Once again, the holidays are upon us as we face the end of another year. It is a time to deepen our connection with family, friends and strangers alike. The heart opens as memories and emotions are stirred, sometimes bringing up sadness and pain, other times releasing joy and transcendence. My family cherishes a number of long-standing traditions that we practice every year. It’s those well-loved traditions that strengthen the bonds that unite us year after year, despite all the changes time brings such as children growing up, finding partners, and moving away from home.

This will be my family’s 32nd year to build a gingerbread house together. Our very first one was when my oldest son had just turned a year, which makes it easy to count how many we’ve made! That first attempt collapsed from the weight of the candy because we didn’t let the frosting that glued it together harden long enough. Every year, in some subtle or not-so-subtle way, our gingerbread house building and decorating reflects our family’s growth over the prior year. After all these years, many friends still join the decorating stage, new friends get initiated, and of course, everyone helps us eat it after Christmas!

It will be somewhere around our 26th year for holding our annual Christmas party on December 23rd. It is always on the 23rd so everyone who comes year after year knows when it will be. Now the “kids” are in their 20’s and 30’s, some with wee ones of their own, and they make sure they get home in time for the party. The high point is when a couple hundred of us crush into the living room to sing together. Although many come from different faiths or beliefs, it is the raising of our voices united by familiar songs that engender the universal feelings of hope and love. It’s why the party is such a powerful gathering of community that continues to inspire us all year after year.

Then there are the little traditions like what we eat and drink on Christmas eve and day. Food and beverages have such strong emotions attached to them and give us the comfort and reassurance that all is well with our world. My great-grandmother’s egg nog that we make at our party every year ties us to the generations of our family that have come before and to whom we owe so much. My passion for feeding my family enables me to contribute delicious health and well being to my loved ones, day after day, year after year. I guess that love has spilled over into inspiring me to feed as many people as I can, even though remotely, with Teeccino and TeeChia!

Two of our customers wrote us moving testimonials this year that illustrate how important Teeccino is because of the tradition and ritual it allows them to still keep alive. Quitting coffee is an emotional upset for many. Fortunately, Teeccino replaces coffee in people’s lives so well that the pain of letting go turns into joy and health.

Kathy from Piedmont, California wrote:

After years of enjoying coffee, it began to disagree with me. I was in denial for quite some time and the thought of giving it up was…well…pretty much unbearable! The rituals around drinking coffee in the morning were entrenched too: the newspaper, the crossword, the Ken-Ken, the wonderful aroma…As I reluctantly sipped (Teeccino) from a small paper cup, the flavor exploded in my mouth! It was smooth, it was fragrant, it was heaven. Teeccino gave me my morning ritual back.

Patti from Fort Meyers, Florida really moved me when she shared:

I had been drinking coffee since I was in middle school – it was my time with my Dad, so still today, it’s a very special memory for me. So believe me when I say that giving up coffee was more than just “giving up coffee” for me…I still imagine having coffee time with my Dad, except my cup now has Teeccino. And even though he is no longer with me, I imagine he’s looking down smiling and saying – “Smart choice!”

Breakfast is a challenge for many. Taking time to eat and finding something quick and easy that keeps you full and nourished is difficult in a country where refined carbohydrates dominate our food choices. TeeChia Sustained Energy Cereal was launched this year to natural food stores across the country. I love hearing how it is transforming people’s breakfasts. Mary from Chicago, Illinois summed it up best when she confessed:

“I eat well…but I most always eat TOO MUCH. Both TeeChia flavors’ serving size is the perfect amount. It is filling and satisfies with one serving! Don’t know how or why, but I am finally eating a ‘normal size’ breakfast; and I’m not hungry all morning. I say I’m proud of myself…but it’s all TeeChia’s doing. ” 

Whatever traditions you celebrate, from a daily meal and drink to an annual event, it is the repetition that creates the power and the strength that feeds our souls. By experiencing sameness, we can reflect on how we’ve evolved. We see ourselves in new light under the illumination of the familiar. May this year bring you the joy of tradition that opens your heart to all you love and allows you to give of yourself fully!

Our gratitude spills out to all of you, our faithful customers who support and appreciate our gifts. From our family to yours, we wish you a very meaningful and joyful holiday season!

Caroline

Jessica, a resident of Wisconsin, became a Teeccino Ambassador in November of this year, and recently served brewed Teeccino – made with our trial size packets, and shared Teeccino Tee-bags as samples at this cozy event. Jessica sent us a great photo of her Teeccino table display and Teeccino mug swag gift, complete with a […]

Michelle became a Teeccino Ambassador in October, and sent us her first event request, for a family Thanksgiving gathering. She told us: “As this will be my first time presenting Teeccino, I thought sharing it with my health-conscious family members would be a great start. I have a brother and several in-laws on the Paleo […]

Jodi is another new Teeccino Ambassador who joined our program this fall and did her first events in November and December. Jodi sent us two great reports about her events, a church event and as hospitality coordinator for her co-op homeschool group. She even sent a pic of one of her most dedicated Teeccino comrades, Dave! […]

Cranberry Apple Gluten-Free Vegetarian Stuffing With TeeChia

Stuffing is my favorite Thanksgiving dish. Combined with gravy, it makes everyone’s mouth water, don’t you agree? Since I’m not a turkey eater though, I specialize in making vegetarian stuffing that tastes as rich and savory as any stuffing baked in a turkey.

This year, in honor of “free from” dietary needs, I decided to make my stuffing gluten-free which can be easily accomplished by using corn bread croutons instead of wheat bread. Except corn bread doesn’t stick together since it’s missing wheat’s gluten. The normal solution would be to add eggs but they aren’t vegan and they also don’t add any interesting flavor or texture to the stuffing. Let’s face it, corn bread has to be enhanced or it could be quite boring!

That started me thinking about all the delicious flavors TeeChia Cranberry Apple would bring to a stuffing recipe and the solution was clear. TeeChia’s chia, flax, quinoa, amaranth, ramón and pumpkin seeds would create the perfect texture combined with crispy corn bread croutons, and set the flavor theme for this year’s stuffing.

Wow! I made it last night to make sure it would come out like I want on Thanksgiving and it is fabulous! Now with a little cashew & shitake gravy poured over the top…TOTAL YUM!

I whipped this stuffing up in a half hour or less after sending my husband off to Whole Foods to buy some cornbread stuffing. He brought home a package of Glutino® Cornbread Gluten-Free Stuffing – just what I wanted. House guests kept me busy so I didn’t read the ingredients until this morning as I wrote this blog. So here’s the good news and the bad news.

Glutino® has done a great job of making crispy flavorful cornbread croutons that are absolutely perfect for stuffing. Keep in mind, they use egg whites so they’re not vegan. However, when I looked closely at the ingredient list, I realized that the corn starch they use (why didn’t they use cornmeal?) isn’t organic and thus the Glutino® Corn Bread Stuffing contains GMOs. I was bummed! It was so easy to make – sigh! However, if you want to avoid GMOs for Thanksgiving, you’re going to have to make your own cornbread ahead of time and then crisp up some croutons in the oven. It’s actually a lot easier than you may think and I’ve included a recipe for GMO-free and gluten-free cornbread croutons using Pamela’s® Cornbread & Muffin Mix made with organic cornmeal. I leave it to you to decide for yourself which one you want to serve your family and guests this Thanksgiving.

Here are the ingredients for your shopping list:

Directions:

  • Pour boiling water over ¾ cup of cranberries and let soak for 10 minutes.
  • Sauté the diced onions on a low temperature in a large frying pan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil or butter (not vegan).
  • When the onions look translucent, add the chopped celery and sauté for 3 minutes.
  • Add the diced garlic and apples to the sauté and sauté for 3 minutes more.
  • Chop the veggie patties into small chunks or slice each sausage lengthwise in half and then slice each half so you have 4 long pieces of each sausage. Chop them about ½ inch in length so you have small chunks.
  • Add the patty or sausage chunks to the onions, celery and apples.
  • Continue to sauté for 5 -7 minutes. Add more olive oil if needed.
  • Chop the walnuts or almonds into chunks.
  • Heat 2 cups of Imagine Vegetable Broth (I prefer low sodium as the cornbread already has salt in it and I can add salt as needed to my own taste preference).
  • Strain the cranberries and reserve the liquid.
  • In a large bowl, combine the box of Glutino® Corn Bread Stuffing with 1 cup of TeeChia Cranberry Apple Cereal, the chopped nuts, and the cranberries. If using your own cornbread croutons, add 4 cups.
  • Add the sautéed veggies and sausages to the bowl.
  • Mix all the ingredients together well with a large spoon.
  • Add the heated vegetable broth a little at a time while stirring.
  • Add 2 tablespoons dried sage or 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh sage and mix thoroughly.
  • If more moisture is desired, add some of the cranberry water or more vegetable broth but be careful not to make it mushy with too much liquid. You want the cornbread to still have some crispness.
  • Taste to see if you like the level of the sage and the salt. Adjust to preference.
  • Grease a 2 quart pan (approximately 7” wide x 11” long) with olive oil or butter (not vegan).
  • Add the stuffing mixture and pat into a nice shape, filling all the corners of the pan.
  • Bake for ½ hour at 350º.
  • Serve with Cashew Shiitake Gravy.

