Category Archives: Food

Tea Blending Experience

Are you a coffee or tea drinker? Tea is my drink of choice and I’m fairly knowledgeable about various teas and their health benefits. Honestly, I’ve become a bit of a snob about my tea and definitely prefer brewing loose tea over using purchased teabags.

A new tea shop recently opened in our neighborhood and I’ve been intrigued by their tea blending classes. I am always able to talk myself out of taking the time or money to treat myself to this, however. So I am pleased when a staff member gets me a gift certificate for the tea blending experience for Christmas. I get to try another “new thing”.

It takes about 6 weeks to organize this event on my calendar but I finally arrive at my tea blending class. We hear some history of tea and the health benefits of the various ingredients on our table to blend with our tea.

We have scales to measure 1 ounce of a tea base: black, green or green rooibos. Then we can add various ingredients and taste the tea until we have a blend that is our “cup of tea”.

The class provides for two 2-ounce bags of our blended tea creation. There are so many intriguing ingredients to blend with the tea bases. There are cards on each ingredient that list health benefits and suggest pairings. Available ingredients include: chamomile, hibiscus, lavender, rose petals, safflower, lemongrass, peppermint, spearmint, allspice, star anise, cocoa nibs, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and rainbow peppercorns. There is also bee pollen, licorice root and stevia for natural sweeteners.

I make a green rooibos blend with cocoa nibs and cinnamon chips and name it Mexican Green Rooibos. My green tea blend is blended with lavender, rose petals and cardamom and I name this blend Floral Green. I think they are both delicious!

What drink is your proverbial “cup of tea”?


Moroccan Spice Blend

I am intrigued by this recipe from Rachael Ray for Moroccan Spice Blend and decide to make it my next “new thing”.  I have all the ingredients in my pantry.  (If you look closely, you’ll see a 2008 expiration date on one spice jar.  I refill my jars with herbs bought in bulk at Good Earth natural foods so my spices are not expired!)

  • 2 Tablespoons Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon ground Turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground Ginger
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground Allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground Cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground Coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne


You simply combine the ingredients and store in a container with a sealed lid.

My first experiment with the spice blend is Balsamic-roasted pork tenderloin, one of the most saved recipes on  I put equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a measuring cup and add 2 tablespoons spice blend.

Next I put the pork in a Ziploc bag and added the marinade mixture.  Marinate the pork 2 hours to overnight.  When you are  ready to cook the pork, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Put the pork in a 9×13 glass dish and pour in the marinade.

Roast, basting every 15 minutes until an instant read thermometer registers 145 degrees, about 1 hour for pork tenderloin, longer for a larger pork loin.  

The spice blend provides lovely flavors.  Enjoy!


Chicken and Red Lentil Soup 

I love our local natural food store, Good Earth.  I’ve found a lot of my “new things” by browsing their shelves, nooks and crannies. In the bulk section, I noticed red lentils when refreshing my supplies of dried beans and rice.  Consequently, I’ve been looking for a simple recipe using red lentils while looking like something my family would enjoy eating.

I found this recipe in Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine and it is a keeper

 Chicken and red lentil soup

First, you cook the onion, garlic and ginger in oil.  Then you stir in the lentils, stock and water.  Bring to a boil.  

Add the chicken and cook 5 to 7 minutes.  

Transfer the chicken to a plate.  Let cool and chop into bite-sized pieces.  

Stir the coconut milk, spices and chard into the soup and season.  Cook about 5 minutes until the flavors meld.  

Stir in the chicken.  Enjoy!

Turkey Meatloaf in Baked Beans

So I’m stretching the definition of “new” this week just to have some type of blog post.  It’s been a while since I posted anything (an Indy car ride at the office Christmas party) and I noticed that I’m not looking for new recipes or ingredients or thinking about trying new things. 

Two years ago when I challenged myself to do 50 new things my 50th year, the months I really struggled were in January and February. In the Midwest, these are months to stay cozy inside and eat warm comfort food.  It’s not the time to go outside doing new things or searching for unusual ingredients. 

I’ve made this recipe before and it’s a family hit.  I’m calling it a “new thing” because the combination of meatloaf and baked beans is new to me and I was intrigued enough to try the recipe. I found the recipe in Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. 

Start by cutting 4 strips of bacon into pieces and crisping the pieces in a skillet.  Chop 4 scallions and add them to 2 cans of baked beans in a casserole dish.  Stir in the crisped bacon and a spoonful of the drippings.

The meatloaf is made with ground turkey and several other ingredients. Whiz 1 cup seasoned stuffing cubes in a food processor. Put them in a large bowl and add some milk to moisten. Add the turkey and mix in 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1 egg, 3-4 Tablespoons ketchup, 3-4 Tablespoons finely chopped onion, 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 Tablespoons spicy mustard, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar and 2 large cloves garlic, chopped.  The recipe also calls for fresh thyme and sage but I have challenges using up fresh herbs and only used fresh parsley. 

Lightly form the mixture into 4 loaves and nestle them among the baked beans. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.  

Even with a long list of ingredients, the recipe is ready to serve in under an hour.  Winter comfort food with a twist!

Sausage-Apple Dutch Baby

My next “New Thing” comes out of desperation to use up shipments of Harry and David pears from my generous father-in-law.  The first box contained 12 pears and then we received a treat basket with 5 more…

What to do with so many pears?

This recipe from Midwest Living magazine caught my eye since I’ve never made (or had) Dutch baby pancakes before.  The recipe calls for apples but I figure pears will work when one has a surplus.  

  • 3 ounces fully cooked smoked chicken-apple sausage, sliced crosswise
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 medium red cooking apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup 


Cook the sausage in 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter using a cast iron or oven safe skillet.  In a medium bowl, beat eggs well.  Add flour, milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon, whisking vigorously. 

Pour the pancake batter over the sausage.  Transfer to an oven preheated to 425 degrees and bake for about 15 minutes, until browned and puffy.

While the Dutch Baby is cooking in the oven, cook the fruit, pears in this case, in the remaining butter.  Cook for about 5 minutes until the fruit is browning on the edges.  Add brown sugar and maple syrup, cooking 2 – 3 minutes more.  

Serve the Dutch Baby topped with the cooked fruit.  The finished product is so tasty.  I would definitely make this again.  Any recipes for the rest of the pears??

Clare’s Wheaten Bread

If you’re going to be inside on a fall day, it’s nice to have the kitchen feel warm with the smell of baking bread.  For my next “new thing” from Diana Henry’s A Change of Appetite, I try Clare’s Wheaten Bread.  

The ingredients are:

  • 5 Tablespoons cold butter
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk

I build on a previous “new thing” by finding another recipe using buttermilk. 

The bread mixes up fairly easily into a sticky dough.  You sift the flours and baking soda together, mix in the sugar and rub in the butter with your fingers.

Add the buttermilk.  The recipe says you may need to add more liquid or more flour but I find the recipe measurements work well.  Bring the dough together with your hands and put it into a loaf pan.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and oats and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

With oats sprinkled on top, the bread is attractive enough to make a hostess gift.

I enjoy some with afternoon tea.

Chicken and Squash with Soy and Star Anise

With the switch off Daylight Savings Time, the days seem shorter in the Midwest since it’s dark while I’m driving home.  The mornings are cooler and it definitely feels like fall.  As I cook through Diana Henry’s A Change of Appetite, I try another “new thing” as an ingredient- this time it’s star anise in a chicken and squash recipe.

This recipe is easy to make, possibly since the intro says it is adapted from an American recipe so the process is familiar to me. Start by browning the chicken in a sauté pan.  Remove the browned chicken, reserving about 1 Tablespoon of the fat.  Then mix soy sauce, vinegar and fish sauce with dark brown sugar.  Heat the reserved fat and add chile, ginger and garlic.  Add some scallions and cook over medium heat for a couple minutes before adding the soy sauce mixture.   

Return the chicken to the pan plus the butternut squash, orange zest, orange juice and star anise.  Add 3-4 Tablespoons water to the pan, cover and finish in the oven set at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.    

These are great fall flavors. What do you want to cook on a fall day?