A Proper High Tea, Part 2

I’m continuing my notes on a tea!

My favorite by far part of a high tea is by far the sandwiches. I think it’s easy to wrongly get intimidated that somehow tea sandwiches are a ton more work. They’re not. Two things can turn any sandwich into a tea sandwich: cut off the crust and make it a small size.

Either cut your sandwiches into squares, diagonal or get a little fancy and use a circular cookie cutter!

My go to is cucumber; my tip is use Boursin, then just cucumber and dill. I also love smoked salmon; I used marble rye and then cream cheese and smoked salmon. And finally I found this recipe. The trio was an excellent mix!

I also made the cucumber and chicken salad sandwiches on keto bread from Aldi; I liked saving some calories without sacrificing flavor!

As I mentioned before, I’m not a big sweets person. I therefore have no desire to bake. It’s also a thought to serve smaller sized desserts. I’m a big fan of the dessert selection at Trader Joe’s; there’s so much to choose from and most of it’s the ideal smaller size!

Throwing a tea is definitely more work and requires a bit of planning, but it’s a special and memorable thing!

A Proper High Tea, Part 1

We went to tea at The Drake a few weeks ago. It was…mediocre. Which really saddened me; I love a tea and wanted to share that love with Kevin so I was disappointed.

I started going to proper high teas as a child. I lived in London for 6 months not to mention have vacationed there many times, my 27th birthday was a tea downtown with my friends…so yea, I think I know my way around a good tea.

There’s also a logistical side of a tea that’s hard post-surgery. I don’t have stellar fine motor skills, so lots of spreading things, cutting things and handling fine china is tough.

I’m not a penny pincher, but many high teas are $60+ a person. It’s depressing to pay so much for a so-so experience.

Because of all this I decided I could probably organize a high tea better than most.

We’ll start, obviously, with the tea itself. Tea really should be it’s own post topic; there are so many ways to do it really proper. The down and dirty tip though are use loose leaf over bagged. If you’re using bagged tea yet calling it a high tea…oof.

I pretty quickly decided a high tea in summer needed iced tea. I made both plain, decaf English breakfast and a fun fruity herbal tea. And I stirred in a little edible glitter for some pizzaz!

I’m not a big sweet fan; I much prefer a more savory approach. My favorite English tea is at Fortnum & Mason, and one of the biggest reasons is you get to pick sweet or savory.

This plays out in the scones (pronounced like “gone” not “cone”); savory is more like zucchini or cheddar cheese biscuits, versus sweet like dried fruit, chocolate chip or just plain. Personally, I find the extras that are expected with sweeter scones (lemon curd, clotted cream and jam) to be too much….but some people love it! I think a big part of why places can justify the higher price point is that their spread includes all these scone extras. Especially for an at home tea, make it easier for yourself and go savory.

I’ll chat sandwiches and desserts on Thursday!

Blue Cheese Burgers

I LOVE these burgers. The first time we made them, my mom and I knew they weren’t the healthiest so we vowed to only make them once. *Snort.* These are now our staple burger. They taste great with ground turkey!

1 pound ground meat (I like a turkey/beef mix)

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. round pepper

2 oz. crumbled blue cheese (I like more though…maybe 3 oz.?)

olive oil

1 medium red onion, sliced crosswise into circles

1 cup fresh spinach

4 hamburger buns

In a bowl come meat, sauce and pepper. On waxed paper shape into 8 thin patties. Make a little divet in 4 of them then place 1 Tbsp. of cheese in the divets. Lay a patty over that, press together so you have 4 burgers.

Fire up your grill. Grill the patties 5 minutes per side, the onion slices 5 minutes. Brush the buns with olive oil and grill 1 minute.

Assembly: bun, burger, onion, spinach and more cheese. These do not need condiments.

Chilled Red Pepper Soup

I’m relatively new to the concept of chilled soups. While soup is a kitchen staple for me during the cold months, I have yet to incorporate them into my summer menus. One of my summer food goals is to find a few key chilled soup recipes, and that goal was born thanks to this recipe. I stumbled upon this gem late last summer in Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie’s America” cookbook and fell in love. 

Chilled Red Pepper Soup serves 4, adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Red Pepper Summer Soup”

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion (I prefer vadalia), peeled and roughly chopped

Crushed garlic (I used 1 heaping spoonful)

4 red bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped

1 poblano pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

1 quart of vegetable broth

1 small bunch of basil, leaves picked

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper

2 small Persian cucumbers

1-2 stalks celery

In a large pan, add olive oil, chopped onion, and peppers. Fry gently on medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring every so often, until vegetables are starting to soften.

Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat slightly and continue to cook for ten minutes.

Pour the soup mixture into a blender or food processor (you may need to do this in batches, and you could also, carefully, use an immersion blender for this) and add the basil leaves and red wine vinegar. Blend for 20-30 seconds or until mixed. Taste and season accordingly with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper if you want some heat. Let cool then put into a container and refrigerate to completely chill. 

When you are ready to serve, you can prepare the garnish. Chop the cucumbers and celery and mix together. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each one with a big spoonful of the garnish. 

Diary of a (Partial) Vegan: Week One

Veganism has its moments. One minute you are feeling extremely pleased with your dietary choices, the next you are mid-bite into a Twix and realize you’re an idiot; that has milk in it. My biggest tool for my successes this past week has been planning. I mapped out my major meals for the week and grocery shopped appropriately for a vegan lifestyle. However, I’m unable to control the lingering non-vegan items in my pantry/fridge/freezer. There were eggs taunting me from the refrigerator door and chocolates on the top shelf of my pantry that I swear were whispering “eat me” every time I walked past. By the middle of week I started feeling bored with my vegan meal options and subsequently turned to eggs and dairy to expand on my choices. And on Friday I completely fell off the bandwagon and had a chicken wrap for lunch. 

I’m not a nutritionist, but I do know that there are many factors to consider when you eliminate major food groups from your diet. Important things like protein and even fiber from grains (if you are trying to also watch calories and not eat bread/pasta/etc. all the time) can be compromised by following a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle. I will admit, some poor planning on the nutrient side led me to lack energy and have some unpleasant stomach aches during the first few days. Everything is a process, and I’m learning now how to be conscious of the nutrients I get from a meal based on what kind of diet (no gluten, no meat, etc.) it follows.  

As I explained here, my 22 day challenge is to be vegan as much as possible. A brunch with fellow blogger Steph of Steph’s Spot on Sunday was an exception, and that aforementioned Twix incident may have happened a few times (this is what I get for keeping a candy jar on my desk for my co-workers). I’m lucky enough to be making these food choices voluntarily, versus having health issues dictate what I can and cannot eat. Because of that I can decide at the start of each day what to eat to keep me happy and healthy. 

Overall I am enjoying the way this foodie challenge is going; it’s showing me that cutting out meat from your diet is not as hard as you might think. Going into week two I will continue to try and eat vegan whenever possible. My main focus though has shifted towards developing ways in which I can incorporate vegan/vegetarian meals into my everyday lifestyle. 

On to week two! 

22 Day Food Challenge!

Who remembers all the hubub around the holidays, when Jay-Z announced he and Beyonce would be going vegan for 22 days? The reasoning behind the number of days was because experts say it takes 21 days to break a habit. Apparently Queen B has been at it again, as I heard on the radio a few weeks ago. This led me to think about the idea of a vegan diet and if it was something I could do for 22 days. While I have my own set of thoughts relating to the consumption of animal products, I would not consider myself one to go vegan for ethical reasons. I’m merely intrigued by the idea of cutting out a large number of foods, and the effect it can have on your overall health. Alright: challenge accepted.

But then I thought about the technicalities of this temporary lifestyle. No animal products means no dairy, eggs, or honey* for goodness sakes. That means no chocolate. No sliver of butter with my sweet potatoes. No whey protein in my morning smoothie. Eating out would be a nightmare. I’d have to be that person that is asking a million questions about how something was prepared. And first and foremost, I started getting nervous that eating vegan would just be a path to carb overload.

I’ve therefore decided that I’ll be embarking on a modified vegan/vegetarian/pescetarian lifestyle for the rest of the month. Basically, I will cut out all meat and also abstain from fish, dairy, eggs etc. as much as possible. I’d like to try and make at least 3 days each week completely vegan. I’m going to blog about my experiences, which of course means giving you new recipe ideas! 

Photo Credit

Today is day one and so far, so good. I made an avocado and cacao smoothie for breakfast, had a mid-morning snack of an apple and a few almonds, and brought some beet soup along with celery and rice crackers for lunch. Dinner is going to be my new favorite meal, buckwheat soba noodles and tofu (my mouth just watered in anticipation of this dish. SO good). And all of my recipes today are thanks to this fantastic cookbook.

Have you ever eliminated particular foods from your diet? What was the result?

(*I totally get that vegan means no animal products and this isn’t just limited to animal flesh. However, I have an argument against this one. First of all, I buy honey from the farmer’s market; these bees were not put in any form of distress to acquire the honey. Secondly-I hate bees. They are the worst.)