mexicoOver the recent years, I have been learning new Christmas traditions and rituals in other parts of the world, particularly the UK. In one of my recent posts, I talked about Christmas crackers which was something new to me. Growing up in California, Christmas was a totally different thing. For one, we didn’t have snow unless we went up to the mountains and the ski resorts, so our holidays were usually perfectly sunny and clear or gray and rainy. With my dad being from Mexico and having spent a Christmas one year with his relatives, we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve with tamales until midnight on Christmas day when we got to open our presents. Then after the births of my nieces and nephews, we started doing Christmas presents late in the day instead of the morning because we waited for my oldest sister to arrive from her husband’s family’s traditions. We switched up the days we did Christmas. Some years it was Christmas Eve, other years it was Christmas Day. Usually it depended on the circumstances of my oldest sister.

In today’s post as a part of my holiday series, I’m going to talk about traditions. My family doesn’t have an entirely regular tradition but at least we all try to get together for the holidays. I’m trying to incorporate more tradition into my life, like eat tamales, try to watch A Christmas Story and Elf at least once a year, and to try something new, like the Christmas Crackers which the nieces and nephews really enjoyed.

MinceWhile people in the US have their own traditions and customs, the British have something a little more different. The British call Santa Claus “Father Christmas” who will leave presents in stockings or pillow cases at the ends of the beds, by the beds of the children, or by the fireplace in homes. Instead of the standard milk and cookies left out for Father Christmas, he gets a nice brandy and mince pie. Letters are written to Father Christmas but instead of being put to the post, they are tossed into the fireplace where the smoke is drifted to Father Christmas so he can read them. The people of Britain also send Christmas cards, buy gifts, sing carols. The Queen delivers a Christmas Day message to the Commonwealth broadcast from her home reflecting on the year gone by.

cakeAnother thing the British and Americans have in common is that nearly everyone bakes and eat goodies for the holidays. While the Americans make Christmas cookies, fudge, and peppermint bark, the British celebrate the holidays with mince pies, Christmas puddings, and the Christmas cake. Today I will talk about the mince pie.  In the US, these are relatively unknown but huge in Britain. A mince pie nowadays consists of candied peels, vine fruits like currant and sultanas, which is a type of raisin in Britain, and apples inside a pastry crust. These are the most common ingredients inside the mincemeat. You can enjoy them hot or cold and you can either make them yourself (a lovely recipe here on our very own blog and get the mincemeat here or even try these.

Mince pies originally had various chopped meats in them, hence the name mincemeat pie. It is believed mince pies were made to use to use up leftovers in the 16th century in order to keep the meat supply going but over the years, the recipes have been adjusted to what people know today. The pies were originally oblong in shape to represent the cradle of the Christ but they are round today and the meat has been omitted.

Next time I will discuss Christmas cake and Christmas pudding.

~CD

IMG_3811Sausage rolls are a typical English savoury snack and I can honestly say I have never seen them in any other Country.  They are easy to make as long as you have the ingredients.  I used a ready rolled sheet of flaky pastry but you can use shortcrust and a packet of skinless sausages.  The method is so simple, just place your sausages on the pastry and cut enough pastry to fold over.  Brush the edges with water and fold the pastry over.  Snip the top and seal the join, then brush with milk or egg wash.  Cook for 20 mins. at 200 C 400 F or Gas Mark 6.  You can either cut them before or after they have been baked as in the photo.  If you cannot buy the sausages I will make some sausage meat and post the recipe for that – let me know!

~JB

Christmas is almost here and that means fun and festive times with friends and family! Delicious food, the smell of the Christmas tree, decorations, the holiday specials on TV, and the arrival of loved ones. After the festivities comes everyone’s favorite activity: presents. Now, I love to receive gifts as much as the next person does, but I discovered as I got older that I love to give more than I love to receive. The exciting feeling of deciding what to give someone. If money is tight, I like to bake gifts. The best part, though, is seeing their faces light up when they unwrap the gifts.

