Monday, April 30, 2012

Meatless Monday 5: An Evening Picnic

Now that the evenings are warming and the light lingers, consider an evening picnic!  This is how the DH and I spent Saturday evening.  He thoughtfully prepared the foods, as I was returning late from another event. A picnic lends itself to a simple and easily-prepared meatless meal. 
A park bench served as our perch from which to enjoy the flowers and the food.  (The ground is still a bit damp.)
This basket was a gift from the DH, and it's the perfect size for a picnic for two.

Our vegetarian meal was simple and delicious:
  • Fruit salad with walnuts,  dressed in yogurt and applesauce.  The applesauce sweetens up the plain yogurt.  This fruit salad could easily be made vegan - just leave off the yogurt or use a soy yogurt. 
  • My favorite tea sandwich: Cucumber with rosemary butter.  In this case, the "butter" was Earth Balance.  The bread was homemade (stay tuned for more info on that!).  This sandwich was vegan.
  • A thermos of Celestial Seasoning's Raspberry Zinger herbal tea.  The evening cooled as we sat, and we enjoyed the hot tisane.
That's it - simple and delicious!  We sat and enjoyed the evening and the flowers.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Blueberries and Bees

Blueberry bushes in bloom

Do you like blueberries?  Thank the bees!  Bee pollination of the flowering bushes is crucial to a prolific harvest.  Last weekend we rode our bikes near blueberry fields and saw the bees at work!  You could hear the hum of the active hives.

Notice the bees surrounding the entrance to the hives

According to the Haagen-Daz website dedicated to helping save the bees, the little workers pollinate one-third of our food supply.  Colony Collapse Disorder is a major threat to bees (and ultimately, to humans). 

So what can we do to help the bees?  Here are a few ideas.  An Internet search will show others. 
  • Grow a backyard or patio/balcony garden with bee-friendly plants (check what's good in your state).
  • Keep your garden pesticide-free.  Pesticides can kill bees on-the-spot, or endanger the hive when the poisons are carried back.
  • Buy honey from local bee keepers.
  • Become a hobby bee keeper.
  • Encourage your government officials to infuse money into bee research.

Of course, if you are seriously allergic to bee stings, you should be extra-careful!  More info on bee stings.

What are your thoughts about helping bees?

Friday, April 27, 2012

First Flush Giveaway Winner

Darjeeling Tea Field

Congratulations to Joshua of Tea Compilation for winning samples of 2012 First Flush Darjeeling tea!

Joshua's haiku:
Complex fruits, bright gold,
Darjeeling first flush teas are
The true taste of Spring.

Thank you to all who played along!  Your haiku poems enriched my week. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Korean Tea - Korean Noodles

I've been enjoying a Korean green tea generously shared by my tea friend Karen.  Alas, I have no photos, but see her beautiful ones here.  I agree with Karen's advice to brew this tea like a Japanese green, at a low temp (about 160 degrees).  It's refreshing and bright.

Thanks to another friend, we recently discovered a delicious Korean restaurant, Du Kuh BeeIt's a tiny spot and if you arrive late on the weekend, you may have to stand in line outside for one of the few tables.  The wait is worth it for the kimchi and hand-stretched noodles!

Pickled daikon radish and kimchi

Hand-stretching the noodles

The finished dish, so yummy!

Have you tried Korean teas or food?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Meatless Monday 4: Breakfast (or Supper)

OK, so I'm spoiled.  The DH often makes breakfast for me, including chocolate-chip walnut pancakes (even though he's not thrilled about the chocolate chips).  I eat them without butter or syrup - just as they are warm of the griddle!  I am very thankful for the DH's indulgence. 

Our pancakes are whole-wheat with no sugar added (the chocolate chips take care of that).  The whole wheat makes them very substantial, more filling than a regular pancake.  Sometimes the DH makes them vegan by using flaxseed meal as an egg replacement, and no choc chips.  Have you tried carob chips?  What do you think?
It used to be that meat made an appearance at the breakfast table. Those days are long gone.  Most of us get by these days with cereal or bread.  I remember my mom making breakfast-for-supper as a kid, and it was always fun!  Who doesn't enjoy pancakes for supper? 
Yesterday, we had a late breakfast on the balcony.  It was a good excuse to enjoy garden-fresh green onions (with potatoes and eggs).  The eggs could be replaced with a tofu scramble or fruit, if you prefer.  This would make a hearty supper.

