High Tea … often Misunderstood …

Contemporary English afternoon tea menu...rustic scone, fritatta, fruits and black tea…lovely and not too sweet – this from Samovar Tea House in San Francisco

High tea is often confused with an Afternoon Tea; however, they are actually two distinctly different eating occasions. Each serves a relevant purpose.  Afternoon tea is said to have been inspired by the Duchess of Bedford who complained that she got famished between lunch and dinner and thus the traditional three-course “snack” of savory finger foods, scones and assorted petite sweets came into being served in upscale salons and sitting rooms all over England.  Afternoon tea can also be called a “low tea,” as it is often served in a salon or sitting room on low tables with participants relaxing in chairs or lounging on chaise’s or low furnishings.

High tea is a meal.  Often partaken by the working class; however, today, many who desire a special tea menu at a meal time blend the two.  A few months ago we put on a high tea for our niece and 20 family members which included a demonstration of scone making and tea tasting of three fancy green and oolong teas.  What was originally to be an afternoon tea turned into a dinnertime tea tasting; thus it became a “high tea” where we served a meal of multiple salads, hamsteak sliders, curried egg salad, along with scones and sweets.

The host wanted me to demonstrate two things for the group…1) how to make scones and 2) how to make a great cup of tea, which we did. We finished the meal with three petite desserts…decadent dark chocolate brownies, organic strawberries with mascarpone & cream fraiche, and, for our 8 year-old birthday girl who just loves pink, vibrant, pink frosted mini vanilla cupcakes.

The scones were a huge hit, served with raspberry jam, my tart lemon curd and creme fraiche.  The birthday girl, her sister and cousins served, and they were excellent at it, including exuding tons of personality in the process. Uncle David (my husband) oversaw everything beautifully as usual.  All had a great time and appeared to enjoy the scone making and consuming them fresh and hot from the oven, along with tasting the various oolong teas.

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The High Tea meal plating … 21 plates set to receive the ham steak biscuit slider and another salad…already plated are the egg salad stuffed rolls and the endive & watercress salad.

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One of my most favorite salads…bitter, sweet, salty, & crunch endive, watercress, bleu cheese, toasted pecans in a light champagne vinaigrette

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Grilled hamsteak with mustard on a fresh, warm yam biscuit to make a savory slider – these were a hit.

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Curried egg salad stuffed into hollowed out dinner rolls…seemed like a great idea when I saw them on a cooking show…ended up with almost everyone eating the egg salad out of the roll and leaving the roll (too much bread…particularly when you have awesome yam biscuits and scones to come).

And just a reminder, as mentioned in my last post….Next up…I am almost ready to launch my “communing with books blog”…am excited to see where delving into the classics will lead, along with contemporary “classic” authors too.  And know that many of the works include a tea time!  (such a civilized thing to do 🙂

Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies...bite sized...from Tea With Betty...one of our desserts

Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies…bite sized…from Tea With Betty…one of our desserts and always the favorite dessert for adults.

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I was told that the birthday girl just LOVED anything pink…the brighter pink the better, so I went for it…the pink was not a shy one…they loved them.

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Demonstration of jasmine tea  being released from my favorite diffuser into a glass tea pot

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My husband took care of the crowd…he is fabulous at doing that

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Our birthday girl and her sister were truly darling and enjoyed the entire evening…their service was excellent too

They Say Variety is the Spice of Life….

Cinnamon and Nutmeg...my favorite spices in place of sugar

Cinnamon and Nutmeg…my favorite spices in place of sugar

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Using a microplane to shave a little nutmeg

Using a microplane to shave a little nutmeg

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Brûlée...I had mine without the "carmelized sugar" and no sugar spike later ...hurray...

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Brûlée…the perfect size with a little grated nutmeg…no need to brûlée sugar on top for me, it is still so satisfying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPICES are the variety of life for me…Recently, they have been my savior when I am just about ready to binge on something I know I will later regret.  I’ve discovered that my craving for sweets is abated when using various spices – thus keeping me on track in managing my glucose levels. Hurray!

My obsession these past couple months has been with cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, or a splash of high quality vanilla (with no sugar) as that satisfier for my need for something sweet –  A bit of cinnamon on yogurt or on peaches or apple slices takes my dessert up a notch, yet keeps me within my carb goal.  That bit of spice contributes to fulfillment and satisfaction in the dish.

Creamy, custardy dishes have always been my idea of comfort foods…

My new favorite after dinner treat is a quick, fluffy tapioca pudding… here’s the recipe –  I use one/sixth of the sugar called for on the recipe on the box.  My recipe, which is a hearty sized portion, is only 15 – 18 grams of carbohydrate… with grated nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon on top…I don’t miss that extra sugar, it is truly delicious with texture and flavor.

Kraft Minute Tapioca...

