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

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.  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.

 

 

Testing Out “The Law of Attraction” & The Power of Positive Thinking

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!

Enjoy

 

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!

Tea & Tolstoy … Devouring War & Peace 31 Pages at a Time

My Lenten commitment - 2016 was to read War and Peace (unabridged)

A little “tea and Tolstoy” in our room in Carmel…on a Winter’s day…

While consuming lots and lots of tea, I accomplished a goal I’ve had for over a decade… to “re-read” a complete, unabridged, beautifully translated version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  How this came about? I was a Russian Lit minor in college and for decades have professed that my favorite book of all time is War and Peace.  However, I was 21 years old when I read this epic tome and had been wondering whether it would hold up over time as #1 for me still…I mean, I’ve read a lot of great books since then.

Part of my love for everything “tea” came from reading this book in my early 20’s.  I remember that there was a constant referral to teatime throughout the text …  and often tea was taken in the most remote places..with generals in a tent, in a Russian battlefield, in the cold of winter … prepared for them by servants who lugged their leader’s samovars and tea through tough terrain.  Tea was seemingly ALWAYS present.  Men drank tea as much or more than women.  This constant taking of afternoon tea struck me as being oddly civilized, while all around,  thousands of lives were being destroyed, often on the whim of an arrogant officer’s shallow desire to gain favor, accolades or medals from a general, prince or the “great” Napoleon.   

On our recent trip to Carmel, I decided to lug my 1,279 page hardback book along and see if I could muster the tenacity to start.  As the Lenten season began while on our vacation, I made it a goal to finish reading the book in 40 days…that meant plowing through 31 pages a day to accomplish this task. Many are long, hard pages, as there was French language to wade through with the English translation depicted at the bottom of the page.  There is also lots of philosophy and dissertation about  ‘life in all it’s manifestations” expounded throughout by the brilliant author.

Well, I did it!  It took Tolstoy five years to write it and me 37 days to read it.  And yes, it holds up beautifully.  What an awesome, remarkable book.  I am truly glad that I read it again at a time in my life when I can more fully appreciate Tolstoy’s philosophy and astute reflections on history and what factors manifest war and peace – o.k., and there are great love stories throughout too   :-).

I can attest that the referral to tea time is prevalent in War and Peace, and just as in Downton Abbey, the setting of taking tea encouraged a great deal of drama and dialogue.  I almost think that we really could solve most of the world’s problems over a cup of tea – if only we had the will to do so :-).

Reading Tolstoy again reinforced for me how “teatime can be anytime and anyplace,” and that,  great literature is great for a reason…because the universal themes of life transcend time.   I felt accomplished when done and comforted that while many things have changed since the war in 1812, the comfort and civilized rituals around having a cup of tea has withstood the test of time and continues to be a good thing in the scheme of life.. and war and peace.

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.