I think I mentioned yesterday that I love tea. I especially love flavored black teas. Chai is one of my favorites -- Republic of Tea has an amazing chai, and Stash Tea makes a great one, too. Stash even makes an "extra spice chai," which is amazing, but hard to find. I'm not a fan of that powdered, over-sweetened, syrupy chai mix. Or the stuff you sometimes find in a machine next to the over-sweetened, syrupy "cappuccino" at convenience stores. I like to brew my own, and add milk and sweetener to my taste.
On a recent trip to Boston, I had "frozen chai" at Tealuxe in Harvard Square. I had no idea what I was getting when I ordered it, and it cost a fortune, but I had to see what it was all about. It turned out to be a mixture of iced chai, milk, sweetener, and ice pureed up in a blender. It was pretty damn good.
As much as I love chai, my favorite tea in the whole wide world is Republic of Tea's Blackberry Sage tea. Daydreaming about smoothies last weekend, and thinking back to that frozen chai, I had... yes... a culinary epiphany! I wanted to combine the best of both worlds and make some sort of tea smoothie. My original idea involved raspberries, but then it dawned on me that it absolutely had to contain blackberries, just like my favorite tea. So here is what I did this afternoon: I brewed some strong-ish plain black (decaf because it's late in the day for me!) tea -- six bags to four cups of water. I let it get to room temp while Kev and I went out walking and shopping. When we got home, I put two cups of the cooled tea, one cup of soy milk, and one cup of frozen blackberries in the blender and whizzed it all up. I love to use soy milk in smoothies -- it adds a richness that cow's milk just doesn't have. I poured the blend into my new cheap-but-cute plastic smoothie glasses (purchased this afternoon at BB&B, of course!) and immediately realized that I hadn't put in any kind of sweetener. I usually make fruit smoothies with a frozen banana as a base, so they rarely need any sweetener. It just didn't occur to me that these would need some! Upon tasting, though, it occurred to me immediately. I quickly stirred some Splenda (my best friend!) into each drink.
Success! The flavors of the tea, the berries, and the milk are all present, with none overpowering the others. The only thing I wasn't totally thrilled with was that they weren't quite as slushy as I wanted them to be. The berries were frozen when they went in, but the tea and milk were both at room temp. Next time I will freeze either the tea or the milk in an ice cube tray first... that should solve that problem! Oh, and hopefully I'll remember to put sweetener in the blender, too. It will mix in a bit more easily! =)
Tea is such a Zen thing. I think it's only appropriate that it is the star ingredient in my latest epiphany, and I love that the smoothies turned out to be as good as I'd hoped they would!
We're back from our weekend in Boston. The weather was good and the food was fun. Early Saturday afternoon we decided to do one of the most tourist-y things we could do -- go to Quincy Market. I couldn't help it. I've loved it since I was a kid. It was a warm day, but not so warm as to force us inside, so the Market seemed like the place to be. Plus, it's almost on the waterfront, and I love the ocean. We got off the T, tried to get our bearings, and found ourselves staring at a group of white tents. "That looks like some kind of market," said Kevin, which was exactly what I had been thinking. Not Quincy Market, but an open-air, farmer's market type market. We went to check it out... it was a produce market and it was HUGE! It had a very European feel to it, except it was not quite as neat and clean as European markets tend to be. It was chaotic -- mobbed with shoppers, the vendors shouting about the virtues of their product. Upon closer examination, it was amazing. Everything imaginable was there: papayas as big as a child's head... pineapples... mangoes... greens... onions... stone fruits... potatoes... carrots... tomatoes... and the list goes on and on and on. Best of all, it was so cheap! Inexpensive, I mean, not lacking in quality. The giant papayas were 99 cents. Peaches 8 for $1. Pineapples 2 for $1.50. Limes 10 for $1. I couldn't believe it. In my part of the world, we have to buy fruit at the grocery store. It's expensive there. Pineapples are $4 - $5 each. Limes, 2 for 89 cents. Peaches, about $2 a pound. We need a fruit market in Bangor.
Being temporary visitors, unfortunately, did not allow us to reap too many benefits of this market. We had just arrived at the Quincy Market/waterfront area, and could not carry too much produce around for the entire day. We bought a few peaches for a snack, and ten limes to bring home for... well, limeburners, of course! Plus, I use lime juice in a really great tofu recipe, which I will share with you the next time I make it.
Kevin Admires Our Limes (isn't he adorable?!?)
Upon my purchase of the limes, Kevin asked me how I was going to store ten of them, knowing we wouldn't go through them before they passed their prime. Here's what I did: I got out our trusty Metrokane Mighty OJ, which is, frankly, a kick-ass juicer. I juiced those limes to the tune of ten ounces of juice and poured it into an ice cube tray. Each cube compartment conveniently holds about an ounce -- just enough for a limeburner! Coincidence? I think not. Once the cubes are frozen, I will transfer them to a storage bag and pull out cubes as we need them.
