Transforming, reinventing, repurposing the home, garden and sewing projects.

Holiday Teas & Tisanes Review

What could be better than a cup of tea to warm and brighten the holiday season?

Eggnog, peppermint martinis, and cocoa with marshmallows you say?

Okay, I’ll accept that, but my favorite feel-good drink is tea.

Holiday Teas & Tisanes 12-18-15 © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

What is the difference between tea and tisane?

All tea (black, white, green, oolong) comes from the Camellia sinensis plant.

Anything else is an herbal (Rooibos, chamomile, yerba mate.) Tisane is a French word for “herbal infusion.”

Check the ingredients on the package or description of the product to verify if it is a “real” tea or “herbal” tea.

As mentioned in my Autumn Flavors blog, there is a difference in flavor between loose leaf premium tea and tea bags. Think a can of beer versus a microbrewery or craft beer on tap. You can clearly taste the dissimilarity.

For many years I shied away from the easily found teas in grocery stores. Only purchased premium loose leaf teas in specialty stores and online.

CELESTIAL SEASONINGS SUGAR COOKIE SLEIGH RIDE® was one of the first herbal blends that changed my mind about grocery store “boxed tea bags.” It is delicious and a good reason to lose my snobbery.

Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

Thank our lucky stars that Celestial Seasonings continues to bring back this perennial favorite year after year. Like drinking a liquid sugar cookie, the vanilla and orange infusion is surprisingly based on milk thistle and roasted barley.

Caffeine free this is perfect for soothing your voice as the kids are snuggled in their beds and you read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore.

Here are some other holiday concoctions found in local stores this season.

CELESTIAL SEASONINGS GINGERBREAD SPICE   Celestial Seasonings Gingerbread Spice © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

Gingerbread is one of my essential food groups, so I couldn’t wait to try this herbal tea.

Opened the box to a delicious waft of cinnamon and ginger that had me thinking about baking an extra large pan of the spicy cake.

While the herbs were steeping, the scent had my mouth watering. Would the flavor be as dense as the aroma?

Yes! It hits the back of the throat like you just swallowed a luscious bite of gingerbread cake. Nothing can take the place of the real thing, but thank goodness for this calorie free tastiness, it helped me let go the urge to do some calorie filled baking – for now. Next cup I’m going big and adding a touch of molasses – woot!

“Decorating” my serving with a splash of Coffee-mate® Gingerbread creamer hit the spot on a cold winter evening as we watched “The Santa Clause.”

CELESTIAL SEASONINGS CRANBERRY VANILLA WONDERLAND   Celestial Seasonings Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

The sweet aroma of this herbal blend reminded me of a cranberry Danish. Got a hit of cranberry and cinnamon on the front sip, then a kick of vanilla at the back of the throat. This gorgeous mahogany colored brew is lovely by itself or lightly sweetened and perfect for savoring with a late morning Christmas breakfast.

BTW: I noticed a slight medicinal flavor after adding Splenda®, will stick with agave or try it with honey next time.

TAZO® JOY   Tazo Joy © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

I’m in LOVE with this tea found at Target!

The beautiful berry color container describes Joy as “a jubilant blend of black tea, oolong, jasmine green tea and hints of peach. The combo in a high quality pyramid bag is reminiscent of a deep muscatel Darjeeling (my all-time favorite tea) with hints of jasmine.

I hear a symphony when enjoying this tea, so sip into bliss while lounging in front of a crackling fire and listening to Mannheim Steamroller’s “Christmas Extraordinaire.”

BIGELOW® EGGNOGG’N®   Bigelow Eggnogg'n © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

Smells like eggnog, doesn’t look like eggnog, yet its flavor has the essence of eggnog so you can indulge in a classic holiday treat without the calorie laden cream and eggs.

The black and green tea blend is individually wrapped in foil pouches, making it nice for carrying in a purse or taking to work. The cute graphics on the box includes the wording “An ‘Eggceptional’ Winter Tea” and I agree. Just don’t let it steep longer than the recommended two minutes, the delicate eggnog and cinnamon disappear and the tea is too strong.

Delightful without any enhancement, I added a dash of rum for the extra kick needed to finish wrapping presents. Yum.

