I’m a little tea gadget …

tea ballSo. I have been having all these discussions online recently that involve tea. Since I am supposed to limit my caffeine intake, I have not been actually drinking much tea lately–just talking about it. Then a friend suggested rooibos as a caffeine-free alternative that I might like. (Thanks, Kate!)

Well, yesterday, the tea fairy visited my house and left an interesting selection of teas for me to try (including some rooibos). So, I have to take stock of my tea-making paraphernalia so that I can try one of these scrumptious sounding brews.

The first stop was the kitchen gadget drawer to look for my old tea infuser (commonly known as a tea ball). However, much to my chagrin, somewhere between the re-lining of the kitchen drawers, kitchen remodels and general gadget pruning, my tea infuser seems to have disappeared. It may be in a box in the basement somewhere, but since that’s roughly the equivalent of residing in an alternate dimension, that meant it was time to shop for a new one.

That’s when I found out that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore….

A few of the items I found were unsurprising. You can still get an ordinary mesh tea ball: classic, simple and functional. If you say tea infuser to me, this metal ball (or a close variant) is the thing that comes to mind.

I also saw a brew in mug tea infuserwith a lid:  This is similar to the Melitta single cup coffee brewer. I keep one of these around the house for use during power outages.

Years ago, I remember seeing an electric set called a Mrs. Tea (similar to a Mr. Coffee electric drip pot, but designed for brewing tea). I actually still found some of these for sale on Amazon and eBay.  Back in the day, these were all the rage for people who were die-hard tea drinkers, LOL! Now, they have them that make iced tea as well.

Now for the unusual and the kitsch – the selection here was really widely varied and really interesting:

How about tea infusers that look like tea leaves? Or, what about your very own Tea Rex?

What about a little something for the Sesame Street fan? Bert and Ernie would be so thrilled with a yellow rubber ducky tea infuser, no? Especially one that floats in your cup!

And while we are on yellow, for that special tea-drinking Beatles fan, yes, there actually is a infuser shaped like a Yellow Submarine!

In fact, you can get almost any kind of infuser you would like: robot? Check. A monkey? Yep! What about a “Deep Tea Diver”or a sea shell?They even have one that actually looks like a teapot.

But my personal favorite is one that seems no longer to be available: A shark infuser that floats in the cup.

I mean seriously, who could resist this? Do I hear the music from Jaws playing as I sip my tea?

Ice Box Rolls

I was cleaning out a box in my office and found this recipe for these yummy bread rolls my mother used to make when I was growing up.  I have seen various versions of this recipe floating around the Internet and it supposedly dates back to the early 1950s. The name comes from the fact that you refrigerate the dough before you bake the rolls. The recipe uses leftover mashed potatoes and the bread has a really unique taste because of it.

The recipe is supposed to make 36 rolls. But my mother always made them bigger. When baked, they were the size of a big hamburger bun.  Hot out of the oven and slathered with margarine, the taste was just to die for. This is one of the strongest flavor memories of my childhood.

Ice Box Rolls

¾ cup shortening

½ cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk (luke warm)

½ cup water (luke warm)

1 package dry yeast (fast acting)

6 cups flour

1 cup mashed potatoes

Dissolve yeast in luke warm water and milk. Cream together sugar, shortening, and eggs. Add to yeast mixture. Add mashed potatoes. Mix well. Add flour and salt. Knead well. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down, and place in refrigerator (overnight or for about eight hours). Take dough from refrigerator and roll into shape for individual rolls. Let rise until double in size. Bake in 425 degree oven until brown.

Remaining dough can be covered and stored in refrigerator for up to 48 hours, but, honestly, it never lasts that long around here….

The Internet Cookbook: Penne Bake with Spinach and Tomatoes

I haven’t been cooking anything new recently because I have been so busy. But I happened to find a dish that sounded so good, I had to give it an immediate try. Everybody in our house loves penne pasta, so this recipe from Bev Cooks fit the bill perfectly.

I didn’t have any Pomi tomatoes on hand (don’t they look delicious?) so I had to make do with what was in the pantry. For my meat loving family, I added thinly sliced beef smoked sausage and skipped the breadcrumbs  to lower the carbs. It was a huge hit with everyone.

I never would have thought of using smoked paprika as one of the main seasonings in the dish. It made for a refreshing change from my usual pasta dishes. I’d like to try it again and use cubed cooked chicken and small julienned ham slices. I think the smoky flavor of the paprika would complement it nicely!

The Internet Cookbook: Quinoa, anyone?

One of my Twitter friends had posted a lovely picture of a quinoa dish she’d made for dinner, so, in return, I promised I would post one of my favorite quinoa recipes. Okay, actually, I am going to post two of my most-used quinoa recipes- one for a tasty soup and the other for one of my favorite side dishes.

Quinoa is known as the “Wheat of the Andes.” Because it is a complete protein, high in iron and fiber, some people consider it a superfood. If it’s your first time cooking quinoa, remember that it generally needs to be washed first to remove the naturally occurring bitter saponins. I usually buy Bob’s Red Mill from Amazon because it is organic and has been pre-rinsed so I don’t have to wash it. Quinoa comes in several varieties, including a red quinoa.

