Iced Jasmine Pearl, Marbled Tea Eggs, & Instructions for a Heatwave…

Yesterday was book group discussion day at my house…and, sorry to you guys who live in cold country, but it was 80 degrees here in sunny, drought-ridden, So. California….which called for a summery menu of tidbits to snack on while discussing the seriously good writing of Maggie O’Farrell in her recent novel, Instructions for a Heatwave.

We highly recommend this book…family dynamics are expertly portrayed

We highly recommend this book…family dynamics are expertly portrayed

My original thought for small bites to serve when hosting this month’s discussion included scones and hot tea (as the book is set in England and Ireland), but, alas, the weather forced me to rethink what to serve.  Ironically, the unusually hot weather we are experiencing in California paralleled the strangely hot weather setting O’Farrell had London experiencing in her novel.  Still, in the story, there was A LOT of preparing of hot tea going on.  Actually, the Irish are known to drink more tea per capita than any other nation.  Well, I decided on iced tea and prepared one of my favorites,  Jasmine Pearl Green tea…it is light, refreshing, and fragrant.  I also had been desiring my fragrant marbled tea egg (hard-boiled eggs, steeped in tea, cinnamon stick, star anise, and a bit of soy).  They are unique and tasty served sliced onto a little biscuit, of which I had a few put away in the freezer just for this occasion.  These, along with a raw coconut tea cookie (much like a shortbread, with coconut) would be the primary fare.  Some fresh organic California grown juicy raspberries made it to the discussion too.

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

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I’m not sure why my mind went this Asian route with the menu for our English/Irish story, but we had fun, ate it all up, and continue to be moved by how our small group discussions seem to soothe our souls in a special way.  I will post the recipe for the marbled tea eggs in a few days.  They are easy to prepare, yet just gorgeous and unusual.  It’s as easy as boiling water, but looks like you painted them. Same for the coconut cookie, easy as pie (but it’s a tea cookie 🙂 )

Coconut Tea Biscuits…I make them with raw, unsweetened coconut…even cut some into teapot shapes…not too sweet, perfect paired with green tea

Coconut Tea Biscuits…I make them with Bob’s Red Mill raw, unsweetened coconut…even cut some into teapot shapes…not too sweet, perfect paired with green tea

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Our discussion brought us closer together as we shared our own history as related to the book…and all over a cup of tea…amazing the revelations tea brings about.

A Year In Review…Part Deux

I am guessing that “A Year In Review…Part one”  was so exciting that you are anxiously awaiting to see the back half 2013 recap of what moved me.  Here we go…I had to restrain myself and trim (or more like, hack away) at what to include…figuring that “less is more.”

June – December 2013 was filled with interesting gatherings for us…Napa with our daughter and son-in-law was special.  Anytime we get away with these two is cherished time for us (even though we missed the noise-making rug rats 🙂  Reuniting with old friends was a big part of the summer, as my husband reconnected with many high school friends which led to new-found, old and delightful relationships.  Reconnecting with his Southern family resulted in an incredible couple weeks in the American South, then, capping year end with one of the top two tea menus  ever…seriously….ever…at the St. Regis “Tea and Tinis”  for a second year with my dear sister and our dear friend Dawn was just the perfect way to finish off twenty-thirteen.  Included are photos of my touching new artistic, lidded tea cup…named “Betty” which my twin brother and sister-in-law got me in Carmel (a favorite vacation spot for Betty and us)…ahhhh

I don’t know why…but I have always thrilled over small food bites… in particular, those presented in clever utensils, packed with flavor, touching a variety of  taste senses.  As I’ve mentioned before, that’s what first drew me to seek out afternoon tea menus – the variety of tiny bites.  However, mastering the delivery of a melange of gorgeous, flavorful bites proves to be a daunting task for many and often has been disappointing to me (and my Mom (Betty).  Thus we created our own recipes and menus.  Today, I like to go OUT and find these scrumptious morsels while sipping teas or wines.  These tasting adventures, which so suit wine tasting, as well as, tea time, are just so civilized and conducive for eliciting deep thought, or divining small chatter, or examining life in all its manifestations, or doing nothing at all…your choice.  These photos made the cut of favorite “bites” or tastings this year…

Back half 2013 favorite small bites, inventive foods, along with a few scones, cooking class, and teas, of course…and why not finish with a tea martini

