Monday, December 15, 2008

Tea: A holiday gift that warms you all winter

One of the best holiday gifts is tea. It's healthy, it tastes good, it has a long shelf life, and it comes in elegant containers.

I favor black teas, and this season I've gotten two fabulous ones.

Peet's Holiday Breakfast Blend is part of Peet's Signature Blends. Like most breakfast blends, it has quite a bit of Assam, but it avoids any bitterness. It's an extremely complex tea. My only problem with it is that it won't be available for very long; the "Holiday Breakfast Blend" is a different blend every yet. Rush out and get more of the 2008!

Morning Glory Chai, which is served at many of Seattle's independent coffee houses, is also available in brew-it-yourself packages from stores including The Ballard Market and Tenzing Momo at Pike Place Market. Each package contains spices (add to boiling water and simmer) and tea & herb mix (steep in the hot, spiced water). With sweetener (honey or brown sugar) and steamed/heated milk, it's as robust as a latte.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dinner for the 21st century

So much has changed in our society in the past 100 years. I think it's time for dinner to catch up.

We are no longer an agricultural or industrial society. The vast majority of adults hold desk jobs. The idea of sitting at a desk all day and then coming home and eating salad with dressing, meat, vegetables, starch, and dessert borders on the insane. Particularly because early evening (that period still known as dinnertime) is the only time many of us have to work out — and you don't want to eat a large meal either before a workout or before bed time.

I've switched to eating a late afternoon snack of fruit and protein (usually and apple with cheese or peanut butter) or sometimes a small bowl of soup. After my workout, I eat a small serving of polenta or pasta with cheese, or sometimes an two-egg omelette. Other times it's a stir fry with brown rice.

Of course I miss traditional dinners! I was raised on them! And on days that I don't work out, such as weekends, I try to get in moderate exercise during the day (such as walking or hiking) and then enjoy a traditional evening meal.

I suspect that our society will, in the next hundred years, shift to eating four or five mini-meals during the day. But we're far enough from that now that I still feel odd about "missing dinner."

Friday, December 5, 2008

A leftover-turkey triumph

I loathe turkey soup, with those slimy little noodles and suspicious bits of last-ditch poultry from which you hope someone removed the little bones and gristle.

Having already wrestled the turkey carcass several times (raw, brined, roasted, and refrigerated) I was damned if I was going to go a final round with the dregs before my conscience let me dump it. And I was determined not to fill the space the turkey had hogged in the refrigerator with a huge pot of turkey soup that no one wanted to eat and that I would dump a few days later.

So, this year I simply took the last of the palatable meat off the bird, dumped the fatty skin, bones and weird stuff, and combined the shredded meat with the (intense and salty) skimmed pan drippings, and water (chicken broth could be used instead of the drippings and water). Once that soup base was simmering, I added a half cup of wild rice. When the wild rice had cooked, I turned up the heat and then slowly stirred in one-third cup of a fine corn meal (polenta), let it bubble for a moment, and then turned down the heat and let it cook slowly. The result was stew-like. Served with a sprinkling of currants and toasted pine nuts, it was delicious.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

York apples

I just put an heirloom squash stuffed with sausage, chanterelles, and sliced apples in the oven to roast. Now I'm eating the apple peels.That's because the apple was a York apple. Yorks turned up at the Ballard Market in early November, and have since disappeared. That's sad, because the York, a slightly top-heavy trapezoidal apple with a tough red skin, was the most apple-y tasting apple I've had since childhood visits to upstate New York. In other words, the York is a real apple.

Well, of course, I Googled it. It turns out the York Imperial, found in York, Pa., in 1830, is known for "intense tart/sweet flavor, firm flesh and distinctive shape." It keeps well, it cooks well, and it's intoxicating when eaten raw. While I usually pair my afternoon apple with sharp cheese or some peanut butter, it would be heresy to do that to a fragrant, delicate York.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Power Belly Dance

I've always wondered if I were communicating clearly when I talk about belly dancing with a weight belt, which I do every Tuesday or Thursday at Delilah's Visionary Dance studio in Fremont. Fortunately, Delilah's just done a promotional video about it! (Yes, she really does teach the class in jeans and a tank top.)