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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cooking with Tea - Tea Recipes

Even a novice cook will have some herbs and spices lying around her pantry. She might also have some tea. Just as thyme and oregano are added on the fly during cooking, tea leaves can double as flavor enhancers to offer dimension and distinction to any sweet or savory dish. But do you have to be "gourmet" to do this? Absolutely not.

Tea expert, Karen Harbour (Food Network candidate and owner of The Tea Spot in Boulder, Colorado) says it's hard to go wrong when cooking with tea. "Tea is very forgiving. It offers a different spin on any type of food you are making, be it meat, poultry, vegetables or even dessert."

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Depending upon whether the tea is to be a highlight or a subtle note in the dish, Harbour cooks with a range of full- to light-bodied teas and tea blends. As a general rule, black teas (Earl Grey, oolong, jasmine), deep greens (macha, gunpowder, roasted green), or earthy herbals like rooibos will integrate nicely into rich, savory dishes like red meats or roasted vegetables. Lighter greens and green tea blends (twig tea, Genmaicha, Moroccan mint) or any soft, subtle white tea can be used with fish and seafood, summer vegetables or desserts.

Just as there are countless ways to use herbs and spices, there are many techniques to draw upon when cooking with tea. Here's a handful to get you started:

Tea Seasonings: Grind or finely chop tea leaves to season foods during cooking, or use as a rub for meats and poultry. Use in similar amounts as dried herbs: 1/2 - 1 teaspoon per dish.

Tea Concentrates: A strong, concentrated cup of tea can be used to infuse its flavors into food. Use in sauces, dressings, marinades or glazes. Double the infusing time, or double the amount of tea, to get a deep flavor strong enough to infuse the food.

Tea Stock: Replace stock or broth in any soup, stew or sauce recipe with an equivalent amount of steeped tea. Tea concentrates (above) can also be used.

Whole Leaves: Toss a dash of tea leaves into stews, grains or braised dishes at the beginning of cooking time to add flair and flavor to the dish.

Smoking: If you have a home smoker (try Camerons online for $40) smoking chips can be replaced with tea leaves to impart a subtle, smoky, tea essence to fish, poultry or vegetables. It's also aromatherapy for your kitchen!

Garnishing: Ground tea, just like ground herbs, can be used at the very end to add color and enhance flavor to any meal. Try sprinkling tea around the edge of the plate for a festive touch.

Give it a shot. Most Westerners snubbed the thought of green tea ice cream before trying it. But with one bite... "Oh!"... It's surprising how good it is, and how the simple addition of this ancient plant can turn an everyday dish into an inimitable meal.


Red Rocks Glazed Steak or Portobellas - Karen Harbour, The Tea Spot
Rooibos tea, an earthy herbal tea from Africa, is the flavor agent for this rich and hearty tea glaze...

Fruit Salad with Mango Tango Tea Syrup - Karen Harbour, The Tea Spot
Not only for fruit, tea syrup can be drizzled on ice cream and cakes, or even whisked into sparkling water for a refreshing drink...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Electrolytes for Energy and Endurance

Just as a battery needs a charge to run a machine, muscles need an electrical charge to make our machines run. This surge is produced by electrolytes, special minerals that create polarity for the cells. When electrolytes are depleted, the body may feel like it's running on half-power: muscles will respond sluggishly, and an overall sense of fatigue and weakness will triumph over stamina and energy.

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Who needs them?

Fitness enthusiasts are gangbusters for electrolytes. They know from experience that when they take electrolytes before and after exercise, they can go longer, work harder and feel good about it, without being depleted afterward. Since electrolytes also ease muscle cramping (Murray, 1996), these minerals are affable companions for runners, swimmers, skiers, cyclists, or even "weekend warriors".

We all need them. Without proper electrolyte intake, we become lethargic and can't quite see the possibilities beyond the couch. Even our minds become listless; studies show that electrolyte depletion can have an affect upon overall mood and depression (PubMed, 2008). Depletion of electrloytes happens with improper diet, physical activity, excessive sweating or vomiting.

Where do I get them?

Electrolyte minerals include potassium, sodium and chloride. Any food that is high in these minerals (especially potassium) is a good source, and should be included more frequently into the diet. Good food sources for potassium are: potatoes, prunes, bananas, raisins, coconut, and blackstrap molasses (Balch, 2003).

Electrolyte drinks are recommended to bring energy before or after exercise. Skip over the commercial ones colored with blue and red dyes. Try these instead:

Alcer ElectroMix - A powdered, fizzing drink mix in small handy pouches that can be tucked neatly into a purse or workout bag. Find it in the supplements section at natural foods stores.

Coconut Juice - One of the best all-natural sources for potassium, coconut juice is becoming quite popular at natural foods stores and can be purchased in 8-12 ounce aceptic packages (perfect for workout bags).

Knudsen ReCharge Sports Drink - This natural drink is made from real fruit juice with supplemental electrolytes; a good alternative to commercial sports drinks with high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors.


Electro Granola - Alison Anton
Store in your car, workout bag or hip pack for a quick "emergency" electrolyte fix...

Banana Nut "Sushi" Rolls - Johanna Healy, Bauman College Natural Chef Student
Not just for kids, these potassium-packed snacks are a perfect on-the-go energy booster before or after a workout...

1. Murray, Michael. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. New York. Three Rivers Press. 1996.
2. Dietary electrolytes are related to mood. PubMed. 2008 May 9:1-8.
3. Balch, Phyllis. Prescription for Dietary Wellness. New York. Avery. 2003.