Banana Lavender Muffins

 

I think when it comes to anything lavender, you either love it or hate it. I am obsessed with it. Lavender everything please. The colour. The smell. It runs in my diffuser constantly. So one time at an event, I ate something with lavender in it. And I was hooked on now baking with it.

Since we’ve had the usual long, cold grey winter here in Canada, now that the temps are starting to rise, and the sun is starting to shine again, I feel like I should bring out all of my summer things! And heck, why not get eating it again.

Lavender is one of those things where a little goes a long way. You don’t want to pile a whole big mountain in your food to have it end up tasting like a bar of French milled soap. Having a subtle hint of this flower adds a lovely, floral, bougie, maybe even slightly peppery flavouring. Especially to sweets – which sounds weird but it actually works.

I found lavender flowers in the tea section of my favourite local organic supermarket. You can also obviously use fresh from your garden if you have. And yes, this makes a lovely lavender tea as well, perfect for pre-sleeping:

Lavender flower tea

Back to these muffins, a friend of mine who is notoriously cranky about food, came over after I had made a batch of these. 3 were gobbled up in one sitting which to me confirms that they are deeeeeeelish.

Also, if you have bananas on hand but they aren’t soggy ripe like they should be for baking, try Jill’s hack here by ripening them in the oven. Works like a charm!

Print Recipe
Banana Lavender Muffins
Course Breakfast, Snacks
Cuisine Summer
Prep Time 20 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Servings
Extra Large Muffins
Ingredients
Course Breakfast, Snacks
Cuisine Summer
Prep Time 20 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Servings
Extra Large Muffins
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Line or grease a muffin tin. Either a large 6-spot muffin tin, or a smaller 12-spot muffin tin.
  3. In a small bowl, lightly mix together half of a tablespoon of lavender buds and a teaspoon of sugar. Set aside.
  4. In a food processor or large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients.
    Banana lavender muffins - mix the dry
  5. In a separate bowl mash the over ripe bananas.
  6. Combine all of the other wet ingredients.
  7. Pulse or fold in the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Mix well until all ingredients are combined.
    Lavender banana muffins - stir well
  8. Divide equally amongst cups. Bake for 20 minutes.
  9. When the muffins come out of the oven, sprinkle with the lavender/sugar mixture. Set on a wire rack to cool
    Lavender banana muffins cooling
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Enjoy these and the taste of warmer weather!

Flourless Black Bean Fudgy Brownies

Ok, chocolate much?

I know…that’s all I have been posting about lately. Last one. Promise. (For now). But seriously, who doesn’t love a rich chocolate treat? The thing I love about these flourless black bean brownies is a) they’re flourless, b) they’re full of fiber, c) they’re pretty close to a non-guilty treat when you are having an intense chocolate craving that only gooey, rich, chocolaty things can satisfy.

I know. They’re perfect.

Don’t let the “black bean” title send you into envisioning a boring bean salad at the company picnic. The beans really do make a good brownie that doesn’t taste like…well…beans. They add lots of lovely fiber (which to me, makes them goooood for you, ahem), and they are gluten free (see this note here though...), which appeals to many for various reasons.

I feel like I should warn you though…don’t eat them all in one sitting. By yourself. Trust me on this.

Print Recipe
Flourless Black Bean Fudgy Brownies
An oooey-gooey fudgy flourless brownie, that won't leave you feeling guilty.
Prep Time 20 Minutes
Cook Time 28 Minutes
Passive Time 30 Minutes
Servings
Brownies
Ingredients
Icing
Prep Time 20 Minutes
Cook Time 28 Minutes
Passive Time 30 Minutes
Servings
Brownies
Ingredients
Icing
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9 pan with coconut oil.
  2. In a food processor, add in all of the ingredients up until the baking soda. Process well, until everything is smooth and blended together, stopping to scrape down the sides if need be.
  3. Once all mixed and smooth, add the baking soda, vinegar and sea salt.
  4. Pulse a few times to incorporate them into the mixture without over mixing it.
  5. Pour mixture into the pan, and bake for 20 minutes.
    Black Bean Brownie Mixture
  6. Since oven times vary, check on the mixture at 20 minutes - give it a shake - and if it's still a bit jiggly, pop it back in the oven. Check on it in intervals - I used 4 minutes, and it was perfect at 28 minutes.
    Black Bean Brownies Cooling
  7. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes before icing.
Icing
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the coconut oil and pour in the cream.
  2. Once heated, but not boiling, whisk in the sugar and cacao powder. Whisk until thickened and well blended.
  3. Remove from heat. Let cool.
  4. Once both the brownies and the icing are cool, ice the brownies and enjoy!
    Icing for Black Bean Brownies
Recipe Notes