Do you like breakfast-for-supper?  What's your favorite meat-free breakfast food?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

2012 First Flush Darjeeling and GIVEAWAY!

Happy dance!

Giveaway Alert - continue to the bottom to read details!

Last Friday was a special day! My first flush Darjeeling tea arrived.  I'd only ordered it the week before, and I was impressed with the speed of delivery.  I ordered from Thunderbolt Tea, and I am very pleased with the service.  I was kept informed of the order at all times and have been delighted with the teas!

I ordered the Turzum and the Sungma teas (both classic first flush processing).  I also received a surprise sample of the Arya Pearl (a white Darjeeling).  All three are certified organic.

I practiced amazing restraint, saving the first tasting to enjoy with some of my Wu-Wo tea friends.  We decided to brew using my cupping sets.  (The scenes are of tea traveling via wagon and locomotive, and on the sideways cup, tea auctions.) 

I've had first flush teas before, but never this closely to having been picked.  The look of the leaf (both the Turzum and the Sungma) was much greener than I expected.  I brewed the teas at a couple of different temperatures and lengths, but generally cooler than normal, about 190 degrees Farhenheit, for about a minute and a half.  Water boils at a lower temperature in Darjeeling, and I was attempting to replicate those natural conditions.

The aroma, for me, was very much like freshly-cut alfalfa hay.  Sweet and enticing.  I grew up around hay fields, and so this immediately came to mind.  The DH (also a Midwesterner) had the same thought, even though we hadn't discussed it. 

Both teas are excellent, worthy of time and attention, to be consumed with focus and appreciation.  Our tasting group fell particularly in love with the Turzum tea, though I don't mean to slight the Sungma in any way!  Tasting friends - what are your thoughts?

My tea plant

My own tea plant is flushing right now, see the downy filaments on the baby leaf?

I'm going to share samples of my first flush teas with one lucky winner!  To enter (and in recognition of National Poetry Month), leave me a haiku poem that has the words "first flush" included somehow.  I'll draw a winner next Thursday, April 26th.  Here's one to get you started. 

Hush.  Tea leaf unfurls.
First flush, the springtime glory;
Listen to the tea.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Meatless Monday 3: Ethiopian Chickpea Wat

An ethiopian meal served over inerja
Photo courtesy of wikipedia

A few weeks ago, we attended a vegetarian, Ethiopian-themed potluck.  The food was wonderful!  The event was extra-special to have many foods prepared by a young woman from Ethiopia.  If you've never explored Ethiopian food, it is really worth a try.  The food is often served over a spongy, lightly sour tasting bread called inerja.  Dishes include lots of chickpeas and other legumes.  We took a chickpea wat.   Unfortunately, I didn't snap a photo so check out some from others and find the recipe here: Chickpea Wat

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Locally Bottled Beverages

Rose Secret:  Includes Rose Water, Sugar, Citric Acid

I recently tried a new Oregon-made beverage called Rose Secret.  It was tart, lightly sweet with rose scent and flavor, nicely balanced - no part was overwhelming the other.  This experience got me to thinking about the numerous locally-brewed and bottled beverages - and I'm not just talking tea!  For those of you that don't know, Portland is the micro-brew beer capital of the US.

So now let's focus on are some of the locally-brewed treasures:

The Tao of Tea has a line of micro-brewed teas and tisanes.  I'm really enjoying the bottled Tulsi's, a caffeine-free herbal infusion.  You might have heard it called holy basil. 

Tao of Tea line of bottled Tulsi*

Steven Smith has recently released a bottled tea beverage using local fruits to provide the citric acid (necessary for shelf life).  Plus, the bottle is gorgeous!

Steven Smith bottled tea

I recently sampled the Pomegranate Love kombucha from Lion Heart.  I wasn't sure what to expect, the pink color seemed almost surreal and yet it is a natural blend of pomegranate, white and green teas.  I liked it!  A friend also recommends the Ginger Fizz, and she's not even a kombucha fan.  I like to drink kombucha as an after-dinner digestive, a small cup goes a long way.

And there are many others:
What other local brandsd have I missed?

