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  🙂

2012 Hits And Misses + Turning Over A New Leaf In 2013

As the final day of 2012 ticks by, it’s an obvious time to reflect.  Since this was my first year of blogging, I took a look back on which topics were “hits” and which were “misses”  and laid out the first posts for the new year… (just to whet your appetite a bit.)

The purpose of this blog, which is an extension of the book, is to inspire, encourage, and inform people about tea and anything surrounding tea time.  Why?  Because tea time is such a civilized activity and a social drink.  It is social and meditative at the same time.  It is a uniquely universal beverage which inspires peace, calm, civility, conviviality, introspection, healthfulness,  and so much more.  Americans were quite a bit behind the rest of the world in having availability to quality tea, but that’s all rapidly changing.  There is an art to preparing tea.   I plan to write much more about the art of the tea leaf this year.  It’s time for tea.  And with Starbucks recent acquisition of the Teavana tea store chain in the U.S….they even agree.

As far as “hits” from my blog this year, readers gravitated towards the, ever popular, cupcake – which was one of the most popular single day posts of the year.  However, overall, the most popular posts all time were:  The Traditional Afternoon Tea With My Daughter...below at the historic Mission Inn, Riverside, California.

Beautiful Food + A Lovely Cup Of Tea – from a Napa Valley iconic restaurant, Domaine Chandon

The Butter Taste Test – very interesting results…all good…each different.

…along with Mom’s Homemade Pastry Creme

And…The Perfect Little Teapot from Tea Time Trading Company

Readers continuously click on those posts.  Not too surprising, I suppose, since Tea With Betty is about tea time…and for Betty, “teatime could be anytime” featuring items from these posts.

Since cupcakes, and almost anything prepared in a cupcake tin, remain popular, below is a little recap of cupcake photos from Tea With Betty.  You can find many enticing versions on Pinterest too.  Whether gorgeous or rustic…all were “hits.”  The key to a GREAT cupcake, whether large or small – beautiful or rustic or plain – is that the “cake” is not dried out.  No matter what recipe you use to make your cake, keep them deliciously moist…do NOT over bake them.  It is soooo disappointing to take a much anticipated bite out of a luscious looking cake to then pucker and wince at a crumbly, dried out, over-baked mouthful.  Take care to keep them moist!!

Below are a few photos from 2012 cupcakes in my life:  The first one is with candied lemon slices from my niece, Sammycakes.

Sammycakes cupcakes

Sammycakes cupcakes

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Lastly, couldn’t resist including my photo of a tea setting from the Laguna Beach Garden Club home tour my sister and I went on last summer… this from a gorgeous courtyard setting in Three Arch Bay area… this photo has been pinned hundreds of times on Pinterest…it is a beautiful, inviting setting.

Bird's nest place setting

Bird’s nest place setting

Here’s a brief preview of  coming 2013 posts:

1) Tea time with my daughter, second in a series…this time including my grandsons…from The Mission Inn, we are going there January 2, I am having a low carb tea, we’ll see what the chefs do with that request.

2) Cooking Class with Chef Katie Averill…topic…chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, will be attending class in late January, look forward to sharing tips from this great pastry chef.

3) Teas that taste like dessert…there are many delicious blends and infusions out there, will share some of my finds…and they are primarily guilt free, no calories, no carbs…

Additionally and  importantly, a quick thank you to my supporters  and followers these past 11 months, in particular, two of my favorite bloggers, Panini Girl and Lorna’s Tea Room Delights.  And lastly, I’ve been honored to receive three blog awards this year.  I am not savvy enough yet to figure out how to post them and appropriately respond, but do plan to take a lesson on how to do so and improve the look of Tea With Betty in early 2013…watch for continuous improvement here… oh and you might want to know how my 12 week challenge to lose weight and manage my blood sugars is going…well, so far, so good.

Week 8 Challenge Update…4 weeks to go…amazingly…down one more pound…that’s a total of 6 with 4 more to go…will I make it?  I think so…I have seriously changed my eating / snacking habits and feel in control.  It was a challenge with those holiday parties and dinners…but I did o.k…knowing I had to report to you helped.

See you on the blogosphere next year!

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Tea With Betty

It was one year ago today, December 24, 2011, that we picked up the first printing of my book, Tea With Betty.  After seven years of work, it was finally done.  I will never forget the incredible feeling I had holding the finished product in my hands for the first time.

Tea With Betty Book

Tea With Betty Book

This past year has been full of new experiences for me thanks to Betty.   A major adventure has been the launching of this blog.  I wasn’t  familiar with the blog world prior to this.  It was all new to me.  I have been so moved and impressed with the generosity in this community.

I love tea and food and family and writing.  Sharing insights, finds, and tips has been invigorating and fulfilling.  As we head into the new year, know that I am committed to continuously improve the quality, writing, and overall value of  teawithbetty.wordpress for you readers.  Thank you so much for following and inspiring me to keep going.

One of my favorite recipes from the book, and perfect for Christmastime, is the Russian Tea Cake (or Pecan Ball).  They are simple to make.  Flour, sugar, butter, toasted pecans – roll and bake…dredge while warm in powdered confectioner’s sugar.  What makes the pecan ball a Russian tea cake is the sugar.  The Russian tea cake has powdered confectioner’s sugar in it versus granulated sugar.  While either sugar makes an excellent cookie, I prefer using the powdered sugar in the cookie as it makes it just melt in your mouth.

Here’s a few left from the second batch I’ve made this week….these go quickly.  They are really really delicious with a cup of hot tea.

Tea cookies...Pecan balls, Linda's coconut macaroons

Tea cookies…Pecan balls, Linda’s coconut macaroons

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Here they sit next to coconut macaroons that went into the package we sent up to our nephew who was missing  Christmas with the family this year and he loves Grandma’s recipes.

PECAN BALLS OR RUSSIAN TEA CAKES RECIPE

Makes about 36 cookies.

PREP TIME:  30 minutes TOTAL TIME:  45 minutes (includes baking time)

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter (use best quality you can)

4 tablespoons granulated sugar (note: for Russian tea cake use confectioners powdered sugar)

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups flour, sifted

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted and then chopped

2 cups confectioners powdered sugar, for rolling warm cookies into after baking

Using a mixer with the paddle blade, cream butter and sugar until well blended, on medium speed for about 2 minutes.

Add vanilla.

Add sifted flour and salt.

Fold in chopped nuts.

Using your hands, make into balls to the size you prefer; tablespoon-sized is best.

Drop on cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes, cool on rack for about 5 minutes; and then, while still warm, roll baked cookies in powdered confectioners sugar per below.

Pour powdered sugar into a medium bowl.

Roll warm, baked cookies gently in powdered sugar.

Powdered sugar adheres as long as the cookie is warm when applying.

Merry Christmas to those celebrating the holiday and thank you for reading 🙂

Just A Little Tea Luncheon…while discussing “Major Pettigrew…”

Our book group was meeting at my house last week for our discussion around a delightful first novel by Helen Simonson called “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.”  It was my turn to select the book, so I chose one set in a small village in England where tea time was the backdrop for many insightful discussions and character developments.   In keeping with the story,  I offered up a light tea luncheon that took  about 30 minutes to assemble, as I had made the cookies and puffs earlier in the week.  They both freeze well.

The menu included one of my favorite salads – Endive, Watercress, Grapes, and Bleu Cheese chunks with spicy, sweet toasted pecan halves.  A bit of champagne vinegar, minced shallots, and a light whisk of extra virgin olive oil dressed this lively mixture of tastes – bitter, salty, sweet, spicy bursts in each bite.   They all enjoyed the crispness of this mix of greens, cheese, fruit & nuts while popping a few curried devil egg stuffed puffs.

We had two iced teas…my favorite hot or cold, Jasmine Downey Pearls, and also a refreshing black Orange Pekoe – Ceylon & India from Harney & Sons.

The three crispy cookies served paired well with both teas.  I made a shortbread cookie infused with ground jasmine tea – the floral jasmine taste was subtle and enhanced the buttery cookie.

The savory side of lunch...endive, watercress, bleu cheese salad...with little puffs filled with egg salad

The savory side of lunch…endive, watercress, bleu cheese salad…with little puffs filled with egg salad

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Mocha chocolate tea cookie, excellent with any tea

Mocha chocolate tea cookie, excellent with any tea

We read that Major Pettigrew is being made into a movie and had fun casting the characters while sipping and crunching.

Betty would have loved this book and ensuing discussion over this menu.

Drink whole leaf teas….they are good for you 🙂

Anatomy of “Puttin’ On A Tea Luncheon” – Four of Four Posts

Taste is powerful at unleashing memories.  That’s one of the reasons I love to select menu items that are not only packed with flavor in each bite, or expose guests to a new sensation, but also ensure to include items which elicit remembrances we hold dear.

