Enjoying the Simple Pleasures of Life, While Living in a Complicated World

Food Sources in the Midwest

A Tea Story~Enjoying A Cuppa of Teavana


Today, I brewed a pot of Teavana’s ‘Peach Tranquility’ and paired it with a lovely slice of panettone from Trader Joes…Tea time delight! The light, buttery texture and citrus flavors complimented the tea perfectly.

A visit to Teavana has been on my ‘To-Do’ list for quite some time. Searching for new sources of tea is a favorite past time of mine and the prospect of tasting new teas is something I look forward to.

My first impression entering the shop was: immaculately clean, well-organized, uncluttered and  displays were attractive and polished. My eyes were drawn to the cast iron tea pots, especially, the blue teapot with birds  circling the outside. I learned the inside is enameled, making  for easy cleaning. My main reason for considering purchasing an iron teapot that costs nearly $100 dollars?  Breakage. I wouldn’t have to replace it due to breakage, hairline cracks and chipping that china, porcelain and earthenware teapots are susceptible to from normal use. However, I did purchase one of their unique, Perfectea Maker teapots that does NOT pour from a spout. You place it over your cup and it pours perfectly strained tea from the underside of the teapot.

The staff: well trained and VERY informative. I was given a tour by a host, and as I asked lots of questions, was provided with knowledgable answers. There is a daily ‘tea du jour’ available for sampling, along with their version of ‘sugar’ was a delightful feature.

After my host gave me a tour of the store, I was directed to the counter overlooking an entire wall of tea. There were so many categories of tea, I was a bit overwhelmed where to begin. Thankfully, the store was not busy at the time of my visit, so I could take my time and not feel hurried as my host took me through the different categories. I was impressed I could see and smell each tea I requested. The assortment was dizzying to keep track of, and  even though I had quite a good idea what I wanted to bring home and sample…I was intrigued by the variety flavored teas. In the end, I chose quite a variety to bring home consisting of: flavored, herbal, green, white and black teas.

One suggestion: Visit Teavana’s website (www.teavana.com) before visiting one of their stores.

Now about price: Teavana teas are a bit pricey, compared to other tea suppliers, like Harney & Sons. However, you can see and smell teas before you buy them and have your questions answered on the spot. Another plus: you can re-brew a pot of tea several  times in succession without losing flavor.


Forgoing purchasing tea tins, I placed all of the teas in canning jars and transferred the labels when I arrived home. I was excited to use Teavana’s Perfectea Maker for the first time, and have to admit, it’s ingenious design makes brewing and straining a pot of loose tea, simple and easy.


In the morning, ‘Oprah Chai’ is a favorite of mine and delightful anytime during the day. Herbal teas are very soothing in the evening. Black teas are refreshing and flavored teas add wonderful variety to tea time. It’s a bit of a culinary adventure pairing flavored teas with different desserts to experience new taste sensations.

Visiting Teavana is a pleasant tea adventure! If you’re a first time customer….Visit their website (write down a list of teas you’d like to see) and plan your visit to a store. Find a time when the store is not busy so you can take your time, ask plenty of questions and peruse the wall of tea at your leisure. Most of all, have fun! XO Annie





It’s French Press Friday

~Coffee Heaven, In a Cup~

I love tea & french press coffee. I write about tea, and photograph desserts, china and all things related to the wonderful qualities that are present in each cup of this marvelous brew. However, each and every Friday, is dedicated to drinking & serving french press coffee.

A few weeks ago, my Bunn coffeemaker finally brewed it’s last pot of coffee and I decided to not replace it. That’s correct…NOT replace it. Not only does it take up counter-space, it’s most positive feature is that it makes a pot of coffee for more than 3 or 4 people. From now on,  I’m making french press whenever I want a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. Today… it’s ‘French Press Friday’, (to be perfectly candid, I use my press anytime during the week) and I’m  enjoying several cups of perfectly brewed coffee as I check my email, blogs, and begin editing photographs depicting desserts and tea. I love the irony….

Here’s today’s french press photograph~ a Spode ‘Blue Room’ cup and saucer, filled with medium roast, french press coffee and accompanied by a yummy eccles cake!

So today…share a cup of this full-bodied, smooth coffee with someone you love.
I hope you have a lovely Friday, and the goodness continues on into the weekend!

Marinated & Butterflied~ Grilled Chicken

This is a wonderful easy way to grill chicken that gives you moist, flavorful and evenly cooked whole chicken. The secret is butterflying the whole chicken before marinating and grilling.

~Marinated & Butterflied Grilled Whole Chicken~
Serves 4

1 3-4 pound whole, frying chicken
Trader Joe’s Soyaki Sauce or your favorite marinade

Prepare butterflied chicken by removing neck and giblets, and taking kitchen scissors and cutting down both sides of spine and remove, along with fatty deposits and tail. With your fingers, remove rib cage and breast bone. Place skin down in pan.
Pour marinade over chicken, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 6-12 hours, or overnight.

When chicken has marinated for at least 4 hours, prepare charcoal, and when coals are white-hot, move coals to one side of the grill. Next, oil the grill by dipping a folded paper towel in olive oil. With long-handled tongs, go over grill generously with oil to prevent chicken from sticking.

Place marinated chicken skin-side down, on the side of the grill, away from the coals. Cover grill and cook for 20-25 minutes. Turn chicken and grill for another 20-25 minutes, or until done.

When chicken both sides have reached doneness, remove from the grill to a pan. Cover with aluminum foil, and let stand 8 minutes.

Slice chicken into pieces and serve! I’ve found this chicken has wonderful flavor and is very moist. Grill two chickens in this manner, and you’ll have enough to serve for the next day! Enjoy!

Recipe Repost~Summer Sweet Corn,Tomato & Black Bean Salad

When fresh, sweet corn becomes available, this salad is the perfect meal for a warm summer day!

Fresh Summer Sweet Corn,Tomato & Black Bean Salad

Makes 6 servings

5 cups sweet corn kernels, from 7 to 8 medium cobs
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 10-ounce container cherry or pear tomatoes, halved or
3-4 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, small dice
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 – 2 cups freshly cooked (and cooled) or canned black beans
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional)

1. Prepare an ice water bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice and water; set aside. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add corn kernels and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and place in the ice water bath until cool, about 4 minutes.

2. Combine lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a large nonreactive bowl. While continuously whisking, add oil in a steady stream until completely incorporated. Add about 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar-optional. Add remaining ingredients and cooled corn and toss until well coated. Serve.

Note: you can make this salad up to 4 hours ahead to have all of the flavors blend together

Great Kitchen Tool~Ole’s Bar Remover

Several years ago, we went for a drive in the beautiful Wisconsin landscape and came to a small town, Woodville, (about 35 minutes from the Twin Cities) located north of I-94 and east of Baldwin. Woodville, is a quaint town off the beaten path, where we discovered a lovely shop that caught our attention, simply by it’s name.

Photograph courtesy of: http://www.lenole.com

Lena & Ole’s Gifts
~Scandinavian Imports and Unique Gifts~

Inside, we met the owners, Lane & Julie, and discovered their store has unique items and Scandinavian imports. One of the great aspects of Scandinavian culture is a history of baking, and they carry one of the most useful tools I have had in my kitchen for the last several years: a stainless steel bar remover with an incredible price tag of $3.99. Stop by the store, or give them a call; they’ll be happy to ship one out to you! I’ve never found another spatula like this, in any store or online. However, it’s available at Lena & Ole’s.

Photograph by Mariann Hayes

If you find removing the first bar from a pan: lemon bar, brownie, apple bar a challenge; serving a small teacake or canape too small for a large spatula and you don’t want to use your fingers…you’ll find this hand-sized wonder invaluable! It’s sturdy and very flexible, leaving your first piece of dessert looking as perfect as the last piece. When you’re finished serving up your confections, you can soak it in hot soapy water, even if it’s covered with your gooiest creations and not have worry about rust, as with other metal spatulas.

To get your own Ole’s Bar Remover... get one ordered as soon as possible.

Recently, I contacted Julie and sadly learned they will be closing their store August 6th, to pursue their retirement dreams of travel. While we will miss them… they will be visiting kitchen and home shows around the United States. Also, good news! Ole’s Bar Remover will still be available through their website.

Chocolate Torte

A beautiful chocolate torte from Bread Art Bakery in Bayport, MN

Triple Chocolate Raspberry Torte From Bread Art Bakery

This weekend, we stopped at Bread Art Bakery in Bayport, Minnesota and picked up a very special torte~Triple Chocolate Raspberry Torte.

Perfect for special occasions, it’s a luscious dessert to serve with coffee or tea.  Chocolate heaven in the form of three layers of rich chocolate cake topped with raspberry fruit spread, wrapped in a silken, decadent ganache~is an elegant confection that melts in your mouth. This is a delight to serve friends and family, and it’s pure dessert bliss!

Penzeys~ A Wonderful Source for Herbs & Spices


Catalog available or order online
Find a Penzeys store

One of the most enjoyable aspects of cooking is incorporating herbs & spices into foods and meals. However, finding good quality spices can be a challenge if you want to look outside of the spice aisle in your local grocery store.

Penzeys Spices is a Midwestern company based in Wisconsin, has stores throughout the United States, as well as, a catalog for ordering online or through their toll free number: 1-800-741-7787.

I love their catalog!

In the Twin Cities, Penzeys has stores located in:
Lakeville, St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Fresh Produce in Minnesota During Winter

Are you looking for fresh produce during winter in Minnesota?

Here’s a great resource!



www.frewines.com~for alcohol free wines

For all my friends who prefer to cook without alcohol…