A Few Of My Favorite Things In 2016 & What’s Next?

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. 聽Food, tea, family, literature, gardening…all these things inspired me this past year. 聽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 馃檪

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 br没l茅es and her apple crostatas. 聽Her 4 ounce br没l茅e is a perfect dessert for me…and doesn’t raise my glucose levels at all (yay!!!)

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Br没l茅e…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. 聽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). 聽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. 聽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. 聽Happy New Year! 聽and remember…

Drink Tea … It’s good for you … and even better with a good book.

 

 

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 Br没l茅e...I had mine without the "carmelized sugar" and no sugar spike later ...hurray...

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Br没l茅e…the perfect size with a little grated nutmeg…no need to聽br没l茅e 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. 聽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 –聽 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. 聽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 – 聽I use one/sixth of the sugar called for on the recipe on the box. 聽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 聽 聽 3 T. Tapioca 聽 聽 1 tsp Vanilla

1 T. sugar 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 2 C milk

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

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

…stirring constantly. 聽Remove from heat. 聽Add egg white mixture, stir until blended. 聽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! 聽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!” 聽Give it a try.

This fluffy tapioca with a cup of tea is perfect! 聽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 &聽Creme Br没l茅e 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 馃檪

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). 聽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.” 聽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… 聽 聽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! 聽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. 聽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 聽been so supportive (no surprise really) and has gotten into complimenting my efforts. 聽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. 聽It’s a work in progress – but I can assure you, I AM making good progress. 聽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. 聽Also, I eat real food, not artificial substitutes (more on that in upcoming posts).

Recently I’ve put puddings, br没l茅es, & custards back into my diet. 聽I just love them, savory and sweet, but have stayed away from the sweets completely for a couple years. 聽The reason a br没l茅e 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. 聽Refined grains and sugars spike a diabetic’s sugar levels enormously. 聽Eggs and dairy (in puddings) are proteins and fats, which you actually need for balancing the sugars. 聽It’s all about balance…think balance and you can have a bit of everything. 聽Last month I enjoyed my niece’s pumpkin br没l茅e, and another day, a savory flan from Market Restaurant in San Diego. 聽Neither spiked my sugar levels…yay, I got to have my pudding, and eat it too 馃檪

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Br没l茅e...I had mine without the "carmelized sugar" and no sugar spike later ...hurray...

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Br没l茅e…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”. 聽It is a progressive disease. 聽I now know what that means. 聽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?” 聽I was serious, she laughed and said, “That’s fat! 聽Quit eating so much. 聽You’re 30 now, your body is changing. 聽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!!! 聽With a little thought, we did it.

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

Thank goodness for tea! 聽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 馃檪

Eat . Be . Tea is taking a little different road going forward…focused onto 聽“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!” 聽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 馃檪

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! 聽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! 聽Particularly heirlooms in August and September. 聽 I am a little bit picky about eating a fruit or vegetable that is marred in any way. 聽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) 聽or slow roasted in a low oven. 聽My father did not enjoy fresh tomatoes…he preferred them cooked…(and here we are from an Italian household :-). 聽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. 聽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 馃檪

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). 聽 “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 :-). 聽I feel better… 聽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. 聽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 聽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. 聽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. 聽Quinoa has become my friend. 聽Seriously! 聽I must say going veggie, fruit and grain based in the summer was just a stunning idea. 聽The plethora of outstanding produce is the perfect platform from which to launch this effort… a recipe for success I’d say. 聽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. 聽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 馃檪

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 馃檪 聽 Local and trustworthy 馃檪

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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