Pat MugSo if you’re shopping for a tea lover (or even a coffee lover), mugs are some of the best gifts you can give. This past August, my oldest sister and I were shopping in a department store when we spotted the cutest mug for our stepmother. She isn’t much of a tea person but a huge coffee drinker and mugs are also her thing. She has a collection herself that I am not allowed to use (except for one mug that I love to use, hee hee). I knew I immediately had to purchase that mug for her (especially while I had some extra money. Never too early to start). It’s a cat that says, “I have an attitude and I know how to use it!” So I got this along with a bag of Minnie Mouse (she is a fan of her) jelly beans and that was the gift. I know she won’t eat the jelly beans but she will definitely use the mug.

I was lucky and picked this up in the summer when the holidays were 4 months away, but if you’re in a pinch for time this holiday season, just find a clever mug (Doctor Who, clever sayings, or whichever. There’s a mug for pretty much anyone) and fill it with some tea and honey sticks. A few envelopes of the Twinings Christmas Spice to warm up their holiday or the Twinings Winter Spice to soothe them into a crisp apple joy. Better yet, you could mix them both up and put a little ribbon or two. If tea is a little short, hot cocoa or sweets are always the best, especially chocolate!

Paperchase2Paperchase1One of the benefits of becoming older and wiser is that I am appreciating the simple things like tea and mugs and how big of a gift they are to me. I don’t need any fancy gifts as as long as I have tea and the comfort that comes from it along with my loved ones. The past two Christmases I received a mug each year. The first mug I received, I spotted it at Target while shopping with my oldest sister. That year I had become a self-proclaimed mug collector, so I told my my sister that I fancied that cup. It had some cute Japanese anime-like drawings of adorable little ladies on it from Paperchase Kishi Kishi (which was actually from the UK, as I read on the box) that was briefly sold at the big box store but sadly is no longer there. It was only about $5 so it didn’t cost very much but I didn’t think about buying it. I unwrapped it come Christmas and it was immediately one of my favorite gifts. The next year, my second older sister gave me a sock monkey mug with two handles on it that was also stuffed with hot cocoa mix and candy canes. It was another one of my favorite gifts of all time since I love sock monkeys and mugs and this was all in one!

Sock Monkey MugThat is one of my favorite things about mugs. It’s a pleasing feeling to learn your friends and family know you when they get you a mug with something you love on it (or in it. You might love giant mugs that are like soup bowls)! You get to express yourself and your loves/interests with them. Collecting mugs is a good hobby to take up. There’s a wide variety of mugs everywhere, so you can do a theme or mix and match. Just be careful because the collection does add up fast!

~CD

Ch StrawsCheese straws are a very popular party food here in the UK. or these used to be in the 1970’s anyway!!  They are though, making a bit of a come-back with all the baking shows we now have on TV and they do go very well with Tea.  So if you want to try something savoury with your tea then try these.  They can be made into ‘sticks’ or rounds. you can even sandwich two together with cheese or put grated cheese on top for extra flavour.  If you want them to look nice you can make one straw into a round and put some other straws inside as I did.  The basic recipe is for cheese pastry so if you did not want to make cheese straws you can use this recipe for making a pastry flan case and then make a quiche.  Recipe for that at a later date!

100g or 4 ozs plain flour with a teaspoon of baking powder
50g or 2 ozs butter
75g or 3 ozs mature grated cheese
a pinch of salt and/or mustard powder
1 beaten egg

Cheese StrawsHeat the oven to 180 C, 350 F or gas mark 4 and prepare a baking sheet with baking parchment

Mix together the dry ingredients and rub in the butter to resemble fine crumbs. ( It is always good to have cold hands when making pastry!)  Stir in the cheese and add sufficient egg to make a stiff dough, not too wet and not too dry, if the dough comes away from the bowl leaving it clean then that is about right.  Roll out the pastry quite thinly and cut some into strips and some into rounds, make some strips into rounds for serving.  Put one circle on the baking sheet  add some sliced cheese and dampen the edges with the remaining egg or water, then cover with another circle and crimp together.  Brush everything with egg wash (egg and water) or milk and sprinkle more grated cheese on top if required.  Bake for 10-15 mins, leave to cool slightly on the baking sheet before transferring them to a cooling rack with a spatula.  Best served slightly warm on the day of baking or you can heat them in the microwave for a few seconds the next day.  Mine never last more than two days in the tin, in fact there are only three left now and I only made them this morning!

~JB

Online Stores:

I actually dye my hair with tea and coffee, between colorings. It keeps the roots from being so stark, caffeine is known to stimulate hair follicles so it is thicker, and it’s just way cheaper. Brew it strong, cool to tepid, pour over your hair, top with a thick leave-in conditioner, cover with a shower cap overnight, then wash as normal in the morning. I do this once a month or more.

