Teas as the Spice of Life…Satisfy that Chocolate Craving (with NO Carbs :-)

The other day we did a tea tasting event where we served petite desserts in the finishing course…  my decadent dark chocolate brownies are always a hit and a superb finishing bite paired with jasmine pearl green tea.   We cut the brownies into small bites… and o.k., I did need to taste one 🙂 mmmmm.  These sweets do have carbs and plenty of fat and are wonderful now and then, and one bite doesn’t seem to hurt my goal to stay within range on my diabetes management program; however, on a daily basis, this is a no go for me.  The good news is there are excellent alternatives in my tea cupboard which are enormously satisfying in this area.  Whenever I have a sweet craving, I can go to my tea stash and scan for which variety of tea will enhance my afternoon break, a little ritual for myself to perk me up through the dangerous “raid the pantry” time which occurs for me between 3 p.m .and 5 p.m.

Spices infused into whole leaf teas are a treat that can satisfy your desires while saving you (and me) from a regretful binge.

Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies...bite sized...from Tea With Betty...

Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies…bite sized…from Tea With Betty…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are savory, spicy, and sweet tasting varieties of teas that can boggle your taste buds. Try some that sound good to you.  My sister goes for the fruity infusions.  My grandsons just love chai.  Masala Chai is a powerful taste satisfier…having all the holiday spices and black pepper really punch up it’s flavor. While I add whole milk to this, I do NOT add sugar to any tea (my grandsons enjoy a bit of honey in theirs).  Peet’s brand Masala Chai is a delightful and powerful Indian blend which includes cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, cloves and pepper.  The pepper really comes through and it tastes like dessert.

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Peet's Masala Chai spiced black tea...delicious either hot or cold...blended too

Peet’s Masala Chai spiced black tea…delicious either hot or cold…blended too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate PU-ERH ancient teas by NUMI ... all organic and truly hits the chocolate in a satisfying manner

Chocolate PU-ERH ancient healing teas by NUMI … all organic and truly hits the chocolate in a satisfying manner

But when I crave chocolate…I go to chocolate infused teas.  I have tasted dozens and found remarkable varieties.  Mighty Leaf has several, some even include tiny chocolate chips which melt as you infuse the tea.  Numi Organic Chocolate Puerh is a particularly satisfying cup of tea…this and a small square (1 ounce ) of 70% dark chocolate is dessert in itself…and so good for you!  Of all the chocolate tea blends I have tried, this is my absolute favorite.  It truly tastes like a heart-warming cup of decadent chocolate and it’s claim of being “velvety smooth” is accurate…and 0 carbs!

This tea, with one or two squares of my organic Theo 70% Dark Chocolate Bar, or new favorite, organic CHOCXO 70% with chocolate nibs is a perfect indulgent, decadent and “legal” snack for me…it may work for you too.  And there is a little pick-me-up with the small amount of caffeine in both.

Drink tea…it’s good for you!

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.

 

 

 

 

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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Mom’s Cream Puffs for a Friend…

Mom's Cream Puffs...pate choux filled with homemade vanilla bean pastry cream...(for my dear friend's birthday)

Mom’s Cream Puffs…light and delicate – crispy on the outside, eggy on the inside, petite pate choux puffs  filled with homemade vanilla bean pastry cream…(a request from my dear friend Dawn for her  birthday)

