Masala Chai Spiced Tofu and Coconut Kale

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I used to work in an office with one of my best friends. We didn’t actually work together much, but we worked in the same office. We started a daily ritual of having tea every afternoon around 2:30, taking a quick five minute break to steep some tea and check in to see how things were going. I really enjoyed the ritual of taking a break to patiently wait four minutes for the tea to steep before bringing it back to my desk. It calmed and refocused me to have a productive afternoon. In the culture of instant gratification in which we live, there is something special about the daily ritual of forcing yourself to wait for the tea leaves to work their magic in your mug.

So lately I have been thinking a lot about patience and slowing down. And, naturally, as my thoughts often drift to food, I have been thinking about tea and crockpots and marinades and slow roasting. I had this idea to marinate tofu in very strong tea to infuse my cooking with the same flavors that I usually reserve for my mid-afternoon tea breaks. It took two attempts to get the method right, and the end result is a masala chai spiced tofu that is bursting with flavor.

Either I am more attuned to the tea popping up all around me, or there is a similar trend going on in the craft beer world, because the same weekend I made my first attempt at chai spiced tofu, I tasted this delicious brew:

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Local Richmond brewery Ardent Craft Ales released its Earl Grey Brown Ale to a packed tap room last month, and it instantly became one of my new favorite beers. I’m happy to see so many craft breweries playing with this style, because while I love a good IPA, how many IPA’s do you need on your menu? I’ve seen some great creative brown ales in the last couple of years, including this tea-inspired one.

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Ardent Craft Ales Tap Room

Then a couple of weeks ago, Kyle and I picked up Japanese Green Tea IPA, a collaboration beer from Baird, Ishii, and Stone Brewing Company. It tastes exactly as you would expect it to. An India Pale Ale infused with the taste of matcha green tea powder. Citrusy, bitter, floral, herbal. . . it’s a lot a flavor in a glass. If you like green tea, please try it.

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So, enough about what we’ve been drinking. Back to what we’ve been eating. I found some purple kale at the farmers’ market, and I made a coconut curry kale recipe to go along with my chai spiced tofu. It turned out beautiful and tasty, so I jotted down the recipe and included it below. So let’s get cooking!

Masala Chai Spiced Tofu

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Ingredients:

  • 6 masala chai tea bags
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 – 14 oz. block of firm tofu
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Preparation:

  1. Drain and press tofu. Cut block into six slices.
  2. Heat water almost to boiling in a teapot. Combine tea bags and 2 cups of hot water in a jar or bowl. Steep for 4 minutes, then remove tea bags.
  3. Arrange tofu slices in a glass dish. Pour concentrated tea over tofu. Marinate tofu for one hour at room temperature, turning tofu once halfway through marinating.
  4. Drain tea from tofu, and reserve 1/2 cup of tea marinade.
  5. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of tea marinade, soy sauce, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and honey. Stir to mix the sauce thoroughly.
  6. Heat 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
  7. Add tofu slices to hot pan and cook until browned, about 5-6 minutes per side.
  8. Add sauce to pan and cook until reduced by at least one half. Suggestion: serve tofu while hot, over basmati rice and cooked greens like Coconut Curry Kale.

Coconut Curry Kale

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 bunch of curly kale
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 2 teaspoons madras curry powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Remove stems from kale. Chop stems in bite-sized pieces and tear leaves into a separate bowl.
  2. Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  3. When coconut oil is melted, add chopped kale stems and garlic to pot. Saute for five minutes.
  4. Add kale leaves, ginger, and curry to the pot. Saute until kale is bright green and slightly wilted.
  5. While kale is cooking, in a small pan, heat shredded/flake coconut over low-medium heat until toasted. Remove pan from heat.
  6. Add lime juice, toasted coconut, and salt and pepper to the kale. Toss and serve immediately.

Warm Up With a Homemade Gingerbread Tea Latte

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Is there any part of the country that isn’t  having a cold spell right now? The frigid weather in Richmond (among other things) is keeping me from leaving my warm toasty house today. I absolutely have to share with you this delicious beverage that I concocted to stay warm this weekend, as well as an ingenious method I discovered for frothing milk without a fancy machine! This recipe and method are so easy that even a one handed blogger on pain medication (I) can do it!

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may have picked up on a post from about a month ago in which I announced I had had a bike accident while on vacation in Asheville, North Carolina.

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I spent the night in the hospital for observation due to the head trauma, had the bones set back in place, had my bumps, bruises, and road rash cleaned up, and then I was released the next morning. We cut the vacation short, returned to Richmond, and about a week later, I had surgery to have plates inserted in my left wrist and right hand. I have been recovering ever since, and both hands have been pretty useless for five weeks, which is why the blog has been quiet since October. Now that I am starting to use the computer again, and I was able to convince my husband Kyle to type for me, I am finally able to post an update!

Thanks to everyone who tweeted and commented messages of support and positivity while I have been recovering from the accident and surgery. Thanks also to Kyle for helping me out with this post, not to mention ALL the other things he has had to help me out with since the big fall. I can’t wait to reschedule our Asheville 1-year anniversary trip once I’m healed (and out of medical bill debt. . .) so we can go back and do all the things we missed out on the first time.

Now. . . on to my super simple Tea Latte recipe! The recipe calls for five ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen.

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My Gingerbread Tea Latte features Celestial Seasonings Gingerbread Spice tea, but you could use any tea you have on hand to make your own version. The other four ingredients are: milk, pure vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, and agave syrup (you may substitute the sweetener of your choice).

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I found the milk frothing method online at theKitchn.com and I couldn’t believe it worked until I tried it myself. The yield and quality of foam is less than what you get from a steam wand on a commercial grade espresso machine, but for making one or two drinks at home, it certainly does the trick.

  • First, you pour your cold milk into a glass jar and secure the lid. Make sure you use a jar large enough that the milk fills the jar no more than halfway.
  • Second, shake the jar as hard as you can for about 30 seconds.
  • Third, remove the lid (if metal) and replace with plastic wrap or a microwave-safe material.
  • Fourth, microwave the milk until hot to stabilize the foam and heat up the liquid for serving.
  • Last, pour into your drink, holding back the foam with a spoon, and then scooping the foam on top of the beverage.

I was very impressed with the results!

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The foam held up for at least twenty minutes while I photographed and then sipped the drink. Four ounces of milk yielded two to three ounces of foam, which was a great proportion for my latte.

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The foam even held up pretty well after I topped it with cinnamon (which almost always eats away at the volume of bubbly froth at the top of a beverage). I hope you enjoy this delicious drink that tastes like fresh baked gingerbread in a fraction of the time (and for a fraction of the calories!).

Gingerbread Tea Latte

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Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag Celestial Seasonings Gingerbread Spice herbal tea
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup (or equivalent sweetener of your choice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk (or the milk of your choice)
  • dash of ground cinnamon

Preparation:

  1. Heat water in a tea kettle. Add 1/2 cup hot water to a mug with the tea bag. Steep for 4 minutes, then remove tea bag.
  2. While tea is steeping, froth the milk. Add cold milk to a jar and shake vigorously, with lid on, for 30 seconds. Replace lid with microwave safe lid or plastic wrap and microwave for 45 seconds on high.
  3. To the tea concentrate, add agave (or sweetener), and vanilla, and stir.
  4. Using the back of a spoon to hold back the foam, carefully pour the milk into the tea concentrate, then use the spoon to scoop the milk foam on top of the drink.
  5. Top with a dash of cinnamon and drink while hot.

Enjoy, and stay warm!

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All About Almond Milk

A couple of weeks ago I decided that it was finally time to try almond milk. I typically buy milk from Homestead Creamery and I occasionally pick up soy milk instead of cows milk. Lately I have tried to make more conscious decisions when it comes to animal products, and I have found myself substituting soy milk a lot when I am unsure of the source of the cows milk that is available. However, soy milk is not the only non-dairy option. There is also rice milk, coconut milk, almond milk and probably some more milks that I am not even aware of. I’ve heard good reviews of Almond Breeze almond milk, so I used a coupon to pick some up at the store one weekend.

Almond milk is made from ground almonds and water. Some brands add sweeteners and flavors so it is always best to check the ingredient list to make sure you know what you’re getting. People have been drinking almond milk for centuries. It was a staple of Medieval kitchens because animal milk spoiled too quickly. Historically it has been used as a substitute for animal milk during times of fasting in many cultures and religions. It is lower in cholesterol and saturated fats than cows milk, and it has no gluten or lactose. Almonds are high in magnesium, potassium, vitamin E and calcium, and so is almond milk. The downsides I found in research were that almond milk is a little high in sodium and it has much less protein than soy milk or cows milk.

I did a little experiment and tried the almond milk in several different things throughout the week to see how versatile it was. I first tried it plain, and found it to be a little watery, with a pleasant nutty taste. Here is a rundown of all the other ways I tried almond milk.

In Coffee: I usually take my coffee with milk or cream and no sugar. I subbed in some almond milk and wasn’t a fan. The almond milk did not add to the black coffee that slightly creamy texture that I get from soy milk or cows milk. It was very watery, and while the flavor was nice, I felt that I might as well have had black coffee because the almond milk failed to cut the acidity. Take it or leave it? Some people love it in coffee, but for me: leave it.

In Tea: Tea was a completely different story for me. I made a vanilla spice tea latte with almond milk instead of regular reduced fat milk and it was divine! I loved the almond flavor in my tea latte. It worked really well with the vanilla, honey and spices. I will definitely try this one again.

In a Smoothie: I added almond milk to this chocolate cherry smoothie and it was so amazing. Although I think any milk would have been awesome in this concoction (recipe coming soon). I like the nutty flavor in the smoothie, but I am on the fence about doing this again in the future. I usually add milk to my smoothies for calcium and protein and the almond milk falls a little short. Calcium? Check. Protein? Lacking. I found a way to make it work by adding protein powder to the smoothie, so this may become a regular addition to my blender.

In Cereal: I poured some almond milk over my Kashi Golden Goodness cereal, and it was a hit. I don’t know how this would work with super sugary cereals, but I don’t eat froot loops so I’m not too worried about it. All I know is that I would like to give almond milk an award its performance in a supporting role alongside whole grain and granola cereals. The flavor is a great addition to your bowl. I will definitely be doing this again, in cold and hot cereals.

Overall, I would recommend that you try almond milk if you get the opportunity. For me, it works in some things and not in others. Maybe you will reach the same conclusion or maybe you will love it or hate it in everything. Different strokes for different folks, people. I say it’s worth a try.

Fall Preview in Virginia

Ever since the hurricane hit us, we have had cooler weather here in Virginia. It has been a little unpredictable but kind of nice to have cooler mornings and evenings right at the time that the canned pumpkin starts to fly off the grocery store shelves. Typically we Richmonders experience a long drawn-out end of summer, with high heat and humidity into October, then about a week of cool Fall temperatures before it starts to feel like winter. As a frizzy-haired lass, I have been very happy with the drop in humidity and the chill in the morning air.

Kyle and I took advantage of the nice weather last weekend and headed west to Charlottesville for some shopping, eating and beer drinking. We tried out a place in the downtown mall that we had never been to before, but had heard great things about.

The Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar is a local Charlottesville restaurant that serves dozens of hot and cold teas and a large selection of mostly vegetarian food. During the day, people gather there to study, meet with friends and play board games while enjoying the delicious teas. At night, the Tea Bazaar serves beer and wine, hosts music events and provides the area’s only hookah bar (according to their website). The laid back atmosphere was perfect for chatting over lunch.

After kicking back and relaxing at the tea lounge, Kyle and I did some shopping in the downtown mall. We love popping into the used bookstores, antique shops, and consignment boutiques and hunting for treasures. When we had done enough walking and shopping, we jumped back in the car and drove 20 miles west to Afton, VA. For us, no trip to Charlottesville is complete without a  stop at Blue Mountain Brewery so we decided to spend the late afternoon relaxing on their brand new patio and sampling their seasonal beers.

After a beautiful day in Albemarle and Nelson Counties, we spent Sunday in Richmond close to home. I played my first soccer game of the season (a sign that Fall is near), we watched the Ravens beat up on the Steelers (woo hoo!), and I made a fantastic pumpkin chili (recipe coming soon).

I ended the weekend with a baking adventure: pumpkin pie spice raisin bread. Yeast always presents a very challenging yet potentially rewarding experience for me, so I was happy this batch turned out well.

I know it’s going to get warmer again before it gets cold, but I am definitely enjoying this little taste of Fall and I plan to take full advantage while it lasts!

Tea Latte

I love how cold weather makes hot beverages taste even better. It always has and it always will for me. I remember when, as a young child, I would come inside from playing in the snow and ditch my cold wet boots just inside the door, leaving chunks of fluffy white snow to melt on the floor into big salty puddles. My sister and I would peel off layers of clothing, icy and sopping wet, and dash to the kitchen in our thermals to beg for hot chocolate with marshmallows. Usually the dehydrated stuff in the packets would do the trick, but sometimes Dad would simmer milk and chocolate sauce on the stove, pour the concoction into little Peter Rabbit mugs, and top it with big melt-in-your-mouth marshmallows.

These days I am more into coffee. And by “into coffee”, I mean can’t live without it, won’t start my day until I find it, and don’t ever pass up the chance to grab a big mug of it, summer or winter, rain or shine, always and forever.

However with the recent snow and sleet activity in central Virginia, I have branched out into tea, cider, and even the occasional hot chocolate with marshmallows. Ever since I bought my new teapot, I have been obsessed with tea in the evenings and sometimes with breakfast on the weekdays. After microwaving water for tea for the last 15 years of my life, I have finally discovered the joy of making tea at the appropriate temperature, and oh my goodness is it so much better. I blame my mother for having a proper tea pot, with which I was obsessed over the holidays. And now I have my very own!

I got a little creative this week and made myself a tea latte with breakfast. It was so delicious that I had to share the recipe. Although the measurements aren’t exact because I kind of estimated. I encourage you to play with the proportions anyway because everyone likes their coffee or tea a different way.

Vanilla Spice Tea Latte


Ingredients:

1 black tea bag (I used Twinings English Breakfast which is also great all by itself)

1/4 cup reduced fat milk

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Preparation:

1. Brew some hot water in a tea pot.

2. Microwave the milk for about 30 seconds, or until just warmed.

3. To the milk, add honey, vanilla, and a dash each of cinnamon and nutmeg. I would guess that I used about 1/8 of a teaspoon of cinnamon and just a pinch of nutmeg. Stir to combine. If the honey will not melt into the milk, zap it in the microwave for another 10 seconds and then try again.

4. As soon as the water begins to boil, pour 6 oz. of hot water into a mug and add the tea bag. Steep for 4 minutes.

5. Remove the bag from the tea (do not squeeze it out into the mug or it may get bitter). Add the milk mixture and stir to combine.

Today it is a little cold but the sun is shining and I’m heading outside to play. Dad won’t be waiting with hot chocolate when I make it back inside, but at least I can count on my new tea pot to help me warm up when I get back. And if I’m lucky I can deliver a little warmth to someone I love too.