Tag Archives: drinks

Fizzy, Fermented Kombucha 101

Perspective is everything when it comes to kombucha, a fizzy fermented tea and ancient drink that is trendy (again).

Is it a cure-all, a probiotic health elixir that combats digestive issues? Is it an expensive and over-hyped panacea? Is it – a drink that’s fermented by adding a slimy symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast to sweetened tea – just a little bit weird?

SCOBY

The SCOBY, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, is responsible for fermenting the kombucha. Image courtesy The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

You’ll have to decide for yourself, but one thing is for sure: kombucha is delicious, and despite the high cost of buying it in health food stores, it’s cheap and easy to make at home.

Kombucha is created by adding a culture, called a SCOBY, to caffeinated, unflavoured, sweetened tea. As the SCOBY eats the sugar, the tea becomes tart and fizzy — the longer it’s left to ferment, the tarter and fizzier it becomes, eventually turning into vinegar. Once the initial fermentation is complete — in anywhere from five to 14 days — the kombucha can be enjoyed as is, or flavoured with fruit and herbs, and fermented a second time for a naturally fizzy, flavoured drink.

flavoured kombucha

Kombucha can be flavoured with fruits and herbs. Image courtesy The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
From The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

All you need are clean glass jars, sugar, plain green, white or black tea, and a SCOBY, and you can easily be making this bubbly, trendy brew at home. The easiest way to grow a SCOBY is to order one online or get one from a friend. Each new batch of kombucha will produce a new SCOBY, so one is all you need to get started. SCOBYs can sometimes be grown from a bottle of store-bought kombucha, although this method is less consistent.

Image courtesy The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

Image courtesy The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

If you’ve never tried kombucha before, it’s a good idea to sample a few varieties first. Kombucha is infinitely customizable, and knowing how you like yours is the starting point for delicious flavour experiments.

Kombucha can be brewed in large continuous batches for an everlasting supply (continuous method) or in smaller batches (batch method). Although the supply list and method can seem a bit daunting for first-time fermenters, it’s actually quite simple once you get into the swing of things.

Ready to try brewing your own kombucha? We’ve got you covered:
How to Batch Brew Kombucha
How to Brew Continuous Kombucha

Raspberry Cordial

Raspberry Cordial Inspired by Anne of Green Gables

A trip to Prince Edward Island wouldn’t be complete without enjoying a raspberry cordial and a tour of Green Gables, the inspirational house behind L.M. Montgomery’s famous tales of a red haired orphan named Anne.

As the much-loved children’s story goes, Anne of Green Gables accidentally serves her friend what she believed to be this fruity cordial, only to discover that she accidentally got her friend drunk on red currant wine.

This literary-inspired blushing beverage is sweet, tart and best served chilled with sliced lemon and fresh mint.

Raspberry Cordial

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 12-24 hours
Makes: 7 cups

Ingredients:
2 bags (each 400 g) frozen raspberries, about 5 1/2 cups
6 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions:
1. Place raspberries in large heatproof bowl.
2. Bring water and sugar to boil in a small saucepan until sugar dissolves. Pour sugar water over raspberries. Cool to room temperature.
3. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
4. Strain into bowl. Reserve raspberries for another use.
5. Stir in lemon juice.
6. Serve chilled. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Tip: You can press the raspberries to extract more juice, however, it will cause the cordial to be cloudy.

Top up your glass with sparkling water for a raspberry spritzer!

Why Sap Water is the New Drink Craze

Coconut water had its moment, but now it’s time to add some new, plant-extracted thirst-quenchers to the mix: birch water and maple water. Unlike coconut, birch and maple water provide a much smaller environmental impact, with some companies making them right here in Canada. And both birch and maple water are far lower in sugar than coconut water — something the tropical drink is often scrutinized for. Before you tap into this health trend, here are some nutrition facts and faults to see if there’s a clear winner.

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Health Benefits of Birch Water

Birch water, also known as birch sap, is derived from tapping birch trees to release their liquid. Over the winter, birch trees store a great deal of nutrition, which is released in their sap (or water) once mild, springtime temperatures begin to thaw the frost.

Birch trees are commonly found in Canada, Russia and Scandinavia— and the water has been used as an energy tonic centuries prior to it becoming the health food we know today. As the spring thawing commences, the birch water in Canada begins to run, so now is the time to get your fix.

Related: Sensational Canadian Cocktails

The sugar produced by birch trees, xylitol, is used as a natural, low-calorie sweetener in chewing gum and other candies. This is what is naturally sweetens birch water, satisfying your sweet tooth without being overwhelming. Because xylitol is low in calories, birch water is a much less caloric drink option than many other natural waters on the market. With only two to three grams of sugar per cup, it beats maple water in this regard. Minerals found in birch water appear in trace amounts, though it does deliver several phytochemicals (plant nutrients) and amino acids that may be beneficial to your health.

What Does Birch Water Taste Like?

With a gentle, sweet taste (when purchased “pure”), many find birch water a refreshing, crisper-tasting option to plain water.

Where to Buy Birch Water

In Canada, birch water can be purchased directly from the company producing it (online or in-person). A leader in the Canadian birch water producers is 52º North, located in British Columbia. 52º North has flavoured birch waters, but a natural option without flavouring (and added sugar) should be your go-to for the most nutritious option. Due to the delicate, seasonal nature of birch water’s extraction, it’s a pretty pricy beverage.

Related: Sweet Maple Recipes to Celebrate Syrup Season

Health Benefits of Maple Water

Like birch, maple water is the liquid that’s extracted when a maple tree is tapped. Boiling this liquid down results in something we’re all familiar with: maple syrup. Maple water is far more sustainable than other natural waters, with a minimal environmental footprint (if consumed where it’s produced — like Canada, for instance).

As maple trees store nutrition over the winter during their sleepy hibernation, the sap that results from the springtime thaw is loaded with nutrition, but in small amounts. Maple water is higher in bioactive compounds than birch water, but is slightly higher in sugar, with three to five grams per cup. And, maple water has a richer electrolyte profile, making it a lower-sugar sports recovery drink option if you’re exercising for extended amounts of time, or recovering from the flu.

According to Canadian maple water company SEVA, maple water contains 46 bioactive nutrients, including minerals, amino acids and organic acids. Maple water contains abscisic acid (ABA), a plant hormone that may help plants adapt to stress. In humans, ABA may help to balance blood sugar. As this is a fairly new, buzzed-about product, more studies need to be done before it’s established as a cure-all.

What Does Maple Water Taste Like?

Maple water has a soft, maple flavour and delicate sweetness. It’s crisp, clean and refreshing. Many find maple water far more palatable than coconut water, both in taste and texture.

Where to Buy Maple Water

Unlike birch water, maple water is becoming far more common in the everyday grocery store. Look for it in the natural food aisle, right next to the coconut water. Online retailers are also getting in on the trend, with giants like Amazon carrying this trendy new drink.

How to Drink Birch Water and Maple Water

Beyond sipping it straight from the carton, birch and maple waters can be used to make coffee, tea, smoothies or cocktails. You can also try cooking oatmeal or other grains in the waters for a fun twist. As minerals aren’t destroyed by heat, warming the water won’t kill its nutritional properties.

Related: Recipes That Pair Maple and Bacon Perfectly

The Healthier Choice: Birch Water or Maple Water?

Both birch and maple waters will provide trace amounts of nutrition, but like all beverages, it’s best to limit your intake due to their sugar content. Additionally, natural waters and juices are devoid of fibre, so they won’t fill you up. However, they’re both far better for the environment compared to coconut water, as birch and maple waters can be harvested sustainably. This means the trees can provide a source of income to companies and farmers without deforestation.

Both beverages remain a lower-sugar, sustainable alternative to coconut water, which is reason enough to give them a try. So, next time you break a sweat, see which option you like best. Enjoying either birch or maple water in moderation won’t hurt — but the verdict is still up in the air on whether they really help.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

ice wine

Canadian Icewine: From Bitter Cold to Liquid Gold

Canadians aren’t ones to brag, but when it comes to icewine, we’ve got the world beat. Icewine, like Canada itself, is the sweetness born of warm summers, cold winters and rich agricultural traditions. It’s no wonder we come out on top in quality and quantity.

ice wine

With notes of honey, caramel and fresh fruit, icewine is a fragrant treat. However, typical Canadian humility may be interfering with the homegrown appreciation of our internationally coveted export.

“When you’re talking about something sweet, people get scared,” says Marco Celio, sommelier and general manager of Toronto’s Ovest. “Generally they want something a little bit more powerful, dry and bitter. But if you know how to pair it, I think icewine is one of the most enjoyable drinks you can have from grapes.”

Ovest sommelier Marco Celio

Legend has it that the first batch of icewine, produced in 18th century Germany, was a lucky accident. Unseasonably cold weather had frozen grapes on the vine before they could be harvested. Struggling to make the best of things, the German vintners pressed the grapes. To their surprise, the resulting wine was so delicious they purposefully let future grapes freeze whenever conditions allowed.

Luckily for Canadian icewine enthusiasts, conditions in Ontario’s Niagara region and British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley almost always allow. Warm summers and cold – but not too cold – winters are the ripe conditions that make Canadian icewines the most consistently delicious.

Ironically, that consistency requires flexibility. True icewine can only be made from grapes frozen on the vine, which are typically handpicked at night to maintain proper temperature.  Harvesters wait for the call, and when conditions are optimal, bundle up and get picking for results that are true north and sweet.

Serving

True to its name, icewine is typically served chilled. Celio recommends refrigerating your bottle a few hours before pouring into a standard, wide-mouth glass. “The beauty of icewine is that it’s something that really has to be enjoyed from the nose,” he says, “So you don’t want to use a small glass. You want a nice open glass where there is perfect ventilation and all the aroma can come out.”

Tasting

When including icewine in a tasting, Celio suggests letting it warm a bit, to better release its unique fragrance. Then enjoy it exactly as you would any other wine. “You want to see the colour, because you’re going to have different icewine with white grapes and dark grapes,” says Celio. “You want to understand the nose, because the nose is very different than what you’re tasting – usually it’s much sweeter than what you get on your mouth.” Finally, be sure to serve it alongside complimentary nibbles. “Icewine is something that needs to have a friend,” says Celio.

Pairing

Pairing icewine requires care, but modern sommeliers are challenging the idea that it’s only fit to serve with dessert. In addition to dark, bitter chocolate and chocolate hazelnut-based desserts, Celio suggests serving icewine with cheese, particularly strong blues for a playful contrast. If you do serve it with dessert, be sure to choose a treat that’s less sweet than the wine itself, to avoid overpowering the food.

Cocktailing

Marco Celio is a wine purist, and while he wouldn’t personally dilute icewine’s special flavour with other spirits, he concedes that others might like mixing it with aperol or bitters.

Storing

Keep opened bottles of icewine in the fridge. The less frequently they’re opened, the longer they’ll last, says Celio. Regardless, the flavours in most bottles will start changing in about five to six days. If you can’t finish the bottle on the first go, grab some wide glasses and a few friends and enjoy a second round of sweet times.

Brad Smith’s Dinner Date Dos and Don’ts

As a former Bachelor star, current Chopped Canada host Brad Smith knows a thing or two about dating. We caught up with Smith to learn some of his best tips for a deliciously simple and romantic date night, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Brad Smith

Don’t Wait for V-Day
Valentine’s Day is just another day of the week,” says Brad. If your romance needs rekindling, celebrate it, but otherwise being thoughtful and caring with every date is the best approach.

Forget the Dark Corners — Love Needs Light
“Do go somewhere where you can hear [your date],” says Smith, preferably a spot that’s not too dark. And if you can, sit next to each other. “I always order a four person table and then tell them it’s only two people. That way we can both sit in the booth or both sit on the chairs.” This proximity helps establish a closer connection, Smith suggests.

Turn it Off to Turn Them On
Brad Smith reveals another advantage of sitting close is that’s it’s harder to reach for the date-killer lurking in your pocket — your phone.

Mac and Cheese

“Whether you make mac and cheese or fine dining, the important part is trying,” says Smith.

Trying is Sexy
If you want to impress your boo — on Valentine’s Day or any other — it’s all about effort. “You can make me macaroni and cheese and hot dogs and I’d like it as much as if you made me some fine dining,” explains Smith. “There’s nothing like coming home to the thought of someone doing something for you, regardless of what it is.”

Be Clear About Your Intentions
“In the industry I’m in, you either meet people you’ve known beforehand or you meet people at events and they’re kind of like your first date,” he says. “You don’t have to be like, ‘Oh, can we get a drink?’ because you just had a drink and talked for three hours at an event.” But in other professions, Smith admits a little candour goes a long way. Always establish that a date is a date, and not, say, a networking lunch or business coffee.

Tune-in on Saturdays at 9 E/P to catch Brad Smith on Chopped Canada.

ClassicCanadianCaesar

A Classic Caesar to Enjoy Any Time of Year

By Nancy Wu

Some use oysters, prawns, bacon or onion rings to garnish theirs, but I prefer a classic Canadian Caesar. No, it is not a Bloody Mary. It is delicious. It is genuinely Canadian. It is all about the clam juice – the slightly spicy saltiness that defines a Caesar. As a born and bred Vancouverite, the smell just pulls at my heartstrings. It reminds me of the summer: long barbecues on the beach, fishing on Vancouver Island and hiking the local trails.

The Caesar is my cocktail of choice. I particularly crave this whenever I’m away on vacation simply because it reminds me of home. But when I order it, I often just get blank stares. “So what’s in a Caesar?” people ask. This classic Caesar is made with tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, spices and, of course, clam juice!

Classic Canadian Caesar, Courtesy of Nancy Wu, Nomss.com, Port Coquitlam, B.C.

The clam juice makes all the difference in this tasty cocktail.

ClassicCanadianCaesar

Prep time: 10 mins
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients
Caesar glass rimmer
1 lime (cut into 5 wedges)
4-8 oz (120-240 mL) vodka
3 cups (approx 725 mL) Caesar mix
2 tbsp (30 mL) lime juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) prepared horseradish
ice (optional)
pepper to taste
fresh sage leaves
4 bamboo skewers

Directions
1. Cover small flat plate with Caesar rimmer.
2. Use 1 lime wedge to wet rim of each glass. Coat rims with Caesar rimmer.
3. Divide vodka among glasses.
4. Pour Caesar mix, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce and horseradish into large pitcher and stir.
5. Top vodka with Caesar mix and stir.
6. Add ice if desired.
7. Top with fresh pepper. Thread 1 sage leaf and 1 lime wedge onto each skewer; use to garnish drinks.

Note:
Use 10 or 12 oz. (325 or 375 mL) glasses or mason jars for that ultra-Canadian look.

Nomss
Nancy is a finance professional by trade and the editor-in-chief of nomss.com, a Vancouver food blog focused on food journalism, lifestyle, travel, branding and social media. Nancy is passionate about invoking vivid imagery, descriptive experiences and public relations. She is digitally savvy and energetic about content marketing, strategic goodwill, digital relationships and food photography.

Spooky Apple Cider Punch

In my search for Halloween party ideas, I came across this great recipe from the homemaker of all homemakers, Martha Stewart. Inspired, I decided to whip up my own mix of ingredients, to go along with the shrunken apple heads. This punch is super easy and would also be great alcoholic, substituting the soda for champagne, or adding some spiced rum or bourbon to the mix!

Spooky-Apple-Cider-Punch-2880-1024x683

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Serves: 4-8

Ingredients:
4 cups apple cider
2 cups sprite (or other sparkling soda)
1 cup cranberry juice
2 sticks of cinnamon
2-4 apples (2 for a small punch bowl, 4 for a wider punch bowl)
2 whole cloves per apple (optional)

Spooky-Apple-Cider-Punch-2861-683x1024

Directions:
1. Start by preheating your oven to 250°F.
2. While oven is preheating, peel the skin off all of your apples and slice them in half, removing the core with a melon baller. Cut faces using the round side (I used the smaller side of my melon baller, along with a paring knife to cut out the faces).
3. Once sliced in half, and given a face, place the apple on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
4. Bake for about 2 hours until apples have shrunk a bit, and become wrinkly. Push a clove into each eye socket of your apple.
5. Mix ingredients for punch together, place your apples into the bowl, along with the cinnamon sticks.
6. Serve and enjoy!

Healthy Vanilla Latte Smoothie

This delicious and nutritious smoothie really does taste like an ice-cold vanilla latte! Plus, it’s got one shot of espresso for that occasional caffeine boost you might need mid-day or mid-week.

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Ingredients:
1 cup non-dairy milk
2 pitted medjool dates
1 Tbsp black chia seeds
1 Tbsp raw cacao nibs
1 Tbsp raw almond butter
1 tsp raw vanilla powder (or pure vanilla extract)
1 espresso shot, cooled
1 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
2 cups ice cubes

Directions:
– In a Vitamix or high-powered blender combine and blend all ingredients until smooth.

888_vanilla-latte-smoothie

See more from hot for food on their YouTube channel.

Easy and Nutritious Green Mango Smoothie

Here’s an easy smoothie that will take you to the tropics without having to leave the comfort of your kitchen. It’s got the powerful flavours of mango and banana combined with protein packed hemp hearts and nutrient rich spinach.
Green Mango Smoothie

Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen mango chunks
½ banana
1 cup baby spinach leaves
2 Tbsp hemp hearts
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 cup coconut water

Directions:

1. Blend all the ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth.

See more from hot for food on their YouTube channel.

Made Easy: Spiced Peach Punch

One of the best parts of summer here in Ontario is peach season, which runs from late July to late September when farmers markets and produce aisles overflow with gorgeous baskets of plump and vibrant pink peaches. You can tell if a peach is ready to eat by holding it up to your nose and smelling its juicy aroma. And when it’s ripe you better eat them fast because they tend to turn within three or four days (they’ll last another day in the fridge, but bring them back to room temperature before eating).

Typically when home cooks have an excess of peaches (since you’re more likely to buy a basket of 10 than just one) they turn to making preserves or pies, but try making this easy and quick spiced peach puree drink that can be served hot or cold as we transition to fall. Consider this as the gateway drink before you full switch to pumpkin spice lattes.

Spiced Peach Punch

peach drink

Ingredients:
8 ripe peaches
2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup whole milk

Directions:

  1. Remove the pit from the peaches and chop them into smaller pieces. Don’t bother removing the skins. In a blender, puree the peaches and the milk until smooth.
  2. In a pot over medium-low heat, pour in the peach mixture and add in the spices. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Yields 3 to 3 1/2 cups of peach puree, depending on how juicy the peaches are.
  4. Serve hot in a mug like an apple cider, or pour some over oatmeal. Alternatively, chill in the fridge for a spicy, pick-me-up breakfast smoothie or serve it as a chilled appetizer soup with fresh mint leaves as garnish.

734863_10151322355189438_2070375187_n Karon Liu is a freelance food writer based in Toronto who is slightly lactose intolerant but will otherwise eat and cook anything.

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