Wecome “Small Biz Shout Out” to the Blog!

Good Afternoon and Happy Thursday from Sweet Tea Cooking! Today we are kicking off a new Thursday tradition! Welcome to the Small Biz Shout Out! Every Thursday we’ll feature 3 small businesses that we’re crushing on. It could range from restaurants to independently owned companies creating wonderful products out of a sheer passion. Supporting independently owned, local businesses has many benefits for the local community and economy. Please show some Sweet Tea Love by checking out their website or giving them a visit. If you have any product suggestions let me know. I love discovering new stuff!

DISCLAIMER: I am only featuring products that I personally buy, use, and love. IF I ever happen to get gifted any goodies I’ll let you know up front. Until that happens, which would be rad, this is the stuff that I’m spending my (and my husband’s) hard earned cash on!

  • If you’ve ordered a cup of coffee in Hampden, Fells Point, Hamilton, or Federal Hill in the past three years odds are fairly high that you’ve been “fueled by Zeke’s Coffee“. Even if you haven’t you’ve definitely seen one of their bumper stickers. They are the coffee of choice at most restaurants in the Baltimore area and for a good reason…the coffee is sooooo good. My personal favorite is Royal Blue Blend which is also organic and Fair Trade! Lucky for us you can purchase the beans by the pound in many of the restuarants that it is offered, many markets in the Baltimore metro area, and for those not in the Baltimore area you can order through their online store. While I know that many of us have made the switch over to Keurig machines I highly suggest ordering a few EkoBrew refillable cups so you can enjoy Zeke’s Coffee with your Keurig machine without sacrificing convenience…plus major Captain Planet points for creating less trash!

Captain Planet

  • Mill Valley General Store has the largest selection of local and/or organic foods of any other market in the Baltimore area. They label all of their produce, dairy, meat, and bulk foods not only with the price but the farm and area that it has come from. You know exactly where your food is coming from and are supporting small local farms. I personally love the transparency that they provide, no other market does this at the level they are. You can tell that they only stock the shelves with items that they are proud to sell. According to their website all of the meat is “grass fed, raised on family farms in Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, and Howard Counties” and all items are growth hormone and antibiotic free. When it comes to the few shelves of packaged items that they do sell they, “strive to sell wholesome food without GMO’s, high fructose corn syrup, additives or dye”.  Less chemicals and additives always means a yummier meal! The quality of the food that I’ve purchased from Mill Valley always by far surpasses the food that I buy at any other grocery store. During my last visit they did not have any apples by the time I came out of the bulk food section a delivery truck pulled up and the most beauty honey crisp apples were available, how about that for fresh food?! TJ has been giving them rave reviews and they are really hefty. You never know what you’re going to get when you stop in and I kind of like that! They are also a pick up spot for the CSA at One Straw Farm, which I highly recommend. I was a member for years when I lived closer.
  • Really Raw Honey is a fairly new discovery for me. TJ and I have been working on decreasing the amount of “sneaky” sugar that we consume and when we cook replacing processed sugar with alternative sweeteners that are still natural and minimally processed. We’ve been using maple syrup and honey in some new ways! I’ve always purchased local honey for its health benefits but I hate the squeeze bottles. I know that honey never goes bad but if I can’t get it out of the bottle even with a spoon then it does me no good! I first noticed Really Raw Honey because I was in love with the wide mouth jar. I decided to research raw honey before making the purchase and there are some really huge fans. The avid fans claim that raw honey has even more health benefits than traditional honey. I figured I’d give it a go. When I first opened up the jar the smell was amazing. It wasn’t syrupy at alll, it was a really lovely, floral smell. Once I scooped the honey into my mug I noticed that it scooped with ease despite the fact that it looked solid. I’ve been using the same jar for two weeks and it still scoops as easily as the first day! There is a “crust” of all of the lovely things that would have been filtered out during processing of traditional honey and I admit the look can be a tad off putting. My first use I thought the tea bag had busted open. Thankfully it hadn’t and my afternoon tea time has been revived! Really Raw Honey has me as a new fan. I will never purchase any other honey again! Tea drinkers you have to try it!