Cashew Shitake Gravy:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cashews, raw and pre-soaked in 2 cups water
  • 1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 large Shallots, diced
  • Olive oil or butter – 2-3 tablespoons
  • Sherry – ¼ cup
  • Imagine® Low Sodium Vegetable Broth, 2 cups
  • Soy Sauce – 1 Tbsp
  • Miso – yellow or white “Shiro Miso” – 1 Tbsp
  • Sage, 1 tbs dried or 2 tbs fresh

Directions:

  1. Soak the cashews for 4 hours by pouring 2 cups of hot water over them. Then drain.
  2. Sauté the diced shallots in a frying pan with the olive oil or butter over low heat until they are translucent.
  3. Cut off the stems of the shiitakes and lightly wash their caps to remove any dirt. Avoid getting the gills underneath the caps wet.
  4. Cut the shiitakes into ½ inch chunks.
  5. Add to the shiitakes to the shallots.
  6. Add ¼ cup sherry to the onions and mushrooms and continue to sauté at low heat for 5-8 minutes until the mushrooms are very tender. Add more sherry if needed to keep the shallots and mushrooms moist during the sauté.
  7. Add the sage and blend well.
  8. Grind the cashews with 1 cup of vegetable broth in a food processor until smooth and creamy. May take 5 minutes. Taste to determine how finely ground the cashews are.
  9. Add the miso, soy sauce, and sage to the cashew sauce and blend well.
  10. If a creamy gravy is desired: Add the sautéed mushrooms and shallots to the food processor and blend with the cashews until smooth.
  11. If a chunky gravy is desired: Add the sautéed mushrooms and shallots to the food processor and pulse a few times until blended.
  12. Put the whole mixture into a pot and warm up at a low temperature.
  13. Add the 2nd cup of vegetable broth stirring slowly until desired consistency is achieved. Gravy should be thick and creamy!
  14. Taste and add more sage, miso or soy sauce if desired according to your preference.
  15. Put the gravy into a gravy boat and serve!

Gluten Free Cornbread Crispy Croutons for stuffing:

Follow the directions below to produce cornbread with or without dairy (milk, butter and eggs).   I have replaced sugar  with Swerve® the Ultimate Sugar Replacement which is non-caloric plus tastes and bakes just like sugar. Without eggs, this cornbread will be more dense but it still tastes delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Pamela’s Gluten-Free Cornbread & Muffin Mix
  • 4 Tbsp Swerve Sugar Replacement or palm sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups milk or non-dairy milk such as almond or coconut milk
  • 8 Tbsp vegan margarine or butter
  • Optional: 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (organic if possible!)
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp Italian Herbs or marjoram
  • 1 tsp sage, ground
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375º
  2. Add package of Pamela’s® Cornbread to a food processor or bowl.
  3. Add sugar, herbs, baking soda and salt to cornbread flour.
  4. Melt margarine or butter in a pot on a low heat.
  5. Add melted butter to cornbread mixture.
  6. Add eggs if using them.
  7. Start food processor on low speed and gradually pour milk or non-dairy milk into the mixture as it blends.
  8. Blend briefly until smooth. Don’t over mix or it will make the cornbread more dense.
  9. Grease a 8″ x 8″ Pyrex pan with olive oil or butter.
  10. Spread the cornbread mixture into the pan with a spatula.
  11. Bake cornbread for 15-17 minutes until knife comes out clean from the center.
  12. Remove from oven and let sit to room temperature for 24 hours.
 

Toasting the Croutons:

  1. Slice day old cornbread into 1/2 inch slices.
  2. Cut the slices into 1/2″ cubes.
  3. Spread on a cookie sheet.
  4. Mix with 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil by tossing with your hands to coat the croutons thoroughly.
  5. Bake at 400º for 10-15 minutes. Turn several times during the baking to keep toasting different sides of the croutons.
  6. Remove and let cool. The croutons are now ready to be used in the stuffing. They can be kept in a sealed Ziplock plastic bag for up to a week before use

Our Teeccino Ambassador Jen is an avid hiker and wanted to turn on other hikers to both Teeccino and TeeChia at a recent fair. It was a walk of success as both products were embraced!

Besides having her clients get a hair cut, our Teeccino Ambassador Misty served Vanilla Nut and Hazelnut Teeccino to help her clients cut out caffeine at her salon!

Grace really went the distance: our dedicated Teeccino ambassador not only served our Mocha, Dandelion Vanilla Nut and Chocolaté flavors at work, but also turned on her yoga class as well!

There are moments when you’re out & about that a nice hot latte would be just the thing. Only please make mine caffeine free and sugar free! Now if you could order a cup of Teeccino at a coffee bar, you would have a perfect, delicious full-bodied latte. After all, that’s what inspired me to create Teeccino to begin with – you can hear it in the name – I wanted a caffeine-free cappuccino or latte please!

Sad to say, most coffee bars haven’t yet figured out that there are customers like all of us Teeccino lovers, who don’t want a cup filled with caffeine and sugar. My adventure in search of just such a latte last Saturday morning, when I found myself with an hour to spare before my yoga class, illustrates how hard it is to find this.

I’ll have a Teeccino please!

If I’m at a restaurant, I feel no qualms about ordering a cup of hot water and using my own Teeccino Tee-bag after a meal. But if I’m out & about, then I need a latte to go. You can’t very well just ask for a cup of hot water at a coffee bar since their whole purpose is to sell beverages. So I was thankful when Starbucks started offering Tazo’s caffeine-free Vanilla Rooibos Tea Latte though I had to be mindful of telling them, “No sweetener!” when I ordered at the counter.

So off I went in search of a latte at the nearby Starbucks (is there anywhere that doesn’t have a nearby Starbucks?) only to find that they had discontinued their one and only caffeine-free latte as they transition to serving Teevana teas instead of Tazo. Bummer!

Rooibos, the fermented red tea

Tazo’s tea bag was oversized so it could hold a lot of rooibos, the only herb that is fermented like tea (think black tea), which gives it enough body to make a perfect milky concoction like a latte. Originally, they had had a rooibos tea that they insulted by adding citric acid. Yikes, the milk would curdle immediately when you added it. But they finally had gotten the right idea and instead had real vanilla beans with rooibos in their tea bag. It made a yummy latte if you made sure to ask for it unsweetened – only now it’s gone. Sigh.

But down the road, is a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and they serve a Rooibos Chai Latte that is ok, not my favorite, but it would have to do. Normally, my favorite herbal tea is a nice cup of spicy rooibos chai. I made the very first rooibos chai for The Republic of Tea back in the early 1990’s and another delicious one for Yogi Tea. But I’ve never been able to identify this odd off flavor in the one sold by Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf so I only buy it when there is no other choice. 

(By the way, they’ve also copied a number of other teas that I made for The Republic of Tea, even calling them the same name like Chamomile Lemon and Ginseng Peppermint. Only they left out some of the best herbs in my formulas, which of course, are more expensive but are key to creating a really superior cup of tea. Thank you, Republic of Tea, for recognizing the value of premium herbs!)

Have some artificial flavor with sugar!

This morning, with all this extra time I had, I took a moment to read the ingredients on the tin in the retail part of the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. After all, maybe I’m just attached to my own formulas and I should be open to someone else’s take on a rooibos chai. Whoa! What’s this artificial flavor doing in it? Really Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, can’t you make a great tasting tea without resorting to chemicals? No wonder I couldn’t identify this weird flavor note. I never eat or drink anything with artificial flavor.

So I have to confess, by this time, my desire for a Rooibos latte was really strong and I didn’t have any other choice. (Sad to say, no coffee bar in this part of Montecito serves Teeccino.) Ok, I’ll order one and try to get past the artificial flavor spoiling it. I waited for it to cool down a little before taking my first sip. Searingly sweet! OMG, how can people take that much sugar?? I had forgotten to say, “no sweetener”, so they had put in an artificial vanilla blended with sugar – one of those powders that coffee bars rely on to spike sugar through the roof.

Reset your taste buds

It used to be that sugar was used in normal amounts to sweeten but not to overpower. Why has that changed? In the commercial fight for consumer dollars, companies have sweetened in ever greater quantities to sell their foods and beverages. People who consume sugar regularly have deadened their taste buds to sweetness. They actually require more and more sugar to even start to taste sweetness. This is why commercially sweetened foods and beverages are such a shock to someone like me who rarely consumes sugar. The spiral towards more sugar keeps going ever upwards. Where will it stop? When will people finally get it? All that sugar is destroying our health!

So here’s my recommendation. If you can tolerate the sweetness of one of those blended drinks they sell at coffee bars, your taste buds need a sugar break. They’ll recover in a month or so and reset to a normal tolerance level on the sweetness scale. You’ll be much much (did I say much!) better off as your sweet tooth calms down and requires much less sugar to satisfy it.

Ask for Teeccino!

As for being able to buy a caffeine-free and sugar-free latte in your local coffee bar, please ask for a cup of Teeccino even when you know they don’t serve it. Always act surprised if they‘ve never heard of Teeccino. What? You don’t serve Teeccino yet? Get with the program. Herbal coffee is where it’s at! If we all keep asking, one of these days, whenever the desire hits, you’ll be able to order a nice Teeccino cappuccino or latte at your local coffee bar. Now that would be great indeed!

Our Teeccino Ambassador Regina stepped up her game by handing out samples of Teeccino at basketball games for parents and kids!