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{Tazo Cookoff} Vanilla Rooibos Quinoa Pudding with Cherry & Pistachio

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Fate smiled down on me last week when I opened the box containing the mystery ingredient for week two of the Tazo Cookoff. I had been dreaming of a tea enriched breakfast appropriate rice pudding for months. When I was first asked to participate in this challenge I knew I finally had an excuse to actually make it. But I wanted to step things up for this challenge so I decided that instead of using rice I would use quinoa. I crossed my fingers and hoped that one of the mystery ingredients would work in this dish.
Imagine my delight when I opened he week two box only to find a jar of organic red quinoa waiting to take pat in some culinary magic. My quinoa pudding was meant to be.

I used boxed vanilla rooibos latte concentrate for this recipe because cooking with a product clearly meant for drinking (even more than tea in general) seemed fun. Plus it meant that I didn’t need to add any additional sugar or spices (the concentrate is slightly sweetened and contains vanilla and cinnamon). Complete with toppings, this recipe contains a grand total of six ingredients. You can’t get much simpler than that!


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The quinoa gives this pudding a nutty flavor and a coarse texture — it lacks the creamy starchiness or rice pudding and reminds me more of steel cut oats. The flavor of the tea is very prominent and combined with the sweetness of the cherries and the crunch of the pistachios, it makes a great breakfast or a filling snack.

Also, vanilla rooibos lattes? Totally my new favorite drink. Warm and creamy, with a slightly floral this drink reminds me of the perfect rainy day. The kind where you have nothing better to do than sit in your yoga pants, drink tea, and curl up with a book while the rain softly pitter patters outside the window.

A few tips for making this pudding:
   
  1. Make sure to rinse the quinoa well. Until the water runs clear. This will prevent it from being bitter.
  2. Ignore the directions on the back of the box of concentrate. If you look at the box, you’ll be tempted to use more concentrate than this recipe calls for. That would be a huge mistake. Even though you start with a cup and a half of milk, it reduces down to form the pudding and you’ll only end up with about a quarter cup of milk in the final dish. If you use too much concentrate the ratios will be way off and your pudding will be far too sweet.

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Click to continue reading Vanilla Rooibos Quinoa Pudding with Cherry & Pistachio and for a change to win a great Tazo gift pack –>

{Tazo Cookoff} Tea-Smoked Salmon with Honey & Lavender Glaze

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I’ve been in something of a cooking rut lately, struggling to find inspiration and ideas for new dishes. Apparently all l needed in order to get back in the groove of things was a good challenge! When I received an invitation to take part in the Tazo Cook-Off, I almost declined. Somehow, in the bat of an eye, my schedule for August has filled up and I couldn’t imagine how I would find time to participate in a challenge that would require me to come up with three new recipes over the course of three weeks, each involving both tea and a mystery ingredient that would be disclosed to me the cook-off progressed.

But, if you know me you know I love a good culinary challenge — of course I ended up saying yes! And boy am I glad I did, because I never would have thought to create this amazing tea-smoked salmon with honey & lavender glaze otherwise. And that would be sad, because this recipe is so good that you should just go ahead and cancel whatever dinner plans you have for tomorrow and make this instead. (And if that’s not enough to get you to keep reading this post, what if I told you there’s a fantastic giveaway opportunity if you keep reading?)

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So I spent the past week thinking about all of the great things that I could make with tea, when a package arrived for me on Monday with my first mystery ingredient. Lavender. Right. There go those ideas! I have to admit, I was a little stumped. I was stuck on the idea of shortbread cookies for a while, but that just seemed so obvious. No, I was determined to go savory with this dish. And I began to think about salmon.

The most recent issue of Fine Cooking had an article on tea-smoking that had intrigued me, and this seemed like the perfect time to try it out. I played around with flavors and technique until I came up with the recipe you see here. Which is incredible. The flavors of the teas — orange, cloves, star anise, cinnamon — permeate the salmon and give it an amazing flavor. The honey and lavender give it a floral sweetness that just works. And smoking it gives it the most amazing texture — silky and smooth, yet still flakey and fully cooked. I’ve really never had anything like it before, but this is definitely a technique that I’ll be using again and again.

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Click to continue reading Tea-Smoked Salmon with Honey & Lavender Glaze –>

Crispy Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

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(Before I start talking about these cookies, I’ll let you know that there’s a great giveaway at the end of this post. Including FREE CHEESE!)

Ok, now that that’s out of the way…..

I’m not going to go on and on about how these are the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. I promise. Everyone thinks they’re recipe is the best and, honestly, few stand up to the one that printed on the back of the bag of chocolate chips. But sometimes you’re looking for something different. Something… crispier! Soft, gooey cookies have their place but sometimes I just want a little bit of crunch. They’re great for dunking in eggnog (I don’t like dunking soft cookies – they get too soggy) and they keep really well. They best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever? I’ll leave that up for debate. But let’s just say if I was Santa, whatever kid left me a plate of these would be written on the “nice” list in permanent marker. [….]