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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Petit Trois…Los Angeles… A Little More Butter Please :-)

At Melrose and HIghland, L.A. (walking distance to Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza Chef Ludo's Petit Trois sits in a dive looking strip mall.  It's bar seating only, seats about 30 and is just delightful (and full fat for sure).

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 drenched in clarified butter, herbs and garlic…and the best French bread and French salted butter…what a start to the meal mmmmmmmm

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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...

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...very French... I went with green beans topped with toasted almonds....drenched in butter of course...just perfect

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

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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)

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)

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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 🙂

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.

How Does Your Garden Grow? Our Hits & Misses…

new for us this season...tomatillos.  My husband loves salsa...these will go well with our jalapeños and tomatoes in a couple months...the interesting looking "paper like" exterior of this tomato like plant is gorgeous

New for us this season…tomatillos. My husband loves salsa…these will go well with our jalapeños and tomatoes in a couple months…the interesting looking “paper like” exterior of this plant is gorgeous

We’ve been working hard in the yard!!  This season’s garden has been particularly satisfying to get in and watch develop.  Our garden was on the San Juan Capistrano Garden Club tour in late April…thus we put a LOT of extra effort into sprucing up every nook and cranny of our backyard; planting more vegetables and new fruit trees…filling every blank corner with organic, beautiful, and hopefully bountiful crops.  The birds, bees, lizards, and butterflies seem thrilled with the plantings.  With our California drought condition, we updated our irrigation to ensure complete efficiency in water usage…this resulted in our achieving an award from our local water district (a little bonus, yay).  It’s been truly fulfilling to watch the literal “fruits” of our labor bloom….and thanks to my husband (who is in charge of the fruit trees (his favorite), and my sister and great friend (A.), we got everything installed in time for the tour.  Now, I’m ready to host a few tea lunches on the deck and enjoy the results …the “hits” early in the season are…Japanese eggplants (gorgeous leaves), heirloom tiger tomatoes, and from The French Laundry seeds I purchased on our last trip to Napa Valley (over a year ago), D’Avignon radishes, Chiogga beets, Nantes carrots.. all looking just gorgeous…my husband and I watch them grow, fawning over them like proud parents 🙂

2015 veggie crop...new this year, heirloom lemon cucumbers, from the French Laundry seeds - nantes carrots, chiogga beets, d'artangan radishes and our fave heirloom tiger striped tomatoes...and Japanese eggplants (which have the most beautiful leaves

2015 veggie crop…new this year, heirloom lemon cucumbers, from the French Laundry seeds – nantes carrots, chiogga beets, d’avignon radishes and our fave heirloom tiger striped tomatoes…and Japanese eggplants (which have the most beautiful leaves

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Our fruits trees are seemingly ecstatic with the new irrigation and deep mulch…fuji apples, nectarines, prolific pomegranate tree and our black mission fig and black jack fig trees are bursting with fruit

Fuji apples, Pomegranate fruit and blooms, and new for us, nectarines coming in

Fuji apples, Pomegranate fruit and blooms, and new for us, nectarines coming in

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Oops, and then there are the “misses”…hmmm, wonder what is gnawing on this nectarine…off to get some netting…and for me, a whole new allergy alleviation regime as my doctor said all my gardening was making me sick…next time, I’ll remember to wear a mask to minimize breathing in all that lovely organic matter 🙂

Whose been gnawing on my fruit .... ugh  This is where I start to get crazy...I don't mind sharing, but please wait until it gets a little ripe

Whose been gnawing on my fruit …. ugh
This is where I start to get crazy…I don’t mind sharing, but please wait until it gets a little ripe

The Modern Tea Bar… My Visit to Samovar SFO

So, I got a little side-tracked over the last two months…but, I am back 🙂  and have so much to share with you about recent tea and food experiences that “wowed” me.  In late January I shared my excitement about getting to San Francisco to explore the Samovar Tea Bars.  The post is here, titled Samovar Tea Bar here I come...  This photo is a shot from our car window as we crossed the Bay Bridge from Berkeley going into San Francisco on a stunning, crisp, February afternoon.  The bridge is enormous and such an engineering feat…notice the pyramid shaped TransAmerica building in the right background…a famous landmark site as one enters this unique cosmopolitan city.

