Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cashew Cream for Scones

Those with an affection for afternoon tea delight in the creamy flavor and texture of clotted cream. This is a special, thick cream that's made by processing full-cream cows milk in a steam or water bath and then placing it into small pans where it forms clots as it cools slowly. It is served with scones, much to the delight of the the taster. Aunt Marcella enthusiastically comments on the subject whenever we share afternoon tea together. For nearly 30 years she would take an annual two-week summer holiday to the United Kingdom, planning the journey and schedule to include afternoon tea in Bed & Breakfast hostels across the countryside. Descriptions of puffy scones and large jars of clotted cream, so thick that a spoon stood straight up when set in it, delighted all of us in America as we marveled at such a creamy delight and wished to try something that seemed such perfection. Eventually, small jars of clotted cream have been found available in tea rooms and specialty shops. But for a premium price! Although this is near and dear to Aunt Marcella's memory, the jarred creams still don't meet the standard of her seasoned tongue. But something close is better than none.

For those who cannot easily obtain jarred clotted cream, vegans (or those intolerant to dairy), or the health minded, other options are welcome. Although most alternatives are not equivalent substitutions, they can be just as delicious by their own right. Dairy cream is known for its high fat content and for the role it plays in raising cholesterol. Weight gain and heart disease can result from liberal use of high fat dairy products. Alternatively, non-dairy toppings can be free of saturated fats and can actually assist in healthy body weight and reduced risk of heart disease. A study reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that women who ate one to two tablespoons of nuts or nut butter daily (peanuts, almonds, or cashews) weighed four pounds less and had waistlines an inch smaller than those who did not eat them. Nuts activate the metabolism. They also add protein and fiber to one's diet, making them feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time. So, what does this have to do with cream? Nuts and nut butters make delicious creamy topping! Here's my family's favorite cashew cream recipe (below):

Cashew Cream

14 oz. soft tofu, organic
1 cup raw cashews, washed
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. stevia
1 tsp. vanilla
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbs. agave syrup, organic

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Whiz until smooth and creamy. Pour immediately into a small pitcher or serving container. For a varied flavor, add a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

This makes a creamy, thick topping can can be poured over fruit or scones for tea. For a thicker topping, stir in some instant sure jel. This recipe will thicken over time as well.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Early Morning Sunshine and Tea

Early morning sunshine. . .spring flowers. . .and a pot of hot tea.

"Thou soft, thou sober, sage and venerable liquid! Thou innocent pretense for bringing the wicked of both sexes together in the morning! Thou female tongue-running, smile-soothing, heart-opening, wink-tipping cordial to whose glorious insipidity I can owe the happiest moments of my life."
Colby Cibber

Photo ~ My mother's "sweet pea" teacups with a Homer Laughlin "Priscilla" Eggshell Nautilus teapot. Flowers from my garden.

Friday, March 25, 2016

My Favorite Tea Story

by Aunt Cella, posted by permission
Originally written October, 1969

A true story

I left my heart in England this time.  And have left pieces of it in nearly every country we've visited.  But with England it went deep.  It's simply my kind of quaintness, countryside, people...and my language.  We were actually passing through England on our way to Ireland, having "done" England "last" summer, or so we thought.  But it's a big mistake.  One should not ignore present joys in the hopes of greater, later.  Neither is a country ever really "done" --- most of us just scratch the surface.  We were blessed for nine days with classically beautiful weather, a little nicety not often enjoyed in the British Isles.  Loved rugged Wales, but the southern counties of Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall stretching to the very tip of Land's End, are dearest to the heart of every Briton, and were sheer joy, joy, to us.  We loved the high hedges, the hidden "smuggler's cove" beaches, the cottage rambled with roses, old inns with low oaken beams, cozy fireplaces, hanging copperware and pewter, peaceful villages, and always decency, charm, refinement.  It's such a "civilized" country!  As travelers, we felt a graciousness here not encountered since leaving Japan.  One is never a customer, but a guest to be treated with grave respect.  I discovered early how enchanting their old homes and tea houses were, so having a passion for this sort of thing, devised a system for getting into at least three a day.  Morning beverage, lunch at noon, and afternoon tea, which is promptly at 4:00.  All England pivots on the "Tea at 4:00" schedule. . .even if the house is burning, you must not rush out without having tea first!  We had Devon shire clotted cream with fresh strawberries, rhubarb pudding, deep-dish English apple pie, high tea, low tea, cream tea, country tea, lunch in a 12th century manor house, and scones, scones, scones. We are talking of another trip.

