Category Archives: Giveaways

Happenings and a Fermented Giveaway

Hello friends,
I hope this finds you all doing well these days.  I am making it through this especially frigid Pennsylvania winter.  I am NOT a cold weather person so these last several months of snow and plunging temperatures has not been my scene.  I’m ready for summer.  Forget springtime and the rain.  Bring on the hot temps!

I wanted to bring you up to date with a few things happening around the whole First Comes Health world.  As usual, I’ve been experimenting around the purple kitchen of mine getting a few new recipes to post (next week!).  With the seasonal changes that are (hopefully!) upon us soon, I’m getting ready to start kicking my food preservation efforts into high gear.  This means, not only am I going to be fermenting things, but pickling, dehydrating, canning, and more.  I’m getting involved in the Pittsburgh Canning Exchange this year!  I was lucky enough to be invited to their fall swap a few months ago so I could sell copies of Fermented and I told the organizers that I had to be involved in any manner possible in 2014.  I’m meeting up with them in the coming weeks and I’m really excited.

If you happen to be in the western Pennsylvania area, I’m teaching two sessions of a class on how to start fermenting at home.  Each one is hosted by Fox Chapel Area Adult Education.  They are March 25 and April 8, both at 7 pm.  Check out their website for more details!
I’m finding it very difficult to communicate with all of you, dear readers.  If you’re a regular reader of any blog out there, you’ve probably heard this familiar lament – Facebook is messing with us!  What started out as a really great way for small businesses to communicate with clients and fans has morphed into a disappointing dead end.  Boo.  I am truly grateful for all 4700 or so of you who “like” me on Facebook, but I know that only a wee percentage of you are actually seeing First Comes Health in your newsfeeds.  You can change this by making sure that “show in newsfeed” is checked when you hover over the LIKE button on this page.  It’s totally discouraging when I put something up there and see that only 71 of you have seen it.  I hope you’ll help me change this around!

(Good kitties love good books.)

I also want to remind you that there are many other ways you can keep in touch with me, know when I’m doing something, see photos of my antics (both culinary and personal), and interact.  I’m on Instagram (my favorite!), Twitter, and have a newsletter too. And in a shameless act of bribery, I’m going to give you some incentive to connect with me – a signed copy of Fermented.  I’m also trying out this Rafflecopter stuff, so please bear with me!
So, that’s about all for now.  The giveaway lasts for a week (officially ending on 12 March at midnight!), so enter and spread the word to others, please.  You have multiple chances to be successful!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway: 21-Day Sugar Detox Books

Hello dear readers!
I hope you all had a pleasant holiday.  If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then I hope you had a terrific Wednesday.
No matter your religious or social celebration habits, we are all facing a new calendar year coming up in less than a week.  We are rapidly closing in on 2014!
I thought I’d end this year on a high note and give away TWO books.  These babies are going to be given away to one person as a bundle.
Diane Sanfilippo’s new books about the 21 Day Sugar Detox are brilliant. The first is a how-to and why you ought to get rid of sugar in your diet.  The second is a very thorough cookbook covering every meal.
To tell you the truth, I’m going to be using my copies of these beauties to make sure I start the new year as healthy as I can be.  I admit to eating more than my fair share of sweet treats over these past days (maybe weeks?  Thanksgiving wasn’t that far in the past…..)
So, here’s the deal:  I’m going to run this giveaway until 12:01 am, January 1, 2014.  You can enter multiple ways.
1. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter.2. Sign up for my mailing list (I don’t spam!)
3. Leave me a comment and tell me what you hope to accomplish (health-wise or otherwise) in 2014.
Like many other small businesses, I have a Facebook page, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to get people to see my posts over there.  Only about a tenth of you see my content.  I still invite you to like my page over there (and please make sure I’m shown in your news feed!) but I will probably be focusing less and less on Facebook as the months roll on.  Sad, I know.
That’s it!  I wish all of you the very best in the new year.  We have so much to learn from each other and I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings to all of us
Love and peace.Jill

Victory Belt Giveaway

Hello friends,
A few weeks ago I promised you a giveaway to celebrate First Comes Health hitting 3000+ fans on Facebook.  Well, due to my burn out and subsequent staycation, I didn’t make good on that promise.  Until now.
As you all know by know, my book Fermented was published by Victory Belt.  Well, there are several dozen other real-food and Paleo geared authors who publish with Victory Belt and I have yet to find a single book from them that isn’t spectacular.   I’ve been gifted a group of four of my recent favorites, ones that I’ve been enjoying and cooking from for the last couple of months, and I want to share fresh copies with you!  Enter to win this bundle of some of my Victory Belt favorites!
photo(9)Here are the gems you can win:
Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly StarrettThe Paleo Coach by Jason Seib
Paleo Slow Cooking by Chrissy Gower
Paleo Indulgences by Tammy Credicott
Here’s all you have to do:
1. Leave me a comment telling me what your favorite Victory Belt book is (aside from mine, of course! Ha ha!)  Check out their website to see fantastic selection in their catalog.
2. Give me a follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest.  Already follow me? Then tell me so in the comments.
3. Sign up for my email list.
TWO bonus entries: Take a photo of yourself with your copy of Fermented and email it to me or post it on Instagram (Be sure to tag me so I can see it!)
With all of this, you can enter this giveaway a whopping EIGHT times.  I’m going to close this one off on Tuesday, September 24 at noon EDT.
And as I mentioned before, the reason for this giveaway is to sincerely thank each of you for your continued support of me, Fermented, and First Comes Health.  You make me happy to be doing the work I do.

Beyond Bacon - Pork Party! (and giveaway)

Thanks to everyone who entered. This giveaway is now closed.
A few weeks ago when advance copies of Fermented were sent out, Stacy from Paleo Parents had a brilliant idea. In order to really get a feel for all that Fermented had to offer and to test out a bunch of recipes at once, she invited some friends over to her house and they made a bunch of things from the book. First of all, I was so honored and thrilled that someone would do this and second of all, it was a fabulous idea!
So, I decided to return the favor. I invited a few of my pork-loving friends over this past Saturday and we cooked up a feast courtesy of Stacy’s (and her husband Matt) latest masterpiece, Beyond Bacon.
Before I tell you the details, I have to say that I think I will be doing book reviews in this way from now on. Not only was it a great way to try a bunch of recipes at once, it was just a really good time spent with some friends.
So, here are the pork party players:
Sarah – She’s a badass mamma to Oliver Danger (Yes, her son’s middle name is Danger. Fantastic.), real food lover, gardener, animal lover, and owner of an actual house pig, Speck. When I invited her over to cook up pork in various ways I asked if she felt any weirdness about it considering she has a house pig. She said no and that Speck has no room to complain as he’s eaten bits of ham. Ha.
Liz – Hardcore CrossFitter, the one who got me to start fermenting by giving me a SCOBY, always has a unique take on food. Cooking genius and all-around awesome friend. And she looks sexy with a block of lard in hand.
Kevin – AKA The Scientist ™. Liz’s boyfriend, chemist, and meat lover. When he and Liz started dating their third date was sausage making. Not a euphemism and not a joke. I’m glad that my friend is dating a man of this caliber. When a gentleman shares your love and respect for meat products, you keep him around, no? The Scientist was in charge of meat cutting and did an expert job of pocketing out the pork chops Sarah brought. Brilliant.
Supporting cast:
DJ’s Butcher Block – This is a new-to-me place in Pittsburgh. I found out about it through Liz (of course) and I have become a regular customer. I can’t always buy half of a cow or an entire pig straight from the farm – I don’t have anywhere to store it! Instead I’ve now started supporting this little independent butcher who sources his meat from local farms. Seriously folks, this is the type of place you want to buy your meat from. There is a visible ban saw. They cut ALL steaks and chops to order. DJ and his girlfriend own the place and they’re the people you’ll see behind the counter. They know everything about their product. There is a collection of meat cleavers hanging on the wall. The place isn’t glamorous, but it’s clean, inexpensive, and the quality is second to none. This is where we bought all the meat and lard for the pork party.
dj butcher block
Dude – My man napped throughout the pork preparation portion of the day, but woke up in time to eat.
So, what did we make? A few days before the party, we put our heads together and came up with a comprehensive menu:
Sarah made Apple & Bacon Stuffed Pork Chops (page 168) and Zucchini Pasta with Avocado, Roasted Tomato, & Bacon (page 234).
I made Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits (page 222) and Savory Bacon Jam (page 244).
Liz made The Best Brownies (page 284)
Kevin improvised a pan sauce for the chops with the bacon drippings we had left over – and that was a lot. Plus, as mentioned above, he was our meat cutter and got things off of high shelves.
Liz is crazy for brownies
The book! It’s brilliant, plain and simple. It’s beautiful too. I had a difficult time settling on what to make because the depth and breadth of what is in this book is just overwhelming – in a good way! We could EASILY have four or five pork parties, cook from Beyond Bacon for every single one of them, and never get bored. And we might just do that. The non-recipe part of the book is flat out invaluable. I mean, the recipes are positively fab, but the additional information beyond the food preparation is reason alone to have this book in your library. I thought I knew about pork, but it turns out that wasn’t the case. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.
The party went off without a hitch. I have a nice-sized kitchen, but it’s not enormous. I was concerned the four of us wouldn’t have enough room to work together AND make six different things. But I worried for nothing. We had a terrific time, enough room, and nobody had to fight for oven or stove real estate. We didn’t even plan it, but everything was finished cooking at just the right time. By the time the pork chops were pulled out of the oven, everything else was ready, on the table, and ready to eat. Dude had even woken up by this point and has his appetite ready.
And the food? Come on. You know what I’m going to say here. This was the best meal I’ve had in a long, long, long time.
Apple and Bacon Stuffed Pork Chops – These were perfection. I mean, how can you go wrong stuffing a pork chop with bacon? You can’t. But it was more than just pork-on-pork action. The flavors and textures were perfectly balanced – sweet/savory, meaty/crunchy. The apples were perfect for this dish.
pork chop close up
Zucchini Pasta with Avocado, Roasted Tomato & Bacon – This was probably meant to be a stand-alone entree, but we used it as a side dish. It was so deliciously creamy and wonderful! Plus, the bacon wasn’t overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I love bacon as much as the next person, but there is so much more to food than bacon. And we had a pretty bacon-heavy menu going at this party. Sarah brought grape tomatoes and basil from her garden to use in this dish and that just pushed it over the top.
epic 6 foot zucchini noodle
Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits – What can I say about these beauties? They are absolutely fantastic. The flavor is very subtle and lends itself nicely to sweet and savory dishes. After the pork party, I made another batch of these gems and quadrupled the recipe. Dude and I have been eating them with every meal – with eggs and bacon (make a breakfast sandwich with them!), with honey (Oooh! Sweet and savory!), and Dude even ate one with his pork mole at last night’s dinner. And do I even have to tell you how well these paired with the bacon jam? I practically fainted.
Savory Bacon Jam – Yeah. You can’t go wrong with this. Seriously. If you don’t even care about pork and if you aren’t interested in an entire book’s worth of awesome recipes, you’ll want to get Beyond Bacon simply for this recipe. What’s the cover price? Who cares! Spend the money JUST FOR THIS BACON JAM RECIPE. This is an order. You’ll thank me for this bit of advice. It was so easy to make and it yielded incredible – and I mean INCREDIBLE WITH ALL CAPS – results. I sent Liz, Kevin, and Sarah home with a wee bit of what was left over from the batch. Pirates. I can’t believe those guys would rob me of the rest of the bacon jam. Don’t worry. I’ve since made another batch. And I may or may not be eating it all myself by the spoonful.
bacon jam is ready
The Best Brownies – Truth be told, I’m always skeptical of grain-free desserts. Most of them aren’t good. They are well intentioned, but the texture is always off and the flavor is usually kind of blah. However!!!!! Trust me when I tell you these brownies are the exception! Light, moist, and not a whiff of that weird paleo pastry texture! These are the real deal, friends. I think using lard makes all the difference. Believe me when I say that I am persnickety when it comes to paleo/grain-free desserts. These brownies lived up to their name!
dude eats
So, what’s the moral of this story? First, do yourself a favor and get a copy of Beyond Bacon. Actually, how about entering here for a chance to win a copy? Leave me a comment below telling me what your favorite pork preparation is. And surf on over to like my Facebook page and follow me on Instagram for additional entries. Do it. You have until Thursday, August 29, 2013 at noon EDT.
The second moral is this: Everything is always better with your friends around. Thanks to Liz, Kevin, and Sarah for the good times and for taking some photos!

