Tofu, Potato & Mushroom Stew
Who doesn’t love a good soup this time of year? This one especially caught my eye because even though frost is on the ground most mornings, I was still able to use a good variety of local ingredients. The mushrooms from Homestead Growers, a hot pepper from my own garden (just before the frost hit), and potatoes from my Grandma’s farm in Michigan (which she brought when she visited earlier this month).
Tofu, Potato & Mushroom Stew
This is a tofu-heavy stew, so for those of you who don’t love tofu as much as I do, you may want to substitute more potatoes.
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 leek, sliced
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
2 medium potatoes, chopped into pieces
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
1-2 cups mushrooms (I used shitake and oyster)
1 hot pepper chopped
1/2 cup soy sauce
14 oz tofu, drained and cut into cubes
Heat oil in a large pot. Add leeks and cook about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the potatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, the chili and the soy sauce. Cook for another 10 minutes or so. Add the tofu and continue to cook, covered for at least a half an hour to allow the flavors to blend.
I couldn’t resist eating some for dinner, but the longer you wait, the more time the flavors have to blend, so definitely save some for leftovers!
Cooking With Tea
Time to think outside the teacup and start cooking with tea! By incorporating tea into your recipes you can bring the amazing health benefits of tea to all kinds of dishes from the savory to the sweet.
Here is a quick, mouth-watering, list to get you started:
- Black Bean Soup
- Dragonwell Noodles
- Green Matcha Cookies
- Chocolate and Green Tea Pudding
- Chai Ice Cream
- Tehku Green Tea Chocolate Cake
- Applesauce Tea Loaf
And make sure to sign up for The Squeeze to get an exclusive tea-infused recipe from Inggrie Merriman of TehKu in this month’s newsletter.
Tea Time at TehKu
Today I visited Tehku Tea Company and had an opportunity to sit down and have a chat with the owner, Inggrie Merriman (over a pot of tea of course) to learn a little more about tea and what inspired her to open TehKu.
Inggrie, originally from Indonesia opened TehKu, which means “my tea,” with her husband a few years ago in the Historic District of Dublin, OH. When I asked her what inspired her to open a tea company she told me that in the culture she grew up in it is very natural and almost expected that a family would open their own business. So, when it came time for Inggrie to open hers, tea was a natural choice.
She told me a story of growing up in a culture that was very family oriented and one of the things she missed the most about Indonesia when she moved to the US over sixteen years ago was enjoying “Dim-Sum” (which means “with tea”) with her Mother’s family (which could sometimes end up being over 50 people) at least once a week. She wanted to introduce this tea culture to this fast-paced society, by encouraging people to sit and take time to reconnect with family and friends.
Here is a bit more of what I learned from our “tea” talk today:
Where do TehKU teas come from?
Inggrie makes a few of her own custom blends, but for the most part TehKu teas come from various farms throughout the world including Japan, India, Indonesia, and some teas come to TehKu blended by companies in Germany. A good number of the teas are organic although they are not specifically labeled as such on the tea menu because many farms Inggrie works with adhere to the same strict farming practices without going through the certification process.
What are some popular teas that most anyone would like?
With over 50 different types of teas and a healthy rotation of new ones coming in regularly, it’s hard to choose. Lately the Walnut Crunch (green), Almond Cookie (black), Earl De La Creme (black) and Creme Oolong are popular choices. And I really wish you could smell the Cherry Blossoms green tea! Tea newbies, check out this handy chart to get you started.
And for the more experienced tea drinker to try?
Matcha, a green tea from Japan, is definitely one to try; the leaves are hand picked and stone ground into a fine powder. You can also find Match iced, in delicious scones and in the Bubble Teas at Tehku. Another great selection is a smokey black tea by the name of Lapsoung Souchang.
What is your favorite tea?
