Midnight Matcha Bites

Midnight and matcha in the same thought? Doesn’t seem quite right does it? Matcha is hands down the best drink to have in the morning, but as much as I love it I’d definitely tell you to think twice before partaking late in the PM.

Luckily, we aren’t talking about the time of day here, we are talking about an ingredient–one of my favorites–black cocoa. This ultra dark cocoa powder, also known as midnight black cocoa, is known for its incredibly intense color and flavor. It can sometimes be hard to find, but if you know where to look it’s definitely worth the extra effort.

Aside from being rich and sinfully chocolatey in flavor, it’s also earthier than regular cocoa powder is. The unusual charcoal-like color comes from the dutching process, which greatly reduces the cocoa powder’s acidity. Every time I taste black cocoa I’m reminded of Oreos, Devil’s food cake, and whoopie pies…and in my book, this can only be a good thing.

There are few teas that can stand up to a strong, dark flavor like black cocoa and matcha is one of them. The two ingredients actually have similar taste profiles. If you love the bittersweet taste of matcha, then you’ll love the taste of black cocoa powder too. When they are of good quality, both are pleasantly mellow yet intense.

Instead of dusting the bites in pure matcha, I coat them in matcha-laced unsweetened coconut, which helps to balance just the right amount of tea in each bite. The sweet factor comes from super ripe bananas and a touch of honey, which give mild sweetness and bind the dry ingredients into a brownie-like texture.

Enjoy these as an on-the-go breakfast, a mid-day pick me up, or whenever you need a sustained energy boost. If there were ever such a thing, I like to think of these as healthy chocolate truffles. Midnight Matcha Bites are a hearty way to indulge your darkest and most serious chocolate cravings!

Midnight Matcha Bites

Makes 35 balls.

Ingredients:

{Chocolate Energy Balls}

2 bananas, very ripe & mashed

1 cup almond meal

1 cup ground whole oats, ground to a powder in a food processor

3/4 cup whole oats, left whole

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

1/3 cup dried coconut, unsweetened

1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used midnight black cocoa)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup almond butter

1/4 cup honey

2 tsp vanilla

{Coconut Matcha Coating}

1/2 cup dried coconut, unsweetened

1 Tbsp matcha powder

Equipment:

food processor

large mixing bowl

large mixing spoon

cookie scoop with 1 3/4″ diameter (2 Tbsp)

Directions:

1.)  Place the dry Chocolate Energy Ball ingredients in the mixing bowl, then lightly toss together. Add the wet ingredients, then mix everything together thoroughly with the spoon.

2.)  In a small bowl, mix the Coconut Matcha Coating ingredients together. Use your fingers to evenly distribute the matcha with the dried coconut. Set aside.

3.)  Use the cookie scoop to scoop out a 2 Tbsp portion of the Chocolate Energy Ball mixture, then roll it into a smooth ball. Repeat this process to form 30 energy balls/bites. Roll and evenly coat the chocolate balls in the matcha coconut. Store the bites in a sealed box or bag in the fridge.

Dragon Fruit Blueberry Tea Gummies

The first time I discovered tea flavored gummies I was at Surfas, a true chef’s paradise and my favorite culinary store in Los Angeles. I found myself moseying through the glorious candy aisle, when bam!, there they were: blackberry hibiscus gummy bearstotally over-priced but quite possibly the cleverest tea & food invention around.

Since that first bag of tea gummy bears, I’ve taken to the kitchen several times to experiment with tea gummy recipes. With the weather heating up this week, I was inspired to make a tropical version of these treats using Tea of the People’s Blueberry x Dragon Fruit Dragon Well Green Tea. This vibrant Lung Ching blend is sweet, tangy, and packed with exotic fruit flavor. You can literally taste the antioxidants and vitamins in the brew, which takes on the most gorgeous shade of ruby-red after a few short minutes of steeping.

My best secret for flavor-packed tea gummies is to steep the tea in juice instead of water. Drop for drop, the candy base will pack equally concentrated tea and fruit flavor. An overnight, cold steep in the fridge produces a brew that’s pure in taste and not cloudy.

I have to admit that I find the shape of dragon fruits to be quite puzzling…attractive, yet rather odd. Dragon fruits actually come from cactus plants. In taste and texture, their flesh tastes a lot like bland kiwi. The color of a dragon fruit’s flesh is either white or hot pink, and is characteristically flecked with small, black seeds. If you’re lucky enough to find one, don’t be scared…try it! That being said, the less adventurous can easily swap out kiwi for dragon fruit in this recipe.

Just like regular gummy candies, these gourmet tea gummies yield a chewy, thick bite that you can really sink your teeth into. If candy molds aren’t your thing, then simply pour the liquid mixture into a baking dish, let it chill, and cut the jelly sheet into small squares. In less than an hour, you’ll be in tea gummy bliss. Guilt-free, antioxidant-packed snacks to munch on whenever you want…there’s lots to love about this adult take on a childhood favorite!

Many thanks to Joshua Caplan, Founder of Tea of the People for sharing his delicious teas with me! Check out the Tea of the People site for more enticing and unique tea flavors, including Acai x Goji Dragon Well and Pomegranate x Yumberry Dragon Wellalso great for making antioxidant gummies.

Dragon Fruit Blueberry Tea Gummies

Makes 5 cups of gummies.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups organic blueberry juice (no sugar added)

2 rounded Tbsp green tea (I used Tea of the People’s Dragon Well Green Tea, Blueberry x Dragon Fruit)

3/4 cup gelatin

1/2 dragon fruit or 2 kiwis, skin removed

1/2 cup organic blueberries

1/4 cup agave or honey

1 tsp stevia

non-stick vegetable oil spray

Equipment:

large pitcher

strainer

blender

candy mold or 9 x 13 baking pan

large pot

large glass measuring cup (with a spout)

Directions:

1.)  In a large pitcher, cold steep the tea by combining it with the 2 1/2 cups of blueberry juice. Mix in the tea leaves so that they are able to fully and freely steep. Set this in the fridge to chill for 6-8 hours, then strain the leaves from the juice until ready to make the gummies.

2.)  Purée the 1/2 dragon fruit (the white flesh only, not the tough pink rind) and 1/2 cup of blueberries in a blender on high. Set aside. Mix the gelatin into 1 1/2 cups of the blueberry juice tea, and allow it to bloom.

3.)  Pour the other 1 cup of blueberry juice tea and the dragon fruit-blueberry purée into a large pot and bring it to a boil over low heat. When it comes up to heat, dump the bloomed gelatin into the hot juice-tea-puree mixture and let it gradually and completely dissolve. Turn off the heat, then skim off and discard any foam off the surface of the mixture. Mix the agave and stevia in until dissolved.

4.)  Give the candy mold or baking pan a very light, even spray of vegetable oil. Pour the mixture from the large pot into a liquid measure. Fill each cavity of the mold, carefully pouring directly from the liquid measuring cup. If using the baking pan, pour the entire amount of the mixture from the large pot to the baking pan. Place the filled molds or pan into the fridge or freezer until the gummies are fully set and firm to the touch. In the freezer, it will only take about 5 minutes for the candy mold gummies to set.

5.)  Use your fingers to remove the gummies from their molds. If using the candy mold, repeat steps 4 & 5 as many times as it takes to use up all the tea mixture. If the gelatin tea mixture starts to set in the measuring cup, give it a zap in the microwave for 10 seconds to return it to a liquid state. Store gummies in the fridge in an airtight container.

Corned Beef & Cabbage Pasties

Pinch, pinch! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Although you’ll never find me wearing it, the color green is truly one of my favorites. When it comes to food, I take green as a sign of both flavor and freshness. Matcha tea, leafy veggies, or garden herbs are always welcome additions in my recipes, and for today’s post an emerald-green head of savoy cabbage takes center stage.

The only thing I’ll be pinching this year are the roped crusts on the edges of these rustically packaged meat and potato stuffed pastries. I fell in love with these pie pockets during my travels in and around England a few years back. Portable and hearty, pasties are where traditional English cuisine meets on-the-go convenience. This brings us to the inevitable discussion of high tea vs. afternoon tea. Which of these meals would you serve pasties at? Well, the honest answer is that if they are small and cute enough, you could get away with serving them for afternoon tea. But, strictly speaking, pasties are traditionally served for high tea, also known as meat tea
High tea isn’t called high because it’s high class (whatever that means…), it’s called high tea because it’s eaten on a high table. This substantial meal is like dinner or supper for the working class. On the other hand, afternoon tea, also known as low tea, is an elegant, late afternoon refreshment enjoyed by the wealthy. Low tables, like coffee tables, are typical of this meal, as are the crustless sandwiches and pretty cakes that make the experience distinctly lavish.corned beef pasty 1oBecause they are so delicious, pasties have managed to bridge the gap between high tea and afternoon tea. But make no mistake…anytime a food item is homely, humble, and about the size of your head, it’s a good sign that it might be better served at high tea. When it comes to afternoon tea, miniature (and elegant) is generally the name of the game.

A tea, salad, or dessert plate, about 7″ in diameter is the ideal pasty-making tool. With the help of store-bought pie crust, these pasties are surprisingly easy to make. The hardest thing is making sure that the filling ingredients are completely cool before stuffing the pasties.

This is an ideal recipe to use if you have post St. Patty’s day leftovers. Using my hands, I like to remove some of the fat and gristle from the meat as I shred it. Instead of boiling the cabbage, I lightly sautée it in a separate pan so that I can control moisture and prevent the pasties from getting soggy crusts later. As for the potatoes, leave them a bit chunky for some textural contrast.In an ideal world, these would be eaten as a picnic lunch on rolling hills of soft green grass, with a chilled thermos of brisk Irish Breakfast tea nearby. Try eating these pasties the way that Cornish miners used to, where you hold the twisted pastry edge like you would a slice of watermelon. Simply enjoy the filled part of the pie and toss out the crusty rope of pie crust when you’re finished. When it comes to pasties, dingy hands are never a problem, and that’s how you know you are having high tea!

Corned Beef & Cabbage Pasties

Makes 6 large pasties.

Ingredients:

{Filling}

1 cup mashed potatoes, made to your liking

1 cup sautéed cabbage

1 cup corned beef, cooked and shredded

1/3 cup green onion, sliced

{Crust}

2 packages refrigerated pie crust

bench flour

1 egg, mixed with 1 tsp of water (to make egg wash)

Equipment:

Tbsp measure

tea, salad, or dessert plate, about 7″ in diameter

sharp knife

work surface

small bowl of water

rolling-pin (for rolling last 2 crusts)

fork

pastry brush

2 large baking sheets fitted with parchment

Directions:
1.)  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. On a large work surface lightly dusted with bench flour, cut out one pasty crust by placing a tea dish upside-down, over one of the flattened pie crust rounds. Cut out a 7″ circle of pie crust. Repeat this step to make a total of 4 pie crust circles. For the last 2 circles, re-roll the dough scraps to a 1/8″ in thickness, then cut out the last 2 circles of pie crust.

2.)  Fill each pie crust with 2 rounded Tbsp each of the mashed potato, sautéed cabbage, and shredded corned beef. Place the filling on one half of the circle, leaving a 1″ border. Scatter some green onion on the filling. Now, with water, lightly moisten the edge of the pie crust circle surrounding the filling (half of the circle). Fold the unfilled side of the pie crust round over to meet the other wetted edge to create a half-moon, filled pasty. Pinch the edges firmly using your fingers, or use a fork to create a crimped edge. Repeat this step a total of 6 times to create 6 pasties.

3.)  Transfer the finished pasties over to a large baking sheet. You will place 3, evenly spaced apart, on each sheet. Use a fork to poke 3 sets of holes atop the surface of each pasty. Brush the tops of the pasty generously with egg wash.

4.)  Bake the pasties for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve the pasties immediately or at room temperature.

Tea of the Week: Mark T. Wendell’s Irish Breakfast

Where do you go in America to order best-quality Irish Breakfast tea without having to pay overseas postage fees? Well, Boston of course! There’s nothing like a robust, malty cup of Irish Breakfast in the mornings. A good cup of Irish Breakfast tea is like a magical elixir of sorts, a full-bodied brew to get you charging through your day.

Mark T. Wendell Tea Company has been around for over a century now…111 years to be exact! The company opened in 1904 supplying a variety of luxury goods to the New England elite. Today, the company sells tea exclusively, and has an impressive selection of Chinese and Indian teas. I love their gift sets, especially their English-Irish-Scottish Breakfast Tea trio and Julia Child’s Favorites Tea Sampler. I find it fascinating that the beloved French Chef herself bought teas regularly from Mark T. Wendell’s.
Mark T. Wendell’s Irish Breakfast is an Assam blend, made up of small and large black leaves. What I appreciate most about the steep is that it’s strong without being overpowering. Just a few sips will leave you with a pep in your step and ready to make your own luck!

Tasting Notes for Mark T. Wendell’s Irish Breakfast:

BREWING TIPS:  Steep with water that has reached a full boil for 4-5 minutes. Strain out the leaves on time for a perfectly strong brew.
THE TEA:  A blend of small and large leaf Assam. Black leaves, about 1/2″ in length, with smaller brown specks throughout.
THE SCENT:  A strong, sweet scent of fermented malt.
THE STEEP:  Brews to a dark, reddish mahogany. This Assam blend is bold and malty, yet light and brisk on the palette. I like to drink it straight up, but I’m sure many would prefer this with a splash of milk and sugar or a slice of lemon. An excellent substitute for coffee drinkers, and excellent as an iced tea. This is my go-to when I need an afternoon pick-me-up.
GET IT:  At the Mark T. Wendell site.
FOOD PAIRING:  Ideal for breakfast or brunch, wherever you would usually serve coffee. I like to enjoy this brew with a hearty bowl of steel-cut Irish oats in the morning or with a rich Irish Oat Flapjack in the afternoon. This would be a beautiful complement a traditional full Irish breakfast. It’s also fantastic with a thick slice of Irish soda bread or a meat and potato stuffed pasty.

Chicken & Chive Rolled Crêpes

There’s rarely a meal that I love more than afternoon tea. The only (and like I said, rare) exception is a lively and bountiful brunch. Like afternoon tea, there’s a sense of art and elegance to this culinary merging of eats. A brilliant brunch experience wakes you up, gets you excited, and reminds you to enjoy life.

If you love brunch as much as I do, then you absolutely must check out my friend Tina’s delightful site, The Worktop. Tina specializes in bringing the best of yummy AM~PM eats to her readers, and even has a London Brunch Guide since she’s based out of the UK. Many of her recipes have a healthier twist and some are just plain decadent, but all are equally tempting. My favorites are her adorable Pancake Ice Cream Sandwiches and Chorizo Menemen, also known as Turkish-Style Scrambled Eggs, which is something like a spicy, scoopable omelet. Sounds delicious right!?

Today’s feature on The Worktop are my Chicken & Chive Crêpes. What I love about this recipe is that these tender, stuffed rolls can be made several hours ahead of time. In fact, the filling can even be made the day before you plan on serving. If you’re putting a beautiful weekend brunch spread together, these savory pancakes deliver on deliciousness without causing unnecessary stress in the kitchen.

The secret ingredient in these crêpes is Lapsang Souchong tea steeped in milk, which adds a layer of smokey flavor to the creamy chicken filling. The tea adds depth and richness to a butterless, olive oil roux-based white sauce. With the use of pine-fired tea and fresh chives, the recipe balances darker winter flavors with lively spring ones.

A special thanks to Tina Jui from The Worktop for the chance to guest post! Head over to her site for the complete filling recipe and for a bit of insight into my personal breakfast tastes.

Chicken & Chive Rolled Crêpes

Makes 10 filled crêpes. 

Ingredients:

{Chicken & Chive Filling (for Steps 1 & 2)}

{Crêpes}

2 cups flour

4 eggs

1 cup water

1 cup milk

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

non-stick spray

Equipment:

medium pot

large tea filter (I used a T-Sac)

large skillet

blender

10″ crêpe pan

wooden crêpe spreader (I just used the edge of my dough scraper)

spatula

1/2 cup measure

1/4 cup measure

work surface

Directions:

1.)  Flavor the Milk. In a medium pot, bring the 2 cups of milk to a boil. Right when it reaches a boil, turn off the heat and steep the Lapsang Souchong for 5 minutes. It is easiest to do this with a large paper tea filter. After 5 minutes, remove the steeped tea leaves. Set the milk aside.

2.)  Make the Filling. In a large skillet, warm the olive oil until it shimmers. Lower the heat, then sauté the diced shallot until just translucent. Add the flour to the shallots and oil. Cook the flour for a few minutes, until light brown in color. Gradually add the hot milk to the roux, then continue to mix and cook the sauce on low heat until everything is well incorporated and starts simmering. Add the provolone and parmesan to the simmering white sauce. Let it melt completely. Add the white wine and spinach, again mixing to make sure everything is evenly incorporated. Add the diced chicken, nutmeg, and ground pepper to taste. Set this filling aside to cool.

3.)  Make the Crêpe Batter. Place all the crêpe ingredients (except the non-stick spray) in the blender, placing the liquid ingredients in first before adding the dry. Blend until the mixture is lump-free and smooth.

4.)  Cook the Crêpes. Spray the crêpe pan with non-stick spray, then place it on very low heat until the pan gets evenly warm. Pour a 1/2 cup of the batter in the center of the pan, then smooth the batter out to an even thickness with a wooden crêpe spreader. Cook the crêpe for a few minutes on the first side, until it releases from the pan. Check to see that the color of the crêpe underneath is lightly browned, then flip the crêpe over to cook on the other side for a few minutes more. Repeat this step to make 10 crêpes.

5.)  Fill the Crêpes. Place a crêpe on a work surface, then place 1/4 cup of the cooled filling in the bottom 1/3 of the round (the side closest to you), in the center. On top of the crêpe, shape the filling into a 6″ log with a small spoon. Generously scatter some chopped chives over the filling.

Fold the bottom side of the crêpe (the side closest to you) over the filling, then fold in the right and left sides towards the center. Roll the crêpe up tightly, in a sushi roll like fashion, upwards (away from you) until you get a cigar-shaped, filled crêpe roll. Repeat this step to make 10 filled, rolled crêpes. Serve immediately, or make up to a few hours ahead of time.

*** Tip: If the filled crêpes are made ahead of time, cover a plate of crêpes with a large dampened paper towel, then place them in the microwave to warm for a few minutes before serving. The cheese filling will melt and become oozy again.

Irish Oat Flapjacks

The first time I spotted a flapjack was when I was strolling through High Street in Oxford, a university city northwest of London. Hungry from having visited Stonehenge earlier that morning, I remember seeing a magnificent stack of golden slices piled high in the window of a local bakery. I’m not sure what time it was, but it instantly seemed like the right moment for a tea and goody break.
A few bites and I was in buttery, baked oatmeal heaven. Determined to figure out how to make these treats for myself at home, I returned to the US and conducted extensive research on–of all things–oatmeal. I discovered that porridge oats were the key ingredient to making good flapjacks. Also known as Scottish oats, these oats are typically ground into bits to create a coarse powder. Quick-cooking Irish oats are also used to make these hearty treats–easier to find and in keeping with tradition.
Flapjacks are similar to granola bars. I like to think of them as a grown up version of rice krispy treats, where porridge oats take the place of puffy rice cereal. You can throw ground nuts and dried fruits into the mix, just make sure to use Irish (or Scottish) oats, Irish butter, and Lyle’s Golden Syrup here. For authentic Irish flapjacks, these ingredients are non-negotiables!

I prefer my flapjacks either plain or coated with a layer of dark chocolate. A bright green drizzle of matcha-infused white chocolate gives the hearty bars a pretty pop of color for St. Patrick’s Day. The green tea powder also adds a tinge of pleasant bitterness to balance out the sweetness from the golden syrup.

