Reflecting can be a good thing…so here is a brief pictorial journey of the things that inspired me in 2016, along with a hint as to my direction for 2017. Food, tea, family, literature, gardening…all these things inspired me this past year. Our #1 food experience….drum roll please…Providence, L.A. where acclaimed, Chef M. Ciurisky, WOWS every time in an unassuming fashion!
Providence – Chef M. Ciurisky’s fabulous L.A. restaurant. My #1 dining experience 2016…by far…
Each and every dish is simply spectacular in it’s conception, flavor, and presentation…starting with their delectable handmade oyster cracker filled with sumptuous salmon and a lovely little foamy soup…tasting of the sea.
Providence handmade oyster crackers filled with salmon…served with a foamy sip of soup…
First course…handmade oyster cracker filled with salmon and a scrumptious foamy taste of soup…yes we wanted more 🙂
Continuing to be our top vacationing experience…the Napa Valley … and it’s not just about the wine (well, it is, but….) the gardens are spectacular.
Winter mustard cover crop at Frog’s Leap…so gorgeous.
My birthday dinner was a surprise visit to the acclaimed Restaurant at Meadowood
Just loved the road leading to Coppola’s stunning Inglenook Winery on a cloudy, drizzly day
The French Laundry gardeners kindly post their seasonal garden schematic..here is fall 2016
Our other top vacationing experience…Southern California beaches…surf camp with our grandsons, family week (a tradition), & now sister time too…and awesome seafood.
Carlsbad California sunset from our vacation spot
Reading great writing…with a cup of tea of course…my fete this year was re-enjoying War & Peace as a Lenten goal…1,287 unabridged pages in 40 days…still my favorite book of all time.
My Lenten commitment – 2016 was to read War and Peace (unabridged)
Dealing with life changes and dietary changes yet coming up with fabulous and satisfying alternatives … My niece Samantha’s unctuous and decadent petite creme brûlées and her apple crostatas. Her 4 ounce brûlée is a perfect dessert for me…and doesn’t raise my glucose levels at all (yay!!!)
Sammy cakes Pumpkin Brûlée…I had mine without the “carmelized sugar” and no sugar spike later …hurray…
Sammy cakes apple crostata … just a rustic thing of beauty and flavor.
Our vegetable and fruit gardens this year were the best ever…all organic and unique veggies grown from seeds. My husband’s favorite…watermelon radishes..also several heirloom cucumbers (including the lemon cuke which looks like a lemon but fully tastes like a cucumber). Gorgeous tomatoes and basils and beets and herbs … it was a good year and good yield, along with figs and pomegranates and Fuji apples…odd looking nectarines that tasted rich and delicious.
Our 2016 backyard harvest …
Food and teatime will always be a focal point of joy, inspiration and excitement in my life…and will be experienced in Eat Be Tea; however, I am excited to embark on a year of literary exploration this next week…beginning with two ventures; 1) Exploring the classics through the writings of the immortals in the Harvard Classics and 2) enjoying a year-long book club all about author Jane Austen. You will hear more about this focus next week and my hope is that you will follow along, and maybe get into the literature yourself. Happy New Year! and remember…
Drink Tea … It’s good for you … and even better with a good book.
Mom’s (Betty’s) teacups…she was the start of my love for tea and blogging about it…
Yes, I have been M.I.A. for awhile…not for any one particular reason either…but things added up to cause a bit of disillusionment with keeping up with this blog. Last year at this time I was happily blogging about food and tea and the meaning of life in all it’s manifestations (War and Peace revisited emerged:-) when my blog was suddenly and inexplicably…..hacked! It just disappeared… gone! I had to go through several machinations and $$$ to get it back, and it irritated me 🙁 But, dutiful as I am, I got it restored after hours of stress with the hosting site, the security site, and my wonderful web person (who doesn’t really do this anymore but helped me anyway – thank you Wendi). After restoring it, I was told it was just plain silly for me not to have annual security coverage and other stuff to protect my little tea and food blog from evil doers…so I did that. Then I had to renew my hosting stuff … so I did that… then my photos went through some update that has made it much more difficult for me to edit and post … so I just QUIT! Ha! I got even with all of them.
Over the past few weeks, I was feeling inspired to write again and have several half done posts to finish…but then, I started getting bombarded with security site emails telling me that my “auto renewal for security won’t renew automatically…” well of course it won’t…I never do that…rarely do I leave a credit card sitting online…so daily I have been getting this email asking for the renewal fee or guess what…”my site will be in jeopardy of the evil doers again!” … yuck. Fear mongering has never impressed me as a way to sell a concept or product (and I was in sales for 30 years so have an idea of what makes for a rational reason to buy something).
