Celebrating The Irish….And The History Of “Green”

Green eggs…in celebration of St. Patrick's Day

Green eggs…in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day – green tinged foods may be fun for Americans; however, the color harkens to a darker time for the Irish

My family enjoys gathering and celebrating… St. Patrick’s Day was one of our mother’s favorite days to bring us together, (she regularly reminded us that she was one-quarter Irish).

These days, my sister and niece alternate hosting the dinner.  This year, our Sammycakes surprised us with these utterly delicious deviled eggs…colored green. The yolk /filling was soooo silky smooth and perfectly seasoned – I could have consumed a dozen (I stopped at 4).

Seeing these made me wonder why green is associated with St. Patrick’s Day.  In doing a little research, I discovered this interesting blog post written by Maria Godoy, at NPR’s The Salt food blog, where the history of the great Irish famine and the correlation to green foods are described…

The Irish celebrate their patron saint on March 17, green food has bitter connotations that recall the nation’s darkest chapter, says historian Christine Kinealy.

The reason, Kinealy explains, is the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, which forced so many Irish to flee mass starvation in their homeland in search of better times in America and elsewhere. Those who stayed behind turned to desperate measures.

“People were so deprived of food that they resorted to eating grass,” Kinealy tells The Salt. “In Irish folk memory, they talk about people’s mouths being green as they died.”

At least 1 million Irish died in the span of six years, says Kinealy, the founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Which is why, for an Irishwoman like Kinealy, who hails from Dublin and County Mayo, the sight of green-tinged edibles intended as a joyous nod to Irish history can be jolting, she says.”   From The Salt, NPR blog, post written by Maria Godoy.

The “wearing of the green” is associated to the “shamrock” and various Irish historic activities which are said to have begun around 1640.  The 3 leafed shamrock referenced the Catholic holy trinity, later “the green” was adopted by the Friendly Brothers of St. Patrick.  The holiday is celebrated on March 17 as that is the recognized death day of St. Patrick. Originally it was a religious feast day and has extended into being a celebration day of Irish culture.

While many Irish are somewhat bemused by how joyous the American’s have made St. Patty’s Day, most celebrate and have embraced much of American’s enthusiasm.

A few additional facts about the Irish…they consume more tea per capita than any other recorded population.  Irish breakfast tea is the type of strong black tea that holds up well to milk and is one of my favorites — particularly with a scone or Irish soda bread.  Each year, I make my mom’s Irish soda bread recipe…as doing so, I am flooded with great memories of making dozens of loaves with her.  A favorite remembrance for me is toasting the leftover bread and slathering it with butter the next morning.   Below is this year’s effort.  I bake my soda bread in a soufflé dish we received as a wedding gift a couple decades ago.  It makes a beautiful, rustic-looking loaf.  What’s wonderful about this bread is that it takes about 15 minutes to put together…It’s a quick bread!

Tea With Betty's Irish soda bread…baked in my favorite soufflé dish…using Irish…grass fed…Kerrygold butter of course :-)

Tea With Betty’s Irish soda bread…baked in my favorite soufflé dish…using Irish…grass fed…Kerrygold butter of course 🙂

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Valentine For A Friend…Heart-Shaped Scones From White Lily Flour

Happy Valentine’s Day…

My good buddy and “sounding board”, Hils,  loves my biscuit scones.  She is quite a disciplined eater, but will indulge when it’s worth it.  These scones are worth it…top with a tart lemon curd and you’ve got the perfect, decadent pairing.  I made heart-shapes and used White Lily Flour …which we discovered at Surfas.  The signage claimed that this soft winter wheat, light flour is what makes Southern biscuits and Southern baking sooooo wonderful.  The flour is really fine..feels a bit like cornstarch and certainly made an outstanding scone.  I love using this product.  We baked a batch  with all-purpose flour too and tasted them against the ones made with White Lily…both were excellent, the Southern scone was lighter and a bit flakier, very nice.  There was a bit more texture to the ones made with my general, all-purpose flour (which my husband actually preferred…and he’s the Southern one ?!*#  🙂 ).   We will bake with the White Lily a few more times and let you know our findings.

Heart-shaped scones made with White Lily flour…a Southern favorite

Heart-shaped scones made with White Lily flour…a Southern favorite

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Packaged and ready to deliver to Hils…

O.K…all she needs is a nice cup of tea with these …

I still have some old Martha Stewart gift boxes w/ wrapping that we got 5 years ago when in New York and at her t.v. show…makes great Valentine gift wrapping.

I still have some old Martha Stewart gift boxes w/ wrapping that we got 5 years ago when in New York and at her t.v. show…makes great Valentine gift wrapping.

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Think Garnish…Whimsical, Beautiful, Rustic, & Compelling

You might have heard the phrase, “you eat with your eyes first.”  Those who know me, know I love to eat.  I love food.  It’s as simple as that.
I also love foods that look good.  The older I get, the less I seem to be able to consume and keep healthy…so, smaller portions are in order.  This fits perfectly with my passion for afternoon tea menus.  Beautiful petite bites are what I seek at tea time.  Often I prepare my own, and  while I thoroughly enjoy cooking, I am not very good at the detail work of decorating –  so, when I want that little something to make my dish yield an extra smile that warms the heart, I use garnishes.  Innovative packaging, serving pieces, cutters, and papers simplify my work and can take an ordinary dish to being something special.  With little effort, let your garnish reflect the beauty, whimsy, or rustic appeal you desire.   For my most important events, when I need things to look really awesome with a “wow” factor, I call on my niece, Sammycakes…she is masterful at creating spectacular looking (and tasting) desserts.  Knowing my interest in creating compelling, unique small bites; my sister-in-law and niece sent me a link to a site they thought interesting called Think Garnish.  I believe they saw the site in Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Check it out, there are clever ideas awaiting you there.

Think Garnish describes what garnish is all about this way…”Have you ever wondered what makes the difference between something special and spectacular?  It’s the Garnish…that little something extra that brings a sparkle to the eye and a giggle to the heart.

A few of my latest favorite festive garnishes are below:

Ricotta cheesecake baked and served in these festive cups…normally this special family recipe Easter pie is not very attractive as a whole pie…these cups dressed them up nicely…topped with a little heavy cream…gorgeous

Ricotta cheesecake baked and served in these festive cups…normally this special family recipe Easter pie is not very attractive as a whole pie…these cups dressed them up nicely…topped with a little heavy cream…gorgeous

Shot  glass sized dessert cups…just about guilt free in size…these were at the St. Regis Tea and Tinis buffet

Shot glass sized dessert cups…just about guilt free in size…these were at the St. Regis Tea and Tinis buffet

 

 

Sometimes garnish with parchment paper and a square mold are the look you want…this photo from la Cucina Italiana…it is a mini lapsing soughing tea cake

Sometimes garnish with parchment paper and a square mold are the look you want…this photo from la Cucina Italiana…it is a mini lapsang souchong tea cake

From Think Garnish…this cute small tulip cup is available from their site…these are just up my alley.

From Think Garnish…this cute small tulip cup is available from their site…these are just up my alley.

Pinterest offers an enormous amount of ideas for beautiful and clever garnishes…these tea bag cookies take a little extra time cutting and are so cute --

Pinterest offers an enormous amount of ideas for beautiful and clever garnishes…these tea bag cookies take a little extra time cutting and are so cute —

Think Garnish says that “products are blank canvases just waiting for your expression. Totally customizable, they offer infinite possibilities. Take this opportunity to let your personality shine through… and make every occasion a special occasion. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to bring simple sophistication to everyday life. Garnish provides all the ingredients and ideas you need to create an experience that everyone will remember. Remember, there is no one perfect moment to add a little Garnish…every moment deserves to be Garnished.”

I encourage you to express yourself through adding a little garnish…Valentine’s Day is coming…the perfect opportunity to create a new memory through food.  Food is Life…it may as well be interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

A Year In Review…Well, Half Of It Anyway :-)

The past month has been a bit crazy …  I suppose it has been for most of you; however, I complicated things by throwing in a couple vacations, as well as, caught some kind of cold / virus that seems to want to fake me out…it comes and goes…then comes back just when I think I am better.  So…I got a little behind on my writing, but I think I am BACK now 🙂

2013 is gone.  While I don’t want to spend much time looking back, it was a year of interesting experiences inspired by tea for me.  I moved from my Tea With Betty blog to Eat Be Tea so I can expand the writing and experiences to include more about what I love…small bites of foods, paired with tea, experienced in numerous ways in various settings that often changes one’s life…one cup at a time, one bite at a time, one conversation at a time, one moment of reflection while waiting for the steep to finish.

I say goodbye to 2013 with this brief journey back.  I was blessed to have so many wonderful experiences over tea and food that I’ve had to break this into two posts…Below are photos for the first half 2013 of tea and food experiences that inspired and brought me joy –  beginning  with tea with my family at the Mission Inn, Riverside, Ca. last January 2…and ending with savoring a cup of Marriage Freres Darjeeling up in the Napa Valley while relaxing with a book.  In between, there were several garden tours that motivated us to redo our herb and vegetable beds (thanks to my sister’s invites and my husband’s hard work) and additional tea time items that touched me.

