Tea & Book Pairing: Tumika’s Tea Blend

I’m revamping this blog to post allergy-friendly recipes and tea and book review pairings. Here’s the first pairing, based on a book I read at the beginning of this autumn’s reading binge.


tumika's tea blend

I received a free review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Some books heal by skirting the edges of pain, but this book dives right into it, bringing us healing through facing the truth. When a Man Loves a Woman by Tumika Cain answers the question a lot of us have from the outside looking in on situations of domestic violence. Many of the reviewers have already provided insights, but I would like to offer the feeling it inspired for me in the form of a tea recipe.

This tea, and this book, taste like catharsis.

When a Man Loves a Woman Tea
*makes one pot*
3 heaping tablespoons Harney & Sons Decaffinated Earl Grey tea leaves (or 3 teabags)
1/2 teaspoon ground organic cardamom
Steep in boiling water for 5 minutes. Serve with brown sugar cubes and maybe a little half and half.

The bite of cardamom echoes the sophisticated characters, and it gives a bite to the beautiful life that Alicia lives despite the troubles she endures. The blend of the two reminds us like the book that change does not happen alone.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a fictional account that brings them to the heart of both pain and healing.

Amazon Shopping List: When a Man Loves a Woman paperback, Harney & Sons Decaffinated Earl Grey teabags, Organic cardamom.

This post contains affiliate links.

Advent Preparations: Allergy- AND Fast-friendly Banana Bread

Gluten Free, Egg-free, Dairy-Free Banana Bread

4 medium very ripe bananas, mashed

1 ½ cups gluten free flour mix (any variety with xanthan/guar gum already added)

½ cup red palm & coconut shortening (Such as Nutiva brand), melted

¾ cup brown sugar, lightly packed

½ cup coconut milk (not low fat)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

Optional: up to 1 cup chopped dates, chocolate chips, or chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350•F. Grease a bread pan with coconut oil or shortening and set aside.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until well combined. Add in dates and nuts if desired, and stir to incorporate. Pour batter into the bread pan evenly. With wetted fingers, smooth the top of the batter slightly. Place pan in the oven and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of gooey banana bread batter. (If you used chocolate chips, the toothpick might have chocolate on it. If so, get a clean toothpick and try another spot or two until you can tell if the batter has baked. If it’s still sticking, uncooked, to the toothpick, add 5 minutes to the cooking time and check again.) Remove bread and pan from oven. Let the bread stand in the pan to cool for 10 minutes before cutting it or turning it out on a plate. Serve warm or room temperature.

Read more about our Advent With Autism Guide on my main site!

Gluten-free Scones

My son and I both need gluten-free foods, so I adapted Sienna’s Southern Scone recipe from Tea & Crumples for the gluten-free crowd. I used Pamela’s Gluten-Free Artisan Flour Blend as the base flour, but you can try your favorite gluten-free flour blend. Make sure it already has added gums, or add your own.

2 cups all-purpose gluten free flour
3 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
½ -1 teaspoon sea salt
½ Cup unbleached sugar (or coconut sugar)
3/4 Cup heavy cream, plus extra for coating
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
optional: 1 cup nuts, chocolate chips, or dried fruit

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a cast iron skillet with ghee or butter, and set it aside. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugars. Cut butter into little pieces and press with hands into flour mixture until it is incorporated. It will resemble coarse bread crumbs. Add nuts/fruit/choc. chips if desired. Add eggs, vanilla, and heavy cream. Stir with fork just until dough forms. It will probably take less than ten turns. Dough might be a little sticky.

Press into well-seasoned, greased cast iron skillet. Form into a large, flat disk at least an inch thick. It’s okay if the dough touches the sides of the pan. Coat top with a little cream.  (I add a tablespoon of creamto the measuring cup that held the egg and use that mixture for the tops of the scones, so it’s sort of like an egg wash). With a knife, score the unbaked dough into 8-12 triangles, but do not separate the dough. Bake for 15 minutes.  Check and return to oven for additional time as needed, checking at 2 minute intervals. Done when light golden brown on top, or about 20 minutes cooking time.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from bake sheet.

Serve warm or room temperature with clotted cream and fruit preserves.

Variations:  for cinnamon pecan scones, add a teaspoon or so of cinnamon to dry ingredients. For cashew scones, remove granulated sugar and use an entire cup of brown sugar instead. For strawberry scones, add a little cardamom.

I made a batch of these scones this morning, and these are the only ones left! I don’t think they’ll last the evening.

Enjoy! This weekend, Tea & Crumples ebooks are on sale for only $2.99 on Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and Kindle. Make these scones, and enjoy with a good read!

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Shopping through the links does not change your cost, but I might receive a small amount of money for referrring you. Thank you!*



Celebrating Best Sellers!

I have had quite a day, and I want to share some of the excitement with you. How else? With tea!

A little tea party for the children to celebrate all three of their mama's books becoming Top Ten Amazon Best-Sellers!
A little tea party for the children to celebrate all three of their mama’s books becoming Top Ten Amazon Best-Sellers!

Just yesterday, I published my latest novel, an Orthodox Christian paranormal romance called The Salvation of Jeffrey Lapin. Guess what? It made it to #8 in its category on Amazon this morning! Then, in honor of NaNoWriMo, I was glad to be able to offer my workshop model Creative Writing for Kids for free this week only! Creative Writing for Kids has risen to #2 in its category on Amazon!

When the children approached me to ask why I was so excited, I told them the great news. All three of my published books have made it to the top ten in their Amazon categories.

What do you think they wanted to do to celebrate? In the words of my four year old, “Mom, can we have a tea party with real tea?” 

I had already planned to tell you today about my favorite quick and easy tea treat “recipe” (assembly required, but no cooking). It so happens that the children love this treat for their tea parties. All it takes is two ingredients: Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers (biscuits) and Nocciolata [click links to view on Amazon]. If you’re not allergic to soy lecithin, you can use Nutella in place of the Nocciolata. (I cannot eat regular Nutella due to a severe allergy to soy products.) But even friends who can eat both tend to prefer the richer flavor of Nocciolata when we have tea.

The “Recipe”: Chocolate Covered Biscuits

6 teaspoons Nocciolata chocolate hazelnut spread

6 Carr Whole Wheat Crackers

Spread 1 teaspoon of Nocciolata on each biscuit. Serve!

My children love these tea treats. They sometimes call them “Chocolate Covered Kipper Biscuits” since they look just like the treats eaten on the TV series Kipper the Dog.  Kipper’s chocolate covered biscuits are probably meant to be chocolate Hob-Nobs, which unfortunately also contain soy products and are therefore banned from our house. But as someone who enjoyed Hob-Nobs back in the day, I can assure you that these tea treats are a delicious substitute for those with soy allergies.

Thank you for celebrating with me! Please share your favorite super easy tea treat “recipe” in the comments!

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Comfort Food: Homemade Tortillas

Tea is a given at any meal in our home, but what we serve with it varies on the season. Now that we are entering cold season, I have made sure the pantry is stocked with a 10 pound bag of flour and a fresh jar of baking powder. Of course you can use those ingredients in tea time classics like scones, but we native Texans often take our tea bread in a different direction. Enter today’s recipe, my version of homemade tortillas. I hope you enjoy, and please share your favorite comfort food in the comments!

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Homemade tortillas are a very kid-friendly recipe. Here's my daughter making tortillas with her Aunty back in the spring.
Homemade tortillas are a very kid-friendly recipe. Here’s my daughter making tortillas with her Aunty back in the spring.

When my twins were born, my sister came to stay with my older children while I was in hospital. My youngest son needed a major abdominal surgery when he was only two days old. I fretted over leaving the older children without either parent for two days, until my sister texted me a photo of a plate piled high with homemade tortillas. In my family, homemade tortillas are Lembas bread and heart cakes, burrito wrappers and quesadilla bases, but most of all, they are stability. If my preschool children won’t eat anything else due to stress or illness, they will still gobble down tortillas.

