Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tea Time Four

Don't got forth. Do. Not. Go. Forth.

Something has been forgotten, which is the only reason I'm going back on that whole "last tea post for a while" idea I had floating about.

Sweeteners and other additives.

Now, some people may enjoy their tea straight, like black coffee. That's perfectly okay. Some teas need to stand alone to be enjoyed properly. But others do benefit from a little sugar or maybe some cream.

In the case of sweeteners, it really depends on your taste. Some people like really sweet tea, others may just want a little something to take the edge (not that there's usually a big edge) off. You can use brown sugar or cane sugar or artificial or whatever sugar you want, really. If I go the sugar route, I usually stick with the common white sugar, found in just about every supermarket. Sometimes, if it's a tea with a heavier flavor, I'll go with a light brown sugar. Again, dealer's choice. Which also means that dealer can choose honey. I swear I'll leave honey at that, because the topic of honey could go on forever. Just like tea...

In the case of other additives, it depends more on the tea. Floral teas, like jasmine or green, don't need anything. Seriously. Sugar or honey only. Chai, black, breakfast, those are the teas that have enough body to stand up to some cream. Not creamers. Cream. Go to England and they'll school you on this. I'm going to contain myself and make a sandwich or something.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tea Time Three

I'm almost somewhat positive this will be that last post about tea for a while. Maybe. I don't know, because, let's face it, tea is wonderful and can be discussed at length with varying degrees of success.

Anyway, tea is hard to enjoy without the proper equipment, the most basic being a nice mug. I'm talking some heavy duty drink-ware right here. One that'll retain heat, but wont set your flesh on fire when you grab it. A handle that fits your hand, or, better yet, a mug with recessed handles, like this one. Something with a wide base, because humans can be a little clumsy and wasted tea is a dreadful thing. And a mug that flows with your style. Trust me on this one. No questions.

Once you have that oh-so-perfect mug, move on to a water-heating device. If you don't want to spend money on a kettle, use a small sauce pan to boil up some water. If you don't have a saucepan, get one, because they're important for life. Or, if you have a microwave, find a microwave safe mug or dish or bowl or whatever will hold water and take the cheap road out. There's something about microwaving tea water that isn't...right...

And then you'll need a vehicle to steep the tea in. There are tea balls, quirky, punny infusers, french presses, and a slew of other things to help in the tea brewing process. You really don't need to be that picky, unless you have a loose leaf that's fine in the texture department, like rooibos. I've had that slip through my tea ball and leave lovely sticks throughout. Not the worst thing, but not the best either.  

Go forth, my children, and enjoy.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tea Time Two

A couple of things. First, I'm on a tea bender. But not really a bender, because tea is kind of an every day thing for me, instead of just a 'bender.' Maybe 'addiction' is a better term. Second, some people are stuck in a sad whole where they only experience the slightly depressing sachets of practically powdered tea.

That does not mean every boxed or bagged tea is bad. Some of them are actually pretty good, quality wise. An easy way to tell is the texture of whatever is lurking inside the sachet. If it's a chunkier creation, where you can actually see separate leaves or spices, you're golden. However, the finer the contents, the poorer the tea. If you're in a pinch and just trying to get a caffeine fix in for the day, sure, use that sad tea. But if you're looking for a more enjoyable experience, find a that has some texture. Or, better yet, go loose leaf.

You can find loose leaf at a lot of stores, but if you want LOOSE LEAF, instead of just, you know, loose leaf, try a local co-op or natural living center, or even sites like Teavana. Places like these offer organic, fair trade, loose leaf teas that play delightfully on one's pallet. You can also pick up the necessary equipment for your loose leaf, if you aren't already and avid user.  

More on that later, because right now, sleep.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I would die without tea. I realize I made smoothies sound like the end all earlier, but seriously, tea is where it's at. Need some caffeine? Tea. Don't want coffee breath? Tea. Want to impress that guy in the cubicle next to yours with some really herbal, zen mannerism? Tea. No joke, you'll turn into an exotic enigma, possibly laden with an ironic beard. 

Take that, cubicle guy.

Anyway, one of the best teas I've come across is a gunpowder green. This variety of green tea leaf is rolled so that, believe it or not, it looks like gunpowder. Following that theme, the flavor is slightly smoky, too, and one of the stronger varieties of green. It's a great punch in the winter morning. I haven't tried it yet, but it'd probably be nice iced, sitting on a porch at dusk, watching sparrows flit back and forth and listening to crickets chirrup in the long grass. 

Or something like that, you know, whatever floats your tea boat.

Thanks to for the obscure, royalty free image of gunpowder green tea

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Smoothies Are My Best Friend

You cannot go wrong with a smoothie. Ever. It's creamy and fruity and you can hide good-for-you things in them and no one will ever be the wiser, unless, for some reason, you let slip that you put whey protein in when they weren't looking. Don't do that, though. Seriously. Just put things in and serve that smoothie up and grin when they can't quite place everything residing in the frozen delicacy. 

There are even cheat sheets to make these heavenly creatures, even though, let's face it, they're pretty hard to mess up. 
 How to make a smoothie.
Thanks to for this joyous graphic.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Best Things to Keep Laying Haphazardly About the Kitchen

Recently, I ventured to a friends apartment. A few minutes after arrival, which included the mandatory hugging and squealing and best-friend pleasantries, her stomach growled. Mine, being the compassionate creature it is, echoed her stomach's feelings. Unfortunately for our stomachs, our wallets were also empty, which reduced us to spooning peanut-butter out of a crusty jar with plastic knives. It was, in the end, one of the best dinner's I've had. However, the situation did make me wish for at least a quarter of what resides in  Mother Superior's seemingly endless kitchen.

That's where this list comes in. Some of the best things even the saddest, more lifeless kitchens deserve, because not everyone likes huddling around a jar of peanut-butter, clutching plastic utensils like mindless cave people.

  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You can't go wrong with this stuff. It has enough flavor to stand alone as a light salad dressing, and is versatile enough to help sauté or toast or do whatever it is you do with EVOO. 
  2. Vinegar. Balsamic is nice because, like EVOO, it can help dress things up. And any vinegar is great for when you have the hiccups.
  3. Stand Mixer. No one likes whipping cream or creaming butter by hand. It hurts and it takes forever. Now, while stand mixers can be a tad expensive, they're wonderful to have around. Cakes, ice creams, anything that needs a good beating can be thrown in that sucker and bam, no more hand cramps from whisking like a mad man.
  4. Bamboo Utensils. No matter what you're cooking, you can use bamboo. It doesn't scratch a surface like metal tongs or spatulas or spoons, it's lightweight, and it doesn't take on the flavor of what you're cooking like a wooden utensil. 
  5. Sheet Pans. It doesn't really matter what you're making; pizza, bread, fries, chicken, anything that needs to be baked can be slapped on a sheet pan. Without sheet pans, there would be no life.       

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Saw this. Cried tears of joy at the clarity and simplicity of it all.
The Chef's Guide to Knives.

Props to S.B.LattinDesign for this magnificent creature.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Poor Man's Panini

College, wonderful creature that it is, tends to sap the life out of everything, especially one's bank account. This does not mean, however, that you've been reduced to eating legitimately horrifying packaged noodles with a higher sodium content than the Dead Sea. The other night, for twenty bucks, I turned out a solid three sandwiches. By solid, I mean only half of mine was gone in a sitting. The other half made a nice breakfast-lunch-brunch thing the next day.

These relatively cheap sandwiches were made with simple enough ingredients:

  • Bread
  • Turkey
  • Beefsteak Tomatoes
  • Mozzarella
  • Avocado
Now, with the bread and the mozz, I went a little fancy and bought fresh. If you're on a tighter budget, buy accordingly. And don't feel limited to mozz. Any type of cheese that melts easily, like muenster or cheddar or, please no, pre-sliced American singles, or whatever they are. Don't feel limited to turkey, either. It just so happens that I don't eat red meat. Any deli meat, thinly sliced. Any. On top of that, feel free to replace or leave out the tomato or avocado. But at that point you're stuck with a somewhat...dull... sandwich. Which is okay. I guess.

Anyway, the assembly of the sandwich is almost as straightforward as the ingredient list, except for maybe the 'panini' part. If you don't have a panini press, go the old school sauté pan route. Or, if you don't have a sauté pan, skip the whole warm-melty-ooey-gooey part of this sandwich. Assemble cold, like a man. 

With the stove, keep the heat on low until the sandwich is assembled, then turn it up depending on how dark and crunchy you like the bread. This way the cheese gets to melt, but the bread doesn't carbonize right off the bat. And make sure you're pan or griddle is hot by flicking a little water on it. If the water sizzles, you're ready to get your sandwich on.

Drizzle a little olive oil or spread some butta' on da' bread if you're going the panini/sauté pan route. It'll give the bread better marks and some crunch, to break up the textural monotony or relatively smooth ingredients.
  1. With the oiled or butta'd side down, slap some cheese on that sucker. 
  2. Hit the bread with the turkey or preferred deli meat next, one or two slices, nothing to heavy. 
  3. Tomato and avocado, in any pattern you please.
  4. More. Meat.
  5. Your second slice of bread, also oiled or butta'd, this side up. And then flip that sandwich and get some more marks. More marks, more texture. Yes, please.
In pictures, that translates to this:
Step 1 (Photo by J.Cust)
Step 2 (Photo by J.Cust) 

Step 3 (Photo by J.Cust)
Step 4 (Photo by J.Cust)
Look at my marks. Look. At. Them.  (Photo by J.Cust)