January - June 2013  Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

January – June 2013
Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

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Caption list:

1. Teatime at The Mission Inn with two darling little boys 🙂

2. Gonfu tea service…a favorite of mine enjoyed at several locations

3. Kusmi teas…a gift from my sister-in-law from their trip to France, their chocolate tea is as good as eating a piece of quality chocolate…seriously

4. Chocolates and confectionery my daughter and I made while at an Eat Street Culinary class with Chef Katie Averill in Anaheim…can’t believe we made these, from scratch.

5. Surfas opens in Costa Mesa, Ca…yay…lots of food and cooking supplies

6, 7, 8, 9. Napa Valley in February…the mustard in bloom as a cover crop for the grapevines, tea items at Dean & Deluca fine food purveyors…and they carried one of my favorite tea pots, featured on the cover of my tea book…the Betty pot and The French Laundry garden hot house.

10. Japanese tea house located in the bucolic Descanso Gardens L.A.

11. My Life Is Good “Tea Shirt”…a gift from my best friend.

12, 13, 14  Gorgeous tea foods prepared with the significant help from our friend Clive (the 5 layered tea sandwich he used to make at the Savoy, London and stunning lemon meringue tarts prepared by my niece Sammycakes. Also, my petite favorite biscuit scones.

15. Teapot with tea warmer at our dear friend Eugenie’s.

16. We discover pastry chef Kevin Montoya…owner of Carley Cakes. yum.

17 – 23. Out of the blue…I get asked to do a tea tasting for 100 and launch Eat Be Tea at this time….more Tea With Betty books are ordered, tables set in this gorgeous, rustic outdoor setting in the historic area of  San Juan Capistrano – my husband and Chef Kevin plate the food for the pairing with several organic teas from Mighty Leaf.

24.  Chef Kevin decides to name my biscuit scone…the Jones Scone and offer it in his pastry case with my fragrant and flavorful vanilla, cinnamon butter…at Hidden House Cafe on Los Rios Street in SJC.

Finally, we are up to June…back in Napa at the culinary institute where they claim “food is life”…so true…

Finally, I sit down to a fragrant darjeeling packaged in a darling cotton sack.

Happy New Year! Relax and drink tea!

 

 

The Incredible Egg … The Main Ingredient For These Individual Quiche Pies

The egg is literally my favorite ingredient.  It’s versatility is vast.  It’s widely available and, like water, often an ingredient that is  a bit taken for granted, under appreciated.  I am fascinated by how it reacts when separated and whipped into fluffy pillows with the whites, or when yolks are spun into a golden ribbon when beaten with sugar.  The texture of a tender, slightly jiggly custard is a thing I relish.  The egg makes a meal unto itself, or, is happy to be a team player and serve as a binder for meatballs or can emulsify with oil into a luscious spread.  It’s a satisfying protein and a humble thing.

Recently, at Chef Katie Averill’s Eat Street Culinary Cooking School, in Anaheim, we held a hands-on cooking class using several recipes from my Tea With Betty Book.  One of my favorites is the egg cream filling for making individual egg tarts (or petite quiche).

 

Quiche made with my favorite egg cream...and fresh herbs

Quiche made with my favorite egg cream…and fresh herbs

Fresh organic herbs and tomatoes from my garden, along with bacon (mmmmm bacon) and fontina cheese...ready to go into the egg cream mixture in your blind baked pastry shell..for quiche

Fresh organic herbs and tomatoes from my garden, and, pictured below, crispy bacon (mmmmm bacon) and fontina cheese…ready to go into the egg cream mixture in your blind baked pastry shell..for quiche

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This recipe I most enjoy using for mini quiche is so easy to make… add your favorite inclusions to your pre-baked pastry shell, then your egg mixture and voila…quiche.   I don’t always add cheese as I just love the egginess to be like a custard, but feel free to pull anything you want from your refrigerator and garden to create your own tasty little pie.  On this day, Chef Katie had found these darling, individual sized disposable tart pans for use in class.  They worked well as a vehicle for students to carry home their extra cooked product.  She found these at Home Goods.

Recipe:

Blind Baked Basic Pastry Shells (either store bought or homemade).

Egg Cream Mixture

Enough for 12 (2 ½” x 2 ½”) square tarts.

Preheat oven to 350º F.

¾ cup cream and ¾ cup milk (total 1 ½ cups milk product)

3 eggs

1 egg yolk

Pinch of salt and pepper

Pinch of grated nutmeg

Using a fork, beat all the ingredients together in a bowl until well mixed.

Fill blind baked tart shells with various ingredients. Suggestions include:

A large pinch of shredded cheddar cheese, two roasted cherry tomatoes (skin removed), and a torn basil leaf placed in the bottom of the blind baked pastry shell. Then fill with cream mixture, carefully, just to the top of the shell. Bake about 20 minutes until cream mixture is set.

A large pinch of shredded mozzarella placed in bottom of blind baked tart shell and minced basil, parsley, thyme, and chives.  Fill with cream mixture and bake approximately 20 minutes.

Note: Always use fresh eggs…check the dates.  When possible, I use organic eggs.  One day soon I plan on testing recipes with different eggs as there is a whole world of variety out there coming from our friend the chicken … a subject I am looking forward to researching…I can see a few “egg”  test kitchen tasting experiments in my future.

 

 

 

It’s Fall…Time For Tea Party Cakes

One of our family favorite loaf cakes Mom made in the 60’s and 70’s was called the Tea Party Loaf.  It is a Bisquick recipe.  While I suppose it wouldn’t be difficult to figure out how to prepare this without using Bisquick…I never do.  Each fall, I purchase a new box of this Betty Crocker product…I now make the loaf cake in regular and petite cupcake sized portions; this because  we always struggled getting the cake out of a loaf pan without it crumbling apart.  Of course that didn’t stop up from consuming the deliciousness of the cake by pinching together crumbs and butterscotch and chocolate chip morsels, popping the doughy mess into our mouths; however,  it’s more appealing served as an individual cake.  So we adapted the presentation.  Now they look cute 🙂

What I love about this recipe is that the cake is not too sweet, and it comes out moist.  The texture is so satisfying in that there is this tasty cake which serves as the backdrop for the sweet butterscotch & chocolate, and the crunch of nuts which go into the recipe.  The cake is perfect paired with any cup of tea or a glass of milk.   It is as appropriate at breakfast time as at tea time.  We made this for our niece’s bridal shower brunch menu (in pretty cupcake papers).  Recently I made petite sized ones for my morning jazzercise / exercise class.  It is a wonderful morning cake. In fact, I never serve this for dessert…it is a morning cake…or afternoon tea cake.  Also…no need for a mixer…just need a bowl and a stirring spoon. This is a fun cake to make with children.

 

Petite tea party cakes cooling on the rack...just dusted with powdered confectioner's sugar

Petite tea party cakes cooling on the rack…just dusted with powdered confectioner’s sugar

I like any excuse to add butterscotch chips to a recipe.  Recently, I switched from using toasted walnuts to pecans as my sister is a bit allergic to walnuts.  Either nut works beautifully in the cake.  The consistency of the batter is much like a pancake batter…no need for a mixer either…just throw it all into a bowl and use a spoon to mix.  Voila…easy cake.

Hot out of the oven ...the butterscotch chips ooze...every bite is a delight :-)

Hot out of the oven …the butterscotch chips ooze…every bite is a delight 🙂

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My nephew is coming to visit soon…he loves these, so will be making a big batch soon.

Recipe:

TEA PARTY LOAF CAKE

Prepare these in greased cupcake papers, either regular sized or minis.  They are deliciously appropriate anytime.  This recipe is high on the request list of children and young adults.

Makes one large loaf, 24 regular cupcakes, or 48 mini cupcakes.

PREP TIME: 15 minutes TOTAL TIME:  1 hour 30 minutes for full cake

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

No mixer needed, just a wooden spoon for mixing and a bowl.

 

3 cups Bisquick biscuit mix

1 cup uncooked quick rolled oats

1 cup sugar

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 ½ cups milk

¼ cup vegetable oil

⅔ to ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips, quantity depends on how chunky and sweet you prefer

⅔ to ¾ cup butterscotch chips

⅔ to ¾ cup chopped walnuts

 

Combine dry ingredients, Bisquick, oats, and sugar in a bowl; stir a bit.

Combine egg, milk, and oil. Add to the dry mixture and beat until smooth with wooden spoon.

Stir in chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and walnuts.

Prepare a 9” x 5” x 3” loaf pan with a greased, wax paper lining.

Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan.

Bake at 350˚F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes.

 

If preparing cupcake-sized, spray muffin papers with cooking spray, such as Pam.

Bake at 350˚F for 20 minutes for regular sized cupcakes, or 12 minutes for mini size.