Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Ultimate Craving for Peppermint Tea

Let’s just say, I am on another health kick. With my boot camp passion firmly in place, I am working on adding stretching and flexibility to my agenda. I can hardly touch my toes, unless there is a potato chip laid out before me or a slice of pizza from Oenotri. This morning, I headed out the door to attend a local Bikram Yoga class. You may remember my attempt at this a couple of years back, an amusing situation where my dear husband thought I was going to “burping yoga”.

This morning's sweat session lasted for ninety minutes and was filled with 26 traditional postures. I am happy to report that I survived(minus being a bit dehydrated and left feeling like a “salt lick”). Right after class, the strangest thing happened--I began craving peppermint tea. One would think that water, a nap, and carbohydrates would be first on my list. Thank goodness, I am married to the Tea Drinker and can have Peppermint loose leaf tea at will. This craving got me musing about how one’s body speaks to you about what its lacking. I decided to take this opportunity (while recovering on the couch) to research the health benefits of drinking peppermint tea. Lo and behold, I found out that this herb is one healthy treat.

First up, you have to like the flavor of peppermint. It’s very distinctive. I have to admit it was hard to focus as my mind kept wandering back to the holidays where I consumed my fair share of peppermint bark from the Vintage Sweet Shoppe. I digress; back to health. In my research, I discovered that peppermint(menthe piperata) is a natural hybrid of spearmint, and watermint. Peppermint is unique in that it contains a powerful therapeutic ingredient, called menthol. This natural ingredient brings loads of benefits through the volatile oil contained in the leaves.

Let’s get healthy!
Check out these great benefits of drinking peppermint tea.
• Treats irritable bowel syndrome.
• Helps ease nausea, and upset stomachs.
• Strengthens the immune system- fights cold and flu.
• Relieves stomach and menstrual cramps.
• Contains high amounts of calcium, Vitamin B, and potassium.
• Improves digestion, and reduces heartburn. Enjoy a cup right after you eat.
• Dissolves gallstones.
• Great as a natural breath freshener. Smooch. Smooch.
• Alleviates muscle aches, headaches and chronic pain.
• Clears congestion, helps with allergies, and colds.
• Combats stress. Sign me up!
• It’s caffeine free, refreshing, and hydrating!

Now, I completely understand why my body was screaming for peppermint tea! Drink the Leaf offers peppermint tea that is organically grown in Washington. You can serve this herbal beverage hot or cold. I actually prefer drinking it at room temperature.

Now I am so darn relaxed, that I need a pick me up. I better move onto Keemun Hao Ya A. I still have a lot to get done today!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Napa Valley's Pearl

Every town in America should have an eatery like Pearl Restaurant. A place where you can go, and they know you by name. They know your likes, dislikes (no red meat, please), and your favorite spot to sit (at the bar). The Tea Drinker and I are lucky enough to have this gem of a restaurant just blocks away from where we live in Napa. Last night, we strolled down to Pearl, and saddled up to the kitchen bar, and ordered up some of our most coveted dishes. We started with a bottle of our house Chardonnay and slurped down oysters roasted with salsa verde and feta cheese. Delicious. It was the perfect way to wrap up a busy day at the Farmer’s Market, followed by laundry, cleaning, laundry again, and Japan research.

Nickie and Peter Zeller, the lovely owners, are always welcoming, and knowledgeable about the latest news in the neighborhood. They are the hardest working couple we know (besides yours truly and the Tea Drinker). Head Chef Jose Guzman is an unassuming guy, who has a gentle smile, and twinkle in his eye. I admit I am enamored with the food that he puts out, and the Tea Drinker would love a job there just so that he can partake in the best employee meals that we have ever witnessed. On the walk down to the restaurant, I kept rambling on about whether or not it was soft shell crab season, yet. The pan-fried panko crusted soft shell crab sandwich topped with avocado, and chipotle aioli (applewood bacon optional) on a ABC bakery’s potato bun is the best around, It's worthy of pushing someone off a bar stool to get the last order, if needed. The Tea Drinker feels the same way about the Guerrero corn on the cob. The corn is grilled, then rolled in a cotija cheese and sour cream chili mixture, and finished with a slice of fresh lime. Jackpot! The soft shell crab was in, but it was too early for the corn. Thank god, June is just around the corner. Another favorite is Jose’s Chicken Verde served with a side of creamy polenta, and steamed vegetables. However, last night the Tea Drinker opted for the Apple Dijon Brined Pork Chop, double thick, bone-in served with mashers and steamed vegetables. It’s important to have your veggies every day...

We celebrate this treasure called Pearl, and Nickie and Peter who make it happen every day! Before you start writing in and demanding the corn recipe, I have provided it below. June is just weeks away- dig out the Iced Tea Pitcher, your favorite Drink the Leaf blend (recently received rave reviews), or the makings for a gin-n-tonic. Get ready, set, go! Grill on.

Guerrero Style Grilled Corn on the Cob
This is a great dish for the BBQ. Grill the corn around the edges of the grill, while cooking meat, chicken, fish or whatever in the middle.
• 12 ears of corn, shucked & cleaned of all silk & steams cut
• 1 cup sour cream (can be nonfat)
• 1 cup mayonnaise (can be nonfat)
• 1/2 tsp chili arbol molida (ground fine) if unavailable
ground buy whole dry chili arbol & grind in mortar or
coffee grinder*
• 1/2 tsp chili pequin molida (ground fine) same as above*
• 1/2 pound cotija cheese grated fine (like dry Italian cheese)*
• 4 limes cut in wedges
Prepare ahead:
• Make wood or charcoal fire. While fire is getting ready blanch corn in boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove to
colander & set aside.
• Can be done 4 hours ahead: whip the mayonnaise, sour cream, chili pequin & chile arbol together until smooth.
Set aside.
• Brush blanched corn lightly w/ vegetable, canola or olive oil, place on grill & keep turning until brown all over. Remove from grill & brush with sour cream, mayonnaise, chili mixture & dust w/ grated cotija cheese.
• Put on skewers if you choose or use your hands.
• Serve w/ lime wedges.
*can be found in Mexican markets (in Napa at Morenita Market on Jefferson across from Napa High, very reasonable price on cotija cheese & dry chilis) or in the Mexican section
of most super markets.
Other notes:
-if you are not grilling outside you can brown the blanched corn on the burners of a gas stove or in a grill pan.
- grate the cheese 4 hours ahead and spread it on a sheet pan to dry. That makes it easier to dust it onto the corn.
** recipe provided by Pearl Restaurant

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cycle for Tea

My blog has a flat tire. Its run out of air, speed, and wind. Wait- that’s me. A short posting today, as I am headed to Auburn, CA to watch a portion of the first stage of Tour of California. This road race has become the largest cycling event in America. The ride is divided into eight challenging courses, that begins in Nevada City and ends in Southern California on the 23rd of May. Actually a portion of this race will ride right through Napa, and whiz by my “home away from home”, where I will be watching with other spectators. There is also a non-profit component to this race, which is a nice touch. The bio technology company, Amgen, is the primary sponsor. This company focuses on the development of innovative medicines that are made available to treat cancer. “Breakaway from Cancer” is another leg to the race sponsorship bringing awareness to the resources available to cancer patients.

Are you eager to know if I am an avid cyclist? Well, I'm not. I have tooled around a few times in my life, but never have been a cyclist. I have always admired and marveled at the likes of Lance and Levi, but never felt the urge to jump on a road bike. The thought of taking on the four wheels of this world(whose drivers have one ear to a cell phone ) sends chills down my spine. Instead, I recenlty purchased a town cruiser(see photo above) that takes me to the grocery store and back via less traveled roads.

However, I am sure after today’s experience, I will be bugging the Tea Drinker to join me in my new passion, road biking. I will wake up every day and do deep knee bends, wear lots of padding on my rear end, don a helmet, and bike to work. I will utter strange words, and rattle on about sprints, time trials, road rash, and wheelsuckers. I will have Iced Herbal Masala Chai in my water bottle and feel the wind at my back. Then, I will snap out of it, and remember that I am totally out of steam, and can’t take on another hobby. But, I could be convinced...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Flurry of Love on Mother's Day

Reporting from my hometown of Buffalo, NY where the wind is howling, snowflakes are in the air, and the temperature is a chilly 38 degrees. I presume Western New York did not receive the memo, “April showers, bring May flowers”. In any case, there is plenty of food, wine and Drink the Leaf loose leaf teas to keep us cozy. Today, of course, is Mother’s Day. I would like to take this moment to wish all the fabulous mothers out there, who are slaying dragons on a daily basis, a wonderful time with their families (or not). You are admired, loved, and revered. We salute you. Kick off your shoes, grab a book, and steep yourself a steaming cup of brew. Better yet, have someone else do it for you.

I am a big believer in worshipping your Mommy. Who else would put up with you your whole life-- the good, the bad and the ugly? Um, thanks again, Mom. So, what to do for your Mom on this momentous day? As my Mom put it, all she wants to do on her special day (which also happens to be her birthday) is to DO NOTHING. Actually, she made some off the wall comment about “applying Velcro to her backside and adhering herself to the couch”. Ah, the pleasure of nothingness for a day. It recharges the soul. Mom, I grant you this wish, and nothing but all my love! Oh, and, Mom, could you please move over on the couch? I am the proud mother of Little One, after all. Parents these days…

Love you oodles Mom, thanks for your unwavering support, love and friendship. On the menu today is Egg & Sausage Bread Pudding with a Spring Salad, and a nice chilled glass of one of your most coveted Chardonnays. Bon Appétit !

This is a delicious savory bread pudding that I have served on Christmas morning in the past. I thought it would be fitting for Mother’s Day in Buffalo.