Back half 2013 favorite small bites, starting with a most flavorful shrimp bite at Jordan winery, then a stunning cheese pairing from Arrowood Winery, then the  French Laundry garden tomatoes, my own petite bites in Great Aunt Helen’s egg plate, polenta topped with sausage, whimsically inventive foods from Ink Restaurant, Corn chowder w/ popped corn from our Ramos House Cafe in SJC, lovely hearts of palm wrapped in smoked salmon from our dear Chef friend, Julius, along with several petite sweets, tea affogato (as featured in Martha Stewart Living Magazine’s September, 2013 issue, and a few scones, quiche made at my first cooking class at Eat Street Culinary, and teas, of course, lots of tea…and why not finish with a tea martini

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Ending with my first tea martini was a good thing.  I had them “hold the sugar” and it was still soooooo good, refreshing and certainly drinkable…I could have had two but prudently moved onto a nice Mighty Leaf darjeeling instead.  Will write more about this Tea and Tini experience at the St. Regis in another post.  (The best finger sandwiches ever!)

Happy New Year…Drink Tea…organic, whole leaf…it’s good for you!  Even with a little Ketel One vodka in it 🙂

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!

 

 

Tiramisu … Pick Me Up

I had a request to make Tiramisu from my nephew.  We researched recipes together and made a beautiful dessert. We even had enough to make two individual sized portions (for taste testing later).  Quality control is important :-).

Tiramisu is an Italian dessert…and  means “pick me up” or “lift me up”.  It’s made with ladyfinger cookies (Italian: Savoiardi) dipped in espresso that may or may not include a shot of your favorite liquor (we added Marsala).  Mascarpone cheese, egg yolks, egg whites, sugar (not that much really) are used, then dusted with powdered chocolate.  With the coffee and liquor, it is more of an adult dessert.

I got this recipe from cookingwithrosie@blogspot.com.  Everyone loved the dish.   Her recipe is below the photos.  We doubled it for our big crowd.

The making of our Tiramisu...Italian Mascarpone is the key ingredient...along with Ladyfinger cookies...no baking needed...whipped egg whites, mixing the mascarpone, eggs and sugar in my husbands 35 year old Kitchen Aide mixer....(built to last) and dipping and layering into a luscious, creamy mature dessert.

The making of our Tiramisu…Italian Mascarpone is the key ingredient…along with Ladyfinger cookies…no baking needed…whipped egg whites, mixing the mascarpone, eggs and sugar in my husbands 35 year old Kitchen Aide mixer….(built to last) and dipping and layering into a luscious, creamy mature dessert was a fun project for my nephew and me.  Using quality ingredients matters…we used fresh organic eggs, Dean & Deluca’s dutch processed cocoa and Italian products from Claros Italian store…

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Ingredients

625 ml (2-2½ cups) strong espresso, cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs or 5 small/medium eggs, separated
4-5 tbsp sugar (one tablespoon per egg) I use a regular spoon to measure – if you use a measuring spoon it will taste sweeter (personal preference).
500 g (16 oz) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 200-250 g (7-9 oz) pkg Savoiardi or Pavesini (lady fingers) These are known as Löffelbiscuits in Germany.
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (or to taste) Again, I use a regular spoon but a measuring spoon will also work.

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites with electric mixture till stiff peaks form but not dry; set aside. 2. In another medium bowl, Beat the egg yolks with sugar until creamy, about 1 minute. If not beaten well, then the filling will have an egg-y taste. Then add mascarpone cheese and mix until there are no more lumps. . 3. Gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon. 4. Dip the cookies in espresso (you can add a shot of your favourite liquer to the espresso, like rum, amaretto, brandy, Frangelico, marsala, etc.) and lay them into a 9×14 rectangular glass pan (or you may use another container/pan). You can leave 3-4 mm (1/4 inch) or a finger’s width between each cookie for the filling, or you can place them close/next to each other so there is no filling between the lady fingers (personal preference). Pour half the mascarpone mixture onto the cookies and spread evenly across the top. 5. Repeat step 4 with the next layer but alternate the cookies perpendicular (or just follow the same pattern as in the first layer) to the ones in the first layer. 6. Refrigerate for over night for best results. If you really must, then refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours before serving but it might still be runny. Sprinkle with cocoa. Makes 12 large pieces or 16 smaller pieces.

from cookingwithrosie@blogspot.com

I have this thought…that just like the “tea affogato(see post here)… maybe, just maybe, converting this traditional espresso laden dish into one with tea soaked biscuits might be an interesting version.  We’ll see.  I might give it a try with a rich Assam and a light sherry.  Or maybe not…maybe this is best left alone. It was pretty awesome tasting.