Kraft Minute Tapioca…

My recipe …

1 egg separated     3 T. Tapioca     1 tsp Vanilla

1 T. sugar               2 C milk

Beat egg white until foamy.  Mix tapioca, milk, egg yolk and 1 T sugar

in a medium saucepan.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Bring to full boil on medium heat

…stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add egg white mixture, stir until blended.  Stir in vanilla.

Cool…serve warm or chilled… keep refrigerated… grate fresh nutmeg and/or a bit of cinnamon on top and consume… yum… the Kraft box calls for 6 Tablespoons of sugar…I have tested this with reduced amounts and we have concluded that 1 Tablespoon works well with the addition of the freshly grated spices…also…we use really good ingredients…organic eggs and milk, Madagascar vanilla.. I used 2% milk and it is wonderful. With less sugar, you get to enjoy the texture of the tapioca even more and really taste the other ingredients, they are not masked by the sugar…

Note…I always use real ingredients…real sugar (not artificial), real dairy…and always use fresh spices…if they are over one year old, get new ones.

Just when I think I am going to break and have a decadent sweet … I make this and it feels completely indulgent to me, yet when I test my glucose level two hours later…I am perfectly in range which makes me feel like I’ve just won a prize!  Being diabetic doesn’t mean you can’t have a full portion of a dessert…it may take a little “testing” of a recipe on your part to find the level of reduced sugar that works for you, but it certainly is worth it when you get it to that SPOT where the “convergence of good for you” meets “it still tastes great!”  Give it a try.

This fluffy tapioca with a cup of tea is perfect!  And good for me!

And, as always, drink tea…it’s good for you.

 

 

 

 

What I Learned In My Diabetes Nutrition Classes…

Vodka has zero (0) carbohydrates & Creme Brûlée is better for me than cake!

Darjeeling tea martini at "tea and tinis" end of 2013

Darjeeling tea martini — 0 carbs but still…one is probably enough 🙂

While intending a bit of wit and tongue in cheek perspective on “what to eat” that’s still yummy and fitting within the parameters of one’s diabetic diet, these two facts were actually helpful for me to learn.

Ten years ago, I participated in an 8 week course for diabetics (I was pre-diabetic at the time).  When my numbers shot up last summer, I went back to see what knew news was available from the nutritionist’s world regarding this insidious disease. My dietician said, “really, nothing had changed in the last 10 years.”  I told her I was flying somewhere soon and usually needed a drink or two to relax during the flight, but didn’t want to hurt myself with too much alcohol (wine was my usual drink – 4 grams of carbs are in five ounces and anticipated needing 10 ounces for a good buzz…her comment…”vodka has no carbs”…hmmm…    Vodka it was! (I decided I’d rather eat my carbs than drink them that day.)

What I realized at that nutritionist appointment, (an epiphany of sorts), was that I am now “on my own” in figuring out “what to eat.” I know all the general info. about what’s good and what’s not, what I want now is a personal, individualized, actual, customized action plan that let’s me still love my meals….and the only place to get that kind of detail, specifically designed for me, was from one source… me!  So I went to work on one.

Thanks to getting my own glucose monitoring device, I can check my blood sugars after eating and see what actually happens with certain foods – which ones spike my sugar levels and which don’t.  While I thought I’d drive my wonderful husband crazy with my diligent measuring, logging, testing, and cheering and/or bemoaning the results …he’s  been so supportive (no surprise really) and has gotten into complimenting my efforts.  There are other factors I am figuring out too, like the “dawn phenomena” of sugar spikes in the early a.m. hours and how to manage that.  It’s a work in progress – but I can assure you, I AM making good progress.  Each day, I am more comfortable with knowing “what to eat” and am expanding my testing to more exotic and once forbidden items with tweaks in the recipes. What’s working for me…using a little math (45 grams of carbs at a meal is my target) and ensuring balance between fats, carbs, and proteins.  Also, I eat real food, not artificial substitutes (more on that in upcoming posts).

Recently I’ve put puddings, brûlées, & custards back into my diet.  I just love them, savory and sweet, but have stayed away from the sweets completely for a couple years.  The reason a brûlée or pudding is better for me than cake is that there are normally more protein and fats in a pudding than those that exist in a cake.  Refined grains and sugars spike a diabetic’s sugar levels enormously.  Eggs and dairy (in puddings) are proteins and fats, which you actually need for balancing the sugars.  It’s all about balance…think balance and you can have a bit of everything.  Last month I enjoyed my niece’s pumpkin brûlée, and another day, a savory flan from Market Restaurant in San Diego.  Neither spiked my sugar levels…yay, I got to have my pudding, and eat it too 🙂

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Brûlée...I had mine without the "carmelized sugar" and no sugar spike later ...hurray...

