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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Cacao Tea Banana Bread Recipe

I was gifted a sampling of cacao tea to try out. It's funny because I had recently seen something about cacao tea on Instagram just before and was instantly intrigued. The tea is made from the husks (shells) from cacao beans after they've been fermented and roasted. Cacao Tea Co's tea is 100% natural and organic and it contains no caffeine or added sugar. When it came in the mail I couldn't resist giving it a try. I followed their recommendation of brewing 2 tsp of the tea with about a cup of boiling water for 7 mins using a french press.  I was surprised by the strong chocolate smell of the tea and the very light chocolate taste.  I tried it both with and without sugar and I actually preferred it without sugar.

After enjoying the tea in drink form, I decided to try it in a banana bread recipe. I used a double strength brew and longer steep time for the recipe.

Cacao Tea Banana Bread Recipe

2 Cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup strong brewed cacao tea
1.5 sticks butter, softened
1 1/4 Cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp granulated sugar

1. Brew 3/4 cup of strong cacao tea. I used 1 Tbsp Cacao Tea Co tea brewed in 1 Cup boiling water for 15 minutes, drinking 1/4 cup and saving the remaining 3/4 Cup for the recipe. Set 3/4 cup of tea aside and let cool to room temperature.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Grease 5x9 loaf pan and drape wax paper across the pan for a sling and set aside.

4. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside.

5. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas, add room temperature tea, stir until combined and set aside.

4. Beat together softened butter and brown sugar until well incorporated then beat in eggs one at a time until well blended then add vanilla extract

5. Gradually mix in the flour mixture and banana mixture 1/3 at a time, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Be careful not to over mix.

6. Add batter to loaf pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar.  The addition of the granulated sugar gives the top of the bread a nice crispy crust. Bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 mins, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

7. Let cool for 10 mins in pan. Lift bread out of pan using the sling and cool on a wire rack.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Must Grow Tomatoes

It's the beginning of March and that is the time I start my tomato seeds. I love trying new varieties every year, but I always grow a few I've grown before because they are so good that I just have to grow them again. I will be growing 20 varieties this year and these are the 4 I've grown before which have found their way into my 2019 garden plan. 


This is a favorite by many, me included. It has been grown in my garden for many years. It's a beautiful orange/gold color that is super sweet and great for snacking on. It's known as a hybrid but there are some varieties out there that are said to be de-hybridized which allows you to save seeds and grow them year after year without having to buy them.


This is a gigantic Italian paste tomato from my friend, The Modern Day Settler. You can't find this in stores anywhere as it's a family heirloom that has been grown in her family for generations. You don't need very many of these big guys for a batch of tomato sauce. I grew it in 2017 and missed it last year so will be growing it in the garden this year.

Barry's Crazy Cherry 

This is a beautiful yellow cherry tomato I discovered last year from Wild Boar Farms and it's a must have in my garden from now on. It's the most productive tomato variety I've ever seen and it's amazingly sweet too. If you haven't grown it, you must!!  I entered it into the fair last year and it got a 1st place ribbon.

San Marzano

San Marzano is a very popular roma type that is great for sauces. They may not be large but they are great tasting and the skins come off super easy. I've tried a few different roma type tomatoes but didn't purposefully grow this one last year. I let it grow as a volunteer in the onion bed and it was more productive than I had expected though there were still a lot of green tomatoes left on the plant at the end of the season. They ripened up pretty well in the window. Since it did so well last year I decided to grow it again.

In addition to the above I'll also be growing: 
Autumn's Sunrise
Blue Beauty
Blue Cream Berries
Garden Peach
Litt'l Bites Cherry
Matt's Wild Cherry
Mortgage Lifter
Painted Lady
Pink Berkeley Tie Dye
Pink Vernissage
Pork Chop
Tiger Pear

If you have any favorite varieties you grow in your garden every year or have grown multiple times, let me know what they are!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Limoncello Brandied Cherries

I've been wanting to try making brandied cherries for a long time and finally got around to it after picking up some organic Rainier cherries at Costco this year.  There are lots of variations of brandied cherries out there. Most recipes use a simple syrup of sugar and water but I decided to use honey instead. Another unique ingredient I chose to use for my brandied cherries is limoncello. I was originally going to use brandy and bourbon but at the last minute decided on limoncello instead of bourbon. I later picked up some lapin cherries and made a batch of bourbon brandied cherries too. You can really use any liquor you want. You can also play around with different spices like cardamom, allspice, juniper, etc. 