The strangest tea I will ever have in my life occurred in Ireland, which, by the way, is green, friendly, progressive, and lots of fun.  In the wild, rugged, southern Killarney Lake country, Mike and I took an all day trek, making a complete circle, first by pony cart, then by horseback, and later by boat, which circled us back to the starting point again in the evening.  Not being so lucky weather-wise in Ireland (where are all those green shamrocks?), we had rain most of the six days we were there.  This memorable day was no exception, but we wanted to take this trip badly enough to do it in the pouring rain.  We had another lady and a foolhardy couple from California with us and a little sort-of-girl-guide.  We set off in high spirits, which sank lower and lower as we got colder and wetter.  Transferring from the pony-trap after an hour, we found the horses typical nags, and cantankerous to boot!  However, I felt somewhat smug and self-assured, since I was almost raised on a horse.  After two hours on horseback and getting into deep, wild mountains, we were stiff and frozen.  Our sack lunch became a mass of mush, vitamin pills in my purse ran red all over, our clothes were sodden, and our limbs were paralyzed with cold.  Our little-girl-guide reassured us by telling us we only had three hours left to go!  We saw an isolated house that offered tea, and gratefully groaned off our horses and dripped inside, running rivulets on her kitchen floor, and apologizing between chattering teeth.  We gulped hot tea with Irish soda bread, and stayed as long as we dared.  Again, we struggled aboard our plugs, who would not do anything they did not feel like doing.  

In the meantime, the country was frighteningly beautiful, with deep gullies, broad rocky valleys, and treeless craggy mountains --- what a fantastic trip in good weather!  After two more frozen hours, Mike and I approached the summit (we were ahead) and looked into desolate virgin territory beyond. My tendency was to go left, because it look like we might meet our boats there.  But my horse was going right whether I consented or not, and trusting the sure-direction instincts of a horse, Mike and I went right.  After a while, Mike wasn't so sure, so turned his horse back to the crossroads, but mine would not go.  I kept assuming the others would come (since my horse insisted this was the right road) but, hill after hill, I kept looking back.  No horses appeared, and soon the crossroad was far behind me.  Gradually I decided this must be the wrong way, and tried again to turn around.  I tried to go into the lane of an isolated house, I tried to stop. . .I tried everything, but that broken-down horse was impossible. When I tried to let the horse know who was in charge, he promptly backed me right down a bank into a ravine.  Then, for the first time I was frightened, because I knew that I could not handle that horse.  I began (in growing terror) to contemplate spending the night out in the wilds of Killarney and likely freezing to death.  I had no idea where we were headed, but it certainly wasn't toward human habitation. These were very bad moments.  Spying an inhabited old cottage, I decided to stop, even if I had to leap off the horse, but surprisingly she was willing and I lumbered off, hallowing to the occupants. . .

An old peasant lady appeared in black dress and stockings, and at the sight of another human being, I nearly broke down in weeping.  Struggling for control, I told her I must be lost (although I suspected that she already suspected that).  I told her the boats were leaving soon (there was only one a day), but this horse insisted on coming here.  She then dropped her little bombshell --- the horse belonged there and was merely coming home --- with an unwilling visitor!  She later admitted it was not the first time it had happened.  The horse and I had been on the trail for four solid, er, liquid hours!  She led me inside her home (which I was than anxious to see despite my distressing situation) to an open peat fireplace with an old black kettle hanging over it, and then began stripping off my soggy clothes.  I sat by the fire with this kindly soul bustling about, putting warm clothes on me, getting hot tea, trying to hurry with three huge dogs, and a red-haired Irish grand baby, and a flock of baby turkeys all under foot.  I couldn't believe my eyes and wanted to laugh and cry both, at this unreal situation.  I watched bemusedly while one little turkey jumped into the rim and then into a large pail sitting on the kitchen floor.  Hearing noise, the lady of the house rushed over to the pail in time to pull out a half-drowned little turk from what was obviously a pail of water. Calamities!  It was a wild scene.  She shoved them all under a basket and then proceeded to cut a homemade raisin loaf for my tea without benefit of hand washing of any sort between turkeys and bread.  I may have winced, but I wouldn't have refused her hospitality for anything.  It tasted delicious and was served on her best china.  She commented that I "seemed to fit in very nicely here in this country" probably because I was petting her dogs that were running in and out, and trying strenuously to see everything I could while just trying to appear as if I had grown up with peat fires and turkeys drowning themselves in the center of the kitchen floor!  When I told her I was from California she was very surprised and said she thought I was one of the local Irish girls from "up North".  I concluded that I must be fitting in very well indeed.  My Yankee twang was mistaken for an Irish brogue...!

