Tea & Cookies

What’s a cozy mystery without tea and cookies?

The Spy Who Stole Tea from China

The Spy Who Stole Tea from China


With stories in the news lately about hackers from China breaking into corporate computers and stealing proprietary software and information (for example, this 60 Minutes’ feature: The Great Brain Robbery), here’s a little historical gem about Robert Fortune (1812-1880) who accomplished the reverse. The low-tech version.

Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

From 1845-1848, this Scottish botanist managed to acquire China’s closely-guarded tea-growing and production secrets, along with actual plants to transplant in India. For the tea-drinking world, this was a game-changer. Within a short time, China no longer had a monopoly on tea, and Brits had control over the production of their favorite beverage.


Robert Fortune was working for the Horticultural Society of London and had already traveled to China and learned a great deal about tea production, along with some surprises:
Chinese merchants had been telling their customers for decades that green and black teas came from different plant varieties. Fortune learned that the difference between black and green teas wasn’t the variety of plant, but the method of drying the leaves. He also discovered that the Chinese were dyeing the green tea purchased by the English.

from Three Years Wanderings in the Provinces of Northern China, by Robert Fortune.

He published his discoveries in book entitled Three Years’ Wanderings in the Provinces of China. It drew the attention of the East India Company, which commissioned him to return to China and acquire tea plants for them. In Fortune’s own words:

I was deputed by the Honourable the Court of the Directors (sic) to proceed to China for the purpose of obtaining the finest varieties of the Tea-plant, as well as native manufacturers and implements, for the Government Tea plantations in the Himalayas.

Fortune had no ethical problem with such a request. In his view, plants belonged to the world for everyone’s use.

The Caper:

The Chinese were incredibly secretive (and rightly so, given what did happen) about how their tea was produced. Fortune spent two and half years in China, shaving his head and adopting the attire of a Chinese merchant (read Sarah Rose’s fascinating book, listed below, for more details). It was sometimes a challenge to evade China’s in-port restrictions, which only allowed foreigners to travel one day’s distance from the ports allowed to Europeans by treaty. But Fortune managed to travel to areas few Europeans ever saw.

Here is Fortune’s own account of how he transported the tea plants he collected, using what was called a glazed case, first devised by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward:

fortune tea2


The mission was a rousing success:

Upwards of twenty thousand tea-plants, eight first-rate manufacturers, and a large supply of implements were procured from the finest tea-districts of China, and conveyed in safety to the Himalayas.

Wow, 20,00! And the equipment and experts to successfully start a tea-growing operation in India. Can you imagine?


Want to read more?

Fortune, Robert. Three Years Wanderings in the Provinces of China. London: Spottiswoode and Shaw, 1847.

Fortune, Robert. A Journey to the Tea Countries of China; Including Sung-Lo and the Bohea Hills. London: W. Clowes and Sons, 1852.

Rose, Sarah. For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History. New York: Viking Press, 2010.  Click here for Amazon link.

NPR: Tea Tuesdays: The Scottish Spy Who Stole China’s Tea Empire


Happy tea drinking,


P.S. – Be sure to check out the following post for my giveaway and flash fiction fun! Entry deadline is January 31.

You tell the story!

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The Tea “Experience”

The Tea “Experience”

teaBeing a cozy mystery writer/fan doesn’t necessarily mean I love tea (and cats, and knitting), but it’s kinda nice when the stars align. Tea is definitely one of my favorite beverages.

And now tea has gotten “Oprah-fied.” (I’m a writer; I can make up my own words, right?). Teavana, a Starbucks-owned upscale tea retailer, and Oprah Winfrey have collaborated to create a new tea variety called “Oprah Chai Tea.”  According to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz: “With the introduction of Teavana Oprah Chai, we are going to elevate the tea experience in the same way we did for coffee.”

Setting aside for the moment that the term “Chai Tea” is repetitive, as the word “chai” means “tea” in Hindi (check out Grammar Girl’s article on the subject), it’s kind of fun to see the humble cup of tea getting its props. But an “experience”? That’s quite a promise.