Originally posted on Tea Blog:

Did you know tea has more uses than simply being a delightful beverage? Tea is used for health and beauty, around the house, and in the garden. Products that have multiple uses are wonderful. You conserve space by having fewer items that double to perform several functions and save a little money too.

Tea Has Many Uses

Ladies, you can skip your salon visit this week. You can color your hair with tea. I love this idea, because it does not damage my hair or have a dreadful aroma like that of chemically processed hair color. Another great beauty idea is you can appear as if you went tanning using tea! No tanning bed or lying out in the sun needed. All you need is two cups of brewed black tea, rosemary, sage, and a spray bottle. It is so easy; all that is required is spraying mixture onto your skin and blot…

View original 232 more words

Various Teas to Pair With Food

Tea is the new wine! Pairing tea with various foods is similar to pairing with wine. Usually people serve white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat. There is a misguided perception that the color of the wine and food determine how the two are paired together. It is all about providing a flavor adventure for the palate.

Green tea is lightly oxidized forming a perfect pair with foods such as seafood, salads, and fruit. It is ideal to go with foods customarily served with white wine including scallops and  lobster. Chinese green teas such jasmine and dragonwell have a bold flavor and aroma making them an ideal match for salads and chicken dishes.

Black tea is completely oxidized giving it its rich and full-bodied flavor. It pairs well with foods normally served with red wine including meats, curries, and pastries. Black tea is an excellent complement to chocolate candy. There are several types of black teas including  flavored black tea,  Assam, lapsang souchong and blackcurrant.

Oolong tea is a cross between black and green tea. Lightly oxidized oolong tea pairs perfectly with foods routinely served with white wine. Medium to dark oxidized oolong teas form an ideal pair with foods that are usually served with red wine such as Chinese, Thai, and grilled foods.

While tea is sometimes regaled as the new wine, there are two significant advantages to switching beverages. A person does not take the chance of intoxication and a perfect alternative for those who do not drink wine. Let us not forget there is an extensive variety of tea. Brew a cup of tea with a meal and enjoy.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A classic post originally published 02.10.2009

MinceMy kitchen smells just like Christmas today, I have been making mince pies and ginger biscuits today.  For the mince pies I made my own pastry and I made Rough puff Pastry.  You can use bought pastry and you can use shortcrust or flaky or puff it is all a matter of taste.  For the home-made pastry you will need:

8 oz Plain flour
5 oz Butter
a pinch of salt
cold water to mix

With normal shortcrust pastry you rub the fat into flour but with the rough puff you just need to cut the butter up into small pieces and mix, with a knife, into the flour and salt.  Mix to a stiff dough with the cold water.  Roll out on a floured surface into a narrow strip.  Fold the pastry into three, turn a quarter turn so one of the open ends is towards you and roll out again.  Do this three times and then leave to rest for 15 mins.

mince piesFor the mince pies you will need:

8 oz pastry
Mincemeat
beaten egg
icing sugar

Heat the oven to 230 C, 450 f, gas mark 8

Grease some patty tins, I use a tray that holds 12 pies.  Roll out the pastry quite thinly and cut out 12 large rounds and 12 smaller ones.  (Re-rolling the trimmings)  Line each patty section with a large round of pastry and place a teaspoon of mincemeatmincepie into each then brush the edges with beaten egg and place the small round of pastry on top.  Cut a slit or two in the top and brush the top with the beaten egg.  Bake for 15 mins.  Cool on a wire rack and then dust with icing sugar.  Serve hot or cold with or without brandy butter.  However you serve them, enjoy them.

~JB

Loose Leaf Tea

Are you dissatisfied with your cup of tea? The reason for this may be you are making tea mistakes. Did you know tea leaves expand during the brewing process and tea can be brewed too long? Read on to see if you identify with any tea mistakes.

Mistake #1:    Several tea drinkers believe tea purchased at their local grocer is good quality. The reality is these tea bags contain dust and crumbs of tea leaves. In all actuality, tea tastes best when brewed from loose-leaf tea leaves.

Tea bags were invented 100 years as a way to send samples to customers. Therefore, the trend caught on and over the years severely affected the quality of the tea.

Mistake #2:    Using tea strainers that are too small. Most people who drink tea own a mesh infuser ball that can only brew one cup at a time. Rather than using a mesh infuser ball, it is a good idea to consider switching to a t- sac for brewing loose-leaf tea. Using a t-sac will create an improved tea drinking experience since there will be room for the tea leaves to expand releasing their flavor.

Mistake #3:    Brewing tea using tap or microwaved water. Tap water has a chemical aftertaste and microwaved has a slight metallic taste. Both of these factors can significantly affect a tea’s taste. Instead of using tap water placed in the microwave, the best choice is cold filtered water. You will notice a difference in the flavor of your tea.

Electric Kettle Starter Kit

Electric Kettle Starter Kit

Mistake #4:    Forgetting to shut off your kettle or not emptying it after each use. Unfortunately, many rust out inside or the bottom gets burned. I will admit purchasing a quality kettle can be costly, but it will pay for itself within the first few cups. To prevent your kettle from getting ruined do not leave the water boiling until it evaporates, empty the unused water every time, and leave the lid open so it can air dry.

Mistake #5: Incorrect water temperature or brewing the tea too long. Green teas need rapid steaming water and black teas need almost boiling water to brew properly. Green teas brew quickly in two minutes, whereas black teas need 3-4 minutes. Over brewing green tea makes it taste like an over cooked vegetable. Over brewed black tea has a bitter flavor.

Mistake #6:    Using cream or half-n-half instead of milk in tea. Cream and half-n-half camouflage the flavor of tea. All you need is a touch milk to enhance the flavor of your tea.

Tea Canister

Tea Canister

Mistake #7:    Tea is not stored properly. The best place to store tea is in a tea canister away from the stove. It needs to be protected from heat, light, moisture, and other flavors. Tea absorbs other flavors surrounding it. Therefore, if you place it next to cayenne pepper your tea will taste like cayenne pepper.

Do you make any of the tea mistakes? If you do, it is okay many fellow drinkers probably commit the same errors. If you are a lucky person who is a tea expert, that is fantastic. Either way, sit down and enjoy a cup of tea.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A classic OLS/ETS blog entry originally published 02.03.2009

 

Green Tea

Wouldn’t it be great to find a great tasting beverage that has the potential to improve your health? There is such a beverage – tea. Research has indicated that tea is healthier than water. This definitely a positive point since tea has more flavor. So, what are the potential health benefits?

Research has found that tea is healthier for your body than water. Surprising, since popular consensus states water is the healthiest beverage for your body. Findings have been reported that tea rehydrates the body as well as provides disease-fighting antioxidants. Tea may offer protection against stroke, heart disease, and several types of cancers.

Do you want more reasons to drink tea? Drinking tea has potential benefits such as boost the immune system as well as strengthen teeth and bones. Tea may also improve artery function by aiding in blocking LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol).

How about drinking green tea? Research has found that senior citizens in Japan who consumed one or more cups of green tea per day were less likely to present cognitive and memory problems. Green tea contains EGCG, which appears to reduce the production of a toxic protein that clogs the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease.

All these healthy reasons make me want to get my infuser and brew a cup of tea. Health benefits and delicious taste make this an excellent beverage of choice. If only everything that tasted good proved to be healthy for us.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A classic OLS/ETS blog entry originally published 01.23.2009

Victoria sandwich JanuaryI mentioned in another post a Victoria Sandwich but if you do not know what a Victoria sandwich is then here is the recipe.  A very easy cake to make that does not keep well but then after the first bite you will not want to keep it but eat it with a cup of Tea.

This is commonly called a fatless sponge:
2 medium eggs
75 g or 3 oz Caster Sugar
75 g or 3 oz Self Raising Flour
A little hot water.

Heat the oven to 180 C, 350 F or gas mark 4 and grease or line a 7 inch (18 cm) cake tin.

Whisk the eggs lightly and then add sugar and whisk well until thick and creamy.  Lightly fold in the well-sieved flour and about a tablespoon of hot water.  You can add vanilla extract or other flavouring at this point.

Pour mixture in the prepared tin and bake for 25 – 30 mins.  Turn out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.  When cold slice and spread the bottom half with warmed jam and the top half with whipped cream and sandwich together.  Sift icing sugar on the top and enjoy.

~JB

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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