View from our car window as we crossed the Bay Bridge going from Berkeley to San Francisco...a crisp, beautiful winter afternoon

View from our car window as we crossed the Bay Bridge going from Berkeley to San Francisco…a crisp, beautiful winter afternoon

It was the January issue of Food and Wine magazine that turned me on to this hot tea spot.  Then last week, our dear friends J. & J. saw Bon Appetit’s  four page spread in their current May issue called “Join the Tea Party” where they noted Samovar as a hot spot for tea calling it “the newest outpost … offers organic and single-origin teas steeped in futuristic French presses.” After reading all about Samovar, we got to experience it live and in person. This is a seriously awesome tea bar.  We went to the Yerba Buena location situated at the Moscone Center.  It is a bustling area…we went at a quiet time (10:30 a.m.) and enjoyed excellent service and fabulous tea and beautiful foods – and I loved our server’s t-shirt..and his incredible attitude.

My mantra and sign off for most posts is... "Drink Tea...it's good for you".. so we loved our server's t-shirt...too bad, they don't sell them.  He was very funny too.  What a fabulous atmosphere

My mantra and sign off for most posts is… “Drink Tea…it’s good for you”.. so we loved our server’s t-shirt…too bad, they don’t sell them. He was very funny too. What a fabulous atmosphere and he was happy to pose for a photo.

Our view walking up to the entrance to Samovar, Yerba Buena…

Walking up to Samovar Tea Bar ... signage on walkway...view from the front is expansive of San Francisco

Walking up to Samovar Tea Bar … signage on walkway…view from the front is gorgeous scene of San Francisco buildings with a large seating outside seating area not yet set up for the day…we went inside…it was cool out

IMG_5034Entrance…note my guy sitting inside…you can barely see him

just outside door to samovar...if you look closely, my main guy is sitting at our table...

just outside door to samovar…if you look closely, my main guy is sitting at our table…white collar, glasses, menu in hand…tolerating me photographing

It is just a cool place…a wall of tea canisters and clean, chic, white Samovar bags of tea are hanging off a large wall, easy to shop…

Wall of Tea...at Samovar Yerba Buena SFO

Wall of Tea…at Samovar Yerba Buena SFO

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The demographic of clientele is broad and global in nature, also, as many men as women taking tea.  Their menu offerings reflect a global perspective, their teas are clearly of superior quality and the tea service is masterful.  They are tea masters. We so enjoyed the easy attitude, and unpretentious yet perfectly styled table ware for each global menu.  Being there brought back the inspiration which drove me to write Tea With Betty as a menu planner for teas from 17 different cultures and perspectives.  I opted for the Russian tea menu.  (well, of course,  the place is called “Samovar”…the Russian hot water / tea service centerpiece that fascinated me with tea and society during my Russian Literature reading days).

Below is my Russian Caravan tea service, lightly smoky with milk …and a lunch plate featuring Russian tastes, salmon, beets, eggs with caviar and a perfect Russian tea biscuit.  But first, David went more Asian with a delicious Matcha tea …we went home with some incredible teas too.

Matcha tea served from a clear beaker, my Russian Caravan service with milk ... a black smoky tea...my Tolstoy menu...beets, salmon, caviar on eggs and peppery Russian tea biscuit..delicious

Matcha tea served from a clear beaker, my Russian Caravan service with milk … a black smoky tea…my Tolstoy menu…beets, salmon, caviar on eggs and peppery Russian tea biscuit..delicious

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Our tea and food...Matcha from a clear beaker for David...Russian Caravan, smoky black tea w/ milk and and delightful Tolsoy menu w/ salmon, caviar on eggs, beets, peppered Russian tea biscuit...the perfect slightly sweet bite to finish this lunch plate

My peppered Russian tea biscuit…the perfect slightly sweet bite to finish this lunch plate

 

We look forward to returning and trying other teas and menus.  The British tea looked so appealing, the scone rustic and full of oats…this one photo is from Samovar’s site, as the one I snapped didn’t come out well.

English menu...rustic scone, fritatta, fruits and black tea...lovely and not too sweet

English menu…rustic scone, fritatta, fruits and black tea…lovely and not too sweet

It was a treat.  Wish they were near me. It would certainly be a weekly venture, but at least I have enjoyed steeping the teas I brought home.

Drink tea…it’s good for you 🙂

Enjoy

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!

Samovar Tea Lounge…San Francisco Here I Come

The February issue of Food And Wine Magazine had a beautiful article about the modern teahouse.  Titled, Time For Tea, by Megan Krigbaum, she writes; “Spectacular new imports have helped create a tea obsession on par with the cult of coffee.  Here’s the latest news on the antioxidant rich drink.”  We are introduced to several beautiful tea shops, tea ware, and recipes.  In a few days, I am heading up to San Francisco…and am definitely going to spend time at Samovar Tea Lounges she writes about.  They look to be my idea of THE modern tea lounge…ones that I wish existed near our home.  Below are photos from their website…I will be taking my own and sharing with you soon, along with a bit of feedback as to which teas hit the mark for me and which pairings with foods were memorable.  In looking at their International tea time menus…they are reminiscent of how I laid out Tea With Betty (my tea manual)…seems what inspired me to write the book has, at last, come into existence in Northern California…

 

Samovar Tea Lounge...there are three locations...I plan to hit all of them when in San Francisco...

Samovar Tea Lounge…there are three locations…I plan to hit all of them when in San Francisco…

 

Various photos from Samovar Tea Lounge locations in the Bay area...can't wait to visit them all

Various photos from Samovar Tea Lounge locations in the Bay area…can’t wait to visit them all

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Reviewing these tea houses ought to be great fun…and they look to be so healthy too…

 

I Need a Trip to Napa…

Napa Valley in February 2014...wild mustard profusely blooming all over the valley as a stunning yellow cover crop -- photo opps appear around every corner...

Napa Valley in February 2014…wild mustard blooms profusely all over the valley as a stunning yellow cover crop — photo opps appear around every corner…

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Arguably the best time of year to go to Napa is during “crush” season…when the air is permeated with the fragrance of grapes, and the days are long,  the daytime fall temperatures are warm and breezy, and there is the hubbub of trucks and trailers hauling up and down Highway 29 with massive amounts of grapes spilling over the sides; however, my favorite time to be in this stunning two-mile wide, 30-mile long valley is in early February.

The beginning of 2015 have been particularly hectic for me; yet, I was slowed down the other night when churning through thousands of photos I have stored on my computer…searching for a particularly elusive photo of a family member that I wanted to share with a cousin of mine…our Napa trip from last year flew by as I was on the hunt and the photos stopped me in my tracks.  I then took a virtual vacation to my favorite place and smiled…ahhhh…Napa.  While I love the cabernets…it’s the meticulous attention to the the full-circle of the food cycle created through the various properties using sustainable agriculture practices, the prevalence of stunning gardens (edible and flower), seriously fabulous restaurants, and a sense of grace exuding from this farming community that touches my soul.  And…they always have perfectly lovely, quality tea service readily available and accessible.

There are scrumptious, flavorful small bites of foods and beautiful teas served all over town

There are scrumptious, flavorful small bites of foods and beautiful teas served all over town – this mini tasting plate was served at the Greystone Restaurant attached to the CIA (culinary institute of America) in St. Helena, Napa.

 

Everything seems to taste better in Napa..the town of Yountville is our favorite small burg.  We walk quiet little streets to shop, eat, drink, meander, and enjoy the gardens.  It’s a no-pressure, relaxed environment.  Of course, there are plenty of stellar wines to sample…which might contribute just a little bit to the sense of relaxation 🙂

Bouchon Bakery stop on our morning walk, barrels and caves to explore, small plates to nibble on and lovely cups of tea abound

Bouchon Bakery stop on our morning walk, barrels and caves to explore, small plates to nibble on and lovely cups of tea abound

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Yep, I’m ready for a drive up north 🙂

 

Gratitude…Reflected Upon Over A Cup of Tea (Best of 2014)

As we launch into 2015, I am grateful for a multitude of things, many of which I will continue to embrace and indulge further as we enter the new year.   I am so appreciative of … the support of my awesome family;  inspirational meetings with my hype girl (Hilary);  improving my downward dog thanks to my sister and Megan increasing my mindfulness through yoga;  the nerve to dance like a fool to Adam Levine’s, Map, and Taylor Swift’s, Shake It Off,  as a painless way to exercise;  the arrival this year of four gorgeous, bouncing baby boys into our family; and the “never taken for granted” gift of health which allows me to do any of these things.  And of course…I appreciate the comfort and joy of my daily tea ritual…which is always healthy, tasty, interesting, and motivating.   While restrictions in diets abound, particularly as we age, quality teas afford me the opportunity to explore and imbibe in an unrestricted manner.  There is a tea for any feeling, season, occasion, and need.  It’s versatility and breadth of variety continues to astound and fascinate me.