Limoncello Brandied Cherries

1 cup honey (or sugar)
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 whole cloves
1 star anise
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 lb cherries, pitted
1 cup brandy
1/2 cup limoncello

Gently simmer honey, water and spices for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove spices with slotted spoon. Stir pitted cherries and lemon juice into the pan of syrup and return to a simmer until cherries are heated through. You can simmer longer for softer cherries. Stir in the brandy and limoncello. When heated through (do not boil), remove from heat. Use a wide mouth funnel and ladle into clean, sterile glass jars leaving a 1/2" gap from the top of the jar. Tap the jar on the counter to remove air bubbles. Top with clean, sterile canning rings and lids, screwed on lightly. Allow the jars to cool and seal. Tighten the rings of the jars that sealed properly, you will hear a pop and the lid will be sucked down. After the jars are cooled, there should be no give when you press down on the lid if the jar sealed properly. Sealed jars can be stored out of direct sunlight for up to a year. Unsealed jars should be refrigerated and consumed within 2 weeks. Yields approximately 56 ounces.

One of the ways I enjoy the brandied cherries is to top off a cheesecake.

pumpkin cheesecake

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Chili Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Paulas Peach Pain Powdered Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
 I grew so many peppers this year that I've been trying to find all kinds of things to make with them. One of the things I did was dehydrate and grind them into a powder. I grew a couple peach peppers this year that were very productive, Sugar Rush Peach and Jays Peach Ghost Scorpion. I made a peach hot sauce I call Paula's Peach Pain Sauce as well as a peach colored chili powder I call Paula's Peach Pain Powder. I used the peach powder to make these chili roasted pumpkin seeds which are crunchy and spicy, very addicting. You can use any chili powder you'd like for this recipe and make it however hot you want by adjusting the amount of cayenne or other hot powder you decide to use.

Chili Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 tsp salt + 6 cups water
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (thoroughly washed)
1 tbsp olive or coconut oil (melted)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
dash of cayenne (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Bring the salt and water to a boil, add cleaned seeds and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Drain seeds and dry on a paper towel.
4. Put seeds in a small bowl and drizzle with oil.  Stir in the sea salt, garlic powder and all chili powders.
5. Spread seeds on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 30 mins, stirring and turning seeds every 5-10 minutes until lightly browned and crispy.
6. Remove from oven and let cool. Store in an air tight container.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Flavour Bistro

Flavour Bistro Exterior For my 42nd birthday, Mark took me out for dinner at Flavour Bistro, a new restaurant in Duvall. It was previously known as Fall City Bistro which we had been to once before. They moved to Duvall last month and have a new name. They serve a lot of the same dishes they did in Fall City. They pride in making dishes with as much local and organic ingredients as possible and use a lot of Asian ingredients that give the dishes so much flavor.

I'm all about talking on my phone as little as possible so I found that you can make reservations online. They seem to prefer that method as we got complimentary truffle popcorn for making the reservations online. You'll find some interesting things on the menu like kangaroo gyoza and alligator frites but we didn't try any of those. Mark got the Peking breast of duck served with a bing cherry rum sauce and jasmine rice. After reading lots of positive reviews of it, I went with the Togarashi pork shank with braised fennel and sobe noodles. Both were tasty but I preferred my pork. The meat was tender and full of Asian flavors and the meat slid right off the bone.

There was no dessert menu to look at but the menu was given verbally. We decided on the most popular one, "Zongo", which consists of a banana and cheesecake wrapped in a tortilla and deep fried. We also got a surprise birthday dessert as well which Mark ate most of because I wanted the Zongo!

truffle popcorn

Togarashi Pork Shank

Peking Breast of Duck

Dessert Birthday Dessert

Monday, June 12, 2017

Chive Blossom Vinegar

Chive Blossom Vinegar Did you know the blossoms of chives are edible? I have never used them for anything before but last year heard about making chive blossom vinegar and decided I had to give it a try.  I enjoyed it so much that I decided to make it again this year and will most likely continue making it every year. You can also separate out the individual blossoms from the flower ball and use as a garnish. I like adding them to the tops of salads.