Giveaway! Three Signed Copies of Fermented!

**This giveaway has ended. Thanks to all who entered!**
Hi everyone! Today is THE DAY. All capital letters, natch!
Fermented is NOW available in bookstores everywhere!
I never thought I’d type those words.

Win a signed copy of Fermented(This was taken on the day that I received my first copies of Fermented. Can you tell how excited I am?! WOOOOO! If you win this giveaway, send me a photo of you with your copy of Fermented!)

Anyway, I want to celebrate this day by giving away THREE signed copies of Fermented to three lucky people!
This isn’t going to be complicated. Here is the usual rundown:
1. Leave me a comment and tell me what you plan to ferment first once you get your hands on the book.
2. Sign up for my newsletter for an additional entry. I swear there will be no spam or excessive letters from me clogging your inbox.
3. Come on over and join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for even more entries.
4. Already connected with me in every way possible? Then recruit a friend to my fermentation army! I’ll give you an additional entry for every person you send to get connected with me using the above methods. Drop me an email and let me know who your friend is and that’s it!
Here is the fine print: I’ll accept entries until Saturday, August 10, 2013 at noon EDT. After that I’ll draw three names at random, email the winners, sign and send the books to them. Don’t delay, folks!
Good luck to all!

Giveaway - Food in Jars

This giveaway is now closed.  Thank you to everyone who entered!
I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m totally INTO fermentation.  I mean, you can see that link over there on the right-hand side that proudly proclaims, “BUY MY BOOK!” can you not?  And, duh, it’s called Fermented so to say that I’ve devoted a portion of my life to wonderful fermentation is not a well-kept secret.
However, I didn’t first get in to fermentation because of all the wonderful things it does for the body, I got into it because I wanted a way to preserve food.  I have a food dehydrator (and I love it!) for making all kinds of dried fruits, jerky, preserving fresh herbs.  And then I got a SCOBY from my friend Liz so I could start making my own kombucha.  After that I kind of went down the fermentation rabbit hole and didn’t look back.  Sure, I still regularly dehydrate all kinds of goodies, but for me, fermentation is the stuff.
Here’s the thing – dehydration and fermentation aren’t the only ways to preserve food.  In fact, they’re probably among the least common ways to preserve food.  Dehydration usually means you need to get a dehydrator (although not always), and for a while now fermentation has been making people nervous with its proliferation of bacteria.  (We live in a world that hates and fears bacteria!)
Other ways to preserve food – pickling, freezing, salting, smoking, refrigeration, vacuum packing.  But perhaps the most well known way to preserve food is canning!
I have always had a fascination with canning and yet I have little to no experience with it.  My grandparents had a fruit cellar off of the main part of their basement where my grandma would keep all of her canned goods (Others call a little cool room like that a larder, but she called it the fruit cellar.)  And I’m not talking about cans she bought at the supermarket, I’m talking about the stuff she canned herself in her own kitchen.   I think this was a really common sight in an Italian-American home, right?  Shelves loaded down with jars and jars and jars and jars of canned tomatoes. I know canning isn’t an Italian thing, per se, but canning tomatoes seemed to be a ritual that is associated with my people.
Anyway, canning!  This year I am going to get into it!  My friend Jenna has been canning for a while now (and boasts that when her grandma passed away, she was lucky enough to inherit her jars!), and of course, my fermentation inspiration buddy Liz is interested too.  The three of us were going to start to can this summer.  We started planning and came up with our Grand Can Plan where we mapped out all that we needed to can, what we want to can, when it is in season, and when we will have our big canning sessions.
And then our plans were derailed a bit.  Jenna is moving away to Atlanta, GA!  I am so so sad to see her leave, although totally STOKED for my friend because she is moving there for her dream job.  So I’m selfishly sad, but overall I’m thrilled for her to get to go on to pursue her professional goals.
This put a big sadface on our Grand Can Plan to say the least.  Our canning guru is leaving, thus leaving Liz and me to our own devices.  I have almost zero experience canning, and Liz has some.
Now that there will be two noobs in the kitchen, but we are soldiering on!  We will not abandon the Grand Can Plan!  We have a list of things we want to can and we’re gathering some serious resources to help us along the way.
I put out a call on Facebook a few weeks ago to clue me in to some of your favorite canning resources – books, websites, recipes, advice.  I got some good responses and it lead me to rediscover a book I’ve had for a few months, Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan.  I positively LOVE this book!!!!!
Food in Jars cover
First of all, Marisa’s blog is gorgeous.  Have you been there yet?  Seriously, put it on your regular read list.  The photos are gorgeous, the information is top-notch, and she’s an urban canner!  I can so relate!  And if that weren’t enough, she’s a fellow Pennsylvanian.  Keystone State represent!
What attracted me to Marisa’s blog in the first place was the fact that she lives in a big city AND she preserves food.  This is totally my jam (pun intended).  Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect and admiration for those of you who are country dwellers and have copious land and wilderness around.  You have beautiful gardens!  I envy your giant eat-in kitchens, basements, garages, and tons of storage space for things like big fermentation crocks and jars of preserved goodness.  For the longest time I didn’t think I could bother with fermentation or canning or any other kind of preservation because I didn’t think my wee urban kitchen had enough room for all the equipment and the storage.  Marisa has given me so much hope with Food in Jars!  The recipes are for small-ish batches of wonderful things that are perfect for a newbie canning enthusiast (like me and maybe you!), BUT they are so unique and inventive that those of you who have been canning for a while can find something really unusual and fabulous to add to your canning repertoire.

first thing to try(Look at this!  Cantaloupe jam?!  Brilliant.  It’s tops on the Grand Can Plan!  This is just one example of the really unique recipes in this book.)

I have a few dozen pages marked with tabs on the recipes I MUST make right away, and notes strewn all over my copy of this book.  It is going to be my canning guide and bible this year as I take my first forays into the canning world.  I have read and reread it and I love it.  And now I want to put one in your hands.

So many bookmarks(The Grand Can Plan is growing!  I hope Liz and I have enough time and jars to can everything we have on our master list!)

I’m giving away a copy of Food in Jars to one of you lucky readers!  Who is excited?!  (Meeeee!)
Here are the details:
1. Leave me a comment and tell me about your experience with food preservation  Do you can?  Ferment? Dehydrate? If you’re totally new to the game, let me know where you’d like to start. Share your story with me!
2. Sign up for my newsletter for an additional entry. I swear there will be no spam or excessive letters from me clogging your inbox.
3. Come on over and join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for even more entries.  And don’t forget to give Marisa some love too and join her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
4. One bonus entry if you pre-order the book I did write, Fermented: A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods.  Just forward along your pre-order confirmation to me via email and you’ve just earned yet another shot at winning The 30 Day Guide.
Here is the fine print:  Because I think this book is so great, I’m going to leave this giveaway open for 5 days.  You have until Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at noon EDT to enter.  I’ll then pull one name at random from all the entries, and that person will be the winner.

Giveaway: The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking

The giveaway is now closed.  Thanks to all who entered!
So, you guys know that I’m a health coach, right?  I help people who need to or want to lose weight, learn to eat more healthfully, and generally turn their lives around from not-so-healthy habits to ones that will hopefully aim them towards longevity, health, wellness, and happiness.  I do this by educating my clients about ancestral eating (Paleo, primal, Weston A. Price) and by teaching them how to cook, grocery shop, food quality, sleep, stress management, goal setting, etc.  This is my jam!
Well, last year Practical Paleo came out.  You know, the book by Diane Sanfilippo that pretty much put into book form my entire health coaching schtick.  I mean, it’s not like I had original ideas or had done cutting edge research on my own, but I assembled a TON of material in the form of handouts and links and emails and documents.  And then gosh darn that Diane! She went ahead and wrote a book that so perfectly and succinctly summed up nearly everything that I try to teach my clients over the course of their three months with me, AND she added a fab cookbook, AND it looks way better than my collection of handouts, AND it’s a New York Times bestseller.  I’m sarcastically shaking my fists!!!
I kid.  Kind of.  I mean, I love Diane.  She’s a friend and all, and I looooooove seeing my friends succeed and kick butt at life.  She’s definitely doing that.  But you know that feeling when you have a smashing good idea and then you find out that someone has beaten you to the punch and taken your good idea and turned it into an epic masterpiece a hundred times better than you ever could?  It’s a womp-womp of major proportions.
Well, tonight I’m having that big ole womp-womp feeling again.  You see, I have sitting next to me a copy of Hayley Mason and Bill Staley’s The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking.  I’ve had it here on my desk for a few weeks now.  Being friends with The Food Lovers has its perks.  I got me an advanced signed copy, thankyouverymuch.  And then I opened it and took a look at the content and then MORE FIST SHAKING!!!

30 day guide to paleo cooking

THIS!!!!  This is the other book I wish I could have written for my clients.  This is the book that is for anyone and everyone who is just entering into the world of ancestral eating and needs a guide, a hand-holding guide that will take you through what it means to eat well, eat responsibly, and eat healthfully.  This isn’t some complicated science book that will confuse you with all kinds of biology lessons.  This isn’t some kind of anatomy book that will outline all the enzymes and hormones in your body.  This isn’t some kind of fancypants cookbook that is full of dishes that are just out of reach of the average home cook’s skill set.
My friends, this is a book for the masses.  This is for those of us who are regular work-a-day people who are trying to eat well, who are trying to learn more about the quality of our food, who are trying to put good, clean meals on the table for ourselves and our families.  And to boot they throw in some success stores for inspiration.
This is the everyman’s (or everywoman’s) guide to eating Paleo.
A month’s worth of meal plans and recipes.  Shopping lists, page after page of info on what’s in season, what flavors go together, what fats and oils are recommended, how to grow your own food, what to drink, how to answer Paleo FAQs, snacks, quick meal fixes, and of course the recipes all with gorgeous photos.
Why didn’t I write this book?!?!?!  I’m kicking myself!!!
But!! If I didn’t write it, I’m beyond thrilled that my friends did. And let’s be honest.  They have done a better job with it than I ever could.  AND! I now have a beautiful book to use with my clients.  Looks like we all win.
Speaking of winning, I just so happen to have a spare copy of The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking.  Yes I do.  And I’m going to send it off to a lucky reader.
Here’s the scoop on how to score this hot little number for your very own. A random drawing is in the offing and here’s how you can enter:
1. Leave me a comment and tell me how you started down the ancestral eating path.  If you haven’t yet started eating Paleo, primal, or Weston A. Price, tell me what has attracted you to this way of eating.  Share your story with me!
2. Sign up for my newsletter for an additional entry. I swear there will be no spam or excessive letters from me clogging your inbox.
3. Come on over and join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for even more entries.
4. One bonus entry if you pre-order the book I did write, Fermented: A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods.  Just forward along your pre-order confirmation to me via email and you’ve just earned yet another shot at winning The 30 Day Guide.
Here is the fine print:  Because I think this book is so great, I’m going to leave this giveaway open for 5 days.  You have until Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at noon EDT to enter.  I’ll then pull one name at random, and that person will be the winner.
Get on this one, folks!  You definitely want to win this!
And just as a disclaimer, I am friends with Hayley and Bill, but these opinions are my own and brutally honest.  I really do love this book this much, and I really do wish I had written it myself.  Whenever I write about a book or product on this site, know that the opinions expressed are always my own.  Here is a link with my own personal rules and promises about reviewing anything on  Honesty will always come first whether it is flattering or not.

