Archive for March, 2013

Black Is Beautiful: Fun With Black Lava Salt

If you come to Stardust Teas and Spices, you’ll run into our selection of fun salts. Most of us use the white processed salt in our cooking, and we also use it as a finishing salt on our foods after they’ve been cooked, especially if one likes their food a tad saltier than most.

But in our store, no Morton’s Salt for you! Why? Because we have flavored salts you can have fun with, either in cooking or baking. So what should we showcase first? Black Lava Salt, is our choice, and we hope it will be yours too. If you see it, you’ll recognize the beautiful, rich black color, as well as the coarse texture.

So what’s so special about this wonderful salt, and most of all, what is it, exactly? Black Lava Salt from Hawaii, for example, is ocean water that’s processed through filters to extract the salt, then infused with activated coconut shell charcoal to add the black luster to the granules. Cypress Black Lava salt is infused with charcoal, and there is Indian Black Lava Salt as well.

These salts have excellent minerals, such as Boron, Chloride, Calcium, Fluoride, Iodine, Manganese, and Magnesium. And the nice thing, too, is that you don’t have to use this salt for cooking purposes only. If you’re into creating your own skin care products, you can add these granules to your masks, exfoliants, or scrubs.

For cooking, here’s the warning: Do NOT use this salt in the cooking process, or you’ll get a puddle of granules at the bottom of the pot when you’re done. This salt is called a “finishing” salt, and is to be used on top of your food after the cooking process. Simply sprinkle some on your salads or anything else you like, and not only enjoy the taste of salt, but the crunchy texture it can add. Beware: use sparingly because you can overdo it.

Simple Ways To Use Vanilla Beans

I must admit that when I see whole vanilla beans, I just want to bypass them altogether. Why? Even people who are allergic to fragrance often admit they can tolerate the aroma of vanilla. Here’s the thing, it’s like everything else that first strikes you as rather strange, until you learn what all the fuss is about, and vanilla beans are no exception. If you don’t know how to use them, seeing them resting peacefully in their cute little glass vials is about all you’ll want to do.

Personally, all I’ve ever used is vanilla extract, but even that doesn’t give you the impact of the power of vanilla the way the bean does. And the nice thing is that you can use both the outside husk and the seeds inside to flavor up a dish or dessert you’re wanting to make.

There are different varieties of vanilla beans, some with eye- brow-raising price tags. Others are more economical. But overall, people tend to notice the hefty price tag on these aromatic treats of nature. What you may not know is that it can take a few years to grow the plants, and on top of that, the beans have to stay on the vine for nine months before they are harvested.

But one thing is for sure, these beanie babies are definitely worth the wait.  We’ve included a link to a short, concise video that will give you a quick overview on how to use vanilla beans. If you’re in the Nashville, TN area, you can purchase them from us!

How To Use Vanilla Beans

Habanero Sugar: Hot, Hot, Hot!

Many of you are wondering what’s up with the funky sugars we have at Stardust Tea and Spice. When it comes to salts, which we have plenty of and in all kinds of varieties to boot, most people understand quite well what that is and mostly how to use it. But the sugars seem to flumox most everyone. If it’s not the white processed kind, or at least the raw variety, we tend to scratch our head a little, perplexed.

Now’s the time to step outside the box and experiment some, especially with all the fun sugars we have. Because we’ll most likely feature each sugar with its own post, we’re going to start with the hot Habanero sugar first. Here is the first question we always get about this one: What do you do with it, exactly?

That’s okay, we understand. This sweet sugar, with the extra added zing that’ll set your mouth on fire, doesn’t have to be an enigma. First of all, you can use sugar in your general cooking, from rubbing on meats to adding to sauces. But let’s think about the properties of sweet and hot blended together. If you look at some of the products on the market today, you’ll see chocolate and pepper paired up to create yummy, gormet confections.

