For the Love of Tea

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What is your relationship with tea?

Most of us have learned to appreciate tea as part of our family traditions and ceremonies. The British are famous for afternoon tea, the Chinese for the tea ceremony as part of the wedding celebration, the Japanese and Koreans for their own formal ceremonies.

In my Scottish family we drank tea every day. Even now my mother offers a cup of tea and some cookies whenever someone visits. I remember when I was a child my grandmother would make me children’s tea made with a few drops of tea in a cup of milk with a little sugar. It was such a treat that I would look forward to having it every time I visited. Mostly, we brewed Orange Pekoe tea steeped in pots of boiled water.

Sometimes I like to go out Afternoon Tea in one of our upscale hotels. There is something so elegant and celebratory about trays of little sandwiches and cakes served with clotted cream and jams. Teas are gently poured into china cups through delicate silver strainers. Even thinking about it makes me smile.

Recently, I have been discovering some wonderful loose leaf teas. In an effort to learn more about the endless varieties of tea and their origins we went to the Toronto Tea Festival. The festival, held at the local reference library, offered a variety of tea tastings by a several tea companies, some local baked goods to share with your tea, teapots, tea sets and books about tea.

We enjoyed a demonstration of the Korean tea ceremony performed by specially trained women and a young girl who is trained in presenting the children’s tea ceremony. The formal ceremony is steeped with tradition and special meaning. It was very interesting to watch.

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I was very excited to find a book titled Tea (History, Terroirs, Varieties) published by the owners of the Camellia Sinesis Tea House in Montreal. The book is an excellent reference on the teas of the world. I understand that it has been published in multiple languages and is used as a textbook in the Tea Sommellier program taught in Toronto’s George Brown College and in Korea.

I am really looking forward to reading about the various types of tea, how to brew each, and how best to enjoy them.

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If exotic teas are not your thing, you may enjoy a hot cup of tea with traditional sweets or cakes. Whether a formal afternoon tea or a traditional ceremonial tea is what you enjoy, you will remember what tea brings to your life with each cup.

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Loving the Windy City and Cantaloupe, Peach and Strawberry Smoothies

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The other weekend my best friend and I went to Chicago for the first time. We had heard so much about the architecture, the food and the lively music scene. Since Chicago is only a one and a half hour flight from Toronto, it is an easy place to visit for a long weekend.

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We took in the architecture by taking a boat cruise offered by the Architectural Society. I strongly suggest one of these cruises since the tour runs through the city along the river and features evidence of the historic transformation of Chicago from its rebirth after a major fire burned it to the ground in 1871. The city planners have done a wonderful job of protecting the river front by ensuring that all new buildings and renovations feature a river walk area that meets their standards.

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A visit to The Art Institute of Chicago was a great way to spend the afternoon taking in the contemporary art and photography exhibits.

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When not touring the river front area, we found great places to eat that could accommodate my friend’s gluten-free, vegan diet and still provide a great variety for my tastes. One place that I really loved was Eataly, a gourmet Italian food experience that was like Disneyland for food lovers. The large space is filled with a variety of delicacies from Italy from wines to pasta and wood fired pizzas. There are 9 mini restaurants nestled in between each department of this store. Since they were able to accommodate my friend’s diet, we had lunch there twice. I understand that there is also and Eataly in New York City and that they might be opening one in Toronto. I cannot wait.

Another thing that is well worth doing is taking in some of the local music scene. We went to a local club called Kingston Mines to hear blues bands one night. This low-key, earthy bar hosts 2 acts per night and rotates sets between two different rooms until 5 AM. It is really worth the short drive from downtown to see these talented blues artists.

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We also saw Motown the Musical as part of the Broadway in Chicago line up. The musical revue acts out the history of the Motown music scene from the beginning to the 25th anniversary. It was a great evening filled with the music made famous by groups like the Temptations, the Supremes and the Jackson 5.

We tried to see as much of Chicago as we could fit into a long weekend so like most tourists, we made sure that we visited the famous Bean in Millenium Park. It is difficult to really see a city in four days, but my first impression was that I would like to go back and see more of this lively place.

After a weekend of food and wine and fun I though I should get back to my healthy diet at home. A great way to help get back on track is to drink smoothies for breakfast or lunch. This smoothie recipe is really light and fresh while also being very healthy.

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Cantaloupe, Peach and Strawberry Smoothie

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
1 cup cantaloupe, chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, without stems
2 cups chopped peaches, peeled
1 cup coconut water
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1-2 tbsp. honey, to your taste

Directions:
Blend the cantaloupe into a juice.
Add the strawberries, peaches, coconut water and lime juice.
Blend again until smooth and frothy.
Add honey to sweeten to your desired level of sweetness.

Recipe modified from Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris

Cherry Blossoms and Green Smoothies-It Must be Spring

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There is a wonderful park in the west end of downtown Toronto called High Park. It is an oasis of nature like the Central Park of New York City.

Every spring there is a showing of cherry blossoms in the park. People from all over flock to see them because it is a sure sign of spring.

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I was really ready for this weekend.

It is a long holiday weekend in Canada to celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria. To most of us it is the beginning of summer. This is the weekend where many of us plant our gardens and open cottages and summer homes.

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This morning I headed over to High Park to walk around and enjoy some of nature’s signs that the summer will be hear soon. I love the park for its nature, its birds and the wonderful feeling that you are far from the concrete towers of downtown. The park is filled with runners, cyclists, photographers and families out for a walk.

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I love seeing the trees in bloom and watching the petals float softly to the ground when the wind catches them. Each of the cherry blossoms is so delicate and beautiful.

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As a tribute to the season I am featuring another recipe from the Oh She Glows Cookbook. It is a Green Monster Smoothie made from so many healthy ingredients I almost feel like Super Woman after drinking it. I have never been a much of a smoothie lover, until recently. Now I am trying different variations to see how I can add some important nutrients to my day while drinking something that tastes good.

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Classic Green Monster Smoothie

Makes 1 -2 cup serving

Ingredients:
1 cup almond milk, or milk of choice
1 ripe banana, peeled and frozen overnight
2 handfuls organic spinach or 1 handful kale leaves, de-stemmed
1 tbsp. chai seeds or ground flax seeds
1 tbsp. almond butter or peanut butter (optional)
2-4 ices cubes
Dash of cinnamon
Protein powder of choice (optional)

Directions:

Starting with the liquid, add in 1 cup of milk. Now add the chai or flax seeds and the nut butter. Next add the spinach and the banana on top. Blend until smooth. Add the ice cubes and blend some more.

Recipe from Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon

Lazy Summer Days and Peach Lemonade

“Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
You’ll wish that summer could always be here”

Songwriters: C. TOBIAS, H. CARSTE

That song brings back memories of my childhood when my mother played Nat King Cole at summer BarBQs. Life was free and easy and summers were filled with fun in the sun.

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We just got back from a fun-filled vacation on Vancouver Island. We rented a charming beach house in the middle of the island that had views of the Comox Harbour and the ghost ships of Royston.

Our vacation was so amazing. I was really ready for a break from the city so when we arrived and I saw the breathtaking views of this island, I was in heaven. Every place we visited had wonderful views of the ocean and the mountains. I knew instantly that I was going to love this place.

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We filled our days with touring, kayaking, photography, hiking and surfing. Our evenings were spent dining out or cooking for family and just relaxing under the stars.

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One day we took a drive to Campbell River and took the ferry to Quadra Island. That is where I found this amazing lighthouse at Cape Mudge. I love lighthouses. There is something nostalgic and mysterious about them.

We spent another day checking out the farmers markets in the area. Summer is a great time to experiment with fresh ingredients from the market.

Vancouver Island is filled with treasures. I know I am going to need more time there to find them all.

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This Peach Lemonade makes a cool, refreshing drink for a day at the beach or a picnic. The adults may wish to add Rum or Bourbon or just drink it as it is. Either way it is delicious.

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Peach Lemonade

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

4 cups water

2 cups coarsely chopped peaches

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons)

4 cups ice

1 peach, pitted and cut into 8 wedges

Directions:

Combine the water, peaches and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes.

Place peach mixture in a blender; let stand for 20 minutes. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid. Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Press peach mixture through a sieve over a bowl, reserving liquid; discard solids. Stir in lemon juice.

Place 1/2 cup ice in each of 8 glasses. Pour about 2/3 cup lemonade into each glass; garnish each glass with 1 peach wedge.

(For the adults only-Can be served with an ounce of Rum or Bourbon )

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine