Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate With Chef Katie Averill

What a fun evening my daughter, A., and I had last night…thanks to my husband’s thoughtful stocking stuffer Christmas gift to me this year…a gift to attend a chocolate making cooking class at Eat Street Culinary in Anaheim California with Chef Katie Averill.  I’ve written about Katie once before, we went to the opening of her cooking school last September, the post was –  It’s A Great Time To Be A Foodie….She is an incredible pastry chef and an excellent culinary instructor too.

Katie graciously welcomed us.  We learned a lot in our 3 hour class, had fun, worked hard, and got to take home a lovely pink box filled with gorgeous chocolates that we each made…ourselves!

This was a hands on class…we paired off to freely prepare the four recipes we were to make under Katie’s tutelage.  We learned to temper chocolate which resulted in these professional looking, shiny, petite, ganache-filled fine truffle chocolates…I can’t believe we made these…from scratch!

Here is the finished product from our four recipes…

Finished chocolates and candy making...can't believe I personally made each of these, but I did...and they tasted delicious

Finished chocolates and candy making…can’t believe I personally made each of these, but I did…and they tasted delicious

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Here is a photo tour of our work in class last night…

Work in progress... and what a mess in the sink in the end

Work in progress… and what a mess in the sink in the end

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Some students used white chocolate for their truffle filling…my daughter and I opted for bittersweet chocolate.  Once our ganache and our tempered chocolate cooled…we built the truffles.  It took three steps.  Fill the mold with tempered chocolate to line the mold, chill….fill with ganache, chill….create the bottom by drenching in remaining tempered chocolate – scrape off, chill… pop out of molds and eat mmmmmm




Then we made fudge…and after that, coconut joy filling for truffles

Once chocolate is stirred in…pour mixture into a baking pan and leave undisturbed for 20 minutes…


One more thing….we had extra ganache so I rolled them into truffle balls and dusted with Dean and DeLuca Dutch Processed Bensdorp Chocolate

I will say…we were glad we didn’t have to do the dishes after class

After taking this class, I will not hesitate to make my own chocolates for desserts and gifts in the future.  I mean, really, can you believe how professional these candies came out in 3 hours of class time and bit of finishing time?  Am looking forward to more classes from Eat Street Culinary…my next one will be a savory class.  Thank you Katie!  You made A. and I feel quite accomplished.

P.S.  I should have a final update regarding my 12 week challenge at the end of this week…am keeping my fingers crossed that the numbers come in good.  Am still keeping on track even while enjoying a bit of dark chocolate.

Teas That Taste Like Dessert – Go Ahead, Indulge!

Last night I was craving something sweet.  As many of you know, I am coming to the end of a 12 week challenge to bring my blood sugar to a lower level.  I’ve been focused on eating fresh, whole foods, limiting carbs to 45 grams per meal, limited sweets during the challenge, and attempting to lose 10 pounds through diet and exercise.  Well, last night, I was just about to “get in trouble,” foraging through cupboards and our freezer to see if I had some little sweet dessert stashed somewhere, when I remembered that one of the teas my sister-in-law brought me from Paris included a chocolate spice variety from Kusmi Tea.  I steeped a cup in my favorite little steeping tea pot, from Tea Time Trading Company, which our friends, the Wickers, gave me last year.  It gave me the perfect cup.. hit the spot and saved me from myself.

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Kusmi chocolate tea, steeping in Teatime teapot, Mighty leaf six chocolate tea varieties

Kusmi chocolate tea, steeping in Teatime teapot, Mighty leaf six chocolate tea varieties

You might want to enjoy guilt-free indulgence by steeping teas that taste like dessert.  Sheer  decadence without the calories…without spiking blood sugar levels either…what a treat.  Normally, I am a fan of “pure teas” with no inclusions or scents (other than jasmine), but this one really was dessert-like and satisfying.


Add water (middle photo) , close lid, let steep…release steeped tea into the bottom of the pot with a “one finger” touch on the red button.  Pour into cup and drink up.

Many of the tea companies I purchase from offer a wide variety of delicious teas that hit your sweet tooth – you get decadence in flavor without the calories and without artificial anything.

I’ve tried dozens.  Determining which ones are right for you depends on your tastes (of course)…below are offerings from tea purveyors whose product I trust and indulge in often.

Mighty Leaf teas has a six flavor variety pack of their chocolate truffle teas.  I purchased these a couple years ago and had an “all chocolate” tea for my teenage niece and her friends…they loved it.  Below is this year’s collection and their description of the blends.

“Our Chocolate Truffle Tea Collection includes sumptuous chocolate blends with rich tea leaves for a multi-sensory indulgence. Since ancient times, whole leaf tea and artisan chocolates have seduced the soul. Drink in the decadence of Mighty Leaf’s chocolate truffle teas.”

