Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tea Time

While hubby and I were in Maryland with my family for Thanksgiving my mom and I snuck off for some girly time. This included a little shopping (it always does) and tea.

Going to tea is a tradition my mom and I has always been our special thing we do together. The tea room that we go to is Tea by Two (visit their website to get lots of good info and link up with them on FB, Twitter, and Pinterest) in Bel Air, Maryland (my home town), and it is the absolute best tea room there is. Hands down. Done. I keep hoping I can find a place close to me that will be a good stand in, but nothing ever compares. I think I will make visiting every tea room near my house my mission, starting now. Definitely top on the list is tea at The Jefferson. Any other places I should try? I have only been to Feathernesters so far. On a side note if I can't find one that I love I would really just like to start my own. How fun would that be?! To run a charming and cozy little tea room and drink tea and eat tea sandwiches whenever I wanted?! P.S. I am sure I sound totally like a grandma sophisticated and elegant right now. Ha!

I don't know where to begin with why Tea by Two is so amazing. Firstly there is the atmosphere. Tea by Two was started by two best friends and that friendly comfortable feeling extends to their customers. You can't help but feel at home. In fact mom and I have been there so often that the owners recognize us when we come in. I even had my bridal luncheon the day before my wedding there. The shop and tea room are lovely, right down to the eclectic china plates and tea cups and three tiered serving trays on the tables. Tea by Two has a fabulous selection of 60 different loose leaf teas and I love that they encourage you to try more than one. Then there is the food. Oh my. Homemade soups, tea sandwiches, scones, and sweets. My mouth is watering. I want some now. Please and thank you.

Tea by Two--Isn't it charming!
Although I will have to wait until my next trip to MD for the yummy treats, I am going to be able to enjoy my favorite teas here at home because Tea by Two now has online ordering!! This is super exciting! Even better they have weekly specials and this week's is buy one package of Nutcracker Sweet tea (one of my ultimate holiday faves) and get a second package 50% off! Believe me, its totally worth paying shipping for. Shop here.

Nutcracker Sweet Loose Tea
When we were there over Thanksgiving our server shared the holiday tea menu with us and also said that she could make any of the caffeinated teas decaffeinated. Of course this was intriguing so I asked her to explain. She said that when you brew tea the majority of the caffeine is released in the first 30 seconds. So after 30 seconds of steeping you pour out what has been brewed and then re-steep the tea with fresh water. This is thought to remove around 80% of the caffeine. In preparation for this post I did some more research on this and there seems to be a lot of disagreement about this method. So, there is no way to know for sure, but if you are trying to cut down on caffeine, or want your favorite tea before bed, go ahead and give it a try! No promises on the outcome though, and no blaming me if you are stuck awake until all hours of the night.

Happy tea time!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fresh Cranberry Relish

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Mine was fabulous, and it was so great to spend time relaxing with my family. It is definitely just what I needed and I am feeling refreshed and ready (as I'll ever be...) to get back to the grind.

I really love everything, I mean everything, about Thanksgiving dinner, but I have a few things that are my absolute faves. The first is stuffing (preferably cooked in the turkey because it is so much more flavorful that way) and the second is my mom's fresh cranberry relish. There is no congealed can shaped blob of cranberry at our Thanksgiving table. If that's your thing go for it, but this relish is the ultimate deliciousness. It is so fresh and is the perfect balance of tart and sweet.

Mmm doesn't it look glorious! This recipe is suuuuper easy to make:

Use a blender or food processor to grind 1 bag of fresh uncooked cranberries--make it as chunky as you like
Put the ground cranberries into a bowl and add the zest and juice of 1 orange
Add 1 cup or sugar--more or less to taste
Mix well, refrigerate for a few hours for the flavors to mix, and enjoy!

Using raw cranberries not only gives the fresh crisp taste, but raw cranberries retain more antioxidants than cooked cranberries (source). Did you know that cranberries are a superfood? They contain Vitamin C and fiber and have more antioxidents than most fruits and vegetables, including the well known super foods strawberries, spinach, broccoli, red grapes, apples, raspberries,  and cherries (source). Some of the health benefits cranberries are thought to provide are: possible protection from heart disease and cancer, decrease in production of cavity and plaque producing bacteria in your mouth, reduction in bacteria associated with stomach ulcers, and healthy urinary tract (source). I am not a doctor so make sure you discuss any health concerns or preventative measures with your doctor, but it seems to me that Mama's Fresh Cranberry Relish is something you can feel pretty good about having on your Thanksgiving table. Fresh cranberries are still in season, so you can enjoy this treat even now that Thanksgiving is over. Be aware that while you still get the health benefits of the cranberries the more sugar you add the less healthy the dish becomes.

Have you had fresh cranberry relish, or do you prefer cooked or canned? What other Thanksgiving treats did you enjoy over the holiday?

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Little Holiday Cheer and a Bargain!

It seems like just yesterday that I was going on and on and on about Fall, but here I am starting to get in the Christmas spirit already. It seems a little early for me, but I just can't help it! Maybe it is my hubby, the Christmas nut, finally starting to change my ways.

I am still completely appreciating everything Fall and taking in the beautiful colors around me and crisp but not frigid air, but every once in awhile a little Christmas creeps in.

This afternoon I got my first "red cup" of the season and it is filled with a hot and amazing peppermint white chocolate mocha. Oh yummy!! Starbucks holiday drinks are my absolute fave. This fall I discovered for the first time (shocking I know) the pumpkin spice latte, which is delish, but nothing can compare to the Christmas drinks. They are my obsession.
Today's visit was extra fabulous because starting today through Sunday, November 18 Starbucks is offering buy one get one free holiday drinks from 2-5. So, grab a friend and go get an afternoon pick me up. Or, if you have no one to go with, get two different flavors and enjoy. Oh dear, did I say that out loud? Ummm...I meant don't be a piggy and find someone to go with you...By the way I did have a friend to go with and am not enjoying two lattes at the moment. :) We also got a fabulous little goodie when we were there that is another promotion that will be running from Monday, November 19-Sunday, December 2. Between these dates you can purchase 5 holiday drinks and get the 6th free. I am sure I can find it in myself to buy 5 holiday drinks in a 2 week period. In case you're wondering the holiday drinks include: caramel brûlée latte, eggnog latte, gingerbread latte, and peppermint mocha--and any combination of the above.

Have you had your first red cup of the season yet? What is your favorite Starbucks holiday drink? I hope you get a chance to take advantage of these two promotions!

Disclaimer time: From what I understand the promotions are company wide and are not specific to certain Starbucks locations, but just to be safe feel free to check with your local Starbucks. I am not speaking as a representative of Starbucks so I can't be positive what your specific Starbucks is offering. 

*This post was not solicited by Starbucks and is all my own opinion. 


Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Makeover...

Not for me, my house! If you have been following A T-Shirt and Pearls since the beginning you know that hubby and I had plans to have the outside of our house repainted. In case you missed that post you can catch up here.

Well, we (and I mean our contractor...I hope you don't think we were actually going to paint the outside of our house...we don't paint in this house) finally got moving on this project and now it is all done! I wanted to share the results with you. We are so happy with it and love the sunshiny new look!

We went with our original choice for the front door, Benjamin Moore Hawthorne Yellow. For the siding we made a change from our original color choice and went with Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray. We are so happy with how the colors turned out. The look is fun but still classic, and it is totally different from anything else in our neighborhood. 

Here is a close up of the beautiful buttery yellow door (we still need to spray paint that pesky door bell):

You also get a close up of my pretty fall wreath. I made that last year with a plain grapevine wreath, some berries and chinese lanterns from the craft store, and hot glue. It was super simple and cheap! 

Since we were updating things we also got new hardware for all of our doors. Here is the fancy hardware for the front door:

I hope you like the new look. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Be A Guest Blogger?

...Don't mind if I do! Stop on by Virginia is for Bloggers by clicking here and see my guest post from today!! I'll give you a involves some holiday fun. Hurry on over and while you're there check out some of the other VA bloggers on the site. They are pretty awesome. Happy Tuesday friends!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Classic Chili

There is something about the fall and winter that puts me in the mood to cook and bake. I especially love to make soups and stews. This week hubby and I were craving some chili. I have tried making chili once before and it didn't turn out so great. This time I looked up tons of chili recipes to get an idea of the proportion of meat and veggies to liquid so I would have a general idea of how to get the right consistency. From there I thought of the flavors I wanted in my chili and began creating my recipe.

Oh my. It turned out amazing. Both hubby and I were shocked. I mean I am a decent cook, but there are plenty of times I try and make some new creation and it turns out terribly. Not this time though. This chili was rocking!

Here is my recipe:

1 medium yellow onion, diced (save some out for garnishing your chili if you like fresh onions on top)
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced (I use a garlic press because its easy and I like easy!)
1 lb ground sirloin
2 mild italian sausages, casings removed
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, do not drain
1 15 oz. can mild Rotel, do not drain
Half of 1 small can of tomato paste
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can red beans
1 15 oz. can pinto beans
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
Cayenne pepper to taste, I used a dash
2 dashes oregano
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Heat a dutch oven (you can use a pot...I just love my heavy enamel coated dutch ovens for making soups and stews) over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the hot pan and sauté the onion, pepper, and garlic until soft and slightly brown. Add the ground sirloin and sausage (chopping sausage into crumbles with your spoon as you sauté) and cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain grease from pan.

Reduce heat to low and add your dry seasonings: chili powder, cumin, cayenne, oregano, salt and pepper to taste and mix in well. Important note: My chili powder has other seasonings mixed into it. It is called Valle del Sol Chili Powder and it is the 365 Everyday Value brand from Whole Foods. The ingredients list chili peppers, cumin, dehydrated garlic, oregano, coriander, cloves, and allspice. I definitely think this added to the flavor of the chili. If you want to use what's in your panty though just play around with your spices and maybe throw in some of the things that are in my chili powder to create your own.
This picture really wanted to be blurry and I don't know why!
Add in the wet ingredients: undrained diced tomatoes and Rotel, tomato sauce, and the half can of tomato paste (save the other half in case you need to thicken your chili up at the end). Drain and rinse your beans and add them. Cover and let simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure to taste towards the end to check your seasonings and see what you need to add. I get this from my mother who does not measure anything when she cooks but rather throws things in and comes up with something delicious.

If you follow the recipe as I have given it the chili will come out pretty zesty. I love spicy things and this was the right amount of heat for me. Not too hot, but not bland either. It was the perfect heat. Be careful of getting too crazy with the cayenne or choosing to use hot Rotel instead. That is why I recommend tasting your seasonings at the end and then adjusting. It's hard to recover a burning spicy pot of chili but it is super easy to add more heat if you want it.

Serve chili hot off the stove with your desired toppings. I like sharp cheddar cheese, diced onions, and sour cream. Cornbread is the perfect side for a bowl full of chili. I wish I could claim the cornbread recipe too, but one recipe creation in a night was enough for me, and I resorted to the good old box of Jiffy out of the pantry. ;)