January Favorites

I can't believe that January is coming to a close. While it means another winter month down, and two to go, I still hate the feeling that time is flying past me in an instant. Despite the quick passage of time, over the last month I've enjoyed some pretty fabulous eats. Whether in my own kitchen, out at a fun, new restaurant, or just ingredients that I find myself intrigued by, today it's all about January Favorites.

Clockwise: peanut butter & apple, spicy sweet potato wedges, figs, Earl Grey Creme, pizza, snickerdoodle muffins

Natural peanut butter & apples - A truly fantastic snack that brings me back to childhood. I'd pretty much eat peanut butter anything, and spreading it on some naturally sweet apple slices is just the icing on the cake, so to speak.

Spicy sweet potato wedges - These were part of my Eat Better Week and they are a fabulous, spicy twist to a classic dish. These basic sweet potato fries are bumped up by the addition of cumin and cinnamon - a perfect winter flavor.

Figs - This is a new flavor and ingredient for me. After all, I can't recall eating figs, other than those of the Newton variety, until recently. Fig jam to be exact. Added to grilled cheese or as a garnish on fabulously cooked meat at Fig & Olive, this is a subtley sweet flavor that I need to explore further.

Earl Grey Creme - I raved about this in A Cup of Teavana and that's because it's been a veritable staple in my drinking repetoire this month...and I can't wait to continue my love affair with the gourmet tea.

Gourmet Pizza - This one is of the Keste variety (check back next week for the Restaurant Roundup). I won't give too much away, but let's just say that this one gives Otto a serious run for its money.

Snickerdoodle muffins - I made these at my holiday brunch, but after finding one tucked away in the freezer, they just had to get a shoutout. After all, a nutmeg, cinnamon, and crystallized sugar topping makes this decadent treat the perfect winter muffin.

So there you have it - the foods I enjoyed the most this past month. What about you? Have you discovered any new foods lately? Any old favorites that made a comeback? Or anything that you want to explore further in February?

A Cup of Teavana

I have always been a tea drinker. While a barrel of coffee is necessary to get me going in the AM, I drink tea simply for the delicious, delicate taste. Though I've grown up in a Red Rose black tea household and rarely strayed to herbal teas (and never of the green variety), I was recently introduced to the wonder of Teavana. A tiny store in my local mall with a wall of canisters filled with different varietals of tea, from black to white to oolong to herbal, there's a flavor for every palette. After hearing rave reviews from Catherine and Christine and taste-testing the Earl Grey Creme from Christine's stash, I was instantly won over and made my way over to the shop to get my very own unofficial tea starter kit.

The tea is sold loose, measured out and sold in 2 oz portions and the price varies by type of tea.

I also needed an infuser in which to brew the tea (and keep the tea leaves from floating around in my cup, and subsequently out of my mouth). While there are lots of different kinds, I got a metal mesh cup that sits pretty atop my tea mug and has a little lid to keep it warm, toasty and steeping properly. And please also note the sweet Harry & David mug that Kimberly gave me as a Christmas gift.

And since there were oh-so-many teas to choose from and I wanted to avoid spending a fortune on teas that I may or may not like, I kept it super simple and went with basic flavors that I was pretty sure I'd enjoy (and ones I had previously sampled from Christine's own stash since she was kind enough to share with me). In addition to the tea and the infuser, I also got sucked into buying the fancy schmancy rock sugar.

Could you use regular? Sure. But the super special rock sugar is delicately sweet and looks gorgeous to boot. Since I wanted to savor the pretty sugary colors, I opted out of the Teavana canisters and instead picked up a glass mason jar for $1.29 at the local dollar store.

For the actual tea, however, I did splurge for the Teavana canisters since I really had nothing else in which to store the tea. Since I was getting a limited supply of tea, I went with the 6oz canisters which ran $4.50 a pop.

In the end, I did spend a bit over my budget, but realized that the canisters and the infuser will last and last and only the tea and sugar will need to be replaced. Oh and I should also note that since only 1tsp of sugar per cup of tea is recommended, my hope is that it will last for a while. 

Teavana breakdown:
1 tea infuser
1 lb rock sugar
4 oz Earl Grey Creme - a vanilla-flavored black tea that works at any time of day. I already knew I liked this kind, so I went with 4oz, rather than 2.
2 oz Weight to Go - an oolong strawberry flavored tea that doubles as an appetite suppressant
2 oz Samurai Chai Mate - a cinnamony mate, which means it's the same caffeine level as coffee
3 Teavana canisters to hold said tea

After bringing it all home and testing them out, the clear winner for me is the Earl Grey Creme. It's an any-time-of-day tea and the flavor is impeccable.Coming in second is the Weight to Go. It's fresh and supposedly jump starts your weightloss. I highly recommend it if you're into fruity teas.left to right: Samurai Chai, Weight to Go, Earl Grey Creme

And in last place? The Samurai Chai. With this one, I just felt kind of 'eh' about it. It was just ok. But that's why you start small and then refresh with the ones you take a liking to. Next time I'll be filling up on Earl Grey Creme and trying out something new. Any recommendations?

So what do you think? Do you like tea? Are you a Teavana afficianado? If so, what do you recommend for those just starting out, like me?