Matcha Week! Matcha Pancakes

This week, I’m celebrating Matcha Week to highlight all the ways I use matcha besides in my morning bowl of traditional thin matcha. I’m promoting my Volition Beauty campaign for a matcha-infused dual-targeted hair mask, which has just over a month longer to get all the votes it needs to go into production. Help me out by voting here, and maybe share my campaign with your friends and followers to help make this product a reality.

To close off the week, I thought I’d share a matcha food recipe. I wanted to make a matcha bundt cake, but my previous tests with the recipe were unsatisfactory and I ran out of time. So I present to you: Matcha Pancakes!

This was a spur-of-the-moment idea when Mr. Tweed and I decided to make pancakes for our Sunday breakfast. I decided to add a little extra sugar and some matcha powder to our pancake batter, which made for a delightfully green batter and a pleasantly subtle matcha flavor in the resultant pancakes. It was a fun change to the standard breakfast pancake, and I’d definitely do it again sometime. Although, be warned, that with a full tablespoon of matcha in a relatively small batch of pancakes, so there is a non-negligible amount of caffeine in a stack.

Matcha Pancakes:

Dry ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. culinary matcha
2 Tbsp. sugar

Wet ingredients:

2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups buttermilk

Directions:

Sift together the dry ingredients and whisk together the wet ingredients. Add the wet to the dry and mix. Cook over medium heat in a buttered pan. Makes about 10-12 pancakes.

One final note: As you can probably tell by my erratic posting schedule, I’ve had some things going on that distract from this blog. One is a project that will be announced tomorrow, but the other is a bit more personal. While I don’t know how much I’ll feel like sharing in the future, know that I am physically fine and will return to blogging regularly as soon as I can. Thanks to all my readers for making this a positive part of my life. I should still be on Instagram, if you feel like checking in (at the very least, I tend to respond to messages, even if I’m not posting).

 

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A Bridal Tea (and a recipe, at the end!)

This weekend, my mother and my dear friend hosted what I like to call a bridal tea in my honor. You see, Fiancé and I have decided to forgo any gifts for our wedding, but my lady friends still wanted to have a day to get together and celebrate my engagement. What better way, I thought, than to have an afternoon tea?

When I was a small girl, my mother used to have tea parties with me at least a few times a week. I would come home from kindergarten in the afternoon and instead of just making a snack, she would lay out little sandwiches, some sweets, and a pot of tea. She even had an adorable collection of miniature tea sets for the occasion, her crowning glory (and my inheritance) being the Brambly Hedge miniature tea set. I remember going to antique stores trying to find one of every season in the set.

So I knew my mother would host a wonderful tea. I also asked my friend to help her because she makes delicious homemade bread and what could be a better accompaniment to my mother’s amazing baked goods than tea sandwiches made on homemade bread? And the afternoon tea time slot was perfect for a celebration, as I still had one more evening show of Pygmalion to perform, and we would all be finished in time to get to the theatre.

The celebration was beautiful, and we had far too much food, which was all delicious. I did make a batch of my own famous cream scones, as well as a batch of mini Victoria sandwich cakes to add to the celebration, but by and large, the spread was done entirely by the two hostesses and I got to sit back, maybe fuss over a pot of tea. My mother even made miniature panna cotta with a raspberry topping in their own individual cups, as well as getting a box of macarons from a local French bakery and a box of assorted mini pastries from the bakery we’ve frequented since I was young.

Fiancé left for the afternoon so we ladies could flutter and coo to our hearts’ content. It was lovely to see this quite eclectic group of my friends and family (and soon-to-be family) come together and socialize. The director of Pygmalion even brought a silly hat with a veil that I could wear, as the bride. It rather felt like my entrée into the final stretch of my wedding planning, honestly. With Pygmalion at an end and the wedding looming next month, I have the last finishing touches to finish up before the big event. And what better way to get back into the swing of planning than with a cuppa tea?

With that, I suppose I shall leave you with my recipe for mini Victoria sponges, which are not so much my recipe as a recipe my castmate shared from her days in home economics in Wales.

