July is supposed to be the hottest month of the year in LA, but honestly, I find August to be the most suffocating. Mid-summer in La-La Land has me feeling warned out, parched and yearning for a trip to The Islands.
This Aloha Tea Smoothie is a trip in a glass–a drink to keep you happy, healthy and hydrated. The base of this smoothie starts with frozen pineapple, mango, and banana. For an extra nutritional boost, I like to add a heaping spoonful of Greek yogurt too.
A third of the smoothie base gets an addition of beet juice powder. This supplement not only creates the most brilliant mauve color, but also extra antioxidants, fiber, calcium and vitamins A and C.
The top layer of this smoothie is where you’ll find a refreshing pop of green tea. For extra nutrition and vibrant color, I also blend a cup of baby spinach into the mix. I love using Yamamotoyama’s Pineapple Mango Green Tea Powder here, concentrated tea that echoes the same tropical flavors in the smoothie itself.
For a fun twist, serve these Aloha Tea Smoothies with some colorful drink umbrellas and lots of extra garnishing fruit. These drinks are like a relaxing tropical breeze, sure to quench your thirst through to the end of summer!
Makes 2 large drinks.
|- 1 cup frozen pineapple||- 1 cup frozen mango|
|- 2 cups frozen banana||- 1 cup pineapple juice|
|- 1/2 cup greek yogurt|
|- 1 Tbsp red beet powder|
|- 1 cup baby spinach|
|- 2 packets of Yamamotoyama’s Pineapple Mango Powdered Green Tea|
|- extra cut fruit||- drink umbrellas|
1. In a blender, blend the base layer ingredients together. Pour 1/3 of the mixture into one glass. Now pour another 1/3 of the mixture into another glass. Leave a 1/3 portion in the blender.
2. To make the middle pink layer, add 1 Tbsp of red beet powder to one of the glasses of smoothie. Mix evenly to achieve a pink smoothie.
3. Add the spinach and tea into the blender. Blend on high until the smoothie is evenly green.
4. Evenly distribute the yellow smoothie evenly between 2 serving glasses, then layer on the pink smoothie. Top with the green smoothie. Garnish the drinks with extra pieces of cut fruit and/or drink umbrellas. Enjoy!
I love tea foods that are portable, convenient and nutritious. That's where onigiri come into the picture, those Japanese shaped rice balls that you can jazz up and make your own.
I came up with this recipe for Sweet Potato & Avocado Onigiri the other day when I had way too many avocados getting ripe at the same time. The ingredient list is simple and meatless but super satisfying.
There’s a special twist here that makes these onigiri extra special, and that ingredient is browned butter. The butter chars the outside of the onigiri, giving the brown rice an almost popcorn like taste.
For vegans, just use coconut oil instead of butter. The oil itself won’t brown, but you’ll be able to get a nice golden finish on the outside of each onigiri.
To go along with those popcorn flavors, try enjoying this with Genmaicha, otherwise known as popcorn tea. These Sweet Potato & Avocado Onigiri make a hearty snack, ideal for eating on-the-go or on a summer picnic.
Makes 6-8 large onigiri.
|- 1/2 avocado, sliced into 1/4″ pieces|
|- 1 small sweet potato, roasted & cooled, then sliced into 1/4″ pieces|
|- 1 cup short grain brown rice|
|- 2 Tbsp salted butter|
|- 1 sheet nori, cut into 1 1/2″ x 4″ strips|
|- chopped chives, to garnish||- togarashi, to garnish|
1. Cook the rice by rinsing it several times, then cooking in 2 cups of water (or according to package instructions). When it has cooked, fluff up the rice in a large bowl and let it come to room temperature.
2. Wet your hands and a onigiri mold in a bowl of water. Add enough rice to the mold to cover the bottom and half way up the sides. Create a bowl-like space to place the fillings. Place 1-2 pieces each of the avocado and sweet potato in the space. Now top with rice to cover the fillings inside.
3. Press the top of the mold into the bottom half to compress the rice ball. Push the rice ball out then wrap a piece of nori around it.
4. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Wait for the butter to gradually turn a brown color, then grill the onigiri for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Garnish with chives and togarashi to taste. Best served immediately, with Genmaicha.
It’s most common to see tea lattes made with a strong black tea or matcha, but a Genmaicha Latte is a whole new experience–mild, sweet and savory.
This is a nice drink for enjoying in the evenings or when you don’t want a caffeine overload. The strong tea base is made from steeping a generous amount of popcorn tea leaves for a longer than usual period of time.
I prefer to sweeten this latte with brown rice syrup, which highlights those toasty rice flavors in the drink. The malty taste of brown sugar or a mild flavored honey also work well.
Dusting the tops of the latte with some powdered Genmaicha is a tasty way to finish off this pick-me-up. The latte itself doesn’t have a lot of color, so serving it up in a brilliant teacup makes for a pretty presentation.
Makes 2 lattes.
|- 1 Tbsp of Yamamotoyama’s loose-leaf Genmaicha (or 2 tea bags), steeped in 1 cup of boiling water for 1 minute|
|- 1 cup almond, coconut, or regular milk|
|- 1/4 cup brown rice syrup or brown sugar, or to taste|
|- 1 packet Yamamotoyama’s Genmaicha powdered green tea, for sprinkling on top|
1. Mix the sweetener in with the hot, strained tea.
2. Fill each teacup half full with tea. Froth the milk and use it to top the tea cups to full capacity.
3. Sift some powdered Genmaicha atop the lattes and serve immediately.
I love spring rolls at all times of the year, but in the summer they’re especially delicious. Sips of refreshing iced tea in between bites of crunchy, veggie-packed rolls and life is good.
I usually use rice paper to make spring rolls, but soy wraps are a nice way to add a pop of color to your summer table. These Shrimp & Mango Rolls are a like tropical version of lettuce wraps, light and healthy.
To go along with the rolls, there’s a spicy green curry based dipping sauce. A packet of green tea adds a fresh vegetal fragrance to the sauce, and complements the slices of mango perfectly. If you’re craving some richness, also try adding a slice of ripe avocado.
I love enjoying these with an ice-cold glass of Genmaicha. The taste of toasted rice in the tea helps to take the place of a whatever carbs you feel like you might be missing in the meal.
When the days are long and hot, make these colorful wraps as a healthy tea time snack. The combination of sweet and spicy are a brilliant combination of flavors!
|- boiled shrimp, peeled (I like to use cocktail shrimp)|
|- mango, peeled, pitted and cut into sticks|
|- leaf lettuce||- red cabbage, shredded|
|- thin vermicelli, cooked according to package instructions|
|- soy wrappers (I used Yamamotoyama’s Orange Soy Wrappers)|
Lay a piece of soy wrapper on a work surface. Place 3 shrimp evenly along the center of the wrapper, followed by an even layer of lettuce. Lay some sticks of mango and shreds of red cabbage atop the lettuce, followed by vermicelli. Fold both sides of the wrapper atop the center strip of ingredients, snugly. Flip the roll over, shrimp side up/ seam side down. Use a sharp knife to cut the roll into 3 equal pieces.
|- 1/2 cup coconut milk (from a can)|
|- 1 tsp green curry paste||- 2 Tbsp brown sugar|
|- 1 tsp fish sauce||- 1 packet powdered Sencha green tea|
|- squeeze of lime juice|
Place the coconut milk, curry paste, brown sugar, and fish sauce in a small pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to low. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce covers the back of a spoon. Take off the heat, squeeze with lime and set aside to cool.
Which do you prefer–frilly tea sandwiches or plain ones? Personally, I’m partial to the plain variety, but I must admit–the fancy ones have a magical way of attracting the eye and setting a mood.
Delightfully Lacy Ham & Cheddar Spirals are all about the finishes and frills. Each sandwich is wrapped in a delicate pastel layer of soy wrapper cut with a decorative paper punch–yes, the same punches used for crafting and scrapbooks!
Craft punches come in so many impressive patterns. The ones used here go straight across, like a ribbon. The classic look of this infinity lace pattern is one of my favorites.
Start with soft, fresh bread. It’s important the that bread have enough moisture so that it stays compacted after being rolled out. If you can find it, super thinly sliced cheese also comes in handy. Make sure that both ingredients are at room temperature so that they’re pliable and don’t break apart during the rolling process.
Although I’ve made these in the classic ham and cheese, this roll-up technique will work with many fillings, including egg salad, chicken salad or even veggies. The trick is to handle the piece of the flattened bread as if you were rolling up a sushi roll.
For convenience, make the sandwich “logs” the night before you plan on serving. On the day of, all that’s left to do is slice and wrap with colorful lace. Finish with some chopped herbs and these pretty canapés are ready for tea time!
|- sliced bread, crusts removed||- ham cold cuts|
|- thin cheddar cheese slices, at room temperature|
|- mayo||- chives, chopped|
|- soy wrappers (I used Yamamotoyama’s Soy Wrappers), cut with edge paper punch into lacy strips|
1. Cut the crusts off of a slice of bread. Use a rolling pin to compress the bread to a tortilla-like thickness.
2. Spread a thin layer of mayo across the bread, making sure to cover the entire surface. Now place a slice of cheese directly atop the bread. If you need to, use another piece of cheese to cover the entire surface of the bread in a single layer of cheese. Now place a slice of ham atop the cheese in a single layer.
3. Starting at the bottom of the slice, roll upwards like you are making a sushi roll. Roll tightly and evenly. Place the roll into a fridge container, seam side down. For best results, make the sandwich logs the night before you plan on serving.
4. When ready to serve, cut the sandwich “logs” into 3 equal pieces. Wrap a piece of lace-cut soy wrapper tightly around the sandwich. Seal it at the seam with a dab of mayo. Sprinkle with chives to finish and enjoy!
Cucumber Sushi Rolls, or hosomaki, are my typical pick up at the to-go sushi bar. These one bite rolls make a delicious, light meal during summer months. I love their clean taste and how well they pair with hot or cold green tea.
If you’re the type of person who can’t stand long grocery lists, this is the recipe for you! These rolls have very few ingredients in them: cucumbers, nori and rice (and some vinegar, salt and sugar to season the rice). What makes this recipe great is its simplicity.
English cucumbers work well here, as do Japanese and Persian cucumbers. Seedless cucumbers with a light crunch and minimal bitterness are ideal. Since they aren’t peeled, try to stay away from any variety that has a tough skin.
You can get fancy here by replacing the cucumber with sashimi-grade fish, seaweed salad or a not-too-ripe avocado. The uncomplicated flavors of these Cucumber Sushi Rolls will allow each sip of your favorite tea to shine through.
Makes 48 small rolls.
|- 1 English cucumber, ends removed, seeded (or whatever is left of seeds) and cut lengthwise into 8 long sticks|
|- 4 cups seasoned sushi rice|
|- 8 half sheets of nori|
1. Place a sheet of nori on a sushi mat, rough side up. With wetted hands and a wetted 1/2 cup measure, spread out 1/2 cup of rice on the sheet of nori, leaving a 1/2″ border at the top.
2. Roll the mat upwards holding the filling in with your fingers. Continue rolling up to create a tight roll.
3. Cut each roll into 6 equal pieces by cutting each log in half, then each half into 3 pieces. Serve with soy sauce.
Sparkling Tea Jellies will add a classy pop of fizz to your 4th of July celebrations. After you’ve had your fill of BBQ and picnic fare, these gelatins make a refreshing, light dessert–like an enlightened version of jello shots!
Yamamotoyama’s Apple Sencha mingles nicely with the grapey wine base and also helps to taper any harsher alcohol notes. The tea reminds me of biting into a fresh, crisp apple–not too tart and not too sweet. It’s just perfect in this recipe.
In a pinch, a plain, unflavored green tea will also work well. Whichever tea you use, try steeping it on the lighter side to minimize bitter notes. Ideally, it should taste light and bright with a hint of fruit.
Work quickly to retain those tiny bubbles in the jello. Instead of warming up the wine itself, the freshly steeped, hot green tea helps to dissolve the bloomed gelatin. Any just-ripe fresh fruits taste great here, including pitted fruits like peaches, plums and apricots.
A pretty teacup or glass will make all the difference when it comes to serving. But be careful with how much liquid the vessel holds–although they look harmless, these Sparkling Tea Jellies are surprisingly strong!
Makes 6-8 servings.
|- 3 cups (1 bottle) sparkling white wine, like Prosecco|
|- 2 Tbsp powder gelatin|
|- 2 bags of Yamamotoyama’s Apple Sencha, brewed in 1 cup water at 175 degrees F for 3 minutes|
|- 1/2 cup sugar||- 1 cup apple juice|
|- 2 cups berries||- whipped cream, to serve|
1. Measure out a 1/2 cup of sparkling wine, then mix the gelatin in it. Set aside to bloom.
2. Pour the freshly-brewed, hot tea in with the bloomed gelatin. Mix well until the gelatin is dissolved.
3. Combine the wine with the tea-gelatin mixture. Mix in the sugar and apple juice.
4. Distribute the berries into the cups. Pour the gelatin mixture into the cups. Let chill for at least 4 hours. Top with whipped cream and more berries to serve.
With summer around the corner, it’s just about time for some tall, frosty glasses of lemonade. It’s such a treat to see the kids in my neighborhood set up lemonade stands. The only problem is that they don’t pop up often enough!
This Sencha Green Tea Lemonade is kind of like an Arnold Palmer, except that the proportions aren’t quite 50/50–there’s definitely a stronger lemon component. Swapping out black tea for green gives the drink a brighter, sharper taste and also lighter body.
Sencha adds a sweet and grassy essence to this tart drink. Honey’s syrupy thickness makes it an ideal sweetener here–just make sure to taste as you go so that you don’t end up adding too much.
If you want a richer lemonade, try leaving the pulp in. Personally, I prefer straining the lemon juice for a clear and smooth beverage.
Let Sencha Lemonade come to your rescue this summer when you feel worn out by the heat. A few gulps of this sunny sip and you’ll come back to life!
Makes 1 large pitcher.
|- 2 cups lemon juice|
|- 5 Sencha tea bags (I used Yamamotoyama’s Organic Sencha)|
|- 2 cups water @ 160 degrees F|
|- 4 cups cold water|
|- 1/2 cup honey, or to taste|
liquid measuring cup
1. Steep the tea for 3-4 minutes in the hot water. Add the honey and stir to dissolve.
2. Mix in the lemon juice and another 2 cups of water together with the tea. If you’d like, add more honey to taste.
3. Serve chilled or over ice.
What is it about spring and summer that make utensil free foods so appealing? Today I’m making onigirazu, otherwise known as Japanese rice ball sandwiches. Stuffed with kale and Shiitake mushrooms, these are perfect for enjoying as a healthy and portable tea snack.
Making onigirazu sounds complicated, but it’s really not. The easiest way to make these (and if you make them often) is by acquiring a clever onigriazu maker. If you don’t want to bother with gadgets, just use a measuring cup to make the amount of rice equal on both sides of the filling.
For better mushroom flavor and texture, both fresh and dried Shiitakes are used here. A generous helping of Lacinato kale and aromatic garlic and shallots make the mushrooms taste that much more hearty.
Did you notice how rich the color of this brown rice is? The rice looks like it’s been made with beef broth, but the coppery color is actually the result of being cooked in Hojicha tea. Cooking rice with tea adds a beautiful layer of fragrance and also a deep vegetable taste.
These Kale & Shiitake Onigirazu are super satisfying as a wholesome meatless meal. Plan on making many, as they keep for well for several days (in the fridge). A zap microwave and this delicious tea snack is ready to enjoy!