Inggrie has always loved Oolong tea, she says it’s great for everyone because it doesn’t “betray you.” Meaning you can’t really mess it up, she said it’s the perfect selection if you are in a hurry and don’t have time to wait for the water to reach a full boil or the tea to steap. Inggrie said that throughout her life she has always enjoyed searching for and indulging in new and more rare types of Oolong.
One of the most impressive things about Tehku, other than the huge selection of loose leaf tea, is the philosophy and the nature of the design behind the company. Inggrie and her husband named their Tea Company “TehKu” because they want you to enjoy their wonderful teas the way you like it and they set up a bar-like education center to help you do just that (just check out the TehKu list of events to find the next tea tasting). She told me that from the very start she knew she wanted it to be something that any age group could enjoy and has always been mindful of their impact on the environment.
Next time you are in the Columbus area, you must come up to Dublin to experience TehKu in person, someone is always waiting to help you pick just the right tea for you.
Just because tea is grown in other parts of the world doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to keep it as local as possible. You aren’t going to find local tea leaves here in Indiana, but certain companies like Kei Tea take those worldly leaves and blend them with locally grown herbs to create fresh “local” teas.
Are there any herbs in particular that grow well in this area?
It’s possible to grow nearly any type of herb in Indiana if you make use of indoor space in the winter. However, our favorite herbs to grow outdoors are lemon grass, lemon balm, chamomile, any type of mint, lavender and of course, catnip. People are often surprised we use catnip in some of our teas but it actually was the original plant used in Egypt for tea and has a mild sedative quality for humans (unlike its effect on cats).
Do you use any other local ingredients other than herbs — such as flowers, seeds, etc.?
Many of our teas use seeds such as fennel, fenugreek, and milk thistle. The seeds from these plants have great health benefits. Fenugreek is reported to help with blood sugar regulation, and milk thistle is good for cleansing your liver.
Any special growing techniques that you use?
We try to grow everything organically and think plants grow better when we harvest seeds from our best specimens – that way we know we have a plant that likes to grow in a particular area. Many herbs regrow annually and so we just tuck them in with a little straw in the fall and uncover them when the time is right in the spring.
Santa Cruz Organic: A Win-Win Drink Choice
Fair Trade and Organic? Tea and Juice? Sweet and healthy? Yes and yes. Santa Cruz Organic offers fair trade and organic tea juice blends that rely on natural flavors for a light and sweet taste. Furthermore, 100% of the energy used to product their products is offset via renewable energy certificates. Try their Lemon, Mango, Peppermint or Raspberry Tea for a refreshing way to quench your thirst with an antioxidant kick.
About Fair Trade Certified Teas
Tea, like coffee, can make a weighty social impact on the way from the plant to your cup. Fair Trade Certified teas guarantee fair wages for employees in a work environment that is safe and sustainable. Fair Trade premiums encourage workers to help themselves and their community through democratic participation.
About Organic Teas
For the same reason that you want to choose organic fruits and veggies, there are also some strong reasons for choosing organic teas. The absence of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers in growing the teas also keep the soils and waters surrounding them free of all of these chemicals as well.
What’s Your Cup of Tea?
How you make your tea has as much to do with the flavor and overall experience of the tea as the variety of tea you start with. And since this is “Tea Week” at Green-Lemonade, we wanted to start by giving a brief introduction to the most common varieties of tea and the best way to brew each.
Tea is a product of the Camellia sinensis plant and the variety of tea is determined by the level of processing it undergoes as described below. The most common varieties of tea, as outlined below, include black, green, oolong, white and herbal, but keep in mind that there are a number of different blends within each variety as well.
And before you brew your perfect cup, it’s important to note that while sometimes less convenient and more expensive, loose leaf tea is usually more flavorful and fresh than the bagged variety found in boxes at the grocery. Investing in a nice tea infuser, brew basket, or some paper filters will get you on your way to making the most of your tea.
Common Varieties of Tea:
Black Tea – Black tea requires the most processing, undergoing a full oxidation process that produces stronger more robust tea with the most caffeine content of all varieties. Some of the most common blends of black tea that you may have already tried include Earl Grey and English Breakfast. Black tea should be brewed using freshly boiled water (212 degrees) and steeped for 3-4 minutes.
Green Tea – Green tea known for its health benefits because of its high concentration of antioxidant power in the form of polyphenols. More delicate than black, green tea is dried, not “fermented,” and is often described as having a light, green, or even slightly grassy taste. Because of it’s delicate nature, when brewing green tea it’s important to note that the water should not reach a full boil (around 180 degrees) and it should only be steeped for about 1-2 minutes. For more scientific information about green tea check out this article.
Oolong Tea – Oolong tea falls somewhere in-between black and green teas on the oxidation scale. Oolong tea should be brewed using water heated to just below boiling and steeped for 2-3 minutes.
White Tea – White tea is the least processed of all tea. For white tea, the tea buds are plucked very early and then dried. This tea is therefore the most delicate and has a much lighter, slightly sweet, flavor without the “grassy” undertones of green tea. White tea should be brewed with water with a temperature at just below boiling and should be steeped for 2-3 minutes.
Herbal Tea – Not necessarily a true “tea” as I’ve listed here, herbal tea does not come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis. Herbal tea is the result of an herbal infusion created by pouring boiling water over fresh or dried flowers, dried fruit or herbs and letting it steep for 5-7 minutes. As you can imagine, there are countless blends of herbal teas, check out this list or make your own.
A Tea Infused Week
Next week on Green-Lemoande.com, we will be talking tea all week long! With cold temperatures approaching (not to mention flu season) there is no better time to pour yourself a cup of tea.
Stay tuned for tips on types of teas, local teas, organic and fair trade teas, and even tea recipes. It’s tea time!
Water with Basil, Please.
When my friend Ashley first told me about this drink, I immediately said: “Orange slices and basil? You mean mint, right?” and even after she confirmed that she meant basil, I still wondered if she was getting her local leafy flavors confused.
The ingredient list and recipe was too easy for me not to try it, so last weekend as we continued to have summer temperatures, I mixed together this drink to serve at an afternoon party we were hosting (which my friend Ashley was in attendance). Sure enough, it was a big hit and everyone (but Ashley) was equally shocked that those leaves in it were in fact basil, plucked from the still flourishing basil plant in our garden.
Orange & Basil Water
Mix one orange (cut into wedges or slices) and 5-10 basil leaves (to taste) in a pitcher of ice water and serve. It’s that easy, and gives an interesting “twist” to serving the traditional water with lemon.
Spin Me Right Round
Does your collection of CDs make your head spin? Long before the days of iTunes and MP3s my husband and I both racked up a serious collection of CDs, many of which we still listen to today. We’ve tried organizing them, converting them to MP3s (which we then lost in a hard drive crash), even alphabetizing them! But we still couldn’t find a solution we were both happy with.
Then, when we decided that the office in our home needed to be converted to an actual home office, we had to find a way to utilize every inch of space in that room, and the bulky CDs once again were staring us in the face.
So, we bought a CD binder that held 600 CDs (I told you we had a lot) and Andy began the meticulous task of moving all the CDs to the binder. One problem was solved, but what all the empty cases? For a local solution, there is Plastic Recycling Inc. (Phone: 317-780-6100) who would take and recycle the cases, but the question begged… is there a way to reUSE these items before recycling them? Sure enough, I called the local library and their media department happily accepted all of our cases (really, ALL of them).
World Vegetarian Day
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to celebrate World Vegetarian Day. Take part by going meat-free for the day with any of the following recipes:
Soup and salad always makes for a great lunch. Try some Apple Butternut Soup, Ginger Peanut Soup or Mushroom Soup. In a hurry? Throw together a Kale and Avocado Salad, Vegetarian Waldorf Salad, Pear and Blue Cheese Salad or a Nori Wrap.
Last by not least, don’t forget dessert!