By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
If warmer spring weather is tempting you to reach for an iced tea, you will be one of many sipping a cold one. What if instead, though, you nibbled on your iced tea? When you make it an ingredient in your meals rather than just an accompaniment, you'll find yourself drenched in new ideas.
As with all meal preparation, quality is job number one. That's why, whether your iced tea is homemade or store-bought, you'll want to pay attention to how it's brewed. After serving in World War II and opening an Alabama restaurant with his wife Bea, Milo Carlton noticed that many customers were returning specifically to buy their fresh-brewed iced sweet tea. Although now available nationally in major chains, the award-winning Milo's Famous teas are still family owned and purposely brewed the same way with the original ingredients.
When taking care like that in brewing, in addition to exceptional tea flavor, other ingredients also shine through, like the lemon in their Famous Sweet Tea with Lemonade or an organic green tea citrus version, and it's then a terrific base for cooking or baking. The Carlton family has long been using iced tea for meal preparation and features recipes on their website for chicken wings, cornbread, sweet tea-glazed scones and peach tea ice cream.
For a milder taste, tea can be used as is or as a base for bolder flavors, like an 8-hour chicken wing marinade (covered and refrigerated) made with sweet tea and garlic that then gets joined by more garlic, cayenne pepper, chili pepper and lemon pepper sprinkled on the wings before cooking.
Checking out the featured iced teas at your favorite teahouses is another way to expand your palate and pick up on new flavors and then also use in your home cooking. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf chain has sourced internationally since 1963.
Recently, their featured herbal iced teas were the dramatically diverse and flavorful African Sunrise (a hand-harvested honeybush infused with vanilla) and Swedish Berries (hibiscus, raisins and an assortment of berries in the style of Swedish infusions). Besides enjoying on site, spicing up your spring cooking in unique ways is as easy as brewing such teas at home and marinating your meats for grilling in them or mixing them into a store-bought or homemade vinaigrette for a memorable spring mixed greens salad or fruit salad dressing.
If you are thirsty for more ideas, try the ones that follow. All ingredients are to taste.
Ideas like this also prove food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
- OH, THIS OATMEAL IS GOOD
Use fruity teas (like peach, mango or berry) as half of the liquid called for in cooking oatmeal. When oatmeal is cooked, before serving, gently stir in slices of fresh fruit that match the tea you used.
- FRUIT FUELED BY THE GRILL
Marinate cut seasonal fruit (covered and refrigerated) in minty green iced tea for a few hours, drain and grill. Serve topped with dashes of fresh chopped mint and flaked coconut.
- TONED-UP TUNA
Flake drained canned or packaged albacore tuna, add a dash of freshly ground black pepper and gently mix with low-fat mayonnaise into which you've stirred a small amount of an Arnold Palmer (homemade or store-bought mixture of iced sweet tea and lemonade). Mix tuna into cooked and cooled linguine for a cold pasta salad or serve as a mound atop spring mixed greens. In either case, top with chopped dill.
Beans are nutritional super foods and, if you think you've tried every variety, Steve Sando might deliciously win a bet with you that you haven't. He's an heirloom bean expert and wrote Heirloom Beans
with Vanessa Barrington. Here you'll discover the nuances of flavor and texture between selections like Scarlett runners, eye of the tiger and cranberry and how such beans subtly or boldly affect filling dishes for every season, such as dips, spreads, soups and salads. Sando is the founder of acclaimed specialty food company Rancho Gordo
and Barrington is a recipe developer and writer. I recently discovered this classic cookbook that has expanded countless recipe repertoires from basic beans to much broader bounties.Lisa Messinger
at Creators Syndicate
is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.