What Are The “Best Before” Dates In Your Pantry?

My friend V. asked if I could show her how to make a scone, I said, “of course…  it’s quick and easy and your family will think you are the greatest.”  Well, life got in the way and months went by without seeing each other…then, via a chance meeting she attended that my sister happened to be at…we reconnected via text messages and finally calendared the time to make scones together –with lunch– at my house.  We invited a few other friends we had been “meaning to get together with for awhile too”,  making a girlfriend’s lunch out of it.  We’d catch up, bake, eat, and relax over a cup of tea.  It turned out to be totally fun with non-stop talk while chowing down roasted chicken salad, savory and sweet biscuit scones, jasmine pearl tea, and awesome Dove Chocolate peanut butter cookies made by our friend, A.  — we vowed to do this again in a few months.

I had everything prepared before my friends arrived except the scones.  Those we made together.  It took all of 15 minutes for two batches, savory and sweet.  I always make petite scones using a small cutter (1 ½” round) – and serve them hot out of the oven with various accompaniments.  That way, you get to have more than one and vary the topping…yet don’t feel like a little piggy while gulping three or four down 🙂

While my friend A. watched me demonstrate how to make the first batch, showing how I barely touch the dough to bring it together, ensuring a more tender product after baking…she exclaimed, “oh, that’s what you mean by dont overwork the dough’‘, mine always come out like hard little lead balls”…she went to say she uses my recipe from Tea With Betty and has this happen every time she makes scones (which she does often).  Well, being the conscientious cookbook author that I am, I probed as to what she actually did …and questioned her about the recipe …and worried over this for a few days until my sister and I were over at A.’s house for a quick cup of tea (for me) and wine for them the other day…sleuthing a bit, this is what I found out about her scones….

A. had made my cheddar chive scones for a lunch she had the day before.  She pulled out a few leftover ones for a snack with our tea and wine… they looked like little doughy leaden hardballs…and these she made AFTER participating in our joint scone making the week before.  I asked laughingly “what the heck did you do to these?”  She said she followed my instructions completely (and she is meticulous about things like this so I fully believed her)…I kept looking at these things she called my cheddar chive scones with puzzled exasperation.  My dough comes out pillowy …like this…

Biscuit scones ... petite cut into 1 1/2" size

Biscuit scones … petite cut into 1 1/2″ size

Flaky, petite scones

Flaky, petite scones

I asked how fresh her baking powder was, she said, it is fresh.  She bakes all the time and I believed her.  We sat down to our  beverages, but I couldn’t get this lumpy ball she called a scone made from MY recipe out of my mind.  I probed more and asked, “where do you keep your baking powder?” ( The doubting Thomas side of me emerging)…I went to her cupboards opening doors…found her baking powder…her fresh baking powder (so she claimed) and here is what she was using…remember, we are in the year 2013….. hers was dated best before 2009!

Her scones were dense, hard, chewy,

Needless to say, I confiscated this can and A. has purchased new baking powder. Amazingly, her next batch came out spectacularly light, flaky, and delicious!!

Check your code dates folks…FRESH, quality ingredients make a huge difference…while this story is something she will laughingly share with others for ages…or at least my sister and I will…A’s guests who experienced her old scones will be pleasantly pleased with the new batches.

Here is how flaky and light my biscuit scones should look…rustic, reflecting layers.

Enjoy with a cup or two of freshly steeped whole leaf tea….the best!

Eat … Be … Tea … Join Us May 10 or May 11 In The Garden

Welcome to Tea With Betty’s new blog site…regular posts about experiences with food, tea and tea time adventures are coming  soon…

In the meantime, our first foray into education via tea tasting with food pairings is being offered in the beautiful gardens of Goin Native on the historic Los Rios Street in San Juan Capistrano Friday May 10 from 11 – 1 and Saturday May 11 from 11 – 1.

Information and registration is available on the Goin Native website.

The pairing menu is three, small-bite food courses paired with five whole leaf teas and includes a brief demonstration on how to make a quick bread, scone…along with tips on how to make a good cup of tea.  Below are menu details.

Eat . Be . Tea 

The Tasting Menu….

Friday May 10 and Saturday May 11 – 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Gathering Time

Organic Ceylon Iced Tea from Kenilworth Estate

Spiced Roasted Pecans

 Tea Making (How To) and Tasting Time

with The Savory Plate….

Smoked Salmon Mousse in Crispy Wonton Cup

Polenta  Square Topped with Roasted Mushrooms

paired with RareTieguanyin Jade Oolong Tea

Roasted Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Basil on Crostini

Creamed Goat Cheese drizzled with honey

Paired with Organic Assam Tea from Rani Estate

 

Intermezzo…Biscuit Making Demonstration with

Petite, Warm Biscuit Scones…

Savory Pancetta Cheese Biscuit & Linda’s Favorite Biscuit Scone

with Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Butter

Paired with Masala Chai Tea

 Sweet Finale

Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownie Bites

Lemon Curd Tartlet with Toasted Meringue

Paired with Jasmine Downey Pearls Tea  (Rare)

 

Relax and walk about the gardens and shop

Author book signing of Tea With Betty Tea Manual & Memoir

Hope you can join us…if not this class, watch for upcoming events.

Drink tea…and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

A Week Of Giant Birthday Cakes and A Giant Teacup…

It’s been a busy couple weeks around here between Easter, Spring planting, and birthdays.  Easter dinner normally takes place at our house…over the years, it has become a large family affair of about 30 guests.  Since the advent of  Spring and Easter usually occur near each other on the calendar, readying the house for the holiday  is a great excuse for me to get a kick start on bringing my yard back to life after months of laying dormant…and, living in Southern California, the weather almost always cooperates  for an outdoor start to the day, including an egg hunt—so the backyard is a focal point for the celebration.  This year, we decided to improve our raised herb and veggie garden and put in a new framework…it was much more work than it originally looked like….but we did it.   Yay…now we need more veggie mix soil…but that’s a whole other story 🙂

Below are photos of some of the color coming through in the yard that we had for Easter, including replanting my GIANT ornamental teacup —

But the best planter is my GIANT teacup…given to me as a thank you from a friend who knows I love tea…(I am so lucky, friends find me the most interesting tea themed items).

We even put up a small hot house and planted seeds….this done before putting in the new vegetable beds…

Our first seeds planted are two heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, jalapenos and Genovese basil….all organic from Seeds of Change (also a Mars company, fyi).

Our 20 year old Wisteria vine cooperated beautifully for the day and bloomed profusely while permeating the air with the most wonderful fragrance.

Spring has sprung in my garden

Spring has sprung in my garden

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On top of the convergence of spring and Easter…my two young grandson’s birthdays both fall in the first week of April…this is the third year that I have been in charge of the birthday cakes – I am not a great cake decorator, but I try. The cake making used to be the job (and joy) of my dear friend, Pat, a fabulous, “almost famous” cake maker… and one of the most generous and awesome persons I’ve ever known…sadly, she passed away three years ago.  Aside from breaking all our hearts that this joyful, loving person left us…my family’s cake making got handed to me.  This year the boys made very specific requests of me as to what they wanted their cakes to look like..a “whodunit cake” and a “knight cake”.

The “Whodunit Cake” was a challenge as it required  large decorator items… so I ended up having to make a half sheet cake to fit all the stuff going on top of the cake…our 8 year old loved it!

Then there was the “Knight Cake” for my 5 year old grandson…it came out great due to the expert help of Grandpa…

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Giant birthday cakes ... half sheets and decorated to the hilt per the birthday boy's requests

Giant birthday cakes … half sheets and decorated to the hilt per the birthday boy’s requests

I will say, all this cake washed down nicely with a few cups of lovely, organic, whole leaf teas…Jasmine pearl with cake is a favorite of mine.

Join Us For A Tea Tasting Event…@ Goin Native May 10 and May 11

Once or twice a month, I volunteer garden in the historic Los Rios area of San Juan Capistrano (California).  My “gardener” sister got me hooked on this about a year ago.  It feels good to contribute to the beauty of this historic site, where we are working to make it a destination for more and more Monarch butterflies.  The leader of this “Gardening Angels” group, Marianne Taylor, heard I wrote a book about tea and got this idea…”would I consider doing a  tea tasting for Goin Native Gardens , her incredibly neat garden business and personal home, also located in this historic area of San Juan Capistrano.   Goin Native is situated on an 1887 property and is a wonderful site for a tea tasting…the outdoor setting is under shade trees and umbrellas, in the midst of gorgeous vegetable and native plant gardens weaving themselves around their historic home.

