Blending with Tea: Three Smoothies!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any healthy recipes, but these were much needed. After a highly emotional weekend with ample occasions of eating my feelings, my body was in desperate need of something fresh! Plus, I had a full container of kiwis left from some kombucha I flavored last week that were desperately calling to be utilized (ha– I really do sound like a healthy blogger this week!)

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When I say I ate my feelings, though, I’m not referring to a nice indulgent dessert, a proper “treat yourself” evening. I’m talking about pajamas, ugly crying, graham crackers and tub frosting. That’s exactly what my roommate and I experienced on Friday–it was the night our other roommate Allie, our best friend, got married. We’d spent the entire day with her and her mom, helping her prepare for the ceremony and assembling the bouquet and doing whatever else needed to be done. It was such a sweet day, and we were both incredibly thankful to have been a part of it. I’ve blogged in the past about the preparation for Allie’s wedding day: it had been a long time in the making, and I was fortunate enough to watch every step leading up to it. I was sitting with Allie on her living room floor when she initially told me about some guy named Kenny she really wanted to get to know. I was there the night she sent her first text, helping her engineer the perfect message before she hit send. She’d come over to my apartment to figure out what to wear on their first date, and I’d enjoyed dinner with them minutes before he proposed. I watched them get to know each other, fall in love, and make the decision to spend their lives growing in that love for each other and for Christ. My best friend, the one who used to giggle with me about crushes over sushi and Disney movies, became a wife this weekend.

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So, needless to say, after tearfully watching our best friend drive away from our porch and into her new chapter of life that night, Annie and I couldn’t race to the pantry fast enough.

Our recovery time wasn’t long, though, because after staying in an Airbnb for a night, the newlyweds returned just in time for us to drive them to the airport and say goodbye–for good. They were heading off on their honeymoon and then directly to California for the summer. I struggled to hold it together during the car ride, Allie’s arm tightly around my shoulders in the backseat. I became frustrated with my own mind, which decided to eagerly bring back every wonderful memory I’d ever shared with her to add to the sting of the occasion. We all laughed and chatted, filling up any silence that arose or tears that threatened to arrive early. When Annie asked what airline they were flying, I felt an emptiness unfold in my stomach with the realization that it was actually happening. She gathered her bags as the car came to a stop and picked the perfect airport mask. I followed her out onto the sidewalk, and the four of us tallied up their luggage before initiating the inevitably lengthy series of hugs: Allie and me, Annie and Kenny, me and Kenny, Allie and Annie, Allie and Annie and me, all four of us.

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You can always tell when it’s the last one, though. I’ve experienced enough goodbyes to know the feeling–the hug that’s just a little bit tighter and a little bit longer, the one that has to make up for all the hugs you suddenly realize you won’t have after it. Well, we eventually got to that hug, Allie and me. Another thing about goodbyes is that they instantly make you aware, in one moment, of everything you wish you had said or could say now to someone, all at the same time. As I hugged her, I wished that I would have told Allie more often how her friendship is the deepest I’ve ever experienced outside of family. How she challenges me, loves me, cares for me, and teaches me more than I could ever explain. How I have such admiration for her pursuit of the Lord, her heart for the  students she works with, her selflessness. How she cried with me and laughed with me and held me through my lowest moments. How she doesn’t have even a fraction of an idea just how beautiful she is. How, regardless of where our lives take us, I’ll never forget the experiences we walked through together throughout these last four years. IMG_3266

But I couldn’t say anything in the moment, let alone all of that. Instead we both said a lot of I love you’s, blinked through our soaked eyelashes, and finally stepped apart. As I watched her walk towards the airport, away from me and Annie and a pretty hefty chapter of our lives, my heart felt just about as heavy as I’d expected. When she finally turned her gaze away, though, Allie grabbed Kenny’s arm and dropped her head onto his shoulder; and even though that painfully symbolic gesture could have felt like salt in the wound of our goodbye, it didn’t. Kenny is the reason that I was able to make it through this weekend. Allie didn’t walk away from us on her own that afternoon–she walked away clinging to a person who adores her, who loves her unconditionally, who I know without a doubt will build a life with her rooted in faith and loyalty. What more could I ask for my best friend?IMG_3211

And while that doesn’t negate the need for frosting and graham crackers, it does reassure me that, through the sadness, everything really is going to be okay. For all of those tackling goodbyes in an already difficult time, I feel for you. Know that no amount of devastation can steal your sweet memories (or your sweet frosting 🙂 ).

 

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

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Tea Smoothies!

Ingredients

KIWI MINT SMOOTHIE

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 mint tea bag (I used Twinings green mint)
  • 2 kiwis, peeled, chopped and frozen
  • 1 packet stevia
  • 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt (frozen in ice cube trays for a frozen smoothie)

BLUEBERRY PASSION SMOOTHIE

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP almond milk
  • 1 Tazo “Passion” tea bag
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 packet stevia
  • 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt (frozen in ice cube trays for a frozen smoothie)

LOADED BERRY SMOOTHIE

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP almond milk
  • 1 Trader Joe’s “Berries and Cherries” tea bag
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 packet stevia
  • 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt (frozen in ice cube trays for a frozen smoothie)

Instructions

  1. Heat the almond milk, add the tea bag, and allow to steep until milk is cold. Squeeze out tea bag and throw away, stir the brewed milk, and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Blend the tea, fruit, Greek Yogurt, and stevia in a blender or Nutribullet. Add more of any ingredient as desired to taste. Enjoy!

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Lavender Chamomile Honey Conchas (Vegan aside from the honey! It’s organic)

IMG_2414It’s time for recipe two (out of I have no idea how many recipes yet) of my Baking with Tea series! I formed a plan for my flavors early on going into this week because I was generously gifted fresh honey from my beekeeper friend! The decision about what to actually make, though, was a rather spontaneous one: after an original plan to develop a cupcake recipe, I began feeling a itch to work with enriched dough instead! So, I sat down on my laptop fifteen minutes before the time I’d allocated for baking that day, and I began randomly reading about sweet bread recipes from around the world. Conchas immediately caught my attention, especially because I had, surprisingly, never seen them before–I realized that it was surprising when I called my sister to excitedly fill her in about my discovery, and she already knew exactly what I was talking about!

For those of you like me who are new to them, a concha is a Mexican dessert that consists of a sweet, enriched dough bun and topping much like a crisp cookie dough. They’re often decorated with patterns that evoke their name–concha is the Spanish word for seashell. There are similar versions of this concept in other cuisines, including a Japanese sweet called melonpan (melonpan often visually correlate to their name as well, with designs more like melons than shells). IMG_2446

I couldn’t believe that I’d never been exposed to either striking dessert! Being the token “baking nerd” among most of my friends and family, I sometimes feel like it’s my duty to be a foolproof well of dessert knowledge. When my sister informed me of her familiarity with these, then, my first honest reaction was embarrassment–I wanted to take back the innocent explanation I’d done and pretend that I’d known what they were all along. Of course, my sister did not find any issue in the fact that they were new to me. She was simply excited to hear that I was making them and that she could picture an idea of what I might come up with!IMG_2377

The reason I elaborated on our conversation is because this is quite a familiar situation for me. As a perfectionist, an older sibling, a type A personality, an Enneagram type 2, and probably every other stereotype that connects to those, one of my biggest fears is failure. My worst nightmare life experiences involve some form of appearing weak or incapable. I once joined a group of guys playing catch with a football at a party (an activity that I’ve enjoyed for years), and upon walking over to receive the first throw to me, I missed the ball, and it proceeded to smack me right in the center of my forehead. Sure it hurt a little, but the only significant pain I felt was in my very soul–my stomach was still in knots of humiliation by the NEXT MORNING.IMG_2359

It’s funny–well, mostly funny– looking back at those situations now: it seems silly how upset I could get over something hilarious like that. In fact, the panic about everyone suddenly questioning my athletic ability significantly hindered my chances of enjoying the rest of that fun afternoon! I assume I’m not alone in my tendency to protect my ego– we’ve all blindly nodded in conversations to avoid admitting we don’t know what someone is referencing, or sidestepped a question when it’s incorrectly expected that we know the answer. No one aspires to feel inferior around their peers.

That’s something I’ve really been challenging myself to change, though–that mindset of constantly twisting others’ knowledge and strength into my own inferiority. Because if I go around pretending I know everything (I’m speaking from experience as a 100% former child know-it-all), then I’m naturally squandering my opportunities to learn! It’s hard to listen well to someone or engage fully in an activity when all you’re thinking about is how you can keep up your facade…of keeping up. IMG_2435

So, the next time someone asks you if you know about a relevant news headline that’s actually news to you, or looks for your opinion about an artist or author you’ve never heard of in your life, or encourages you to participate in a task you fear you’ll mess up–embrace the unfamiliarity! Ask all the questions, admit you need further explanations, and throw away the fears of showing your humanity. Together, let’s do our best to remember that each day we do so becomes a chance to leave stronger and more knowledgeable than the one before. Wishing you plenty of baking, failing, and learning during this quarantine.

Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
    and the one who understands obtain guidance,

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:5, 7

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Lavender Chamomile Honey Conchas (Vegan aside from the honey! It’s organic)

Ingredients

BUNS

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp yeast)
  • 1/3 cup aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas)
  • 1/2 cup melted margarine
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 lavender chamomile tea bags
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP honey (plus more for drizzling at the end)
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

TOPPING

  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2/3 cup sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 lavender chamomile tea bags
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • food coloring/fruit juice for dying (optional)

Instructions

BUNS

  1. Warm milk in a microwave-safe bowl/cup (It should be lukewarm, around 105-110°F). Mix in yeast packet, and set aside until activated–yeast should get a bit puffy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine margarine, contents of tea bags, salt, aquafaba and honey. Mix well.
  3. Once the yeast is activated, add it to bowl and mix in.
  4. Mix in flour in multiple additions, until it’s all incorporated.
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until very smooth and elastic–use more flour as needed to avoid sticking, but as little as possible is best. Use the windowpane test if you’re familiar with it to judge when it’s ready.
  6. Place the dough in a greased bowl, and flip it to coat the dough.
  7. Cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size (time with vary with environment; mine took up to three hours in certain conditions).
  8. Meanwhile, make the topping: combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix until it come together (using your hands is messy at first but most effective, in my opinion). It should hold together when pressed without cracking. If you added juice for coloring, you may need to add a bit more flour to keep it from getting too wet. Set it aside.
  9. Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or greasing.
  10. After the dough has risen, gently punch it down, turn it out onto a floured surface, and separate into twelve even sections. Gently form each section into a ball by pulling the dough out and down into itself, and place them on the baking sheets (Leave lots of room between because they GROW).
  11. Separate the topping dough into twelve even amounts. Using a tortilla press or rolling pin, press each piece into a wide circle, flouring the rolling pin or press to avoid sticking.
  12. Place each circle on top of one of the buns as you make them, gently pressing the bottom edges to the bun and cutting off any excess.
  13. Using a sharp knife, score desired patterns into the topping dough of each bun.
  14. Gently cover with cling film/wet paper towels, and allow to rise until visibly puffed, around 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F.
  15. Bake the buns in the preheated oven for about 18-20 minutes, or until the bottoms are slightly browned. (I actually prefer the temperature a bit higher, but it becomes easy to burn them at 350°F, so be especially cautious if you choose that route!)
  16. Drizzle with honey, and enjoy immediately!

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