Kombucha Series Part 6 - Troubleshooting (Plus a GIVEAWAY!)

This giveaway is closed.  Thanks for the entries!
Well, we have reached the end of the weekly kombucha series and I hope you all have enjoyed it. Kombucha is my favorite thing to ferment so I’ve loved writing this up for you.  Plus, I am SO EXCITED about the giveaway!  Details are at the end of this post.  You do NOT want to miss this one!
If you’re just joining me for the first time, here is what you missed:
1. Make your own SCOBY
2. Choosing the right tea
3. Choosing the right type of sugar
4. Equipment
5. Make kombucha – woo woo!
Throughout the last six weeks I have gotten a few questions about what is normal SCOBY behavior, what the tea should look like or smell like, etc.  Here are a few answers to some FAQs about your ‘buch.
1. Cloudy tea and/or brown bits in kombucha – This is good!  When you initially combine your sweetened room-temperature tea, the SCOBY, and starter tea, it is all mostly clear.  Sure, it’s retained the color of the tea that you brewed, but it isn’t cloudy.  As the SCOBY gets to work and the bacteria and yeasts do their job the tea will turn cloudy.  You may also start to see brown stringy bits floating off of your SCOBY and in your tea.  This is just yeast growth and you want it in there.  Fear not!

Kombucha Closeup

(Look at the stringy bits hanging off of this SCOBY.  It’s growing yeast!  WOO!)

2. SCOBY storage – The most important thing to know about properly storing your SCOBY is that is must be kept in liquid at all times.  If it won’t be hard at work fermenting any tea for a month or two, a SCOBY needs to be stored in tea and kept wet especially if they are going to be used again in the future.  If you are taking a fermentation break or find yourself with extra SCOBYs simply keep them in a small jar covered in sweetened room temperature tea.  Cover loosely with a light cloth or handkerchief secured with a rubber band.  Store at room temperature.
SCOBYs can be refrigerated or dehydrated for longer term storage, but there is not guarantee that they’ll come back to life when you’re ready to use them again.  This is why I don’t wholly recommend refrigeration or dehydration.  It isn’t a terrible idea, but nothing is guaranteed.  To dehydrate, simply put the SCOBY on a Pyrex plate or on a piece of all-natural parchment paper and allow it to dry at 90 to 100 degrees in the oven for several hours, or until it has the same texture as gummy candy or beef jerky.  For instructions on rehydrating your SCOBY, check out this video from Cultures for Health.
3. SCOBY looks and feel – A healthy SCOBY will be whitish/ivory colored.  Sometimes it will have brownish tea-colored stains on it (especially if you use black tea to ferment your kombucha), but it will never ever be black, red, green, or blue.  If you see any colors beyond white/ivory/beige and brown, this is most likely a sign of mold growth and the whole batch (SCOBY included) must be discarded.  Do not take chances, and please use your best judgement.  If you are in doubt at all over your SCOBY’s health, toss it and start over.
A healthy SCOBY should also feel like a handful of dense gelatin.  It’s wiggly and jiggly and feel kind of squishy in your hand.  It shouldn’t be dry at all.
4. SCOBY size – They say size doesn’t matter, and with SCOBYs at least, that’s true.  My very first SCOBY given to me by my buddy Liz was about three or four inches across and a quarter inch thick.  She gave it to me in a little jar with a cup of starter tea.  From that wee SCOBY I brewed a gallon of kombucha and have been making batch after batch ever since.  Plus, that original mother has given birth to dozens of new SCOBYs that I’ve gifted all over the place.
5. SCOBY placement – When I started my first batch of kombucha, I dumped my SCOBY and starter tea into my gallon of sweetened room temperature tea and it promptly sunk to the bottom. I (stupidly) stuck my hand in the jar and tried to get it to float on the surface.  It didn’t work.  I had a minor freakout.  It turns out, it doesn’t matter one whit where the SCOBY is in the jar.  It will still do its job nicely.  A new SCOBY will grow on the surface of your tea (you might notice it starting to grow when you see a cloudy film start to appear.) no matter where your original mother decides to settle.
6. Metal – Kombucha, SCOBYs, and metal do not mix.  As previously mentioned in the equipment installment of this series, you should not ever ferment tea in a metal container.  Period.  Some kombucha makers say that a SCOBY should not ever ever ever come in contact with anything metal.  While I agree, I don’t happen to think that very brief encounters with metal will not hurt your brew or your SCOBY.  I brew my gallon of tea in a metal pot and I have cut sections off of SCOBYs with metal knives or kitchen shears with no ill affects yet.  Technically speaking, molecules of metal are left behind when you do these things and over time can affect fermentation.  My rule is this: Never ever ferment tea in a metal container.  Avoid using metal tools when you can. Anything that will come in prolonged contact with your SCOBY or kombucha should NOT be made of metal.  Otherwise, if you want to use a knife or kitchen scissors to snip off a bit of a SCOBY to give to a friend, just do it quickly.
7. Kombucha storage – After I flavor and bottle my ‘buch, it doesn’t tend to last very long in my house.  Honestly I haven’t ever had a bottle sitting in my refrigerator for longer than a couple of weeks.  However, as long as it is kept cold, bottled kombucha will last for a very long time.  Note, however that fermentation does not stop just because it’s in the refrigerator.  It is slowed down to an almost near halt, but not quite turned off.  Over time your kombucha will continue to ferment very slowly.  Consider this an aging process much similar to what wine goes through.  The taste of a bottle that is two weeks old will be slightly different than one that is 6 months old.  It’s up to you to decide whether or not that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  It’s a matter of taste.
Also note that a little wee miniature SCOBY may start to grow on the surface of you bottled ‘buch.  That’s just further proof that the little bacteria and yeast friends in the bottle are still fermenting away.  This mini SCOBY can be strained out and discarded or even consumed if you want.  It definitely won’t hurt you.
8. How much to drink – Like any fermented product, kombucha is alive and can do a lot of wonderful things for our bodies.  However, if a little is good, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a lot is better.  When I first started making kombucha I was guzzling several bottles of it a day.  It tastes wonderful, plus it’s fizzy. I haven’t had a pop in YEARS so it was nice to drink something cold and fizzy!  While this might have tasted good at the time, it started to negatively affect my body.  Fermented foods are meant to be enjoyed regularly, but in small quantity.  Eight ounces of kombucha a day is plenty to keep your gut populated with beneficial bacteria.  It may be difficult to resist those wonderful little bottles of ‘buch in your fridge, but overdoing it with kombucha or any fermented food will take its toll.
Kombucha Mixed Berry
So, there you have it!  I know that there may be many more questions and concerns about your ‘buch that will crop up as you go through the process.  Please let me know!  I am always more than happy to help you troubleshoot and answer questions.  As always, leave me a comment, send me an email, drop me a line on Facebook, Tweet me, or even give me a little shout out on Instagram.  I’m never far from my technology!
NOW!! On to the giveaway!!!
Although in the last six installments of this series I have given you all the info you need to make your own kombucha, I thought I’d make it super simple and easy for one of you to get started.  My friends at Kombucha Brooklyn are going to send one lucky winner a half-gallon kombucha starter kit!
Can I just tell you how awesome this kit is?!?!?!  It comes with a glass jar, a large tea bag (enough for one batch), enough organic cane sugar to get you started AND your very own SCOBY!!!  They even throw in a thermometer and a light cloth to cover the jar with.  You guys, this is EVERYTHING you need to get started brewing your own kombucha all in one cute box!  When I got mine in the mail, I nearly fainted from excitement.  This kit is SNAZZY!
whats in the kit
So, here is how this is going to work.  As usual, you’ll have several chances to win.
1. Leave me a comment telling me what your favorite kombucha flavor is.
2. Facebook – 1 entry each for liking First Comes Health and Kombucha Brooklyn on Facebook. (Already like us? Tell me that in your comment below!)
3. Twitter – 1 entry each for following First Comes Health and Kombucha Brooklyn on Twitter. (Already follow us?  Tell me that in your comment below!)
4. Instagram – 1 entry for following First Comes Health on Instagram. (Already follow me? Tell me that in your comment below!)
5. Newsletter – 1 entry for subscribing to the First Comes Health newsletter. (Already subscribed?  Tell me that in your comment below!)
Bonus entry: Did you pre-order my book Fermented yet?  If so, forward me the order confirmation and you’ll earn another chance to win.

kokmbucha lives(It says this right on the kit’s box! I love it so much.)

I wish every single one of you could win this one because this kit is simply fantastic.  You can earn up to eight chances to win this one!!  And because the giveaway is so awesome, I’m going to give you until noon EDT on Wednesday, May 29, 2013 to enter.
Good luck to all!  One of you lucky folks is going to be super excited when this baby arrives at your house!

Giveaway! Gather: The Art of Paleo Entertaining

The winner of this giveaway has been chosen and notified and the contest is closed.  Thanks for participating!
Can I just say that I had the best weekend?  I did.  First of all, yesterday I completed my second half marathon!  Yippee!  I plan to give you all the details of that accomplishment in a post later this week.  Saturday was one of those days where I got many things finished around my house. A quiet day.  But Friday was something special.  Dude and I went to a local restaurant and celebrated our friends Hayley and Bill‘s latest book, Gather: The Art of Paleo Entertaining!
First of all, I have to offer my most hearty congratulations to my dear friends.  First, because now that I have written my own book (You know it!) I have an ENORMOUS amount of appreciation for the amount of heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears that goes into an endeavor like this.  Here’s the thing, however: I wrote my book, meaning I wrote all the text.  Beyond that, I had someone take all the photos (Bill!) and I have another person putting it together to look like a real book.  These two have not only written this masterpiece, but they took all the photos, AND put it all together in a gorgeous (not-so) little package.  If you don’t already know, that requires dedication, time, and most of all, skill. In tremendous supply.  This isn’t some weekend project.
I knew this book was going to be something special – it is created by two cooking devotees who just love real food, they’re both artists who have a special eye for beauty in all things – but I must be honest that when I finally got a copy of this book in my hands, I was blown away.  It. Is. Fabulous.
And not in that “the sizzle sells the steak” kind of way.  Sure, they could have devoted all their time to the pretty photos and skimped and cut corners on the recipes, but they didn’t.  Even if this book had line drawings instead of dozens of fantastic pictures, the recipes on their own would stand out as nothing short of masterful.
Can you tell I love this book?

