Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tea Time - Recipes, Etiquette and a little history of this tradition

Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford and a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria, is credited with the creation of the social event in the 1840s that we know as Afternoon Tea. It began as a 4:00 o'clock snack to tide her over until the customary supper around 8:00. The Duchess began to invite other high society ladies to join her, and over time, the practice became steeped in tradition, etiquette, accoutrements, and favorite recipes.
As it became the "national habit", tea houses and tea rooms sprang up over Britain and the custom circled the globe. The English writer, Lewis Carroll made the tea party famous with his writing of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

After falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, Alice encounters The Mad Hatter, The Dormouse, and The March Hare at a table set beneath a tree. The Mad Hatter explains to Alice that he and the March Hare are always having tea because, when he tried to sing at a celebration for the Queen of Hearts and she sentenced him to death for "murdering time."

Tea has always been a stylish way to spend time with family, friends, and associates in a ritual appreciated around the globe. Children can learn manners and etiquette at a tea party with their dolls or teddy bears. What woman hasn’t attended a mother and daughter, sorority, or bridal tea, which have long been an endearing custom in our society.

Tea sandwiches, scones, and pastry make up the three courses of an Afternoon Tea. The Light Tea requires only scones and pastry. High Tea is served later, usually around 6:00 and consists of a full menu or what we would call supper.

The important thing is that you enjoy the tea. So with a nod to tradition, to Queen Victoria’s life-long friend, Anna, to other cultures, and to connoisseurs, serve what you and your guests will enjoy most.

Full Afternoon Tea is served in three courses – sandwiches, scones and desserts.

The sandwiches are small and range in flavor from Dijon egg salad with baby watercress on toasted brioche to smoked salmon and horseradish cream on pumpernickel or even country ham and Havarti on wheat tied with chive ribbons. Cucumber is still the quintessential tea sandwich recipe.

Tea sandwiches are usually savory, crustless, small, often cut into shapes and thin-sliced. Each tea sandwich can be spread with soft butter or cream cheese to prevent soggy sandwiches. Peanut butter (with banana slices or jelly) is just right for a child’s tea party.

Appetizers are also appropriate. Next are the scones, or other tea breads such as (English) muffins or crumpets. The final course is Tea Cakes, which may include most any small pastry.

Serve a beverage such as champagne or punch, in addition to tea if the gathering is very large. Fruit and cheese are also welcome additions. 

Light Afternoon Tea requires only scones and tea cakes to be served. Another version of Afternoon Tea is called Cream Tea. Serve only scones with clotted cream and jam.

Divide your tea party recipes, as we have. Serve something savory, then something sweet, and you can't go wrong. Serve a beverage, like punch or champagne, in addition to tea if the gathering is very large. Fruit and cheese are welcome additions to the basic tea party recipes.

Amazingly, all tea comes from the same basic plant. Depending upon the extent the leaves are fermented, all teas are either black (fully fermented), green (unfermented), or oolong (partially fermented). Some refer to this process as oxidation, rather than fermentation. It takes several hours at most.

There are many variations of these three teas based on growing area, climate, use of young leaves or older ones, blending, and so on. One such class uses only very young leaves that are processed so little they come practically in their natural state.

The important thing is that you enjoy the tea. So with a nod to tradition, to the Victorian ladies, to other cultures, to connoisseurs, and to the merriment enjoyed by Queen Victoria and the Duchess of Bedford over 150 years ago, serve what you and your guests will enjoy most.
Jack Daniel’s Pimento Cheese Tea Sandwiches
12 oz. sharp cheddar
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 small jar diced pimientos, drained
4 tablespoons mayonnaise (I use Duke’s)
2 tbsp. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
Splash Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Pinch cayenne
Pinch ground cumin
Pinch sugar

Mix and melt cheeses in microwave; stir to blend. Add remaining ingredients and stir lightly to mix. Spread pimento cheese onto thin white bread; remove crust and cut into desired shapes.

Cucumber Sandwiches
No tea party recipe page would be complete without these.
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced very thinly
Salt and white pepper, to taste
1/2 cup soft butter
1/4 cup soft cream cheese
1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1/2 tsp. chopped dill
Good quality white bread slices
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
Fresh parsley leaves or tiny sprigs of fresh dill for garnish (optional)

Process cream cheese and butter in a blender or food processor until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides.

Combine cream cheese mixture, cucumber, garlic and dill. Spread mixture evenly onto white bread slices. Using a 2- to 3-inch round cutter, cut sandwiches, discarding edges. Garnish with leaf of parsley or dill. Store cucumber sandwiches in an airtight container for up to 1 hour before serving.
Chicken Tarragon Tea Sandwiches
1 1/2 cups chicken, finely chopped
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
5 tbsp. mayonnaise, or to desired consistency
1 tbsp. sour cream
1 large shallot, finely chopped
4 large sprigs of tarragon, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
8 slices of sandwich bread, frozen

Mix chicken, almonds, mayonnaise, sour cream, shallot, tarragon, and pepper. Roughly divide the filling into 4 portions, then place one portion atop each of 4 slices of bread, filling in the edges. Top the filling with another slice of bread, then use the serrated knife to remove the crusts. Cut the large sandwich into three equal finger sized sandwiches.

Ham and Havarti Tea Sandwiches

1 cup butter, softened  
1 small yellow onion, minced  
1 tbsp. poppy seeds  
2 tsp. Dijon mustard  
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce  
2 lb. ham, thin slice or shaved (or country ham)
12 oz. Havarti cheese slices
Bread, thin slices  
Fresh chives for garnish

Beat butter and next 4 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended.

Spread butter mixture thinly over one side of all slices of bread; top with ham, cheese and top with slice of bread with butter mixture inside. Remove crusts and cut into finger sandwiches; tie one piece of fresh chives around each sandwich. Note: I used Tripp country ham that was sliced thin and cooked. They were gobbled up!

Scotch Scones
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. shortening
1/2 cup cream
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. sugar
2 beaten eggs

Mix and sift dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Beat together eggs and cream and stir into dry ingredients. Toss on lightly floured board and roll out to ½ inch thickness. Cut three sided, brush with butter, sprinkle with sugar. Bake in hot oven for 15 minutes.

Priscilla Nuckolls Ingram passed this favorite recipe down to all eight of her children. She lived at The Columns from 1909 until her death in 1951 at the age of 92. “Miss Elizabeth” Ingram of Bolivar

English Royalty Chocolate Chip Scones
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp. orange juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With a pastry blender or a large fork, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips. Mix in the orange juice to form dough. Turn out the dough on a floured surface. Pat or roll into a 9-inch circle about ½-inch thick. With a 2-1/2 inch fluted biscuit cutter, cut out 12 scones, pushing the dough scraps together for the last few, if necessary. Transfer the scones to the baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Move to wire racks to cool. Pam McCarty of Jackson

Lemon Sandwich Cookies
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

Place butter, sugar and salt in a large bowl and beat until the mixture looks smooth, about 1 minute. Add the egg yolk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla until they are blended into the mixture. On low speed add the flour, mixing just until a smooth dough forms. The dough forms large smooth clumps.

Place dough on plastic wrap and form it into a log about 10 inches long. Roll up the dough in the wrap and roll it back and forth on the counter until the log is smooth and about 1 ¼ inches in diameter. Chill the log of the dough until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap the cold dough log and cut into ¼” thick rounds. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake about 15 minutes just until the edges are light brown. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Lemon Butter Cream Frosting
3 tbsp. soft unsalted butter
½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
¼ tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. grated lemon zest

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until smooth.

Turn half of the cooled cookies bottoms side up. Spread a thin layer of frosting on the bottom of these cookies. Press a plain cookie, bottom side down, onto each frosted cookie.

Presbyterian Punch
1 6oz. can frozen lemonade
1 lg. can pineapple juice
3 qt. ginger ale
3 cups sugar
2 qt. water

Add carbonated beverage just before serving. Can also float ice ring, fruit or sherbet in punch bowl.

Tea Etiquette
The proper way to hold the vessel of a cup with no handle is to place one’s thumb at the six o'clock position and one’s index and middle fingers at the twelve o'clock position, while gently raising one’s pinkie up for balance. 

Tea cups with a handle are held by placing one’s fingers to the front and back of the handle with one’s pinkie up again allows balance. Pinkie up does means slightly tilted, not straight up. It is a graceful way to avoid spills. Never loop your fingers through the handle, nor grasp the vessel bowl with the palm of your hand.

Do not stir your tea, with your tea spoon, in sweeping circular motions. Place your tea spoon at the six o'clock position and softly fold the liquid towards the twelve o'clock position two or three times. Never leave your tea spoon in your tea cup, rather, place it on the right side of the tea saucer.

When not in use, place the tea cup back in the saucer. If you are at a buffet hold the tea saucer in your lap with your left hand and the tea cup in your right hand. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer and hold in your lap. The only time a saucer is raised together with the teacup is when one is at a standing reception.

Milk is served with tea, not cream. Cream is too heavy and masks the taste of the tea. Although some pour their milk in the cup first, it is probably better to pour the milk in the tea after it is in the cup in order to get the correct amount.

When serving lemon with tea, lemon slices are preferable, not wedges. Provide a small fork for your guests to pick up the slices, or the tea server can place a slice in the cup after the tea has been poured. Be sure never to add lemon with milk since the lemon's citric acid will cause the proteins in the milk to curdle.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Yum! Yum! Bananas Foster Sauce over Ice Cream

Yum! Yum! Bananas Foster Sauce over Ice Cream
This is so very simple and it's delicious without the rum if you can to omit it or are serving to children. Enjoy!
1 stick butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 bananas peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp. vanilla or 2 tbsp. rum
Melt butter in a large flambé pan or skillet. Add cinnamon, brown sugar and mix. Add the bananas and cook until caramelized over medium heat. Pour in the rum and catch a flame off of the gas stove or a BBQ lighter. Stand back when ignited and flambe. Be careful. Or skip the rum and just remove from heat and still in vanilla. Serve warn over a good vanilla ice cream. I like to serve Belgian almond crisp cookies with it. Yum! Yum!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Two of the Best Cherry Pie recipes for Thanksgiving - take time out for a slice of life, Southern Style

Save your fork and pass the pie – take time out for a slice of life, Southern Style and you can certainly have cherry on Thanksgiving and enjoy every bite!

Goodness knows, in the South, we don’t wait for a holiday to enjoy a slice of pie - but on holidays it should be your favorite pie - Right? Like they say, “Just save your fork and pass the pie.” Most food historians agree that this comfort food is America’s number one dessert. Everyone has a favorite, but who doesn’t like pie?

Certainly the pastry that nestles the sweet goodness must be equally divine!

Pie dough  doesn’t fall into that “easy as pie,” category for everyone, but it should.  A basic recipe and a few simple skills will ensure a flakey crust each and every time. Though completely from scratch baking of days gone by is all but a lost art form; the taste of the fresh ingredients, with no additives, is still unsurpassed. Never again will you have to reach for that frozen crust or ready-made pie to satisfy a craving. After all, homemade goodness and the taste of a slice of pie warm from the oven is something that money just can’t buy. 
Cherry Pie in Star Crust
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon sugar
1 cup butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
Secrets to a good pie crust: chilled ingredients and chilled dough.

Put flour, salt and sugar in a bowl, blender or food processor. Add the pieces of butter and process approximately 10 seconds or until it resembles "coarse meal." Add ice water drop by drop while machine is running (or you are mixing) just until dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not mix longer than 30 seconds. Roll dough out on a piece of plastic wrap. Press down slightly. Chill for at least one hour.

After the dough has chilled sufficiently, remove one portion of the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry into a 12 inch circle. (To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards).) Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to a 9 inch pie pan. Brush off any excess flour and tuck the overhanging pastry under itself, crimping as desired. Refrigerate the pastry, covered with plastic wrap, while you roll out the remaining pastry and make the cherry filling. Meanwhile, remove the second round of pastry and roll it into a 12 inch circle. Using a 2-1/2 inch star cookie cutter, cut out about 20 stars.
Place the stars on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator.  (I use two sizes of stars and made a pattern so you can make any pattern you want –hearts, Christmas trees, etc. or just top with double crust or lattice style, up to you.
Cherry Filling
4 cups pitted sweet or tart canned or bottled cherries, drained with 1/3 cup cherry juice reserved
1 cup sugar, or to taste
2-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
2 tablespoons cream
Softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. 

Place the cherries in a large bowl. Add the sugar, corn starch, salt, lemon juice, vanilla, and gently toss to combine. Add the 1/3 cup reserved cherry juice. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes and then pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell and dot with the 2 tablespoons (of butter. Lightly brush the rim of the pastry shell with the egg wash. Starting at the outside edge of the pie, place the cut out pastry stars in a circular pattern on top of the cherries, making sure the tips of the stars are touching. Once the top of the pie is completely covered with the pastry stars, brush the entire surface with the cream. Sprinkle with a little granulated white sugar.

Place the pie on a larger baking pan, lined with parchment paper, to catch any spills. Bake the pie for about 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue to bake the pie for about 25 - 35 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown color and the cherry juices are starting to bubble. If the edges of the pie are browning too much during baking, cover with a foil ring. 
Place the baked pie on a wire rack to cool for several hours.  Serve at room temperature with softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Store any leftovers for 2 - 3 days at room temperature.

Cherry Delight
This recipe has been in our family for years, and is always a favorite for potlucks and other special occasions.  It is easily and quickly prepared.  The red cherry topping makes this dish a delightful dessert for occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. 
1-¾ cup graham cracker crumbs, crushed
¼ cup butter, melted
1 ( l-lb.) box powdered sugar
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 pint whipping cream
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla flavoring 
1 (21-oz.) can cherry pie filling 
Mix graham cracker crumbs and butter to form crust in 9-inch pie shell or 9x9-inch pan.  Soften cream cheese and mix with powdered sugar.  When thoroughly mixed, spread over pie crust.  Mix whipping cream, adding sugar and vanilla flavoring.  Spread over cream cheese and powered sugar mix.  If time permits, refrigerate until whipping cream is firm before topping with cherry pie filling.  Add cherry pie filling and serve.

Cranberries - all time favorite recipes and then some . . . sauce, salad, in the snow, how they grow

Cranberry Catsup
1 (16 ounce bag) cranberries, coarsely chopped                                               
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1-3/4 cups sugar                                                                                                                              
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. pepper (fresh cracked)
In medium saucepan bring all ingredients to a boil; stir occasionally.  Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until mixture is thick Put hot catsup into hot jars add tops, or cool and store covered in the refrigerator. 
Cranberries in the Snow

1 package raw cranberries
3/4 cup water
1 (6-ounce) box cherry flavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
1 cup chopped celery, deveined
1 cup crushed pineapple, well drained
Chopped pecans, toasted
1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow cream
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped
Cook raw cranberries in water until tender.  Add gelatin and 2 cups sugar; stir well and cool.  Then add celery, pineapple and pecans.   Put into a 13 x 9-inch pan and refrigerate until jelled. Combine marshmallow cream, cream cheese, and whipping cream; spread on top of jelled cranberry mixture. 
I love the ruby red color of the cranberry in addition to their sweet taste with the savory turkey and dressing. I’ve always thought it was an essential part of any Thanksgiving meal. But don’t for a minute get bogged down thinking cranberries are just for traditional sauce. There’s way more to this tart fruit – really it’s limitless.

Perhaps no fruit is more associated with Thanksgiving than the cranberry. Fresh cranberries, native to America, are harvested between Labor Day and Halloween and appear in grocery stores just in time for holiday cooking. They have a short shelf life and can be refrigerated for 2 – 3 weeks, but will keep for a year or more in the freezer.

No one knows for sure how cranberries became associated with holiday feasts, but historians guess that it had something to do with the Native Americans. They enjoyed these ruby red berries, cooked and sweetened with honey or maple syrup, and also used them decoratively, as a source of red dye. Medicinally, few things in nature have been found as healthy as the cranberry.

As far as healthy foods go, cranberries are at the top of the list due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content and are often referred to as a "super food." Not to mention, half a cup of cranberries contains only 25 calories!

They go with just about anything. Add dried cranberries to trail mix or frozen ones to a fruit smoothie.

Put an autumn spin on a classic cocktail with cranberries. Cranberry Sangria is easy to make and a red wine, such as a Beaujolais or Zinfandel, marries well with the cranberry. Toast the holidays with a cranberry mojito if you like or freeze fresh berries ice cubes and add to a lemon-lime soft drink for a splash of color.

Dried cranberries are a colorful and delicious way to welcome fall as a salad topping with walnuts and goat cheese and your favorite vinaigrette dressing.

Add dried cranberries to your oatmeal or to your oatmeal cookies. Add them with white chocolate chunks to your favorite cookie recipe. Mix your favorite cranberry sauce with red pepper jelly and serve it over cream cheese for a quick appetizer.

An elegant dessert for fall entertaining when fresh pears are seasonally available is to roast the pears in brown sugar, butter and spices, then drizzle with creamy white chocolate, nuts and dried cranberries soaked in brandy. Oh my goodness, is your mouth watering yet?

Cranberries lend themselves to a delicious sauce that I think goes especially well with pork. Making a Waldorf salad, add some dried cranberries – delicious with the apples and celery. Or candy them and pile them atop a brown butter tart for a show-stopping dessert.

Cranberry breads, muffins, sauces, glazes, cookies, cakes, pies and relishes are still the rage on America’s holiday table, and I’m so thankful.

Cranberry Sauce
This is so easy but oh so good with turkey and dressing at Thanksgiving.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water (or cranberry juice)
1 (12-oz.) package fresh or frozen cranberries
Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.
Cranberries with Port
This delicious cranberry sauce turns out to be one of the simplest—something you won't have to think twice about while preparing a big holiday meal. For added convenience, make it ahead of time and refrigerate until a few hours before serving. There’s an affinity of the flavors of the cranberries with the addition of port and if you like, add orange zest to the saucepan – just suit yourself. 
1 cup ruby port
1 cup sugar
1 (12-oz.) bag fresh cranberries
In a medium nonstick saucepan, combine port, sugar, and cranberries. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Lower heat and cook until liquid reaches a syrupy consistency, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, pour into a serving dish, and cool to room temperature before serving. For a smoother texture, press sauce through a strainer, pour into a serving dish, and refrigerate before serving

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pure Southern Brown Sugar Chess Pie - a Recipe from the Sugar Gods

The brown sugar makes this classic Southern dessert even more decadent! Shut the door and pass the fork!
3 extra-large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 unbaked pie crust

Melt butter; add sugar and brown sugar; beat. Add the remaining ingredients and stir (don't beat.) Pour into pie shell and bake 45 minutes or until set in a preheated 325 degree oven. If edges are browning, cover with foil. Remove from oven, place on wire rack to cool. Slice and enjoy. Makes 1 large pie.