Tuesday, September 23, 2014

TeaVivre Review and Giveaway

I rarely do product reviews, but every now and then, an opportunity presents itself that I just can't refuse.  That's what happened when TeaVivre contacted me to review some of their teas.

You see, TeaVivre is a Chinese tea company who has a goal to bring Chinese tea to every corner in the world.    And I'm a big fan of Chinese tea.  It's partially a sense-memory thing.  Thatdad used to travel to China a couple times each year and he would always bring home tea for us.  It was my first experience with real "tea" - not that bagged stuff you find in the supermarket, but actual leaves and blooms.  Some of the teas would actually bloom in the teapot, revealing a beautiful flower.  And the taste was like nothing I'd had before.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the fun fruity flavors like apple cinnamon and orange ginger, but they all do taste a little, produced.  Real Chinese teas taste fresh and floral.  It's like comparing homemade pasta to storebought.  Storebought will do, but nothing compares to fresh.

With this in mind, I was glad to accept some samples from TeaVivre.  I got really excited when my vacuum sealed bag filled to the brim with samples arrived!

They had send me 4 of each of the following teas: 

Organic Hangzhou Tian Mu Qing Ding Green Tea

Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea

Premium Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea

Organic Silver Needle White Tea (Bai Hao Yin Zhen) 

Taiwan Dong Ding (Tung Ting) Oolong Tea

I loved that each serving was packed in a little contained, so I didn't have to worry about measuring, or making a mess with loose tea leaves.

Both green teas were so very fresh.  It sounds silly to say that they're "green" tasting, but they are.  For me, green teas are also some of the most floral tasting, so that adds to the green for me.  They're also very light.  It's hard to find a bad green tea.

The black tea is a richer tea, darker and more like what many of us are used to in English teas like English breakfast and Earl Grey.  For me, this is a weekend tea, because it's a little more complex than the greens.

I think this was my first experience with a white tea, and this was a great introduction.  It falls somewhere between the green and the black teas.  It's still light and floral, which made it especially nice for the summer.

The oolong was my favorite.  I don't put sugar in my teas, preferring to enjoy their flavors without the added sweetness that often overtakes delicate teas.  But the oolong was naturally sweet.  Fruity instead of flowery, with notes that changed during the time it was in your mouth.

And the good people of TeaVivre have agreed to give one of you lucky readers the same package of teas they sent to me!  I'll make this really easy for you - the giveaway will run for the next week, and all you have to do is leave a comment with your favorite tea.  I can't wait to share with you some of my new favorites and explore some of yours!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, September 22, 2014

Mommy Mondays: Woes of a Working Mom

My friends - it is hard to be a working mom.  Not to say it isn't hard to be a stay at home mom, because that has its own set of difficulties.  But one thing that working moms have that stay at home moms don't is the addition of mom guilt for not being around.

This hit me hard last Monday when I had to drop Thatbaby off at school.  He'd been off since Thursday because of the strep throat.  Mondays are always hard at school drop offs.  He loves being at home with us during the weekends, so Monday mornings the last thing he wants to do is go to school.  It's even harder after a long weekend, or being home sick for days.  And when he's been sick, I feel terribly dropping him off at school as he cries for me to stay, or says he wants to go home.  I feel guilty about the fact that if I wasn't working, I could take him home and cuddle him until he felt 100% healthy.

So how do you deal with feeling like you're not being the best mom you can be?

1) Self talk.  You know who the best moms are?  Moms who feel fulfilled.  This is a great thing to remember because fulfillment can come from so many sources.  For some staying home with their children gives them that sense.  Other women feel fulfillment from working in a complicated field.  Or having stimulating conversations with other adults.  Or making loads of money.  Whatever it is makes you feel whole, then don't feel guilty about doing it, because rather than making you a bad mom, it makes you a better mom.

2) Time away makes you a better mom.  I love Thatbaby.  To pieces.  He is my favorite child in the world and I would do anything for him.  But he drives me nuts.  He wears me down and exhausts me.  And if I had to spend 24 hours a day with him every day I think I would lose my cool.  There would be yelling, there would be tears, and Thatbaby would probably cry too.  Having a little non-mom time is good for me so I can be a better mom during mom-time.

3) Family time.  I really try to spend as much time with my family as I'm able.  So when I'm with them, I'm really with them.  The computer and television are usually off until Thatbaby goes to bed.  Weekends are usually about doing things together, I do girls' night during the week, and get up before sunrise to do long runs so I don't miss out on time with the boys.  This means my weekends are usually packed with events and I am often more exhausted Sunday nights than I am on Friday nights, but in a couple years Thatbaby is not going to want to have anything to do with us on weekends, so I'll take advantage now.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Runday: The Aloha Run

Last week I told you the PR I got in the Grape Day 5k wouldn't last for long.  I'll get to that, but first, this is the story of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad race.