Adding this sugar to spaghetti sauce will definitely up the hot notch on your dish, while adding just a hint of sweet. If you make some hot chocolate, add just a pinch (and we do mean pinch) to your cup. Want to make a zinger of a chocolate cake, why not add some of this sugar to the frosting and make your dessert stand out among the crowd.

One customer said she threw a little of this sugar into her smoothies, and she enjoyed the taste and the twinge of sting hitting her tongue when she drank her juice. Now that was creative, for sure!

The best thing to do is to experiement and try things out. Because this particular sugar has fire to it, we suggest you go easy on it–very easy!

Tingle Your Tongue With Chocolate Mint Tea

Time for fun with Rooibos tea, especially when you have chocolate and mint playing together in the same sandbox . . . or teacup, I should say. I’ve always been a fan of the peppermint patty, devouring whole bags or boxes of them at a time. Let’s say York and I are intimate friends! But when I swallowed a mouthful of Chocolate Mint Rooibos, a blend of dark Cacao Nibs and Mint leaves, I found a new liquid version of a special friend.

Studies are showing the health benefits of chocolate, especially dark chocolates. Flavanols in the cocoa beans have been found to have anti-oxidant effects, which means they help reduce the cell damage that comes from heart heart disease. So now it’s time to run out and buy a box of Godiva chocolates to wolf down? Not so fast! Many of the chocolates we purchase have fats, sugars, and other additives which are not conducive to heart health, and they can be disaster for diabetics. So dark chocolate in moderation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, which makes sipping a chocolate tea even more fun.

Some of the benefits of drinking Rooibos tea are: improved cardiovascular fitness, helps increase insulin production after eating–also will help reduce fasting insulin levels, excellent bronchodilator, can help function as a light anti-spasmodic.

With this particular blend, the taste of chocolate hits your palate with a bang, leaving a cool, tingly aftertaste in its wake. Most delicious! Like the Orange Cinnamon tea I mentioned in a previous post, this one needs to steep several minutes to bring out the full taste. But it’s definitely worth the wait.

Cinnamon Orange, A Flirty Tasting Tea Blend

Hooray! We’ve just received a couple of our new teas, and couldn’t wait to taste one of the flavors right away. Though not a blend I might consider picking up in a store, the aroma wafting from the bag nearly bowled me over. Rich with the scents of citrus mixed with cinnamon, the blend blazed with strong colors of orange peel, hibiscus, and blackberry leaf.

When I first poured the tea, the taste hit my palate as rather light, not in accordance with the strong smell I first enjoyed. However, as the tea seeped for several minutes, the flavors came out of hiding and ran around screaming wildly on my tongue. As I finished the cup, the cinnamon came out stronger, and the orange became the aftertaste. By the way, I added some stevia for light sweetness, and this rounded out the whole taste experience for this tea.

If you purchase this particular blend, the rich aroma will take you by surprise. The addition of cinnamon and tangerine oils actually give this herbal mix a “wet” look, unlike most teas you’ll see. For fun, I actually sipped this from my gaucho gourd, using my bombilla straining straw. Yes, I do use my gourds for more than just yerba mate, but more on that later.

If you’re looking for a strong, yet not overbearing taste, the Orange Cinnamon blend may be for you.

We’ve finally done it! We’re introducing Nashville to a wonderful collection of teas and spices. No more dull food and drink any longer! If you’re wanting to receive the ultimate benefit from healthy herbs, you don’t have to look any further than us: Stardust Tea and Spice.

We’ll be starting off with a fun collection of loose teas and flavored sugars to kick off your sipping pleasure, and beginning January 2013, we’ll be adding a host of spices for your cooking needs.

For all you people who indulge in herbs, we haven’t forgotten you! You’ll also get to choose from an eye-watering assortment of wonderful, healing herbs for your personal use, whether you use them for drinking or incorporation into body products.

Accessories: We won’t be forgetting these, either. From straining straws, to infusers, to scoops, we’ll have a nice variety of helpful items to enhance your tea and spice usage experience.

Again, we’re happy to start this collection, and we hope you’re just as excited about this venture as we are!