The Modern Teapot…I Think I Am In Love :-)

I just love being able to SEE my tea as it is steeping.  The visual aesthetic of watching leaves unfurl and liquor release into the water is relaxing,  pleasing, and meditative.  My fine china and porcelain teapots will aways have a place on my shelves, and in my heart (as many were gifts from truly special people in my life)…however, these modern teapots are what I gravitate towards now as practical, functional and let’s face it…really “cool looking” vessels.   Some are award winning designs, such as Denmark’s, Eva Solo teapot pictured just below.

Eva Solo tea maker - even has a silicon jacket

Eva Solo tea maker – even has a silicon jacket

“While we are slurping our teas and traveling to tea estates, Eva Solo is slaving away designing beautiful pots to brew our teas and infusions. This fat bottomed pot comes with its very own zip up neoprene jacket (or perhaps we should call it a wetsuit?). Not just a pretty pot, this tea-maker has won awards for its functionality. The built in filter stops the leaves from escaping as you pour. Available with a black or red jacket.” Description is from the Teapigs site.

This concept of “a wetsuit” keeping your tea warm is a fabulous idea.

 

Scandanavian tea pot

Scandinavian tea

Menu Norm Glass Kettle Teapot with Tea Egg

“Norm Glass Kettle Teapot uniquely embraces the meeting of two traditions – the Asian zen philosophy and modern Scandinavian design. A special feature is the teapot’s transparency that grants a visual experience of the tea and stimulates the senses of sight, touch and smell alike. As a fine design detail the tea egg is placed in the center of the pot and is easily raised by pulling the attached silicon string when the tea is ready for serving.”  Super stylish…

I first saw this on the shelves in the shop at Zinc Cafe in Laguna Beach.  I loved it.  I went back in to look at it and vacillated over purchasing it for at least a half hour.  I talked myself out of it, as the last thing I need is another teapot, then kicked myself for not getting it.  I was back at Zinc with my sister and nephew a few weeks later and told myself…”if that teapot is still there, I am getting it.”  It was not 🙁 .    It’s still on my wish list and I have since found that I can purchase these from a few different sites online (I googled “cool looking Scandinavian teapots”).  Below is another one I saw which has a nice tea light warmer stand.

Smart Tea Set

Smart Tea Set

 

Of course, you can make a cup of tea in any bowl-like vessel with a filter of some kind to strain the leaves…but it is so lovely and civilized and thoughtful to brew one’s tea in a beautiful container.

No matter what you steep your tea in…it matters that you have quality tea leaves…organic when possible…get them from a source you can trust.

I actually enjoy looking at these teas almost as much as drinking them (almost) 🙂

Drink tea…it’s good for you.

 

Think Garnish…Whimsical, Beautiful, Rustic, & Compelling

You might have heard the phrase, “you eat with your eyes first.”  Those who know me, know I love to eat.  I love food.  It’s as simple as that.
I also love foods that look good.  The older I get, the less I seem to be able to consume and keep healthy…so, smaller portions are in order.  This fits perfectly with my passion for afternoon tea menus.  Beautiful petite bites are what I seek at tea time.  Often I prepare my own, and  while I thoroughly enjoy cooking, I am not very good at the detail work of decorating –  so, when I want that little something to make my dish yield an extra smile that warms the heart, I use garnishes.  Innovative packaging, serving pieces, cutters, and papers simplify my work and can take an ordinary dish to being something special.  With little effort, let your garnish reflect the beauty, whimsy, or rustic appeal you desire.   For my most important events, when I need things to look really awesome with a “wow” factor, I call on my niece, Sammycakes…she is masterful at creating spectacular looking (and tasting) desserts.  Knowing my interest in creating compelling, unique small bites; my sister-in-law and niece sent me a link to a site they thought interesting called Think Garnish.  I believe they saw the site in Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Check it out, there are clever ideas awaiting you there.

Think Garnish describes what garnish is all about this way…”Have you ever wondered what makes the difference between something special and spectacular?  It’s the Garnish…that little something extra that brings a sparkle to the eye and a giggle to the heart.

A few of my latest favorite festive garnishes are below:

Ricotta cheesecake baked and served in these festive cups…normally this special family recipe Easter pie is not very attractive as a whole pie…these cups dressed them up nicely…topped with a little heavy cream…gorgeous

Ricotta cheesecake baked and served in these festive cups…normally this special family recipe Easter pie is not very attractive as a whole pie…these cups dressed them up nicely…topped with a little heavy cream…gorgeous

Shot  glass sized dessert cups…just about guilt free in size…these were at the St. Regis Tea and Tinis buffet

Shot glass sized dessert cups…just about guilt free in size…these were at the St. Regis Tea and Tinis buffet

 

 

Sometimes garnish with parchment paper and a square mold are the look you want…this photo from la Cucina Italiana…it is a mini lapsing soughing tea cake

Sometimes garnish with parchment paper and a square mold are the look you want…this photo from la Cucina Italiana…it is a mini lapsang souchong tea cake

From Think Garnish…this cute small tulip cup is available from their site…these are just up my alley.

From Think Garnish…this cute small tulip cup is available from their site…these are just up my alley.

Pinterest offers an enormous amount of ideas for beautiful and clever garnishes…these tea bag cookies take a little extra time cutting and are so cute --

Pinterest offers an enormous amount of ideas for beautiful and clever garnishes…these tea bag cookies take a little extra time cutting and are so cute —

Think Garnish says that “products are blank canvases just waiting for your expression. Totally customizable, they offer infinite possibilities. Take this opportunity to let your personality shine through… and make every occasion a special occasion. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to bring simple sophistication to everyday life. Garnish provides all the ingredients and ideas you need to create an experience that everyone will remember. Remember, there is no one perfect moment to add a little Garnish…every moment deserves to be Garnished.”

I encourage you to express yourself through adding a little garnish…Valentine’s Day is coming…the perfect opportunity to create a new memory through food.  Food is Life…it may as well be interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Marbled Tea Eggs … in Celebration of the Chinese Spring Festival

My mother, Betty, celebrated as many cultural festival days as she knew about…she did this before we had such enormous access to information via the world wide web.  She attempted foods from other cultures often – and quite successfully…she had a knack and intuition about what went together to make a dish shine.  We celebrated Bastille, St. Valentine, St. Patrick, Cinco de Mayo, all U.S. holidays (including cherry pie on Washington’s birthday) and at least a dozen family days with special menus from her.  She loved Chinese foods and, if alive today, she’d be preparing something to celebrate China’s Spring Festival later this week.

The Spring Festival (Chinese Lunar New Year) of 2014 falls on January 31. The public holiday starts from January 31 to February 6. It is the Year of the Horse.  This festival is considered the most important of the year.   Below is the step-by-step process for making China’s famous marbled tea eggs…I just finished consuming my last one from the batch I prepared last week.  The sweet scent and flavor from the star anise and cinnamon stick balance beautifully with the savory soy and Chinese black tea…the yin and yang are in sync.

Marbled Tea Egg Recipe (From Tea With Betty: A Tea Manual):

Marbled Tea Eggs..nesting in a clear Steuben bowl...

Marbled Tea Eggs..nesting in a clear Steuben bowl…

Makes 12 eggs.

PREP TIME:  20 minutes TOTAL TIME:  8 hours 20 minutes (includes soaking time)

12 large eggs

1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt

3 tablespoons loose Chinese black tea or other black tea (Earl Grey or smoky Russian Caravan)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 star anise

2 cinnamon sticks

Boil eggs 15 minutes over low heat.  Cool in the cooking water.  Drain the eggs and tap shells all over with the back of a spoon until each shell is covered with a web of cracks.

Return eggs to the pan, cover with cold water, add salt, soy sauce, star anise, cinnamon sticks, tea.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer very slowly for approximately 2 hours.

Remove from heat, let cool in the pan with the liquid, then cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, remove eggs from liquid, peel, cut eggs crosswise, and serve.

They will be beautifully marbled looking.

Serve chilled, with small bowls of the cooking liquid and coarse salt or slice and serve on soft white bread with mayonnaise.

Ingredients in their place (mise en place) for steeping "cracked" hard boiled eggs…

Ingredients in their place (mise en place) for steeping “cracked” hard boiled eggs…top left, cinnamon sticks and star anise: top right, Adagio black dragon pearls Chinese Yunnan tea, soy sauce, coarse salt

 

After hard boiling your eggs, discard water, crack eggs with the back of a spoon, place back in pan with cold water and the ingredients…slow steep for 2 hours

After hard boiling your eggs, discard water, crack eggs with the back of a spoon, place back in pan with cold water and the ingredients…slow steep for 2 hours

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Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Making these marbled eggs is truly as easy as boiling water…the fragrance wafting through the house when they are slowly simmering is delightful.  The end result is a healthy, beautiful product.  Enjoy with a cup of green tea or an oolong.

 

Drink tea!  It’s good for you 🙂

 

 

A Year In Review…Well, Half Of It Anyway :-)

The past month has been a bit crazy …  I suppose it has been for most of you; however, I complicated things by throwing in a couple vacations, as well as, caught some kind of cold / virus that seems to want to fake me out…it comes and goes…then comes back just when I think I am better.  So…I got a little behind on my writing, but I think I am BACK now 🙂

2013 is gone.  While I don’t want to spend much time looking back, it was a year of interesting experiences inspired by tea for me.  I moved from my Tea With Betty blog to Eat Be Tea so I can expand the writing and experiences to include more about what I love…small bites of foods, paired with tea, experienced in numerous ways in various settings that often changes one’s life…one cup at a time, one bite at a time, one conversation at a time, one moment of reflection while waiting for the steep to finish.

I say goodbye to 2013 with this brief journey back.  I was blessed to have so many wonderful experiences over tea and food that I’ve had to break this into two posts…Below are photos for the first half 2013 of tea and food experiences that inspired and brought me joy –  beginning  with tea with my family at the Mission Inn, Riverside, Ca. last January 2…and ending with savoring a cup of Marriage Freres Darjeeling up in the Napa Valley while relaxing with a book.  In between, there were several garden tours that motivated us to redo our herb and vegetable beds (thanks to my sister’s invites and my husband’s hard work) and additional tea time items that touched me.

January - June 2013  Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

January – June 2013
Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

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Caption list:

1. Teatime at The Mission Inn with two darling little boys 🙂

2. Gonfu tea service…a favorite of mine enjoyed at several locations

3. Kusmi teas…a gift from my sister-in-law from their trip to France, their chocolate tea is as good as eating a piece of quality chocolate…seriously

4. Chocolates and confectionery my daughter and I made while at an Eat Street Culinary class with Chef Katie Averill in Anaheim…can’t believe we made these, from scratch.

5. Surfas opens in Costa Mesa, Ca…yay…lots of food and cooking supplies

6, 7, 8, 9. Napa Valley in February…the mustard in bloom as a cover crop for the grapevines, tea items at Dean & Deluca fine food purveyors…and they carried one of my favorite tea pots, featured on the cover of my tea book…the Betty pot and The French Laundry garden hot house.

10. Japanese tea house located in the bucolic Descanso Gardens L.A.

11. My Life Is Good “Tea Shirt”…a gift from my best friend.

12, 13, 14  Gorgeous tea foods prepared with the significant help from our friend Clive (the 5 layered tea sandwich he used to make at the Savoy, London and stunning lemon meringue tarts prepared by my niece Sammycakes. Also, my petite favorite biscuit scones.

15. Teapot with tea warmer at our dear friend Eugenie’s.

16. We discover pastry chef Kevin Montoya…owner of Carley Cakes. yum.

17 – 23. Out of the blue…I get asked to do a tea tasting for 100 and launch Eat Be Tea at this time….more Tea With Betty books are ordered, tables set in this gorgeous, rustic outdoor setting in the historic area of  San Juan Capistrano – my husband and Chef Kevin plate the food for the pairing with several organic teas from Mighty Leaf.

24.  Chef Kevin decides to name my biscuit scone…the Jones Scone and offer it in his pastry case with my fragrant and flavorful vanilla, cinnamon butter…at Hidden House Cafe on Los Rios Street in SJC.

Finally, we are up to June…back in Napa at the culinary institute where they claim “food is life”…so true…

Finally, I sit down to a fragrant darjeeling packaged in a darling cotton sack.

Happy New Year! Relax and drink tea!

 

 

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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Tiramisu … Pick Me Up

I had a request to make Tiramisu from my nephew.  We researched recipes together and made a beautiful dessert. We even had enough to make two individual sized portions (for taste testing later).  Quality control is important :-).

Tiramisu is an Italian dessert…and  means “pick me up” or “lift me up”.  It’s made with ladyfinger cookies (Italian: Savoiardi) dipped in espresso that may or may not include a shot of your favorite liquor (we added Marsala).  Mascarpone cheese, egg yolks, egg whites, sugar (not that much really) are used, then dusted with powdered chocolate.  With the coffee and liquor, it is more of an adult dessert.

I got this recipe from cookingwithrosie@blogspot.com.  Everyone loved the dish.   Her recipe is below the photos.  We doubled it for our big crowd.

The making of our Tiramisu...Italian Mascarpone is the key ingredient...along with Ladyfinger cookies...no baking needed...whipped egg whites, mixing the mascarpone, eggs and sugar in my husbands 35 year old Kitchen Aide mixer....(built to last) and dipping and layering into a luscious, creamy mature dessert.

The making of our Tiramisu…Italian Mascarpone is the key ingredient…along with Ladyfinger cookies…no baking needed…whipped egg whites, mixing the mascarpone, eggs and sugar in my husbands 35 year old Kitchen Aide mixer….(built to last) and dipping and layering into a luscious, creamy mature dessert was a fun project for my nephew and me.  Using quality ingredients matters…we used fresh organic eggs, Dean & Deluca’s dutch processed cocoa and Italian products from Claros Italian store…

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Ingredients

625 ml (2-2½ cups) strong espresso, cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs or 5 small/medium eggs, separated
4-5 tbsp sugar (one tablespoon per egg) I use a regular spoon to measure – if you use a measuring spoon it will taste sweeter (personal preference).
500 g (16 oz) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 200-250 g (7-9 oz) pkg Savoiardi or Pavesini (lady fingers) These are known as Löffelbiscuits in Germany.
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (or to taste) Again, I use a regular spoon but a measuring spoon will also work.

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites with electric mixture till stiff peaks form but not dry; set aside. 2. In another medium bowl, Beat the egg yolks with sugar until creamy, about 1 minute. If not beaten well, then the filling will have an egg-y taste. Then add mascarpone cheese and mix until there are no more lumps. . 3. Gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon. 4. Dip the cookies in espresso (you can add a shot of your favourite liquer to the espresso, like rum, amaretto, brandy, Frangelico, marsala, etc.) and lay them into a 9×14 rectangular glass pan (or you may use another container/pan). You can leave 3-4 mm (1/4 inch) or a finger’s width between each cookie for the filling, or you can place them close/next to each other so there is no filling between the lady fingers (personal preference). Pour half the mascarpone mixture onto the cookies and spread evenly across the top. 5. Repeat step 4 with the next layer but alternate the cookies perpendicular (or just follow the same pattern as in the first layer) to the ones in the first layer. 6. Refrigerate for over night for best results. If you really must, then refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours before serving but it might still be runny. Sprinkle with cocoa. Makes 12 large pieces or 16 smaller pieces.

from cookingwithrosie@blogspot.com

I have this thought…that just like the “tea affogato(see post here)… maybe, just maybe, converting this traditional espresso laden dish into one with tea soaked biscuits might be an interesting version.  We’ll see.  I might give it a try with a rich Assam and a light sherry.  Or maybe not…maybe this is best left alone. It was pretty awesome tasting.

But still, drink tea….it’s good for you 🙂