Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gorgeous Tea Cups by Potter Steve Sanchez

Tea cup by Steve Sanchez

A very kind friend recently gave me these tea cups by artist Steve Sanchez.  I am blessed with generous and thoughtful friends!  Love these cups.  The wood firing makes the coloring and patterns so interesting! The thumb impression makes a nice hand hold, and also yields an asymmetrical form  (visual interest). These cups hold a nice amount of tea - not so much that the tea goes cold before I can drink it.  I also like the thickness of the rim.  Again, it's a balance of not too thick or thin.     

Look at the interesting pattern in the bottom of the cup. I believe this is a result of the wood firing.  It's golden and glittery and reminds me of tea leaves.

Functional artwork!

I have not (yet) had the pleasure to meet artist Steve Sanchez, but I am now a fan of his work and look forward to seeing more. Other works by this artist can be found at the Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Meatless Monday: Green Papaya Salad

Green Papaya Salad
Sometimes things just come together...
On Friday, I visited Pok Pok.  I'm ashamed to say it was my first time.  Ashamed because anyone who claims the Portland area as home speaks highly of our famous Thai "street foods" restaurant, now open in New York as well.  And I see why!  It's super delicious!  I had a green papaya salad, among other things.

And then on Saturday, I was at my local market (New Seasons) and they had green papaya in the produce section.  One came home.

On Sunday I made a vegan version of green papaya salad.  It's fantastic!  As good as what I had at Pok Pok, in my humble opinion.  What makes this vegan is the lack of shrimp and fish sauce.  Love it!  And the good news is that one fruit makes a lot of shredded papaya, enough for 2 or 3 batches.  That's great because we've already polished off the first one.

Here's my recipe, based on looking at several and interpreting what I had at Pok Pok.

Vegan Green Papaya Salad

The salad
* 2 cups shredded green papaya (I think you can find this pre-shredded in some Asian markets)
* 1/4 cup (or more) green beans, chopped into bite-sized pieces
* 1/4 cup (or more) shredded green cabbage
* 1/4 cup (or more) of shredded carrots
* A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (I did not use these)
* 1-2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
* 1 handful cilantro, chopped
* 1 Tbsp of dry roast peanuts, plus some for garnish
Toss together in a large bowl

The paste
* 2 cloves of garlic, minced
* 1 jalepeno pepper, seeds and pith removed, chopped fine
* 1 Tbsp of dry roast peanusts
 Crush in a mortar and pestle (or a bowl with wooden spoon) until you have a rough paste

The dressing
* 2 Tbsp of low sodium soy auce (or gluten-free tamari)
* The juice of 1 lime (3-4 teaspoons)
* 1/2 - 1 tsp of agave nectar, depending on your preference (you can use raw sugar, too)
Add the paste and toss into the salad


Saturday, January 25, 2014

I Was to Be Having Tea

I was to be having tea
But I was home with the flu
A little blue

I scowled at the banana
You call it ripe, I call it dead
Good for bread

Grapefruit ready
Tea to steep
I start to weep

But then I think
Do not dismay
Look at this day!

The sun is out
My head breathes free
And I have my tea

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DIY Bangle Bracelets

While I was home for the holidays, I did a craft project with my niece, her friend, and their dolls.  :-)  Some grownups got to play, too.  We made bangle bracelets out of floral wire, wrapped in fabric.  Here are the directions.  My niece is 6 and if someone helped her with the wire and the ties, she was very capable of (and happy to) do her own fabric wrapping.

And we made some bracelets for the dolls.  ;-)  These were actually the hardest because the doll hands are inflexible.

I made a few for myself, too.  I found that using floral wire is easier than an old hanger as it's much more bendable.  The color combinations are endless.  Fat quarters work really well for this project, and it's a great scraps buster too!  Thanks to the folks who put out the tutorial!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Patience (for Me) and Patient Tea

Rustic teacup with pu-erh, waiting patiently for me to put down the camera

Patience is NOT my middle name.  But it is the name of this cup.  I procured it (from J-Tea International in Eugene, OR) nearly three years ago.  I haven't used it until this week.  The cup and I were patiently waiting for the right time and the right tea.  I've dedicated the cup to shou pu-erh.  The cup is a delight to hold.  It's textural and the glaze makes a very interesting shiny pattern.  Rocks are visible in the form, giving it a very earthy feeling.  

Over the years, I've been working on the patience thing.  While not my nature, it is something I'm trying to cultivate.  Tea is a good teacher.  Some teas are "patient" in that they do well when steeped multiple times.  They open themselves, give more, blossom.  Pu-erh teas and may oolongs tend to be very patient.  These teas ask me, "How do you respond when you are repeatedly 'steeped'?"  Do I get better with each trial?

Oh, tea, I am your student.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tea 101: What is Sake?

Why am I talking about sake in a Tea 101 post?  Because it's relevant to tea!  When you are invited to a full Japanese Tea Ceremony (and I hope you are!), with a meal and two types of matcha tea, you are offered sake with the meal.  If you've never tried it, it's delicious!  And if you have tried it, but it was served warm, try again.  The best quality sakes are served cold. 

In the Portland area, we are very fortunate to have one of the few US makers of sake in our back yard. A Japanese Tea group recently toured the Sake One facility.  I learned so much!  First, sake is NOT "rice wine."  Technically, wine involves fermented grapes or other fruit, and there is no fruit in sake.  In fact, there are only four ingredients:  Water, Rice, Yeast and Koji. 

Water We learned that the reason Sake One is located here is because of the great water we are fortunate to have.  In Japan, most sake breweries are located near springs.  Here, the water used has a similar character in that it is "fresh" water coming from the Coastal Mountains.  It's lacking any heavy minerality of water that has been underground for a length of time.

Rice Sake One uses rice from our neighboring state of California, the Calrose brand.  Several members of our group said, "Oh, that's the rice my family used when I was growing up."  Being a Midwesterner, this was an unfamiliar brand to me, but I appreciate the fact that the sourcing is regional.  The rice is first polished and then washed, steamed and cooled.

Bags of rice waiting to be processed

Koji - Next, koji is applied in a special cedar room.  Koji is a mold spore that digests the starch and converts it to sugar.  A cedar room is used not only for the subtle aromatic properties it imparts to the sake, but also because its natural resins are anti-bacterial making an incredibly clean environment.

The cedar koji room

Yeast - Water and yeast are added and fermentation occurs.


After the desired level of fermentation is reached, the batch if filtered, pasteurized and aged in porcelain or stainless steel tanks.  Sakes made for an American market are aged a little less than those in Japan.  The longer aging brings out more earthiness (umami) flavors.  Americans prefer a slightly "brighter" flavor profile.

Sake Tasting

We finished our tour with a tasting and food pairing.  We sampled five different sakes and enjoyed nibbles. If you come to the area, it's a fun and educational tour!  Keep in mind that sake has a higher alcohol content than wine, and plan accordingly.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

A Tea Party for the Girls

Me (pouring) and Mom

I recently had the LOVE-ly opportunity to host a tea party at my Mom's house.  Very special guests included my mom, sister, a dear friend, my niece and a friend of hers, and the dolls.

I love digging in Mom's china cabinet to find family treasures as serving pieces.  I also brought the fresh Rosemary sprigs with me from Oregon. 
My niece loves cucumber, and so cucumber sandwiches were required.  I used a Rosemary butter base (my favorite cucumber sandwich).  The picture below shows one.  It is supposed to look like a Christmas tree, but my sister thought it looked like a spade.  ;-)
We also enjoyed thick cucumber rounds topped with two types of hummus:  red pepper and chickpea, and mushrooms on toast.  For scones, I made my favorite yeast ones which we ate with raspberry jam from the local Amish market and mock Devonshire cream.  The savories and scones courses were vegan-friendly. 

And for dessert, we had dates stuffed with pecans (vegan) and wonderful cookies brought by my friend.  The girls  had an English Breakfast tea and the grownups enjoyed a delicious tea, new to me, Capricorn Tea.  I very much enjoyed this blend of black and white tea blended with vanilla and rose petal.

I can't tell you how precious these tea times are to me, especially since I live far away. I'm so grateful for tea's presence in my life.  It brings together people I love.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

First Tea of 2014 in a Special Secret Place

The DH (dear hubby) and I went for a walk yesterday, to see what's stirring  in the garden and in nature.  We stopped by this rock to have tea (herbal) from a thermos.  It's a special secret place, at least to me.  It's visible to anyone that happens by, but it takes a bit of time to truly see it.

Do you have these special secret places in your life?  I have many of them!  A particular corner in the library, a bench downtown tucked away under a tree.  These places invite us to stop rushing and to look around us.

We also spied daffodils poking their green fronds from the earth.  My Midwestern sense of time is amazed by this, so early!  The DH says it could be that he planted these daffodils too shallow.  Regardless, I'm impressed that they're here to celebrate the new year with us.