Teavana…An almost enlightening experience

The first time I went to Teavana, I was mesmerized.

Could I be a better person if I just drank loose leaf tea? Would I be enlightened? Could I really tap into the fountain of health? Would I be more socially attractive?

All these questions burned in my mind while tasting the most beautiful teas ever created.

Something stuck so I decided to return to buy some tea.

Bad News

I knew that the tea I wanted was $12. I didn’t really know much else. I actually didn’t even want to spend $12, but tried to justify the cost in my own mind. As I was talking to the saleslady, I told her what I wanted. I said I wanted some of the jasmine I had sampled and some of the youthberry. I tried to tell her how I wanted to buy less of each. Maybe 1 ounce. She told me I should really buy it by the pound because it was SO much better of a deal. She said I would basically get several ounces for free. Wait….how many ounces are in a pound? Everything was happening so fast….I mustered up the courage to tell her I just wanted the price in the pamphlet. $12. Easy right?

Wrong.

She quickly started to ring me up. I was confused why there were so many bags. She failed to mention that because it was a blend I needed multiple teas. (I only figured this out later) Instead of selling me a total of 2 oz, she sold me 2 oz of 4 different teas.

She asked me if I had anything to keep my tea in.

-Nope.

Well, you will need a tin.

-How much?

$7

-No thanks.

Your tea will only last a week without it. (feel threatened yet?)

-I better drink it fast then.

Your total is $46.00.

-WHAT!!?? (I didn’t actually say anything…just sorta stared at her)

The funny part is my husband had just walked in and was standing by me. He said, “did you just spend $40 on tea!?”

Yep.

I was swindled.

In fairness, I was the stupid one that didn’t know anything about anything. (And thanks to Teavana’s return policy, I can’t take it back)

Honestly, I feel seriously taken advantage of. I mean, I understand that people are trying to sell you something, but I would be a better customer if I felt like I was treated fairly. It’s about trust, and I feel like I lost trust in Teavana.

Good news

I did take my tea home, and it was good. REAL good.

I did some online reading and it looks like many people are in the same boat as me. Hate the business ethics of Teavana, but love the tea. Another perk of the tea is that it is gluten-free (except one).

So will I continue to drink their tea?

Yes. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever tasted.

HOWEVER, I will buy it online.

My recommendations are the youthberry orange blend, the jasmine peach blend, and the rock sugar.

Also, you can get some really beautiful cast iron tea pots for WAY less here. Only $42 instead of $200.

I would recommend trying some of their teas…but be wise about it. Know what you are getting into. Maybe try some of their teas in the store and then buy online. Understand that they tea you are tasting in the store is a blend of 2 different teas AND contains rock sugar. 2 oz is plenty of tea-about 15 cups..PLUS you can reuse your tea for a second brew..making it 30 cups. Works out to be about .75 per cup.

So Teavana, while your tea is delicious, your sales tactics suck.

While I would love to stick around and talk tea…I need to get drinking. I only have one week to finish $46 worth of tea.

Tortilla soup-Soul satisfying and gluten-free!

Mmmmmmmmm

I love the food network.

I love watching Alton, Paula, Guy and so many others make delicious meals before my eyes. They inspire me to cook.
Bad news is that I don’t have the food network right now. I only have basic cable. That means I am at the mercy of what the networks dish up. It usually sucks.
The only channel I get that has any sort of cooking is PBS, and while they do offer some cooking shows, I think my food network snobbery has set the bar a little high. I feel entitled to well produced cooking shows. (silly me)
Good news is I did find one guy on PBS who seemed pretty legit. Rick Bayless.
He does this Mexican cooking show, and he reminds me just a little of Alton Brown in his approach, but what caught my eye was the delicious Mexican cuisine he was serving up. He made this soup called sopa de lima, and I swear I could smell it.

While on a mission to make his sopa de lima, I actually came across another one of his recipes that sounded even more delicious.
Today we are making Rick’s Sopa Azteca, or in English, tortilla soup.
YUMMY!
I have to admit that I have had many different versions of tortilla soup, some with hominy, some with beans, some with ground beef….but this one is the best. I think that it really showcases the spectacular pureness of flavors that it brings to the table.

Lastly, when I told my husband I wanted to make soup for dinner, he said he wasn’t a big fan of soup….however, after 2 bowls he licked his chops and told me this soup had made him a believer! Good job Rick.

Sopa Azteca
Adapted from Rick Bayless and
Frontera Grill/Topolobampo
Serves 4 to 6
Cost per serving $2.50

Here is what Rick says;
“Like guacamole, tortilla soup has a place, I feel, in practically every collection of Mexican recipes. It’s a filling, flavorful meal that can be made with little effort, but one that sings with an unmistakable Mexican harmony. Earthy dark pasilla chile. The softening crunch of toasty corn tortillas. Soul-satisfying broth. And creamy-rich avocado and cheese.

A note about pasilla (sometimes called negro) chile:  Its unique flavor defines tortilla soup in central Mexico. In Michoacan, it’s ancho chile. In your kitchen, it might turn out to be another chile, like New Mexico or even a little smoky chipotle (be forewarned that chipotle will make the broth quite spicy). Though for these everyday recipes I’ve relied heavily on the easier-to-use powdered dried chile, finding powdered pasilla (negro) can be harder than finding the whole pod. Should powdered chile be at your finger tips (be it powdered pasilla (negro), ancho or beyond), add about 1 tablespoon to the pan about halfway through the cooking of the onion.”

Sopa Azteca Recipe

1 large dried pasilla (negro) chile, stemmed and seeded
15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion-sliced
3 garlic cloves-chopped
2 quarts chicken broth (GLUTEN FREE)
1 lb chicken breast-chopped
1 large avocado-sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican melting cheese (like Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
4 corn tortillas (GLUTEN FREE)
Oil for frying
1 large lime for serving

NOTE: after tasting the broth I added 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp GF taco seasoning

DIRECTIONS
Roast the chile in a dry pan for a couple of minutes. Break the chile into pieces and add to blender. Add in the can of diced tomatoes and blend.
Saute your onion and garlic in oil for around 7 minutes until they start to turn brown.
Add these to your blender and puree.

gluten free tortilla soup

Preparing the soup base

Add your puree to a 5 quart saucepan and cook until the puree looks like tomato paste, about 7 minutes (stirring often). Add the chicken broth and reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add in your diced chicken and cook for another 10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Check your broth for saltiness. Adjust to taste. NOTE: after tasting the broth I added 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp GF taco seasoning

Making the broth

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat until the oil is ready for frying. Cut your corn tortillas into strips and fry until light brown. When done, remove from oil and place on paper towel. Salt while hot.

Preparing the tortilla strips

Once your soup is done you can add to bowl and garnish with tortilla strips, avocado, lime, cheese and sour cream.

Please squeeze your lime in–it gives it such flavor!

Delicious!

Check out some other sweet tortilla soup recipes:

1. Pioneer Woman-Chicken Tortilla Soup

2. Simply Recipes-Tortilla Soup Recipe

3. Picky Eater-Vegetarian Tortilla Soup with Creative Toppings

Deliciously Gluten-Free Asian Pot Stickers

Gluten free pot stickers

Dumpling, pot sticker, gyoza, jiaozi, dim sum…..

Truthfully, I’m not really sure how to differentiate between these wonderful little packages of bliss.

I would love to waltz into a dim sum restaurant and cozy up to a server to get the lowdown, but due to my gluten allergy, I can’t.

So while I can’t really educate you on all things dumpling, I can offer you a gluten free recipe that tastes yummy, even if it is something of a crossbred mutt.

We will call it……dumpstickgoyadim for now.

I did find some gluten free dumpling recipes online, but to be honest, I didn’t care for them. The dough ended up cracking and turning into something of a mini pie crust, rather than a tender, chewy little dumpling. (This might also have to do with the fact that I didn’t keep my dough moist…)

So I found a different dough recipe that wasn’t actually classified as a gluten free recipe, but because it only contained rice flour and tapioca flour it WAS gluten free, and after having made it….I decided it was the best way to go for me.

Asian pot sticker recipe

Makes 24-28 dumplings (depending on size)

Gluten free pot sticker ingredients

Dough

(thanks to Andrea Nguyen for her brilliant rice dough recipe)
1 cup white rice flour
3/4 cup tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch)
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp oil
2/3 cup boiled water (adjust if necessary)

Filling

15 medium raw shrimp-deveined and chopped
1/4 lb ground pork
¼ cup mushrooms-chopped
2 green onions-diced
1 tsp fresh ginger-grated
1 clove garlic-minced
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp GF soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper

Dipping Sauce

2 Tbsp GF soy sauce
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1/4 Tbsp rice vinegar
¼ tsp sesame oil
Few drops sriracha (optional)

Other tools:
Ziplock bag
Tortilla press-optional
Dumpling press-optional

Start by peeling and deveining your shrimp. Chop them, along with your mushrooms and green onion. Grate your ginger finely and then mince your garlic. Add everything into a bowl then add your soy sauce, ground pork, sesame oil, salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Mix all ingredients and place in fridge.

Finely chop all the filling ingredients and mix by hand

Next, start your dough by adding your rice flour, tapioca flour and salt into bowl. Pour in your oil. Add in your just-boiled water and start to mix with a chopstick. After water cools down a bit, start to knead the dough until it has a play-dough consistency.

mix your pot sticker dough

Now your dough is ready to be divided. Roll it out into a foot long rope (lightly dust the counter with rice flour) and cut in half. Place half your dough directly into a ziplock bag to keep moist. With the remaining dough, cut into 12 pieces. Place the pieces into the bag except a few that you are working with to keep everything moist. Repeat with remaining dough.

Divide your dough into 24 pieces

Now you are ready to start pressing your dough into the dumpling wrappers. This can be done quickly and easily with a tortilla press.

Cut a ziplock bag in half. Open your tortilla press and place half of the ziplock bag on the base. Lightly dust this with rice flour. Add one of your dough discs and cover with the other half of the ziplock bag. Close your tortilla press. When you open it, handle your wrapper carefully, as it is very delicate.

Press out your dumpling wrapper

Now you are ready to fill the wrapper with your meat. This is done very easily with a dumpling press.

Place the wrapper in your hand, and fill with a small ball of filling. Around 1/2-1 tsp. Place your wrapper in a dumpling press and gently press closed. Easy!

Filling your wrapper

–if you don’t have a tortilla press

you can press it out by hand the old-fashioned way. Take one of your dough discs and flatten it by hand. Cut a ziplock bag in half. Lightly flour half of the zipock bag and place your flattened dough disc on it. Cover with the other half of the ziplock bag and roll out with a rolling-pin. Gently take your wrapper and place your filling in it. Lightly wet the edge of the wrapper and close in half. Pinch shut, and work your way around the rest of the dumpling to close.

Press out your dumpling by hand

Place your pot stickers on a clean surface as you are preparing them.

POT STICKERS!

Once you have filled your wrappers, you are ready to cook. Heat your oil in a large saucepan. Add in your pot stickers. Let them brown for a few minutes. Add in 1/4 cup of water and cover with tight-fitting lid. Let the pot stickers steam for 6-8 minutes. You may have to cook them in two batches.

Browning the bottom

Once your pot stickers are done, then you can plate them. Mix your dipping sauce and enjoy!

Pot Stickers!

Yummy!

There are some other amazing dumpling recipes online with some pretty awesome instructional photos…so here are some blogs to visit when you get the hankerin….

  1. userealbutter-Chinese dumplings and pot stickers
  2. lafujimama-steamy shrimp pork dumplings
  3. asiandumplingtips

Happy dumpling eating!!!

Gluten Free Miso Soup

Gluten Free Miso Soup

If you’ve ever had hibachi, or eaten at your local Japanese restaurant, then you have probably met a bowl of miso.

Miso soup is so wonderful, earthy and “umamilicious“.  I have never met a bowl I didn’t like.

While I was pregnant with my first daughter, I craved miso soup. I would drive to the local Japanese buffet and order two to go. Sometimes in the middle of the night.

Although it can be high in sodium, it has some great health properties; with minerals, amino acids and protein to name a few.

Miso soup isn’t very hard to make, however,  you do have to have some ingredients that may be hard to come by (big surprise right?) including kombu (dried kelp) katsuobushi (thin shavings of dried skipjack tuna) and miso (fermented soybean paste). They should be available at your Asian market or online. You could always buy an “instant miso” packet, but chances are it will contain gluten.

Dried Kombu and Katsuobushi

First, we’ll make a broth called dashi out of the kombu and the katsuobushi. Dashi is the soup base that Japanese use in most of their soups. No wonder-it’s delicious.

Once we make the dashi, we will add in miso. There are different types of miso, and you can use whichever one you would like. The darker misos have a stronger flavor, and the lighter misos are sweeter and less salty. You can combine the misos as well.

Make sure you buy a miso that is pure with no added gluten. I purchased some light miso that didn’t contain gluten, but there were several brands that DID have gluten. Also, check your tofu as well. It should only have soybean and no other ingredients. All the other ingredients should be naturally gluten free.

If you really want to learn about miso soup, then check out this video. (Alton Brown is one of my FAVORITES)

Miso Soup Recipe

Serves 2

Cost per serving $2.30

2 x 4 inch strips kombu

4 cups water

1/2 cup katsuobushi (bonito flakes)

1-2 green onions-diced

1 small package enoki mushrooms

4 Tbsp miso (I used light) (GLUTEN FREE!)

1 Tbsp wakame dried seaweed-optional

8 0z soft tofu-chopped

First make your dashi…

Place your kombu in a pot with 4 cups water and soak for 20-30 minutes.

Place on medium heat. Just as water boils, add the katsuobushi and remove from heat. Let set for about 10 minutes. Strain the broth into separate pan. Either discard the kombu and katsuobushi, or save for second broth.

…Now the miso soup

Return broth to medium heat and add miso. Whisk to dissolve miso. Add chopped tofu, green onion and wakame. Cook until heated through.

This should last around 3 days in the refrigerator. Miso soup won’t freeze well.

Enjoy

Yummy!

Moroccan Mint Tea

As-Salāmu `Alaykum, or peace be with you in Arabic.

I learned this common greeting while I was in Morocco several years ago. We were doing a few days of language school,  and this is the only Arabic I can remember!

What I do remember from this trip are the sights and sounds of Morocco. Entering the town of old Fez, (only by donkey or foot) was like a scene straight out of Aladdin. We had to hire a donkey to carry our luggage to our hotel.

I was privileged to see many sights of Morocco; Casablanca, the old city of Fez, the markets of Marrakesh and the Volubilis Roman ruins

I also remember the food. Our usual fare was rotisserie chicken with fries, or even better, was the lamb tanjine, something hard to come by in North America.

We would always finish our meal with a piping hot cup of Moroccan mint tea. Served in a small glass cup, poured high from above to mix the flavors and produce foam.

Traditionally, the tea is served three times, and each glass has a unique flavor from the steeping process, according to the famous proverb:

The first glass is as bitter as life,

the second glass is as strong as love,

the third glass is as gentle as death.

I think I would like to try my hand at growing my own mint, so I can have this tea more often, and remember the wonder that Morocco holds.

Moroccan Mint Tea Recipe

2 servings

Cost $1.00 per cup

4 cups boiling water
2 tsp loose green tea
1 Tbsp sugar (or to taste)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

First, boil some water to rinse out your teapot. Add your green tea and some boiling water.
Let this steep for 2 minutes, then discard the water, leaving the tea leaves in the pot. (This will help the tea not be bitter) Fill pot with another 2 cups hot water, the mint and the sugar. Allow to steep for several minutes.

Pour tea from high up, creating foam in the teacup.

Enjoy!