What’s Up With Matcha?

teaceremonyMatcha tea is nothing new.  By the 9th Century, the custom of drinking tea, first for medicinal, and then for pleasurable reasons, was practiced throughout China. Buddhist influenced Chinese author Lu Yu wrote The Classic of Tea, a treatise on tea focusing on the Zen-Chan school of cultivation and preparation.  Zen Buddhist Monks drank Matcha tea to remain calm and alert during long hours of meditation.  His ideas would have a strong influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony as it is still practiced today.

The Japanese tea ceremony involves “sabi” and “wabi” principles.

  • Wabi represents the inner, or spiritual, experiences of human lives: quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste “characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection, and asymmetry” and “emphasizes simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and celebrates the mellow beauty that time and care impart to materials.”
  • Sabi represents the outer, or material side of life. Originally, it meant “worn,” “weathered,” or “decayed.” Particularly among the nobility, understanding emptiness was considered the most effective means to spiritual awakening, while embracing imperfection was honored as a healthy reminder to cherish our unpolished selves, here and now, just as we are – the first step to “satori” or enlightenment.

Between 2013 and 2014 there was a 253% increase in sales of drinks containing Matcha, but I can’t help but wonder why?  It’s not like people were all of the sudden sitting down to celebrate the traditional Japanese ceremony every time that they drank it, it was (and continues to be) sold diluted, mixed with flavors and preservatives and pre-bottled for drinking on the run.

So why all of the Matcha Hype?

groundmatchaMatcha is a tea rich in catechin polyphenols (the most important of which is EGCG – epigallo-catechin gallate) compounds with high antioxidant activity, that also contains trace minerals and vitamins (A, B-complex, C, E, and K).

Matcha tea has a significant amount of dietary fiber and practically no calories. With its abundance of these vitamins and compounds, it is also said to:

  • Protect against many kinds of cancer;
  • Can slow or halt growth of cancer cells;
  • Protect against cardiovascular disease;
  • Slow the aging process;
  • Boost metabolism;
  • Reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol;
  • Stabilize blood sugar levels;
  • Help reduce high blood pressure; and
  • Boost resistance to many toxins.

This still doesn’t explain to me how something commercially bottled, and (let’s be honest here) containing a much lesser quality and quantity of the desired Matcha tea powder is flying off the shelves…

Body Builders, heath and fitness gurus and those who practice meditation rituals all swear that Matcha is essential to reaching their peak potential because:

  • Japanese tea leaves (those used to produce Matcha powder) grow in the shade to increase chlorophyll content. These chlorophyll-rich leaves are then handpicked, steamed, dried and ground into a fine green powder;
  • Chlorophyll is purported to detoxify the body of toxins, heavy metals, poisons, dioxins and hormone disrupters;
  • Matcha contains three times the caffeine as coffee but without the jittery buzz, instead inducing  an “alert calm” due to it’s naturally derived l-theanine, which relaxes without drowsiness;
  • One cup of Matcha green tea has as many antioxidants as 10 cups of regular tea
  • A 2003 University of Colorado study confirmed that drinking 1 cup of matcha green tea has 137 times the amount of antioxidant EGCG compared to a conventional cup of green tea;
  • Matcha green tea possesses antioxidant levels 6.2 times that of goji berries, 7 times that of dark chocolate, 17 times that of wild blueberries and 60.5 times that of spinach;
  • Matcha, when combined with meditation, contributes to the health and weight loss benefits – reduces cortisol (a stress hormone that drive appetite and increases belly fat), lowers inflammation (tied to premature aging and disease), curbs impulsive eating, lowers blood pressure, and boosts self-esteem;
  • Matcha green tea contains up to 5 times more L-theanine than conventional green tea and increases Alpha wave activity in the brain.  Stress is known to induce the brain’s Beta wave activity, leading to a more agitated state. Alpha wave activity can relieve stress, promote relaxation and even lower blood pressure;
  • Consuming green tea increases thermogenesis (the body’s rate of burning calories) from 8-10% to 35-43% of daily energy expenditure;
  • Exercising immediately after drinking Matcha green tea resulted in 25% more fat burning during exercise

Bodybuilding.com shakes their pom-poms for Matcha in their own unique way: “If you’re not drinking Matcha green tea yet, you’re behind the times! Get with the program and try this metabolism-enhancing, stress-reducing, immune-boosting, cholesterol-lowering, teenage-mutant-ninja cancer fighter!”

Health Magazine warns that the taste of Matcha is strong, sometimes described as grassy or spinach-like. This explains why it is often watered down and/or sweetened, and even added to foods to improve it’s taste.  To avoid the grassy taste do not add Matcha green tea powder to boiling water.  Boil the water and let it sit for 5 minutes before adding the tea.

So, I’m convinced enough by the purported benefits to give this a try.  One area in particular that appeals to me is that I have difficulty sleeping at night and it could be due to my consumption of green tea, but not the Matcha variety.

Quality is important if you want the reported results, and quality doesn’t come cheap.  High quality, fresh, pure Matcha is expensive. A low price tag can be a red flag for a poor quality product, and, as with anything that is touted as the newest trend, it can be overdone, so ingest it in moderation.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Steak & No Bake Baked Potatoes

It’s a hot, lazy Wednesday evening and I’m not in the mood to cook.

I’m looking for something to make for dinner that:

  1. Won’t take a lot of time;
  2. Will satisfy post-basketball practice hunger;
  3. Won’t heat up the house more than the 89° day did already;
  4. Won’t make a huge mess in the kitchen; and
  5. Won’t interrupt my Girls Drinking Wine time

A quick review of items on hand resulted in a hearty dinner that satisfied my family and, bonus, took minimal effort on my part so I could enjoy a rare mid-week treat of girl time!

steakandpotatoesI pulled out my handy (practically hands off) go-to kitchen saviors, my T-Fal Electric Pressure Cooker & cast iron skillet and dinner was well on it’s way to being made.

Baked Potatoes & Boneless Rib-Eye Steaks with Garlic Mushrooms

First, get the potatoes started:

  1. Wash 2 Large Baking Potatoes
  2. Put rack and 1 cup of water into the pressure cooker pan
  3. Place potatoes on rack
  4. Brush Potatoes with a touch of olive oil & sprinkle with sea salt
  5. Close and lock pressure cooker, set to cook on high
  6. Once pressure cooker reaches temperature, cook potatoes for 20 minute
  7. When cooking time is done, unplug machine and leave closed until your steaks are done

While the potatoes are cooking:

  1. Heat the cast iron skillet over medium-high heat;
  2. Place 6 slices of bacon in the pan and cook for about 4 minutes per side (give or take) until crispy but not over browned;
  3. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  4. Salt and pepper 2 Boneless Ribeye Steaks on both sides & put in hot skillet;
  5. Add about 1 cup of sliced mushrooms, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic salt & pepper to the pan;
  6. Cook the steaks to desired degree of doneness while also stirring the mushrooms while they cook.  My husband likes his medium rare, so I cook them roughly 4 minutes per side at medium-high heat.

When the steaks are ready:

  • Turn off heat and immediately remove steaks from the pan;
  • Place steaks on a serving plate and mound 1/2 of the mushrooms on each;
  • Release the remaining pressure in the pressure cooker;
  • Place potatoes beside the steaks on plates;
  • Cut the potatoes open, butter generously, crumble 1/2 the bacon inside each potato and top with sour cream, salt & pepper.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

La Cave in Costa Mesa, CA

I love cooking, but I love eating out too.

La Cave was one of the restaurants my husband took me to on a date many, many moons ago.

lacave

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: local restaurant specials & promotions, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Great New Irvine Restaurant

konagrilllogoThe giant space that the Irvine Improv formerly occupied, next to the Yard House in the Irvine Spectrum, has been vacant for, what feels like, forever!  There has been a giant green construction fence with a poster proclaiming, “Coming Soon Kona Grill” and I have been dying for the new restaurant to open.  This week my wish was finally granted.

Described in the press as having a “global menu of contemporary American favorites, award-winning sushi, and specialty cocktails – all freshly prepared in a scratch kitchen,” this is a restaurant that sounds like it would be right up my alley.

Their lunch menu was HUGE:  A full sushi bar with a very big and diverse variety of rolls (unlike other local sushi restaurants, NOT ALL BASED ON TOP OF A CALIFORNIA ROLL!),  creative appetizers, the dish everyone who works here seems to like: Macadamia Nut Chicken, to Spicy Shrimp Tempura, BBQ Chicken Flatbread, burgers, sandwiches, pasta and even steaks.  They also have separate menus for Vegans, Vegetarians, Children, and those with Gluten intolerance.  Do be prepared when you get the check – it was pretty pricey for lunch.

The restaurant is very open with lots of TVs scattered about so you don’t miss the latest sporting events, 3 big fish tanks, a fully visible kitchen & sushi bar behind glass, fire places, a patio and very well designed bar. Both the General Manager and Manager stopped by our table to check in, chat about the Angel game that was on TV, and even talk about hockey as the GM’s Philadelphia Flyers and my Los Angeles Kings are both currently in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The wait staff was friendly, attentive and efficient and I will definitely be back.

cucumbermojitoDid I mention the cocktails yet? They have the traditional cocktail selections, martinis, mojitos, beer, wine, and Sake, but I was really impressed with their variety of specialty cocktails.  I went with a very refreshing (very tall) mojito made with cucumber, mint and Effen Vodka.  It SO hit the spot that I texted a picture of the drink to two girlfriends who joined me after my business lunch and we threw back a “few.” With happy hour from 3:00 – 7:00 and again from 7:00 – 10:00, this will definitely be a happening cocktail spot!

My only complaint about the restaurant was that, although I checked in for my reserved table and was seated by the hostess, they reported to OpenTable.com that I was a no-show for my reservation.  If that’s the only bad thing someone can say about a new restaurant, then I think they’ve got a great shot at making it!

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to:  local restaurant specials & promotions, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Ancho-Cherry Pork Chops

My husband loves pork chops.  I’m not a fan so I don’t cook them often.

He bought me a pretty necklace so tonight he’s getting pork chops 😉

Pressure Cooked Ancho-Cherry Pork Chops

  • 4  Bone in Trimmed Pork Chops about 3/4 inch thick
  • 2  TBLS Coconut Oil
  • 6  Pieces Thick Cut Bacon
  • 1/2 Cup Frozen Dark Sweet Cherries
  • 1  Medium Pasilla Chili (Poblano)
  • 1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/4 Cup Fischer & Wieser Smokey Ancho Cherry Sauce
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Set the pressure cooker to “Brown” and add the coconut oil
  2. Seed and chop the chili into small pieces
  3. Using kitchen shears, cut the bacon into about 1″ chunks
  4. Add the bacon and chili to the pressure cooker
  5. With the lid open, let the bacon brown and the chili soften (about 8 minutes)
  6. Add the frozen cherries and stir until they defrost
  7. Stir in the apple cider vinegar and water
  8. Sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper
  9.  Brush both sides of the pork chops with he Ancho-Cherry Sauce
  10. Layer the pork chops into the pressure cooker then close and lock lid
  11. Set machine to high
  12. When pressure cooker reaches temperature, cook for 10 minutes
  13. Unplug machine and immediately release the pressure with manual release button

To serve:  Put a scoop of rice or quinoa in the center of the plate.  Pile some of the drained Braised Red Cabbage (yesterday’s recipe) on top of the rice/quinoa then place a pork chop on top of the cabbage.  Spoon some of the cooking juices, cherries, chilies and bacon onto the pork chop and serve immediately.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Pressure Cooker Braised Red Cabbage

Those of us who were raised in the 1970’s remember the infamous Brady Bunch episode where, trying to imitate Humphrey Bogart, Peter Brady repeatedly said (misspellings intended), “Pork Chops and Apple Shauce, that’s schwell.”   I’m playing with a new pork chop recipe tonight and despite the expectation of mashed potatoes and, yes, apple sauce, there is no way I’ll be serving that boring combination!