Owners since 1990, Marianne and John Taylor restored this historic site and it’s gardens to reflect beauty and functionality.  The raised bed vegetable garden is easy to work and manage.  There are multiple garden retreat areas, along with fruit trees, native plants, and relaxed, cozy sitting areas throughout the property.

I am excited to introduce our guests to wonderful Mighty Leaf organic, whole  leaf teas – perfectly paired with savory and sweet bites from my Tea With Betty recipes …prepared by local pastry chef, Kevin Montoya, owner of Carley Cakes.

While guests will primarily eat, drink tea, enjoy the gardens and converse;  I will also briefly touch on: what tea IS …versus what it isn’t;  demonstrate how to make a good cup of tea;  and demonstrate how to make a delicious quick bread (my favorite little biscuit scone.)  We will be serving a three course menu paired with five fine teas.  It should be a fun lunchtime event with time to walk around the gardens and relax.   Check out the invite  GoinNative_invite   .

Below is our menu reflecting tea pairings and the flow of the class.

Goin Native presents EAT. BE. TEA … 

Tasting Menu for May 10 and May 11 event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Gathering Time

  • Organic Ceylon Iced Tea from Kenilworth Estate
  • Spiced Roasted Pecans

Tea Making (How To) and Tasting Time with The Savory Plate….

  •  Smoked Salmon Mousse in Crispy Wonton Cup
  • Polenta  Square Topped with Roasted Mushrooms
  • paired with RareTieguanyin Jade Oolong Tea
  • Roasted Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Basil on Crostini
  • Creamed Goat Cheese drizzled with honey
  • Paired with Organic Assam Tea from Rani Estate

Intermezzo…Biscuit Making Demonstration with Petite, Warm Biscuit Scones…

  •  Savory Pancetta Cheese Biscuit & Linda’s Favorite Biscuit Scone
  • with Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Butter
  • Paired with Masala Chai Tea

Sweet Finale

  •  Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownie Bites
  • Lemon Curd Tartlet with Toasted Meringue
  • Paired with Jasmine Downey Pearls Tea  (Rare)

Relax and walk about the gardens and shop

Author book signing of Tea With Betty Tea Manual & Memoir

Reserve your seat by going to…. www.GoinNative.net

 

Come join the fun if you can.  We are hoping this is just the first of many tasting menus to come…we are planning on doing video of this event & photos, and post them soon on this site or my new, soon to be released blog site which I will fill you in on in the next three weeks.   (It is currently under construction right now…fyi…all of Tea With Betty info will transfer to the new site…but we will have ability to do more things, such as videos on the new site…more on this subject later).

Enjoy and Drink Tea  🙂

Peace And Tranquility…On A Winter’s Day At Descanso Gardens….

While Spring has sprung and my garden is bursting with birds, buds and blooms; just a few short weeks ago, my sister’s garden club enjoyed a field trip to the newly renovated public Descanso Gardens, just outside of Los Angeles.  What a beautiful, relaxing day we had…about 40 of us took the 70 mile ride to La Canada in a luxury coach – chatting and relaxing all the way.

I had two reasons for going – First, to spend the day with my sister and our good friend, A., who was going too. Second, I saw that there was a Japanese tea house in the gardens.  The gardens were amazing…winter in Southern California is pretty awesome.  My sister and I regularly thank our parents (in spirit now) for moving here from colder parts of the U.S. many decades ago.  Even in winter, gardens can be gorgeous in So. Cal.

Sitting and eating areas surround the tea house creating a tranquil environment – I wish they actually served tea here…they don’t…at least not in winter.

Japanese Tea House at Descanso Gardens

Japanese Tea House at Descanso Gardens

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A few steps away is this lovely stream and bridge with a view of the teahouse …

Gift shop had interesting items such as this head pot, relaxing areas including unique benches, daffodils Wordsworth would enjoy

Gift shop had interesting items such as this head pot, relaxing areas including unique benches, daffodils Wordsworth would enjoy

IMG_5941 IMG_5943 IMG_5954 IMG_5967But then we came across these beauties in bloom…

There were lovely sitting areas throughout the gardens…

Then we came across the outdoor stage…

Even the gift shop had cool stuff…like these head planters

In the midst of massive population, heavy traffic, honking horns, noise, rush hours, and confusion, there exists this tranquil environment and urban retreat.  I am continuously amazed that there are people who “make” remarkable places like these exist.  Thank you!