Contains 6 tins of loose leaf tea: Mayan Chocolate Truffle, Masala Chocolate Truffle, Chocolate Mint Truffle, Chocolate Orange Truffle, Mocha Pu-erh Truffle and Pear Caramel Truffle.

Harney & Sons is another excellent source for teas, including these sweet tasting offerings – Chocolate Mint, Apple Cinnamon, Soho Tea Blend which has chocolate and coconut, and a Valentine blend with chocolate and rosebuds.

Adagio Teas has Sweet Potato Pie, Nut & Spice, Coconut, Hazelnut, and Chocolate Chip, Caramel and Strawberry.

Most good tea purveyors offer dozens of  interesting blends.  I order the smallest portion size available when tasting a blend for the first time.  It’s fun to put on a  tea tasting with friends.  The feedback never ceases to amaze me.  Each taster offers a different perspective.

There are organic varieties (which I am ordering more and more of), Rooibus (African Red Bush, naturally non caffeinated infusions), and blends to include pears, caramels, cocoa chai (my grandson’s favorite), banana, orange spice and more.

When doing a tasting, I usually serve 3 to 5 different teas, using small cups like the one below.  Have a dump bucket on hand too so guests aren’t “stuck” with something they don’t enjoy.

These tea blends make lovely Valentine’s gifts too.  I’ve been getting lots of emails this week with deals for Valentine’s day from my favorite purveyors.  It’s a good time to check them out.  (Harney & Sons and Mighty Leaf deals came through this morning).  Who doesn’t like chocolate for Valentine’s Day?…These tea blends offer a healthy, creative,  and tasty version of chocolate.   The tea is really good served with actual chocolate too (or pear, or caramel or whatever one you are tasting.)  Pair it up.

Seems there is a tea for every occasion…I encourage you to give some a try.

Challenge update: Next week I should have my final update on my 12 week challenge…I have plateaued at -8 pounds on the weight loss and been keeping on track with eating and exercise…I feel like the numbers should come out good this time…we’ll see (keeping my fingers crossed.)  I have appreciated all your encouragement.  I’ve also been working on new afternoon tea menus which burst with flavor and satisfaction, yet reduce carbs.  Will be sharing those going forward.

A Monarchy Tea Inspired By Royal Fashion @ FIDM Los Angeles/Irvine

Recently, my sister sent me an invitation to an interesting lecture held at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), Los Angeles (at their Irvine campus) which included an enjoyable mid-morning tea buffet.  I will get to the tea part, but first, a bit about the collection and FIDM.

Helen Larsen exhibit

Helen Larson exhibit

For 50 years, Los Angeles based historian, Helen Larson collected over 1,100 garments, primarily from England, creating an impressive historical fashion collection that apparently has left some British fashion historians wondering, “how did we let go of some of these iconic, historical pieces worn by our royals?”  FIDM’s fashion council and museum curators are on a fundraising campaign to purchase the entire offering from the Los Angeles based Larson estate, in an effort to keep this important collection from being broken up.  This lecture and tea was one of their fundraising events.  They have two years to raise the requisite funds.

Helen Larson was intrigued with royalty.  Most of her pieces with royal provenance were acquired during the 1960’s and 1970’s, when she employed British costume historian and dealer Doris Langley Moore to bid for her at auctions, as well as make contact with extended members of Britain’s royal family in hopes that they might part with old clothes worn by their illustrious relatives. Larson funded her hobby of collecting by creating an early “costume rental business” for the Hollywood entertainment industry.  She gathered impressive pieces worn by Queen Victoria and a variety of British monarchy through various sources and trunk buying at a time when few were purchasing “old” clothes.

Monarchy collection on display at FIDM...

Monarchy collection on display at FIDM…

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About 100 guests attended this event which included a tour of the gallery featuring several of Larson’s royal collection, a lecture describing the provenance along with fashion details of each piece, and my favorite part, a Victorian inspired tea menu.

FIDM is a modern looking institute with high energy and invigorating design.  It was exciting to be around such potential. My sister has always been into fashion merchandising (which was her college major and degree) –  and going with her was a treat.  As we walked in, here is what we saw:

The interior is modern and conducive to collaboration, learning, and innovation.

FIDM L.A. has produced many renowned designers, including current popular fashion designer, Monique Lhuillier, who designed this Barbie Bride collectible.

Barbie dress by FIDM graduate

Barbie dress by FIDM graduate

They are proud of their graduates and show off their achievement in the lobby.

In the museum gallery, we were treated to a truly incredible display, including a reception gown worn by Queen Victoria (whom was a bit shorter and more stout than I remembered from my history classes).  It is the black gown above.

Princess’s gowns were included, this was my favorite in the gallery.

O.K., we saw the collection, listened to several lectures, now, finally, the food.

Notice I didn’t say, the tea.  Typical of many a caterer, the tea just reeked.  It reeked of coffee.  They used a hot water urn that had obviously been used for coffee and it bled into the delicate fragrance of whatever tea bag one used.  So I will skip the tea beverage discussion and move onto the food, which was really good and nicely done.  The selection was so appropriate for a mid morning tea.  The finger sandwiches were nice and moist (no dry bread here).  The scones were perfectly sized, distinctively flavored, particularly the pumpkin scone.  The accompaniments were spot on and plentiful.  The caterer did a beautiful job of keeping trays refreshed as we masses hovered over platters of deviled eggs, cucumber sandwiches, chicken salad with almonds and celery, and plenty of sweets with scones as a feature (as it should be, particularly at a British royal inspired event.)

The breakfast tea foods...and proof that we enjoyed it all...

The breakfast tea foods…and proof that we enjoyed it all…

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There were two platters of scones, and plenty of toppings for them.

Here’s proof that all thoroughly enjoyed the food, which included “seconds” by most…

We met interesting people and had dynamic discussions about the collection, teas, podcasts, and tea houses.  In particular, we enjoyed a spirited conversation with a young filmmaker and costume designer named Colleen Marie Monroe.  Check out her podcast which features fascinating costuming stories at

As we talked about the tea,  I got truly encouraged that the twenty-somethings in the arts looking for great tea…and I mean the whole tea leaf… will lead the way to continuous improvement of quality in our U.S. tea business.  It seems that art, fashion, design and tea have a strong synergy.  To this point, a dear friend of mine just got back from Harney & Sons SOHO (NYC) tea shop, he said it was run by and inhabited by “hip twenty-somethings.”  All of which, I think, bodes well for more and better tea product in the U.S. going forward.

Regarding today’s tea service…I was thrilled with the food.  I will keep giving feedback –  one person, one caterer at a time – offering  this tip about serving tea (the beverage);  it’s pretty darn simple, “when serving tea – use fresh, clean, filtered, hot water that is pure of other fragrances, scents, or impurities.  Serve from  a vessel/urn dedicated to water only, never one that coffee has inhabited.”  It’s simple.

Week 10 Challenge Update:  Well, I have my fingers crossed still.  The four pounds I dropped while being under the weather last week have almost stayed “off.”  (down 3 🙂  I am so excited, while not the best way to lose a few pounds, I’ll take it!  I suffered for it …  So, two weeks to go and 8 down, 2 pounds to go… I am working out a bit everyday now (except Sundays…that’s currently my day to watch NFL playoff  football – go 49ers!)  Coincidentally, my challenge ends when the season ends…January 31.

Enjoy tea!!!  and tea time….

Afternoon Tea Time At The Mission Inn…Revisited

My daughter, “A,”and I love to take in an afternoon tea and we enjoy the setting at the historic Mission Inn in Riverside, California.   U.S. presidents have stayed in this gorgeous property situated on a lovely square in downtown Riverside.  We have attended beautiful weddings at this site too.  “A” and I took in tea here last year, just the two of us.  This time, we invited the boys (my two young grandsons, who enjoy putting on their finest clothes, and Grandpa too.)  All had fun walking around the property identifying the various decorations of angels, carolers, and musical bears hanging off the many balconies, and talking to the two Macaws that greet guests.  Once the tea goodies came,  the boys were quite excited, and particular, about which sweets they preferred. They tried Devon clotted cream for the first time. As long as strawberry jam was on the scone too, they were fine.

Carolers and “pretend” guests hang out on other balconies…quite clever.

Inside courtyard, above our table, decorative angels sing out —

There were plenty of sweets…French macarons, coconut macaroons, fruit tarts, cupcakes filled with cream, even canoli.

Mission Inn, Riverside, holiday tea time...

Mission Inn, Riverside, holiday tea time…

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When one of us asked for their low carb menu…they brought this plate of fruit instead of the sweets and scones.  Not “quite” what I had in mind, (was thinking more eggs and shrimp) but still better for me than all the desserts.  The boys LOVE fruit, so they enjoyed most of it.

All in all, a lovely afternoon. While the tea selection is limited, and oddly offers no “just plain black tea”, the service is nice.  I did hear a few guests at other tables asking for black tea.  Since we are seated in an outside patio, the tea got cold quickly, would have been nice to have had a cozy or the pot sitting on a tea warmer.

While the food is really beautiful, I wish they would prepare their scones to order and serve them hot, or at least warm.  Makes for a tastier bread which brings out the flavor of butters, clotted cream and jams more fully.

Week 9 Update…3 weeks to go…well, I don’t know if this week should count, as I lost almost 3 pounds; however, it is due to my catching a bug and being under the weather, unable to eat much for the past 4 days. We will see if I can keep any of that off going forward (I must say, even though not well, it was exciting to see that many pounds finally drop off, even though they are likely to bounce back.)