Our third and primary sweet item for this luncheon menu was geared towards reminding my best friend, T., of my mom’s pastry cream.  It seemed Mom made cream puffs often when were teens, we enjoyed scores of them.  Thus this vanilla cream tart topped with toasted coconut was to honor that past.  I posted about this fool proof, smooth as silk, patisserie cream a month ago.  It is quick to prepare and delightfully vanilla”y”.

That’s how we finished off our lunch…then each guest snacked on the mini mayo cake cupcakes and the petite oatmeal cookies…I also packed up several “to go” as some had a bit of a drive home.  We thoroughly enjoyed Jasmine Downey Pearls, green tea scented with jasmine flowers, from Peet’s Tea with dessert.  Perfect ending!

Using table setting pieces which were gifts or family heirlooms is another way I like to extract memories.  Using these is more important to me than setting the  table with “perfectly” matched items.  Here are a few I used for this lunch:

I don’t mind mixing metals as there is a story behind each one of them…

A couple have tiny cracks and are a bit worn around the silver, however, whenever I use these, I think of my spunky, 4′ 10″ Italian Godmother and how she snuck these to me and asked that I not tell her children that she wanted me to have them.  She always made me feel special by putting on a tea kettle for me the minute I arrived to visit. Everyone else were coffee drinkers in the family.

In the end, it’s the company you keep that truly makes your tea luncheon a success.  My best friend brought me this gift:

She is right.  Flavorful, colorful, small plates of food and fresh, exuberant whole leaf teas merely complemented the fabulous company.
Enjoy tea with your friends…
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Sweets

Sweets

Teapot napkin ring given to me by my dear friend Pat

Teapot napkin ring given to me by my dear friend Pat

Tea teaspoons...given to me by my sister-in-law, old Franciscan china cup from my Godmother, oatmeal cookies to go for all

Tea teaspoons…given to me by my sister-in-law, old Franciscan china cup from my Godmother, oatmeal cookies to go for all

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The Pinot Noir of Teas…Oolongs

Lately when ordering tea at restaurants and tea houses, I ask for an oolong.  Normally I have had my black tea with a bit of milk in the morning at home, and am ready for a tea adventure if eating out.

I used to think  it sounded kind of cool to say, “I’ll have an oolong.” 🙂 …just a bit mysterious, as if you’re “in the know” about tea.   When writing my tea book, I used to struggle with whether or not  to capitalize the first “o” in oolong (no, you don’t.)  When preparing an oolong at home, I use one special  Yixing clay teapot.  It’s the only type of tea I put in that pot.  I had been told that over time, I can just pour hot water in the empty pot and it will retain some flavor of the oolong teas that have been brewed in it.  Whenever I use this gorgeous pot and and drink from the petite cups, a feeling of serenity comes over me…and one of doing something healthy for myself.

My Yixing teapot...gives off an earthy aroma

My Yixing teapot…gives off an earthy aroma

In my research about teas, oolongs are the ones which fall in between green and black teas, and which carry some mystique about the ancient art of how to process this tea leaf.  They are a favorite of tea connoiseurs due to their amazing flavors and aromas.  Their colors and tastes vary from lighter teas to darker, bolder tea flavor depending on the type and the level of oxidation.  Flavors range from light green floral to roasted peach and to that of darker teas.

Oolongs actually originated in the Fujian provence of China.  It is semi-fermented, combining the best of characteristics of unoxidized green teas and oxidized black teas.  It is said to have many health benefits (which is reflective of nearly all whole leaf teas whether, white, green, oolong or black).

As with most quality, whole leaf teas, the preparation of your oolong tea has great influence on its taste. Quality of the water, tea, measurement, steeping time, vehicle used to prepare tea and time on the water make such a difference in the resultant tea.  The preferred temperature for steeping oolongs is in between that of green and black teas (makes sense, right 🙂   at about 195 degrees F.)

When partaking of lunch at my fave tea house, Tranquil Tea Lounge, this is the Monkey Picked Oolong I enjoyed.  It was delicious, smooth, clean on your palate.

I have come to think of oolong teas as the pinot noir of wines.  They are both a bit complex, earthy, fruity, can be delicate to process and pair wonderfully with almost any food.  Try one next time you get a chance.  While available in many locales, they can be ordered online too.  Teavana and Adagio Teas have an extensive, quality assortment to choose from.

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Oolong...steeped and flavorful

Oolong…steeped and flavorful

Drink tea.