When we moved, we ended up moving near one of the women in my running group.  She came up with the brilliant idea that we should run The Aloha Run together and we could carpool.  I agreed, even though it was the day after The Grape Day 5k.  2 races in one weekend!  And maybe that's why everything that could go wrong did.

The night before the race I laid out all my stuff in the guest room so I wouldn't disturb Thatboy while I was getting ready.  I set my alarm, and went to bed.  The plan was to wake up at 5:30, get to NeighborRunner's house at 6, and head to the race early enough for her to pick up her registration.

Instead, I woke up at 6:24.  My alarm hadn't gone off!  I texted NeighborRunner I was on my way and attempted to throw on my contacts and get dressed.  I realized after I was dressed, that I only had one contact in.  I have no idea what happened to the other.  I didn't have time to look for it, so I grabbed another and popped it in.  I went to grab my shoes and socks and head out the door barefoot.  Except I couldn't find my socks.  My socks I had laid out the night before.  So back into the room I went to find another pair of socks.  I ran out the door clutching socks, shoes, and bib.  Leaving behind my wallet/id/sunglasses/sunscreen.

I got to NeighborRunner's house, apologizing profusely and drove like a demon to the race.  Parking was awful because of the location, so I ended up in a lot about a mile from the start.  While I finished getting dressed, NeighborRunner sprinted to pick up her bib.  This is the time when I realized I couldn't find my socks again.  The new pair I had purposely grabbed on my way out the door.  Fabulous.  Guess who was going to run this race sockless?

I ran to the start line just as the race started.  Nothing like leaving it to the last second, right?  The race started in waves so as not to overwhelm Mission Bay.  Which was nice, it gave me about 10 minutes to compose myself before I was off and running.

I really hate running races at Mission Bay.  They don't close off the course, so you're weaving around people out for morning strolls.  It's out and back so you get to do that the entire time you're running, and mostly you're trying to figure out where to go since the course is just marked with cones.

Add that to the fact that I could feel the blisters already forming from my sockless adventure, and I was anxious to be done with this race.  The course is really flat, and as every mile passed it became clear I was going to earn another PR.

I met up with NeighborRunner at the finish - she had already finished because she's super speedy.  We walked around checking out the event before going to see our times.  We were both shocked at the results, until we realized that  for some reason they had subtracted 2 minutes from everyone's time.  My time was 25:29!  Talk about an amazing PR.  But for those of you that can do math, my actual time was 27:29.  Still a pretty impressive PR given that I had just PR'd the day before!

As for NeighborRunner, despite her terrible carpool date for the race, she managed to do pretty well too - 2nd in her age group!  I have some fast friends.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Whispery Eggs with Crabmeat and Herbs

Any chef worth his salt should have a good egg recipe, right?  I mean, it is a kitchen staple.  Chances are, at some point in your life, you're going to need to make eggs.   The weird thing about eggs, is even though they are a staple, there are so many different recipes.  Some people add milk, some add cream cheese.  Some stir in the pan, others smoosh around. 

Kim Sunee's egg recipe comes from her grandfather, who infused his New Orleans spirit in many of the recipes she presents.  As far as the eggs go, this means the inclusion of crabmeat, which she claims he added to just about anything.

To make these eggs "whispery" Sunee recommends whisking them.  The creme fraiche ensures they're still creamy and slightly decadent.  As if the crabmeat didn't do that already.

Whispery Eggs with Crabmeat and Herbs (From Trail of Crumbs)
4 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp creme fraiche
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 spring onion, chopped
1 to 2 Tbsp chopped herbs
1 cup fresh lump crabmeat
lemon zest or hot sauce

  1.  Whisk eggs vigorously in a large bowl 1 to 2 minutes, using a handheld whisk.
  2. Add salt, pepper, and creme fraiche and whisk one minute more.  Set aside.
  3. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Cook onion and herbs about 2 minutes.
  4. Give eggs one last whisk and pour into skillet.  Reduce heat to medium low and gently stir eggs about 2 minutes.
  5. Add crabmeat and cook another minute.  Serve warm with fresh lemon zest, more herbs, or a dash of hot sauce.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Trail of Crumbs: Wild Peaches Poached in Lillet Blanc and Lemon Verbena

Before TFIL was forced to give up alcohol due to his type 2 diabetes he was a big drinker  (probably part of the reason for his diabetes).  He loved aperitifs as much as he loved his with-dinner drinks.  One of his favorites was Lillet Blanc, a blend of white wines and orange liqueur.  The only time I've ever drank Lillet Blanc was when I was at the inlaws, so that's where my mind immediately went when I saw this recipe featured the sweet beverage.

Sunee begins the book with this recipe, which represents "where [she] is now" and harkens back to the first time she met her lover's daughter, the first time she tasted the sweetness of a wild peach.  I've had fresh peaches before, but not of the same variety she describes - blood peaches.  Wild peaches aren't exactly easy to find in these parts, most being cultivated on farms.  But I used what I had.

I love fruit for dessert.  For me, there is nothing more needed.  No cake, no ice cream.  Especially in summer, the sticky sweetness of fruit serves as a nice, light way to end the evening.  So I felt this was a delightful summer treat.  The peaches are tender, but not in the mushy way canned peaches would be.  And the sweetness of the fruit serves to balance the crisp Lillet in the sauce.

Wild Peaches Poached in Lillet Blanc and Lemon Verbena (From Trail of Crumbs)
6 medium sized ripe wild peaches
1 bottle Lillet Blanc
1/3 cup sugar
2 to 3 Tbsp honey
1 piece of orange rind
squeeze of fresh orange juice (from 1 quarter)
4-5 fresh lemon verbena sprigs
  1. Cut an x in blossom end of each peach. Plunge in boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Remove and peel peaches.
  2. Place peeled peaches in a large, wide, heavy bottomed pot.  Pour Lillet Blanc over.
  3. Add sugar, honey, orange rind, and juice.  
  4. Gently crush lemon verbena leaves with hands to release fragrance and add springs to pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and poach, occasionally turning peaches gently for even cooking, to to 30 minutes depending on ripeness, or until peaches are tender when pierced gently with tip of knife.
  5. Carefully remove peaches and place in a large serving bowl.  Turn heat to high and cook poaching liquid 6 to 8 minutes or until thick and syrupy.  Pour over peaches.
  6. Let cool and chill in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cook the Book: Trail of Crumbs Quick Fix Kimchi

It's been so long since I've done one of these!  It's about time.  Trail of Crumbs is the story of Kim Sunee, who was left as a child at a market in Korea.  The book traces her story from Korea to New Orleans, after she is adopted by an American family, to Europe where she escapes to learn about life and love.

Sunee's life is shaped and molded by food, from the red beans and rice her grandfather makes to the honeyed figs fed to her by her lover.  The story is one of discovery, which is reflected in the cuisines of the countries that become Sunee's home.  It's a fascinating mix of cultures and cuisines.  And of course there are recipes.

I begin with her kimchi recipe - a staple of the Korean cuisine.  Confession: I have no experience with kimchi.  Thatdad always had some in the fridge when I was growing up, but the spicy pungent accompaniment held no interest for me.  In truth, I was a little concerned about how this would turn out and if I would like it.  I was oh so pleasantly surprised.  It seems silly to say this is the best kimchi I've ever had, so I'll say it's the best kimchi I've ever smelled.  The sesame oil gives it a warm, nutty aroma instead of the burn-your-nasal-hair scent I was expecting.  And it was good.  OH so good.  Thatboy, who has more kimchi experience than I do thought it was the best he'd ever had.  The only problem was that it didn't make enough.  We were honestly fighting over last bites.  We ate that entire jar in a single sitting.

Quick Fix Kimchi
1 head of napa cabbage
1/4 cup sea salt
1 piece fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
3-4 Tbsp sriracha
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 small head escarole
  1. Remove outer leaves of cabbage, quarter lengthwise, core bottoms, and cut across into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Place in a colander in sink and sprinkle with salt.  Let sit 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Rinse and dry cabbage thoroughly, preferably using a salad spinner.
  4. Whisk together ginger and next 8 ingredients in a large bowl.
  5. Add cabbage, escarole, and toss to combine.
  6. Pack kimchi in a glass jar or bowl.  Cover and refrigerate 2 hours and up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sick Sweets: Individual Ice Cream Cups

Last week Thatbaby started complaining that his throat was owie.  Wednesday night he started acting lethargic, lying on my lap during dinner.  This is a kid who never stops, so I knew something was up.  I kept him home from school on Thursday, and was going to send him in Friday but he still seemed a little off.  Thatboy brought him in to the doctor - strep throat.

OH strep throat! I am all too familiar with strep throat, it was my nemesis growing up.  I had it so often I could recognize it before I could even turn the test at the doctor's office.  And I had to have my tonsils out when I was 6.  I feel bad I seemed to have passed this proclivity on to him.

The only thing I can do is bring Thatbaby my favorite strep throat treat - ice cream.  It feels so good on an owie throat. 

One of my favorite kids and ice cream tricks is to freeze ice cream in silicone cupcake liners.  They make the perfect serving size and even have a little handle to hold on to.  I think normal people would eat them with a spoon, but Thatbaby likes to treat them like ice cream cones and lick them.

Ice Cream Cups
1 1/2 cups macaroons, crumbled
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sherry
 2 cups heavy cream
  1. Combine 1 cup of the macaroons and the half and half in a bowl and let soak for 1 hour.
  2. Stir in the sugar and sherry.  Place in a metal bowl and freeze until icey.
  3. Whip the heavy cream until stiff.
  4. Fold the macaroon mixture into the heavy cream.  Spoon into silicone cupcake liners.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining macaroon crumbs over top and freeze.