Mini Victoria Sandwiches

Makes 12 cakes

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a cupcake tin with non-stick paper cases. I like these the best.
  2. Weigh three large eggs in their shells. Measure out the same weight each of self-raising flour, granulated or caster sugar, and soft unsalted butter. Lay the eggs in a bowl of hot water to come to room temperature.
  3. Beat together the butter and sugar until combined and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well, and about a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add the flour and beat until combined.
  4. Add milk a tablespoon at a time until the batter is a soft dropping consistency, about like frozen custard or soft-serve ice cream.
  5. Spoon into the cupcake tin, filling about 2/3 full.
  6. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until golden around the edges.
  7. Let the cakes cool in the tin until the tin is cool enough to handle without a potholder, and then remove them to a cooling rack to cool completely. Victoria sponge is very delicate when warm, but quite sturdy once it cools, so handle warm sponges gently.
  8. When they are cool, split them in half with a sharp serrated knife. Fill with jam (I like raspberry) and lightly sweetened whipped cream. Dust with icing/powdered sugar to serve.

Weekend Meal Prep, plus Navy Bean and Potato Soup Recipe

As you may know, I’ve undertaken to eat healthier lately. To this end, since my latest show closed and I’ve found myself with more free time on the weekends, I’ve started prepping food for the week. I’ve found that it’s much easier to eat healthfully if I have easy, delicious, healthy options at hand, rather than having to wake up and spend time prepping a lunch in the morning. Bentos are adorable and delicious, but my patience with spending 20 minutes in the morning wears thin rapidly, particularly in the dead of winter, where we are now.

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Because the aforementioned winter has continued to be cold enough, I find that hot lunches are preferable, and what is more comforting than soup? The past few weeks, I’ve been prepping a big batch of a hearty soup and freezing it in jars. Then, I need only remember to take a jar out of the freezer the night before and pop it into my bag before heading to work.

I’ve also found that breakfasts happen more regularly, and with fewer croissants guiltily acquired from the cafe near the train station, if I prep a little ahead of time. This weekend, I made two berry-yogurt smoothies (I can make another two on my work-from-home day mid-week) and a batch of pumpkin muffins. The muffin will defrost quickly to eat as I get ready, and the smoothie will thaw slowly in my bag as I go to work, making an ideal second breakfast at my desk.

But back to the soup. This navy bean and potato soup was designed particularly to push iron and potassium into my diet, nutrients that I apparently lack, as I’ve discovered by charting some of my intake. Over the last week, I’ve made a concerted effort to increase both and have found a positive effect on my mood and energy levels. Of course, not being out until all hours at tech rehearsals and performances may also help. Whatever the case, the soup is delicious, filling, and relatively cheap to make.

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Navy Bean and Potato Soup
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

3 thick strips of bacon, chopped
1 sweet onion, diced
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp smoked hot paprika
1 can of navy beans, drained
3 cups of chicken broth (I used a long-simmered bone broth)
2 medium red potatoes, diced
1 10-oz package of frozen cut-leaf spinach
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Saute the bacon until the fat starts to render out. Add the onion, and saute until translucent and starting to brown.
  2. Add the spices, beans, and broth. Simmer for 15 minutes or so.
  3. Add the potatoes and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the spinach and cook through. Season to taste.
  5. To freeze, spoon into 16-oz jars or containers and seal tightly. Chill in the fridge and then freeze.

The “Butter on My Bread, Cream in My Coffee” Diet

It’s the new year and once again people are talking about dieting. In particular, I’ve realized that I’ve let my health go a bit, and would like to remedy that before my wedding. That said, I have a long, tumultuous relationship with dieting.

I suppose it begins in childhood, when I was very sick and actually had trouble keeping weight on. My mother used to make me a milkshake every afternoon when I came home from school to help me gain some weight. I got to choose the flavor (I like chocolate best, and it’s how I discovered that I’m not a big fan of strawberry ice cream). But at the same time, I watched my mother struggle with her own weight.

When I was older, my natural perfectionism and detail-oriented nature, which would later be diagnosed as OCD, led me to try to help her in her efforts to lose weight. I poured over Weight Watchers cookbooks and made her recipes so she could have treats within the strictures of her diet. I even made a batch of cookies that I marked in 1/4″ intervals so she could slice and bake them herself and have cookies that were only 1 “point” each. Soon, I found myself hitting puberty and “filling out,” as it is so distastefully called. I realized that I was no longer “the skinny girl” necessarily. It was strange; I had spent my life reveling in how much I could eat without gaining weight, and insisting to myself that I wasn’t worried about dieting or my weight. But now, I was terrified of not being skinny anymore.

So I started to diet. I started to count calories and make up the same special restricted recipes for myself. I’ve since come to realize that part of it was about trying to maintain a sense of control over something in my life during a time when I felt like I was losing control. I had changed schools and had no friends in my new school, plus the changes of puberty can be a bit off-putting, to say the least.

I will skip over the middle, where I drift in and out of disordered eating for 20 years, and instead come to now. I’ve tried a lot of different diets and detoxes and elimination diets and things, and my number one lesson learned is that I cannot restrict what I eat. The healthiest thing for me is to allow myself my indulgences, but try to focus on eating the healthy stuff. So that means looking at it as adding a salad to my lunch instead of removing a fried chicken sandwich. I still have butter on my bread and cream in my coffee. And I try to move around and do things more often than not. I eat and do things that make me feel good. And that is now my “diet” philosophy.

And, yeah, I’m not skinny anymore. I’m on the low end of the size spectrum, and plenty of people still consider me thin, but in a group of women, I’m rarely “the skinny one.” And that’s okay. I have so much more to my identity by now that I don’t need to be identified by what I weigh or what I eat or what I do for exercise. Instead, I can identify with my love of fiber arts or theater or skin care. I can be “the one with the good skin” (maybe not this week, though), or “the theatrical one.” And that’s pretty good, I think.

Quick Recipe: Apple Porridge for a Chilly Autumn Morning

Well, it’s certainly getting cold around here lately. Yesterday, we had sleet and rain all day. By the time I got home, I was soaked through and chilled to the bone. It was a nice evening for curling up under blankets with hot tea, hot cocoa, and hot food. Fiancé grabbed a heating pad to help with a sore muscle he had and TweedCat discovered that he was extra-cozy because of it, so he got the cat. But I had plenty of warmth with blankets, shawls, and warm things in my belly.

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This morning, the rain had passed, but it was still quite chilly. I always find myself gravitating towards porridge the instant the temperature dips below any semblance of warmth, so I put together one of my favorite quick breakfasts to take to work. I add diced fruit to my porridge before cooking it, which bulks it up, adds a bit of nutrition, and sweetens it lightly. I also added some warming spices, and topped the whole thing with nut butter for protein and fat. It preps in minutes, cooks in minutes, and is a lovely, hearty, warming breakfast for a chilly morning.

Apple Porridge

1/4 cup quick cooking steel cut oats
1/2 apple, diced
scant 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. each of ginger and allspice
3/4 cup of water

Add the ingredients to a tupperware or mason jar in the order given. It’s important to put the oats at the bottom to ensure they’re thoroughly hydrated. Seal up the container and take wherever you are going. When you are ready to cook them, give the container a little shake and empty the mixture into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 3 minutes on half power, then stir, and then microwave for another 2-1/2 minutes on half power, or until cooked. Top with butter, nut butter, sweetener, or whatever strikes your fancy. Makes one serving.

Holiday Recipe: Maple Pecan Pie

Yesterday, we celebrated Thanksgiving in the States. Now, being the technically-Southern woman that I am, one of my favorite Thanksgiving treats is pecan pie. Of course, the traditional version is mostly corn syrup and sugar, with eggs for body, and some pecans. Apparently, one of my uncles loves pecan pie, but when he eats it, he picks off the pecans, which invariably float to the top of the filling, and then just eats the sugar-corn-syrup goo underneath.

Appetizing, no? Well, I’m not a fan of corn syrup goo, so when I was developing my own recipe, in addition to adding many more pecans than my traditional family recipe, I also decided to swap out corn syrup for maple syrup. Because even though I’m technically in the South, I’m a Northern lady at heart, right? Anyway, maple syrup also lends a delicious flavor and richness that blends beautifully with the pecans. Here’s my recipe, if you’re in the mood for an American holiday treat.

Maple Pecan Pie
serves 8-12

Crust:

1 cup flour
1 stick butter, cold
1 pinch salt
1/8-1/4 cup cold water

Filling:

2 cups chopped pecans, plus more for the top
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup Grade B maple syrup
3 eggs
good pinch of salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract

  1. Make the crust by blitzing together the flour, salt, and butter in the food processor until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water a little at a time until a dough just forms. Squeeze together into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least half an hour.
  2. When the dough is chilled, roll it out into a large disk and place in the bottom of a 9″ pie pan. Trim and crimp the edges. Pop back in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Whisk in the eggs until smooth.
  4. Scatter the pecans in the pie crust and top with the filling. Arrange more pecan halves on top to make it look pretty. Bake for an hour or so, or until the filling is just set. Cool completely before eating. Can be made a day ahead, chilled overnight, and brought to room temperature before eating. Enjoy!

Autumnal Frolicking: Apple Picking and Apple Baking

This past weekend, a few of my coworkers and I decided to drive out to a farm a little ways out of town for an autumnal treat: apple picking. Sadly, it’s the very end of the season, so pickings were slim (or rather, split and attacked by birds), but it was still a lovely outing. We were treated to stunning views of the countryside in an area where the mountains start to roll a bit and the weather was sunny and yet crisp.

We arrived at the farm in the late morning to a bustling scene of fall fun. A few children and a few more dogs joined in as we gathered our peck bags and headed up the hill. The best apples were at the very top of the hill, so we were able to kill two birds with one stone and take in the views as well. After a little time scouring the trees for apples that were ripe but not overripe, we adjourned to the bins of harvested apples at the ends of the rows of trees to fill out our bags. As I knew most of my apples would be used for baking, I erred on the side of taking a few of the greener apples from the trees. And Fiancé had joined us as well, making it easier to get some of the higher-up apples.

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In addition to gathering apples, we also bonded socially, which is something I’ve lacked with my new coworkers, even after being almost a year into my new job. We carried our apples back down the hill and paid for them, along with some cider. After that, we took ourselves to a nearby town for a sandwich lunch and dessert at an adorable bakery. And then home again to consider our spoils.

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Back home, I found myself tired and busy, so I had limited time to bake this weekend. But I found myself awake on Sunday morning with a desire for something baked and no desire to go out. So I had Fiancé grate some apples and set to work baking a batch of Apple Pecan Muffins.

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Now, I always grate the apples in my apple muffins because I don’t like biting into big chunks of cooked apple and I find it gives them a nice apple flavor and a moist texture. You can feel free to dice them if you like, though you may need to add a bit more liquid to make up for the juices that won’t release.

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I added pecans to my muffins, as well as more spices than just cinnamon. I have a love-hate relationship with cinnamon. Fiancé likes to quote The Hangover and call me a tiger whenever the subject of cinnamon comes up, which is cute, sort of. But I find that the oft-neglected other fall spices add an almost savory-spice to the mixture. It’s a rather old-fashioned flavor and brings to mind spiced mixtures from the Middle Ages, at least to me.

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Finally, if you can find the If You Care muffin liners, try them. They are the only muffin liners I’ve found that the muffins truly release from, no spraying needed. They’re probably easier to find at a hippie natural foods store, which happens to be where I do most of my shopping, but they’re so worth it if you hate having a quarter of your muffin stick to the paper.

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Apple Pecan Muffins
(makes 12 muffins)

Ingredients:

The Dry:

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking steel-cut oats
1/2 cup or so of pecans, chopped
1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. of baking powder
2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of ground ginger
1/2 tsp. of ground allspice
A pinch of salt

The Wet:

1/2 stick of salted butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup of fresh sweet apple cider
1-2 apples, grated (I used one large and one small)

The Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Spray the liners if you are not confident they will not stick. Or use my favorite liners.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients, making sure to break up any clumps of brown sugar.
  3. In a large measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, 1/2 a cup of the cider, and the eggs. Really whisk it together to form an emulsion between the cider and butter.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, along with the grated apple, and mix gently. If the batter is a little dry, add the rest of the cider until it’s a good consistency. Make sure you moisten all the little pockets of flour.
  5. Spoon into the muffin papers. Your cups will be rather full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until quite brown and springy. Cool as long as you can bear it in the pan and then eat, slathered in butter, preferably alongside a cup of tea or a mug of hot cider.

Five Things I’ve Been Enjoying Recently

I still have a backlog of photo-editing and post-writing to deal with since I’ve been busy and stressed, so here’s another quick, unplanned post. Spring has definitely sprung in the city! Trees are fluffy and pink and white and yellow and purple. There are hyacinths and daffodils out on my walk from the train station to my office. And it’s even getting a bit warmer. So I thought I’d share some of the things that I’ve been particularly enjoying the last couple of weeks as we move into spring.