    Really Raw Honey

    Tea time will never be the same!

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Welcome (New Friends) to Sweet Tea Cooking!!

Julia Child quote

Julia Child is kind of a big deal at Sweet Tea Cooking.

It has been a crazy 2 ½ weeks since Sweet Tea Cooking has launched. We’ve reached 90 likes on Facebook and are still working to make our home on the world wide interwebz. I want to thank everyone for their support and enthusiasm. It has been such a great motivator for getting Sweet Tea Cooking up and running. This has been something that I’ve daydreamed about doing for some time and now it is actually happening! For our new friends I thought I’d go over what exactly Sweet Tea Cooking is and make a rare request for you to share and invite friends to like Sweet Tea Cooking on one of the many platforms that we’re posting on!

The heart of Sweet Tea Cooking are the cooking sessions titled “Y’all Come Eat Now” where I actually get into the kitchen and cook side by side with someone while they tell me about a dish that is important to their family. I still have plenty of open spots on the schedule so please let me know if you have a dish that you’d like to share!

For the rest of the week we’ll be talking food, food, and more food. A few times a week I’ll be posting some original content, other times I’ll be reposting some articles that I’ve come across, #fangirlFriday will focus on someone who we love at Sweet Tea Cooking- basically anyone who is living their dream and chasing a passion is right up our alley, and #saywhatSaturday will feature some cooking video tips and tricks that other people have shared with me.

Feel free to share any articles, recipes, or videos that you think the Sweet Tea family would like to see…heck any content ideas are gladly accepted!

Sweet Tea Cooking launched on what would have been my Grandma’s birthday and we sure hope that we’re making her proud! Be sure to follow and invite others to join Sweet Tea Cooking on WordPress, Twitter (@SweetTeaCooking), Instagram (Sweet_Tea_Cooking), Pinterest (Sweet Tea Cooking) and right here on Facebook!

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

Birthday Cakes Gone Wild

Good Afternoon and Happy Wednesday from Sweet Tea Cooking. Today is my husband’s birthday so to celebrate Sweet Tea style I would like to present some birthday cakes gone terribly wrong…and a few that are really, really right. Next year is his 30th birthday so we’ll have to see which type of cake he receives for the big day!!

I have been pretty obsessed with the fine folks over at Cake Wrecks for some time now. I’m so obsessed that if and when it comes time for TJ and me to have a baby shower I already have the cake picked out (take note Moms!) and it has to be an exact replica of this cake no matter the actual sex of the baby that we’re having.

Whenever I’m having a crumby (see what I did there…) day all I need to do is visit Cake Wrecks and within a few minutes I’m sure to be laughing. It is equal parts good intentions gone bad, incompetent grocery store bakers, and extremely tacky tastes being showcased that really makes this website a homerun. I would check them out when you get a chance.

Have you ever ordered a grocery store cake and felt the need to go over the order slip with someone before just placing it in the mystery order box only to have the employee look at you like you’re bonkers? Well these cakes are exactly why you feel the need to do that!

cake_wreck_2

Some people take those order slips very literally!

Some people take those order slips very literally!

Perhaps you’ve had enough of the grocery store mess ups and you decide to bake the cake yourself this year but after planning the party, making the food, cleaning the house, you’re just over it. This is what ends up happening and you’re right back at the grocery store next year.

homemade cake

You can almost taste the resentment but we’ve all been there

There are some people that either have the actual talent and time or the smarts to outsource the task to a reputable baker and present their loved one with an awesome cake that fits the birthday person’s personality. This is a rare and glorious thing.

atari cake ghostbusters Personal Birthday Cakes

I'm just slightly obsessed with Tom Selleck so this cake would be perfect for me!

I’m just slightly obsessed with Tom Selleck so this cake would be perfect for me!

I am lucky enough to share a weekend with two amazing bros and that always equates to a super rad time. We just so happen to have been the recipient of hilarious and delicious cake.

This is a rare example of a grocery store cake getting it right. Even if they would have somehow messed it up it would have only made it better!

This is a rare example of a grocery store cake getting it right. Even if they would have somehow messed it up it would have only made it better!

Happy Birthday TJ from Sweet Tea Cooking!!

Back To School Meal Planning

We all have a Awkward Family Photo from the first day of school!

We all have a Awkward Family Photo from the first day of school!

Good Morning and Happy Monday from Sweet Tea Cooking! For those in the Baltimore area it is also the first day of school. I used to love the first day of school! New outfit, all new supplies, and the anticipation of if the BFF was going to be in my class!! As everyone posts all of their kids first day of school photos I am so envious! I want a cool new backpack and lunchbox!  

One aspect that seems to affect everyone whether you have kids or not with the new school year is more traffic and more structure to your day which for our house boils down to menu planning. During the summer there are more opportunities to go out to lunch, get some fresh air, and if you’re really lucky try out a food truck that’s nearby! During the summer our dinners seems to mostly consist of a protein (fish cooks really quickly), rice/quinoa, and a veggie. Thanks to all of the great fresh summer produce, it always tastes delish but I could also be easily swayed to grab Panera or Chipotle. With the cooler temperatures it seems like we get better about packing our breakfasts and lunches and eating dinner in almost every day.  Once football season really gets going this will be almost second nature. It is so easy to watch the game and cook/meal prep for the rest of the week. I feel like if meal prep doesn’t get done on Sunday, there is just no way it is getting done during the week.

A typical fall Sunday in our house would include chopping a ton of veggies and some chicken breasts in the crockpot for a salad for lunches, a chili, soup, or spaghetti going on the stove top (sometimes all three-we’re fans of overcooking and throwing it in the freezer), cleaning, cutting and portioning out an fruit for the week, and once the chicken is out of the crock then a huge batch of steel cut oatmeal will go in for breakfast for the week. This week I even cooked a large batch of quinoa to help speed up dinners. I hope it holds up!

On a really great week we’ll have the crockpot, multiple burners, and the oven working. For our wedding we received a larger crock so we very well may have two crockpots going! Ideally I’d like to have all breakfasts cooked for the week, lunches prepped and portioned as much as possible (minus TJ’s sandwiches that he makes in the morning), and so many dinners prepped that there is always one in the fridge ready to be heated up and as we clean up from dinner we pull the next night’s dinner out of the freezer. Minimizing our time in the kitchen as much as possible during the week will go a long way from keeping us out of Chipotle.

It seems like our biggest problem with this type of cooking is VARIETY! I have a soy allergy so we try to eat as natural and wholesome as possible when we cook.That includes minimally processed foods, organic foods, whole grains, keeping the sodium/sugar content low, etc. Finding dishes that can be cooked in advanced, frozen, heat up nicely, and meet our dietary goals can be a challenge. We find that we’re cycling through the same handful of recipes week to week.

I’m turning to our Sweet Tea family, what do you guys do to meal prep for the week? What are some of your tips and tricks to get out of the door as fast as possible in the morning and getting dinner on the table with minimal effort? Are there any tried and true recipes that you guys stick with? We’d love to hear them! I’ve listed our “go to” dishes below. If you’d like the recipe to any of them be sure to add that to your comment. I’m happy to share!

Crockpot Cinnamon (peach or apple) Oatmeal
Yogurt Parfaits
Fiesta Chicken
Mexi Mac
Chili (Kidney and White Chicken)
Tortilla Soup
Beef Stew
Pulled Pork Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Jambalaya

How Will Sweet Tea Cooking Work?

So you may be wondering how Sweet Tea Cooking will work. I’ve always envied good cooks and I enjoy cooking but I am by no means going to tell anyone else how to cook! I need all of the help that I can get. Let me share with you two of my earliest memories of cooking (and some favorite stories for my Mom) and you’ll see what I mean.

The first involves one of my first times actually cooking. I was in about 3rd grade and we had to write an explanatory essay detailing the steps of how to do something. I decided that I wanted to write about fixing dinner on a Saturday night for my family. I was going to make soup (canned-still my specialty), salad, and grilled cheese. I fixed the salad and cut everything way too big, something that I’m still guilty of to this day. Heated up the soup, can’t mess that up thanks to Campbell’s. Then I moved on to fix the sandwiches and by this time I was hungry so I cranked up the burner to get these sandwiches cooked really quickly. Well it REALLY worked because these sandwiches were well done almost instantly and the smoke alarm went off. That’s when my Dad gets up off of the couch and says “It sounds like dinner is done”. This was the start of bad habit that I’m still guilty of. TJ’s always telling me that I have the burner too hot and the smoke alarm in my parent’s house was basically the dinner bell for many years. I am proud to say that I have not set off a smoke alarm in many years!!

burnt grilled cheese

Not my grilled cheese but you get the idea

The second story goes back even further than that. I was probably about 5 years old and my brother about 3. Both of my parent’s were very sick with the flu or some similar illness. My brother and I were playing, behaving as perfect angels as usual and Matt tells me that he’s hungry. Well I knew better than to try and fix anything myself but I knew mom and dad were sick so they should rest. I did what I figured was the best option for everyone involved. I called my grandma to tell her that we were hungry and mom and dad were sick so she should come over to cook for us. So even at the ripe old age of 5 I knew that if you want a good meal, you better pick up a phone and order it!

For years I have wanted to get the recipes to some of the dishes that my grandma and family would make for holiday dinners. Those are the dishes that have the best memories associated with them for me and some of the best eatin’! Unfortunately, I did not start this project soon enough and by the time I had my first inclination that I better learn how to make paster (more on that later) my Grandma was already showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The priority shifted from trying to cook with her and learning all of these recipes to learning how to cope with what my family was now dealing with. Now that she is no longer with us I am determined to not let these recipes go with her. I think she’d be happy to know that some of her traditions and memory will live on.

I will be cooking side by side with my family to recreate some of these recipes and with their permission sharing them with you right here on this blog. I have also reached out to extended family and friends that may be willing to share any of their family recipes with me. If you have any recipes or stories that you’d like to share please let me know! I would love to document as many of these recipes as possible. For those top secret family recipes that are being shared with me but not on the blog I’ll still be posting the family story and why this recipe means so much to the guest cook. We’re going to get some good stories out into the world!

I’d like to thank everyone in advance for their support and either allowing me into your kitchen and allowing me to share your story on Sweet Tea Cooking! Please remember to be sure to follow Sweet Tea Cooking on Facebook (Sweet Tea Cooking), Twitter (@SweetTeaCooking), Instagram (Sweet_Tea_Cooking), Pinterest (Sweet Tea Cooking) and right here on the blog!

Welcome to Sweet Tea Cooking!!

Grandma and me at her bday party

Grandma and me at her birthday party about 7 years ago.

Welcome to Sweet Tea Cooking! At Sweet Tea we’re going to discover family recipes, a little family history, and crack into some cool memories that are associated with the dishes that we’ll be cooking.

Some of my favorite memories from childhood involved the whole family going over to my grandparent’s house on holidays and we’d run into the kitchen to give Grandma a hug and a kiss while she was finishing up the cooking. She would make the tea last and that smell of black tea brewing on the stovetop stood out from all of the other great food. I would love when it was served it was still kind of hot but poured over a glass full of ice. I don’t remember a meal where sweet tea wasn’t served hence the name of this blog being Sweet Tea Cooking.

Today would have been my Grandma’s birthday so in honor of her I thought this would be the perfect day to launch Sweet Tea Cooking. The look of the blog and profiles will be changing over the course of the next few weeks but I will be adding content fairly regularly. Be sure to follow Sweet Tea Cooking on Facebook (Sweet Tea Cooking), Twitter (@SweetTeaCooking), Instagram (Sweet_Tea_Cooking), Pinterest (Sweet Tea Cooking) and right here on the blog!