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Brûlée…I had mine without the “carmelized sugar” and no sugar spike later …hurray…

Parmesan savory pudding with corn bread from Market in San Diego

Parmesan savory pudding with corn bread from Market in San Diego

 

 

Along with a lovely cup of tea…usually an oolong in the evening.

 

Aging and Eating….Whatever Your Age May Be

For the past few years I’ve struggled with managing my diet in an effort to keep my borderline type 2 Diabetes “borderline”… and after ten years, “borderline” went to actual “diabetes”.  It is a progressive disease.  I now know what that means.  After slinking into myself for several weeks – contemplating how to deal with this diagnosis, along with newly prescribed medicines, I’ve come out with a wider perspective on what to do, how to do it, and still and alwayscompletely enjoy my meals, because as some of you know, every morning I wake up just thrilled and excited about the prospects of “what to eat” and pair that with my favorite teas.

At 30 years old I went through something similar to this drama about “what to eat” when I first remember “ever” putting on weight. At a checkup, I actually asked my doctor, “what is all this stuff around my middle area?”  I was serious, she laughed and said, “That’s fat!  Quit eating so much.  You’re 30 now, your body is changing.  You can’t eat the way you did in your teens and 20’s.”

And, I ask you, “Is this happening in your house?” Christmas dinner was at our home. The menu needed to have the following options: gluten free, soy free, low sodium, low carb, vegetarian and carnivore dishes while being delicious, traditional, and cohesive…whew!!!  With a little thought, we did it.

I have concluded the once “niche” diet is actually the “mainstream” diet today.

Thank goodness for tea!  Always a great fit with an enormous variety of options for varied tastes… and here’s the deal with tea… it’s gluten free, vegetarian (vegan), no carb, no sodium, soy free, and can be paired with any type of food you desire…I say… awwwwwwesome 🙂

Eat . Be . Tea is taking a little different road going forward…focused onto  “a new way to eat”… Answering the question “What to eat?” and still feel good after consuming – with the caveat that we continue to just LOVE our meals and not just “settle” for some calories that are supposedly “good for us!”  It will be interesting, enlightening, and fun…and pertinent to each of us at any stage in our lives…if I had known all this at 30, I might not have two to three sizes of clothes in my closet today 🙂

You will see my favorite finds over the next several weeks … (I would have started sooner, but have had a multi-week glitch with my technology…now corrected we think,,yay)… I’m back!  And with a vengeance towards eating deliciously and well…my numbers are totally under control after 26 weeks of figuring out what works for me (and I now have to buy new clothes…a lower size)…all the way…there was always always tea.!!!!

See you soon…with foods and recipes to meet your needs today.

 

 

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes…

Valerie's heirloom tomato + awesome Di Stefano Burrata...is there anything better? Well yes, when slathered onto a crusty piece of ciabatta bread

Valerie’s heirloom tomatoes with awesome Di Stefano Burrata, calamata olives and EVOO…is there anything better? Well yes, when all this is slathered onto a crusty piece of ciabatta bread

A few years ago, I discovered that when it’s tomato season, eat them!  Particularly heirlooms in August and September.   I am a little bit picky about eating a fruit or vegetable that is marred in any way.  I’ve actually spent most of my life steering away from fresh tomatoes as, often, I found them to be mealy or tasteless, unless cooked down into my Mom’s fabulous pasta sauce (the best mmm)  or slow roasted in a low oven.  My father did not enjoy fresh tomatoes…he preferred them cooked…(and here we are from an Italian household :-).  But that’s because we did not have accessibility to the gorgeous varieties now found at our farmer’s markets, healthy food stores, and from discerning restauranteurs ….

I just love quality ingredients and foods that burst with flavor without being manipulated too much.  I haven’t posted much lately because I have been struggling with figuring out just what is o.k. for me to eat (needing to identify ingredients that won’t make my glucose levels spike up). It’s been a frustrating time for me working through which foods work and which don’t for me …and being a professed foodaholic, I’ve been a little down about some necessary restrictions (but more about that on another post)…in the meantime, I have been ordering and preparing fresh, heirloom and dry farmed (from Whole Foods) tomato salads … often…almost daily.

Below are a few photos of my favorites.

Beautiful tomato, fresh mozzarella bruschetta with fresh basil from a Napa Restaurant

Beautiful tomato, fresh mozzarella bruschetta with fresh basil from a Napa Restaurant…

 

Caprese Salad with fresh bur rata, heirloom tomatoes topped with Caviar from Bottega... Chef Michael Chiarello's fine restaurant in Yountville (Napa Valley)... I just love the drizzle of basil oil

Caprese Salad with fresh burrata, heirloom tomatoes topped with Caviar from Bottega… Chef Michael Chiarello’s fine restaurant in Yountville (Napa Valley)… I just love the drizzle of basil oil

 

Most satisfying and healthy heirloom tomatoes, fresh arugula, interesting beans I can't remember the name of, a bit of ricotta salada cheese and aged balsamic from Chef David Pratt at Brick Pizzeria in San Clemente, Ca... I go there at least once a week to order this until the season is over...a meal by itself and all farm fresh, organic ingredients...delightful!

Most satisfying and healthy heirloom tomatoes, fresh arugula, interesting beans I can’t remember the name of, a bit of ricotta salada cheese and aged balsamic from Chef David Pratt at Brick Pizzeria in San Clemente, Ca… I go there at least once a week to order this until the season is over…a meal by itself and all farm fresh, organic ingredients…delightful!

 

Truly refreshing...tomato gazpacho with Maine lobster from Market in Del Mar, Ca... perfect with a glass of Sancerre

Truly refreshing…tomato, cucumber, and radish gazpacho with Maine lobster from Market in Del Mar, Ca… perfect with a glass of Sancerre

 

Thus far, these have been my favorite tomato dishes of this season (although I’ve made a few of my own at home that rival them…

One thing I did notice this week in checking my glucose levels after consuming huge slices of heirloom tomatoes on a slice of artisan bread I got from the farmer’s market…my numbers did jump up a good bit…guess I need to remember that “tomatoes ARE a fruit” and higher in sugars that other veggies…oh well, they are still good for me…moderation may be in order going forward though. I’ll wash them down with a lovely cup of whole leaf oolong…which is very good for me anytime 🙂

Drink tea…it’s good for you!

This Morning’s Harvest…The Perfect Season to Be on a Plant-Based Diet

TFL morning harvest Stunning squash blossoms, ramps, and more

TFL morning harvest
Stunning squash blossoms, ramps, and more

 

Radishes, peppers, baby paddy pan squash, and more deliciousness

Radishes, peppers, baby paddy pan squash, and more deliciousness

IMG_6301Four weeks ago I moved to a plant-based only diet (aka vegan; however, it seems the word “vegan” has gone out of fashion for some).   “Whatever”, I say … because even though a bit of grated parmesan has topped a few of my salad plates the last few weeks, and I consumed my last bit of organic, whole milk with my morning cup of black tea (didn’t want to waste it :-).  I feel better…  and I have lost 5 pounds in a month (a big deal to my 5’2″ frame), and my arthritis has calmed down immensely…and I love the food I am cooking and discovering when eating out.  The big test will be what my numbers are in three weeks when I get my lab work done to see if I reversed my diabetes back into being GONE  gone gone…(keep your fingers crossed).

Here’s the neat thing too… I don’t weigh, measure, or count much of anything I choose to consume …as long as it is plant-based, usually a whole food (except for a bit of bread and crackers)…this has been easy and flavorful and fun to figure out what to make for each meal and what to order out…oh, and I have been considerate of reducing even the good fats.  I had a tendency to go a bit crazy with the EVOO, nuts, and avocados before this sojourn into veganism.

I don’t do shakes or soy protein, or texturized this or that which mocks a meat product either.  Quinoa has become my friend.  Seriously!  I must say going veggie, fruit and grain based in the summer was just a stunning idea.  The plethora of outstanding produce is the perfect platform from which to launch this effort… a recipe for success I’d say.  Go plant-based in the summer months.

O.K…. I will confess that the photos above are NOT from my puny little garden…we sprinted up to Napa and our favorite little town of Yountville a couple weeks ago to celebrate my darling husband’s birthday, just the two of us…and this stunning produce is from Thomas Keller’s gardens, across from The French Laundry and down the street from his Bouchon and Ad Hoc restaurants.  We got to enjoy some of his produce at Bouchon…the best tomato and compressed melon salad EVER…with a fresh basil puree (I had them hold the slice of Spanish ham (darn) …still AWESOME though… the photo doesn’t do it justice but here it is anyway.

Bouchon...Heirloom tomato, compressed melon, teeny onions, basil puree...awesome"ness" on a board...so much flavor

Bouchon…Heirloom tomato, compressed melon, teeny onions, basil puree…awesome”ness” on a board…so much flavor….o.k. see, there is just a teeny bit of grated parmesan on top (it’s o.k….it was from a good source 🙂

Will update you soon on my progress… below are photos of MY morning harvest, not quite so plush as Thomas Keller’s garden produce, but full of flavor and I know the source too 🙂   Local and trustworthy 🙂

My morning harvest...Japanese eggplant, heirloom tomatoes (tiny but truly full of flavor) nectarines (from our new tree, just juicy and delicious)...not the TFL but still good.

My morning harvest…Japanese eggplant, heirloom tomatoes (tiny but truly full of flavor) nectarines (from our new tree, just juicy and delicious)…not the TFL but still good.

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