  1. Magnolia Oolong tea from Simple Loose Leaf: I’ve talked about this before, but this really is a lovely tea. It’s the same Jade Oolong I reviewed a while ago, but with a very light magnolia floral scent and flavor added. I love it as a daily cup when the weather is warm, but not hot, and the sights and scents of spring are everywhere. It’s very seasonally-appropriate and helps remind me that the rich, warming black teas of winter are no longer needed.
  2. Hada Labo UV Perfect Gel: Sunscreen, guys! Since it is now fully light for both my morning and evening walks to and from work, it’s the perfect time to mention my new favorite sunscreen. It’s Japanese and unfragranced and sinks in beautifully. It does leave a bit of shine initially, but I give it 20-30 minutes before applying makeup and it settles right down. It’s a lovely gel texture and I think the hydrating ingredients offset the alcohol that gives it its lovely texture and ability to absorb weightlessly into skin.
  3. Pink and coral lip products: I love a red lip. But lately, I’ve been reach for spring-y lip colors, which means pinks and corals. Coral has been tricky for me, as I’m not generally a fan of orange, but I’ve found some products to help ease me into the look. I’ve also been loving sheerer lip colors for the spring, as it’s a much fresher look. Plus, my lip color matches the azalea bush that’s already started sprouting buds: Coral Bells.
  4. Pink clothing: I own a lot of black and dark-colored clothing. It’s rather a go-to color for me. But the warm weather has me feeling light and youthful, and to me, this means pink and pastels. I wore a pink chiffon dress from Mod Cloth the other day to work and got so many compliments, I wore it again a couple weeks later!
  5. Veggie noodles: One of our most unexpected holiday gifts was a Veggetti from Boyfriend’s parents. I’d looked at spiralizers before, but never decided to actually buy one. So when we got this, it seemed like a neat way to try spiralized veggies without shelling out for an expensive machine. But who wants to eat a lot of raw veggies in the dead of winter? Plus, a lot of the good veggies for spiralizing aren’t available until spring. Well, the zucchini and cucumbers are here and I’ve started spiralizing. We had a spiralized cucumber salad with sushi on Saturday and spiralized zucchini and carrots as a base for grilled chicken yesterday after a heavy Easter lunch called for a light dinner. It’s a lovely way to eat raw veggies, especially now that the warmer weather has me craving fresher food.

What is everyone else loving for spring?

Treats Without Sweets: Cheese Scones

Lately, I’ve tried to take the advice of Lady Hirons and trim sweet things from my diet. Because I found myself reaching for sweet treats more often than not, I’ve decided that a three week fast from sweets was necessary to somewhat reset my cravings and remind me that I can, indeed, live without sugar.

Sadly, this coincided with the beginning of a new rehearsal cycle with a director who likes to schedule Saturday morning rehearsals and loves to have breakfast treats to keep us motivated. I generally like to bake for my acting colleagues, so I was somewhat disappointed that I couldn’t bring a batch of soft, sweet cream scones with cream and jam. But then I thought, well treats don’t have to be sweet, and I could easily bake scones without sugar. But they might be rather bland. So I thought back to my old Nigella Lawson recipe for onion pie with cheese scone dough and decided to make a batch of cheese scones.

These are really a simple batch of scones, without even any egg to give them more structure. I recommend you use a nice, sharp cheese, as the sharper the cheese, the stronger the cheese flavor will be. I eat them without any accompaniment, though I imagine a tart jam might be nice.

Cheese Scones

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 stick of cold butter, cubed
4 oz. shredded cheese
2 cups cold milk

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder, and then cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the cheese. Add the milk, a little at a time, until a soft dough forms. Pat the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/2″ thick, and then fold three times, like a letter, and again in half. Pat this out again and cut out your scones. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until quite brown. Makes about 8 scones.

An Old-Fashioned Remedy for What Ails You

And, no, it’s not alcoholic. While I’m no stranger to the shot of whisky that helps cure a cold, this is something far more restorative. As I mentioned before, I’ve just recently recovered from a somewhat grueling illness that started with a bit of a sore throat, looked like it was becoming a cold, and then turned into the worst sore throat I’ve had in years. It went from the early-cold dull ache to the ragged, razor-y feeling every time I even thought about swallowing. Sadly, the doctor could not find evidence of strep throat (which would have meant antibiotics and a relatively quick recovery), so I was left to my own devices.

Now, lemon and honey and vinegar and echinacea have their places in my arsenal of illness fighters, and they all came into play. Cayenne, oddly, became my throat-soother of choice, as a spicy-sweet brew of raw honey, vinegar, and cayenne in water, gargled often, left my throat feeling much better.

But by far my favorite remedy was good old fashioned broth, or rather garlic broth. I found a company that makes traditionally-simmered bone broths and sells them vacuum packed in pouches in the freezer section at my store. I prefer the chicken broth. I defrost and simmer one cup of broth. While that simmers, I peel and finely grate one fat clove of garlic (or two smaller ones) into a mug. When the broth is hot, I pour it over the garlic. It’s not exactly raw garlic, but it still retains some of the heat and bite of raw garlic. I sip this and feel my throat feel almost instantly soothed. It’s also nourishing and restorative, particularly at a time when one finds oneself unable to eat much of anything solid. The broth contains protein and makes a welcome break from sweetened teas. And there is some evidence that chicken broth may actually have some true use against the common cold.

Whatever the science, I know this will become a go-to remedy, and even though I’ve started feeling better, I will probably continue my morning mug of broth throughout the winter.