A strong, brisk cup of Irish Breakfast tea…there’s truly no better drink to serve these Irish Oat Flapjacks with. Drink the tea hot and the flapjacks will literally melt in your mouth! Tied with a strip of parchment and baker’s twine, these rustic bars are ideal for springtime picnics or a charming St. Patty’s Day tea.
Irish Oat Flapjacks

Makes 10 pieces.

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups Irish quick-cooking oats or Scottish oats

3/4 cup butter (I used Kerrygold)

1/2 cup Demerara or light brown sugar

1/4 cup golden syrup (I used Lyle’s)

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1/3 cup white chocolate chips

1 tsp matcha powder, sifted

Equipment:

large pot

rubber spatula

9″ square baking pan fitted with parchment

small bowl

small spoon, fork, or sandwich bag with an edge snipped off (for drizzling matcha chocolate)

large, sharp knife

Directions:

1.)  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place the butter, sugar, syrup, and salt in a large pot. Set the pot over low heat and gently mix with the spatula. Let all the ingredients meld together until the sugar is completely dissolved. This will take about 10 minutes.

2.)  When all the ingredients have melded together, add the oats into the pot and mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Place this mixture into the prepared baking pan and smooth it out evenly with the back of the spatula.

3.)  Bake the flapjacks for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown. After removing the pan from the hot oven, immediately scatter the dark chocolate chips evenly over the surface of the flapjacks. Wait for a few minutes, then use an off-set spatula to smooth the melted chocolate over the surface of the flapjacks evenly. Set aside to cool.

4.)  For a festive finish, melt the white chocolate chips in a small bowl, in the microwave. Melt the chips for 10 seconds at a time, mixing thoroughly after each 10 second interval (my chips melted after 4-10 second intervals). After the chips have melted completely, mix in 1 tsp of matcha powder. Drizzle this green tea chocolate over the top chocolate layer of the flapjacks using either a small spoon, fork, or sandwich bag (with an edge snipped off).

5.)  Wait for the flapjacks to completely cool before cutting with a large, sharp knife. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Tea of the Week: Mandala Tea’s Milk Oolong

What’s your favorite tea? Among all the packets, tins, and boxes of tea floating around in my stash, Mandala Tea’s Milk Oolong stands out as one of my favorites. The tea gets its name from its sweet, milky finish and is almost desert-like in taste. Just so you know, there isn’t a smidge of milk or cream in this tea, nor is there ever a reason to add any!It’s this brew’s balance between light and rich, pure and complex that makes it such an amazing sip. The tea is grown in altitudes between 1,600 and 3,200 feet above sea level where sunny days and cool nights help the leaves to develop such exceptional flavor. This milk oolong is a favorite of many tea enthusiasts and bloggers, yet another delicious selection from Mandala Teas. Tasting Notes for Mandala Tea’s Milk Oolong:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 190 degrees F for 20 seconds for the first few infusions, then for 10-20 additional seconds for later infusions. You should be able to get many steeps out of this tea. I like to take these leftover steeped leaves and place them in my ice water to extract every last trace of flavor from the them…yes, the tea is that great!
THE TEA:  Tightly rolled, dark green balls that unravel into large leaves as they steep.
THE SCENT:  Floral and fragrant, like tropical orchids, lilacs, or gardenias. This brew reminds me of my favorite place in the world, Hawaii. A whiff of this tea brewing is like getting a hit of sweet island air.
THE STEEP:  Brews to a pale, golden-yellow. Lightly sweet yet rich and buttery. Hints of coconut, cream, honey, and caramel that are distinct but subtle. To be clear, this milk oolong has nothing to do with milk tea or bubble (boba) milk tea. There are absolutely no sweeteners or dairy additives here.
GET IT:  At Mandala Tea’s site.
FOOD PAIRING:  This would be perfect with a tropical fruit salad with pineapple or mangos. Also lovely with light coconut milk-based desserts, like dairy-free panna cotta or Chinese coconut jello. For a savory change, serve this with spring rolls or sushi. Also great with white-fleshed fish like rock cod, tilapia, or mahi-mahi served Asian-style, with plenty of scallions and ginger.