Tasty Bites For Book Club…Time For The Crispy Wonton

Our book group meets every six to eight weeks to discuss what we’ve read…we are a small group (on purpose).  Each of us have been members of other book groups…yet opted out of those for various reasons.  One being that we just want to discuss books, not make a major meal out of our time together.  We decided to make our meeting time the early afternoon and serve a few snacks to go along with our discussion… I hosted last month and threw together the little bites in the photos below.  We keep it simple, yet thoughtful and tasty.  I went at bitter, sweet, salty, &  sour tastes, and ensured there was satisfying crunch too…yet light on the calories and carbs … (yes, I still watch my carb intake).

One of my favorite “go to” holders of fillings (whether savory or sweet) is the crispy wonton…they are inexpensive,  low on carbs, quick to crisp into a little cup using a mini muffin tin, and easy to fill…everyone loves them.  Brush each raw wonton wrapper with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, push into each muffin tin spot and bake at 375 degrees for about seven minutes.  That’s it.  Either freeze for future use…or fill with your favorite savory or sweet filling and serve.  This time I filled them with creamy goat cheese topped with minced organic chives from my garden.  The book discussion was excellent…we discussed The Husband’s Secret by Moriarty…we all recommend it.

Wonton wrappers…crisped into a crunchy cup..filled with creamy goat cheese and chives, endive leaves ready for olive tapenade, organic grapes, dark chocolate enrobed almonds…a taste for everyone…and of course we had a cup of tea

Wonton wrappers…crisped into a crunchy cup..filled with creamy goat cheese and chives, endive leaves ready for olive tapenade, fresh grapes, dark chocolate enrobed almonds…a taste for everyone…and of course we had a cup of tea

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Sweet Tea….A Southern Thing

I had anticipated coming across plenty of iced tea on our journey through the American South.  They are known for it, and known for their tea to be taken “sweet”.  What I hadn’t anticipated was just how sweet the tea would be.   It’s sweet.  The good news for me was that most establishments also offered  an unsweetened version.  At some places, they called it “yankee” tea.  The teas we experienced were fresh and refreshing.  Every time I raved about how good the iced tea was, we’d notice that the brand used was Luzianne.

Luzianne specially blended iced tea...

Luzianne specially blended iced tea..

136The Luzianne name is steeped in Southern heritage. Luzianne began life in 1902, when William B. Reily, who owned a wholesale grocery business, moved from Monroe, Louisiana to New Orleans. In New Orleans, he changed his emphasis to coffee and tea.

By 1932, the Luzianne brand was established throughout the Southeast, as was its reputation for selling the region’s finest coffee and tea. Today, Luzianne is still revered as the gold standard of Southern refreshment. – See more at: http://www.luzianne.com

When enjoying incredible BBQ at JB’s Smokeshack just outside Charleston, JB gave us his recipe for sweet tea…he had two 5 gallon stainless steel dispensers on his counter…one sweet, one “yankee, unsweetened”… he told us he makes it fresh everyday…(a good thing…don’t you just detest “old” iced tea)?  His recipe is 5 gallons of fresh water and Luzianne tea…then add 1 gallon of simple syrup (sugar and water)… that seems to be the standard for sweet tea … he is known for his BBQ and for his iced tea…they were both spectacularly flavorful, fresh and clearly desired by locals…the place was packed with a steady stream of locals coming in for lunch when we were there.  We took a big glass to go with us …

Old time packaging from Luzianne tea

Old time packaging from Luzianne tea

JB's Smokeshack...great BBQ and iced tea...on the way to see the 400 year old Angel Tree (oldest oak tree in South Carolina) you'll find JB's...

JB’s Smokeshack…great BBQ and iced tea…on the way to see the 400 year old Angel Tree (oldest oak tree in South Carolina) you’ll find JB’s…

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The Charleston Tea Plantation…

America’s only working, commercial tea farm is located in Charleston, South Carolina on historic Wadmalaw Island in the Lowcountry.  We visited last month…170 acres of tea plants (camellia sinensis)…including a lovely shop and factory tour.

Two Leaves & A Bud...the camellia sinensis plant (tea)

Two Leaves & A Bud…the camellia sinensis plant (where all tea comes from)

 

Charleston Tea Plantation - America's only working tea garden

Charleston Tea Plantation – America’s only working tea garden

Welcome to America's Tea Garden

Welcome to America’s Tea Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under beautiful  grand oaks lies the factory, gift shop and tour...comfy rocker line the porch

Under beautiful grand oaks lies the factory, gift shop and tour…comfy rockers line the porch and if you chose to, a trolley took you through the fields.