I tossed around ideas for different types of cold coleslaw, carrot slaw and even considered going the sauerkraut route, but none of those seemed hearty enough to accompany the Smoky Ancho Cherry Pork Chops I have in mind.  I grabbed some red cabbage, Granny  Smith apples, aged balsamic vinegar and started tossing things into the pressure cooker.

Pressure Cooker Braised Red Cabbage

  • 1 Medium Head Red Cabbage (chopped)
  • 2 Large Granny Smith Apples (chopped)
  • 2 TBLS Coconut Oil
  • 2 TBLS Balsamic Vinegar
  • 4 TBLS Honey
  • 2/3 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2/3 Cup Water
  • 3 tsp Allspice
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • 1/4 Cup Golden Raisins (Optional)
  1. With lid open, pre-heat the pressure cooker on the “Brown” setting
  2. Add the coconut oil and chopped apple and stir about 1 minute
  3. Add half the cabbage and stir to coat with the oil
  4. Sprinkle the Allspice over the contents of the pan
  5. Stir in the remaining cabbage
  6. Stir in the 2 TBLS balsamic vinegar
  7. Add the water and apple cider vinegar to combine
  8. If you are adding the raisins, do so now
  9. Close and lock the lid
  10. Set pressure cooker to 194° (Medium-High)
  11. When it comes up to temperature, cook the cabbage for 10 minutes
  12. At the end of the cycle, unplug and allow to sit for 10 minutes
  13. Release rest of pressure and remove cabbage to a serving bowl
  14. Adjust sweetness with more honey or allspice as needed

Can be eaten hot or cold.

cabbageAre you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Tax Day Discounts & Freebies

taxdayfreebies

I think we can all agree that Tax Day sucks.  Whether you owe or are getting some money back from the IRS, the stress that comes with the approach and passing of April 15th (this year April 18th) is enough to make anyone feel like they need a treat.  Some companies across the country are trying to ease the pain by offering Tax Day deals, sales, promotions and even a few freebies.