BIGELOW® PEPPERMINT BARK   Bigelow Peppermint Bark © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

Described as a “minty chocolate herb tea” I definitely tasted a blast of mint and little chocolate.

It is “refreshing” as the box’s narration claims and after adding a little sweetener (agave) it tasted like an after dinner mint. Very smooth and cool. Will probably try this after the holidays with a splash of chocolate creamer to play up the chocolate. Right now, the refrigerator is too full of pumpkin, French vanilla, Cinnabon® and gingerbread creamers.

As peppermint is excellent for digestion this is the herbal tea I kept by my side while baking holiday treats. Individually wrapped in a foil pouch you can take this with you to any holiday gathering. Absolutely will have it by my elbow while playing board games with the family after Christmas dinner.

BIGELOW® GINGERSNAPPISH   Bigelow Ginger Snappish © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

Wasn’t feeling a hundred percent this morning. Woke up with a stuffy nose, puffy eyes, and sensation of Santa’s sleigh sitting on my chest.

No way.

No way was I getting sick, it simply wasn’t happening with Christmas coming next week. I just needed something to perk me up.

Ginger always perks me up, so I reached for Biglelow’s Gingersnappish. As I opened the foil packet a cheerful burst of lemon greeted my nose. After steeping four minutes the bright flavors of lemongrass, ginger and ­­­­­­­­lemon verbena warmed my tongue and throat like sunshine on a cloudy day.

Wrap yourself in a cozy blanket and let this uplifting and merry herbal blend release the blues and remind you summer will come again.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

This is a personal blog and all the products reviewed in the above blog were purchased by me and are available to the general public.

I did not receive any free products, monetary compensation, or any type of payment for reviewing the products. Reviews represent my opinions based on personal use and are not influenced by anyone or any entity.

© 2013 – 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved

ABlueSquash.com is devoted to transformation and reinventing life. Topics and projects are wide and varied as inspiration is found around any corner anytime, anywhere.

Fall Flavors: Teas & Tisanes Review

The weather had been so warm here in northern Nevada that it was just a few weeks ago I put away all the refreshing, light and fruity iced teas of summer.

I’m definitely ready for the rich robust flavors of autumn and winter hot tea and tisanes.

Fall Flavors Tea & Tisanes 11-13-15 © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

What is the difference between tea and tisane?

All tea (black, white, green, oolong) comes from the Camellia sinensis plant.

Anything else is an herbal (Rooibos, chamomile, yerba mate.) Tisane is a French word for “herbal infusion.”

There is a difference in flavor between loose leaf premium tea and tea bags. Think a can of beer versus a microbrewery or craft beer on tap. You can clearly taste the dissimilarity.

For many years I shied away from the easily found teas in grocery stores. Turned my nose up at boxes of, dear heavens, tea bags containing inferior tea. Only purchased premium loose leaf teas in specialty stores and online.

CELESTIAL SEASONINGS BENGAL SPICE® HERBAL TEA yanked my nose right out of the air and into tea bag reality . . . it is pretty darn good.

Now one of my cold weather any-time-of-day go to teas. I really like the “caffeine free interpretation of Chai” with the full-bodied flavors of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, roasted chicory, black pepper, cloves and nutmeg.

That led me to try other teas on the shelf. Here are some found in local stores this season.

CELESTIAL SEASONINGS CARAMEL APPLE DREAM   Celestial Seasonings Caramel Apple Dream © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com 

There is a reason this herbal tea flew off the shelves and not because some woman had over ten boxes in her shopping cart.

Noooo . . . honestly, it wasn’t me.

I was lucky to get the one box in my hand.

As the herbs steep into a rich mahogany color the aroma of caramel and apples fill the air. No crisp Granny Smith here. Juicy red apple with a creamy maple caramel finish. Pleasant without sweetener, the flavor turns harsh if steeped too long.

Pick up a box and give it a try before this seasonal item disappears.

HARNEY & SONS PUMPKIN SPICE   Harney & Sons Pumpkin Spice © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

Found this yummy herbal blend in a gorgeous tin at Target. Rooibos, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a high quality pyramid bag turns a bright bittersweet orange as it releases a lovely pumpkin flavor. When sweetened the pumpkin flavoring is not as bold, I preferred it unadorned. Relax with a cup while browsing Pinterest.

BIGELOW® PUMPKIN SPICE   Bigelow Pumpkin Spice © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

This “hearty spiced” black tea is individually wrapped in foil pouches. Nice for carrying in a purse or taking to work.

Warm and invigorating, I like the predominate kick of cinnamon over a gentle wash of pumpkin. There is a hint of rum aroma, although rum is not listed as an ingredient. Excellent choice to start the day or to rejuvenate a slow afternoon.

STASH PUMPKIN SPICE DECAF   Stash Pumpkin Spice Decaf © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

With a light pumpkin flavor and lovely golden copper color, this decaffeinated black tea lightly sweetened and enhanced with a splash or two of Coffee-mate® Pumpkin Spice creamer is delightful. Savor it while reading Blood Brothers Book One of the Sign of Seven Trilogy by Nora Roberts.

TAZO® CINNAMON CHALET   Tazo Cinnamon Chalet Stash Pumpkin Spice Decaf © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com

All I could taste in this infusion is Rooibos with some cinnamon. I would have liked a solid hit of the apple, cranberry, cloves and ginger as promised on the tin.

A hint of apple undertone arrived too late for me to enjoy the cup. Although captured in a high quality pyramid bag, this herbal mixture didn’t do it for me or put me in the mood to “play Parcheesi before a dancing fire.”

Speaking of Tazo® tea I spied one box of Tazo® Chai Pumpkin Spice at Smith’s within their autumn harvest showcase at the front of the store.

The Hallelujah chorus soaring in my head came to a screeching halt as a white-haired woman with a walker reached for that last box. What was I going to do, snatch it out of her hand?

I pretended to browse the pumpkiny and applely flavorland display as I waited for her to finish reading the box.

Darn.

She liked what she saw and put it in the purple cloth bag hanging off her walker.

When she turned her head to check out the Frosted Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tarts® I was ashamed at my urge to snag that box of Tazo® when she wasn’t looking.

The wave of temptation quickly passed. Thank goodness.

Checked the tea aisle to see if any were there. No luck. So if you have tried it, leave a comment and let me know how it tastes.

© 2013 – 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved

This is a personal blog and all the products reviewed in the above blog were purchased by me and are available to the general public.

I did not receive any free products, monetary compensation, or any type of payment for reviewing the products. Reviews represent my opinions based on personal use and are not influenced by anyone or any entity.

ABlueSquash.com is devoted to transformation and reinventing life. Topics and projects are wide and varied as inspiration is found around any corner anytime, anywhere.

Pumpkin Cookie Recipe

October 1, 2015 is National Homemade Cookies Day. As mentioned in my Careers & Homemade Cookies – Three Similarities blog, here is one of my favorite pumpkin cookie recipes.

Raisins, pecans or coconuts can be substituted for the chocolate chips. Since nearly everyone adores chocolate I’d leave them in. If you love raisins, pecans or coconut, and still want to please the chocoholics, reduce the chocolate chips to one cup and add a cup of the other ingredients.

PUMPKIN COOKIES

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ to ½ teaspoon ground cloves (use ½ teaspoon if you prefer a stronger taste of clove)

1 can (15 ounce) 100% pure pumpkin (I use Libby’s®)

½ cup vegetable shortening (I use Crisco® Baking Sticks)

1 cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

½ cup butterscotch morsels, chopped

1 bag (11.5 ounces) milk or semi-sweet chocolate morsels

FINISHING

1/2 bar (2 ounces) of a 4 ounce Ghirardelli® White Chocolate Premium Baking Bar

Preheat oven to 375°F – rack in center. Grease cookie sheet and cover with parchment paper cut to fit.

Place walnuts in single layer in a heated skillet (medium high heat) on the stove. Do not add cooking spray, oil or butter, there is enough fat in the nuts to keep them from sticking. Stir and shake frequently to prevent burning. Cook until brown and they smell toasted. Pieces will toast in approximately 3 – 5 minutes. Immediately remove from heat and pour into a heatproof bowl. Do not leave in skillet, as they will continue to cook.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

After walnuts have cooled, sprinkle a teaspoon or so of the flour mixture over nuts and stir to coat.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat on low to medium speed with hand mixer, pumpkin and shortening until blended. Add sugar, salt, vanilla, egg and beat until smooth.

Gradually beat in flour mixture until blended.

Stir in walnuts, butterscotch pieces and chocolate chips.

Use a 1 ½ inch diameter cookie scoop to drop scoops of dough onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake approximately 17 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm and tops no longer look wet. Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes; remove to wire racks and let cool completely.

Place white chocolate in small resealable plastic bag. Microwave sealed bag 60 seconds at half power. Turn bag over; heat 60 seconds at half power. Knead bag until candy is smooth. All microwaves are different; it may take another 30 seconds more or less at half power. Just don’t heat it too long, chocolate burns easily.

Cut tiny corner off bag; drizzle melted white chocolate over top of approximately half the cooled cookies. Set aside to allow white chocolate to harden.

Yield:  Approximately 4 dozen

2013 – 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved  ABlueSquash.com

Ginger Bacardi Rum Cake

Avast and ahoy, mates! As promised, in the Pirate Tea – All Hands On Deck blog posted yesterday, here is my recipe for the Bacardi Rum cake with a little kick of ginger.

I prefer spiced rum vs. dark rum for this treasure. If you want to use the other brand of rum bearing a captain’s figure  . . . why not?  Thar be pirates here!

For the scurvy purists, I’ve made rum cake from scratch and quite frankly once the rum is poured, it does not matter to me that this cake is made from a mix. Arrr!

Let’s get Kraken, oops, cracking . . . eggs that is, step smartly, and Yo Ho Ho seize the bottle of rum!

GINGER RUM CAKE

1 cup chopped pecans

1 package (15.25 ounces*) yellow cake mix
*the reduced ounces from the original 18.25 ounces recipe makes a very moist cake – add a couple tablespoons flour if desired

1 package (3.4 ounces) Jell-O® Vanilla Instant Pudding & Pie Filling

2 teaspoons ground ginger

½ cup spiced rum

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup cold water

4 eggs

2 tablespoons peeled, grated fresh ginger

GOLDEN GINGER RUM GLAZE

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup water

½ cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ cup spiced rum

FINISHING

1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chip chunks

1 tablespoon chopped, candied ginger

Preheat oven to 325°F – rack in center. Spray 12” Bundt® pan with Pam® Baking Spray or Baker’s Joy®. Sprinkle pecans in the bottom of pan. Set aside.

Whisk together cake mix, pudding and ground ginger in large mixing bowl. Add rum, oil, water and eggs; blend with electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine; scrape down the sides of the bowl with rubber spatula.

Add fresh grated ginger. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes, scraping down sides if needed. Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth top with rubber spatula and tap pan on counter a few times to release some of the air bubbles.

Bake cake 1 hour, or until golden brown. Remove pan from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes.

Make the glaze while cake is cooling.

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in water and sugars. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat slightly; cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove pan from heat, add ground ginger using a whisk to blend out any lumps. Slowly add spiced rum (it will bubble up), stir to blend. Do not pour alcohol anywhere near an open flame or hot burner.

Invert cake on a serving platter. Poke holes in the top and sides of cake with a wooden skewer. Pour half the glaze in the Bundt® pan, flip cake back over and carefully return it to the pan making sure to match up the ridges. Poke holes in the bottom of cake. Pour the rest of the glaze evenly over top and down the sides (not letting it go over the hole in center of pan). Let stand until glaze is absorbed about 15 minutes.

Invert cake onto the serving platter. Cool cake completely before topping with chocolate.

Place chocolate morsels in small resealable plastic bag. Microwave sealed bag 60 seconds at half power. Turn bag over; heat 60 seconds at half power. Knead bag until candy is smooth. All microwaves are different; it may take another 30 seconds more or less at half power. Just don’t heat it too long, chocolate burns easily.

Cut tiny corner off bag; drizzle melted chocolate over top and sides of cooled cake. Sprinkle top with candied ginger bits.

Fill center of cake with additional candied ginger bits, if desired.

For Pirate Tea, serve on gold charger surrounded with brown sugar sprinkled around the cake to look like “sand” or place gold candy coins on the rim of charger.

If decadence is desired, serve with dollops of sweetened whipped cream.

Enjoy and eat up, me hearties!

© 2013 – 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved  ABlueSquash.com

Pirate Tea All Hands On Deck 9-17-15 © 2013 - 2015 Susan C. Fix All Rights Reserved ABlueSquash.com