IMG_8398 IMG_8402Here we are in the tea fields. I am happy there is a tea plantation in the U.S. as I don't think I'll ever go the 9,000 miles to see fields in Sri Lanka :-)

Here we are in the tea fields. I am happy there is a tea plantation in the U.S. as I don’t think I’ll ever go the 9,000 miles to see fields in Sri Lanka 🙂

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It was a fun experience to see this plantation. While fine teas are grown in higher altitudes in China, Japan, Sri Lanka, & India…and great teas are hand picked, many from renowned old estates,this American Classic Tea was good iced.   Most restaurants in Charleston offered this American Classic tea. Below are photos from their self-guided factory tour.  The gift shop had a great feel and the samples were prevalent.  Lots of visitors enjoyed the setting.The gift shop is spacious with a bar that offers iced and hot teas...the service and counters are beautiful...

The gift shop is spacious with a bar that offers iced and hot teas…the service and counters are beautiful…

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The making of tea...leaves are machine picked at this farm, withered, cut, dried...the entire place smells like wheat grass ...very green, nice, almost sweet.  Founder William Barclay Hall...now owned by Bigelow

The making of tea…leaves are machine picked at this farm, withered, cut, dried…the entire place smells like wheat grass …very green, nice, almost sweet. Founder William Barclay Hall…now owned by Bigelow

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Back From Our Family Vacation…

A Southern Welcome with Charleston fountain and architecturally welcoming "open arm" stairway...epitomized our feelings of warmth experienced on this vacation to the American South

A Southern Welcome with Charleston fountain and architecturally welcoming “open arm” stairway…epitomized our feelings of warmth experienced on this vacation to the American South

IMG_8587Often my husband and I are asked, “how de we keep our family together?”  “Simple.” is my response.  “When invited to a family function…You’ve just got to show up.  Don’t come up with an excuse…SHOW UP!”

We are blessed with lots of family.  And recently, we found out just how much we have on my husband’s paternal side of the equation – all residing in the American South.  Many times, it just takes one person to step up to keep family together.  That’s what happened here.

A few years ago, my husband’s cousin, A., sent us a note in her Christmas Card that she was coming out for a short visit from her home in Columbia, South Carolina (tagging onto her son’s business trip).  Now, this was quite a pleasant surprise.  The last time our California family had seen anyone from the South was 27 years ago.  I missed that reunion in Georgia, however, for those 27 years had dutifully scribed a cheerful card to cousin A..  I sent photos and news about our happenings,  only knowing her through this annual penning of notes.

We had a fabulous visit with A.  Upon her leaving, she urged us with grace and southern charm to visit…she followed up and sent me information about America’s only working tea garden near her ( in Charleston S.C.), she sent my husband a subscription to Charleston magazine and friended him on Facebook…once our sweet little dachshund passed away…I knew it was time for an extended vacation.  So, we finally planned our trip to the south —

We showed up.  And boy, so did they!  With the “California cousins” coming for a visit, Cousin A. instigated a full-on family reunion which resulted in 120 members showing up to a beautiful gathering at Misty Lakes, No.Augusta, South Carolina.  It was awesome.

Some of you know that I am not a fan of flying…so, with the reunion as the primary reason for our trip, I then targeted where we would eat and drink tea on the rest of our journey.  Some of the best chefs in America do their cooking in Charleston. Exploring Low Country cooking was our focus and, of course, drinking tea.

Our Southern vacation…full of Family, History, Spanish Moss, Mansions, Mosquitos, Alligators, Low Country foods & Sweet Tea.  The route:  Atlanta, Augusta, Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, Atlanta … fun times with new found relatives all along the way.  All because of one cousin who showed up and encouraged us to do so too.

My next few posts will be about my “finds” on this excursion.  Here are a few photos of our trip in a nutshell…gorgeous Savannah, including Tybee Island, foliage, buggy rides, teas, barbecue, and truly fabulous Southern foods amidst the mansions.

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Southern life...moss, marsh, mansions, biscuits, BBQ, and tea

Southern life…Spanish moss, marsh, mansions, Low Country cuisine, Charleston teas