Grocery List:
4 TBSP Butter, unsalted
1 cup chopped onions
¼ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
¼ cup finely chopped red bell peppers
¾ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 TBSP. chopped Italian Parsley
6oz Bacon
6oz Sausage(I used a combination of Smoked Chicken Andouille and Italian Turkey)
8 Eggs
3 cups of Milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 ¼ tsp Creole Seasoning (Essence!Bam!)
8 cups of Italian Bread, chopped in 1" cubes ( leave out the night before)
2 cups of Grated Cheese ( such as Gouda or Fontina)
½ cup dry bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 TBSP of melted butter

Get to Work:
1) Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking dish(9 x 13”) with 1 TBSP butter.
2) Melt 2 tsp of butter over med- heat in medium skillet. Add onions, bell peppers, pinch of salt and black pepper. Cook until soft.
3) Add garlic- cook until fragrant. Add parsley- stir and remove from heat.
4) In another skillet- Melt 1 tsp. butter, over medium heat. Add bacon, cook, drain on paper towels. Add sausage, cook until browned, remove and drain on paper towels. Let cool.
5) In large mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add milk, cream, 1 tsp of seasoning, ½ tsp of salt, and pinch of black pepper. Whisk to combine. Add bread cubes, and let sit for 5 minutes. Add bacon, sausage, onion and pepper mixtures, and cheese. Stir to combine. Pour entire mixture into baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 50 minutes.
6) Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, remaining 1/2 tsp of seasoning, and melted butter. Spread mixture evenly on pudding. Put back in oven, uncovered, for an additional 2o minutes, until down in the middle.
7) Enjoy, then have someone else clean up the kitchen, and put away the dishes.

** recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse/foodnetwork

Serve with a mixed greens spring salad tossed in a light dressing.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fava Bean Tragedy at Napa Farmer's Market

The Farmer’s market season has begun in Napa Valley. This means that from now until the end of October, you will find the Tea Drinker at Drink the Leaf’s booth each Tuesday and Saturday. Typically, in the beginning of the season, the market starts off slow both in foot traffic and vendors, and then ramps up(no pun, intended!) by mid-June. Yesterday, it was great to visit with the other vendors and our customers. We gabbed about the winter, complimented each other’s new hairstyles, and praised the good weather. At Drink the Leaf, we started this year’s market off by sampling our delightful Ceylon Black, and had fourteen teas available for sale. No surprise, the teas were a hit.

The Farmer’s Market this year is located in the parking lot of the now defunct Copia, which is next door to the Oxbow Public Market. We prefer this new location to last year, however, there is quite a bit of road construction going on nearby. Plan ahead, as you have to zigzag your way around the back streets to get to the market. The good news is that you will pass by GOTT’s Roadside 'Tray Gourmet', and if you are exhausted, cranky or famished you can always stop in for a mint chip milkshake, Ahi tuna burger, and an order of sweet potato fries, to quell your anxiety. It works for me every time.

While the Tea Drinker was chatting with customers and inquiring about their tea drinking habits, I was out and about sampling the goods. I tried an addictive garlic and Parmesan spread from the Glop. This new vendor at the market was very popular; the interesting name and cool packaging brought people over, and they hovered for samples, and plopped down money for purchases. Glop hit the mark, and I was off. I ambled over to Humble Beginnings and Annie the Baker(her real name is Annie Baker-no joshing). These two great vendors offer up tasty jams, jellies and homemade cookies. Last year, we were situated between them; I suspect we must have been too rowdy, since they split us up this time around. As always, Annie the Baker sold out of her delicious dough-like cookies. It’s not uncommon to walk by her booth, and hear someone pleading, “But, I need me some of those Toffee Milk Chocolate Chip cookies!!”. Oh, wait, that was me. But, seriously, do not be surprised when you find yourself pleading with her, too.

By the time I got to the produce section, it was slim pickings. Darn it, because I was craving fava beans, and they were sold out. The nice lady told me that they had a huge pile of them at opening, the crowd got unruly, people were grabbing and pushing, and the beans were gone within minutes. Fava beans tend to bring out crazy behavior in people, every time. I cruised back to check on the Tea Drinker and he was trading Jasmine Pearl and Blood Orange black for roasted garlic hummus dip and pita chips from, The Hummus Guy. That’s why I love my husband, always thinking about our next meal.

Speaking of food, my stomach was growling as the market came to a close. So, being the great wife that I am, I offered to run over to the Oxbow and pick us up lunch from Pica Pica Maize Kitchen. We packed up the truck and headed home and enjoyed our classic Venezuelan meal on the patio. While snacking on a sweet corn pancake filled with shredded chicken and cheddar cheese, I proceed to tell my husband my strategy for the next market. I will be damned if I let someone else snag those fava beans again. He nodded and listened patiently, and then reminded me that my duties as a wife of a tea drinker included not causing waves at the market. Yes, dear.

Stop by the farmer’s market this week, the Tea Drinker will be on hand with great gift ideas for Mother’s day. Check out our fancy new gift tins of loose leaf tea paired with Botanical Bakery “Ginger Squared” shortbread cookies. Treat your Mom right.