Meantime she sent her daughter-in-law (who incidentally had worked two years at Schrafft's Restaurant in New York but got homesick and came back to marry a local boy) to the neighbor's house at the end of the road for a car.  No one was home, and now we were all in a frantic frenzy.  That boat was due to leave 30 minutes before.  I threatened to walk, and finally they consented, but insisted the daughter-in-law walk the 5 or 6 miles with me.  In a few minutes, we heard a car driving up behind us, and the much-sought neighbor materialized.  We roared over ruts and believe it or not, when we arrived, the boats were just leaving, having waited over 30 minutes for me.  Mike, who was beside himself, had just told them to go on without.  He was going to start after me, spend the night in the mountains, stay with a farmer, hire a car (no more horses!) or anything that was necessary.  An interesting postscript was that the California woman's horse also took her to its house in a different direction from me, and the farmer there had to bring her back in his car also.  Well, now that it's all over, I'm glad it happened.  How else could I have taken tea in front of an open peat fire with the turkeys and the dogs and the O'Donahue's of Killarney?

Monday, April 20, 2015

My Snowball Tree and a Tea Recipe

My snowball tree is filled with an abundance of pristine, white blossoms. They grow in beautiful, clustered orbs. Each branch is heavily laden with snowballs.

My tree was a gift from Karleen. Each spring when it blooms, I think of her and appreciate my tree {and her} even more. Just seeing it reminds me of early childhood memories. My family lived in a barracks that had been converted into an apartment for university married students. Units were small and close, but the back lawns were all connected and all the neighborhood children had a wonderful time playing together outside. When the snowball bushes bloomed, we had wonderful snowball fights with the soft, pristine blossoms. 

The floral snowballs also remind me of real snowballs! The kind that are hard when they hit you and that melt when you try to bring them inside! And they remind me of the quintessential Hostess Snowball. Do you remember them? They were a concoction of chocolate cake covered in marshmallow and rolled in coconut. So tempting in the package at the store, but mother would never buy them {they are "just fluff" she'd say and "not good for growing kids"}. But how pretty they were! Instead we'd use the idea to make homemade truffles at home and sis and I would roll them in unsweetened, flaked coconut until they were as dense and pretty as the blossoms on the snowball tree!

And you can make some too! Here's a recipe I enjoy. Find the coconut and you can roll to your heart's content. The recipe even includes tea!

  • 2 cups heavy cream (or SILK soy creamer)
  • 1/2 cup packed, fresh basil
  • 2 tea bags, Earl Grey tea
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 lb. chocolate, bittersweet, chopped
  • Crushed cookies (gluten-free if necessary), toasted chopped nuts, shredded coconut or cocoa powder, for rolling.

Bring the cream to a low simmer over medium heat. Then remove from heat and add tea bags and basil leaves. Steep for 15 minutes. Then strain mixture and discard the solids. Return the pan of infused cream to the heat and simmer for five more minutes. Then, stir in chocolate until melted and combined. 

Cover mixture and place in fridge. Cool completely (2 hours or overnight). 

When ready to create truffles, place the topping or toppings of your choice in bowls. Use a spoon to scoop by teaspoonful and make a rounded 1 inch ball. Then roll in one of the toppings listed above. Each truffle should be well coated. 

Store truffles in a covered container in the fridge until ready for use.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Tea of Easter

"For I remember it is Easter morn,
And life and love and peace are all new born."  
~ Alice Freeman Palmer ~

"'Twas Easter-Sunday. The full-blossomed trees 
Filled all the air with fragrance and with joy.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~
Spanish Student

 "Ye sleeping buds, break 
Open your green cerements, and wake 
To fragrant blossoming for His sweet sake." 
~ Margaret French Patton ~

 "Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time." 
~ Martin Luther ~

"Well pleaseth me the sweet time of Easter 
That maketh the leaf and the flower come out."  
~ Bertran de Born ~

"The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world. Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice. But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice.
~ Henry Knox Sherril ~

The tea today is Adagio Darjeeling Sungma Summer
The teacup and saucer are Noritake Blossom Mist.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Your Cupan Tae from the Ould Sod

The Irish love their tae! In fact, some accounts reveal that the Irish drink more tea per capita than any other country. Tea is a beverage of hospitality in Ireland. The Irish are known for their strong tea blends that are served with plenty of milk. It is not uncommon that the ratio of tea to milk be two-to-one. Irish Breakfast blends are known for being strong and robust, whereas an Irish Afternoon blend mellow out as the day goes on. A common Gaelic expression for "cup of tea" is "cupan tae", a quaint and enchanting expression.

Enjoy your cupan tae today!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tea-Soaked Raisin Tea Brack

Ireland is known for their wonderful tea breads. Sometimes we call them tea cakes. Whatever the name, they are delicious and perfect to accompany a cup of tea. This recipe for tea-soaked raisin bread is called Irish Tea Brack. The Irish word 'breac' means speckled. So, you can just imagine what this delicious tea bread must look like! It's a simple and quick recipe, as long as you remember to start your raisins soaking the night before. Serve with butter and jam.

Tea-Soaked Raisin Tea Brack

  • 1 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup brewed tea, strong and cooled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg or 1 vegan egg substitute
  • Rolled oats

Brew one cup of tea. Pour over raisins in a bowl. Cover and place in refrigerator for 8 - 10 hours.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir together until well mixed. Then, create a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in the egg, raisins, and tea. Stir until just combined. Then, pour into a loaf pan that has been buttered and dusted with flour. Sprinkle rolled oats on the top of the loaf. 

Place loaf in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees. Bake until the top is browned, about 1 1/2 hours. When done, cool slightly and remove from loaf pan and allow to complete cooling on a wire rack. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My Sweet Colleen

My Sweet Colleen
An Irish Melody

Near Banbridge town, in the County Down
One morning in July
Down a boreen green came a sweet colleen
And she smiled as she passed me by.
She looked so sweet from her two white feet
To the sheen of her nut-brown hair
Such a coaxing elf, I'd to shake myself
To make sure I was standing there.

From Bantry Bay up to Derry Quay
And from Galway to Dublin town
No maid I've seen like the sweet colleen
That I met in the County Down.

As she onward sped I shook my head
And I gazed with a feeling rare
And I said, says I, to a passerby
"Who's the maid with the nut-brown hair?"
He smiled at me, and with pride says he,
"That's the gem of Ireland's crown.
She's young Rosie McCann from the banks of the Bann
She's the star of the County Down."


I've travelled a bit, but never was hit
Since my roving career began
But fair and square I surrendered there
To the charms of young Rose McCann.
I'd a heart to let and no tenant yet
Did I meet with in shawl or gown
But in she went and I asked no rent
From the star of the County Down.


At the crossroads fair I'll be surely there
And I'll dress in my Sunday clothes
And I'll try sheep's eyes, and deludhering lies
On the heart of the nut-brown rose.
No pipe I'll smoke, no horse I'll yoke
Though with rust my plow turns brown
Till a smiling bride by my own fireside
Sits the star of the County Down.


Photo: antique and curio shop in Tombstone, AZ

Welsh Brew to Warm the Soul

We're having chilly spring weather. The wind machines in the nearby apple orchard are very noisy as they work away. Their motors and the noise of the blades as they cut through the air make a rumble throughout the nights this week. Slowly, but surely, nature is braving the chill enough to show beautiful buds and blossom faces.

Even the lawn is starting to green up. It won't be much longer before everything erupts!

The daffodils bring cheer; a solid mass of light yellow ruffs and lemon yellow faces! You can just about hear them roar!

The weeping flowering cherry is the only flowering tree that is in full bloom. It's pretty with its single, white blossoms, but it makes me miss the double, pink blossoms from a cherry tree that grew old and had to be cut down last autumn.

After a morning walk around the yard, where I was seeking signs of spring, it's time for a hot cup of tea. Today's tea is Murroughs Welsh Brew, a traditional blend of African and Indian teas. The tin says that they were selected for their strength, colour and smoothness of flavour. The manufacturer is located at Mumbles, South Wales (Mwmbwis, Abertawe). It was won in a give-away that Bernideen conducted last month. Thank you, Bernideen!

The teacup is a  Colclough, made in Longton, England.

All of this talk of spring, flowers, and tea reminds me of my mother and one of her favorite spring poems. It was one she recited from memory on many a spring day!

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 

William Wordsworth

Friday, March 6, 2015

Tea for Two

Have you ever noticed that sometimes things you observe while shopping remind you of a friend you have? Does it make you smile? The cute little pigs above remind me of my friend, Pinky! Aren't they cute? 

Sometimes some unusual things can be seen while on a shopping trip. This is especially so when visiting quaint little tourist-type towns at the beach.

But it you look carefully, you will be sure to find things that make your spirits soar! How about an antique shop called "Made in England"?

Or a sign that says "Tea for Two". Now, doesn't that sound nice?

Now --- is a good time for a cuppa!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine Blessings

Valentine's day! I cannot allow the holiday to pass without sharing bits and pieces of this heart-filled holiday.

February has been cold and snowy. It's been the perfect time for projects and crafting. Even simple projects like organizing a bookshelf can brighten up the day.

Red is the color for tea service in February! It is such a cheerful color and is the color of love.

Valentine's cards and tea samples from friends brighten February days, making a daily walk to the mailbox a rewarding experience.

And pretty in pink, a puppy's visit was so pleasant and sweet. Cuddles and tugs-of-war alternated with this frisky little beauty. Sudo is such a love.

Good morning! Being called "handsome" is a great way for some to start the day!

Flowers. Tulips and lilies.

Chocolates and a tea tasting.

Red roses. Beautiful red roses.

And a Valentine's brunch of crepes, fruit sauces, and Darjeeling tea.

Happy February!
Spring should be here soon!
Do you have snowdrops in bloom yet?
None here.