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.

 

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.

The Finesse of the Donut @ Blue Star Donuts

Blue Star Donuts...this way, you couldn't miss it with the line out the door.  The line moved along quickly and efficiently...it was fun being there and gave you a bit of time to figure out which donut to choose

Blue Star Donutsthis way>>> Actually, you couldn’t miss it as there was a  line running out the door. The line moved along quickly and efficiently…it was fun being there and moving through the line gave you a bit of time to figure out which donut to choose.

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Visiting Blue Star Donuts on a drizzly Portland, Or. morning

Visiting Blue Star Donuts on a drizzly Portland, Or. morning

Portland, Oregon offers a plethora of fabulous, remarkable, and renowned cafes and bakery establishments….none more popular (and rightly so) than Blue Star Donuts.  With a line of patient patrons running out the door, this Food Network featured cool shop, known for offering unique, quality donuts which reflect a high degree of craft, understanding of ingredients, and skill in creating is totally worth the wait and the calories.

The display of products was tantalizing, clean, and simple…and donuts are just about made fresh to order.

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The donuts...

The donuts…using fine ingredients such as Valrhona chocolate, hazelnuts, and my favorite combination, maple & bacon Mmmmmmmm

Who would have thought a donut could be cool.

The staff was delightful and helpful.  I love an open kitchen, theirs reflected great organization and was really clean!  My nephew said he once heard Chef/Owner Stephanie Thornton say “we just make donuts.” How nice to see someone master their craft, do it well, and offer remarkable consistent products which tantalize your taste buds with diverse combinations.

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Blue Star kitchen...organized, clean and lots of brioche donuts ready to get dressed :-)

Blue Star kitchen…organized, clean and lots of brioche donuts ready to get dressed 🙂

The decor was cool, white, and clean with really neat descriptions of their philosophy of quality and a good education in the definition of various social media platforms…note the use of Steven Smith Teas…and Portland’s Stumptown Coffees. All consistent with the quality of the donuts.IMG_1689

 

It's about "quality" and I got schooled too in social media defined...

It’s about “quality” and I got schooled too in social media defined…

My biggest challenge was managing how to eat breakfast at one of the awesome breakfast eateries and  fit in donuts!  It was work, but we figured it out :-). While we did a good job getting to several eating establishments on our Portland must do list, we will definitely need a few more trips back to this wonderful city to consume more of the beautiful products offered.

Hello Friands…

No…this is not a typo.  But I thought it was when I saw “Friands” as the chapter heading in a sweet little tea book I found at the Huntington Gardens and Library this week.  As you can imagine, I have many books about tea and tea time experiences.  The photos in this one are strikingly clean and beautiful.  I picked it up to purchase, flipped to the table of contents, and was taken aback by the apparent misspelling of their chapter titled Friands.  My mind’s paradigm immediately assumed that tea with friends was a fitting chapter for an afternoon tea book. I even read a blog titled Tea With Friends.  Wondering how an editor missed this blatant typo, I flipped to page 32 and saw it again….but this time, realized there was no error…I learned something new…about a baked good called Friands.

Table of Contents from the book The Afternoon Tea Collection by Sterling publishing

Table of Contents from the book The Afternoon Tea Collection by Sterling publishing

Friands is the real name for a growing food trend in pastry for afternoon tea partakers and  petite pastry fans. It’s also simple to prepare as a gluten free product as less than 6% of the ingredients is flour.

Friands...featured in The Afternoon Tea Collection...by Sterling A tiny cake primarily made from almond flour, egg whites and sugar...easy to adapt for a gluten free treat

Friands…featured in The Afternoon Tea Collection…by Sterling
A tiny cake primarily made from almond flour, egg whites and sugar…easy to adapt for a gluten free treat

Friands originated in France (no surprise  🙂 )  May also be called a financier.  It is popular in Australia and New Zealand.

The main ingredients include egg whites, almond flour (or ground almonds), sugar, butter and flavoring of your choice and is baked in small molds, often oval in shape.

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Lemon Friand...dainty little cake - from Friand

Lemon Friand…dainty little cake – from Karen Kennedy of The Friand Cake Company, U.K.

From Karen Kennedy of The Friand Cake Company in Scotland...”Having icing sugar and egg whites instead of whole eggs and very little flour, makes them dreamily light, while the ground almonds keep them beautifully chewy and moist. Moreover, my Friands are all made using gluten and wheat free flour. To this basic recipe, I add an elaborate range of fillings, drizzles and toppings to produce a delicious and delicate tea or dessert cake in the true patisserie genre.
The French word friand broadly translated means “dainty or a gourmet who delights in delicate tastes” Literally it is translated as “partial to or fond of “ which is very appropriate for a Friand because most people are! ” Pictured here are a few photos of The Friand Cake Company’s gorgeous delicate little cakes.

Enjoy with a lovely cup of tea 🙂

 

Friands from Karen Kennedy, The Friand Cake Company

Friands from Karen Kennedy, The Friand Cake Company

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.