Actually, tea already has a lot of promise, in terms of health benefits. There’s been a good bit of buzz about tea in recent years. Here are some all-star varieties:

Green Tea

Most of us have heard of or read articles touting the health benefits of green tea. Consider a few of these potential benefits:

  • maintain a healthy weight
  • build and strengthen bones
  • improve brain function and memory
  • play a role in preventing heart disease, certain types of cancer, and osteoporosis
  •  lower fat levels in the blood

Scientists are cautiously optimistic, but say that long-term studies are needed.


Just when green tea was becoming more common and more widely consumed, a tea variety native to the mountainous region of South Africa called Rooibos (pronounced “ROY-boss”) was introduced to tea drinkers in the United States (it was already well-known in Europe). Rooibos became the new “hip” tea. By the way, for you detective fans, it’s also known as “red bush tea,” and it’s the beverage that fictional detective Mma Ramotswe (of The Ladies’ No 1 Detective Agency series) drinks in great quantities.

She has good reason to. Like green tea, Rooibos is high in essential minerals and antioxidants, plus it’s caffeine free and low in tannins (tannins are present in many teas, and can upset the stomach).

Do you like honey in your tea?

Even better! A recent article from the American Chemical Society explains the unique ways that honey kills antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Here’s an excerpt:

“The unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance,” said study leader Susan M. Meschwitz, Ph.D. That is, it uses a combination of weapons, including hydrogen peroxide, acidity, osmotic effect, high sugar concentration and polyphenols — all of which actively kill bacterial cells, she explained. The osmotic effect, which is the result of the high sugar concentration in honey, draws water from the bacterial cells, dehydrating and killing them.

beeLooks like we should be expanding our bee-keeping industry more than our pharmaceutical industry, doesn’t it?

On a related note, how about we be more careful when transporting beehives on I-95? Yikes. You can’t make this stuff up.  20 million Honeybees Swarm Delaware Highway After Wreck.

Um, yeah, I’ll bet the bees were angry. Kudos to the Delaware State Police, who 14 years ago designed a “Bee Swarm Removal Plan.” (Calling all beekeepers!) This is the first time they actually had to use it. Don’t you wish other state and federal agencies were equally efficient?


tea bagWant to learn more about tea?

WebMD: Tea for Bone Health

WebMD: the Tao of Tea (Rooibos)

USA Today: Starbucks, Oprah Team Up for Tea Venture

Top 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Green Tea

…and thanks to Peter Kimzey for the following comprehensive article about tea:

Green Tea – Taking a Healthy Sip


Check out some of my other “tea” posts:

Chai and Fruity Oatmeal Yums, by August McLaughlin

Hard Day? Time for Tea and Cookies

Evelyn Nesbit’s Tea Room, by Jan Whitaker

The Spy Who Stole Tea from China


Do you enjoy tea, or consider it a beverage for grannies and invalids? What do you think of “celebrity” tea flavors? Ever get stuck in a bee swarm on the Delaware Turnpike? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,




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Simplicity, Writing, and Peanut Butter Cookies

Simplicity, Writing, and Peanut Butter Cookies

Hi everyone! Thanks so much for stopping by. How did I do this week in my ROW80 author goals? Well, the lesson learned seems to be simplicity. Let’s take a look!

My goals:

1. Post twice per week on my blog: a ROW80 check-in on Sundays, and an original post mid-week. During my blog tour, my total weekly count will actually be three times per week, as I’m scheduled to guest post twice a week through the beginning of March.

Done! Last week I posted Fine Dining, Mashup Style at Misterio Press. Martha Stewart and 19th century household expert Isabella Beeton, meeting through the magic of the internet. 😉 I’ve also been writing my advance guest posts – my blog tour starts this week! Gack, still have to write the sidebar widget for that.

2. Send out five new email requests per week to book reviewers who have indicated they are available and interested in reviewing books in my genre (mystery).

It was three this week, through Facebook and emails. The Goodreads sign-up doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, with only one request for a review copy. Disappointing. I haven’t gone back to the Amazon top reviewer lists yet, because they take so dang long to wade through. I’ve decided to revise this goal to 3 per week.

3. Visit, comment on, and tweet posts from ten bloggers each week.


4. Write and publish three SocialIn posts during this 80-day period.

Published a SocialIn post a week ago about 19th century sledding. That’s 38 sites! Lots of copying and pasting. I’m still getting the hang of it.  Will shoot for another SocialIn post in mid-February.

5. Exclusively dedicate four hours each weekday (probably in 2-hour increments) to writing the second draft of Unseemly Secrets.

This week was a bust, unfortunately. Had minor oral surgery, and the weather (insanely cold, and some snow) disrupted the kids’ school schedules again. But I have to get back to my draft, no matter what. In fact, I think I’m going through writer withdrawal…

I read a lot of advice blogs and articles about the craft and business of writing, and it can become a confusing mire. I got caught up in some of that this week. But I had an epiphany of sorts today (see? writing these ROW80 updates are super-beneficial!). Business cards, giveaways, promos, social media, reviews, Amazon sales rankings…yep, these are important, but they won’t make any difference at all if I don’t WRITE! I only have two books published right now. That isn’t much to promote or giveaway. Once I have more books out there, then I can tinker with giveaways and such, but right now the real business of writing has to be FIRST. It’s simple. I know – duh, Kathy. 😉

This week will be a real test of that, since it’s the end of the school quarter and the kids have a four-day weekend coming up. But I hope that by next Sunday, I’ll be able to report that I found a way to make it work.

So there you have it – my progress this week, if you can call it that. 😉

While we’re on the topic of simplicity, I’ll leave you with one of my fave super-easy cookie recipes. And it’s gluten-free, too. I know it seems weird that this could be a cookie when there’s no flour in it. But it really does work! And it’s delicious. I made it again this week when the weather had us cooped up.

Simpler Than Sin Peanut Chocolate Cookies (makes about 30 cookies)

(recipe from the The Cookie Bible)

pic by K.B. Owen

pic by K.B. Owen

1 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
6oz bar of dark or milk chocolate, broken into squares




Preheat oven to 350 deg F
In medium bowl, combine peanut butter, sugar, egg and vanilla; mix well.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls, place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 12 minutes, remove from oven and place a chocolate square in center of each cookie.
Bake an additional 5-7 minutes, or until cookies are lightly golden around edges.
Cool 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

pic by K.B. Owen

pic by K.B. Owen

A couple of notes:

  • It is very important that the egg be room temp; the cookie dough doesn’t set up as well if the egg is cold (a good rule-of-thumb for most recipes, actually).
  • I like to line the cookie sheet with parchment paper first (I hate washing dishes, and I’m paranoid about cookies sticking to the tray).
  • The cookie dough is very sticky, so I’d advise using food prep gloves or just a cookie scoop (sprayed with non-stick cooking spray). Thanks to my friend Deb for this tip!
  • It’s okay for the chocolate square to mush the cookie when you place it; the additional baking time will fix that.

How’s your January going? Do you have a favorite comfort food you like to make when the weather outside is awful? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


P.S. – This Tuesday, I’ll be over at Spann of Time, historical mystery writer Susan Spann’s blog. It’s the official “kick-off” to my Unseemly Pursuits blog tour. Susan has some interesting questions for me. I believe food, socks, and pets are involved. And oh, yeah, some questions about writing, too. 😉 Hope to see you there!

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Strawberries, Memorial Day Style!

Strawberries, Memorial Day Style!

Happy Friday!  With Memorial Day upon us and the sort-of-official start to the summer season, I’m re-posting my recipe for dipped strawberries.  Around here, strawberries are ripe for the picking…right now!  This is an easy, quick way to dress up your strawberries in summer style.

