For the Love of Tea! A Peak into my Tea Obsession

Yeah, you read the title correctly. This blog post is going to mainly be about my tea drinking habits. While I may not be the most knowledgeable about tea, after testing out each particular tea for myself, I have been able to learn more about what different teas have to offer, some of the health benefits to teas and how to pick out the right tea for me.


Any day is an iced tea day for me and my sister!

One of the first things to consider when buying tea is what kind of tea are you looking to buy. Yup, not all teas are created equal, especially in the current market. You may be a person who sticks to the store brand tea bags that come 20 to a box. They’re easy to travel with and they are quick and efficient at getting the job done.

While that’s well and good, there are actually a few types of ways you can get tea besides the plain ol’ tea bag. My personal favorite form of tea is loose leaf, which is usually purchased by weight. You may say “Hey… this stuff is MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE. Why should I buy that when I can get double the amount of tea bags for the same price?” My quick answer: Tea bags usually only get a single steeping. Loose leaf tea can be steeped up to as many as five times before losing their flavor AND  caffeine levels. This is based off of the flavor and type of tea.

Another way to purchase tea is in sachets. Now, yes, these teas look like they’re in bags but usually sachets are able to help tea leaves keep their shape a bit better. This is my second go to. Companies such as Harney and Sons use light weight or even silk sachets, which are much gentler on the leaves. These too can get multiple cups out of them.

Whichever you pick is up to your personal preference! Pick and choose as you please.

Now here is where things get fun. There are different teas that present different flavors as well as different health benefits. I have had the pleasure of getting to try many teas and finding the flavors that I love best.


Iced Teas is always sweeter when you share it with your friends!

So here is some basic information before I get into what I like. Tea comes in a variety of flavors. The basic categories for tea are: Black, Green, White, and Herbal. Each tea has its own specific brewing temperature so as to not scald the leaves (this includes flavored teas). Some places go far enough in their categories where they have the basic categories and then each has a “flavored” tea category (IE: Flavored Black Teas, Flavored Green Teas, Flavored White Teas).

While I love almost all teas, one of my favorite teas is a strong, earthy green tea. Yes, this sounds really  weird BUT a great green tea can go a long way. For example: The plain green tea I am currently working through is called “Dragonwell” from Teavana. While it is beautiful and smooth by itself, it goes great with some herbal teas mixed in. I have paired this tea with an Herbal Ginger Tea from a local tea shop, “Purr-fect Tea”, in the past but there are many flavor combinations to pair with a great green!

If you are looking for an antioxidant boost, try adding an herbal tea with blueberries to a plain green tea. This not only will give it a nice boost of flavor but it also helps boost your immune system. Similarly to green teas, black teas also have an amazing capability of taking on different herbal teas and creating enticing aromas and flavors.

While I’m all for flavorful teas, I have found that as I have gotten older, I do prefer extremely earthy teas from time to time. Some of the more earthy teas come with some amazing health benefits. One of my favorite earthy teas is called “Pu-erh Tuo-Cha”. I get this black tea from a lovely shop called “TeaLeafs” and it is AMAZING. It has become a staple in my house and usually I have it on hand nine times out of ten. Not to mention, it is also good for a quick caffeine kick and for helping with weight loss!

In the last year, this is what I have found in my tea adventures:

  • Black teas tend to pair better with warm spices such as cinnamon, cardamon and anise.
  • Green teas pair extremely well with berries, citrus and ginger. By combining green teas with ginger and citrus, it helps boost metabolism and aids with digestion.
  • White teas are delicate but go extremely well with fruits and floral herbs such as lavender.
  • Herbal teas are AMAZING! But be warned, they have no caffeine. So if you are looking for a little caffeine with your cuppa, aim for green and black teas.
  • Some herbal teas make better iced teas than hot.
  • YOU WILL FIND TEAS YOU HATE.
  • Some of the healthiest teas will have extremely earthy flavors- I sometimes joke and call them “dir-tea”. (I’m sorry, that’s a REALLY bad tea joke… but did you really expect anything less?)
  • Chamomile and Lavender are great for soothing, especially before bed.
  • Get a good cast iron pot. Your tea and taste buds will thank you.


Enjoying a nice pot of Pu-erh as I type. First of many for the day!

While this is all information I have learned over the past five years, there is still more tea fun to be had. My biggest suggestion? GO AND HAVE FUN WITH YOUR TEA. Find what you like, experiment and enjoy a nice cup of tea every now and then.

The Start of Christy’s Chopped Challenge

While waiting for a job opportunity, my mother and I came up with a really creative idea to keep me occupied despite the stress and anxiety-filled job search. She suggested that once a week, I challenge myself to a 45 minute cooking challenge similarly to that of the hit television show, Chopped. Thinking this was a genius idea, I have completed two challenges so far and it has pushed my boundaries as a cook

Challenge #1:

The first challenge was done back on February 24th. As it the first challenge, I was a bit nervous especially when I saw the ingredients within the basket.

ChoppedChallengeBasket1
Basket Number 1 Ingredients: Beef stew meat, Just Chocolate’s Cayenne Chocolate, Artichoke Quarters and Masoor Dal.

Needless to say, it was not my favorite basket item. Especially stew meat. While I love a good stew during the cold months of the year, I had a mere 45 minutes to make this tough chewy meat into a delicious meal. What I got was this:

ChoppedChallenge1
Beef Stew with Cayenne Chocolate Sauce with Sauteed Mushrooms and Artichoke Quarters with curried Masoor Dal, garnished with a fried Artichoke Quarter.

My personal opinion is that this dish wasn’t my worst, but it was DEFINITELY not my best. The meat was thoroughly cooked but it was over cooked, causing it to become chewy. My favorite part of the meal was the lentils. It had some bright notes of lime complimented with earthy spices along with hints of turmeric and cayenne. I wish the artichoke quarter had crisped up a bit more, which would have made a better garnish.

While there were some technical errors with the meat and the fried garnish, it was an over all attractive dish and had some delicious and successful parts of the dish as well.

Challenge #2:

Challenge #2 was a better success but with a better backstory as to how the ingredients were picked. Just to make things more interesting, I picked three out of the four ingredients while blind folded. For those who have never been to my house, our basement serves as an additional storage area with metal shelves holding an assortment of canned goods and pastas. So, while doing my best to not knock things over,  I picked three ingredients while mom picked the fourth ingredient.

ChoppedChallengeBasket2
Basket Number 2 Ingredients: Pork Tenderloin, Red Kidney Beans, Sliced Pineapple and Penne Rigate pasta.

While this basket wasn’t too difficult, it allowed me to be a bit more creative with my approach. So, instead of sticking to plain and “boring” flavors, I decided to go a little out of the box and out of my comfort zone.

Here’s the Result!

ChoppedChallenge2
Spice rubbed Pork Tenderloin on a bed of penne rigate pasta over a red kidney bean and tomato puree and topped with a pineapple cranberry chutney.

This obviously turned out a lot better looking (partially because it was sunny out) but the meat turned out SO MUCH BETTER! While the pasta was well cooked, the red bean and tomato puree complimented it extremely well. It had a nice balance of an earthy but mildly sweet flavors which went well with the spices I used on the pork tenderloin. The tenderloin, which was rubbed down in cumin, coriander, garlic powder, and cardamon, was cooked in a cast iron skillet at first on the stove top and then finished in the oven. The chutney had some spice provided by red pepper flakes and curry powder but was balanced by the sweetness of the craisins, pineapple and green bell peppers.

Overall, it has been an interesting learning experience and I cannot wait to do more experiments in the near future!

Christy’s Throwback Day: Produced in New York State Apple Competition

Back in the day, I was a 4-Her with a food addiction and the ability (read: opportunity) to participate in the Produced in New York State Apple Competition. So, after deciding I was going to do this, I decided I was going to take a chance and redo the recipe of a famous chef.

After surfing the internet, I found Mario Batali’s recipe for Torta di Mele (Apple Cake). Being the punk that I was/am, I decided to revamp the entire recipe and make it healthy and my own. SEVEN ATTEMPTS LATER: I was able to make an Apple Upside Down Tart that is not only delicious but good for you. This was when I was 14 years old.

Flash forward to this year, I decided  that I was ready to try this recipe again. I went searching for my dreaded poster board from my 4-H days and I was able to find it. After gathering all of my ingredients, I set to work and made this delicious little tart. I’m so extremely glad I was able to do this and am ready to share it with you! You can put your own little spin on it by picking how you want to lay your apples or whatever. Remember to have fun and enjoy the end product.

AppleTart
The final product in 2016!

Christy’s Upside Down Apple Tart:

Ingredients

  • 2 small apples (I used Gala this time but Granny Smiths work well too!)-sliced in half, can be peeled or unpeeled
  • 1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 2 Eggs, separated (put in separate bowls)
  • 3/8 cups Milk
  • 1 package Instant Yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/8 cup Wheat Germ

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (Fahrenheit). Put mixing bow and whip attachment for mixer into fridge to cool. Grease an 8 inch baking pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and spray again. Line the sides with extra wheat germ to create a crust.

Thinly slice apples and set aside in a bowl of cool water with lemon juice added to it. In a medium bowl, put in the flour, instant yeast, cinnamon and wheat germ. Make a well in the center and add the honey, egg yolks and milk. Stir until ingredients are combined.

Using a stand mixer, add the egg whites to the bowl and whip until they form firm glossy peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, leaving a few white streaks so as not to over mix the batter.

Dry apple slices slightly before decoratively laying them in the bottom of the pan. Gently pour the cake on top of the apple slices, using a rubber spatula to guide and spread the batter evenly. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven until a pick comes out clean- approximately 30 minutes.

Best served with a glass of sweet white wine (I had a glass of A Gust of Sun’s Sweet Diamond- any sweet white will do) and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

CHEERS!

I’m Back (This Time For Real!)

Well, its been approximately 7 months since my last post! A lot has gone by and things have changed. Whether they have changed for better or for worse is yet to be decided! I am returning to this blog to hopefully accomplish a few things.

  1. I really want to get back into doing my food work.

It was (and still is) my dream to become a food journalist. After working a crazy amount of hours, dealing with some personal turmoil and finishing school, it is time to get back to the grind of making delicious food and finding ways to work off the amount of calories I will eat.

2. I miss writing and doing this blog.

While I know this isn’t a world famous blog that has spawned a cookbook empire or television show on a “prestigious” television network, I want to do something I love while I look for a part-time AND full-time work. This way, not only will I be a busy little bee, I will be a happy little bee.

3. It is fun!

Despite all the photography taking and blog updates, it actually is fun. I’m planning on re-organizing my pages and providing some fun things to come. It will most likely kick off late this week OR next week, who knows yet.

Some of the things I’m going to cover are: recipes, healthy cooking, some cooking basics, how to cook for a lot of people and so on. So, please stay tuned and I hope to update soon!

Busy, Busy, Busy

Well, it’s been a while since I was able to last post on here. I guess that’s what you get when you have two internships going all at once. So here’s an update as to what I’ve been working on.

The first internship I started this summer is with Niagara Frontier Publications, based out of Lewiston, NY. Here, I’m serving as a summer intern and food critic. I’m working very hard on getting things going and to keep myself ahead of schedule for this one.

My second internship is with Erie County 4-H and Cornell Cooperative Extension. I’m working as their summer assistant for the second and final time. It’s taking up a lot of time but it is well worth everything else!

I will be graduating this upcoming fall and I am so very excited for everything to change. I will be back later this week with more updates and even some photos!

Cheers!
Christy

These are a few of my favorite things!

With summer around the corner, it seems silly not to do a list of some of my favorite places to go over the summer and enjoy the food scene. So here are the top 5 places you can expect Live, Love, Food to pop over over Summer 2015!

#1: Farmer’s Markets
I cannot say this enough, I LOVE FARMER’S MARKETS! They literally are one of my most favorite things, asides from caffiene and wine.  With the summer fruits and vegetables growing and nearing picking, I usually try to hit at least three farmer’s markets a month! One of my all time favorite farmer’s markets is the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s Market.  Located in the small patch of grass in Downtown Buffalo, on the corners of Elmwood and Bidwell, this farmer’s market starts up in early spring and runs until mid-to-late fall.  Between the local vendors and local products, I don’t know what I love more! While we’re on the topic of local, remember to support local farms this summers, dear viewers.  It is very important to remember, that while some of the prices may seem different than local grocery chains, these small farms are the life blood of the farmer’s market and of the Western New York area. Not to mention, why wouldn’t you want to buy local? You can get to know the producers and farmers and learn some great information about their products.  Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s Market is from 8-1 on Saturdays over the summer and fall.

#2: Niagara Wine Trail
Ah, summertime! Time for sitting out by the fire with a great drink in your hand. Why not make it a local drink from the Niagara Wine Trail? Niagara Wine Trail is home to some of Western New York’s award winning wineries such as Arrowhead Winery.  Not into wine? Well, there is one stop that features their in house hard cider.Blackbird Cider Works is also located on the scenic wine trail that takes you throughout beautiful Niagara County near Lewiston, NY. Just remember to drink responsibly and if you cannot drive,make sure you get a secondary way home.

#3: “Taste of…” Series
Now like any other place, Western New York has it’s fair share of food based festivals.  There’s always something exciting going on in terms a food festivals. My personal favorite? I’m personally looking forward to the Taste of Buffalo and the Taste of Williamsville. These are two of my favorite cities with some of my favorite restaurants. I can’t wait to see what the chefs from local restaurants will cook up this year!

#4: Food Truck Tuesdays at Larkin Square
The food truck craze has come to Buffalo and they’ve found a home at Larkin Square.  Every Tuesday, a bevy of food trucks line up at Larkin Square and feeds the hungry masses that come their way. Heavy hitters in the food truck business like Llyod’s Taco Truck, the Whole Hog and Frank’s Gourmet Hot Dog truck. With over 20 food trucks and tents to choose from, this food mecca will be one to enjoy for the summer. But attenders beware: This enjoyable food fest is only going on until October 27th.

#5: The Erie County Fair
Anyone who knows me knows that I will be at this event one way or another. Multiple food vendors, fried everything, and sweets as far as the eye can see. Of course, you should all check out the 4-H Building and Livestock Competitions, but explore the tasty treats scattered across the fairgrounds.  This year, the Erie County Fair is August 12-23!

Get ready for Summer 2015, Viewers!
Cheers!
Christy

Summer Lovin’: An Update for Live, Love, Food!

Greetings everyone!

So time has gotten away from me once more! GAH! With a crazy two semesters and now an interesting summer coming up, I’m so eager and excited to share a ton of news with everyone. A lot of things have changed but much remains the same.

The first bit of news is that I have had a change in the workplace.  As of May 5th, I no longer work for Barnes and Nobles as a barista in the cafe. I currently have an internship with Niagara Frontier Publications lined up for the summer as soon as I come back as well as two more possible jobs for this summer.  The second is that I will be taking two summer courses through May, June and July on top of these jobs. You may think that this is a lot but there is one last important tidbit of information to share. The third bit of news is that the Fall Semester of 2015 will be my last at college. FINALLY! After nearly five years of schooling, I will graduate from Niagara University making my total amount of degrees THREE with two bachelors degrees and one associates degree. Needless to say, it’s been a hell of a ride and I’m glad it’s finally coming to an end.

So, with all of this news shared, I have a wonderful opportunity to reach out to those who read this blog and support me. I will be looking for some killer places to eat and will need recommendations for food reviews as well as some partners in crime to go out with me to maybe have a meal. I will keep people posted on this but I would love to share my experience with everyone!

I promise more updates will be coming your way, but with one more exam and moving out of my dorm coming up, this is going to be it until next week. I want to thank each person that reads these silly little entries because whether you know it or not, your awesomeness helps keep me motivated to following my dream. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

Keep being awesome, everyone!

XO,
Christy