Monday, September 19, 2016

Tocha Tea Review - Herb Teas

Earlier this year I was avoiding caffeine and drinking only herbal tea. Herbal tea is really a misnomer, there is no such thing. Tea is made from leaves of the tea plant, camellia sinensis. Black tea, oolong, green tea and even white tea is made from the leaves of this plant. The different styles and colors come from how it’s processed. Herbal teas are more properly tisanes, a French term coined in the 1930’s. It can contain herbs, flowers, spices or other plant material. It is generally caffeine free. 

I’m always trying to find tisanes that taste like something, anything. Often they are too bland or one strong flavor like licorice or rose hip takes over. Recently I discovered two fantastic blends from a small company called Tocha Tea. They were created by Venus Tsui, who was struggling with getting enough sleep as a new mom, and turned to a book of old Chinese remedies. The teas were inspired by her experience with herbs and are packaged in biodegradable sachets so you can see the pretty petals and herbs in each one. The packaging is also gorgeous! But what I like best about these tisanes are their lovely aroma, flavor and their relaxing properties. They have no added flavorings or colors. They are truly all natural. 

This tea is so pretty and fragrant it looks like potpourri!, To support sleep it also has all organic mostly floral ingredients—chamomile from Egypt, rose petals from India, osmanthus from China and mint from the US. 

Just a cup is perfect before bedtime as a relaxing ritual. But I could also see having a cup on a stressful or day or taking it with me into the bathtub. It would also make a terrific gift, although I'm so fond of it I've already bought myself another canister. 

This tea is a perfectly balanced blend of all organic herbs and flowers— honeybush from South Africa, rose petals with India, mint from the US and hibiscus from Egypt. I say balanced because hibiscus can sometimes dominate and in this blend it doesn’t at all. It’s juicy and has a natural sweetness so I find it doesn’t need any added honey or sugar. 

It's good any time of the day but I particularly like it in the morning. It's has enough flavor to complement baked goods served with butter and jam. 

These teas are available in local Seattle area markets and online

Disclaimer: I received these teas as samples, but was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post. 

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Hatch Green Chili Con Carne Recipe

There is chile and then there’s chili. Chiles are sometimes called peppers, but that’s not really accurate. Pepper comes from peppercorns. Confusing things even further there is chili which is short for chili powder, made from powdered chilis and chili short for chili con carne, a stew made with fresh chilies or chile powder. The reason I bring this up is that when I received a carton of freshly roasted Hatch green chiles, I set out to find a recipe for chili con carne, made with Hatch chiles and let’s just say Google and I found it rather challenging. 

Mostly I found recipes for pork chili verde but a request was made for beef. Lisa over at Homesick Texan has what looks like an amazing Chile Verde Con Carne made with beef, but it has 17 ingredients, which is fine if you’re making a big batch. But if you’re making a small batch during the week, my version is much simpler with a lot fewer ingredients. 

As with all chili, you should let your taste be your guide. This year I got mild chiles and I'm really glad I did. The spicy ones are so hot I can't use very many and when I do, I get more heat than true chile flavor. With mild chiles I can use more. When making chili, taste for seasoning but also for texture and adjust the ratio of onions, tomatoes and green chiles to your liking. I made this version fairly mild. Beer can be used in place of water. Chile is good with beans, over rice, with tortilla chips or fresh tortillas, not to mention cornbread. Best of all, chili is very adaptable and very forgiving. 

My chiles came from a Hatch chile roast, sponsored by Melissa’s  and Mollie Stone’s MarketWant to attend a Hatch chile roast in the Bay Area? There are three more dates left this year at Mollie Stone Markets:

Burlingame: Sunday September 11th, 2016
Greenbrae: Saturday September 17th, 2016 
Palo Alto: Sunday September 18th, 2016

Hatch Green Chile Chili Con Carne 
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef, chili grind if available
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove
1 Tablespoon mild Hatch chile powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2- 3/4 cup diced roasted mild Hatch green chiles (about 5-8)
1 medium or hot Hatch green chile, diced, optional
1 14.5 ounce fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up until crumbled and no longer pink. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent and moisture mostly evaporated. Add the chile powder, cumin and soy sauce and stir. When combined add the chiles, tomatoes, tomato sauce and water. 

Raise heat bring to a simmer, lower the heat and simmer gently, partially covered for 45 minutes or until flavors have melded. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste. 

Top with garnishes such as chopped green onions, cilantro, shredded cheese and sour cream or plain yogurt if desired. 


Disclaimer: Mollie Stone’s Market and Melissa’s provided me with roasted Hatch green chiles and chile powder. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

All About Argentinian Malbec

Although it’s a French grape varietal, Malbec really flourishes in Argentina where it was first introduced in 1868. But for a long time only the Argentinians got to enjoy it. For the last 50 years or so it was a big wine and a bit on the brash side, but that’s changing. Malbec today can be much more elegant, lower in alcohol and more complex. It's grown pretty much in every wine growing area of  Argentina and varies in style from one wine region to another. Mendoza is the region you're most likely to see. It's a high plateau, under the Andres on the western edge of the country and it's where 70% of Argentina's wine is grown. 

I'm a fan of Argentinian Malbec, perhaps because it has a lot in common with another favorite wine of mine, Merlot. But it was only about 10 years ago that I discovered it, which isn't all that surprising because it wasn’t until the 1980’s and 1990’s that Argentina began focusing on creating wines for export. The wines began to take off in 2000, then between 2005 and 2012, exports grew a staggering 30-40% per year. Today Argentina is the fifth-biggest producer of wine in the world and that’s due in part to the popularity of Malbec. 

Recently I got a chance to try Antigal UNO Malbec 2013. It has the classic juicy red plum and blackberry flavor, and hints of tobacco, chocolate and coffee as well. I enjoyed it with an aged strip steak, but it would be just as good with lamb or even smoky eggplant. It’s good with pretty much anything barbecued, roasted or grilled. For under $20 it’s also a good value. 

There are many reasons to try Malbec from Argentina, here are just a few:

* It’s a lush and juicy red wine, but not too big. It’s not too tannic and it has good acidity which makes it a wine that's easy to enjoy.

* It plays well with others. Malbec is fantastic with steak, try it instead of Cabernet Sauvignon. But it’s not limited to beef. It’s great with almost any kind of grilled or roasted vegetable like eggplant, or mushrooms or rich, braised stews. It's also good with teriyaki. 

* It’s reasonably inexpensive. Many good bottles can be found in the $10-20 range—although this is changing and there are some very high end and expensive ones that cost as much as $100-300 a bottle.

Disclaimer: I received a bottle of Antigal Uno Malbec 2013 for review purposes. I was not paid for this or any other post. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Chile Rubbed King Salmon Recipe & GIVEAWAY!

It's King salmon season and I couldn't be happier. King, also known as Chinook is the most precious and luscious salmon around. It’s very high in healthy fats and has an amazingly creamy texture. I was offered the opportunity to try fish from Daily Fresh Fish so naturally I chose King salmon. DailyFreshFish is a company that delivers seafood overnight. There's no warehousing or middle man and no time for it to linger in a case at the market. It goes from the dock to the shore and then directly to you. The only way to get fresher seafood would be to either catch it yourself or go to dock and get it from a fisherman. 

The company offers a wide range of seafood, and is certified with The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainable seafood certification program, which verifies that the seafood is sustainable. They also use seafood guides from the Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the NOAA FishWatch to select sustainable fisheries and farms. Even their shipping materials are made from recyclable materials or are reusable or recyclable. 

For years I have experimented with different techniques for cooking fish. I particularly love Jacques Pepin’s technique of cooking fish at 200 degrees. I use the same technique but start the fish in a skillet over high heat because I love eating crisp salmon skin. I also add a spice rub because it gives the fish plenty of flavor and color without drowning it in sauce. This recipe uses a spice rub I created for a client years ago. Taste it before you put it on the fish and adjust it to your liking. It can easily be made in smaller or larger amounts depending upon how much fish you have. 

Thanks to DailyFreshFish I’m giving away 2 packages of 2 six ounce filets of fresh King salmon (value $28.99). You must be a US resident to win. Leave me a comment telling me about your favorite seafood meal or fishing experience. Two winners will be chosen on August 25th. Be sure to enter your email address in the field where it is requested. Do not leave your email address in the body of the comment. 

Note: King salmon should be available all month, but in case it’s not you will receive frozen King salmon instead. 

Chile Rubbed Salmon
Serves 4


1 1/2 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Cooking oil
4 salmon filets 


Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Combine the chile powder, cumin, brown sugar and salt in a small bowl. Coat the flesh side of the fish with the spice mixture.

Heat a cast iron or oven proof skillet over high heat. Add enough oil to barely coat the skillet. Carefully lay the salmon into the skillet, skin side down. Cook for 2 minutes or until the skin gets crisp. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 20 - 30 minutes, or until cooked until done to your liking. The amount of time will depend upon the thickness of your filet.


Disclaimer: DailyFreshFish supplied fish to me an for the giveaway. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post.