Red,White and Blue Strawberries


  • 2 lbs of strawberries, washed and blotted dry
  • 12oz pkg of white chocolate chips
  • blue decorating sugar, poured into a small bowl


Line a baking sheet or jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.  Melt chips in microwave, according to package directions (you may need to stir in between cycles and add more time) until smooth.  Dip strawberries 2/3 of the way into the melted chocolate, then 1/3 of the way into the blue sugar.  Place on foil.  Put the tray in the fridge for about 2 hours, or until chocolate hardens.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

1) It’s really important to dry the strawberries thoroughly before dipping; otherwise, the chocolate won’t stick to them very well.

2) Don’t make ahead; plan to use them that day.  The strawberries will start releasing water, which will get into the sugar’s blue dye and create a drippy mess.  (They still taste good, though!)

Have any recipes you’d care to share?  I’d love to hear from you!

Also in the spirit of Memorial Day, here’s a fun video parody by U.S. Army soldiers of the song “Call Me Maybe.”  It’s not the wildly popular one which imitates the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders’ version – you’ve probably all seen that one.  I actually like this one better.  Let me know what you think.

Wishing you a memorable Memorial Day with you family, and a special thank-you to our soldiers and their families who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  You will never be forgotten.

Until next time,


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Holiday Yum! Versatile Butter-Spritz Cookies

art by Ellen M. Gregg

Welcome to the next installment of Holiday Yum, our Holiday recipe blog hop series!  For the entire schedule, click here.

Today, I have a classic recipe from my childhood: butter spritz cookies.  I make it every year.  It only requires a few standard ingredients, and it can give you an assortment of different-looking cookie styles.

Here’s my copy, complete with vanilla extract stains and notations over the years:

 But now I have a more tech-y twist on recipe-reading.  Can I just say that I love the early Christmas gift my hubby and I gave each other this year?

I can load my recipes right on this baby! No more stains and crumbs. (although I did have to wipe smudges from the screen afterward, LOL)

Okay, back to the task at hand.  Here are the ingredients you’ll need for the basic butter cookie dough:

Preheat the oven and set out the butter, margarine and egg.  Then go do something else for a while.  Put your feet up; you are about to perform cookie awesomeness, and you deserve it.

When the butter/margarine sticks are soft, dump them into the mixer bowl with the sugar.

Cream together (on my mixer, that’s about a “4” speed), scraping the sides occasionally with a rubber spatula.  You’ll be tempted to stop when it looks like this:

But keep going, until it looks like this:

I know, big difference, right?

While the butter and sugar are working their magic in the mixer, you’re going to do a little sifting of the dry ingredients.  Some folks say you don’t need to sift flour before using.  Personally, I’m a big fan of sifting.  When I was a kid helping out in the kitchen, I got such a kick out of using the sifter that I would sift each batch twice.  It’s a great activity for the kids to help out with – if you don’t mind a cloud of flour in your kitchen.

Yep, I have the little crank-style sifter. The knob fell off the handle ages ago.

See how nicely it turns out? Now I know the baking powder is incorporated.

Next, you’re going to separate two egg yolks.  For tips on separating eggs (with pics), check out my Spiced Pecans post (except this time we’re keeping the yolk, not the white).

Aren’t they just perfect little things?

Add the yolks and vanilla to the creamed butter/sugar mixture:

And once that’s nice and blended together, add the sifted flour/baking powder mixture, a little at a time.  Keep scraping – that flour gets everywhere.

When everything is incorporated, the dough will be fairly stiff, like this:

Now it’s time for the fun part.  This recipe is designed to stand up to a cookie press, so it’s time to load it up!

If you’ve been reluctant to use a cookie press, no worries.  There’s a little bit of a learning curve involved, but it’s a fast way to make a lot of cookies.  Quicker than roll-out and drop-style, once you’re in the “pressing zone.”  Growing up, my mom was seriously into speed – she had to be, with the huge neighborhood demand at Christmastime.  For more on our holiday tradition, check out my earlier blog post: Butterscotch Haystacks, and a story.