Chupe de Quinua:  This is a traditional Peruvian soup that is incredibly tasty and filling. The recipe calls for 250 grams of quinoa; for the metrically challenged like me, that’s about 8.8 ounces. For the cheese, I used queso fresco.  Be sure to fry the onions and garlic until they are golden; it’s what gives the soup its lovely color.  

Quinoa with mushrooms:    I usually make this dish with red quinoa because I think that it looks more attractive. It is a great side dish and a nice change from rice. If you want to make the dish vegan, you can use water or vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth.  

I am always on the look out for more dishes using quinoa. Anyone else have any good recipes to share?

The Internet Cookbook: Ham and Asparagus Risotto

Risotto is a  family favorite in our house. This creamy Italian dish made of arborio rice cooked in broth is generally considered intimidating because it must be cooked slowly with constant stirring. The solution? The microwave oven. This recipe for risotto with ham and asparagus takes only about 30 minutes to prepare and because it is cooked in the microwave, it doesn’t require the constant attention of the stovetop version.

While it is possible to use other kinds of rice, risotto is traditionally made with arborio ricebecause of its ability to absorb liquid.

This recipe is versatile, too! You can change the ingredients to make various risotto dishes. I have made mushroom risotto or a traditional one with saffron and peas (Risotto con i Pisellini e Zafferano).  It can also be adapted for recipes such as Lemon risotto with saffron or Risi e Bisi (rice and peas w pancetta). You can also substitute vegetable broth or potato water for the chicken broth to make a vegetarian version.

The Internet Cookbook: Easy Peasy Cherry Crumble Cake

Caveman Cooking is one of my favorite cooking blogs.  My friend Mark is not only a great cook, but his blog is a very entertaining read.  I have been planning for a while to highlight one of his recipes, but couldn’t decide which one to feature – he has so many good ones!  This recipe is actually from Mark’s wife, the Cavewoman. She is a fantastic baker and the recipe is quick, easy and utterly delicious!

And for the record, this is now officially our new favorite dessert! And it is vegetarian,  too!

The recipe is also versatile.  The first time I started to make this, I spotted  a box of devil’s food cake mix while looking for the yellow cake. Thinking of the chocolate and the cherries, the first thing the went through my mind was Black Forest!  The next time I made this, I did indeed use the devil’s food mix and the Black Forest Crumble Cake was delightful!  Next time I am going to try using pumpkin cake mix with a can of apple pie filling and see if I like the results.  🙂  Sounds like something that would be lovely for a fall day…. LOL, I have to start practicing now, right?

Crock Pot Chicken Cordon Bleu

I found this recipe in one of those public domain cookbooks you can find for the Kindle (Since I’ve forgotten, just don’t ask me which one, LOL!).  It is easy to make in the crock pot and it tastes absolutely scrumptious! I freeze the leftovers for another meal.

Ingredients:

4-6 chicken breasts (pounded thin)

4-6 pieces of ham (Lean, thin ham slices work best.)

4-6 slices Swiss or mozzarella cheese

1 can cream of mushroom soup

¼ cup milk

Directions:

Place ham and cheese on chicken.  Roll up and secure with toothpicks. 

Place chicken in the crock pot so it looks like a triangle: /__\. Layer the rest on top. 

Mix soup and milk.  Pour over chicken. 

Cook on low for approximately 4 hours.  Serve over noodles or rice.

The Internet Cookbook: Baked Eggs with Spinach and Brioche

I am trying to add more meatless recipes to our diet and this recipe is a wonderful addition.  The dish is simple to make but has a gourmet flair and tastes absolutely incredible! It is perfect for brunch, but also great for a late night supper.  I substituted bagels for the brioche and sour cream for the creme fraiche.  It was still fantastic!

Brioche is French for a rich bread made with lots of eggs and butter.  Although historians don’t think the story is true, supposedly,  brioche is the cake in the Marie Antoinette “quote” of “Let them eat cake.”

The Internet Cookbook: Spinach and Tomato Orzo

This spinach and tomato orzo dish from Angie of the Southern Grace Gourmet blog has turned into one of the staple dishes that I make at least once or twice a month. It has a rich creamy taste that is absolutely scrumptious!  I add cooked shrimp and Parmesan cheese to transform it from a side dish to a main course.  Serve it with bread and salad and it is a great meal. You can even substitute whole wheat orzo for the regular pasta and the dish turns out great.

Angie has some great recipes on the Southern Grace Gourmet blog and I recommend taking a look, especially if you love southern cooking. You can also follow her updates on Facebook and Twitter.

The Internet Cookbook: Chris’ Bay Area Burgers

I love a good burger and frequently add various seasonings when cooking them that give a unique and individual taste.  This recipe makes one of the best burgers I have ever eaten.  The addition of olive oil, garlic and  basil gives these burgers a lot of flavor.  I added onions to the mix and served it topped with slices of mozzarella cheese on freshly baked ciabatta bread.  It made for a divine Italian inspired sandwich.