Monthly Archives: November 2013

Foodie Penpals in Reverse!

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I interrupt this Subscription Box Saturday to bring you

Foodie Penpals in Reverse!

This was my first month with Foodie Penpals where the person I shipped to shipped to me. It was so much fun getting to know Brandi! You can see what she sent me here. I asked Brandi, since she doesn’t have a blog, if she’d like to post about what she received. She happily obliged! {I love that she wrote this like a letter to me, too. 😉 }

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I opened my very first Foodie Pen Pal box! How absolutely fun.

Thanks Carrie for your amazing gifts!

The box itself was adorable.

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As packaging can sometimes make or break a gift, it was clear this one was packed with care and attention, giving more value to your thoughtful choices!

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Inside, was a handwritten note as well as a typed explanation for each item chosen! It was super fun opening the letter and reading about your choices for me! I love words. I love reading. I loved opening something “just for me.” Having 4 kids, being chauffeur, nurse, teacher, mommy, wife etc . . . limited the time I had to write such a nice letter to you! Please accept my chicken scratchin’ and read between the lines as much as possible! I really TRIED. But you put me to shame here. {Carrie’s Note: SO NOT TRUE! It was uniquely you and I loved it!} Just know, your words were much loved and appreciated!

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Now for the goodies!

Pop’d Kerns: I love crunchy snacks and this one is no exception! What made this extra special was that it is uniquely Minnesotan. I’ve been warned they are addicting!

Highlander Grog Coffee: Coffee is my favorite drink! I can’t wait!

Wild Rice Soup: This soup is distinctly Minnesotan . . . I can’t wait to get it warming on the stove on a cold, windy, Kansas day. Which will be soon!

Creole Seasoning: I told you I love spices and seasonings so this was such a fun addition! I’d never tried this particular mix . . . until I added it to a Mexican/Chicken style dinner the other night. It was fantastic! I loved the slight change in flavor!

Assorted Chocolates: No comment necessary. Except, YES! YES! YES! Mmmmmm.

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Thanks again, Carrie, for your yummy gifts! How Fun!

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I am so glad, Brandi, that you loved all your goodies! If you would like to participate in Foodie Penpals, please click here for more information.

Cheers~
Carrie

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Mediterranean Foodie Penpal! {Reveal Day}

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No, my Foodie Penpal this month was not from the Mediterranean.

{All U.S. residents are matched with other U.S. residents.} However, Brandi from Kansas really took what I said about liking Mediterranean food to heart! Just wait until you see all of these goodies!

FPP post Foodie Penpals

The package I received was decorated beautifully in festive wrap as well as some French phrase stickers to make this Francophile smile. 😉

photo 1I opened the box to find a cute card atop all of the goodies that Brandi chose especially for me. She bought from three different stores! She said she had fun carrying my list of likes/dislikes around in search of just the right items. How sweet is that?! 😉

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And the contents:

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  • Mediterranean Risotto – We love risotto in our house, but I’ve only made it once. This one has dried zucchini and red peppers right in the mix. It’s on our dinner menu in the near future. Perhaps with these Mediterranean Pork Chops?
  • Chocolate – Chocolate and hazelnuts always remind me of FRANCE! Oh la la… I had to divvy this baby up into eight pieces so I wouldn’t eat the bar in one sitting. I’d rather have a little bit of chocolate every day. Chocolate with hazelnuts never disappoints!
  • Apple Chips – A healthy snack. Love these!
  • Halva – Totally new to me! It’s made up of ground sesame seeds and cocoa. A decandent treat that reminded me a bit of the flavor of a Butterfinger, but the texture of fudge. Yum!
  • Dry Roasted Edamame – Wasabi flavor – Brandi chose these because I said I liked nuts and she said they “seemed a do-able cousin. Plus it’s a healthy snack packed with protein.” And spicy! I like spicy!
  • Tomato Basil Cheese – Um, cheese? Yes! Um, tomato? Yes! Um, basil? Absolutely! Win, win, win!
  • Mediterranean Quelitas Snacks – Cheesy. They are from Mallorca. I’ve seen it as a stop on Mediterranean Cruises when Rob and I were planning our Honeymoon.

Brandi, you are so sweet to think of me when picking out these goodies. I’m loving trying everything. I can’t believe there are so many new-to-me items!

Thank you again!

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Would you like to be a part of Foodie Penpals? You don’t have to be a blogger and don’t have to participate every month – just the months you want to! Here’s how:

Thinking you want to become a Foodie Penpal? You don’t even need to be a blogger to do it! Nor do you have to participate every month. Here’s how:

1. Sign up by the 4th of the month that you want to participate.
2. On the 5th of the month, you are assigned a Foodie Penpal.
3. You communicate with your penpal about any food allergies or preferences, as well as where to ship the package.
4. By the 15th of the month, send $15 worth of food to your penpal that may include homemade goodies, local treats or just some of your favorite discoveries that you want to share! The box must also contain something handwritten.
5. You’re Foodie Penpal will ship a package to you as well by the 15th!
6. If you are like me, you squeal with delight when your package arrives.
7. You enjoy said goodies, which you may have never known about otherwise.
8. If you are a blogger, you post about the package you received on the last day of the month – Reveal Day! {If you are not a blogger, you do not need to do anything, but thank your Penpal, of course! However, if your Penpal does blog, you can choose to write a guest post, if you so wish.}
9. To sign up for January {they’re taking a break in December}, click here.

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Come back tomorrow for a guest post written by Brandi on what she received from me!

What is your favorite Mediterranean Food?

Cheers~
Carrie

Entitlement: The Opposite of Gratitude

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Today a whole slew of posts of gratitude with explode upon The Internets!

I love seeing those things this time of year! So much love fills the air. However, a list of what I’m thankful for is not what my Thanksgiving post will entail. For I have adopted a practice of focusing on graditude every day. I have filled an entire journal with it since I began this practice. I highly encourage you to do the same. Don’t think about those things for which you are grateful just today. Think about them every day. Trust me. It’s life-changing.

Because the opposite of gratitude is entitlement.

I’m not talking about the kind of entitlement we label our youth with today. I’m talking about the kind of entitlement we all experience… on a daily basis. We aren’t exactly ungrateful, but we feel entitled – inadvertently.

We feel entitled to have:

  • Hot water for our showers
  • Clean water for drinking
  • Our families to be nice to us and say the right things
  • A working stove for our Thanksgiving meal
  • Two loving parents
  • Friends who understand
  • Enough money for food
  • Transportation to get us to our destination
  • Legs to walk
  • Hands to eat or type
  • Eyes to see
  • The post office to deliver your mail
  • The cashier to give you correct change
  • An open gas station
  • A warm winter jacket
  • A heater in your home or vehicle
  • A place to sleep
  • Someone be, do or act a certain way that you deem appropriate

Yes, these may sound simple.

But not everyone has them.

And you may not even realize that you felt entitled to them. You may have even spent time judging or labeling people or circumstances who got in the way of these things. You are not entitled to any of them.

So instead, be thankful for any of those that you have. Turn of away from those that you don’t. Look around today and be thankful for Every. Single. Thing. you see.

Continue to do the same every day by writing down ten things you are grateful for and WHY. Then, instead of feeling entitled, your life will become truly magical.

Name one thing you may have felt entitled to, but are truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheers~
Carrie

2013 Beaujolais Nouveau Battle

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

If you are in a pinch and are looking for some great Thanksgiving Wine Pairings, click here. Or, just drink what you like and don’t worry about pairing!

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But as for this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau, we did the research for you!

It’s been a few years since I’d had a Beaujolais Nouveau. My husband and I are hoping for some good luck in 2014. So it was time to open a bottle before the new year.