About cookie presses:

There are two styles: hand-powered (with a plunger you adjust yourself in order to push the dough through) and electric-powered (battery or corded).  Presses come with standard tips and plates for creating stamped designs, such as trees, flowers, stars, and so on.  When using the tips, you hold the press parallel to the cookie sheet, and for the plates, you hold it upright, like this:

There’s a bit of a press-release-lift motion involved, but once you get the hang of what works for you (I count to myself), it’s easy.

**Note: while you’re working with the cookie press, make sure you cover the rest of the bowl of dough with a damp towel, to keep it from drying out.

What I love about this butter cookie dough is that it’s so adaptable.  In experimenting over the years with different variations, my mom came up with some really nice ones, including the runaway favorite that I’m going to share with you today: chocolate pillows, also known as candy bar cushions.

Yes, I had to take a bite of this in order to show you the inside. Oh, the sacrifices I make.

Once you’ve loaded up your cookie press with butter cookie dough, you’ll need to put on this plate:

Hold the press parallel to the cookie sheet, with the wavy side of the plate design on top, the way it is in the picture.  Then press out a ribbon of dough, so it looks like this:

It’s fine if it isn’t perfectly straight.

Then you’ll want to cut some chocolate squares:

Darn! Broke one. My options: a) cobble the pieces together (it will be covered up, anyway, b) eat it, or c) let your kid eat it.

Place the squares on the ribbon of dough, spaced about an inch and a half apart, but I’ve never been exact about this.  Then apply another ribbon of dough over top.  Use a knife to cut the cookies apart before baking, like this:

See that imperfect top on the cookie? Still yummy!

I like to put sprinkles on top, but you don’t have to – there’s plenty of sweetness in this cookie.  But it’s pretty.

These will take a little longer to bake because of their thickness.  Start at 12 minutes, and keep checking at 2-minute intervals, until they look like this:

Just a little golden; not too much.

These are so good, you’ll want someone standing guard over them:

Step AWAY from the cookies, and no one will get hurt.

Here are other variations of the dough that I made today.  Let me know if you want instructions for the others.  I took pics while making those, too, but this post is getting too long!

Have you tried a cookie press for your recipes?  What’s your favorite cookie?  I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Holidays,


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Butterscotch Haystacks, and a story

Welcome to another installment of Tea and Cookies.  I like to think of these recipes, with their emphasis on cozy yummy-ness, as a way to add to the mystery reading “experience.”

This time, I have a family favorite for you, and a story to go along with it.

photo by K.B. Owen

The Haystacks Story:

My mom is the best cookie baker, ever.  During the Christmas season, she would really shine: our house became an all-out bake-off of epic proportions.  We rivaled the Nabisco factory a few miles down the road (I grew up just outside of Philadelphia).  I’m surprised the zoning guys didn’t come knocking on our door.  Are you running a bakery on these premises, ma’am?

Yummy smells permeated the house from the day after Thanksgiving (for us, “Black Friday” meant we’d burned a batch), until a few days before Christmas.  Enormous tins and reams of wax paper took over the garage as Mom stockpiled enough cookies for friends, family, neighbors, and the zombie apocalypse.  Potential recipients (NOT the zombies), coincidentally came out of the woodwork just in time to remind her of their existence, sometimes with special requests.  Seriously?

Sounds so Christmas-y, right?  For sure, it was fun, and memorable, but you know there’s a dark side to this story, bwahaha.  And, no, it wasn’t the size of our waistlines, which miraculously didn’t expand to rival Santa’s.  Maybe we were a leetle bit sick of cookies because we were around them so much.

The major drawback:  it was a ton of work.  As a little kid, I didn’t realize this.  My priority was to wheedle as many cooling cookies from the table as I could.  Once I got old enough to be of practical help, however, I could see the stress involved, the desire to meet – or exceed – expectations, year after year.  But we were all in it together (my dad, too: he was the wash-up guy).  There were a lot of in-jokes, and times when we were incredibly silly, in that punchy-tired sort of way.  Folks enjoyed the cookies so much.  It was a tradition.

When I was old enough, there were certain simple recipes my mom would trust me to make on my own, during the afternoons when I was home from school and she was still at work.  Haystacks was one of those.  It was only three ingredients – chow mein noodles, spanish peanuts, butterscotch morsels.  There were no microwaves back then, but a pot on the stove to melt the butterscotch wasn’t that much more difficult.  What could go wrong?

One afternoon, it was my job to make the haystacks.  It was my first time solo, and Mom had left out the recipe, and all the ingredients.

I was sailing along until I got to the Spanish peanuts, also called (although I didn’t know it at the time) “redskin” peanuts.  These nuts didn’t look anything like peanuts I’d seen before:  they had these peeling flakes of reddish skin on them.  That didn’t look too appetizing, in my mind.

image via wikimedia.org (creative commons license)

I checked the recipe, again.  Nope, it didn’t say anything about skins on peanuts.  She must have gotten them on discount.

Sigh.  I was going to have to peel them.  Every blessed one.

Finally, exhausted but satisfied with the results, I had the last batch hardening on wax paper when my mom came home from work.

Proud of my efforts, I showed her the bowl of cast-off peanut skins and talked about that time-intensive extra step.  Could she get the regular kind next time?

Her face went from confused to surprised to laugh-out-loud.

“You weren’t supposed to peel them!  We pay extra for them to come that way!”


Apparently, spanish peanuts are prized for their colored skins and extra flavor.  Who knew?

We had a good laugh over that one.

Nowadays, spanish peanuts are less common in the stores anyway, so for this recipe, go for the regular salted peanuts (not dry-roasted, they taste kind of weird in butterscotch).  Besides, peeling them takes forever!  😀


Butterscotch Haystacks

photo by K.B. Owen


12 oz butterscotch morsels

3/4 cup Spanish peanuts (regular peanuts can be substituted)

1 and 1/2 cups chow mein noodles



Make sure it's well-blended. Photo by K.B. Owen

Melt morsels in microwave, according to package directions.  Mix in noodles and peanuts until fully integrated.  Drop in heaping spoonfuls (not too big) onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.  Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.  Makes 2 dozen clusters.


These aren’t exactly cookies – you can tell I’m stretching the definition a bit – but because of their sweetness, they pair really well with a crisp green tea, or maybe a cinnamon herbal chai.

What fun stories do you have to share about baking?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,



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Cookie Pizza, aka Adventures in Kid Decadence

There are a lot of perks to having kids.

Hubby and youngest, rockin' the inflatables

1) You get to goof off in the name of “hands-on parenting.” I’d look kind of silly doing a science experiment with a bottle, pen cap, sculpting clay, paper clips, flossers, and LOTS of water…everywhere – without a kid next to me. I’m sure I looked pretty silly, anyway, but I felt like MacGyver.  😀

2) Balloon volleyball is a viable form of exercise. 

3) You are reminded that clouds and lightning bugs never lose their appeal.

4) You get to make – and eat – absolutely decadent food creations. Which brings us to the topic for today:


Cookie Pizza

image and recipe below from: Gifts from the Kitchen, Publications Int'l, 2003

My youngest son decided to celebrate the end of the school year in style:  a Dungeons and Dragons party (’cause that’s how he rolls) with a few of his friends.  But he wanted to make something special for the party, and cookie pizza fit the bill perfectly.  

What’s not to love?  It’s a sugar cookie crust, a “sauce” of melted chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk, and its toppings are mini marshmallows, M&Ms, nuts (we left these out), and any other candy decadence you can dream up.  It has a visual “wow” factor that can’t be beat.


  • Your favorite sugar cookie dough (we used Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookie Mix, but you can use the already-prepared 18oz pkg of refrigerated dough)
  • 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups M&Ms
  • 2 cups mini-marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup peanuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 deg F, or per sugar cookie baking instructions.  Divide dough, and press into 2 ungreased pie pans.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden.  Cool.


2. In either a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave, melt chips and sweetened condensed milk until smooth and blended.  Spread over crusts.  Sprinkle with remaining ingredients.

Bake 4 minutes, or until marshmallows are lightly toasted.  Cool and cut into wedges.

Our result was yummy!

Do you have a favorite decadent treat at your house?  I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,


P.S. – This post will stay up as the current one next week, while I’m away.  Catch ya later!

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Chai and Fruity Oatmeal Yums, from August McLaughlin!

I’m so excited to have August McLaughlin here today, as our guest cookie baker/tea barista!  Not only is she sharing her fab recipes with us (homemade chai? sign me up!), but she’s also giving us some interesting background from her own family’s relationship with tea, along with a little Indian tea history.  Squee! Can I keep her? No? Ah, well…

They are all yours, August!


If home is where the heart is, part of mine lives in India, another in Minnesota. My Swedish mom grew up in Assam, India and later married my Norwegian dad, who was studying East Asian culture at the University of Minnesota. So while our Minnesotan neighbors dined on hot dish (think creamy casserole topped with potato chips) and extra-mild salsa (only MN has this, um…treat ;)), we chowed down on curries galore. And instead of Kool Aid, O.J. or soft drinks, India tea remains a staple.

Since I know the fabulous Kathy is a history buff, here are a few tidbits:

  • ‘Chai’ is Hindi for ‘tea’. So when you order chai tea at Starbucks, you’re actually ordering tea-tea. 😉
  • The full traditional name is ‘masala chai’, which means spiced tea.
  • In the early 1800s, the British East India Company grew concerned that China was overtaking the world’s tea monopoly, and began cultivating Assamese tea plants. The British Indian tea industry flourished, but the Indian natives didn’t much like the British preparation techniques—black tea with milk and sugar. Since then, masala chai, the spicy, slightly sweet and creamy beverage, has become popular worldwide. And, it’s delish!

Simple Chai

1 cup water

1 cup milk—any variety

2 black tea bags

2 tbsp honey or agave

splash of vanilla extract

1 cinnamon stick

2 whole cloves

dash of ground cardamom (about 1/8 tsp)

dash of ginger (about 1/8 tsp)

In a sauce pan, boil water.  Add remaining ingredients, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain and pour into cups. Makes 2 servings.


This week’s cookie: Fruit-filled Oatmeal

Don't they look delicious? Image via August McLaughlin

I created this recipe for a vegan friend of mine, who *gasp* doesn’t like chocolate! But even as a chocolate lover, I have to say—they turned out tasty! They have a light, crumbly texture, a hearty sweet flavor and more fiber and antioxidants than most granola and energy bars.

Fruity Nutty Oatmeal Yums

2 cups old fashioned oats

2 cups dried apricots

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 medium apples, diced

1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped

1/3 cup peanut or almond butter

4 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp agave nectar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

pinch of salt

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Place all of the ingredients in your food processor and pulse until well combined. Then with your hands, roll rounded teaspoon-size balls of dough. Place the dough balls on an un-greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cookies appear lightly brown. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.


As they say in Minnesota, “Oh yah. You have a good day now!” And in India, “Namaste!”  It’s been such a treat sharing the blog-stage with you, Kathy!


August, you can stop by anytime with such wonderful-ness.  I see you found the cookie sheets, no problem. 😉 Thank you so much for being the guest cook today! 

What food traditions does your family share? August and I would love to hear from you!

Until next time,


image via August McLaughlin

August McLaughlin is a Los Angeles-based health writer and author with articles featured byLIVESTRONG.com, eHow.com, Healthy Aging Magazine, DAME Magazine and more. Before completing her first novel, In Her Shadow, she worked in the fashion, entertainment and wellness industries, wearing hats ranging from Parisian runway model to culinary coach. Considering her longstanding passion for suspense tales, she wasn’t surprised when her attempt at a memoir turned quickly into a thriller. She is represented by Dystel & Goderich Literary Management and is currently completing her second novel, Beauty Complex, and a nutritional guide for Alzheimer’s disease prevention.

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