But still, drink tea….it’s good for you 🙂

 

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.

 

 

Eating Your Curds and Creams …

August was a month full of outdoor entertaining for us, as well as, the beginning of our family’s “birthday season.” This meant we needed desserts, something we regularly skip in our house except on these entertaining occasions, (and I say “hurray for these occasions! 🙂 ”

My lemon cream tart, made with zesty lemon curd...using a cool rectangular tart pan I discovered at Surfas cooking supply store

My lemon cream tart, made with zesty lemon curd…using a cool rectangular tart pan I discovered at Surfas cooking supply store

For the lemon lovers…my lemon curd is truly citrusy, more tart than sweet, luscious, and, on this day, creamy too…as I folded in a bit of whipped heavy cream to “lighten” the curd for my rectangular tart.  My husband and niece (S.) just LOVE lemon…so this was prepared specifically with them in mind.  I posted my recipe here.

I just love this rectangular tart pan...obviously I am not the "master baker" as I almost over-baked one end due to my uneven rolling out  of the dough...I folded in a bit of whipped heavy cream into my lemon curd for a lighter tasting filling (no, I didn't say lighter on the calories :-) ...

I just love this rectangular tart pan…obviously I am not the “master baker” as I almost over-baked one end due to my uneven rolling out of the dough…I folded in a bit of whipped heavy cream into my lemon curd for a lighter tasting filling (no, I didn’t say lighter on the calories 🙂 …

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The small bite, fresh berry lovers got to enjoy popping these darling little blueberry tarts…one biters, if you so chose…

This tart has my mom’s fabulous vanilla pastry cream recipe in it…this cream is luscious, luxurious, velvety, vanilla forward, and just awesome.   I am in awe every time I make this cream, as it surprises me how it comes together so quickly and so smoothly…several tablespoons never make it to the cooling stage as I taste test it many times to ensure quality control (have I told you that I am a custard texture nut? :-))  I posted the recipe for this truly easy, yet professional quality pastry cream here.

All set to go in the fridge...petite blueberry tarts with Mom's vanilla pastry cream in a pastry shell

All set to go in the fridge…petite blueberry tarts with Mom’s vanilla pastry cream in a pastry shell

Assembly time for my fresh blueberry petite tarts...I made the pastry shells and mom's vanilla pastry cream the night before - fill them when ready to serve...or up to 3 hours prior to serving...the shell holds up well to this cream (doesn't get soggy).

Assembly time for my fresh blueberry petite tarts…I made the pastry shells and mom’s vanilla pastry cream the night before – fill them when ready to serve…or up to 3 hours prior to serving…the shell holds up well to this cream (doesn’t get soggy).

IMG_7309 IMG_7310Whenever I serve a fruit dessert, I normally also serve a chocolate something too…sometimes it’s passing a tray of decadent, dark chocolate squares with hazelnuts or almonds… on this occasion, I was excited to order our favorite local pastry chef, Kevin Montoya’s, dark chocolate with salty caramel tarts – from his Carley Cakes site.  He even delivers locally.  What a treat…and what a surprise to our guests.  It was a bit of a warm evening, and as I brought the tarts to room temperature, guests bit in and their faces lit up as the salted caramel just oozed and surprised them with flavor.

Carley Cakes Salted Caramel Chocolate Tarts...the salted caramel is a surprise in the center...as it warms up it oozes luxuriously...I usually  cut these in fourths when serving multiple petite bite desserts

Carley Cakes Salted Caramel Chocolate Tarts resting in their box in the refrigerator waiting to come out and warm up about an hour before dessert time…the salted caramel is a surprise in the center…as it warms up it oozes luxuriously…I usually cut these in fourths when serving multiple petite bite desserts

A few sweets now and again can be exciting, refreshing, and a wonderful way to show your guests you care…the vibrant colors, flavors, shapes and textures look like works of art…albeit, mine usually look like “rustic” art or freeform …

All go well with a great cup of tea too…