The tea movementAvdeenko/shutterstock
The tea movement is growing stronger every day, but you can do a whole lot more with it than just steep, drink, and repeat. Diane Henderiks, host of "Chef Inspired Healthy" at The Daily Meal, has worked the morning show circuit offering healthy alternatives to some of our favorite dishes. With her formal background as a registered dietitian, she's applied her creative, healthy approach to cooking to ways we can use this zero-calorie and highly flavorful ingredient in powder, bag, and leaf form.
Swap water for brewed tea
AlexeiLogvinovich/shutterstockWhen making pasta, rice, risotto, oatmeal, quinoa or any grain or legume that is traditionally cooked in water, choose a tea with a flavor profile that matches the dish; brew it, and replace the water with it. Cranberry, peach, chai, mint, and lemon all add a dimension of flavor that water could never bring, and it's a great alternative to adding sugar, honey, or other calorie-infused sweeteners. Try cooking rice in lemon tea to go with a Turkish tagine dish; cook oatmeal with peach tea for a fruity start to your day.
Step up your smoothieAnna Shepulova/shutterstock Brew your favorite flavored tea, let it cool, freeze it in ice cube trays; then place them in freezer-safe bags. The next time you make a smoothie, use the flavored tea ice cubes instead of water to add another element of flavor in place of water. Use one cup of tea for every three cups of fruit. Try strawberry, raspberry, lavender, mint, and green tea.
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Pack a punch with a sprinkle of matcha powderiuliia_n/shutterstock Matcha is a powdered green tea with a variety of health benefits, such as cancer-fighting and immune-boosting properties. It is an acquired taste, but give it a shot: Matcha is loaded with antioxidants that may aid in brain, heart, skin, and other health benefits. Sprinkle matcha powder over ice cream, salad dressing, or into marinade and smoothie recipes. You can also use it in bread by adding two teaspoons for every cup of flour.
Simmer tea leaves in your soupProstock-studio/shutterstock Add a hefty pinch of tea leaves, along with all of your other ingredients, to your soup stock. Simmer until done, then strain. "I particularly like black and green tea for this," Henderiks says. Check out the amazing health benefits of black tea.
Smoke your foods and meatsGita Kulinitch Studio/shutterstock Burning tea leaves to smoke foods such as meats, poultry, fish, and veggies is a classic Chinese technique that adds great smoky flavor. You can use any tea leaves for this, though chai, jasmine, and green tea are always great options. The process is simple: Line a wok or deep pan with a few long layers of foil, as you will need the extra to cover the food and seal in the smoke. Combine equal parts tea leaves and uncooked rice (try jasmine rice) and make a pile in the base of the wok. Drizzle a little water over the mixture because you want it to smoke, not burn. You can throw in citrus rinds, cinnamon sticks, star anise, nutmeg, or any whole spice for added flavor. Keep it going over medium heat for about five minutes or until it just starts to smoke; then place a wire rack in the pan on top of the tea mixture. Be sure it is about one-and-a-half inches above the tea so the smoke can circulate, cover with excess foil or a lid, and cook about 10 minutes for poultry and about 5 minutes for meat, fish, and veggies. Remove it from the heat and let it continue to cook until done.
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