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SUPERFOOD APHRODISIACS: HOLIDAY SMOOTHIE

Holiday-Cranberry-Blackberry-Kale-SmoothieIt’s the holiday season. We’ve had a lot of celebrating at my house which, of course, involved cooking and eating. If you’re feeling thank-full like I am, make superfood smoothies. Even though my Thanksgiving menu at home was mostly vegan (everything vegan but the turkey) I’ve been feeling fatigued from all of the fun events and family time. I’ve not been eating as clean and plant-based as usual (I ate half a tin of those delicious and irresistible Danish butter cookies, indulged in Chinese shumai dumplings doused in soy and chili sauce, devoured my favorite fried scallion pancakes, nibbled on sweet potato fries with my kids, and savored a tasty Vietnamese crepe made with fried coconut and mung bean batter).

So, come Monday, I can start all over. Into the blender goes coconut water, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, dates, frozen bananas, almond slivers, kale, lots and lots of kale.

I like to boost my smoothies with coconut oil and other add-ins, such as goji powder, and açaí berry anything, if you have it. Pomegranate juice and fresh pomegranates— seeds and juice— are used in my kitchen quite often. Also, the morning of Thanksgiving I concocted a tonic for myself to rid a throbbing, nearly migraine headache— and it worked. That was amazing because I would not have been able to put together my Thanksgiving spread while enduring a migraine. I was so convinced that the ginger turmeric tonic I made— a large mug full of hot water, apple cider vinegar, fresh ginger and turmeric, lemon and orange juice freshly squeezed— worked its wonders that I decided to try it every morning in place of my usual hot cup of tea.

So try making a homemade smoothie and ditch the prepared blender packets of smoothie mix. The powers of natural healing are in whole foods. We know this. Consider the smoothies and tonics you blend up in your kitchen part of your holiday regimen. Go ahead and indulge a little too.

Tips on making smoothies a regular daily thing: I keep frozen bananas ready to go in my freezer. You know when bananas start to become overripe? Just skin them, wrap the banana in plastic wrap, and freeze. Dates keep well in the fridge. Have a box on hand. Keep your superfood powders in pretty sealed jars on display. They look lovely— green tea powder, goji powder, maca root powder— and remind you to use them frequently. 

HOLIDAY SMOOTHIE

3/4 cup whole cranberries, fresh or frozen

1/4 cup Medjool dates, pitted (about 4 dates)

1 whole banana, fresh or frozen

2 stalks kale, leafy parts

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup blackberries, fresh or frozen

1/4 cup slivered almonds, blanched

2 tablespoons coconut oil

4 cups coconut water

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup açaí (or pomegranate) juice

2 tablespoons goji powder

raw honey or pure maple syrup, to taste

 

Blend together all of the ingredients until smooth. Taste, and sweeten with honey or maple syrup if desired.

Happy Holidays!

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Give the Gift of Tea

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On my shopping list for those inclined to take tea instead of coffee is a beautiful box of tea by Palais des Thés. A gift box assortment of 8 single origin teas arrived on my doorstep the other day and within minutes my kettle whistled in jovial preparation! Soon I held a warm cup of this marvelous fragrant tea in my hands. I just could not wait to taste it. This was a splendid moment for the senses. You see, I just love tea.

For tea lovers, this is a perfect holiday gift. The Classic Signature tea set by PALAIS DES THÉS offers a selection of black, green, oolong, rooibos and dark teas in a stylish green box with magnetic closure. It looks like a large book, and when opened, it displays the teas with a chart to guide you in your selection. I love details like this. Suggestions for morning, afternoon and evening teas, as well as a how-to on proper tea preparation, makes the art of tea feel quite simple. As it should be.

“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.” Lin Yutang, The Importance Of Living

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The 8 teas in the Classic Signature Set contain cotton muslin tea bags (six per each tea):
- Long Jing: a remarkable Chinese green tea
- Margaret’s Hope: a delicious Himalayan black tea
- Sencha Ariake: a delicate Japanese green tea
- Grand Yunnan Impérial: a superb Chinese black tea
- Thé du Hammam: sweet green tea with red fruit
- Thé des Songes: Oolong with flowers and exotic fruit
- Vive le Thé !: green tea with ginger and citrus fruit
- Roiboos des Lords: caffeine-free Earl Grey

Tea_PalaisDesThes-Cup-Hammam

My favorites from this box are many. I drink tea in the morning, throughout the day, and before bedtime, so I knew if I opened the box, I’d run out quickly. The first tea bags that were completely used were Rooibos des Lords, a caffeine-free Earl Grey. This rooibos (pronounced ROY-bos) tea is perfumed with bergamot and best enjoyed in the evening. My way of drinking this naturally sweet tea is to pour a splash of coconut creamer into my teacup and enjoy slowly.

“Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.” Kakuzō Okakura, The Book of Tea

Darjeeling “Margaret’s Hope” is a summer darjeeling from the Himalayas. Dark, fruity and deep with flavor, it nourishes my soul. This is a tea I prefer to drink with cream, though it can be enjoyed without.

Grand Yunnan Impérial is another tea that filled my cup again and again. It is considered a morning tea, with notes of honey,  making it a perfect drink alone tea without need of adding anything to sweeten.

“Some people will tell you there is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The traditional Japanese green teas such as Sencha Ariake and Long Jing are both exquisite. “Ariake” means “the waning of the moon at dawn” in Japanese, and its poetic term illustrates two lovers absorbed in their passionate embrace until dawn. The romantic in me remembers moments like this, which makes Sencha Ariake the morning tea for lovers after a blissful night of passion. It can be shared over breakfast. Who knows? Perhaps green tea can be a morning aphrodisiac.

The fragrance of Thé du Hammam evokes the Turkish baths, waters scattered with rose petals, orange blossoms, and leaves. Its relaxing, fruity aroma inspires the tea drinker to soak in a hot bath while sipping on this exquisite blend of green tea mingled with flowers.

Vive le Thé is a vibrant green tea spiced with ginger and citrus fruit. It’s light and cheery flavor delights and inspires. My daughters like this tea in particular as it was served at their backyard tea party in s porcelain teapot. Once tasted, both of my girls clamored into the kitchen for “more tea!”

I’ve just recently come to appreciate Oolong tea. Thé des Songes, an Oolong with flowers and exotic fruit, is good for relaxation into the evening. Its blend is enhanced with lavender and mallow petals. I sip on this while taking a steaming hot bath by candlelight.

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“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” Henry James

Tea for the tea lover on your holiday list seems a gift beyond value. It can be taken anytime of day or night, to find solace, relax, invigorate, clear the mind, all in a cup of tea.

“Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside; candles at four o’clock, warm hearthrugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies to the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.” Thomas de Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater

PalaisDesThesHolidayTea

Discover Palais des Thés’ elegant gift collections. The box sets and samplers make a wonderful gift for tea lovers. Anyone can enjoy the art of tea: from the beginner to the connoisseur. The holiday season is made brighter with a warming cup of tea by the fire. Explore the teas online and artful teapots of supreme elegance to serve them in. Shop for the holidays with Palais des Thés tea selections at your fingertips. Not only do the tea sets make the holiday wish list, but the rainbow of tea assortments, decorative and functional teapots and kettles, and special blends of holiday teas can make your gift list more merry, peaceful and bright. I’m pleased to share my love of tea with you and hope your gift giving is inspired by the art of Palais des Thés.

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SPICE UP THE HOLIDAYS: CINNAMON, NUTMEG & GINGER

Thanksgiving-Sensual-Foodie-Carrot-Recipe

Thanksgiving time has us all searching for recipes to cook, eat and share. Spice up your holiday with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. These romance enhancing spices please the senses and get you in the mood. Here’s some inspiration for your Thanksgiving recipes.

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Love Soup

carrSensual-Foodie-Fall-Soup-PostAs Thanksgiving is at the end of the month, the kitchen beckons. I’m dreaming up side dishes and figuring out what to make for the gathering at my table. But menu planning requires something good to satisfy your belly and soul, so make a pot of nourishing soup while you plan your holiday feast.

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It’s November

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Here in Los Angeles, it’s still warm and balmy. I wore a sundress to have dim sum at the newly reopened Empress Pavilion in Chinatown with my sweetheart, and while walking down Chung King Road to Hill Street, I bought a parasol to protect my face and bare skin from the sun’s strong rays. You just might think it was summer. On the one day I took off, we shared many pots of tea and lingered over dim sum. Slow eating. This makes me so happy. To add to my dining pleasure, the new owner of Empress Pavilion explained the updated menu of “more vegetarian dishes” and “healthier” dim sum.

(If your curiosity is percolating at the mere mention of dim sum, read my darling’s article on Empress Pavilion: Eight Things You Can Expect at the New Empress Pavilion via Eddie Lin for Los Angeles Magazine.)

Dim sum

I love the change from summer into fall, even though the weather here in perpetually sunny California does not change as other parts of the country do, with leaves turning red and gold, brisk winds blowing, the peaty scent of damp earth and the warming scent of fireplaces burning wood. I’ve missed my usual farmers’ market shopping on Sundays as I have not had enough time to truly cook the slow way I like. This being busy thing has to slow down. It has caused me to take shortcuts in preparing family meals, using frozen waffles for quick breakfasts— though they are pumpkin waffles drizzled with maple syrup and freshly cut banana slices. I can’t help myself even when in a hurry, as I grate fresh cinnamon on top and pour on a little more maple syrup. One day I got creative and made banana waffle sandwiches for my kids using Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Waffles, served with homemade almond hazelnut milk as a tea latte.

I know I’m creatively bursting when frozen waffle sandwiches are all I have time to make.

Kitchen sink full of dishes, cups of tea, scattered utensils. Quick, an egg on toast. Quick, an avocado toast. Quick, almond butter and honey toast. Out the door! But slow weekend mornings involve pumpkin pancakes. Or banana waffle sandwiches again, just because those were amazing.

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Yet what I crave is a long leisurely day with a crisp breeze blowing the fall leaves around outside, a cozy mug of hot tea inside, and more piping hot pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon and real maple syrup. Then comes soup making. Long hours of simmering, roasting veggies, caramelizing onions, making more stock.

The fall season inspires my recipes— I love making soups of all kinds, especially butternut squash, or a tomato-rich Tuscan white bean, kale and carrot soup, which evolve in the pot with other vegetable additions as I rummage through my fridge looking for limp basil leaves, kale, spinach. I toast hazelnuts and what’s left of the pine nuts. French lentils marry well with tomatoes and chiles, Indian spices like cardamom, roasted cumin in olive oil, coriander seeds.

Soup is slow and requires plenty of time. I close the refrigerator door with an avocado toast bundled up in a napkin and rush out to the car. I’ve had soup making on my mind.

The best soups I’ve made took a few days. Building the base with caramelized onions, shallots, leeks, then adding the veggies, layering the flavors until the pot sings with aromas of herbs, spices, roots, greens. It’s better to let the pot settle for a day, deepening the ingredients with mirepoix, sherry, and olive oil, a pinch of turmeric, grated ginger, a squeeze of lemon.

Thai soups like Tom Kha, vegan tortilla soup with big slices of avocado, so many wonderful ways to make soup.

Tom Kha Tortilla soup

I’ve made lentil stews late at night when my body is aching for rest, and hearty pots of vegetable and bean soups with kale for dinner to serve something nourishing to my family. My morning usuals aren’t very inspirational before seven in the morning. Toasted bread with mashed avocado, a sprinkling of olive oil, a pinch of cayenne, a squirt of lemon, served with the grapes that get rinsed each morning until they’ve been eaten. I don’t pretend that I live a leisurely life of recipe conjuring while enjoying a peaceful, uninterrupted day. I’m rushing around, eating in the car, hurrying from dropping off kids at school to work, avoiding traffic with my cab driver skills. Rushing.

Sometimes I am able to plan ahead, putting to-go meals in mason jars, blending fresh almond milk up for smoothies or almond milk lattes, making homemade salad dressing, and other ways to eat well when the day is full and I’m out and about. There have been afternoon trysts with burritos full of gooey cheese, tomatillo salsa, rice and beans. I’m no angel. I wipe my lips of the evidence but I have no regrets.

While I’m away from my cutting board, refrigerator, pots, pans and spices, I think of seasonal recipes and leaf through some of my favorite cookbooks. Just as we are all busy, we seek a meditative moment where time slows down. My happy place is in the kitchen and I can’t wait to share my holiday recipes with you. Meanwhile, here are a few seasonal soup recipes I’m eager to try myself. Enjoy. Have a cup of tea with me while we dream of cooking and eating. By the way, that last link for the pureed parsnip and cardamom soup with caramelized shallots? It’s first on my list of soups to make.

SAVEUR: Tom Yum Goong

SAVEUR: Pear, Shallot & Delicata Squash Soup

Bon Appetit: Leek Soup with Shoestring Potatoes and Fried Herbs

Bon Appetit: French Onion Soup with Comté

Bon Appetit: Chickpea Soup

Food52: Kale & Chickpea Soup with Lemon

Food52: Pureed Parsnip & Cardamom Soup with Caramelized Shallots

 

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