2014 brought several unique tea experiences my way.  I chose some of my favorites to reflect upon …below…

Beginning with the end in mind–at the end of 2013, we enjoyed trying the Darjeeling Tea Martini at the St. Regis “Tea and Tinis” event.   It impressed me enough that I tried making my own recently with my good friend A. — the champagne of teas with vodka…very tasty.

Darjeeling tea martini at "tea and tinis" end of 2013

Darjeeling tea martini at “tea and tinis” end of 2013

Then we were wowed last February while in Sacramento with the seriously spectacular eating and drinking experience at The Kitchen Restaurant ...while I enjoyed a lovely oolong served in a tetsubin iron pot…I later wished I had known of their fresh herbal tea preparation.  I would have opted for it.  They cut the fresh herbs and infuse them right in front of you . And while I am not usually an herbal infusion fan, this one looked to be special…guess we will have to go back 🙂 )

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The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side -- to your liking ---

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side — to your liking —

For our book group, I made my own stunning marbled tea eggs (with yolks perfectly centered by moving the egg slowing through the boiling water the first few minutes of cooking).  These made for a tasty small bite sandwich made with my angel biscuit (from a Martha Stewart Living recipe), served with a jasmine pearl tea…

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled tea eggs...served within an angel biscuit with mayonnaise...a tasty two bite sandwich...love the fragrant aromas from the eggs soaking in Chinese black tea, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon stick

Marbled tea eggs…served within an angel biscuit with mayonnaise…a tasty two bite sandwich…love the fragrant aromas from the eggs soaking in Chinese black tea, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon stick

In May, we were thrilled with the tea shops we explored on our trip to Portland, Oregon…what a great tea city.  Steven Smith Teas was an exceptional, contemporary, quality tea experience. My husband and nephew loved his teas, his tasting, and his packaging.  Of course, he should know what he is doing…as he began with Stash teas, created Tazo and sold it to Starbucks and now is focused on his own brand.

tea tasting

Steven Smith Tea Room...the best tasting ever.

Steven Smith Tea Room…the best tasting ever.

We then came on an excellent tea shop much closer to us, in Del Mar, Ca…called Leaf and Kettle. Their tasting was performed in darling little tasting cups, and the way they used a martini shaker to prepare their iced tea inspired me to get our own shaker out and now is the preferred way for us to make the coldest, freshest iced tea.

Leaf & Kettle Tea Shop...Beautiful, contemporary, over 100 teas waiting for you to taste...well, maybe just three at a time...excellent and knowledgeable staff too.

Leaf & Kettle Tea Shop…Beautiful, contemporary, over 100 teas waiting for you to taste…well, maybe just three at a time…excellent and knowledgeable staff too.

 

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We tasted and purchased several teas.  My favorite was No. 49 Iron Goddess Reserve Oolong...we also took home a fruity tisane I would be infusing for an  iced tea tasting class...it was called Island Tradewinds - a blend of coconut, kiwi and ripe cherries.  Light and refreshing...

We tasted and purchased several teas. My favorite was No. 49 Iron Goddess Reserve Oolong…we also took home a fruity tisane I would be infusing for an iced tea tasting class…it was called Island Tradewinds – a blend of coconut, kiwi and ripe cherries. Light and refreshing…

Leaf & Kettle tasting using a gaiwan lidded cup and tiny tasting bowls made for a special experience

Leaf & Kettle tasting using a gaiwan lidded cup and tiny tasting bowls made for a special experience

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I then re-discovered a favorite shop in Irvine…the first contemporary tea shop I came upon about 10 years ago – Cha for Tea...still making excellent infused tea to order.

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My new tea ware from Laguna Beach’s Spice Merchants is functional and beautiful…and I enjoyed doing a tea 101 class there in September…

Tea 101 ... ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach...an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

Tea 101 … ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach…an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

 

Now…wonder what’s in store for 2015?  I have a few ideas and look forward to sharing my finds and experiences with you.  And remember…Drink Tea…it’s good for you!!

Happy New Year!

Mom’s Sweet Potato Biscuit … Re-engineered…Gluten free, Soy free & Yummy!

Food is memories.  That’s what my sister wrote in an email to me this morning after she watched the movie, 100 – Foot Journey, last night – Her email comments inspired me to write today.  Thanks sister 🙂

I just love food and learning anything about food, but have been a bit frustrated and stymied because some of our old food memory recipes don’t work for the whole family anymore.  Stubbornly, I don’t want to give up on these food memory foods; therefore, I decided to figure out how to re-engineer our most favorite family recipes… with a little re-work, re-invention, and responsible food sourcing…I’m inspired again and coming up with products that work for our dietary needs today…it’s turned out to be a feel-good journey too.

The first recipe I’ve re-done is Mom’s yam (or sweet potato) biscuit recipe.  For over 30 years, Thanksgiving at our family’s homes have included a petite yam biscuit served with her homemade pumpkin butter.  In the late 1970’s, Mom, (Betty), had taken cooking classes where she came away with petite bite recipes for her catering business.  Many of those stuck with the family as favorites for holiday dinners, happy events (cocktail parties or showers), and offered at tea time.  These yam biscuits hit a chord with all of us as a must have served with the Italian chicken soup course on Thanksgiving day.

Our niece has taken over the helm as the yam biscuit and pumpkin butter maker for our holiday dinner (often for over 25 guests).  With a new baby in tow, we shared duties this year…her pumpkin butter was the best I ever remember consuming.  For the yam biscuits (we often substitute with organic sweet potatoes as they are delicious and easier to source), I substituted the flour and fat historically called for to ensure everyone at the table could comfortably consume the biscuits, slathered with her stunning pumpkin butter.  We have gluten-fee, soy free, sodium reduced diet needs to accommodate.  The old recipe called for all purpose flour (wheat) and Crisco (soybean oil) … I substituted with William Sonoma’s Cup for Cup Gluten-free (wheat free) flour and chilled Kerrygold Grass-fed Unsalted Butter (soy free).  While a bit of a sticky, challenging dough resulted…the biscuits were just fabulous…and everyone could eat them.  We cut them small (1 1/2″ round) so they instigate your appetite and don’t fill you up.  Although my nephews can eat a dozen at a sitting 🙂

Below is the new recipe…gluten free, soy free and even me…the diabetic… can happily fit one into my meal plan.

Organic sweet potato biscuit prepared with gluten free flour and grass-fed butter

Organic sweet potato biscuit prepared with gluten free flour and grass-fed butter

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Sweet Potato Biscuit

I suggest baking them just prior to serving as they are sooo good served hot (or you can bake them ahead and heat them for a few minutes on a low temperature just prior to serving).

The first time we learned of these biscuits was at a Southern foods cooking class. They were served with a slice of country ham and honey mustard—a savory little “slider” that’s perfect for tea time.
Makes approximately 24 ( 1 1/2”) biscuits.
PREP TIME: 10 minutes TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes (including prepping yam and baking time)
Preheat oven to 400° F.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (substitute with Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour).
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Crisco® shortening (substitute cold butter – I used Kerrygold unsalted)
3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream
Approximately ¾ cup mashed yam, boiled or baked, then mashed and cooled (substitute with sweet potatoes – use organic if available).

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Cut in shortening (or cold butter) until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add yam/sweet potato and cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives.
Add cream to form a soft dough that holds.
Lightly knead and pat down onto a floured surface to ¾” thick, cut into rounds using 1 ½” to 2” cutter. Do not use a rolling pin…use our hands to lightly pat down. Rustic looking biscuits are cute :-).
Bake in a buttered pan or sheet pan lined with parchment or Silpat® at 400° F for 18 to 20 minutes.
Serve hot with butter and sliced country or baked ham or with pumpkin butter.