Last week, I had worked with my niece on a college paper she was doing on “The Law of Attraction” and the Power of Positive Thinking. It has been inspirational for me. So inspirational that I’ve decided to follow the vibrations of positive energy and am NOT renewing my security for EATBETEA. Therefore, this blog may just disappear overnight. But I am willing to take the risk. I feel good about it. I am sending out positive vibes that it hangs on in the midst of evil doers…that there is a shield of whole leaf teas that will fend off any potential invader.
On a separate note, I have been thinking of going a different direction with my writing and might start a new site. If so, I will let you all know – you might want to follow. Tea will always be involved, as tea continues to be a most positive daily ritual in my life. No matter what happens, tea and the 5 minutes of steeping a great cup is something I plan to keep as a positive focal point. It is the thing I wake up looking forward to each morning. No matter what diet changes are needed; whole leaf, antioxidant filled organic teas harvested from quality growers will fit in … and it seems to me, it attracts positive energy!
Drink tea…It’s good for you!
Cinnamon and Nutmeg…my favorite spices in place of sugar
Using a microplane to shave a little nutmeg
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…
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.
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…
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!
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!
TFL morning harvest
Stunning squash blossoms, ramps, and more
Radishes, peppers, baby paddy pan squash, and more deliciousness
Four 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….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.
At Melrose and Highland, L.A. (walking distance to Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza) sits Chef Ludo’s Petit Trois – located in a dive looking strip mall. It’s bar seating only, seats about 30 and is just delightful (and full fat for sure).
For the past few years, I have battled keeping my blood sugar at a good level…recently my numbers jumped up and put me back into that type 2 diabetic stage… 🙁 So….I’ve decided to make a change. While I normally watch my diet fairly closely and have gone through lots and lots of training on “how to eat as a diabetic”… something just isn’t working for me right now; therefore, after discussing a variety of options with a wellness expert, we determined my going with a reduced fat, “plant-based diet” for the next eight weeks (yep, vegan…but sshhhhh, “don’t say vegan out loud” she said…”people don’t like that word”). I’ve gone plant based before…about 15 years ago, and remember how good I felt on that plan. So, I am going for it. My lab work is due at the end of August, and I am giving “plant-based” eating a shot to see if I can drop my numbers back to the normal range. I am motivated! I love a challenge and immediately embraced planning what I would eat, how I would prepare it and how tasty I could make it… However…I had a teeny obstacle before I could start. My dear husband had reservations for us the next night at a “hot” new small French Bistro in L.A., Petit Trois. I didn’t check out the Petit Trois menu before going, figuring there would be enough plant-based, low fat items on the menu to choose from, well, I was wrong. It is a tiny place with a Parisienne flair and a delightful French Bistro menu … meaning EVERYTHING was authentic French … with butter to die for (almost literally for me I suppose). I decided to embrace the situation (as not to hurt my husband’s feelings, who is always so supportive of my diet management)…and I treated this as my last full-fat, animal-style meal for the next two months…beginning with a lovely glass of Sancerre (chilled to perfection) to cut through the fat 🙂 It was seriously fabulous food, no wonder Chef Ludo (who was a judge on the short-lived cooking contest show called “The Taste” with Chef Anthony Bordain) is getting rave reviews for his bistro. Below are photos of our meal…starting with escargot…and the best crispy French bread and butter. I immersed myself in the environment and thoroughly enjoyed every morsel and all the butter! Hurray for the butter! I had enough to last my 8 weeks of going low fat!
Escargot drenched in clarified butter, herbs and garlic…and the best French bread and French salted butter…what a start to the meal mmmmmmmm
Escargot is one of their top menu items…we hadn’t had them in ages…they are a meal unto themselves …they had buckets full of them ready to order…
Our starter salad of tomatoes, creamy burrata, toasted bread crumbs, basil and a vanilla, lemon grass dressing was stunning (and NOT Italian they claimed- NOT a caprese salad!…very French).. pictured below… I went with green beans topped with toasted almonds….drenched in butter of course…just perfect
And then there was this…the last meat/animal product I plan to eat for 8 weeks… disguised under that beautiful frise herb salad is a crispy, golden fried confit style chicken leg…an excellent last meal choice if I say so myself (I just love chicken legs)
Ludo has an interesting and mysterious looking full French restaurant next door to Petit Trois bistro…we will be checking this out soon (after August if all goes well with the numbers game I am attempting to manage). It’s called Troi Mec and has an interesting reservation system…something like a lottery I gather. Will check it out and let you know. It is said to be exciting, unique and was named best restaurant in 2013.
The only bad thing about the whole experience…Petit Trois does NOT offer any tea service. When I ordered tea…they said they could give me hot water with lemon, oh well…the rest of the meal was beautifully served in this relaxed bar, and clearly, professionally run kitchen. Watching your meal being prepared in front of you in their tiny kitchen was cool too.
I had my cup of tea on the way home…a Starbucks run 🙂