{Recipe heavily modified from Flour Tortilla recipe in Joy of Cooking}

Flour Tortillas

4 cups white flour (or 3 white, 1 whole wheat)

1.5 cups slightly hot water (about 115 degrees F)

1 stick (half cup) softened butter

2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons [aluminum-free] baking powder.
Mix together flour, salt, and baking powder. Heat water and butter together till just a little hot (I microwave cold water and cold butter on high in a big glass measuring cup for one minute). Add the water & butter to the flour and stir to combine.
Knead, squeezing the dough together well with your hands. Divide it in two and throw the large dough balls several times between your hands. They should start to become more elastic quickly.
Return the dough balls to the mixing bowl between divisions. Divide them again and smush/roll between palms a few times. Continue dividing until you have 16 dough balls. (When you have 8 larger dough balls, you may divide some of them into 3 instead of 2. I often make 20-something smaller tortillas since I am feeding children. But for fajitas or burritos, you would want 16 ~8 inch tortillas.)
Roll them between your palms while pressing down. Leave all of the dough balls in the mixing bowl and cover with a piece of plastic wrap so that the wrap touches the dough (or use a very slightly damp cloth to cover the bowl and don’t touch it to the dough balls; the goal is for them not to dry out).
Slowly heat a large heavy skillet such as an enameled or well seasoned cast iron skillet on medium or medium low heat (depending on how hot your burners run). After at least five minutes of rest, place a dough ball on a clean, flat surface (I use a nonstick Silpat mat). Press it flat with your fingers, gently pressing out and down until a circle is formed and the dough is tortilla thin. You may also use a tortilla press if you have one or a rolling pin if you like being frustrated.
When the pan is hot, place dough circle in the center. Watch carefully. If the pan is hot enough, the tortilla should cook and have brown spots after 45 seconds-1 minute. Flip with a spatula and let cook another 45 seconds or so on other side. Remove to plate. I usually pat out the next tortilla while the previous one is browning. It usually takes me about an hour to make a double batch of these, but of course they take longer with child helpers. Tortillas are very child-helper-friendly. The little ones sometimes like to pat out their own tortillas or to roll them with a rolling pin.
Note: May also be made with good lard, coconut oil or with non-hydrogenated palm shortening if you have food restrictions. I don’t recommend “vegetable” shortening, because what is that, anyway?

Something for Tea This Week

For our Orthodox wedding tea party in July, I asked my caterer to make dates stuffed with chèvre and pistachios. She added a drizzle of local honey to make this resplendent treat:

They were wonderful. Photo credit: Pelikan Portraits, 2014.
They were wonderful. Photo credit: Pelikan Portraits, 2014.

This weekend, I wanted to make a special tea treat for my in-laws while they were in town. We didn’t have pistachios in the house, but roasted unsalted almonds worked splendidly for our home version.

They aren't as pretty as the catered ones, because I made these under the influence of my four children.  :-)
They aren’t as pretty as the catered ones, because I made these under the influence of my four children. 🙂

If you want a change from biscuits this week, why not give stuffed dates a try? Here’s the home version of the recipe. It makes about 18 stuffed dates.


4oz. log of goat cheese (chèvre)

1/2 lb. fresh medjool dates

About 20 roasted, unsalted almonds (may used spiced or salted if you’d like)

Split the dates with a small knife and remove the pits. With a spreader or shallow spoon, add about 1 teaspoon of chèvre to each split date. Add one almond (or pistachio) to the cheese section of each date and squeeze dates closed a little. Serve immediately or freeze for up to a month. If refrigerated in a sealed container, they taste best when eaten within a couple of days; after that the cheese dries out.

These tea treats are deceptively filling. They make a wonderful addition to autumn tea tables. We have been enjoying them with Taylors of Harrogate Assam. Which tea do you prefer with stuffed dates?