
  4. Add ½ tsp. sugar to each bottle.
  5. Cap the bottles, shake gently, and then store in a warm place. Let the bottles ferment with their lids on for another 3-5 days.
  6. Once you’re ready to enjoy your flavored Kombucha, be careful when opening the bottles! They could become very fizzy and overflow. After a maximum of 5 days, put the finished Kombucha in the fridge. This stops the fermentation and prevents too much build-up of gases. (You don’t want them to explode. J)
  7. You may eat the fruit you used to flavor your Kombucha if you like….or you can strain anything out for a smooth texture.


That’s it- you’re done! (Wasn’t it easier than you thought?) Cheers!





Here are some helpful Kombucha tips:

  • Brown stringy things hanging down from your SCOBY are totally normal. This is just yeast, and is actually the sign of a healthy culture.
  • Bubbles are also normal. Don’t worry, this is the Kombucha magic.
  • Your SCOBY may float up to the top of your container or may move around from time to time. This is nothing to worry about.
  • Your SCOBY may have light brown or tan spots, which is normal. Black, green, or fuzzy spots on your SCOBY are NOT normal and means that your batch is contaminated. This means that you need to throw out everything (Including your SCOBY) and sterilize your brewing container before trying another batch.
  • Foul smelling Kombucha is never normal. Vinegary smelling Kombucha is normal.
  • If you choose to sanitize your brewing equipment, do not use harsh chemical. These can leave residue on your brewing equipment and can hurt the SCOBY.
  • Keeping your Kombucha in a warm place speeds the fermentation process, just like keeping the Kombucha in a cooler environment will slow down the fermentation process. Never put your SCOBY in the refrigerator. If you would like to stop your Kombucha from fermenting, you can put the Kombucha in the fridge, but take the SCOBY out beforehand.
  • If you prefer a stronger Kombucha taste, let it ferment for longer, but no more than 30 days. You can also make the tea stronger by using more tea bags when first preparing your tea.
  • If you prefer your Kombucha sweeter, add more sugar during the first fermentation. However, if you do this, you will have residual sugar left over when you drink it, which means that you will be consuming refined sugar. (And calories.)
  • Do not let metal come in contact with your Kombucha. Most sources I’ve seen say that metal can be dangerous in brewing, though I haven’t been able to determine the exact reason as to why.
  • Always use glass when brewing or bottling. Since Kombucha is acidic, it can break down plastic and cause harmful chemicals to leach into your tea. Ceramic may also contain lead. Not good.
  • Your SCOBY can only live when it is given the food it needs, which is sugar.
  • Your Kombucha might start forming jelly-like blobs or substances at any time during the process. These are normal, and actually safe to ingest, but just remove them if they gross you out.
  • A resource I love for Kombucha (and anything else fermented) is the book “Fermented” by Jill Ciciarelli. She has great Kombucha tips, an extensive list of references and resources, and has a way to ferment just about anything. 


One more note (last thing, I promise!), here’s a list of Kombucha flavors I liked:

  • Blackberry
  • Blueberry
  • Apple
  • Berry blend: raspberry + strawberry + blueberry
  • Strawberry
  • Ginger lemon
  • Raspberry ginger
  • Grape
  • Mango
  • Grape strawberry
  • Pomegranate
  • Parsley Jalapeno
  • Pineapple
  • Pineapple- Strawberry
  • Pina Colada: unsweetened coconut flakes +pineapple