Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tea and cookies

Is there a more perfect pairing? It's definitely one of mine. This week, in celebration of all things British, I bought two old favorites, crumpets and milk chocolate digestive biscuits. I had forgotten just how good both are. Neither were brand names - just store brands - but both were truly tasty.
Maybe it's because I drink my tea plain with no sugar or milk but I often like to have something sweet with it. Yet, often my favorites disappear off store shelves just as I develop an addiction to them. Maybe they're still offered in other areas but here's a few of the yummies I can no have because the confounded local stores no longer stock them.
1. Chocolate HobNobs by McVities
2. McVities Chocolate and Orange Digestives
3. Lemon Puffs (the old fashioned sticky ones)
4. Coffee Crisp Orange Fingers
5. Bourbon Cremes

I've seen some of these online but shipping rates are often too high to indulge.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

I've always loved Easter but I think any holiday associated with chocolate is wonderful. And let's face it - Easter chocolate is among the best.
I'm sitting here now with half a white Lindt chocolate bunny, half of a Laura Secord buttercream Easter Egg and half a bag of Lindt double milk chocolate eggs - gee, I wonder where the other halves went?
Certain days of the year, I allow myself the luxury of eating as much and whatever I want and Easter happens to be one of those days. So yes, I have been overindulging in my favorite treats but that will soon stop. My tummy is starting to protest so it may be time to either freeze or throw away the leftovers because I'll just keep eating them if they're left out.
While there's certainly plenty of good stuff out there, the variety no longer seems to be there. I hate this new trend of simply taking everyday chocolate and repackaging it for every holiday. Sorry folks, but a Snickers is a Snickers is a Snickers - putting a foil egg wrapper around it does not make it an Easter candy. Years ago, we used to be able to get Easter-specific candies but that no longer seem to be the case. The only ones that seem to remain are the Cadbury Easter Cream eggs, chocolate eggs with a thin candy crust and marshmallow covered-in-chocolate bunnies.
Remember those pan eggs - a hard shell of colorful candy surrounding a soft marshmallowy inside? They could be pretty awful but they were definitely a part of Easter. Couldn't even find them this year. I also couldn't find any cherry cream, maple cream or buttercream eggs this year - but peanut butter eggs are everywhere. Again, that's something I can buy any day of the week - I want the stuff I can only get at Easter.
Maybe these things are still available in the bigger centres but I wish they were still around in my area.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Teatime In My Own Little World

There are times when it becomes very clear that I am living on another planet and am not at all in touch with reality. I was reading a blog early today about an afternoon tea event that sounded really nice and I decided to investigate further. At this particular restaurant, you could get a pot of tea, a sandwich, soup, scone and a few cookies for $25 per person.
At home, you could probably make the whole shebang for well under $5, from stuff in your fridge. And yes, I understand that it's always nice to eat out and have someone else to do the cooking and cleanup - after all, that's why most of us go to a restaurant. There's a further complication for me that has nothing to do with price - you can't even get afternoon tea around here since no restaurants offer it.
It's not so much that I live in the middle of nowhere but you can see it from here.
But I have no intentions of doing without. I'll make it at home. It goes like this.
About once a week, I bake something. Usually muffins or cupcakes, but sometimes cookies or scones. Since there's just two of us and we're both watching our weight, I leave a few out for a dessert and freeze the rest. Then, for those days when afternoon tea seems a necessity, I simply make some sandwiches (egg salad or ham usually) and defrost a few scones, muffins and cookies. Afternoon tea on demand, on budget and not a whole lot of work.
And that's a good thing for a sometimes cheapskate who lives in the middle of nowhere like myself.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Oh well ...

My new tea, the white plum ambrosia from Zhena's Gypsy Teas is rather ho-hum. For one thing, even though it smells like plums, it tastes like melon. Which is sort of nice - first time I've ever had a melon-flavored tea and I do like melons. But I did want a plum flavor in a bag and for my money, the loose black plum blend from the Metropolitan Tea Company is still the best tea out there for those who like plum flavor.

Just When You Thought I Was Getting Too Serious ...

I find a new tea to try. Today I bought a tin of Zhena's Gypsy Tea White Plum Ambrosia. It smells divine - I'll let you know how it tastes. I hope it's good - at $8.95 a 22-bag tin, it's pretty pricey for teabags. It's a white tea, flavored with plum, rose petals and strawberry leaves - sounds like spring to me ... even if we're suppose to get a snow storm tonight.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wrong Reactions ...

Did you ever have the wrong reaction to a situation but kept your true feelings under wraps because to say anything to the contrary would have been controversial and maybe lead to others reprimanding you or even shunning you?
I have these reactions all the time.
My most recent inappropriate reaction came today when I learned that I wouldn't be getting a job that I had been interviewed for.
I felt relieved.
I know - I am suppose to be sad and bewildered that they didn't want me in their office but frankly, I realized when I left the interview that it really wasn't the best situation for me. It will be a great job for someone else though and I wish whoever got it the best of luck. Meanwhile though, I will be pretend to be sad.
When my mother died a few weeks ago, a relative asked me what charity did we want donations to go to since sending flowers was such a waste since flowers only died and contributing to a charity was the right thing to do.
Well, my mother loved flowers. Simply adored them. And so do I. I don't consider them to be a waste and indeed, the fact they die is pretty symbolic of the whole living/dying process. As far as charities go, I actually find it kind of repulsive that they're gaining donations because of the collective guilt and misery of others. Since when did it become required for people to donate to a charity because someone died? Personally, I'd rather the flowers but not to offend that person, I told them they could donate to whatever charity they wanted but not to feel obligated in any way. Give what you want and when - but don't feel you have to do it because of this.
It's also trendy now to give donations in a person's name instead of a gift because the giver has decided that person has everything and doesn't need anything. I had this done to me once at an office Christmas party. I don't remember the charity but I do remember feeling pretty miserable because of this and the fact that I was the only one in the room not to receive anything. It was at a low point in my life when things weren't good and a gift would have gone a long ways to cheer me up. It probably sounds pretty selfish to some of you but that incident made me vow never to impose my personal standards on another person. If I ever get to a point where I don't want to give things to others, I'll make sure to take my name out of the gift exchange!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gotta love lemon!

Lemons are finally getting cheaper thankfully. Homemade lemonade is one of the nicest drinks around and last night, I made the first pitcher in what seems to be a long time. My recipe is pretty simple - grate the lemon zest into your glass pitcher, squeeze the lemon juice from at least two large lemons and add sugar to taste. Stir it and then add water to fill the pitcher and chill. It takes a while to zest the lemons and get the sugar amounts right and you do have to stir it vigorously, every time you want a glass but it is so worth it. I also made a lemon loaf cake this week from a recipe in one of the Company's Coming cookbooks.
Candywise, I just tried Lemonheads for the first time - I love'em! They're like jellybeans with attitude and you have to love the real lemon taste. At 50 cents a box, I'll definitely be getting more of these.
My search for a good lemon tea goes on. So far, Twinings seems to be winning this battle with their Green Tea With Lemon but somehow, I think there's still a better one out there.
I did try a really nice Teavana Chocolate Mint black tea yesterday - it's almost enough to make me consider placing an order ...

Friday, April 15, 2011

New Habit

Well, last week I mentioned buying a Tassimo. Since then, I have become addicted to the cappuccinos that it makes - at least one a day and somedays, two ... OK, most days, two. Yum! The Twinings Chai tea lattes aren't bad either and I really like the Twinings Earl Grey tea.
The Starbucks coffee is great and I expect the Nabob coffee lattes to be good as well. The only real disappointments were the Suchard hot chocolate - yuck - and Nabob's Cafe Crema - double yuck! I might buy a large mug and combine the Crema and the Suchard to come up with a mocha - I am not wasting all that stuff but I'm definitely not drinking either as they are now.
My Keurig is sitting there waiting for me to return to using it. And I will - for overall ease of use, it's still Keurig's game.
But I just love those cappuccinos!
Tea-wise, I've been getting into some of my old favorites, Harney's Paris blend is in my cup right now. And a Tetley Green Earl Grey is my surprise of the week - pretty good for a tea that I had been avoiding - just couldn't imagine combining green tea with Earl Grey flavorings - but it works.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I really needed this ...

For the most part, I'm a thrifty person. I have been known to save and my bills are always paid on time. But I do have several weaknesses - books, music and the subject matters of this blog, tea, chocolate and coffee.
Even though I already own a beautiful KitchenAid coffeemaker, a cappuccino maker, a Keurig, several French Presses, a Melitta, several small coffeemakers, a Teadrop electric tea maker, and numerous kettles and teapots (and I use them all), I felt the need to buy a Tassimo this week.
Notice I said need and not want?
So far, I am happy with it. I bought it primarily for the coffee drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes, which are much easier to make this way. As soon as I had my first cappuccino, I knew it was a good decision. Oh. Yum. I've had the Nabob which is much better than I expected and the Starbucks, which is exactly as I expected. I've also had the Starbucks Verona blend which is divine and have yet to open my Starbucks House Blend. We don't have a Starbucks around here so this is a wonderful way to get my fix. Starbucks will be available for Keurig later in the year but this will keep me going until then.The biggest surprise was the Maxwell House Decaf - this is seriously good for an inexpensive decaf!
Teawise, the selection is pretty disappointing. I can only get Twinings Earl Grey (which is quite good) and Chai Tea Latte around here and I haven't tried the latte yet.
As for the perennial question, Tassimo versus Keurig, here's my thoughts:
Tassimo is much noisier than Keurig
Tassimo is messier than Keurig
Tassimo makes coffee and tea speciality drinks; Keurig does not.
Tassimo has limited flavors in coffees and teas; Keurig has about 150 and most are pretty good.
Keurig is easier to use.
Keurig is definitely the machine to use if you're a tea lover.If you can afford just one machine, you're probably better off getting the Keurig.