Note: I use both almond milk and cream in this recipe. I always have cream on hand for the richer things that I make, but you can substitute for almond milk (or something similar), but you may have to add in a tiny bit of corn starch the thicken.

If you have celiac disease or an extreme gluten sensitivity, please read this note about beans.

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Happy chocolate craving!

Brooke Simmons Blog 31 Ways to Sunday

Treat Yo’self – Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Shake

Protein Shake 31 Ways to Sunday

I’m on a chocolate kick this month. In February, it seems appropriate somehow. Valentines Day and doubling down on the last of the hibernation-induced calorie hoarding. And even if you’ve still spent the winter in the gym, sometimes you just have to treat yo’self, yo. My go-to is my Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Shake – post gym. But feel free to indulge post-whatever you’ve done today.

It’s not as terrible for you as it sounds.

In fact there is some good stuff in here.

Like whole flax seeds (ground by you…only buy them whole), for a boost of Omega-3; plain greek yogurt as a protein and probiotic source; cacao for antioxidants and serotonin support; banana for sweetness; and organic natural peanut butter for a fat boost and extra fiber (yep, PB is a fiber source). Go natural with the PB though, skip the Skippy. And a hit of chocolate protein powder for extra chocolate and protein.

 

 

Print Recipe
Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Shake
Prep Time 5 Minutes
Servings
Serving
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 Minutes
Servings
Serving
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Add all of the ingredients into a large or single-serve blender + grind until blended.
  2. Because of the cacao powder, you may have to scrape the sides once or twice for even blending.
  3. Pour into a glass and enjoy.
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts - Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Shake

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Brooke Simmons Blog 31 Ways to Sunday

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

Hello my darlings. What a lovely time of year. The leaves are starting to turn here in Central Ontario, I’m not sweating to death daily and I’m currently cruising a turkey and wine hangover after a weekend of over-indulgence and Canadian Thanksgiving/birthday celebrations. And the most over-done thing in the Fall is Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

Pumpkin Spice

“Squeeeeee-ing” women (and men) everywhere are flocking to the coffee houses to scoop up these syrupy, spicy indulgences.  Even though they are a bit annoyingly over done as far as the Facebook and Instagram posts, I do enjoy a PSL. But, my body doesn’t love sugar and most PSL’s hover around 50 grams of sugar. Each. Gross.

So I decided to whip up my own concoction which is just as good, or better than the stuff at the store that my body hates. And also inexpensive and incredibly versatile. You can customize your PSL to your tastes. I use real, unsweetened pumpkin which has tons of health benefits like vitamin A and beta carotene (eyeballs, skin), fiber (weight loss), vitamin C (immune function, cold fighter), potassium (natural energy) and carotenoids (eyeballs, skin, immunity).

Coffee

So be flexible with this! Sweeten however you want (or not want). Use coffee or espresso. Pick your milk – coffee cream or almond? You’re going to be your own barrista

I would suggest if you are making multiple PSL’s, do them one at a time in a small-batch blender like a Bullet or my personal favourite the Hamilton Beach Single Serve blender so that each cup gets the frothy fun that ends up being poured last.