When we finally tore ourselves away from the produce market, the next thing on my mind was falafel. I had some at Quincy a couple years ago, and was really looking forward to trying it there again. We found the only stand selling falafel, and I was pretty sure it was the same one. What they offered were "falafel wraps." I didn't think that was what I had the last time, but I got one anyway. It was disappointing. It consisted of lettuce, tomato, and a couple of falafel patties in a big, white-flour wrap. No hummus, no yogurt-tahini-sauce, no lubrication of any kind. The patties themselves were actually very good -- they had a kick of crushed red pepper that I have never had in falafel. I'm not sure how traditional it is, but it was the only redeeming quality to the wrap. Maybe I'm just a complete falafel snob after all my trips to L'as du Fallafel in Paris...
For dessert, we couldn't resist "Gelato by Joey." We've had gelato in France, and of course, in Italy, but had only had store-bought Haagen-Daz gelato in the states (which isn't very good at all). I got hazelnut and talked Kev into getting panna cotta flavor. Panna cotta itself is hard to describe -- Gale Gand calls it "grown-up Jello." It's a creamy, custard-style dessert with gelatin added so it holds its shape. I think it's Italy's version of flan. Panna cotta flavored gelato is good. Very good. It has a rich, tangy, almost cream-cheesy flavor, with a caramel swirl. Yum. But do you know what's better than panna cotta gelato? Hazelnut gelato. It tastes like pureed hazelnuts. I can't even begin to describe it any better that that. I was in heaven. Joey's gelato has got it going on!
We wrapped up our evening at Tealuxe in Harvard Square. I fell in love with the place when my cousin took me there a couple of months ago. Have I mentioned that I am a tea addict? I'm sure I'll get around to writing more on that someday. And I'll write more about Tealuxe tomorrow, along with the results of a culinary epiphany I will put to the test, inspired by a couple of beverages I had there.
Today is another too-warm-for-my-taste day. Kev's and my apartment is on the second floor of an old house, and gets very stuffy very easily. Kev's away for a few days (again!), so I spent the afternoon at my parents' place, which is on a small lake. Deciding we'd had enough sun after a while outside, Mom and I sat down to watch a movie ("Bridget Jones' Diary" -- what is it with me and Renee Zellweger lately? She's just too damn cute.). As is typical of movie-watching, we eventually got to feeling a bit snackish. Tomorrow is grocery day for Mom -- there wasn't much in the kitchen. Scouring the cupboard, I found a can of cherry pie filling. Thinking I'd get a "no," I asked if she had any graham crackers. Oddly enough, there were two boxes of them! Can you hear it now...? The sound of an epiphany forming...? The following isn't necessarily the most nutritious recipe, but it is pretty low on the guilt scale if you use light or fat free Cool Whip. It's also painfully easy!
Cherry Pie Parfaits
cherry pie filling
whipped cream/whipped topping
Crush graham crackers into crumbs. Alternate layers of cracker crumbs and pie filling in parfait glasses/dessert dishes (I used oversized wine glasses) until they seem right. Top with whipped cream/topping.
We both love cherry pie, and this is a reasonable facsimile. The only thing I'd change would be to use cinnamon graham crackers -- all we had were plain ones. I think the cinnamon would be a nice touch. I'm sure this isn't an idea someone else hasn't had, but I've never seen a recipe too terribly close to it... so it's an original idea to me!
Sorry there's no picture -- I left my camera at home.
When most people refer to "the toy store," they're talking about Toys 'R Us, KB Toys, or something similar. When I refer to "the toy store," I'm talking Bed, Bath & Beyond. I'm generally not a "big box" store shopper, but kitchen gadgets and supplies are hard to come by around here. If I can't get what I need at my dad's hardware store (which has a great housewares department!), a trip to BB&B is in order.
Kevin and I went there Monday looking for a new, exciting tube pan for yesterday's banana cake. Mine is just a plain, round, two-piece pan. I had seen a Bundt Pan in my newest Baker's Catalogue that I totally fell in love with (search for "Cathedral Bundt" and you'll find the one I mean), and hoped to find something similar. Unfortunately, all BB&B had was one just like mine, and one shaped like the Jello mold nightmares are made of. I was out of luck...
... in the Bundt pan department. But then, I was looking at the funky candy display near the exit, and found these movie-theater-sized boxes of candy:
Call me an impulse shopper, but I had to make them mine. I couldn't remember the last time I had a Charleston Chew, and who can resist the mini version of a childhood favorite? The box came home with me. Impatience won out on the trip home, and the box was opened. The candies are about 1/4" x 1/4" x 1." There's something almost caterpillar-like about them, but not enough to turn us off from trying them. They didn't disappoint. They're quite a bit softer than their big brothers, with the same flavors. I remarked to Kevin, "this chocolatey coating is amazingly lifelike!" They are, of course, coated with a rather waxy chocolate substitute. Not that there's anything wrong with that! I don't mean to sound negative. Mini Charleston Chews are every bit as good as the "regular" version, and just as fun. I put the remainder in the freezer when I got home that afternoon. I think the big ones say something to the effect of "freeze then smash..." The minis freeze just as well, and don't need to be smashed!
Not that I've told you a lot about my diet yet, but these probably don't seem quite like something you'd think I'd buy... and they're not. I'm pretty sure there's not one naturally occurring substance in these candies, and probably nothing I can pronounce. I haven't dared look at the ingredients list. But everyone gets sugar cravings once in a while!
Mini Charleston Chews are a fun twist on a blast from the past. Pick up a box next time you're at "the toy store!"