But which do you choose when all the Beaujolais Nouveau bottles are staring you down in the store?

Rob and I set out to try a few of them side-by-side to determine our favorite producer for future years. {Although wines will still vary from vintage to vintage!}

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What I learned?

I don’t really like Beaujolais Nouveau, or at least not the 2013 vintage.

Of course, Beaujolais Nouveau is not a big, bold red like a Cab or Zin. It’s truly not a serious wine. It’s meant to be fruity and drunk young. Like NOW. And don’t confuse a Nouveau with other Beaujolais wines. They are all made with the gamay grape varietal, but there are some serious Beaujolais and Beaujolais Cru out there. Some are even made to age. Nouveau is just not one of them.

We picked up the four bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau available when we were at Zipp’s Liquor in Minneapolis stocking up for Ale Fest 2013. {More on that next week!} Then we rounded up our glasses and evaluation sheets.

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Here was our lineup {uh, right to left}:

  • DuBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $9.99
  • Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $12.99
  • Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $10.99
  • L’Ancien Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $14.99

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What we found is that these wines weren’t really the fruity, easy-drinking red that we all know and love. They all started off smelling quite lovely, like strawberries. Rob picked up some violet and rose petal on the nose, too.

But they all tasted astringent to me.

The most heinous offender was Mommessin, which after my second taste, I just couldn’t drink anymore. We did slightly chill these wines, as BN should be, but perhaps we didn’t chill them long enough. {Beaujolais Nouveau should be served right around 55 degrees – colder than a red, but not quite as chilled as a white.}

We began to feel like we did when we came back from Tuscany. All the Italians keep the good Chiantis for themselves and ship the crappy stuff to the U.S. Same thing here perhaps?

Because of this, there wasn’t a clear winner.

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Notes:

Georges DuBoeuf (12%) – Rob said that if he had to choose one to drink, it would be this one. And if we opt to share a Nouveau next year, this’ll probably be it. The aromas mostly consisted of strawberries, violet and rose petal. Besides the strawberry, I tasted something a little more tart – maybe black currant. As expected, both the tannin and body were light, but there was definitely some acidity there, making it great for pairing with food.

Joseph Drouhin (12.5%) – Strawberry, prune and floral aromas. And although these wines see no oak, I got a whiff of vanilla and a hint of spice on the nose, as well. However, the taste was very tart and Rob described it as “almost aluminum” tasting. Again, light tannins, short finish, maybe a bit more complex than the DuBoeuf, but not quite as balanced either.

Mommessin (11% to 14%) – <–First off, how can you legally list that as the alcohol percentage on your bottle? Were you unsure when you made the labels what the alcohol content would be? Did you make a couple of batches then mix them together? Or not intend to label them separately? I’m thoroughly confused by that one. Whatever the case may be, this was our least favorite. Faint strawberry aromas, light-bodied with high acidity. On the first taste, I actually felt that dusty quality that I like in a good Pinot Noir. So it’s something I would not expect out of the Gamay grape. But that was short-lived because each subsequent taste was astringent and vinegar-like. Ack! Oh wait, Mommesin also made this unimpressive wine.

L’Ancien (12%) – Rob didn’t like this one at all; but to me, it was the first BN we tried that I thought tasted more like a serious wine. It was more complex with not only berry aromas, but also that of olive and white pepper. Rob hates that white pepper flavor that can be found in some Grenaches. That’s probably what turned him off here. I liked the label of this one the best because it was basic and not so gimmicky-looking.

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But when it comes down to it, if we’re buying a fruity, easy-drinking Beaujolais Nouveau, we aren’t looking for complexity. That’s why Georges DuBoeuf would be our winner this year. But only by process of elimination.

Next year, we may step up in search of a Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau. Or maybe we’ll do a Battle of the Beaujolais: Cru vs. Nouveau, knowing full well who the winner will be. It would just be a great way to learn and experience the difference.

What wines would you like to see us review or describe next?

Cheers~
Carrie

Put on your PARKA! {Closed}

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Because winter has arrived!

I’m not a huge fan of winter, so I’m trying to embrace it as much as possible… But it’s hard for me to come up with a list of things I do like about it.

When I saw a Groupon Living Social deal for a restaurant in Minneapolis called PARKA, I was intrigued. Those of us who live in Minnesota practically live in our winter coats for at least four months out of the year.

The restaurant intrigued me because:

  1. I had never heard of it before even though it opened back in January of this year.
  2. It hails from the owners of Victory 44, which has been on our wishlist for burgers because it always seems to win that “Best Burger” title in the Twin Cities.
  3. Parka has this “Perfect Burger” on their menu, too!

After I informed my husband of my deal purchase, he said, “Why have I never heard of that place before? I know where I want to go for my birthday!”

And so we went, on a Saturday night… early. I spent all day reorganizing and purging from my closet and dresser, so we didn’t eat lunch. I think we left the house around 4:15pm, by which time we were hungry. It didn’t appear that they were the type of place to take reservations. And I knew that if they just sold a bunch of deals, the place just might be packed.

The place was pretty small and reminded me more of a coffee shop. You order at the counter and your food is delivered to you.

They carry three beers on tap and they are all from the local brewery, Indeed Brewing. We’ve had a few of their beers before, one of which includes the LSD, which doesn’t get great ratings, but I totally puffy heart it. There are many more beers available by the bottle or the can, as well as wine. But we, eh hem, Indeed ordered the Midnight Ryder Black Ale on tap.

Our deal included two beverages, an appetizer, two entrées and a dessert. We placed our orders, tipped in the jar and had a seat. Below is the Living Social photo for the deal, but it was pretty much taken from the seat where I sat that evening!

Source: Living Social

{Source: Living Social}

The décor design feels Scandinavian and cozy, reminiscent to the heritage that is rooted here in Minnesota. And although the term Parka is Aleutian, it captures the essence of the cold weather than we Minnesotans either complain about or embrace all winter long. In the corner is a very old TV {with knobs!} and VCR playing recorded {obviously} old North Stars hockey matches. Hockey is beloved here, and although the Wild are wildly popular, the North Stars are still highly missed. I’m sure watching those games is nostalgic for some.

Our beers were promptly delivered to our table:

Indeed Midnight Ryder Black Ale

Indeed Midnight Ryder Black Ale

Originally, for our appetizer, Rob wanted to order the bacon fries. Despite my anti-bacon-on-or-in-my-food preference, I conceded because, after all, it was his birthday dinner. However, we were told that the bacon fries came with the burger, so if we planned on ordering that, we might want to try something else. We asked for an appetizer recommendation. Here’s what we got:

Devils on Horseback

Devils on Horseback

Unless you’ve heard of these before, the average person would not know what these were because there are no descriptions on the menu. I must say that our service was excellent and when someone came to check on us and we asked about the creamy foam, we were given quite a lot of detail about the dish!

Devils on Horseback = Bacon-wrapped, blue cheese-filled dates baked in the oven accompanied by a blue cheez whiz (foam), almond brittle and a ginger date purée.

Who would have known this otherwise? And it was so good! I actually liked not knowing what all of the accompaniments were before I tasted them so that I wouldn’t have any preconceived idea or thought whether or not I’d like every component.

Rob was giddy as he exclaimed that he felt like we were getting to try dishes on Top Chef!

Then came our entrées, which ended up being a bit disappointing.

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The Perfect Burger

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this burger was perfect. I would say it was good, but it wasn’t one I’d ever get again. Maybe I’d give it a try over at Victory 44 just to see if there is a difference. The cheese was nice and melty, but the meat was a little strange to me. And although the bacon wasn’t overpowering, I still wasn’t feeling it.

We didn’t see any bacon on the fries and Rob thought the white topping was goat cheese, but when I dipped my finger in it, it felt like a powder! I tasted it first, then made Rob try it. And neither of us could taste any flavor. When we inquired about the topping we learned that it was bacon fat powder. Lucky for me, the fries weren’t overpowered with bacon. But if you are looking for bacon fries, these probably won’t satisfy you. The fries themselves weren’t all that exciting anyway. If we are in that neighborhood and craving fries, it’s off to Mosaic we will go!

The second entrée we split:

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese

A hefty portion of mac and cheese arrived along with our burger. Rob found the dish to be creamy; I did not. Plus, it needed some sort of seasoning. It was completely blah. I ended up mixing in those greens and mustard seeds in, which helped a bit, but not enough to get excited about ordering the dish again. And those sausages? I thought they’d be house-made or something. They had a little kick to them. But they were just hot dogs!

And finally, probably the star of the show:

Chocolate Layer Cake

Chocolate Layer Cake

Rob and I rarely order dessert, so this wasn’t the dish we’d been waiting for. Besides, Chocolate Layer Cake sounds a little boring. But this dessert was far from that!

Side note: By this time, there was a line nearly out the door!

Rob was in the restroom when the plate was delivered to our table. I asked what kind of ice cream was served with the cake. The bearded gentleman who brought it to our table wasn’t sure. But I told him that it was okay, I could just taste it! He said that he could check, too.

When Rob returned to the table, he was impressed by the presentation. Bearded man returned and said, “Did you taste it yet?”

I hadn’t because I didn’t want to start Rob. Then, “I’ll give you a dollar if you can guess!”

I took a bite and tasted coffee. But it couldn’t be that easy! I love coffee ice cream, but there was something slightly different about this one.

“Some kind of coffee?” I said.

“Close.”

He turned to Rob, “I’ll give you a dollar if you can guess, too!”

Rob had nothing.

And it was revealed:

CHICORY ICE CREAM

I was pretty darn close. It did remind me of the coffee I’d had in New Orleans! I love when chefs attempt at fun, unique ice cream flavors. Who would have known that this would come with our chocolate layer cake? It’s not noted on the menu! The cake was very good, too, by the way, along with the toasted marshmallow!

But when I bit in into the white chocolate, it almost bit me back! There was something that seemed spicy in there. I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. I was just more fascinated by it than anything else. I would go back for more in between bites of the cake. My palate was thoroughly confused. I flagged bearded server down again only to find out that the sugar they use to make that white chocolate is the sugar used to make Sweet Tarts. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Talk about an interesting dining experience, especially with such basically described items on their menu!

This deal reconfirmed something for us. Deal sites like Groupon and Living Social allow us to try something new, whether it be a dining at a new restaurant, discovering a different neighborhood, or trying foods we won’t normally try. It opens up a whole new world for us and gets us out of our comfortable little box.

Just think about it, even if we had heard of Parka before, we may not have ordered anything there but the burger and mac and cheese and then would have gone away disappointed. We still have another deal to use, so we’ll be trying some different entrées next time around.

Now, after all that…

What do you like about winter?

Cheers~
Carrie

Fitness Walking {Food & Fitness Link-Up}

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Since this is a short week, it’s not going to be much of a Food & Fitness Plan for me…

planning

Food:

There is only one cooking night available this week. I don’t want to go grocery shopping, so I’ll be throwing together some things from the freezer, fridge and pantry. Wish me luck!

Fitness:

It’s not a secret that I’ve been failing here lately. I thought I found my calling when I started running. I thought it was the thing that worked for me. I had races I’d signed up for. I had a schedule, a plan in place. I found such a sense of accomplishment every time I improved. I loved the endorphin rush.

But since my back surgery and slowly got back int the swing of things, I thought I could begin the Couch t0 5k again. But every time I have pain in my back, I don’t want to risk it getting worse. I think the pounding may be doing the harm. I’ve decided once I’ve lost the weight, I can go back and try running again. That’ll be less tough on the back.

