Enjoying the Simple Pleasures of Life, While Living in a Complicated World

Tea

A Tea Story: Blue Calico Transferware

A Tea Story~ Blue Calico Transferware

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When I was first married, I discovered my favorite color… cobalt blue, and incorporated into my decorating throughout the house. After we moved back to Minnesota, I was going to school and taking care of my parents. Life was very hectic, and then our daughter came along. For us, going for rides in the Minnesota or Wisconsin countryside was our way of escaping the confines of the city and busy schedules. We would pack a lunch, get in the car and go for a drive. One day, on a day trip to Red Wing, Minnesota we discovered a wonderful china shop, and that’s when I spied it…cobalt blue and white dinnerware. The English pattern was ‘Blue Calico’ and I fell in love with it. There was one drawback, it was more than what we could afford on our budget, and I dreamed of having a lovely set to serve company during dinners and special occasions.

Years passed by, and we were approaching our 30th anniversary. I can say that after 30 years of buying gifts, we were both at a loss what to get each other. Our custom was to go out for a lovely dinner, or I made a special meal for us to enjoy at home. After dinner, we exchanged cards and gifts.

The weekend before our anniversary, we were shopping at Marshall’s where we each went our separate ways. John headed over to the shoe department and I went to look for sheets and towels. A few minutes later, I spied John in the housewares section of the store and rather curious, began making my way over in his direction. Just as I turned into the aisle, he spun around with a large dinner plate in his hand, along with a huge grin on his face. In his hands was a plate, not just any ordinary plate, but a plate I had always wished for….Blue Calico! My face must have registered surprise, delight, and awe…he began laughing. “Where did you find it?”, I signed in huge sweeping gestures. John stepped aside and I could see he had filled the cart with all manner of dishes and the sale price was incredible, compared to the retail price. That’s when he asked me, “How many sets do you want…8, 10, 12? We’ll have to see if we can find more pieces at other stores.”

For rest of that Saturday, we drove around the Twin Cities buying every piece of Blue Calico we could find. I recall being concerned we might get into an accident and all of the lovely dishes packed into our car would be smashed. When we reached the Roseville store, we were close to completing a service for eight. Imagine our relief when we discovered the store had a huge inventory of Blue Calico. We filled up our cart to complete a service for eight, along with additional serving pieces. I made my way to the checkout, and John lagged behind. The girl at the register remarked how pretty the dishes were, and I told her how many years I had been waiting to buy the set. She double wrapped each dish in paper, and carefully stacked them in my cart. Heading out to the car I noted…not only did I have my dream china, we could easily afford a service for eight!!

The backseat was overflowing with bags of Blue Calico, and as I stood next to the car contemplating where to put more dishes, John appeared from around the front of the car…pushing another cart!
“Surprise! I got you another set for eight! Happy Anniversary!”

The next weekend was our 30th anniversary and I made a very special dinner for us. The table was resplendent with blue and white calico dishes, lovely roses, antique linens, glassware and candles. In fact, candles were burning throughout the entire house that evening, bathing the rooms in a soft, romantic glow. The highlight of the evening was dessert. Every year I make my favorite wedding cake recipe~ a white cake covered with white, butter-cream frosting. In candlelight, it looked more beautiful than ever before, served on plates with deep cobalt blue and white…my anniversary china.


Almond Tea Cake

Afternoon tea is one of those pleasant, daily rituals for tea drinkers; akin to coffee lovers, having your morning coffee. It’s a part of your day, and should you skip it…Well, your day just doesn’t feel right. Most of all, YOU don’t feel right.

On a cold, rainy, and blustery day (like today, in Minnesota) you look forward to putting a kettle of water on the stove, setting a tea tray and choosing the perfect tea. Next, you turn your attention to…Food. Begging the question: what will you be enjoying with your tea? This lovely, almond tea cake is the perfect confection to enjoy with a pot of Earl Grey Tea. This *almond tea cake-by any other name, is scrumptious. Enjoy!

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Almond Tea Cake

Ingredients

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons), melted butter
1/4 cup light, sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons for sprinkling
2 eggs
1 1 /2 cups sifted, all-purpose four
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon, almond extract
1/3 cup sliced, almonds

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate, and set aside.

In a large bowl combine: melted butter, light sour cream and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. With a whisk, beat together until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking until batter is well incorporated and smooth.

In a small bow add: flour and salt. Whisk dry ingredients together, and pour into the batter. Add almond extract. Continue whisking until batter is smooth and well incorporated.

The batter will be very thick (that’s normal). Spoon batter into the pie plate. Sprinkle almonds over the batter, and top with sprinkling sugar over the almonds.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until cake is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 45 minutes to one hour. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream on the side.

*Recipe has been adapted from Sarah Jample’s-Almond Coffee Cake, that appeared on Food52.com
food52.com/recipes/34893-almond-coffee-cake

 

 

 


A Tea Story~Enjoying A Cuppa of Teavana

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Today, I brewed a pot of Teavana’s ‘Peach Tranquility’ and paired it with a lovely slice of panettone from Trader Joes…Tea time delight! The light, buttery texture and citrus flavors complimented the tea perfectly.

A visit to Teavana has been on my ‘To-Do’ list for quite some time. Searching for new sources of tea is a favorite past time of mine and the prospect of tasting new teas is something I look forward to.

My first impression entering the shop was: immaculately clean, well-organized, uncluttered and  displays were attractive and polished. My eyes were drawn to the cast iron tea pots, especially, the blue teapot with birds  circling the outside. I learned the inside is enameled, making  for easy cleaning. My main reason for considering purchasing an iron teapot that costs nearly $100 dollars?  Breakage. I wouldn’t have to replace it due to breakage, hairline cracks and chipping that china, porcelain and earthenware teapots are susceptible to from normal use. However, I did purchase one of their unique, Perfectea Maker teapots that does NOT pour from a spout. You place it over your cup and it pours perfectly strained tea from the underside of the teapot.

The staff: well trained and VERY informative. I was given a tour by a host, and as I asked lots of questions, was provided with knowledgable answers. There is a daily ‘tea du jour’ available for sampling, along with their version of ‘sugar’ was a delightful feature.

After my host gave me a tour of the store, I was directed to the counter overlooking an entire wall of tea. There were so many categories of tea, I was a bit overwhelmed where to begin. Thankfully, the store was not busy at the time of my visit, so I could take my time and not feel hurried as my host took me through the different categories. I was impressed I could see and smell each tea I requested. The assortment was dizzying to keep track of, and  even though I had quite a good idea what I wanted to bring home and sample…I was intrigued by the variety flavored teas. In the end, I chose quite a variety to bring home consisting of: flavored, herbal, green, white and black teas.

One suggestion: Visit Teavana’s website (www.teavana.com) before visiting one of their stores.

Now about price: Teavana teas are a bit pricey, compared to other tea suppliers, like Harney & Sons. However, you can see and smell teas before you buy them and have your questions answered on the spot. Another plus: you can re-brew a pot of tea several  times in succession without losing flavor.

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Forgoing purchasing tea tins, I placed all of the teas in canning jars and transferred the labels when I arrived home. I was excited to use Teavana’s Perfectea Maker for the first time, and have to admit, it’s ingenious design makes brewing and straining a pot of loose tea, simple and easy.

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In the morning, ‘Oprah Chai’ is a favorite of mine and delightful anytime during the day. Herbal teas are very soothing in the evening. Black teas are refreshing and flavored teas add wonderful variety to tea time. It’s a bit of a culinary adventure pairing flavored teas with different desserts to experience new taste sensations.

Visiting Teavana is a pleasant tea adventure! If you’re a first time customer….Visit their website (write down a list of teas you’d like to see) and plan your visit to a store. Find a time when the store is not busy so you can take your time, ask plenty of questions and peruse the wall of tea at your leisure. Most of all, have fun! XO Annie

 

 

 


A Tea Time Story~ Rose Themed Tea with a Long Distance Friend

The other day, the mail arrived. Normally, it’s a ‘meh’ moment until I spotted a package that was addressed to me from my friend, Karen, who lives in Wisconsin. Karen and I met on Facebook when I posted a picture of a mismatched, vintage set of china with a lovely rose pattern.  Karen contacted me and mentioned she had a beautiful platter with a rose pattern, and would I like to have it. A few days later, it arrived and it was a perfect mismatch. Can there be such a thing? YES! Is it possible to have a dear, close friend…Even though you’ve never met them? YES!

In our chats together,  we discovered we were kindred spirits in our many, shared interests and have been friends ever since.


However, on this particular day, her  package held  a lovely surprise…Russian Tea Cakes! As it happened, I was making a tea tray and her package held the perfect, made-from-scratch treat! Karen also included her family recipe for these melt in your mouth cookies and it made my day! What a marvelous treat from a sweet and thoughtful friend.

 My rose themed tea tray set with Roy Kirkham ‘English Rose’ China and Karen’s melt in your mouth, buttery Russian tea cakes served with Harney & Sons~Rose Scented Tea. I’m sharing her wonderful recipe with you! Thank you, Karen !

Karen’s Russian Tea Cakes

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cups finely chopped nuts

Directions:

Cream together butter and sugar and flour, gradually. Add salt and work with hands to mix. Add vanilla and nuts. Roll into balls. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake 14-17 minutes at 400-degrees. While still warm, roll in confectioner’s sugar and when cool, roll again. Enjoy, Kathy!


Almond Pear Tea Bread

It’s mid-September and pears are abundantly available for canning or baking luscious confections to share with family and friends!  I’m partial to making tea breads with seasonal fruit. Here’s a wonderful tea cake using fresh, fragrant and perfectly ripened pears, almonds and cardamon giving this tea bread a lovely depth of flavor.

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Almond Pear Tea Bread
Makes one large loaf.

Ingredients

1 cup freshly pureed ripe pears (2 medium pears-peeled and cored)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Lemon Cardamon Glaze:
In a medium mixing bowl:  With a whisk, combine ingredients and whisk until smooth.
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray 9 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ loaf pan. I also like to line the loaf with parchment paper so the loaf doesn’t stick to sides or bottom. Parchment paper also makes it easy to remove the loaf from the pan when it’s finished baking.

In a small bowl:
Combine with a wire whisk: pureed pears, oil, egg, lemon peel and milk. Whisk until well blended.

In a large mixing bowl:
Add: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamon> Stir until all ingredients are well blended. Fold in pear mixture until the dry ingredients are moistened. Gently stir in almonds. Spoon dough into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until the loaf tests done with a cake tester. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. If you’re using parchment paper, allow the loaf to cool about 10 minutes before removing.

While the loaf is baking, make the glaze and set it aside. When the cake has cooled, drizzle glaze over the top and sides and let it set for about 20 minutes.

This almond pear tea bread is lovely served with tea or coffee, along with sliced fresh pears and a dollop of whipped cream garnished with a sprig of mint.
Enjoy!


Recipe~ Savory Salmon Tart

ImageSavory Salmon Tart

Makes 12 small tarts

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup 2% or whole milk
1- 14 ounce can of salmon, bones and dark skin removed
2 1/2 to 3 cups fresh or frozen mixed vegetables peas, corn, green beans (your preference)
2 3/4 (divided) cups swiss cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon fresh, grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/3 cup of white or Fre White wine (non-alcohol)
2-10 ounce packages of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry shells-ready to bake (makes 12 small tarts)

Remove shells from package and place shells on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper. In a preheated oven, bake shells according to directions. Remove from oven, and while still warm, with a knife, cut around the pastry ‘top’ and remove both the top and gooey interior. Be careful not to crush or cut through the outer shell. Let cool to room temperature.

In a large saucepan, over medium to low heat-melt butter and add flour. Cook, stirring continually for approximately 5 minutes. Note: Do not brown the flour. Slowly add milk, and with a whisk, stir until mixture is hot and well blended. Add 1/3 cup of wine and frozen vegetables. Stir with a slotted spoon, stir often and cook vegetable mixture for 5 minutes.  Add, flaked salmon, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Add 2 cups grated swiss cheese, and heat until cheese is melted and sauce is well blended.

Fill shells with sauce mixture and top with remaining 3/4 cup grated swiss cheese. Bake for 15 minutes at 325 degrees, or until cheese is melted. Check to make sure shells do not over brown. Serve with a lovely green salad.
This recipe is wonderful for a tea, as an appetizer or main course (2 per person).

Enjoy!


A Tea Story: My Mother’s Depression Glassware

~My Mother’s Depression Glassware~

My mother and father were married over 50 years, most of it lived at their home in Oak Park Heights. The house is no longer there, torn down for a federal bridge project that is waiting to be constructed over the St. Croix River. In their last years living on Peabody Avenue, they experienced more health ailments and physical problems arose. The final straw was when my father broke a hip, and they needed to move to a one floor townhouse to accommodate his needs. Their house had been put up for sale, and I began the process of sorting through decades of accumulated items throughout the house.

My mom’s kitchen was very basic, it didn’t even have a dishwasher. However, it had cabinets that reached to the ceiling and one day, I had to clean out the very top cupboard shelves behind square doors. I had never seen either of my parents open the doors and take something out, or put anything in the cupboards. My mother sat at the kitchen table and watched me as I climbed a tall stepladder to reach the doors. I asked her, “What do you think is in here?” She answered matter-of-factly. “I haven’t opened those doors in decades, I couldn’t begin to tell you what might be in there.”

The doors held fast, and from the looks of it, had been sealed over the years by a myriad of paint layers. Undeterred, I found a thin knife and began the arduous process of cutting through the layers, and it took over a half hour to work my way around the perimeter of the door. I took hold of the door knob, and looked over my shoulder and smiled at her. She stood at the bottom of the ladder, curious as to what I would find. With a tug, the door opened and I peered inside. “Well…what do you see?”, she asked.

The cupboard was filled to the brim with glassware, in the form of several sizes of brown amber plates neatly stacked, along with matching cups and saucers. I took hold of a plate and showed it to her. She could barely speak, and covered her mouth with her hand in astonishment. “Oh…my.”, was all she could say, as she took the plate and sat back down at the table. I quickly climbed down the ladder. I was just as surprised as she was. “Mom, do you know where these came from?”

Her memory for the last year or so, had been faltering, and she thought they had come from a relative. “It’s depression glass and was popular years ago. They’re now yours. I never used them all these years, and won’t need them in the new house.”

That afternoon, I opened more cupboards, removed plates of several different sizes, cups and saucers, bowls, and a creamer and sugar. My mother and I spent the afternoon together, reminiscing about dinners and family get-togethers while wrapping each piece in newspaper, and packing glassware into boxes. That evening, I brought them to our apartment and placed them in a closet. Little did I know, a few months later, my mother would suddenly pass away without warning. She never got to see the new house my husband and I bought, and moved into with our daughter. Months after we settled into the house, I unpacked all of the dishes and placed them on the back, bottom shelf of a large china cupboard in our dining room. A few weeks ago, I discovered them. I’m planning a special tea this spring in the garden, and inviting my cousins, where I’ll tell them the story about mother’s depression glassware.

There’s a saying, “You can’t go home again.”  In the case of my parents home, that is true. However, I have the memory of that lovely day I spent with my mother in her kitchen, every time I see her set of depression glassware.


A Passion for Blue & White China

I  have a passion for blue and white! In my home, you will find the deep, vibrant color~ cobalt blue, throughout my home in china, decorating accessories, crafts, and I continue to find ways to incorporate it in my home and life. When I discovered china with cobalt blue, I was in heaven!

~Annie’s Blue & White China Collection~

A Mismatched Tea Set

A Collection of Cups From Tea Sets

Blue & White Tea Set on an IKEA Enameled Tray

The beauty of blue & white is appealing to many people in the clean, refreshing contrast of pristine white and deep, vibrant blue. My husband surprised me with my dream china~ Blue Calico (second cup from the bottom) and it’s my anniversary china used for family gatherings and special dinners. However, that’s another story, I’ll  be sharing with you…


Walker’s Blueberry Scones

A friend of mine, Walker Burns, makes these delicious scones for his family and has graciously shared his recipe with me. Blueberry scones are my favorite, and this has become my favorite recipe!
Thank you Walker!

Photograph courtesy of Walker Burns

~Walker Burns Blueberry Scones~

Dry stuff
2 cups flour (I do sometimes substitute some corn meal…1/4 or 1/2 cup in lieu of equivalent flour amount)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick of unsalted butter cut into small pieces

Wet stuff
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk**-add 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar to regular milk if you don’t have buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

If you want fruit (blueberries are MY favorite) mix in a separate bowl:
1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen) and two tablespoons of flour and some grated lemon peel (AKA lemon “zest”).

Mix the egg and buttermilk* in a small bowl.

Mix all of the dry ingredients in one bowl and then add the butter all cut-up and blend it all together with a pastry cutter (or food processor). Add in the fruit and hand mix with a spoon until the dry ingredients are combined.

Make a little depression in the middle of the dry ingredients bowl, and pour-in the mixed egg and buttermilk. Using a fork, mix vigorously until a fairly “dry” dough is created (sometimes a bit of flour needs to be sprinkled-in so the dough isn’t too sticky…depends on the weather and your elevation).

Scrape the dough onto a large floured cutting board and shape the dough into a round disk, about 3/4-inch thick.

Photograph courtesy of Walker Burns

Sprinkle some sugar on top and then with a large spatula or knife cut the dough into 8 wedges.

Photograph courtesy of Walker Burns

Move to a buttered cookie sheet and bake for 14 to 16 minutes (usually 15 for me). You can stick a toothpick into the baked scone and if it comes out clean then the scones are fully baked.

Take out of oven…get some butter or jam, and a hot cuppa Joe…ENJOY!!
Note: It took me two or three batches to “perfect” the scone technique.

Photograph courtesy of Walker Burns


Reader’s Recipe: Pumpkin Pound Cake

One of the best things about having a blog, is when reader’s contribute a tried and true recipe.

This one, Pumpkin Pound Cake, is from Reiko Romero~ a wonderful friend who also works in the culinary industry and has worked with our friend, Chef Bill Benedict.

Thank you Reiko, for such a wonderful recipe!

Reiko Romero:
I’d like to share a bit of autumn with you, Annie. Aromatherapy for the soul. I think this would go great with Chamomile or a Mint tea. Small spoon of vanilla ice cream on the side finishes it. Delicious!

Pumpkin Pound Cake

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil {may substitute some of oil with applesauce if desired}

2 cups white sugar

4 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups solid pack pumpkin puree (fresh makes all the difference in the world)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts {if desired}

Preheat oven to 375 degrees*. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube or bundt pan. Sift into a large bowl the flour, soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine oil and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. Then add the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Add nuts (if using) and pumpkin; blend until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and finish cooling. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar before serving.

I love this pound cake with a small scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream, or better yet, homemade vanilla ice cream.