  • Arby’s   Get two Arby’s Gyros for $6 until the end of the April.
  • Boston Market  In honor of Tax Day, Boston Market will offer a half chicken Individual Meal with two sides and cornbread, plus a regular beverage and a cookie for just $10.40 on April 18 only. Only 1040? How clever. Offer valid only at participating restaurants.
  • Buca di Beppo  Craving a little Italian? Save 18 percent off your meal at Buca di Beppo through April 18 when you use their Tax Day coupon available online.
  • Chili’s  Happy hour on Tax Day will be a little bit happier at participating Chili’s restaurants. The chain is offering offering $5 Presidente Margaritas to take the edge off dealing with Uncle Sam.
  • Coffee deals  Need some energy after dealing with the IRS? Participating McDonald’s in Arizona, Vermont, Colorado and Wyoming are offering tired taxpayers a free small coffee today. Prefer to perk up at home? Caribou Coffee is offering free shipping of orders over $50 online.
  • Great American Cookie  Stop by a participating Great American Cookie location on April 18 and you’ll be treated to a free sugar cookie. No purchase is necessary but unlike Ben & Jerry’s free cone giveaway, there is a limit of one cookie per customer.
  • Hard Rock Café  Get a free Local Legendary Burger at participating restaurant locations—but only if you get onstage and sing for it.  Not willing to belt out a tune for some free grub? The burger is regularly $17.95.
  • McDonald’s  Mickey D’s is offering Tax Day deals on a location-by-location basis, so the offer may wary. In the past, participating locations offered a rock-bottom burger deal– buy one Big Mac or Quarter Pounder at the regular price, get a second sandwich for just a few cents.
  • Outback Steakhouse  Diners at participating locations of the Aussie-themed chain can take 15 percent off  the check (excluding alcohol, applicable taxes, and gratuity) through April 18. Valid at lunch or dinner for curbside take-away or those dining in. You’ll need a coupon for the offer, so check Outback’s website.
  • Red Robin  This is a Tuesday special. On April 19, get a Ramen burger and bottomless fries for just $0.22 if you’re one of the first 22 students in the door with a valid student ID. Everyone else gets to enjoy a $2.22 discount. No coupon required. Schlotzsky’s  Schlotzsky’s knows that #TaxDayBites so the sandwich shop will be giving away free “Original” subs today. To snap up the deal, customers need to buy a 32 oz. drink and a bag of chips on April 18.
  • Tony Roma’s  End your Tax Day with something sweet. The steakhouse is offering taxpayers a free coupon for a slice of its Red Velvet Cake on April 18. The offer is valid through April 29.
  • Pieology: Sign up for the PieLife eClub by texting PIELIFE to 48307 and following the link. A coupon for 10 percent off your order on April 18 should be emailed to you shortly after you sign up.
  • Noah’s Bagels: Take $1 off your order with this coupon until April 18.
  • Chuck E. Cheese’s: Get a free large cheese pizza with the purchase of any large pizza with this coupon on April 18.
  • Pei Wei: Receive $5 off your order of $20 or more with this coupon until April 18.
  • Hot Dog on a Stick: Get one free Original Turkey Dog on a Stick on April 18. No purchase or proof of completed taxes necessary.
  • California Tortilla: If you say the secret password “Tax Man” on April 18, you’ll receive free chips and queso with your purchase.
  • Papa Murphy’s: Receive 50 percent off select items depending on location until April 29. Select your location on the website and then select Specials to see what is available.
  • Bob Evans: Take 30 percent off your entire check April 18 only with this coupon.
  • Carrabba’s: Take 15 percent off your entire check with this coupon until April 29.
  • Denny’s: Take 15 percent off your entire check with this coupon until April 19.
  • Chili’s: Get a Presidente Margarita for $5 on April 18.
  • Sonic: Get 50 percent off cheeseburgers on April 18.
  • Bruegger’s Bagels: Get a Big Bagel Bundle for $10.40 on April 18 when you sign-up to receive this coupon.
  • Noodles & Company: Now through April 18, get $4 off any online order of $10 or more with coupon code TAXDAY. Also, if you buy one entree at regular price, you can get a kid’s meal for free. Both deals available at participating locations only.
  • Sonny’s BBQ: All day on April 18 get 50 percent off Sweet & Smokey or House Dry-Rubbed Rib Dinners.
  • Kona Ice: Get a free cup of shaved ice and a Hawaiian lei on April 18. To find a truck near you, tweet your zip code to @KonaIce. No coupon required.
  • Great American Cookies: Stop by a participating location and get a free chocolate
  • Krystal: Use these printable coupons until April 24 to take advantage of these buy one, get one free biscuit and burger offers.
  • Bananas: Get the The CPA Frostie, featuring fresh strawberries and bananas, with added Red Bull Yellow Edition, to help power through all the tax paperwork and preparation. Plus, if you can present a valid Certified Public Accountant license, you will receive The CPA on the house at participating locations. Both specials are available April 17 and April 18.
  • Zeel.com: Use code TAXDAY25 to receive $25 off any massage until April 18.
  • Planet Fitness: Whether you’re a member or not, you can get a free HydroMassage at any Planet Fitness location during tax week. Visit PlanetFitness.com to get your coupon on April 18. Must be 18 or older to redeem.
  • Regal Entertainment: Get 25 percent off candy on Monday and 50 percent off popcorn on Tuesday if you join the Regal Crown Club. Paid admission is required.
  • GameStop: Get 25 percent off pre-owned interactive gaming figurines if you order online by April 30.
  • Best Buy: Shop the Tax Refund Event and save up to $20 on select video games, get $100 off Macbooks and much more until April 18.

Don’t see anything you like? Call your favorite local restaurant or retailer to check out any specials being offered up today.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood