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Testing New Recipe’s

Tonight I made Bacon Wrapped Apricot hors d’oeuvres just so that I could take a picture for you…  Ok , ok and so that I could eat a few.  These are a perfect blend of sweet & salty!

The first time I heard about these I was on a wine tour in Oregon and I crinkled my nose at the thought of this pairing.  Boy was I surprised when I first tasted them and I have been in love with them ever since.

They are wonderful hot or cold and can be prepared in advance (all except the baking) and frozen for up to a month!  This is great news when you are preparing a full tea for 100 people.  Anything you can do in advance is terrific.

Here’s the photo – don’t they look yummy!?!  

And here is the recipe:

Bacon Wrapped Apricots with Sage

Ingredients:

Fresh sage leaves

Dried apricots

Thin sliced bacon, cut crosswise into thirds

Pure maple syrup

Directions:   Pre Heat oven to 375º F (190°C)

Place a sage leaf on each apricot (a piece about the same size as the apricot) then wrap the apricot with a piece of bacon making sure the bacon overlaps itself (you can stretch the bacon quite a bit) and place them seam-side down on a baking sheet.

Bake about 6 to 8 minutes per side or until the bacon is beginning to crisp. 

Remove from oven and brush them with the pure maple syrup.

These are great as appetizers for any dinner party or to enjoy with a cup of tea…      

May your cup be fragrant and flavorful!

My sisters and I are getting ready for our next annual tea party which is scheduled for May of 2011.  Yes, planning is already in process.  In fact Bobbi and I have been discussing decorations on-and-off for a year now.   I have been driving myself a little crazy with this one since it will the last party I can host in California.  I will be moving north in just over a year, so I won’t have my daughter, sisters or nieces around, but that is another story…

Anyway, a couple of Saturdays ago, all of the hostess’ came to my house for a pre-tea planning session.  We talked about the invitations (everyone got to see the proto-type), the party location (I think we have it, but won’t know for sure for a couple more weeks), talked about the menu and planned a couple of games. 

We also did a little taste testing of a couple new items we want to include; bacon wrapped apricot hors d’oeuvres (these are so yummy) and chocolate pear tartlets.  It was a good thing we tried these because we needed to make a couple of changes to the recipes for both items. 

In past years we have asked every guest to bring a gift-wrapped teacup and saucer set for a game we have played where one-by-one every guest gets to select a wrapped package or “steal” a cup that someone else had already opened.  It has been a lot of fun, especially when the ladies truly start “shopping” someone else’s cup.  But with a guest list of 40+ last year the game seemed to drag on a bit and since we are allowing the invitation list to grow larger this next year we decided to replace this game with a couple of new games to keep everyone involved. 

 May your cup be fragrant and flavorful!

What is tea? The term tea is used to describe just about any beverage that is an infusion of water and some of kind plant material. While true tea is brewed from the Camellia sinenis plant this story is about tisanes or herbal teas.

Tisanes are made with fresh or dried flowers, leaves, seeds, roots or bark. And the blends for these infusions are innumerable. Probably one of the most familiar tisane is the tiny daisy like Chamomile plant that is commonly used to help with sleep.

Another popular herbal infusion is Rooibos. It is often called “red tea” and is made from is a broom-like member of the legume family of plants. The needle like leaves are oxidized to produce the distinctive reddish-brown color of rooibos and enhance the flavor. A drink most people might not think of as an herbal tea is the coffee substitute Postum which is made from roasted wheat.

One of my favorite foggy morning drinks is a spiced orange and ginger tisane. To make it I simple add orange zest (if I have it – orange juice concentrate if I don’t), dried ginger and cinnamon sticks to a cup or two of water and bring it to a low simmer for a couple of minutes. The aroma released from this blend is very warming and the flavor will stir the fog from your brain no matter the weather.

Many people drink herbal teas because they do not contain caffeine and can appease any palate by blending flavors. Most herbal teas sold commercially are safe for children and you can drink them as often and as much as you want. Or you can blend your own special brew.

Any plant can be used to make an infusion – dandelions (a gardener’s bane) make a wonderful tea that is reported to have more beta-carotene than carrots. The leaves contain iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc, as well as vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, D, E, and P. Who knew your lawn supported such a pharmacy?

Catnip, a member of the mint family, can be used as a relaxant much like chamomile. The chrysanthemum flower will decoct into a light refreshing tea that is slightly sweet without the need for sugar.

There are a few things to watch out for if you are blending your own. You should make sure your herbs are grown organically and have not been treated with pesticides. And there are a few herbs that can have toxic or allergenic effects.

For instance if you have an allergy to ragweed (or suffer from hay fever) you should not drink chamomile tea as it will exacerbate your symptoms. The comfrey plant contains alkaloids that can cause permanent liver damage if over used and lobelia contains toxins similar to nicotine. A good rule to remember is anything that causes your sinuses to act up will cause more problems if you ingest it.

Otherwise let your nose and palate be your guide to developing your own tisanes.

I am a tea drinker by inclination and coffee drinker by habit.  By that I mean I drink coffee because it is always available, however, I drink tea because I love the aroma and the visual impact of its liqueur.  And though I will on rare occasion consent to using a tea bag I prefer using loose tea. 

This preference can cause some angst if you are at work or traveling and really need a good cup of tea. Unless of course you work in a Tea Shoppe and have time to warn your teapot, set out a strainer and all of the other paraphernalia that goes along with a good cup of tea.  

To solve my problem of “needing” leaf tea I re-purposed a travel mug intended for coffee.  Made by Bodum, it is a 16 ounce double walled travel mug with a built-in coffee press and is perfect for brewing that afternoon cup of tea.  If I can’t get my hands on a kettle to boil the water, I just add water to the travel mug (which is plastic) and pop it into the microwave until the water is boiling hot.  I know, I know it is almost sacrilege to use plastic, but when you are desperate…

Any way, once the water is hot enough I measure my tea leaf into the mug and screw on the lid.  Let it steep for a few minutes and then slowly press all of the wonderful unfurled leaves to the bottom of the mug.  I generally sip straight from this mug, but you can decant your tea into a cup to drink it.

Isn’t it wonderful how a good cup of tea can instill us with a sense of serenity?

Sweet… Rich… Cakey…

What is a scone?  Originally it was a Scottish quick bread made with oats and buttermilk and cooked on a grill. This wonderful little “biscuit” has evolved into a sweet… rich… cakey… toothsome delight. 

Scones are still classified as a quick bread and they are deceptively simple to make, especially if you have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  I use the same basic recipe for every scone I make.  Then I add what ever I have on hand during preparation that sounds yummy. 

Basic Scone – preheat oven to 425 ° Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Mix together:  

2 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tbls baking powder

1/2 salt

Cut into dry ingredients: (do not let butter become a paste – lumps of butter are ok)

6 tbls cold butter – cubed

Wisk together and then add to dry ingredients:

1 lrg egg

1/2 cup heavy cream

Next, flour your counter top (I use parchment on my counter to ease clean up) and turn out your scone dough and knead it gently 6-7 times.  Then pat the dough to a flat ½ to ¾ inch thickness and cut into individual scones – round, square, triangle – what ever shape suits your fancy.  Place them on a parchment covered baking sheet about 2 inches apart and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.  You can expect 8 large to 12 small scones per batch.

Now for the creative touch…

I love orange-cranberry so I add 1 cup of diced-dried cranberries and 2 tablespoons of orange zest to the dry mixture just before adding the liquid.  And to the liquid I add 1 rounded tablespoon of frozen orange juice concentrate.  While these are baking I add another tablespoon of orange juice concentrate to ¼ cup of powdered sugar, mix it well and then brush the tops of the scones as soon as they come out of the oven.  Yummy…

For Almond scones, add 1 cup of ground almonds to the dry ingredients and 1 tablespoon of almond extract to the liquid.

 For breakfast you could add cheese and bacon crumbles. 

 The possibilities are endless.  Just imagine all of the sweet or savory flavors you love.

Remember a couple of months ago when I set the goal to post once a week?  As you can see (or not see for lack of postings) I didn’t meet my goal.  Life got in the way so now I am starting over and still aiming for the once per week posting. 

 This past month I have been up-to-my eye balls getting ready for the Faerie Masquerade Ball in Eugene.  Designing and sewing dresses and then attending the Ball.  It was so much fun I think I will do it again next year.  Attending that is, not creating 5 dresses.

Ok, back to Tea.  Every year my sisters and I (and now our daughters) host a Mother-Daughter Tea.  Our normal guest count is about 40 and while the date for our tea has shifted a few times to accommodate one of us needing to be out of town, our normal date is the first Saturday after Mother’s Day.

This past Saturday, my sister-in-law and I went to check out this year’s annual event location and it is going to be perfect!  For the first time in 14 years we will be indoors. We won’t need to worry about setting up umbrellas for shade or worry about the breeze drying out the food.  The rental space has a full kitchen and large entertainment hall – lots of space for setting up all of the tables and chairs.  The front entry has a stair way and foyer just begging to be decorated too!  The official theme is “Through the growth of friendship and family comes life” so decorations will be garden inspired. As will the scones and teas, hmmm…  I will have to ask my daughter to make some of her Rose Jelly.  Maybe I will create lavender scones… or add peppery nasturtiums to the rosemary scones…

My Love of All Things Tea

I have loved all things tea as long as I can remember. Even during my tom-boy years the thought of sipping tea was enough to bring out the lady in me. I remember staring longingly at my mother’s Cottage Tea set. Asking her “when, oh please when could it be mine.” Her standard response was “someday, when you are grown.”

That tea set held a special place in her heart because when she was young, she had given that tea set to her grandmother. And when her grandmother passed on, the tea set came back to my mother. Well I grew up and that same tea set now has a place of honor in my Tea Cabinet and will eventually pass to my daughter and then her daughter.

I probably have over 50 tea pots now. I have to rotate them in my Tea Cabinet so that I can see them all. Some are exquisite, like the Russian Tea set my husband surprised me with several years ago… some are some very simple and utilitarian like my Brown Betty.

Many of my tea pots were never meant to hold tea: a tiny pewter tea set from Poland, a blown glass tea pot and a tea pot made from a grapefruit peel are a few of them.

And since I collect tea pots I also manage to accumulate lots of tea cups & saucers, tea strainers, tea balls, sugar tongs and other accoutrements. Even my collection of teas seems to grow every year. Oh and let’s not forget the tea books. I have an entire book case filled with books about tea.

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