*Photo from vendor website

Monday, April 09, 2012

Meatless Monday 3: Spring Salad with Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Spring greens salad with oven-dried tomatoes, Gorgonzola, and seasoned sunflower seeds

On this Meatless Monday, I'll share a salad made from spring garden greens:  kale, lemon sorrel and lettuce, all grown by the DH (dear hubby).  He added in some Gorgonzola and sunflower seeds he had seasoned with curry and tamari.  He topped it off with oven-dried tomatoes, also from the garden and stored in the freezer. 

It's not too early to think about using those extra summer (or around here, fall) tomatoes!  I will definitely be making these oven-dried gems again.  The romas or other fleshy tomatoes work best.  To make them, place some parchment paper on your baking sheets.  Slice the tomatoes to a quarter inch.  Toss in olive oil and herbs/salt/pepper.  Bake in a low oven (250 or so) until they reach the desired state of chewiness (3-4 hours).  Cool and store in the freezer.  Amazing - they'll give your mouth a burst of flavor all winter long!

Notes:  Try to keep the tomato slices about the same size and thickness. My little yellow ones, below, got finished faster than the romas.  Also, do not allow the tomatoes to touch on the baking sheet.
Ready for the oven

All done!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Cherry Blossom Season

Everything's coming up pink around here!  From the soft pink cherry trees (above) to the hot pink azaleas to the pink-purple tulips. Yesterday I made cherry-blossom inspired scones (whole wheat). 

Happy Easter, Passover greetings, and joyous Spring!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Butterfly Teapot Holder

I've been making these butterfly teapot holders (pattern from Marmalady).  I love the opportunity to mix and match fabric and bias tape choices, and I've learned a lot about sewing bias tape on curves.

The butterflies have heat-resistant batting in the center.  Slip your fingers into the wing pockets to grasp the teapot handle.  These are so cute!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Kimono Dress Up

Margie dressing me in the under-kimono

In my Japanese tea and culture class last week, we had the most amazing experience!  Our teacher dressed us in kimono, from her own collection.  Thank you Margie!

Assembling the kimono is an intricate process requiring great skill on the part of the dresser (either oneself or a helper).  To begin, you must choose the right kimono and obi.  Appropriateness is based on the event and season.  Kimono for tea are formal and refined. Dressing continues with the base layer (not shown here), a cotton gown.  Then comes the under-kimono, the white gown above.  Securing is done with ties and wraps.  Other layers can be added, based on the time of year.  Padding may also be used if one doesn't have a cylindrical kimono figure.  Finally you step into the outer kimono. 

Margie is preparing to secure my outer kimono with a tie

My sewing friends will find this fascinating...kimono are fitted to the person, but not in the way of Western thinking.  Only straight seams are used, and with lots of extra ease in the fabric.  The magic of fitting comes in the tucks, wraps and folds - the skill of the person dressing.

Margie is fitting the kimono to me, then securing it

The obi (the sash around the middle) is typically a contrasting color.  It's made from a very long piece of silk.  There are many ways to fashion it at the back.  We are using a popular "drum" style.    

Margie suggested we pull our hair back, as it's the practice to show the nape of the neck. The Japanese find this to be a very beautiful part of a woman.
In kimono, with our sweets papers and silk cloth tucked in, just above the obi

What a great day! I cannot imagine doing this dressing by myself. Margie can dress herself in kimono in less than 15 minutes!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Meatless Monday 2: PB&J

Let's think about the humble Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich.  Much loved by kids and grownups alike, it can be eaten at breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It's portable and holds up well to heat and cold.  It's full of protein, not to mention it's delicious!

My version has grown up a bit.  To start, I eat my PB&J on whole grain bread.  I use natural peanut butter and when I'm lucky, homemade jams (pomelo marmalade in these photos). 

If you've never tried natural peanut butter, I highly recommend it.  You can find it at most grocers these days (the oil will be on top, just stir and refrigerate).  For extra fun, crush it yourself at co-ops and natural food stores.  I've never tried making it at home.  Have you?

Natual peanut butter is healthier than "regular" because it contains no sugar or hydrogenated oils (trans fats). Yes, it may be a bit harder to spread. Three tips for that: 1 - Use a hearty bread (the good whole wheat stuff). It doesn't tear as easily. 2 - Let it warm to room temp. It's much more easily spread. 3 - If the butter is extremely dry, dribble in a tiny bit of olive oil (a good fat).

Other varieties of nut butters make excellent sandwich spreads, as well. Have you ever tried almond butter? Or for pure decadence, give cashew butter a try! For you nut butter fans, what are your favorite ones?