tea in a French press

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i have a French press to make coffee, but recently I was served tea from a French press.  we were in a cute bistro, and ordered a pot of tea–and out came our champagne tea served from a press.  i really have not used my press for making tea.  so, i had to try this out. it worked wonderfully, and steeping works perfectly, as i was clearly able to see the leaves floating and brewing for the desired length of time.

i used six teaspoons of tea leaves to six cups of water in my press and steeped the tea for four minutes.  after sharing a cup of tea, i saved the rest for iced tea to use later in the day.  freshly brewed iced tea is also a treat when made from freshly pressed tea leaves.

it is important to remove the tea from the press, or the tea will be bitter from the compressed tea leaves.  so, as i did, i saved the tea for iced tea.  or, the tea could be placed into a teapot to enjoy the remainder of the cups.

i would also caution you, that if your press has been used many times for making coffee, it would be very important to make certain it was free from all coffee flavor or aromas.  the two do not mix well with the flavor of tea.  perhaps a new press would be better for just tea making.

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lavender and rosemary

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a friend of mine sent me this lovely wreath a couple of weeks ago, and i have been enjoying it every day.  the scent from the lavender and rosemary branches is subtle, though totally charming.  with spring taking its time to really come forth in Michigan this year, a hint of fresh herbs for the home is nothing less than welcome.

the wreath was designed for indoor use, and since i have a pair of French doors, it has found a perfect home.  i don’t think i would want to miss the loveliness of it showcased for only outdoor guests anyway.  the charm of lavender has been adored for centuries in the southern areas of Europe.

rosemary is a herb known to symbolize remembrance.  the combination of the two herbs brings a welcoming look to my sunroom.

the wreath inspired me to check my lavender plants in my garden. they seem to have survived the brutal winter.  when i gently brushed the leaves that were packed around them for protection, i caught a glimpse of their fragrance. i will wait a few more weeks to prune them, as to wait for new growth this year on their branches. every year i plant a rosemary plant, but in Michigan, rosemary is simply an annual.  I enjoy a few springs for cooking, but never seem to have a rosemary plant overwinter.

this wreath and the kindness of my friend to share it with me makes me very thankful for every day.  being able to take the time to appreciate the thoughtfulness of this gift makes me happy.  spring will be here soon.

cupcakes from the store

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last week i wrote about baking inspiration.  i love to visit bakeries.  probably, i should not be visiting as much as i do, but nevertheless, i am inspired by bake shops.  a couple of weeks ago, i visited Ann Arbor, Michigan and happened upon this very cute bake shop which is not located near the campus.  just baked happens to be a franchise with sixteen locations in the southern part of the State.  these cupcakes were also featured on Good Morning America.

yes, i just had to try their cupcakes.  with names like Fat Elvis and Chubby Hubby, how could I resist?  we selected four to take and sample over the course of several days.  with 35 cupcakes on the menu, and another 33 listed as seasonal or occasional flavors, i felt like this was baking inspiration at its’ finest.

the strawberry cupcake has a shortbread cookie bottom with strawberry cake and strawberry cream cheese frosting. i loved this combination.

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the drumstick was covered in nut topping with a chocolate ganache, reminiscent of the world famous drumstick ice cream cone. some of the other creatively named and decorated flavors are: sno-cap, which is rolled in nonpareils–pineapple upside down–cinnamon donut, with a cinnamon sugar bottom, with cinnamon cake, and drizzled with icing.

i would have to recommend a visit to one of their shops, when on a trip to the Detroit suburbs. the cupcakes were fresh, delicious, creative, and most of all plentiful.  there is a nice area for eating, and the to-go packaging is very sturdy, preventing the cupcakes from moving about during transport.  for more information, check out this link:   http://www.justbakedshop.com 

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fresh coffee every time

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even though i am a tea fanatic, i certainly do enjoy a really good cup of fresh coffee.  since i am drinking tea more often than coffee, i tend to purchase whole coffee beans over the store-ground, as they will stay fresher longer in my home.  everyone knows, that freshly ground beans have a wonderful aroma, and even better taste.  when asked to sample and review this Epica coffee mill, I jumped at the chance.

it has a very sleek modern design, complete with a stainless steel bowl and blade.  the cup is more than adequate to hold enough beans for 6-8 cups of freshly ground coffee.  the mill is very easy to use, directly out of the box.  the design of this mill includes a blade grinder.  in short bursts, it easily ground my coffee beans into a perfect grind for my automatic coffee machine.  this grinder will grind the coffee into a course grind which is perfect for my french press.

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this grinder works and is a very fun gadget.  it is very sturdy and cleans easily with a damp cloth.  this Epica mill is perfect for a coffee bar or dessert and coffee cart.  your guests will enjoy sampling freshly ground coffee with an enhanced flavor profile.

nacho stacks

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with March madness behind us, and the April baseball season beginning, sports enthusiasts will love to try this neat way to serve traditional nachos.  these neat nacho stacks are actually baked on a cookie sheet, and then topped with the cool toppings just prior to serving.

basically, they are prepared by stacking about ten tostito chips, layered with shredded cheddar cheese and sliced green onions or chives in small bundles on a cookie sheet.

baked in the oven just until the cheese melts, and then removed and served individually to guests.  each of the stacks can be topped with sour cream, salsa, sliced olives, chopped tomatoes, or even hot sauce.

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these nacho stacks are very tidy and eliminate the need for party guests crowding around one dish of nachos.  a great sports party appetizer for this month of golf, baseball, and so much more.  check out this ESPN calendar link for all the fun ahead:

http://espn.go.com/travel/sports/calendar/

baby zucchini

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on a quick trip to the Whole Foods Market, i happened to find baby zucchini.  what a cute product. usually zucchini are ripe when they are approximately eight inches in length. zucchini are nutritionally low in fat and calories, and a good source of Vitamin A, folate and potassium.  if you are interested in controlling your blood pressure, this is a good vegetable choice for you.

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these tiny zucchini are just the perfect size for a variety of dishes.  i chose to use them traditionally and sautéed them with onions for a simple vegetable side dish.  the zucchini were tender and tasty served with garlic and herbs, salt and pepper.  i used about one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet on the cooktop, and in a matter of a few minutes, the vegetables were cooked.

served with grilled chicken, this vegetable was delicious.

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my new pepper mill

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luxuries are defined as having a state of great comfort or extravagant living.  i guess i would like to say that using an electric pepper mill moves me into the realm of extravagant living.  no, i didn’t need this product.  but now that i own this product, i am in heaven.  as a foodie, all of these kitchen gadgets add so much enjoyment to everyday cooking. i was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be given the chance to test and review this product for my blog.  and, after this experience, i must say that i would highly recommend this pepper mill.  the Artesio soft touch electric pepper mill and grinder is the perfect size for home cooks, and offers so much more.

I just love that is can be used for pepper, coarse salt or even herbs. I am so impressed with the automatic light that shines from the grinder, as the pepper comes out of the mill. This product is very upscale and trendy. This grinder has the ability to adjust grain size for any dish. It only requires a slight adjustment to the knob on the base of the mill. I really like the coarse grind setting.

I was able to season my chicken and grilled vegetables with my own blend of red, white and black peppercorns.  the mill has a clear view window to easily visualize the pepper or other ingredients. the unit uses four AA batteries, which are easily installed with clear directions provided.

the mill is very attractive and has joined my other seasonings next to my cook top. yes, cooking is so much fun. for more information about this pepper mill, follow this link to amazon.com: