The Tea Explorations: Snooze

Alyssa Wright reviews Snooze tea by Teapigs, a before-bed tea made of chamomile, lavender, and apple.

Like my Coffee Explorations series, this post is not sponsored. I have a referral link for Sips by, but I’m not creating this post as an advertisement.

Last month I signed up for a tea subscription service called Sips by. I realized too late I could write about the teas I received, so here we are with my March box. I’m also making a video of making and trying the teas, which I’ll embed once it’s complete.
Yesterday I wrote about Assam black tea.

Last night before bed, I tried Snooze by Teapigs. It’s a mixture of chamomile, lavender, and apples, intended to be relaxing to help you unwind before bed.

The tea sachet was very intriguing to me. It has flecks of lavender and chamomile as well as tiny cubes of dried apple.

The first thing I noticed was that it’s very light colored. That surprised me and made me think it didn’t steep properly until I bobbed the tea bag a few times and it didn’t change. It’s lighter even than white tea, which has a faint yellow color. This is more a translucent cream color.

With the first sip I noticed a light but pleasant flavor. I couldn’t tell if or how sweet it was on it’s own from the apples because of the temperature. I added a tiny bit of stevia, far less even than a half teaspoon. That seemed perfect. The tea is light enough that more sweetener would have overpowered it by a margin. I could taste the stevia pretty well, especially compared to the Assam black tea.

I wasn’t sure at first how well I liked it, but as I drank my cup I decided that chamomile, lavender, and apple mix well. It almost had a lemony element to the flavor, even without any lemon in it. It has a lighter flavor than just chamomile tea, pleasant addition of some lavender, and a tiny hint of lemony-apple.

I don’t think it’s as good as Bigelow Sweet Dreams, which is chamomile and mint, but it’s still enjoyable.

I think the flavor of stevia did not quite fit into the tea. Tonight I will try it without stevia, maybe with honey or nothing at all. I have quite the sweet tooth, so I almost never like unsweet tea, but this had a flavor profile that lends itself to be unsweet.

If you want to go on your own tea exploration, I recommend Sips by! It’s a really fun tea subscription and they send quality teas. You take a short quiz about your preferences, then you rate the teas you get so they can tailor your box. If you have dietary restrictions, you specify those. All the teas I get from Sips by are vegan. I can’t guarantee anything else about them. If you join with my referral link, by clicking any of the mentions of Sips by, you can get $5 off your first box!

The Tea Explorations: Assam Black Tea

Alyssa Wright reviews Assam black tea from OLLT Co and discusses Sips by.

Like my Coffee Explorations series, this post is not sponsored.

Last month I signed up for a tea subscription service called Sips by. I realized too late I could write about the teas I received, so here we are with my March box. I’m also making a video of making and trying the teas, which I’ll embed once it’s complete.

I’m drinking the first of my four teas today. It’s a loose-leaf, organic Assam black tea by OLLT Co. I steeped it for five minutes and added 1 tsp stevia and a splash of milk. It’s grown in Assam, India, in a tropical region with heavy rainfall.

It is super delicious! I love black tea, especially chai, and this is no exception. It’s really smooth and takes to the sweetness of the stevia really well. It has an earthy flavor to it, almost like the essence of chocolate without the actual chocolate. Does that make sense? I can’t even tell.

All in all, it’s really amazing tea! I definitely recommend it. This is probably the best tea I’ve had in a long while. The next would be Bigelow vanilla chai.

I also recommend Sips by! It’s a really fun tea subscription and they send quality teas. You take a short quiz about your preferences, then you rate the teas you get so they can tailor your box. If you have dietary restrictions, you specify those. All the teas I get from Sips by are vegan. I can’t guarantee anything else about them. If you join with my referral link, by clicking any of the mentions of Sips by, you can get $5 off your first box!

Vegetarian in a Meat-Centric Household

Alyssa Wright shares some of the changes in her relationship to eating out and cooking at home since becoming vegetarian.

My family loves meat. For the longest time, I loved meat. My family has even raised animals to eat them. We’ve gone hunting for deer and squirrels. We processed deer, rabbits, and fish in our kitchen and ducks in our backyard. My dad helped a friend process his chickens. We buy half a cow or pig on a regular basis.

And then I changed my mind. I decided I had some disagreements with eating meat, so instead of ruminating over it for ages, I committed to quit. I’ve talked openly about having meat after changing my mind. It’s only been almost three months. Here’s a few of the aspects of changing my diet I hadn’t anticipated.

Fast Food/Eating Out

I eat a lot of Panera Bread. A lot. Almost every day that I work, I buy food. I had a lot of variety in what I chose from the menu before. Now I tend to pick from the same small selection of items. The caprese sandwich, the BBQ mac n cheese with avocado instead of chicken, the Mediterranean veggie sandwich, or the southwest chili lime salad with avocado instead of chicken. Almost every time, I order one of those.

As for other places, most of the ones near me are burgers, like McDonalds or Wendy’s or Burger King or Culver’s. I don’t crave burgers at all anymore, and I haven’t even wanted to go get fries or icecream there either. I’ve gone to Chipotle once, a Chinese place twice, and Taco Bell twice, but those have vegetarian main dish options other than just salad.

Cooking at Home

I knew we ate a lot of meat at my house. What I hadn’t expected was how much more time I would spend cooking. Whereas before I cooked dinner for the family once a week and made myself lunch sometimes depending on the leftovers, now I cook nearly every day. Most of the time, there are no vegetable leftovers or very little. So I can’t base my meals off leftovers, I have to make something. I’ve bought some of my own food the last couple months and learned a little about just how expensive it is.

I’ve had a lot of fun with food since becoming vegetarian. I had viewed it as restrictive, coming from a meat-centric perspective, but it’s actually not. I have to pay more attention to what I’m eating, yes, but it’s encouraged experimentation and a playfulness that I hadn’t fully tapped into before. I created a soup without a recipe when I had a cold in place of chicken noodle soup. I had fun making that soup, experimenting with the basic cooking principles I had learned in the past. I took a favorite recipe of mine, Serbian mussaka, and tried it with black beans. I had the vegetable ratios off, but it worked. I never would have thought to try making it with black beans at all if I hadn’t become vegetarian.


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Have you tried any different diets before? What surprised you the most? Let me know in the comments!

Vegan “Not Chicken” Noodle Soup

I’m currently coming down with a cold. I didn’t want to buy the (amazing) chicken noodle soup from Panera Bread, because I committed to not eating meat. So, I created my own recipe for “Not Chicken” Noodle Soup for the same purpose that chicken noodle soup would serve. It’s vegan, but I didn’t set out to make the recipe so.

Feel free to adjust the spice quantities to your preferences. The garlic, ginger, cayenne, turmeric, and lemon/lime were selected for their antioxidant qualities that will help soothe sore throats and recover from a cold.

Ingredients:
1 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp crushed ginger (I used a squeeze bottle)
3 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp lime juice OR lemon juice
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, sliced in 1/8″ pieces
1/2 orange bell pepper, diced (or other color bell pepper)
3/4 c shredded carrot or equivalent diced carrot
1 can peas, drained
3-5 mushrooms, sliced, or small can of mushrooms, drained
1 serving saifun bean threads, broken or chopped into small pieces
3 c vegetable broth
1 c water

Prep is ~15 minutes, cook time is ~30 minutes.
Instructions:
1. Melt coconut oil in a large 4-6 qt pot. Stir in spices, onion, celery, and bell pepper. Simmer until the onion is translucent.
2. Add lime/lemon juice, carrot, and broth. Bring heat to a boil. Cook until celery, bell pepper, and carrots are soft to your liking. If you’re using fresh mushrooms, add them now too.
3. Reduce heat to medium, add canned mushrooms, peas, and bean threads. Stir to combine.
4. Continue cooking until bean threads are translucent and peas are heated through.
5. Serve and enjoy!

This isn’t usually a food blog, but I hope you enjoy this recipe!
I find it delicious, which is good cause I’ll be eating it a lot the next few days.

Newly Vegetarian: My First Week

For the last week, I haven’t eaten meat. The last time I had meat was for lunch on Monday December 3rd.

I decided to stop eating meat while writing An Informal Discussion of the Ethics of Eating Meat for Over the Invisible Wall. My research included an article about fish and fishing and a video of a vegan’s thought-provoking speech on eating meat. I did more research on the meat industry.

Monday night and Tuesday I hadn’t fully committed. I thought I would try it or eat a lot less meat. I was eating vegetarian, but thought I would eat meat Wednesday night. I managed to abstain from meat, including bacon. Bacon was the biggest temptation. My grandma offered me bacon on Monday and my parents made bacon on Tuesday. I almost caved. Almost.

Wednesday I thought I’d have a small amount of meat for dinner. I was ready to commit to eating significantly less meat, but was still debating if I’d have any meat. That night I found I didn’t want to eat the chicken. That surprised me. I’d expected it to take longer for me to be disinterested in meat. I was definitely not disinterested in the leftover bacon in the fridge, but I didn’t want the chicken I’d made.

Thursday was harder than anticipated. It was my first day back at work since I’d stopped eating meat. I thought Panera would be easy because there’s a lot of various options. How wrong I was! While making people’s food, I remembered how much I love the chipotle chicken avocado melt and the Cuban panini… and bacon. I was reminded of my love for bacon countless times. I told myself, “Bacon is the enemy,” and laughed at myself for that. I also realized only two of the soups are vegetarian and I don’t really like one of them. I still managed to not order anything with meat.

Friday was the best of the first four days. I had fewer problems with feeling hungry and had an easier time abstaining from meat. I talked with Julianna Carbonare, a member of my Praxis cohort who has been vegetarian and vegan, about my problem with hunger. She suggested that I need more protein, so I made an effort to increase my protein intake. I had eggs twice, for breakfast and lunch. I discovered that the green passion smoothie at Panera is fantastic with basil.

Saturday I had thought out what I’d eat ahead of time. I learned that Culver’s, a burger place, surprisingly has a vegetarian soup and a few salads. At this point, it was already getting easier and feeling more natural to not eat meat. I did not want it, and only craved bacon a few times while at work. I had a better understanding of how much I needed to eat throughout the day to not feel ravenously hungry.

By the end of the week (only a week!) it felt natural. I never thought I would ever be vegetarian, but now I am.

Throughout the week I talked a lot with my friend Justine about food and eating vegetarian. She shared the information she had and suggested some food ideas. At her recommendation, I bought a few vegetarian canned soups from the brand Amy’s. I picked out some other soups while browsing. I made overnight oats Friday night and they lasted through Monday morning. I made protein “cookies” for a portable, filling snack early in the week. That first batch had a grainy texture that didn’t feel like a cookie, but the taste was good. I made another batch Monday morning before work. I didn’t follow a recipe or write down how I made them, just combined ingredients based on my knowledge of baking in general and cookies more specifically. They turned out better this time, but they were a bit crispier than I intended.

I’ve had to be more conscious of what I’m eating and putting in my body. I pay attention to foods that contain protein, because that helps stave off hunger between meals. I did some research to make this easier and now have a list of 36 plants or plant based foods that contain protein.

It’s been difficult starting out, but I feel good about what I’m eating and that I’m not harming animals.

The Coffee Explorations: Cameron’s Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend

I bought a French press a few months ago and want to figure out what kind of coffee I like best because we only had an espresso maker at my house before. It might be interesting later for me to look back and see what I thought about various coffees while I was drinking them for the first time. For those of you who also love coffee, you might enjoy this post as well. I also wrote about Starbucks Sumatra, the Papa Nicholas House Roast, the Papa Nicholas Hawaiian Roast, and Sam’s Choice Mandheling Sumatra.

We’re not out of the Manheling Sumatra yet, but I wanted to try the coffee I bought about a week ago. I was at the last of the Hawaiian Roast and the Sumatra is low, so new coffee!

Image result for cameron's specialty coffee jamaicaAt Walmart, a few choices caught my eye. One brand was called Mash Ups and featured combination blends. That seemed exciting, but I didn’t know what the pieces tasted like separately. I continued browsing, and eventually chose the Cameron’s Specialty Coffee Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend.

This morning I eagerly opened the bag, and contemplatively inhaled the scent of the grounds. They smell dark and rich and earthy.

After letting it steep in boiled water in my French press for about six minutes, I poured half into my mug. I stirred in stevia and heavy whipping cream to my liking.

That first, glorious sip: It has a really smooth, light taste, and it feels light and almost airy in my mouth. It has the usual hallmark of coffee, of course, but wow! This one is really good!

I’m amazed at how different the varieties of coffee really are. This is altogether a different experience than the Sumatras or other blends I’ve tried.

The bag of grounds was between five and six dollars.

I give this coffee a 9/10 for a great price and a fantastic experience!

First Day Back at Panera

I made the choice to return to Panera Bread and my old and new coworkers. Today was my first day back, in shiny new non-slip shoes.

A couple things changed since I was there last: The panini presses were replaced with stone grills similar to the toaster in Subway. But with fancy stone and pizza-oven-like paddles for pulling sandwiches out of them. New food items!

I was looking forward to my favorite sandwich from last fall, the turkey cranberry flatbread. I was so excited about getting to eat it again, only to find out that it isn’t on the menu! We do have a new ham sandwich and a new Cuban sandwich. I haven’t tried the ham sandwich yet. I had the Cuban sandwich with extra slices of the sweet and spicy pickles for dinner, and it was really good! The garlic mustard and the delayed effect of the pickles paired with ham, pulled pork, and Swiss cheese was delicious!

Talking about the menu items makes me think of an idea for a blog post or several. Working at Panera, I’ve learned the ins and outs of the ingredients as well as what flavor combinations pair well together, and delicious modifications to the regular items. If you’d like a guide to the menu, what I like, how I modify it and why, comment below! I’d love to know you’re interested.

I learned how to make the new sandwiches and use and clean the new grills. I also noticed problems with how some of the new people are doing their work and plan to set an example to work on improving things.

The problems:

(1) The mid-shifters weren’t flipping pans every day. We’re supposed to get new pans and move the ingredients from their current pans into the new pans and make sure they have a current label telling when they expire. I made sure all the pans were flipped today, and I will continue doing that everyday I work.

(2) No one marked when the grills were cleaned. After my coworker and I cleaned the grills, I wrote in the little box for Thursday “Both” so the closer tomorrow knows both grills were cleaned. The boxes for earlier in the week are all empty. Hopefully other people will start marking when and which grill they clean.

(3) No one else takes all the supports in the bars to be cleaned. When we close, we put all the pans in the bar into the pull-out refrigerated drawers beneath the bar. I take out all the supports, including the four on the outside edges, to the dishwasher to be cleaned. When I asked the dishwasher if he’d rinse the long bars for me, he said he could, but no one had ever done that before. I plan to suggest to the other workers that they do that as well to improve the cleanliness of the bars.

I had a great first day back at Panera, and I’m sure I’ll have a great day tomorrow too!

Comment below if you’d like a post about the Panera menu items and what your favorite menu item is!

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