Category Archives: Food

Slow Steep

I left my notebook with my notes on the last panel from Geek Girl Con at home, so I asked if anyone on Twitter had any topics they wanted to hear me riff on. The lovely Brenna Layne, who has been doing a #HereBeDragons run of late, asked me to write about tea.

My first response was, ME? Write about tea? But I know noooothing. I mean, what about Lauren? She’s so much more knowledgeable. Or all these other people I follow on Twitter. Or the people at Smith Teas. Or Remedy. Or or or …

So I’m going to stop quailing and tell you a few things about me and tea. I am at least an expert on that.

Fudouin in Koya-san - tea service

Brenna asked me how I got into tea. Now I have to dig into the archives. Like many decisions I’ve made, it started as a negative: I didn’t like coffee. I couldn’t tolerate caffeine. But I went to college in the Frozen North (otherwise known as Ohio, just west of Cleveland). It was cold. Oh so cold. And I started drinking tea to stay warm. I think the inside of my lower lip was permanently scalded from about November to March. Bigelow Tea bags. The lemon flavored one. That was my tea of choice. Hot, flavored water.

After college I moved to Seattle, The Land of Coffee Drinkers. The birthplace of Starbucks. I even applied for a job there, as a barista, but didn’t get very far when they found out I didn’t like coffee. Think of how much I would have saved the company in the drinks I wouldn’t consume!

So for the last twenty years or so I’ve been an erstwhile tea drinker. I had a basket for loose leaves, but I never paid attention to the water temperature or really much about the leaves, other than that they were loose.

All that changed a few years ago when I met my friend Lauren Hall-Stigerts. Lauren and I met at this time of year, at an unconference. We immediately bonded over many things, one of them being tea. Lauren loves the greens. I keep trying them, like some people do with certain vegetables, but for the most part, they leave me cold. My impression from hanging out with the tea people I know is that greens and oolongs and pu-ers are the prized teas. There’s not much noise made about blacks or whites.

Somewhere in this period I had some tea from Smith Teas. In many ways I feel like I have an undistinguished palate, but Oh. My. God. This was TEA. I mean, when I sipped my first cup from them, I tasted something. It wasn’t just flavored water. There was so much more going on. This was their bagged tea, and if you know anything about bagged tea, it’s usually the leavings. Broken leaves swept up unceremoniously and dumped into those hideous bags. Like the Red Rose tea my Canadian grandmother drank. Smith’s bags are the “pyramid” sachets, with full leaves. This was another story altogether. Another world.

So I started buying whole leaves from a tea shop around the corner. That was a couple of years ago and I haven’t looked back. I made more connections on Twitter, and we shared our favorite teas with each other, furthering my explorations. Last year my mom got me an electric kettle with variable temps. I USE IT EVERY DAY. I love it.

Here’ s what I’ve discovered:

  • I love fruity, malty, and bitter, which is why I love IPA beers so much, too.
  • I like my tea straight, unadulterated. Some blends and teas are meant to take cream or milk, like Earl Grey. I just like the flavor of the tea, and while I used to like flavored teas, I’m finding them less appealing.
  • Among the world of blacks, I’ve said Yunnan is like the champagne of tea. It’s perfectly black, and the bitterness is balanced by a delicate apricot flavor. Keemun has a harsher flavor, as well as smoky. I heard someone else describe Assam as a velvet fist. I had to laugh, because it’s very smooth, but really packs a punch in terms of the caffeine.
  • Turns out there is technically one green tea I like: hojicha, which is sometimes referred to as bancha or twig tea. It’s the twigs and stems from the camellia sinensis and they are roasted. And there’s an oolong from Smacha Tea called Red 27 that is similarly roasted and that is a revelation. If you ever have the chance to try that one, do it.
  • I just realized I didn’t say anything about Darjeeling. Like oolong, it’s too slippery or something. It doesn’t hit that pleasure center for me. Just cruises right on by.

As much as I love the flavor of tea, I also love the ritual, the quietness, and the connections I’ve made.

What do you like to drink? Given what you know about my tea tastes, what should I try next?

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Sweets of the Season

This week’s prompt was around desserts! I usually do make a variety of sweets, but for some reason, I haven’t taken many pictures of them.

For the first time this year, we also went to see the gingerbread “house” competition in downtown Seattle. I will note that this is a fundraiser for an organization working around juvenile diabetes. Yeah, the irony was not lost on any of us.

I had two “houses” in particular that I really loved. One was Hawai’ian (I know, you are all SHOCKED), and the other was a love letter to Seattle.

Hawai’i

Surfin’ Santa

Surfin' Santa

Santapus

octopus santa

Seattle

Skyline

Seattle Skyline

Bertha – Seattle’s BIG DIG

Bertha

You can see the rest of the pics here.

In case you were looking for a temptation you could eat, I offer up this:

I did try out a chocolate mint thins with candy cane crunch from the NY Times, and it’s been a huge hit in our house. One word of caution – do try to crush the candy canes as much as you can. Chomping into a big chunk does put a damper on the enjoyment.

Candy cane cookie!

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52 Photos: Dessert

This week’s prompt was dessert.

lemon bar

If you give me the choice between a chocolate dessert and a fruit dessert, I will almost always choose the fruit (har har). Even within fruit, there’s a hierarchy, and the citrus sits at the top. Since I only cook/bake vegan at home, home made lemon bars are a treat I’ve gone without for a Very. Long. Time. I have always loved them, and have tried making a few vegan recipes over the years that just disappoint me. I was ready for my heart to be broken again with this one, particularly since the lemon topping uses agar agar flakes, which can have a strong and distinct flavor.

I’m happy to announce that this one wins, in every way. Flavor, texture, and even visually, it is all appealing. There is the added bonus of the lack of egg flavor, the one thing I actually don’t like about the regular lemon bars.

I bake pretty regularly, and despite what I say about the fruit, most of what I make has chocolate in it.

Chocolate thumbprint cookies:
Chocolate thumbprint cookies

Chocolate crinkle cookies:
chocolate crinkles

And my favorite rich treat, vegan peanut butter cream cheese brownie with chocolate chips:
vegan peanut butter cream cheese brownie

And sometimes I just like to buy someone else’s treats:
peppermint cupcake

What’s your favorite dessert? What do you like for someone else to make for you? What do you like to make for others?

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Vegan Cookery

pomegranate


Heh. I love the word “cookery.” It just sounds so … bad-ass and blasphemous. Last night I was asked to share some of my favorite vegan recipes. Since I get this question often enough, I figured it was time to do a blog post. I’m going to rec some of my favorite cookbooks and then point out specific recipes that I love from them. This is in no way comprehensive, but just what came to mind. If the cookbook is out of print and you can’t get it, let me know and I will share the recipe you would like.

Without further ado:

Cooking with PETA
You can say what you want about the organization, but if it hadn’t been for this cookbook, I don’t think my girlfriend would have stayed vegan very long.

  • Crispy Tofu Cubes (we add green bell pepper)
  • Golden Vegetable Noodle Soup
  • Beefless Stew (we use seitan instead of TVP)
  • Tofu Scrambler

Vegan With a Vengeance
Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero really changed things in our house. We particularly love:

  • carrot bisque – add a squeeze of lime juice!
  • make your own seitan!
  • raspberry blackout cake
  • scones
  • I make a pesto recipe that is very close to the one here, except mine has a little bit of miso in it instead of nutritional yeast
  • gnocchi
  • peanut sauce

Madhur Jaffrey’s Spice Kitchen

  • Make your own garam masala!
  • broccoli with garlic and mustard seeds
  • spicy kebabs (we use seitan instead of lamb – serve in a wrap with baked yam, squeeze some lime on top, yum yum

Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian

  • Mock Lamb Curry (I just sub soy sour cream for the dairy)
  • A chickpea curry recipe from Trinidad and Tobago

Sundays at the Moosewood:

  • Ethiopian Lentils
  • Veggie Pot Pie
  • Biscuits (to make buttermilk, I just put ~1tsp of apple cider vinegar in the soy milk)

The Candle Cafe Cookbook has THE BEST spanikopita recipe, vegan or no.

And we have one recipe that we LOVE from Ron Pickarski’s Eco-Cuisineseitan burgers. Do yourself a favor and skip the hazelnut cheesecake with the whole wheat couscous crust, though.

We also have all three dessert cookbooks by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Pie in the Sky. You can find all three here: Post Punk Kitchen: Vegan Baking and Cooking.

I have a few recipes that I just acquired. This is one of my favorites. It’s fairly easy and will wow your friends: Green beans and tofu in a Thai coconut sauce

Would love to hear what some of your favorite cookbooks and recipes are. Please share!

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