Tuesday
Jul292014

Tuesday Tea - Road Trip Edition - Bottled Watermelon Mint - Rooibee Red Tea

Tea Description:

Rooibos grows only one place in the world — South Africa. There, rooibos red tea has been revered for generations for its calming and rejuvenating effects — being both high in antioxidants and naturally caffeine-free with an inherently sweet character. We brew small batches of organic Rooibee Red Tea, adding refreshing watermelon and cooling mint to create a red tea so enjoyable, it captured a gold medal at the 2011 North American Tea Championships.

Our certified USDA Organic, all-natural tea is rich in antioxidants, naturally caffeine-free, gluten-free, and contains a full serving of Vitamin C. Yes, we're tooting our own horn, because we think you'll love our tea as much as we do.

Caffeine Content: Caffeine Free

Ingredients:Water, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Rooibos Tea Extract, Gallic Acid Equivalent, Natural Flavor, Organic citric Acid, Organic Ascorbic Acid

Other Information:

Leaf Type: Rooibos (flavored)

Store Locator: Rooibee Red Tea

Review:

I can't believe that July is nearly over and I haven't managed to take a road trip yet. Can anyone tell me where summer has gone? The next thing I know winter will be here and we'll be buried in snow again. I decided last week that summer wouldn't be complete unless my son and I hopped in the car and went somewhere. We took our first road trip together (a massive 2000 mile trek across the US and back) when he was 10 months old and took a slightly shorter trip last year. Since we haven't been out on the lake yet either we decided to hop in the car, leave the husband at home, and drive 11 hours to Lake Norfork near Mountain Home, Arkansas to visit with my family. We've been making the trip down there since I wasn't much older than my son; it's the perfect place to relax and the lake is one of the most quiet I've even been on. While I was wandering through the grocery store the other day stocking up on road trip snacks I stumbled across a brand of bottled tea that I hadn't seen before and thought you might enjoy a road trip review since we haven't had one in awhile. 

There are five flavors of Rooibee Red Tea, but the shelf was practically empty when I came across it, all I was able to take home this time was Watermelon-Mint. As far as bottled teas go, it's one of the best I've come across so far. It didn't have the sour taste that I typically associate with bottled tea due to the large amounts of citric acid that are added to preserve the freshness. This tea was a pleasant surprise in that aspect since I could hardly taste the citric acid at all. Instead I was overwhelmed by the sweetness; this is one sweet tea, but at least it uses real cane sugar and not High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) or another artificial sweetener. I prefer my tea to remain as natural as possible and Rooibee Red Tea does a great job compared to many other brands.

Normally I have a hard time finishing bottled tea, I don't find it that enjoyable, but I didn't have that issue with this bottle. It was sweet, without making my teeth hurt and the watermelon-mint flavor wasn't overwhelming. I could taste the red rooibos underneath the flavoring, a hint of mint, and a fairly believable watermelon flavor. All of the ingredients had a nice balance, although I would have preferred something much less sweet. The level of sweetness comes down to my personal preferences, I don't typically sweeten my tea. At least in this case the extra sugar covers up some of the flavor from the citric acid. I'll take extra sweet over sour any day of the week. Overall this was a really nice bottled tea and I look forward to trying some of the other flavors once Hy-Vee has them back in stock. 

My Rating: 91/100 Want to better understand my rating system? Check out the about tab for more information.

Would I order this again? Yes! This has been one of the best bottled teas I've had a chance to try and if I need to purchase a bottled tea I would definitely consider picking it up again.

Disclosure:

I'd like to be open with my readers and let you know up front when I have been provided something for free to review as it does happen from time to time. In this case, I was not provided with anything from Rooibee Red Tea and paid for this with my own money. As always, all opinions are my own.

Friday
Jul252014

Vanilla Bean Pear Sauce + a Giveaway from OXO Tot #FirstBites

Even though we have a wonderful bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables available at the summer farmers' market I don't typically start canning until the weather cools off. Our home is at the point where all of the appliances need repaired or preferably replaced and the air conditioner is just barely working. Most days I don't bother with it at all, well, unless the flowers are blooming and my allergies can't tolerate the fresh air (I am apparently allergic to anything green.) Thankfully allergy season has passed and we've had an unusually cool summer this year. I've been taking advantage of the chilly nights to replenish our stock of applesauce. My son can put it away like no other food and with several months to go before I typically start canning it I was surprised to find out I was down to my last case. It amazes me how much food an active two year old boy can put away, I wonder some days if he has a hollow leg like his great uncle.

Last week I shared his favorite recipe for Spiced Blueberry Applesauce and the Healthy mini-popsicles I've been making to enjoy during the hot days of summer. This week since pears were on sale I thought I would whip up a batch of my favorite vanilla bean pear sauce. If you happen to have any vanilla beans that you've waited a little too long to use or perhaps someone left the package open on the counter and didn't notice for several weeks (not that I would ever do that) you'll find the beans will quickly dry out and become impossible to work with. Rather than waste these expensive treasures I've found that the best way to rehydrate them is to toss them in the crock-pot on top of some pears or apples. After about an hour you'll find that the pods have rehydrated enough to easily cut and the whole house smells divine. Who needs air fresheners when you've got a batch of vanilla bean pear sauce to make the house smell good!

Because there are so few ingredients in this recipe it's perfect for even the tiniest of tots so in addition to canning instructions I've included small batch freezing instructions. If you've stopped by for my last few posts you may have noticed that I'm working together with OXO Tot as part of their blogger outreach program. They have sent me a wonderful assortment of tools to help make preparing food for my son just a little bit easier, but no other compensation has been given for this post. Today (Friday July 25th) is the last day to enter their giveaway for your own OXO Tots #FirstBites set and Seedling High Chair so check out the giveaway details below.
Crock-Pot Vanilla Bean Pear Sauce 
makes roughly 8 half pints or 4 pints

Ingredients

for canning

8-10 large pears (approximately 5lbs)
1 vanilla bean

This recipe can be scaled to produce a smaller amount that can be frozen for baby

2 large pears
¼ vanilla bean

Equipment

Crock-pot
potato masher, food mill, or food processor

If freezing for baby food:

Ice cube tray or freezer containers
ziploc storage bags 

If canning for the whole family:

water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
8 - 10 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
jar grabber
magnetic lid lifter
funnel 
butter knife
ladle
clean dish towels and cloths 

Directions

  • Thoroughly wash all fruit before beginning, cut away any brown areas, then slice and peel pears. 
  • Open vanilla bean pod with a knife and scrape the insides into the applesauce. Once insides are removed, toss the entire pod in with the apples.
  • Combine all ingredients in the Crock-Pot and cook on high for 3 - 4 hours, or until pears mash easily. You can also puree the pear sauce in with a food mill, blender, or food processor for a finer sauce. If you have scaled this recipe down to freeze, check sauce after 1 hour to see if it has cooked down far enough to mash or run through a food mill. Cooking time for the smaller amount varies widely depending on the size of the crock pot, if it is not ready after 1 hour continue to check ever 30 minutes so the sauce does not overcook.

Boiling Water Canning, including instructions for canning food for baby

North Dakota State University - Fargo Extension Service has a great PDF file for home canning fruit and fruit products. It even supplies processing times for fruit-based baby foods which require a longer processing time than standard fruit sauce recipes. Keep in mind that not all fruits and vegetables are safe for canning when making purees for babies. With the exception of apple and pears sauces it is recommended you not puree the food before canning because processing times have not been determined for safe canning of these items. 

Processing times for this recipe when canning for baby are 20 minutes for elevations of 0-1,000 ft and 25 minutes for elevations of 1,001-6,000 ft. If you are not canning this recipe with the intention of making baby food the processing times are 15 minutes for elevations of 0-2,001 and 20 minutes for elevations of 2,000 ft. 4,000 ft. These times are for half-pints and pints only.
  • While waiting for pear sauce to cook, sterilize your canning jars, rings, potato masher, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the pear sauce. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
  • While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
  • Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
  • Fill sterilized jars with hot pear sauce leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until fingertip tight.
  • Place sealed jars on a rack in the canner or stock pot. Make sure jars are covered with water and that the waterline is about an inch over the top of the jars, then cover pot with lid.

    You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.
     
  • Process half pints and pints for 15 minutes, quarts for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude. See above for processing times for baby food, they are different than standard canning processing times. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.
  • Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. 
  • To check the seals of your jars press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid never reuse an old lid or once the jar is cool, eat the pear sauce. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
  • Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Freezing for Baby

  • Once you have pureed your pear sauce, spoon it into an ice cube tray and cover with plastic wrap. Alternately you can use individual freezer cubes such as these Baby Blocks Freezer Storage Containers from OXO Tot. Place trays into the freezer. 
  • If using ice cube trays transfer frozen cubes to a ziplock bag once they have frozen solid. This will ensure more sanitary storage and help prevent freezer burn.
  • Your frozen baby food will remain fresh for up to 3 months.

Other Notes

Make sure to experiment with the flavors different types of pears will produce. I used d'Anjou because they were on sale last week, but I've also had excellent results with Bartlett pears.

If you're new to canning and want a more in-depth tutorial I highly recommend purchasing the most recent edition of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and Canning. It's full of helpful tips, best practices to follow when canning, and recipes.

Giveaway Information

Friday July 25th is the last day to enter the OXO Tot Giveaway. Make sure to enter below for a chance to win your own a Seedling High Chair and OXO Tot #FirstBites set.

 

 

Disclosure

This posts contains my Amazon affiliate links.  I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Please keep in mind that this is a necessary evil to cover my expenses in running this blog so I can continue to provide you with quality content.

 

Tuesday
Jul222014

Tuesday Tea - Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea - TeaVivre

Tea Description:

Our Nonpareil Huang Shan Mao Feng Green tea is Te Gong grade. Te Gong refers to two Chinese words: 特(tè) and 贡(gòng). 特 is short for 特级, which means the tea's grade is nonpareil; while 贡 is short for 贡品, meaning that the tea was used to be paid as tribute to the emperor.

Beautiful mountains can produce good teas; higher places can engender better aroma. Our Huang Shan Mao Feng is grown in an area between 1200 meters to 1400 meters high, which has proper sunlight and is covered by clouds and mist. Normally green tea is rated based on two solar terms: Qing Ming and Gu Yu. Our Te Gong teas are picked and made before Qing Ming. Fresh tea leaves with one bud and one leaf which are in their early sprout are in the best quality. Through the process of fixation, rolling and drying, the slight curly leaves of Mao Feng teas will be shaped, with green bud hidden in. After brewed, the bud will reveal, looking like a spear while the leaf beside looks like a flag. This is what we called the Qi Qiang (旗枪, qí qiāng) shape.

The proper condition of sunlight and mist in high mountain areas brings the Huang Shan Mao Feng a brisk and fresh flavor, as well as mellow and sweet taste. Grown in high mountain environment makes the tea contain less polyphenol. As a result the tea tastes less bitter or astringent. The high mountain environment also makes the tea leaves thicker. A glass cup is recommended to brew this tea, for you can see clearer of the beautiful green tea leaves.

Other Information:

Leaf Type: Green

Where to Purchase: TeaVivre

Growing Information:
Grown in Shexian(歙县) County, Huanshan City, Anhui Province
Harvest Time: March 28, 2014

Suggested Brewing Tips: 

Serving Size: 3-4 Tablespoons (8g) per 17oz serving

Water Temp:  185°

Steep Time:  3 steeps: 3m, 4m, 5m

TeaVivre also provides brewing instructions for using a 3 oz Gaiwan. In case you aren't familiar with what a Gaiwan is, it is a Chinese lidded bowl used for brewing and drinking tea.

Serving Size: 3g

Water Temp:  176°

Steep Time:  3 steeps: 5s rinse, 30s, 60s, 90s

Review:

Just as I was leaving for France last month Angel from TeaVivre let me know that the new Spring teas were available and offered to send me several to share with you. They came while I was on my trip and since then I've been anxiously awaiting the chance to try them. The first tea that I sampled, Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea, is really something special. It is grown in the high mountains shaded by clouds and mist. The leaves are harvested and processed in the early spring before the Qing Ming harvest in early April. The resulting cup of tea is tender and slightly sweet, much more so than later harvested Mao Feng teas that I've had an opportunity to sample.

The first steep of this tea produces a cup that is very smooth and refreshing with an almost honey-like texture. It has a subtle sweet, slightly grassy flavor with no hint of astringency or dry mouth. The fact that it doesn't produce a dry mouth after tasting it makes it the perfect tea for the long, hot months of summer. As the temperature begins to rise I tend to look for lighter flavored teas that will quench my thirst without leaving me with the dry mouth feel that many other green teas produce. This is one of the few teas that I've tried in the past few weeks that does just that. It produces a very refreshing cup of tea and I could see myself consuming a lot of it this summer.

The second steep of this tea produces much more complex flavors than the first and there is a very noticeable shift in flavors. The sweetness from the first steep is still present, but the flavor begins to edge towards toasted rice rather than grassy. It reminds me somewhat of genmaicha, although the toasted notes aren't nearly as strong. Both the second and third steeps of this tea produce very different results from the first, it is like I am drinking a completely different tea. I have always considered Mao Feng green tea a staple in my cupboard, but I've never had one that quite compares to TeaVivre's Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea.

Before I end my review I did want to mention that TeaVivre is having their 3rd anniversary sale at the end of the month. To start things off they will be giving away a limited number $10 gift cards on July 27th which can be used during the sale. Visit their website for more information about the giveaway and sale, it's the perfect time to try something new or stock up on a few favorites. 

My Rating: 91/100 Want to better understand my rating system? Check out the about tab for more information.

Would I order this again? Yes! The complexity of this tea really appeals to me, I could see it becoming a summer staple in our house.

Disclaimer:

In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that this sample was provided to me free of charge by TeaVivre for my review. As always, all opinions are my own. If you are a company and would like to send me an item for review feel free to drop me an email.