I guess you could call cream puffs a retro dessert.  My Mom would whip these lovely, delicate, crispy yet creamy pastries up seemingly on a moment’s notice.  Cream puffs were popular in the 1960’s and have long been a favorite of mine.  I hadn’t made these in a couple years, but when my good friend was over last month telling me how much she would just love an eclair that wasn’t filled with an over sweet pastry cream and that it didn’t need to be dipped in chocolate either –  I told her the best recipe is actually in my Tea With Betty book (which she has) and that Mom’s Pastry Cream and Pate Choux recipes are simple to prepare.  She looked at me like, “right, I’m going to make those with two kids and a job” sooooo, I jumped in and said “I’ll make you some for your birthday”…(which was a couple weeks away).  When the time came, I was unexpectedly swamped with a work project and didn’t think I could get them done on time.  I fretted over this, as I detest not fulfilling a commitment; so, late the night before her birthday, I determinedly pulled my recipes out, read them, realized I actually had all the ingredients on hand and  concluded,  “I CAN do this!”  The next afternoon I delivered a very fresh batch to her on time…and I had fun preparing them.  As I delivered her not too sweet puffs, the fragrance wafting from the container took me right back to Mom’s kitchen … so, it was with a double special feeling that I watched Dawn and her family gobble down these delightful sweets.  Mom’s pastry cream recipe is here in a post I did a couple years ago.

Sometimes I overthink things … and make mountains out of mole hills (as my husband would attest to), and which is what I did when worrying about baking these on time.  My savior of time was dragging out my husband’s big, heavy, 35 year old,  avocado green Kitchenaide stand mixer.  I used the mixer to finish the pastry cream, then, while it was chilling in the refrigerator, I threw together the pate choux using the mixer.  Mom always made her pate choux in a heavy bottom saucepan using a wooden spoon to beat in one egg at a time (a job my sister and I took over as we got into our teens).  I must say the mixer did the work beautifully and swiftly.

Below is the pate choux, ready to put in a piping bag and pipe onto parchment for baking…then the finished product just out of the oven.  They came out perfectly, a little crisp on the outside and nice and soft on the inside with plenty of room for filling.

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I did attempt to make elongated, eclair shaped puffs but they came out rather thin and were difficult to fill…so I opted for round too…they were all just wonderful in the end.

These go really well with a cup of Jasmine pearl green tea.

Elongated eclair shapes are what I started out to make...but they were a bit too thin, but tasted great...I ended up having to split them in half to fill them, but everyone stilled loved them.

Elongated eclair shapes are what I started out to make…but they were a bit too thin, yet tasted great…I ended up having to split them in half to fill them… everyone stilled loved them.

Freshly Made Herbal Infusions…at The Kitchen in Sacramento, California

Well, that terrible cough / cold and flu virus finally made it around to our house.  I was not immune…was down and out for over 10 days…but my bright spot is that it hit me on the drive home from our relaxing, beautiful 10 day vacation.  One in which there were several delightful tea moments.

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento is a spectacular dining event – dinner is held in an open, appealing environment with a demonstration kitchen in the center of the room.  We experienced this destination point dinner last year and were wildly impressed and throughly enjoyed the entire scene. I will post about their seriously gorgeous foods later. The fresh, fragrant, flavorful, ingeniously combined, unique ingredients and preparations we were exposed to were stunning.  However, I missed ordering their fresh herbal infusion (as I am not usually an herbal tisane fan, I opted for their loose leaf teas).  Well, my darling husband decided I should try their freshly cut and prepared herbal tisanes…so he took me back there this year for our anniversary as a nice surprise.  Interestingly, the dining experience was as exciting as last year, the food even more inventive and delicious with their fine new chef, David Chavez and I left thinking we will surely get back to The Kitchen every year!  It is awesome! And they accommodate any dietary restriction, happily, and with creative, flavorful adjustments.   Below are photos of our  fresh herbal tisanes, infused table side…they were delicious and made me rethink what an herbal infusion can be.  I ordered the “soothing” with rosemary, mint, ginger, and orange zest…it was just as named…soothing. And it was an excellent way to end this incredible meal.  I plan to make my own fresh infusions as my herbs perk up a bit in my garden this spring.

Baskets of fresh herbs, cut to order, infused in iron tetsubin pots...just delicious

Baskets of fresh herbs, cut to order, infused in iron tetsubin pots…just delicious

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Drink Tea…and Tisanes (herbals)  It’s good for you!