For now, I need to get back to walking. Besides, it is the best form of exercise for the back. And for this crazy week, the plan is just to get 10,000 steps in a day.

Fitness Walking

So let’s talk a bit about Fitness Walking. Having been a runner for an entire year, walking just sounds so boring to me now. While I do find a greater sense of accomplishment and release from running, we all know walking is a great form of inexpensive exercise that anyone can do.

The debate on why running can be more beneficial to your health weight loss can be found here… and here.

Yet we all know that walking is an excellent place to start for those who cannot run quite yet. And it can be easier on the body.

I recently picked up a copy of the Weight Watchers Complete Walking Guide from a second hand store. Here are some facts the surprised me or were new to me:

  • In a study from Duke University Medical Center, researchers found that walking 11 miles a week for 6 months prevents people from gaining visceral fat – the fat around your stomach and internal organs that’s linked to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

  • Just like running, regular walking strengthens bones. The faster and longer you walk, the greater the benefit.

  • Studies have shown that you can help preserve your memory, attention and learning ability as you age by walking a minimum of 2 to 3 hours a week at an easy pace, defined as walking a mile in 20 to 30 minutes.”

  • Studies have shown that women who walk more than 10,000 steps per day have less body fat, a lower BMI and a lower waist/hip circumference than those who walked less than 6,000 steps per day.

  • 75% of successful maintainers recorded in the National Weight Loss Registry list walking as their main form of physical activity.

  • It’s normal to feel some aches and pains particularly in your calves, shins and hips. The pain will ease as your muscles and joints adjust to being challenged in new ways.  Learn the difference between aches and soreness and true pain where you are pushing too hard and should back off!

  • Blister Deterrent: Use water or rubbing alcohol on your feet before walking. Dry feet completely before putting on socks.

  • City Walking – A study from the University of Pittsburgh showed that walking at a leisurely pace still gets results. You shouldn’t even try to speed-walk down city streets dotted with delivery men, commuters and people pushing strollers. Researchers at the Uuniversity of Colorado at Boulder found that obese individuals burned more calories and reduced the impact on their joints when they walked at a leisurely place over a longer period of time (about 2 miles per hour) than when they walked in faster, shorter spurts.

     I need to remember these things when I start t think of walking as boring, especially on a treadmill in the winter. 😉

How do you make exercise more fun?

Cheers~
Carrie

Savory Teas

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Have you ever had a savory tea?

I hadn’t even heard of them until they started arriving in some of my subscription boxes. In fact, they came in two different boxes in the same month. And what I found…

…is that i love them.

You might be surprised by the first one that I tried…

Goodies-Savory Tea

If you know me or have been following this blog for any length f time, you may know my disdain for broccoli. I can’t stand the smell of it. I gag. So you’d think I’d skip this tea entirely. But I was willing to give Numi’s Broccoli Cilantro Savory Green Tea a try.

And I loved it.

I think the cilantro came through a little more and the turmeric gave it a nice spice and flavor. But it absolutely was savory and will hit the spot if you are craving something of the sort. I think it could satisfy an afternoon urge to snack. Here are some suggestions that Numi gives on when to enjoy a savory tea:

Savory - When to Drink

I love all of those ideas. A few weeks later, I remembered that I had a couple more savory teas from the other food box from that month.

This brand was Millie’s Savory Teas.

Millie's Savory Teas

{Source: Love with Food}

“Green tea infused sipping broths” is how Millie’s Savory Teas are described. The first one I tried was the Spicy Tortilla. It tasted just like you would expect it to – like a tortilla soup broth. So flavorful!

The Indian Spice was just as good:

I have been on a tea kick lately and I like the opportunity to mix it up a bit with the savory ones.

Have you had a savory tea before?

If so, what flavor?

When would you drink a savory tea?

Cheers~
Carrie