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte

  • Coffee/Espresso
  • Cream/Milk/Almond Milk/Whatever You Choose
  • 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of unsweetened, organic, pumpkin puree (open a can and transfer it into Pumpkin Pie Spicea glass container to use throughout the week).
  • Sweetener of your choice – Amber honey, Stevia, or unsweetened…up to you.
  • Several healthy dashes of Pumpkin Pie Spice (make your own, or buy it pre-made). Plus some for garnish.
  • Healthy pinch of sea salt (important)

Brew your coffee or espresso. In a personal or small-batch blender, add the milk, pumpkin, sweetener, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Add in the coffee and blend for at least 45 seconds. Sometimes hot beverages do a bit of splashing…just be cautious (ie: white shirt, hotter temps). Pour into latte mugs and sprinkle a bit more spice over the top.

Enjoy and Happy Fall!

 

Brooke Simmons Blog 31 Ways to Sunday

 

 

 

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Christmas on Wednesdays! CSA Haul

I’m pretty excited, you guys.

This summer I’ve signed up for a CSA-type of program with a local farmer. Every Wednesday, I’ve been receiving a box of goodies on my doorstep with fresh, local, organic veggies and a selection of local organic meats. I live in a smaller town where local and organic at the supermarket (believe it or not) are hard to come by.

The fun thing that I am enjoying the most is that although I know what veggies I’m getting in advance, is the meat delivery is always a surprise. He packs in all sorts of cuts that I wouldn’t ever think to purchase myself, which gets my new recipe testing skills out from the cobwebs and gets us trying new things. Last week I made Schnitzel which I don’t even think I’ve ever eaten before. It was fantastic! (Made a gluten free option with gluten free breadcrumbs and flour, and the Schnitzel recipe I used is here).

It’s a surprise – like Christmas on my doorstep every freakin’ Wednesday! It even gets dropped off in a cute tote.

CSA Haul

We received lots of beautiful greens and radishes and potatoes and such as well as a variety of beef and pork in this round.

This weekend, my own veggie garden is going to get planted as well, so abundance of lots of gorgeous, organic food this summer! This stuff makes my heart happy, folks.

What have you had success with in your veggie garden? Do you sign up for a CSA in the warmer months?

Happy Friday.
Brooke Simmons

 

Viva Las Vegas – Fun in Sin City

Las Vegas Strip
Hi Loves. Just back from a whirlwind few days in Las Vegas. I haven’t been to Vegas since I may or may not have tied the knot there many, many moons ago (oops). I wasn’t going for a do-over. Just a last minute “hey wanna go to Vegas?” style of trip. I expected nothing. I got fabulous.

It’s changed in the last 13 years – more hotels, it seemed classier and it’s helluva lot of fun. I didn’t gamble at all. I was too busy eating and drinking to think about it. You definitely don’t have to be a gambler to enjoy this city.

Highlights of Vegas I enjoyed muchly:

  • Nobu in Caesars Palace. Sushi/Japanese, fresh, impeccable service and awesome food. Do the Chef’s Menu if possible. So yum. You’ll enjoy flavours and things you probably wouldn’t think to try. *mouth waters*
    Cosmo in Las Vegas
    Our room at The Cosmo. I heard a rumour that these rooms were all supposed to be condos at one point.
  • Harley over (or car) to the Hoover Dam and Red Rock. Wish we had more time to hike and explore Red Rock. We did the Hoover Dam tour…this is an timeless engineering wonder, and take in some of the art-deco (love) style buildings! Recommended to do once in your life.
  • Our hotel, The Cosmopolitan. Lovely, trendy and awesome. It was hard to go home to my dinky cottage. Uh….and they had colouring pencils IN MY ROOM for my colouring book issues. It’s like they fucking knew me.
  • The Secret Pizza resto in the Cosmo. Yes, a secret restaurant! This makes me feel like a special agent of something. To keep it’s secret integrity – and my imagined agent status, I’m only going to say it’s on the third floor. (Although you can really find it’s location all over the interweb). A slice from this place is just what the doctor ordered the day after the night before.

My liver and stomach needed a few full days to recover from this trip, i’m not going to lie. But it was all worth it. One thing that really stood out was the standard of service in this town. Impeccable. They have it nailed. I am making a point to go back very soon. This trip was very much about the food and drink…I’d like to explore the entertainment scene and catch a show the next time.

What are your favourite spots in Vegas? What do you recommend?

 

Brooke Simmons

Low N’ Slow 72 Hour Bone Broth Elixir

Bone Broth

 

Bone broth. Healing comfort. Nourishment. Cheap.

And it not only serves as a way to use up bones that would normally be discarded, but also provides our guts, systems, bodies with some fabulous nutrition.

I was discussing bone broth (naturally) with my Naturopath recently who said the broth has been prescribed by Chinese Medicine practitioners for centuries due to the healing and blood building properties. It’s also said to boost your Qi (which is “vital energy”). Here, Margarita Alcantara does an excellent job at explaining this.

I always have a supply of bone broth on hand both in the freezer and in the fridge. Like stock, I use my broth to create the base for soups (hello, cold winters night, French Onion and a full-bodied red). Or on its own as a warm, comforting elixir in a mug. I get my bones cheaply and easily from the local butcher. I buy a bag for broth and a bag for the dog. (Please only raw beef bones for the pups). I buy usually beef for bone broth, sometimes chicken and they are anywhere from $1.50 to $5.00/bag depending on what’s in them. I also like to utilize the chicken carcass when I roast a whole chicken for dinner. If I’m not up to making a broth the next day, I’ll freeze the carcass and add in some chicken necks and feet from the butcher.

What are the Health Benefits of Bone Broth?

Bone Broth – Make it Easy and Helpful Tips

Since I subscribe to the KISS principle as much as possible, I don’t want you doing much unnecessary work or digging. I’ve put my best  tried and true methods for making a bone broth here:

  • Use a crockpot for bone broth due to the long cooking time. You can leave the house and not worry about it being on the stove. The bigger the better, baby.
  • Roast the bones and veggies before putting them in the crockpot. (About an hour for a big beef bone, adjust cooking times for smaller bones.
    Use the ACV to deglaze.
    Use the ACV to deglaze.
  • You need to use an acid to leech the minerals out of the bones. The best thing for this is raw, organic apple cider vinegar, like Braggs.
  • My secret trick with the vinegar is to de-glaze the roasting pan after I’ve roasted the bones and veggies. As the acid helps pull up some of the flavourful fats and sugars up from the pan that have been baked on.
  • Your house will smell weird while the broth is “brewing”. Warning if you plan on having company. It’s not foul but it’s not like chocolate chip cookies either.
  • For times when you are not “brewing”, keep a Pyrex container in the freezer to throw in clean veggie scraps that can go into your broth as you are creating other meals. The more the merrier.
  • I may add a teensy bit of salt but I leave it out mostly, and salt per individual use afterwards.
  • I sometimes add a red pepper towards the end which adds a bit of rich sweetness.
  • Make your bone broth however you want to. Play and experiment. I would suggest avoiding cruciferous veggies like cabbage and broccoli as they can make the broth bitter.

Good Vegetables/Herbs for Bone Broth

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Fresh Thyme Sprigs
  • Fresh Rosemary Sprigs
  • Bay Leaves
  • Garlic (added almost at done)
  • Leeks
  • Red Pepper (roasted, added at almost done)
  • Peppercorns
  • Bones from beef, chicken, lamb.

Low N’ Slow 72 Hour Bone Broth

Ingredients

  • Large beef marrow bone
  • 4 to 5 large carrots, washed, ends trimmed, cut in half
  • 4 to 5 celery stalks, washed ends trimmed, cut in half
  • Large white onion, quartered
  • Fresh thyme sprigs
  • 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • Red pepper, quartered

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375. In a large baking dish, arrange cut vegetables and bone (I sometimes place the bone on top of the vegetables.
  2. Throw in the oven for 1 hour.
  3. Once roasted, transfer the bone and veggies into the crockpot.
  4. Add apple cider vinegar to the baking dish and let sit for a few minutes. With a spatula scrape any of the leftovers from the baking dish (fat, caramelized carrots/onions, etc.)
  5. Pour the vinegar into the crockpot.
  6. Add fresh time sprigs.
  7. Pour water to just cover the bones, turn on low for 24 to 72 hours.
  8. At hour 71 or so, add quarter roasted red pepper.
  9. Once done, cool to room temp and using a ladle and sieve, pour into tempered glass containers for freezing.

In my 7qt crockpot, I’m able to yield about 15 cups of bone broth.

Brooke Simmons

 

 

 

 

 

Super Bowl Food: Sourdough Chili Bowls

Superbowl Sourdough Chili Bowls

You’re Super Bowl food prepping. I have an idea for you.

Who doesn’t love fresh, hot sourdough out of the oven? Then add chili, cheese, some sour cream and you have a hearty, tummy-filling meal that combines beautiful fresh bread with a football staple – chili. AND you can prep ahead which suits me fine. Oh, and it goes perfectly with cold beer.

Full disclosure that this is the cheaters version of sourdough. If you are lucky enough to have a sourdough starter hanging around…then please, for crying out loud, mail me some and use it for this recipe. If not, I promise you this still tastes like perfect sourdough and your Super Bowl guests will think you’re fucking amazing. Plus it’s ridiculously easy.

This recipe uses my 2 most used kitchen gadgets: my $10 VarageSale bread maker and my 7-Quart Slow Cooker (which takes the prize for most used around here). If you don’t have either, my love, feel free to improvise with a shorter cooking time version of chili on the stove and a stand mixer, should you have one. By the way, I never use my bread maker for actually baking the bread. But it does a perfect job of mixing, kneading and rising.

Also, I’m including my go-to chili recipe below, but feel free to substitute for your own…or use mine on it’s own or go bananas with creativity.

Brooke’s Vegetarian Chili Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 can of whole tomatoes
  • 1 can of black beans – rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of kidney beans – rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of baked beans in tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup of chopped white onion (I use pre-chopped)
  • 1 green pepper – chopped
  • 1 red pepper – chopped
  • 4 cups of mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 3/4 cups of tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cloves of garlic – crushed
  • 1 tbsp of chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp of cumin
  • 2 tsp of sea salt (or more or less to taste)
  • 1/4 smokey hickory BBQ sauce
  • 1 tbsp hot pepper sauce (I use Bajan hot pepper sauce)
  • 1 tsp cilantro paste
  • Shredded cheese, optional for garnish
  • Sour cream, optional for garnish
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, optional for garnish

Steps:

  1. In a large crockpot add in the can of whole tomatoes and crush with a potato masher to desired consistency.
  2. Add in all the beans, onions, peppers and mushrooms. Stir until combined.
  3. Turn the crockpot on low before adding the remaining ingredients.
  4. Cook low and slow for 6 to 8 hours.

 

Easy Mini Sourdough Bowls

(Makes 4 Bowls)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 4 cups of Breadmachine Sourdough Mix – I purchased mine at Bulk Barn, plus a handful for working with
  • 2 tsp of yeast

Steps:

  1. Put all of the ingredients in the bread machine and start the dough/pasta setting.
  2. Once the dough is complete through the dough cycle of the bread machine, lightly flour a clean surface with the remaining mix.
  3. Preheat oven to 375.
  4. Divide and cut the dough into 4 even sections and gently round the tops and sides.
  5. Transfer onto lightly floured cookie sheet or stone baking sheet (I use my pizza stone but a regular ol’ cookie sheet works just as well).
  6. With a sharp knife, cut in a tic-tac-toe design on the top of each loaf.
  7. Since every oven is different, I toss mine in and set the timer for 18 minutes. Check on them in 5 minute intervals after that. They are done just when the crust turns a golden colour.
  8. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

Now, create the masterpiece:

Once the bowls are touchy-cool, take a bread knife and chop the “tops” off. You will want to ensure that you have enough room in the bowl for chili (read: don’t cut the top too low). Set aside those tops…they’re good for cheesy dippin’. You’re also going to want to scoop out the middle of the bowls too. Give someone the special job of eating this goodness with butter. YUM.

Sour dough chili bowls out of the oven

Put the scooped out bowls back on the baking sheet and hit BROIL on the oven. High broil if your oven has that feature. Scoop the chili into each of the bowls, top with shredded cheese and top the “tops” with shredded cheese. Throw into the oven for about 3-4 minutes or until the cheese gets bubbly.

Once they come out, transfer to a plate and garnish with sour cream and fresh cilantro if you’d like.

Super Bowl Food - Sourdough Chili Bowls

I split up my leftover chili and freeze for different, quick weeknight meals like chili nachos, or chili sausages…or just plain chili. You could throw the remainder on some nacho chips with cheese for a second Super Bowl munchie.

Serve with cold beer, football and a fork.

Brooke Simmons

 

 

New York, New York

Start spreading the newwwwws…..

I’ll stop.

But seriously, I’m off to New York and I couldn’t be more excited!  Mainly because I can count on one hand how many days I’ve taken off in the last few years. I’m crNew York, New Yorkaving fun, adventure, and no computer monitor! Also, it’s a girls only trip, which means obviously lots of inappropriate conversations about boys and many glasses of champagne.

This is also a “make-up” trip since the last time we tried to do this there happened to be a natural disaster.

As one girlfriend said over the phone today  “Really, Brooke all we need is a warm place to drink”. Haha. Point.

Looking forward to the food, maybe catch a show, perhaps even be a camera-around-the-neck tourist and go on that Sex and the City bus tour. No itinerary. Not even a map. This should turn out smoothly.

So it’s been a while since I’ve been in NYC. Anything that we MUST see/do/eat/drink? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Love,

Brooke Simmons

 

Time for Tea

Tea Party

For the last 13 or so years, I have been looking at, dusting, moving and rearranging my great-grandmothers tea cups. No matching set here, just random pieces I imagine broken up over the years either literally or given to other people. Told to keep them because I had to (or I may as well be dead) by the family members that insist that these things stay in the family, although no one ever, ever uses them.

Heirloom dust collectors.

I’ve given up on a china cabinet since living in the cottage…I don’t need to store fine china, nor display it. Practicality, people. I don’t have room for you if you’re sitting around catching cobwebs.

So this weekend I was digging in the back of one of my kitchen cupboards and moving around these teacups for the 9,817th time, and decided I will now use them. So dainty and delicate, I have a rough history with fragile things. But they are not doing anyone any good hiding out with the salad tongs. I decided to bring them out and discover their beauty once again.

I like tea. I like pretty things. Let’s party.

Tea PartySo without a blink I threw my first “Afternoon Tea” party. With myself.  I picked the fanciest cup, brewed a pot and made finger sandwiches. I wondered what Sally and Gail on Coronation Street were doing.  I felt oh so regal on a plain Jane Sunday afternoon. I was thinking to myself, what an inexpensive, easy and cool way to get together and entertain. Next time I’m inviting people.

I’m totally going to do this more often. People or no people. No excuse needed to use beauty. Teacups were meant for using. I think.

Going Out for Tea

Have you been for tea in a tea room? It’s fancy fun.

I most enjoy it when there is Champagne involved, but just tea and food is great too. Something about those finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off are delectable! I have no idea why. Scones and Devonshire cream! Yes please. When the hell else do you eat these things? (If you eat crust-less sandwiches and Devonshire cream on the regular, we need to get closer).

It’s a super fun afternoon activity to catch up with girlfriends…or throw the dreaded *hack* bridal shower. (I can only stomach a bridal shower with Champagne and Devonshire cream. Darling.).

Here in the Toronto area, I think hands down the best place for tea is the Windsor Arms Hotel. Book early. They fill up. I’ve heard The Old Mill has a good one too, but haven’t been by to check it out. Although pricey it’s a nice treat.

So all this tea-ing around had me fascinated with how this afternoon tea custom started and all the proper etiquette. I found this:

 

time-for-tea

 

And finally, if you are looking for a reason to get out, cluck like hens with your friends and maybe wear a fancy hat, I give you the health benefits of doing so:

 

 

What are your tea customs? Where are your favourite places to have afternoon tea?

Drinking tea from a fancy cup,

Brooke Simmons