Gather 2(Hey! That’s the back of my head! Did you know the New Year’s Eve party was photographed at my home?! Totally.)

I have already tagged some favorites and have put them in heavy rotation around my house.  Teriyaki Country Ribs, Braised Pork Belly, Sweet Potato Hash with Rosemary, Sauteed Japanese Eggplant with Onions and Sage.  Just a sampling of some of the favorites that have emerged so far.  But to be honest, I’ve barely dug into this book!  I anticipate it never seeing my bookshelf, and instead it will find a permanent home on my kitchen table so I can have it ready for quick reference and inspiration.

Gather 3(This photo is so beautiful! It almost looks like a painting!)

So, here’s the good news for you!  I have a spare copy to give to a lucky winner!  I don’t want anyone to be without their own copy of Gather.  Seriously.  And if you play your cards right, I might even be able to get it signed for you too.  Let’s get to the details on how you can find yourself with your very own copy…..
There will be a random drawing for the winner from the entries received.
For one entry in the drawing, comment below and tell me whether or not you like to entertain in your home.  Let me know why or why not.
To earn additional entries, join me in the following ways:
1. Like First Comes Health on Facebook
2. Follow First Comes Health on Twitter
3. Follow me on Instagram
4. Sign up to receive my newsletter
This gives you the opportunity to earn FIVE entries into the Gather giveaway drawing!!!  Comment, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, newsletter.  Do it!
And because I’m feeling generous, I’m going to give you a sixth way.  Pre-order my book Fermented from and email me the confirmation to score another chance.
How do you like that?  That is six whole chances to have my pull your name as the big winner.
It all starts today and ends at Friday May 10, 2013 at noon Pittsburgh time (EST).  Don’t delay!
(By the way, It’s not a secret that Hayley and Bill are my friends, but my opinions are my own and I’m always brutally honest.  For more info on my policy on reviews, check out the legal tab at the top, or click here to see where I stand.)

Giveaway! Nikki's Coconut Butter

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who participated!  The contest is now closed and winner has been chosen. 
Friends, I am neck deep in book makin’ and just when the world seems like it’s nothing but fermentation jars and photo shoots and writing and rewriting, something fell into my lap (figuratively) and made my crazy days a bit brighter.
Someone told me about Nikki’s Coconut Butter.  Hoo yeah.
First of all, I am a fan of coconut butter.  Not to be confused with coconut oil which is just the oil extracted from coconut meat (although I’m a fan of that too), coconut butter is the meat from a coconut blended into a delicious, dream-like paste that has about a million culinary uses.  My favorite being eating it straight from the jar.


Nikki’s Coconut Butter seems to do it one better, however.  You see, their coconut butter is available in five scrumptious flavors.  So not only is coconut butter itself a dream, Nikki’s amped it up by adding all-natural foodstuffs to make it an even better version of itself.  We’re talking chocolate hazelnut brownie, vanilla cake batter, midnight mocha (chocolate lover’s dream!), macadamia nut cookie, and honey pecan pie.  See what I mean?  Poetry in a jar.


None of them contain any refined sugar, and like their website says, coconut butter is a treat that is good for your body. It will make you feel sooooo much better than eating something rife with sugar and refined seed oils. Blah.
Nikki’s sent me a jar (madacamia nut cookie!!!) to try out and it is divine!  So, because I love you all so much and I want you to share in the wealth, I’m offering one you a FREE 12 ounce jar of the flavor of your choice.  It will be a random drawing and you have until Friday, March 1 at noon EST to enter.  All you have to do is leave a comment below and tell me which flavor of Nikki’s Coconut Butter you’d choose if you’re the lucky winner.  And like that, you’re entered to win.
Here are a few things you can do to earn additional chances to win:
1. Go on over to Facebook and like First Comes Health.
2. Follow me on Twitter!
3. Follow me on Instagram.
If you’re already a Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram follower, get a friend to follow me and drop me an email ( and let me know.  That way you’ll both earn extra entries!
So, hop to it!  I guarantee you’ll want to win this.  I’m off to attack my jar of coconut butter with a spoon. You could be doing the same!