Makes 6 onigirazu.
|- 3 Tbsp cooking oil||- 6 large Shiitake mushrooms, fresh|
|- 2-3 large leaves of Lacinato kale, cut into 1″ pieces|
|- 1 cup Shiitake mushrooms, dried & rehydrated, tough bits removed & squeezed dry|
|- 1 shallot, minced||- 4 cloves garlic, minced|
|- 1 Tbsp oyster sauce||- 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce|
|- 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce||- 1 tsp sugar|
|- black pepper, to taste||- 2 Tbsp rice wine|
|- 1 tsp sesame oil||- 1 cup brown rice, short grain|
|- 2 cups hot water @212 degrees F|
|- 1 rounded Tbsp of Hojicha (I used Yamamotoyama’s Hojicha)|
|- 6 half-sheets of nori (I used Yamamotoyama’s Kiku Ariake)|
|- skillet||- work surface|
|- onigirazu maker or 1/4 cup measure|
|- bowl with water||- plastic wrap|
1. Steep the tea in 2 cups of boiling water for 5 minutes, then strain out the leaves. Wash the brown rice and cook it with the 2 cups of steeped Hojicha tea.
2. Place a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the shallots and garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add all the mushrooms, then stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the rice wine and let it cook out.
3. Add the kale and stir fry for a minute. Add the sauces, sugar and pepper, then mix everything together. When the mushrooms are slightly browned and the kale is wilted, turn off the heat. Drizzle the mixture with sesame oil and set it aside to cool slightly.
4. Place a half sheet of nori on a work surface. With wetted hands and a wetted measuring cup, measure out 1/4 cup of rice and place this on the top half of the nori sheet. Slightly pat down into a patty, then place 2 Tbsp of the mushroom filling atop the rice. Finally, place another 1/4 cup of rice atop the filling and slightly pat down into a patty. Refer to the images from my BLT Onigirazu post for instructions on how to wrap. Please note that these Kale & Shiitake Onigirazu are slightly smaller than the BLT ones, made with half sheets of nori instead of full sheets.
5. Wrap the rice ball in the nori so that is it fully enveloped. Place in a piece of plastic wrap and cut with a sharp knife to serve.
Tea and toast–a simple pairing, but a satisfying one.
Green Tea Sugar Toast is best for enjoying on mornings when you’re straggling out of bed or on afternoons when you’ve had enough and need a quiet tea break. This is a tea-obsessed person’s swap out for cinnamon sugar toast, a grown-up take on the kiddie favorite.
Yamamotoyama’s Lightly Sweetened Powdered Green Tea is great for drinks like ice tea or cocktails, but this toast is so fantastic that I would seriously buy it purely for making this tea toast. For mornings when you want luxury without much effort, all you need is 1 packet of green tea, 2 spoonfuls of butter and 2 slices of bread..that’s it!
To make a compound sweet butter, combine the green tea with softened butter. Slather this on your bread, making sure to cover the entire surface evenly, all the way to the corners. You’ll want to keep an eye out on the slices as they toast up in your oven. Too light and you won’t get that gorgeous caramelized finish–too dark and the sugar becomes bitter.
For a crowd, place the prepped slices on a large baking pan and toast in an oven set to 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes. For that classic brûléed top, crank the oven up to broil. Again, watch and wait–don’t walk away! The goal? Crunchy tops and soft bottoms with a thin layer of green tea butter showing through…so delicious!
Makes 2 slices.
|- 2 slices bread|
|- 2 Tbsp butter, salted, at room temperature|
|- 1 packet powdered green tea (I used Yamamotoyama’s Lightly Sweetened Powdered Green Tea)|
1. Mix the butter and green together thoroughly. Smear an even, thick layer on the bread slices.
2. Toast the slices in a toaster oven, and don’t walk away. Toast until you achieve a caramelized top. Carefully remove from oven and enjoy immediately.