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Review: Hi-Caf Caramel Black Tea

Hi-Caf Caramel Black Tea

I recently hosted a virtual tea party by inviting a group of Diabetic Foodie readers to help me review a new product from The Republic of Tea. I sent each participant 3 or 4 tea bags and asked them to try the tea and fill out a short survey. They didn’t know the brand, the flavor or whether it contained caffeine or not. I’ll summarize the results below.

First, a little about the tea we all sampled. The Republic of Tea has a new collection of Hi-Caf teas with the tagline “Get a Better Buzz!” Flavors in the line include Toasted Coconut Black, Pom-Berry Black, Breakfast Black and Gingermint Green. We all got to try Caramel Black.

The Republic of Tea defines a “better buzz” to be a state of calm alertness resulting from a high dose of caffeine mixed with some L-Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea leaves. Several studies have shown that the combination of L-Theanine and caffeine may result in faster reaction time and better numeric memory.

L-Theanine is the primary component in those “stress mints” you may have seen for sale. The receptionist at my doctor’s office swears by those mints. “If I ever get stuck in traffic, I just pop some of those babies and the road rage just melts away,” she said.

Hi-Caf Caramel Black Tea

Survey Says …

I noticed a pronounced caramel aroma when I opened the canister of tea; however, only one of the nine survey respondents correctly identified the flavor as caramel. Two people said it tasted fruity (“berries and pomegranate?”), two said it had hints of vanilla, one said it was definitely anise and another said they thought it was a variation of Earl Grey. I thought it smelled like caramel, but didn’t taste like caramel. Only two people said they liked the flavor of the tea and three said they might purchase it.

The survey asked whether the tasters thought the tea had more or less caffeine than other teas. Only one person thought it had more and two people thought it had less. Everyone else thought it had about the same amount as other teas.

The tea bag is round, stringless and fits nicely in the bottom of a regular-sized mug. Seven respondents liked the size and shape of the bag. One person said because the tea has “no string or tea tag that is less wasteful and better for the environment.”

Four people added some sort of sweetener to their tea and one used a powdered creamer. Regarding taste, one person said the tea was “strong and rather bitter.” Another said it was “a tea you would sip alone mid afternoon…maybe to help curb a sweet craving.” Another person said they didn’t like the tea for drinking, but thought it would be great for baking. I also found it to be strong, but it is a black tea and I’m generally a loose-leaf green tea girl.


If you are a coffee drinker who prefers robust flavor and is trying to make the switch to tea, I think this Hi-Caf Caramel Black tea might be a good choice. If you are a tea drinker and prefer a more delicate flavor, I’m not sure this is the tea for you.

I have provided complete survey results (pdf format) if you’d like to see them. Thanks to everyone who participated in the tea party.

Disclaimer: I received a free sample of Hi-Caf Caramel Black Tea from The Republic of Tea. All opinions are my own and those of Diabetic Foodie readers.

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Root Vegetables with Apricots

Root Vegetables with Apricots

Root vegetables are plants whose roots enlarge to the point that they are edible. Think carrots, parsnips (which look like white carrots) and turnips. Inexpensive and easily accessible in the colder months, root vegetables are nutritional powerhouses. Let’s give them one last shout-out before we move on to the peas and asparagus of Spring.

The list of ingredients in this dish may look intimidating, but the recipe comes together quickly once all of the chopping is done. Most of the time is oven-time, so you’ll be able to prepare the other parts of your meal while the vegetables are cooking.

A few tips:

  • If possible, get carrots and parsnips that are roughly the same diameter. This will help ensure that everything cooks evenly. My carrots were tiny and my parsnips were huge, so my carrots were a little softer in the end than I wanted them to be.
  • You can use either unsulphured or sulphured apricots. The unpleasant side effects of dried apricots aren’t as pronounced in this dish because the apricots are cooked.
  • Eat leftovers for breakfast. Just call it root vegetable hash!

Root Vegetables with Apricots

Adapted from Diabetes Forecast

2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 large shallots, peeled and quartered
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1-1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup diced dried apricots
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large ovenproof pot (like a Dutch oven), heat oil over medium heat. Add cumin, cardamom and turmeric. Cook, stirring, for about a minute.

Add shallots and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add carrots, parsnips, sweet potato and turnips. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are coated with spices and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add broth and orange juice, then bring to a boil. Remove from heat and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes, until the vegetables are easily pierced with a fork. Stir in apricots and bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove from oven, drizzle with honey, season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley.

Makes 8 servings
Per serving: 109 calories, 4g fat (3g sat), 0mg cholesterol, 208mg sodium, 18g carb, 4g fiber, 7g sugar, 1g protein

Nutritional Analysis: Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory effects. Root vegetables, while they contain carbohydrates, are slow to digest in the body. Sweet potatoes contain iron, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and vitamin D.

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5 Things to Do with Sesame Oil

I recently received a bottle of Emile Noël’s artisan sesame oil. Just how much better could a cold-pressed, organic virgin oil be?

First, I did a taste test and compared the artisan oil with the brand I normally buy. There was no food in the way, I just stuck my finger into both oils and tasted them raw. The best word I can use to describe the Emile Noël oil is clean. It tasted crisp and clean. My regular sesame oil tasted muddy and a little bit rancid by comparison.

Next, I decided to use the sesame oil in noodle dish, a salad dressing, summer rolls and a couple of soups. Here are the recipes I tried:

Soba Noodles with Edamame and Bok Choy Soba Noodles with Edamame and Bok Choy
Szechuan Spinach Szechuan Spinach
Summer Rolls with Ponzu-Glazed Tofu Summer Rolls with Ponzu-Glazed Tofu
Potsticker Soup Potsticker Soup
Quick Chinese Chicken and Rice Soup

I can’t say I noticed that the fancier oil made a huge difference in taste in any of the dishes when combined with all of the other flavors. However, Emile Noël’s organic production techniques mean that they use seeds farmed without chemical fertilizers, synthetic pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They use old-fashioned presses that extract the oil from the seeds slowly so they don’t get too hot. This helps the resulting oil retain more of the nutrients found in the seeds themselves. And long before anyone had heard the term “fair trade,” Emile Noël had developed a relationship with sesame growers in Africa to foster literacy, housing, independence and environmental balance.

If you want healthier, fair trade oils produced with organic methods and without GMOs, check out Emile Noël’s products. They feature olive oils and nut oils in addition to seed oils.

Disclaimer: I received a free bottle of Sesame Oil and an apron from Emile Noël. All opinions are my own.

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