Homemade Ginger Ale

You know how on airplanes, everyone around you orders ginger ale to drink? I know that people aren’t drinking that much ginger ale in their day-to-day life on the ground. But ginger ale is such a popular airplane drink because ginger is famous for settling upset tummies, and between the stress of getting to the airport on time, the greasy airport food, and the actual bumps in the air, flying can leave many people feeling a little off.

Ginger ale has always been one of my favorites–usually a treat reserved for traveling and the kid’s table at family holidays. As I mentioned previously, though, my husband recently got me a juicer and I decided to experiment with a homemade version. It’s really simple to make and it tastes like a spicier, more refreshing version of the real thing. Plus it’s full of real ginger–so much of it, that I can literally feel my tummy tingling (in a good way!) when I drink it sometimes. Try the recipe as is the first time, and then you can adjust to your taste. Use more ginger for more spice, more lime for a tarter drink, or more honey if you like it sweeter.

For reference, this is the piece of ginger I used.

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You’ll end up with a super-concentrated syrup that looks like this.

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And this is the final product. So refreshing!

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Homemade Ginger Ale Ingredients

  • 1 big piece of ginger. No need to be exact here; just choose the largest, freshest piece of ginger root you can find in your grocery store. That’s probably the right one for this project.
  • 1 large lime
  • 1 apple
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • sparkling water

Homemade Ginger Ale Method

  • Wash and roughly chop the lime, ginger, and apple so it will fit in the feeder tube of your juicer
  • Juice the lime, ginger, and apple according to manufacturer’s instructions
  • Pour the fresh juice into a small saucepan and add honey. Bring to a roiling boil and let boil for 2-3 minutes. Pour into a jar.
  • Stir syrup into sparkling water. Start with about 4 teaspoons of syrup per cup of sparkling water; add more until it is the right strength for your taste. Save the remaining syrup in the refrigerator and enjoy within a few days.
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Apple Spice Probiotic Smoothie

I haven’t blogged in a while primarily because I recently got both of Danielle Walker’s fabulous cookbooks and I’ve been cooking everything in them. I’ve been eating lots of good food, but none of it has really been original. If you are paleo or SCD, I can’t recommend her cookbooks enough. Her recipes have never failed us!

However, all of our feasting came to an abrupt halt when my GI doctor put me on a round of hefty antibiotics because he was worried I was forming a new abscess. While he was encouraged by my progress over all, ramping up medication always feels like a bit of a failure on my part. It’s easy for me to start thinking, “did this happen because I let myself get too stressed,” or, “if I hadn’t eaten out that one time a couple weeks ago, would I be feeling better today?” I’ve been learning about meditation and mindfulness, because it is one of the things that people with chronic illness report as being most helpful to them, and I’ve been reading about just how self-destructive these kinds of thoughts are. It is better to react to setbacks with self-compassion and equanimity since we can never know for sure if there was anything we could have done to alter the outcome, and allowing negative and stressful thoughts to control us only further exacerbates both physical symptoms and mental suffering. So I’ve been working on that during this round of treatment.

Anyway, the antibiotics make me so nauseous I can’t even stand to look at most food–much less cook it and eat it. Plus, my GI doc stressed the importance of probiotics while I was on the antibiotics, so I started drinking most of my meals instead. I’ve been making all kinds of smoothies, often times with some hidden veggies or a raw pasteurized egg blended in so it makes a better meal replacement, but the following recipe is my absolute favorite–light and easy on the tummy, and it even helps those of us who are still dealing with summer weather get into the fall spirit. It tastes way better than a pumpkin spice latte when the AC is still running!

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Apple Spice Probiotic Smoothie Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup SCD legal yogurt
  • 1/2 cup unfiltered apple juice
  • about 8 ice cubes
  • 1 cup frozen banana chunks
  • 1 tablespoon plain almond butter (optional; it makes the smoothie richer and adds some good fats and a little protein)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Apple Spice Probiotic Smoothie Ingredients

  • Place all ingredients in a blender and blend! If it’s too thin, add a few more chunks of banana or ice cubes. If it’s too thick, add apple juice until it blends easily. This makes one large meal-sized serving, or two generous snack-sized portions.

 

Simple Almond Milk

There are a million recipes for homemade almond milk on the internet, yet I was still hesitant to try making my own. For one thing, it takes some time to get used to the idea of soaking nuts for 7 hours or more before you even do anything with them. Also, I have like a $20.00 plastic blender that I got from a discount grocery store, so I was concerned that it might not be up for the job.

Now, I’m realizing hesitating was a bad decision.

First of all, homemade almond milk is so good for you. I’ve tried to find a good source of information on the nutrient profile of homemade almond milk, without much success.  This source seems the most balanced to me. In short, it says that almond milk is surprisingly low in fat and calories. It has a little protein and a little fiber in it, and the fat that it does have is mostly heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Almond milk is also rich in vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, manganese, selenium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, phosphorous and calcium. Some of these minerals, like selenium and zinc, are important in regulating immune function. Magnesium facilitates many crucial functions and people with gastrointestinal diseases are one of the few groups at risk for chronic deficiencies (although you should not consume large amounts of magnesium when on antibiotics commonly prescribed for IBD, such as cipro). See this article for more information. Almonds are one of the best natural sources of this mineral, and it’s always better to get our vitamins and minerals from natural foods than from supplements, because our bodies are better able to absorb them and we are less likely to cause a new problem by introducing imbalance. And by straining out the skins and solid parts of the almonds, almond milk is even easier to digest.

So, have I convinced you to make almond milk a regular treat yet?

The first step in preparing almond milk is to soak the almonds for 7-24 hours in a salt solution.Image

This serves two purposes: first of all, it softens the nut and prepares it for processing—the longer the soak, up to 24 hours, the creamier the resulting milk; secondly, it breaks down and neutralizes enzyme inhibitors. Enzyme inhibitors, which are present in many nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes, are basically a defense mechanism of the plant. They prevent the plant from sprouting or breaking down in any way until conditions are right for growth. This makes it difficult for insects or drought to negatively affect the survival of the species, but it also makes it difficult for our own digestive enzymes to break down the food properly. By soaking the nut, we are basically tricking it into thinking that it is time for it to sprout and grow!

Once the nuts are soaked, the process is very simple: first rinse them in a colander with fresh water.Image

Then, blend with filtered water (I told you I didn’t have a fancy blender!).

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Strain through cheesecloth or a nut milk bag.

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Pour it into a jar or wherever you want to store your fresh almond milk.

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Almond Milk Ingredients (yield 2 cups)

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 2 cups filtered water, plus more for soaking
  • ¼ tablespoon sea salt
  • Dates, honey, vanilla, or other flavorings (optional)

Method

  • Measure almonds and place in a bowl.
  • Dissolve sea salt in warm, filtered water, and pour over the almonds. You want to use enough water to cover the almonds with a few inches, since they will expand slightly as they soak.
  • Let almonds soak for a minimum of 7 hours, and a maximum of 24 hours.
  • Drain almonds. Discard the soaking water and rinse thoroughly. Place almonds and 2 cups filtered water in blender. If you like, add dates or honey, vanilla, or any other flavorings you’d like at this stage. I like my almond milk plain.
  • Blend on a high setting for about 4 minutes.
  • Using a nut milk bag lining a mason jar, or a colander or strainer lined with cheesecloth and set in a bowl, strain the almond milk. Gently squeeze on the almond meal to extract as much milk as possible.

That’s it! If you’d like, you can add the pulp to smoothies or oatmeal, or you can dehydrate it in the oven by spreading it thinly on a cookie sheet and baking at 150 degrees for a few hours, until completely dry, to use for baking. Store the milk in the refrigerator and consume within 3 days. Here are my favorite ways to incorporate almond milk into my diet:

  • Combined with a very small amount of coffee. SCD recommends only very weak coffee, so this way I get to feel like I’m drinking coffee but I get plenty of nutrients and less bad effects.
  • Mixed with a banana, ice cubes, yogurt or kefir, and cacao or 100% fruit jam for a probiotic morning smoothie.
  • In the place of liquid milk in recipes.

It’s also nice to drink plain if I have any leftover (which I rarely do!).