Making chive blossom vinegar is one of the easiest things. I got lots of questions about it when I posted it on my social media so I decided I would do a blog post on how I make it.  You can use pretty much any vinegar you'd like but my favorite to use is white wine vinegar.  Several weeks before the blossoms came out, Napolean organic white wine vinegar went on sale at my local PCC Market so I stocked up on it, knowing I'd be needing a lot of it soon. Love the color the chive blossoms give the vinegar. You'll notice the chive blossoms also change color, from light purple to pink. The vinegar makes a great base for salad dressings, which is what I use it for.

Chive Blossom Vinegar Recipe

  • 1 quart glass jar
  • approx 28 ounces white wine vinegar
  • approx 3 cups chive blossoms

1. Harvest chive blossoms that have recently blossomed and put in a bowl with water and swish around to remove any dirt and bugs. Drain the water and pat the blossoms dry or run them through a salad spinner.

2. Pack the chive blossoms 3/4 to the top of a 1 quart glass jar and fill jar to the top with white wine vinegar, or other vinegar of your choice.

3. Cover jar and let sit at room temperature, out of direct sun light, for 2 weeks or longer.

4. Strain the blossoms from the vinegar and pour into original vinegar bottle and store in cupboard and use within 12 months.

Chive Blossoms Chive Vinegar

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Brinsea Maxi II Advance Hatch

Brinsea Maxi Advance IIMy first incubator was the Brinsea Mini Advance. It is a great incubator and have used it for a few hatches but it only holds 7 eggs. I ended up borrowing a Hovabator last Fall for a hatch because they didn't all fit in the Brinsea. I was not a big fan of the Hovabator and decided I needed a model with more capacity. Brinsea recently came out with some new models and decided to get the Brinsea Maxi II Advance. It has all of the same features and settings as the Mini with a few additional bells and whistles.  It holds 14 eggs, has a small vent that can be opened and closed and a reservoir on the outside to allow you to add water without opening the incubator. It also has a much larger viewing area so hopefully will be able to get a better view of the hatching.

I have a small hygrometer in the incubator to keep track of the humidity. I like to keep the humidity around 35% until lock down then will increase it to around 50%. I know some will go with a higher humidity and some even go lower or do what's called a dry incubation where they don't add any water until lock down. I chose to go somewhere in the middle and it has worked well for me in the past.

RIP ShyloMy brother announced he was planning a visit with his girlfriend and daughter and thought it would be fun to do a hatch timed around their visit. I decided to set the eggs on Friday morning so they should start hatching around the time they arrive next month. I lost Shylo, one of my olive eggers to a predator last week and found an egg under her body and decided to put it in the incubator. If it's fertile, the daddy should be a svart hona so it will be interesting to see the result of that cross.

I also added some hatching eggs I got from a couple of local chicken owning friends: 2 olive eggers, 2 olive egger back cross, 3 isbars, 2 silver laced orpingtons and 3 ice cream bars (isbar x cream legbar) for a total of 13 eggs.
Hatching Eggs

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tomato and Pepper Varieties 2017

For the past couple of years I have been blogging about the tomato and pepper varieties I'm growing for the year and every year I seem to grow a little more of them.  Last year it was 22 tomato varieties and 12 pepper varieties. This year I'm also doing 22 tomato varieties but will be growing 13 pepper varieties. I will be putting 3 determinates in the greenhouse, 2 determinates in containers and 1 will go into a hanging basket which is a first for me. The rest will fill up one of my raised garden beds. The Sungold and black cherry are the only two I've grown before. The rest are new for me this year and mostly came from seed swaps.

Here are a couple of pics from last year's varieties.
2016 Large Tomato Varieties 2016 Cherry Tomatoes


Black Cherry - Indeterminate - 65 days - saved seed
Brad's Atomic Grape - Indeterminate - unk days - Wild Boar Farms *new*
Glacier - Determinate - 55 days - seedswap with gratefulseedsaver
Isis Candy Cherry - Indeterminate - 70 days - seedswap with Lisa Russell
Minibel - Dwarf - 65 days - Baker Creek Seeds
Napa Rose - Indeterminate - unk days - Wild Boar Farms *new*
Purple Calabash Cherry - Indeterminate - unk days - seed swap with LL Mcbee
Wapsipinicon Peach - Indeterminate - 80 days - seed swap with Lisa Russell
Sungold (German dehybridized) - Indeterminate - 70 days - saved seed

Ace-55 - Determinate - 80 days - @urbanorganicgardener
Fertunia - Semi-determinate - unk days - Italian tomato seed swap with @themoderndaysettler
Goose Creek - Indeterminate - 75 days - saved seen from Heirloom Tomato Festival
Greek Pinks - Semi-det - unk days - Italian tomato seed swap with @themoderndaysettler
San Marzano - Indeterminate - 80 days - seed swap with @thegreenspatula
Striped Red Cavern - Indeterminate - 80 days - seed swap with LL Mcbee

Aunt Ruby's German Green - Indeterminate - 85 days - seed swap with homegrowngourmet
Azoychka - Indeterminate - 70 days - seed swap with @carmelbellafarm
Black Krim - Indeterminate - 80 days - seed swap with LL Mcbee
Chocolate Stripes - Indeterminate - 80 days - seed swap with LL Mcbee
Gold Medal - Indeterminate - 80 days - seed swap with gratefulseedsaver
Paul Robeson - Indeterminate - 85 days - therustedgarden
Sweet Tangerine - Determinate - 68 days - Hybrid variety seed swap with LL Mcbee

Colors of Peppers
2016 Pepper Harvest


Super Hot ( > 600,000 scoville )
Carolina Reaper - 2.2 mill scoville - seedswap with Jay-rseyshoreGardener
Jay's Peach Ghost Scorpion - 750k scoville) - seedswap with Jay-rseyshoreGardener

Hot ( 10,000 - 600,000 scoville )
Aji Lemon (lemon drop) - 50k scoville - seedswap with Sander van Laarhoven
Brazilian Starfish - 20k scoville - seedswap with Backyardeden
Chocolate Habanero - 400k scoville - seedswap with LL Mcbee
El Oro De Ecuador - 40k scoville - seed swap with Christopher Brandsdal
Sugar Rush Peach - 100k scoville - seedswap with Jay-rseyshoreGardener

Mild/Medium ( < 10,000 scoville )
Cajun Bell - 500 scoville - seedswap with Anita Browne-Kauzlarich
Italian Long Hot - 1k scoville - seedswap with Jay-rseyshoreGardener
Orange Jalapeno - 5k scoville - seedswap with Sander van Laarhoven

Bell ( 0 scoville )
Orange Bell - seed swap with Kathy Pinkas
Purple Beauty Bell - Baker Creek Seeds
Yellow Bell - Big Family Homestead

Check out my Youtube videos to see how I started my tomato and pepper seeds.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hellebore Tea at Lake Wilderness Arboretum

A food blogger conference friend that I kept in touch with on social media posted on Facebook that she was looking for a few more people to join her table at Lake Wilderness Arboretum's annual Hellebore Tea in Maple Valley. I thought it sounded like a fun event so I put me and Mark down for the last two tickets. Not having been before, I wasn't sure what to expect. It turned out to be 95% women and 80% of them wearing a hat of some sort.

Sarah, the table host, mentioned that there was a theme for her table and it was woodland. It sounded like a good table theme. It was mentioned that most people dress up. I'm not a dressy uppy kind of person so I settled on some non-jean pants and a copper/brown shirt which turned out to match the table scape pretty well. I also put on some jewelry which I rarely wear. I have a pine cone necklace that I thought went perfectly with the theme. The table was decorated with copper tea mugs, squirrels, acorns and chopped wood for tea and kettle coasters.
Woodland Squirrel

There were a couple of contests at the event, one for the best decorated table and one for the best hat. I didn't realize there would be a hat contest even though it said there would be right on the ticket. Needless to say, I didn't wear a hat but enjoyed all the hats everyone else was wearing. One of the tables next to ours had a chicken theme and everyone at the table had hats with nests, eggs and chicks adorning them. The funniest hat I saw was a lady with tea bags dangling from her hat. She ended up winning one of the prizes as did Shauntá at our table who wore an elegant hat with feathers from her chickens in it.
tea hats

This event was actually a fundraiser to benefit the Lake Wilderness Arboretum. There was a silent auction and a plant sale. Unfortunately we didn't come home with any auction items or plants but we enjoyed the event and all the cookies, crackers, pastries and snacks that accompanied the tea.
. Plant Sale

Monday, January 16, 2017

Hard Wok Cafe

The Hard Wok Cafe opened a location in Bellevue last summer after many successful years in Seattle's International District. They serve Taiwanese cuisine, not a cuisine I'm very familiar with. I can only recall one other Taiwanese restaurant that I've been to, Facing East, which I also blogged about three years ago. It's hard to make a comparison between the two because it's been so long.

I may have been the only non-Asian in the restaurant which is always a good sign the food is good. I shared lunch with 4 other women from work. Most of them are Taiwanese and familiar with all the food on the menu and speak the language too. I did a little preparation before lunch, reading reviews to see what's good and what's not. This restaurant seemed to be most well known for their honey toast dessert. More about that in a bit. The dish I had in mind to order was the Ban-Uan, a pork dumpling that seemed to have good reviews. We all looked at the menu together and picked out 8 dishes to share. I will say it's good to go with people who speak/read the language and are familiar with the food because you don't always know what you're getting by just looking at the menu. For example, what's listed as rice cake with peanut powder also contains pig blood which some people may not be comfortable with. Luckily, I was warned in advance by someone at the table.

The food was ordered in, I'm guessing Mandarin, something I couldn't comprehend. Turns out the dish I was wanting ended up being not available so they switched it out for something else and I had no idea what until it arrived at the table.

The food came out a few dishes at a time. The first two arrivals were veggies. The greens are a Taiwanese lettuce known as A-Choy which seemed to taste similar to bok choy. There was no sauce or spices in the sauté so was not all that impressed with the flavor. The other dish that came out was a more flavorful Vietnamese pickled cabbage. It didn't taste like normal pickled veggies so they must have used some kind of Taiwanese vinegar and spices. I enjoyed the cabbage much more than the greens.

A-choy Taiwanese Lettuce Pickled Cabbage

The next dish that came out was the surprise replacement for the Ban-Uan I had originally wanted. We ended up getting rice flour turnips (Uann-Quei) in its place. This ended up being my favorite dish (not including dessert) of the meal. I tried to google the dish to see if I could get more info on what is in it but I didn't have any luck. The Taiwanese name for it is 碗粿 which I also googled and it seems more results came up but of course I couldn't understand any of them. The other meat dish that arrived was a pork sausage wrapped in sticky rice sausage.  I can't say that I've ever had a sausage wrapped in another sausage before.  The pork sausage was quite tasty but I wasn't very impressed with the sticky rice sausage. The texture was kind of gummy and didn't have much flavor. It was also not that easy to split among 5 people.

Rice Flour Turnips Uann-Quei Pork sausage wrapped in sticky rice sausage

The next dish that came out was the scary porks blood dish. I don't think I've had anything with pork blood in it before. I'm told the blood has to be super fresh in order to make this dish. We cut it up into 8 pieces and I ate one. It didn't taste bloody or anything. I wouldn't have guessed it had that as an ingredient. It wasn't my favorite dish but it wasn't too bad either. The crispy roll was probably my second favorite dish (not including dessert). It was slightly sweet and reminded me of a fresh pretzel, without the salt. The crust was nice and crispy while the center was soft just like a pretzel. If you've never had a fresh baked pretzel you are missing out!

Rice Cake with Peanut Powder Crispy Golden Roll

The last two dishes had the largest portion size. I read about the fried pork chops on Yelp and remembered seeing mixed reviews. One person said that it didn't taste like pork at all. I'm not sure what they did to the pork but it was super tender and is probably why that person thought it didn't taste like pork. It was seasoned well and was my 3rd favorite (not including dessert).

This brings me to dessert, what the restaurant is most well known for. Be sure to order your dessert early because it takes 15-20 minutes to make the beautiful and elegant honey toast! There are a few different toppings to choose from and we went with the matcha (green tea) and red bean topping. This dessert is huge, you need a party of 5 to even attempt the dessert unless all you order is dessert. I think it would actually make a pretty good brunch meal. I came across a video showing how they make the dessert. Basically they take a loaf of bread, cut out the insides, cut the insides into squares, slather it all with butter and toast it in an oven. The toasted squares are put back into the box and the toppings are added: ice cream, frosting, fruit, chocolate, cocoa chips and other toppings depending on which one you order. In case you couldn't tell, dessert was my favorite. I want to go back and try them all!

fried pork chops honey toast

Bellevue: 667 156th Ave SE
Seattle: 1207 S Jackson St
Hard Wok Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato