Simply Sensational Strawberry Punch…and other favorite strawberry recipes!

Every Spring I wait impatiently for the first strawberries to arrive at market. After a long winter,

Strawberries are delicious as syrup and in flavoring tea.
Strawberries are delicious as syrup and in flavoring tea.

these brightly colored beauties are a welcome treat for the eyes and their fresh bursts of flavor are tempting to the taste buds.

One of my favorite strawberry recipes is my Mom’s recipe for Fresh Strawberry Punch. I’m not sure were the recipe came from but she has created batches of this delicious spring treat for my sister and I as long as I can remember. In fact, my sister served it at her Spring wedding a few years ago. Guests still rave about the punch to this day!

With the great many of you who enjoy entertaining, I’m sure that as I type this you are working up plans for another party whether it be graduation party, wedding shower, baby shower or THE annual tea event of the season. To you I simply say “Serve the Strawberry Punch”. To those that don’t have an event coming up may I remind you that Mother’s Day is just a few shorts weeks away and this would be a special treat to make her day very special indeed. Enjoy!

I’ve also added a few other favorite strawberry recipes as well. Do you have a favorite strawberry recipe, please share it with us!

Fresh Strawberry Punch
1 Quart Fresh Strawberries, washed, stems removed
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups orange juice
3/4 cup lemon juice
2 quarts ginger ale
fresh whole strawberries for garnish

Blend strawberries, sugar, orange juice, and lemon juice in blender until well blended. Right before serving add ginger ale. Garnish glasses with a whole strawberry. Note: The punch base can be made ahead of time and frozen in milk jugs until the party day. Just thaw and add ginger ale in a punch bowl.

This Silver Basket is a great way to offer fresh strawberries to party guests.
This Silver Basket is a great way to offer fresh strawberries to party guests.

Strawberry Sorbet in Floral Ice Cups
This dessert is adds a unique touch to any tea party or shower. Guests will adore
the unique ice cups infused with fresh flavors and savor every bite of the sorbet.

For the Strawberry Sorbet:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 quart fresh strawberries,

stems removed, quartered
4 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer without stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.

Combine the strawberries and lemon juice in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to chop the strawberries, about 15-20 times, then process until the strawberries are completely pureed, 1-2 minutes. Press the strawberry puree through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds. Combine the seedless strawberry puree with the cooled sugar syrup and corn syrup. Chill for 1 hour.

Turn the machine ON, pour strawberry puree mixture into freezer bowl through ingredient spout and mix until thickened, about 25-30 minutes. The sorbet will have a “soft serve” texture. If desired, transfer the strawberry sorbet to an airtight container and place in freezer until firm, about 2 hours to “ripen”.

Scoop Sorbet into Floral Ice Cups and garnish with fresh mint

To Make Floral Ice Cups:

Clear, disposable plastic cups in 2 sizes (large & small)
baking sheet
pesticide-free edible flowers
masking tape
small paper doilies

Line a baking sheet with large cups and pour water in each cup about 1/4 full. Add edible flowers and arrange. Place the small cup inside and push down so the water will rise along the edges of the bottom cup. Use masking tape across both bowls to hold the inside cup in place. Place baking sheet with cups in freezer and let water freeze for approximately 30 minutes. Use a wooden skewer or ice pick to add and distribute flowers down the edges of the cup. Continue to add and reposition flowers as water freezes: then freeze overnight.

When frozen, take the sheet out of freezer and gently remove the inside plastic cup (you may want to pour some warm water inside to loosen it a bit. Place outside cup in warm water or wrap outside with a warm towel to loosen then gently turn upside down to to remove the ice cup. Place the ice cups in the freezer on the baking sheet until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, place ice cups on a paper doily lined saucer or plate with a raised edge (to prevent drips and slips). Add sorbet and garnish and serve immediately.

Some suggestions for edible flowers (make sure they are all pesticide-free before using)

Roses
Pansies
Violas
Marigolds
fresh herbs for greenery

Easy Strawberry Cream Appetizers

Delicious Strawberry Appetizers
Delicious Strawberry Appetizers

These decadent strawberry treats are so easy and create an eye catching display on the serving table. Guests will be drawn to them so make  many – they won’t last long!

1 – 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 quart fresh whole strawberries, stems removed

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, confectioners sugar, and almond extract until smooth. Spoon cream cheese mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip. Chill 1 hour.

Quarter Strawberries from tip to stem end without cutting through stem end. Pipe cream cheese mixture into strawberries. Chill until ready to server.

Yield: 1 quart stuffed strawberries

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April 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

Easter Bunny Moss and Ivy Topiaries

Happy Easter Everybody! We hope you enjoy these darling Easter Topiaries

Easter Bunny Live Moss Topiary

Easter Bunny Live Moss Topiary

seen recently at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA. Easter Bunnies of all kinds and Yellow Chicks! The Easter Bunnies were made from a beautiful live moss and ivy. We could not get close enough to the chicks to investigate how they were made but aren’t they cute? A helpful hint when you are creating your own topiaries – the experts at Callaway Gardens said they have learned to plant the ivy (or other living plant) in the body of topiary and just “pin” the branches out from the main torso as they grow. Otherwise, if the plants are placed in the “arms” or “legs” they tend to dry out and not do well. Another idea…they painted pine cones and magnolia pods for the basket of Easter Eggs. Let us know what kind of topiary you are making! We’d love to see pictures.

 

Bunny Topiary made of live moss

Bunny Topiary made of live moss

 

Easter Topiaries

Easter Topiaries

 

Baby Chick Live Topiaries

Baby Chick Live Topiaries

 

Bunny Rabbit Live Topiary

Bunny Rabbit Live Topiary

 

Bunny Rabbit Ivy Topiary

Bunny Rabbit Ivy Topiary

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April 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

Host a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – Easy As 1-2-Tea!

“We’re all mad, you’ll fit right in!”

Alice in Wonderland Teapot

Alice in Wonderland Teapot

The Mad Hatter,
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll

 

“I was walking one day and along came a white rabbit, hopping down the path. The whiteness of the fur against the winter day was like a beacon, so I followed the rabbit…down its rabbit hole. And, found myself in a strange place: a long table set for a tea party. “Oh well, I thought…I like tea, so I guess I’ll go along for the ride! This dream inspired me to plan my very own Mad Hatter’s Party…or was it a dream, after all?”

Alice in Wonderland is a magical, odd, whimsical book that’s given flight to many children’s imaginations — that’s why you should throw a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party of your very own: just for fun.
No better time then now with the NEW “Alice In Wonderland” Movie hitting theaters in March!

Of course, there aren’t many rules — that’s the whole point. But, you can start with the very un-birthday sort of basics from the party:

Rule #1: No matching…teacups, teapots, clothing, decorations, flavors–anything goes!

Rule #2: The goal is quirky fun, so plan some surprises!

Rule #3: That’s it, no more rules!

Let’s start with setting the scene. A long table is best, so all your guests can partake in the silliness together. Go for lots of vivid color mixed with black and white — a checked tablecloth perhaps with odd centerpieces – fuschia flowers and turquoise candles, boxwood cubes or fun topiaries. If you can, get chairs of different heights and textures around the table so people are sitting at different heights. Make the head of the table, the so-called Mad Hatter’s Throne, an especially unusual chair.

 

Preserved Boxwood Cube

Preserved Boxwood Cube

Deck the table with your mismatched tea cups, saucers and teapots…this can be done simply by mixing and matching cups and saucers from different sets and exchanging the teapot lids. Or, keep an eye out at yard sales and flea markets for floral or brightly colored ones.

 

Serve whatever type of tea you like -a rooibos or herbal varieties will do nicely- but truly, the focus will be on the food! Nothing normal-sized, that’s boring. Go for very small delicacies, like mini-muffins, mini-brownies and very petit-fours. Or, go big, with a towering three-tiered cake decorated in bright colors. Things shaped like mushrooms, flamingos, croquet, rabbits, etc are all fair game. Have fun!

If you want to play up the theme, attach little notes to the food and drink that say “Drink me” or “Eat me,” just like in the book. You can play on the Queen of Hearts theme by making cookies in the shapes of heart, diamond, club and spade and coloring them with icing. Or, make sandwiches and cut them into those shapes.

The Mad Hatter at the Disney Parade

The Mad Hatter at the Disney Parade

 

 

Now, the guests — you’ll want to prepare them for this fun affair, so set the tone with the invitations straight away. Use cutouts, print part of invitation sideways or upside down, and make sure it’s striking. If you want them to come dressed in costume, give some tips on the back as to what you are thinking — should they wear time period pieces? Come as Alice in Wonderland characters? or just wear their best fun outfit, with a hint of mismatch?

Outside the location of the party, you may want to prime the anticipation of your guests by having painted signs that indicate what fun they are in for — colorful signs that are arrows point every which way, or that say “This way to the Unbirthday party!” You can go even further by making the front door a rabbit hole, or a looking glass. If you don’t have a large looking glass, make one out of smooth tin foil.

Feel free to change things up with funny name tags, like people’s names spelled backward or some silly phrases put together like “Mugglewump Apostrophe” or “Carmelina Petunialily.” Or, set some rules and let people’s imaginations go to work. You can also declare contrarian rules, just like the Mad Hatter, such as “yes for no” or right for left,” etc. It should certainly make passing the tea and cookies interesting!

Alice in Wonderland 2 Tier Stand

Alice in Wonderland 2 Tier Stand

Games are a must for a fun, zany party. Try something crafty, like “Make your own Mad Hat!” Set up places to play any type of cards, depending on the age range and of course, lawn croquet! If you can, cut out some animals to tape to the croquet wickets and clubs.

And, last but not least, have fun! Once the planning is done, go with the flow and see how nutty your guests are feeling. Send them off with a gift bag (any odd assortment of candies and cards) and plans for the next event…on someone’s unbirthday, of course.

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February 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

A New Year’s Resolution For You

Every year we tell ourselves, next year will be different…especially after the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Throw in travelling stress, or its sister, hosting out of town guests, and we’re all racing toward the end of the year.  And if you’re in business, there’s end of year finances to deal with and guesstimates on next year’s budget. It’s enough to make me wonder why we don’t all make a tradition out of hibernating.

Blue Vintage Rose Porcelain Teacup

Blue Vintage Rose Porcelain Teacup

 

Let’s start with finding a time in your day where you can squeeze in a 15 minute break. Search your dayplanner…in the morning, around lunch, in the evening or late at night. Found it? Good.

 

Now, let’s set the scene. If you are going to take some time for yourself in the morning, try to do it when you won’t be interrupted by anyone else, or at a time when you can tell your cohabitants that you are not to be disturbed. (If you have children under the age of 8, I do not suggest the morning!) If it’s lunch and you work in an office, try to put your time to yourself at the beginning of lunch so if there is an urgent matter you can still fit this in before you get interrupted.  And if it’s in the evening, do it after your chores are done, because trying to set some time aside for yourself should not be interrupted by the need to soak the roast pan.

 

Ok, time and place, check. Now, what are you going to do? Here’s what I suggest: Make a cup of tea.

 

It’s simple, it’s an ancient ritual, it’s delicious and you can customize it to suit you. (For example, if you may want to try herbal tea if you are doing this at night.)

 

But, DO NOT just make a cup of hot water in the microwave and stick a teabag in it. That would not be the point. Unlike other things in our life, the purpose of this is not to ingest tea. It is to slow down and enjoy doing something that has a ritual to it and that has meaning. That meaning being that you are taking time for yourself to get centered and do one thing at a time.  

 

So, begin with your kettle. Listen to the water run into it. Set it on the burner of the stove and let it heat moderately, not on the highest setting. And stand there and wait. Do not run off to check the mail or recycle the newspaper or write something on the grocery list. Just stand there and breathe and watch. Ignore that old adage about a watched pot…we aren’t actually waiting for it to boil. Water for tea is best at a near boil, and for that you need to be present to observe it.

 

When the faintest wisp of steam has risen from the kettle, take the kettle off the hot burner and set it down on a cool one. You’re going to need to find a cup for your tea. (No cheating by getting the cup ready when you were supposed to be watching the kettle.) I suggest finding a special cup just for this ritual, that is yours alone, which may require a special place for it. And, do make it a special one, a beautiful one, a cup that has distinctive qualities that you’d like to emulate…something iridescent or ornate or delicate. (Please not the coffee mug you got with a credit card application in college.) Even buy a tea set so that you have several of your special teacups available.

 

And now, for the tea. Pick a flavor or style that you love. Not something trendy, not something healthy — something you can savor. Because the art of ritual is time set aside, and this is a time for you to enjoy! If you are usually a go-go-coffee-drinker-living-with-a-travel-mug-in-hand this may take you some time. For cold weather, I love a rich black tea with a hint of mint or lemon…I’d start there.

As it gets warmer outside, try a fruit flavored tea like my personal favorite blueberry.

 

Elegant Antique Reproduction Silver Tea Strainers

Elegant Antique Reproduction Silver Tea Strainers

 

 

To get the full effect, I’d suggest getting a teapot that you can put loose tea in or a tea strainer to put in a teapot — this is the way tea has been made for thousands of years. Don’t let the ease of plopping in a teabag get to you — you’re meant to enjoy the process. Look for a teapot that inspires you with its style, possibly that matches your cup(s) so it’’s your “me time” only set.

 

You’ve got the water, the cup and the tea. Now: SIT DOWN. Do not read a book. Do not flip through a magazine. Do not stand at the counter. Do not do leg crunches. Sit down and focus on what you are doing — you are having a cup of tea. by yourself. with no distractions.

 

It may take awhile, but as time goes on, you’ll find yourself enjoying the ritual, and the time unfettered by distractions.  If you find yourself thinking too much about work or things you need to get done, try this old trick to clear your mind..observe the thought as if it were a leaf floating down a river. Acknowledge it and let it go. You have plenty of time to act later — this is your time.  Give it a month and see if you don’t feel just a bit better. Maybe take 20 minutes to yourself some day!

 

 

 

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January 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

Sparkling Christmas Tea Recipe

oops, I forgot to include the Sparkling Christmas Tea Recipe. Here it is…

Sparkling Christmas Tea

serves: 12

 

4 cups water

16 orange-spice flavored tea bags

1 cup sugar

1 can frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed

1 large bottle sparkling white grape juice, chilled

 

Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and steep tea bags in hot water

for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. In a 

1 gallon pitcher, mix apple juice concentrate with one can of water, then add

tea. Chill until ready to serve. Right before serving, add sparkling grape

juice to the tea mixture. Garnish with lemon and orange slices.

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December 14, 2009 in Uncategorized

Gathering around the family table for Christmas Dinner

 

A simmering cup of Old English Wassail

A simmering cup of Old English Wassail

Gathering around the family dinner table is especially memorable at Christmas. Holiday traditions are of the upmost importance and it seems none are more important to our family than ensuring the holiday table is laden with the same dishes we as a family have enjoyed for years. Sure, we like to try new recipes every year and some will make the family “cut” for future holidays but suggestions to cut out a traditional dish are “fighting words” for our otherwise peaceful family.  The menu must include all the family favorites – turkey, bread stuffing, cornbread stuffing, cream corn (grown from my mother’s garden), mashed potatoes, black olives (the kids love to put them on their fingers), copper pennies (a tangy carrot dish), orange cheese salad, to name a few – not a dish is to be taken away. Fortunately the spouses that have married into this very sacred food tradition have been very accepting. If they have their own family favorite we just “add to” the dinner list but never take away. As I recall, there was one year when our “new to the family” former Uncle  decided to change the name of our traditional Cherry Cheesecake to “Cherry-o-Cream Pie”.  Apparently we don’t take kindly to the tiniest of changes with Christmas dinner because we all exchanged “glances”, yet said nothing. Did I mention that he was our former uncle?

 

 

Christmas Candy Canes

Christmas Candy Canes - click image for purchase information

As a child I remember the first hint of the Christmas season in our kitchen was the fragrant aroma of Old English Wassail simmering on the stove. All the adults raved about how delicious it was! I have to admit that at first I didn’t like the taste (it probably wasn’t sweet enough for my childish tastebuds). However, it has grown to be one of my favorite holiday beverages and I create a batch at the first hint of cool weather.

 

Angel Biscuits are also a must-have at Christmas and has been as long as I can remember. These light and fluffy yeast biscuits are absolutely delicious fresh from the oven and doubly good the day after to make turkey or ham sandwiches or for breakfast with a sprinkling of butter and cinnamon sugar.

A “new” dish that made its appearance a few years ago is a festive green Pistachio Nut Torte. I learned how to make this from an employer and thought it good enough to meet the Christmas dinner criteria. It was accepted! Now, along with our traditional Cherry Cheesecake sits this tasty torte abounding in layers of cream cheese filling.

Christmas Swirl Lollipops (Click image for ordering information)

Christmas Swirl Lollipops

 

 

In reading this account of our sacred family Christmas traditions I hope you, too, are reminded of your own favorite family recipes. Perhaps you would be kind enough to share them with us. In the mean time, I will share these favorite recipes with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as our family has for your next Christmas Tea, holiday party, or PERHAPS, Christmas Dinner.

Old English Christmas Wassail

 

1 tablespoon whole cloves

7 cinnamon sticks, tied together

3 cups water

2 regular size tea bags

2 1/2 cups orange juice

3/4 cup lemon juice 

2 cups sugar

1 gallon apple cider

 

Add cloves and cinnamon sticks to  3 cups boiling water in a saucepan. Reduce temperature to simmer for 2 minutes. Add tea bags and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove cloves, cinnamon sticks and tea bags and set aside mixture.

 

In a large kettle add orange juice, lemon juice and sugar and stir under low heat until sugar is dissolved. Add tea/spice mixture and mix. Add apple cider and mix. Simmer entire mixture. Serve hot in christmas mugs. Garnish with an orange slice and cinnamon stick if desired. Makes 1 1/2 gallons.

 

 

Tomato-topped Angel Biscuit Sandwiches

Tomato-topped Angel Biscuit Sandwiches

Angel Biscuits

makes 4 dozen

 

5 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup shortening

1 pkg dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

2 cups buttermilk

 

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in shortening. In a small bowl dissolve yeast in warm water and stir into a separate container of buttermilk. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Cover and chill. Dough will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator until ready to use.

 

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/2-3/4 inch thickness. Cut out biscuits with 2 inch cutter and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. 

 

 

Cherry Cheesecake

 

1 – pre-made graham cracker crust

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 can of eagle brand

1/3 cup of lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 can cherry pie filling

 

In a medium size mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until creamy. Gradually pour in eagle brand while mixing. Add lemon juice and vanilla and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into the graham cracker crust. Cover and chill overnight. Before serving add the cherry pie filling to top of pie.

 

 Pistachio Nut Torte

serves 12

Chocolate-filled Candy Canes

Chocolate-filled Candy Canes

 

 

 

Crust:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

4 tablespoons sugar

 

Mix flour, butter, pecans, and sugar together. Press into a 9″ x 12″ baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool.

 

Filling:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 – 12 ounce container whipped topping

2 – 3 ounce packages instant pistachio flavored pudding mix

2 1/2 cups milk

 

Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, and 1/2 of whipped topping. Beat well and spread over cooled crust. Mix together pudding and milk. Pour over cream mixture and top with remaining whipped topping. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

 

 

2 Comments
December 11, 2009 in Uncategorized

Tips for Hosting a Most Memorable Christmas Party

 

Snowman 3 Pc Porcelain Tea Set

Snowman 3 Pc Porcelain Tea Set

It’s official! There’s a chill in the air, and while many people are planning Thanksgiving activities, the savvy entertainers are already planning their Christmas festivities. For those looking to charm their guests, a Victorian tea may be just the thing. These classical events are refined, and yet fun.

 

The first thing to decide when planning a Christmas tea is where to have it. You’d be surprised at the transformation your dining room can make with the right touches, but there are other locations that might be a bit easier, like a tearoom or a bistro. Find out what’s offered in your local area – you might give up a bit of control for less work setting the scene.

If you decide to transform your home, remember the key words for tea: make it elegant! Lace tablecloths, teacups and saucers, miniature creamers and cloth napkins will make a fine table. Don’t forget the holiday spirit as you set the table – find tea sets with sprigs of holly, silver or gold edging, snowmen, or bells. What will set this event apart is the Victorian part though, so don’t forget the distinguishing aesthetic: ornate. Anything decorated with seed pearls, cameos or grosgrain ribbon in dark colors will work.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – to have an event, you must have guests. So, it’s time to decide whether this is a women-only event. If so, proceed with all the frills. If not, add some masculine touches by providing tobacco (even if it’s just for show) and some lively music. Violin and piano instrumentals would fit the bill.

Bone China Christmas Teacups

Bone China Christmas Teacups

 

 

In keeping with the Victorian’s deep respect for tradition, a selection of classical music from 1900 would be appropriate, but feel free to mix in some carols to sing along to after the meal if complete. Just make sure that any selections lean towards a hymn style, rather than a boisterous rendition of Jingle Bells. That’s not to say that the Victorians didn’t celebrate with mirth – they did, but in a way that was true to the traditions of England.

On to one of the crucial elements: What will you serve? Make careful decisions here because it’s more important to have a few elegant selections done tastefully than a smorgasbord. Mince pies, delicate tarts or frosted mini-cakes fit with the theme of delicate cuisine. Basically, the smaller the better, and feel free to shrink Christmas classics like fruitcakes, sugar cookies or truffles.

As for tea, you can select a basic black loose tea with a tea strainer in the pot, or you can jazz it up for the holiday and select a cranberry or mint flavored tea. You can also serve a piping hot Old English Christmas Wassail made from a tea base. Whichever you choose, the best touches will be with your accessories: silver sugar tongs, tiny salt and pepper shakers and edible sugared violets. There’s probably no need for centerpieces because the tea set will be the focal point, select a set with matching tea cups or a mix of different patterns in a similar style. Add sugar cubes, porcelain creamers and linen napkins. As far as cutlery, select the smallest pieces: dessert forks, butter knives and of course, tea spoons. While you still have room on the table, make sure you fit in some classic Victorian elements: wrought silver place card holders, and sachets of favors for your guests.

Silver Sugar Tongs

Silver Sugar Tongs

 

 

For entertainment and education, you may want to refresh your guests on Victorian etiquette. The spout of the teapot should face the hostess or pourer. It’s proper to just lift the teacup and not the saucer when seated at the table. Finger foods mean that guests will need water bowls to cleanse the fingers – garnish them with a sprig of wintergreen or holly and remind guests how to use them. If perchance anyone wears gloves, ask them to remove them for the serving of the meal. Set the tone by enjoying your tea without clinking your spoon against the sides of the cup or the saucer as you set it down.

The duration of the event should be around two hours, with a leisurely start and lingering conversations while seated. You may wish to say a few words at the beginning, in the spirit of the holiday. Ask your guests to be seated as the tea and food are served and ensure that everyone takes their time to enjoy themselves – it’s the spirit of elegance, as well as a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

Above all, be gracious and embodied the spirit of Christmas!

1 Comment
November 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

Evening Coming Early – The Family Gathers

I have never looked forward to the end of daylight savings time. As a young single and a work commuter I always missed enjoying the daylight in the comforts of my home as it would be dark by the time I arrived home. Like clockwork, every time daylight savings time ended my boss and I would have the same conversation. I would remark my dislike for the darkness coming earlier and she would share how she loved it because the darkness would force her family to come inside earlier and be together. I always remembered her comments but never truly understood until just a couple weeks ago. This is my first transition from daylight savings time as a mother. Standing in the kitchen a few evenings ago, I peeped into the living room to steal a glimpse of my husband playing with our  11-month-old daughter, and realized I was grateful for the early darkness. Having no daylight by which to work on the yard or other outside projects, my husband was forced inside our cozy home earlier than normal. I always treasure time spent with my husband playing with our daughter. It brings such joy and contentment. And so it is with this observation that I admit to a change of heart. I have become a fan.

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November 10, 2009 in Uncategorized

A visit to Rose Cottage Tea Room

 

Cheddar Chicken Vegetable Soup

Cheddar Chicken Vegetable Soup

When out of town company visit we always make sure the agenda includes a trip to one of my favorite spots, the Rose Cottage Tea Room in Pine Mountain, GA. Last weekend was just such an occasion as my mother-in-law traveled from Arkansas for a visit, well, more specifically a visit to  see our 11 month old, Hannah Grace. We basked in the gorgeous Autumnal colors during the journey up the mountain even though it was cool and drizzling and were soon welcomed to the charm and comfort the tearoom’s English antiques by a little bell on the door announcing our arrival. Quickly we found an inviting table beckoning in a tiny nook. The menu was full of delightful gourmet treasures…quiche, avocado and grapefruit salad, cucumber tomato sandwiches and of course freshly baked scones and hot tea. However, the winner that day was the soup – a delicious Cheddar Chicken Vegetable. It was a soup kind of day and as the piping hot concoction was served to our table in all the elegance of Rose Cottage style, we all remarked at how beautiful and delicious it looked. I snapped this picture especially for our blog, so you too, could savor the simple bliss experienced at the table. The soup, of course was divine and the memory of the presentation warmed our hearts as we continued on our way. I am anxiously looking forward to my next visit and until then I have decided to shop for my own set of vintage soup tureens (I’m sure you understand why from the picture) AND find that perfect soup recipe worth offering future house guests. Perhaps one of our readers would be willing to recommend a favorite soup recipe enjoyed by their family.

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November 5, 2009 in Uncategorized

Cooking and Harvesting Fresh Herbs

Over the last 2 years I have been learning how to cook with fresh herbs. It is a personal joy to wander outside my back door to gather a sampling of fresh basil, sage or oregano for the dinner menu. Cooking with fresh herbs adds an abundance of flavor and I always delight in the infusion of taste one sprig can add to a basic dish.

Even a simple breakfast of eggs becomes a cultured dish with the addition of fresh basil along with goat cheese. Recently my husband and I celebrated our anniversary at a very elegant bed & breakfast, we were treated to eggs so divine that I had to ask for the recipe. The cook simply listed several types of cheeses, fresh pepper, half & half, and oregano. Oregano! It was already growing just steps away from my kitchen in my tiny herb garden. Of course, I had to try this new find the next morning in my own kitchen and with all the flair and panache of the B&B my simple breakfast transformed to a dining retreat for the taste buds. I actually unveiled the fine dishes for this breakfast! The secret was in the fresh oregano!

As cooler temperatures promise to bring frost very soon, I am planning to preserve my herbs to enjoy their fresh flavors throughout the winter months. Specifically my basil, which did not survive last year’s winter. My plan is to harvest several leaves for freezing then dig up my plant to bring indoors to pamper with a grow light. This is my first time to try this so I hope the plant will survive and I can enjoy fresh herbs throughout the winter. In my quest, I have found these instructions on freezing basil. Perhaps, this will inspire you too, to begin a tradition of cooking with herbs and harvesting for regal dining throughout the cool days of winter.

How to Blanch and Freeze Basil
Get together a large pot of boiling water, a large bowl of ice water, a kitchen towel, and freezer bags.

1. Tie stems of a large bunch of basil with string.
2. Dip the leaves into boiling water for a few seconds, then dip into ice water.
3. Pat leaves dry with towel, then strip the leaves off the stems.
4. Place the leaves in freezer bags and place in freezer.

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November 3, 2009 in Uncategorized