Making A Scene The Nashville Way!

Stardust Tea And Spice

 Stardust Tea And Spice: The Nashville Scene

They say the age of the “Selfies” has entered, and now, Stardust Tea And Spice must join the ranks, especially since a kind person by the name of Lesley Lassiter mentioned us in The Nashville Scene. As a small business trying to compete against big giants, loyalties get pulled in all directions these days.

Wanting to find new ways to amp up the shop, we thought adding teas and spices made a nice fit with jewelry crafting, since so many people associate all these things with comfort, happiness, and feeling good. And the nice thing we can tout for the holiday season is the introduction to our new eCommerce site where you can buy teas and spices online! So if you’re up late at night, or you don’t have time to run into the shop, you can order in the comfort of your home and pick up the merchandise at the store or have it shipped to you. We’re always trying to add new blends and flavors to our collection, as well as fun, useful accessories.

The most interesting thing I’ve noticed is customers who come in to purchase teas, spices, and accessories for friends and family. Before we delved into this area, we’d never considered gift-giving to include these items. So you see, we learn from our customers every day! And it’s true, sometimes the best things can be found in your own back yard!

Grains Of Paradise: A Taste Of Eden In Your Mouth

Ever been out in the woods on a zippy autumn day or a blazing hot afternoon, when the spicy scents of the forest come out to flirt with your sense of smell? Now try imagining that same taste in your mouth, but with a sudden bolt of hot sizzle rolling around on your tongue, leaving an almost floral/citrusy aftertaste.

That would be a light description of Grains Of Paradise, a West African spice that’s part of the Ginger family. On a lark, I popped one of these tiny little pods in my mouth and got the explosion of a peppery taste coupled with notes of an almost floral flavor, though some people mention they sense a citrus taste.

Either way, I loved this spice, and I’d never heard of it until we added it to our spice collection in the shoppe. So the big question is: How do you use it?  Well, first of all, you’ll need either a mortar and pestle to grind and crack open the seeds, which releases the full flavor; or investing in a small spice grinder is also a good idea.

Once you crack these pods open, you can use it in place of black pepper, add them to your steaks, potato salads, and even use it in your cobblers when you’re baking. The heat releases the flavors of Cardamom and Ginger, making your dishes fairly dance in your mouth.

Don’t let the step of crushing the seeds before using deter you. It’s not that hard; it’s quite simple to do. And like most spices, Grains Of Paradise is easy to use in your hot dishes you prepare. At Stardust Tea and Spice, we carry this spice, along with some spice grinders and mortars and pestles. So you’ll have everything you need to spice up your next meal.

 

 

Fleur De Sel: No Wallflower Where Salt’s Concerned

As you’ll soon learn, there are all kinds of salts out there, and while some of us are told to watch our salt intake for various health reasons, those who can enjoy it have every reason to do so with Fleur De Sel. This salt is harvested in France by hand by workers who scrape off the top layer of salt from the salt pans, after drying in the sun and wind.

What you get is a moist salt with a well-defined crystalline structure that makes it unique to most salts. However, this is a finishing salt, too, and should NOT be used in the cooking process. This special salt is supposed to be sprinkled on top of food after its preparation so the flavors come through better.

Some say they’ve tasted after notes that are flowery, but I’m here to tell you, from personal experience, this salt doesn’t have floral tastes! However the taste is milder than other salts and would be a great ingredient to top off your next special dish. If you’d like to know a little more about Fleur De Sel, you can watch the video below:

About Fleur De Sel

Going Down Easy With Whole Star Anise

And The Star Of Our Kitchen Is . . . 

Most of you have, no doubt, seen this lovely spice relegated to the arts and crafts projects created by many of our illustrious, imaginative youngsters. But now it’s time to take this mysterious spice off the construction paper art work, and use it where it’s meant to be used: in our wonderful dishes we prepare.

You’ll recognize the smell right away, that familiar smell of licorice we all know too well. So what does this spice look like? A star, of course! Star Anise is actually a dried fruit from the evergreen tree, and mostly grown in China. When dried, it resembled an 8-point or 6-point star. And within the tips of the points, you’ll sometimes see the shiny, golden seed, which contains an oil you’ll see when it’s crushed.

Star Anise can be used whole, or you can use just the seeds. You can also grind it fresh just before use. If you use the whole stars, don’t over add, and be sure to remove them when your dish is finished cooking. Ground or whole, you’ll add tremendous flavor to your soups and stews when you drop these in the broth and allow them to simmer along with your other ingredients. The potent taste of this spice brings out the flavor in meats much like MSG, so for all those out there who want to remain MSG-free, this lovely spice can be the star of your kitchen! If you’re wanting a flavorful tea, use Star Anise to create a drink that’s soothing to your tummy.

What does Star Anise treat? Digestion is one area, along with calming colic and upset stomach, easing rheumatism, and increasing libido. You can also use this spice for freshening up your breath.

If you’d like to learn a little more about Star Anise and its uses, both kitchen and spiritual, check out these links below:

Quick Bites: Whole Star Anise

Other Uses For Star Anise

Building Great Flavors With Adobo Seasoning

I must admit, I had to do a double-take when I first saw the name of this seasoning. I thought adobe was something used to make houses in certain areas of the world. Then I looked again: A-D-O-B-O

This seasoning is used in Latin American and Caribbean cooking, and is derived from the Spanish term, “adobar,” which means to marinate. In older times this concoction was used to preserve meats, but now it’s turned into an everyday household spice.

If you note the ingredients, you probably have all these individual seasonings in your spice rack: Salt, Granulated Garlic, Oregano, Black Pepper, Tumeric, Onion Powder. If you don’t want to try to figure out how much of each, then we recommend just buying the spice ready-made.

You can use this product as a rub on chicken or fish, and some have even created a wet rub. If you want more flavor for your soups and stews, Adobo seasoning is an excellent choice. And yes, at Startdust Tea and Spice, we have the wonderful Adobo Seasoning for your enjoyment.

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.