Monday, March 30, 2015

A Spring Bouquet for Easter

I can't believe Easter is already coming up this Sunday!  I'm so ready for spring flowers to start blooming, and I'm seeing more each time I go for a walk around my neighborhood.  It is still a bit early, so for now,  I will have to enjoy my flowers indoors.

 Awake, thou wintry earth -
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!
~Thomas Blackburn, "An Easter Hymn"

A spring bouquet in china to celebrate the re-awaking of life from winter's cold, with an Easter friend to great each guest.

Royal Staffordshire, Caroline pattern

In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest fella in the Easter Parade,
~Easter Parade, Irving Berlin

Royal Crown Staffordshire,

Tulips in their bed
 of glorious colors
a rainbow after
an April Shower.
~Tulips in Spring

Country Lane, a Paragon pattern but this set was after Royal Albert purchased Paragon, so it is a Royal Albert set.

Hello yellow,
for chicks and daffodils,
Playing, swaying in the Springtime breeze.
~found on an internet page with greeting card quotes, Verses4Cards.

and a Shelley Stocks set:

“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were--Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter."  ~Beatrix Potter

Speaking of rabbits, lots are joining us for tea today:

a bunny creamer,

a bunny teapot,

and a bunny serving plate, all from Homegoods!  The colored egg runner is also a Homegoods find from this year.  

Would you like an orange blossom scone?

I'll share the recipe later this week.  

I'm hopping on over to these tea parties:

Bernideen's Friends Sharing Tea 
Rose Chintz Cottage's Tea time Tuesday

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tea at Rippon Lodge

A couple of years ago I went to an early spring tea at Rippon Lodge in Woodbridge, Virginia.  Unfortunately, it was pre-blog so my pictures aren't great, but I figured this was such a fun idea for a party, so I should share it!


First a bit about Rippon Lodge.  The original part of the house was built circa 1747.  As a part of the tea, we took a tour of the house, which has beautiful paneling.  The original owner, Richard Blackburn, was a carpenter from Ripon, England, and he (and his apprentices) carved the paneling, in part to show his skill at his craft.   

(yes that is a tea service in front of the fireplace!)
But on to the main tea event.  I visited Rippon Lodge for a Jane Austen Tea party!
(isn't this a cool idea for a centerpiece?)
This was a couple of years ago, so I don't remember what all of the food served included, but I do remember it was delicious!
One sandwich in particular I do remember and have served since because it was so good.  An orange muffin with orange marmalade and ham and a mild cheese (I've used Havarti).  It is different, and yet very good!
While we were enjoying all the delicious food, we also played a Jane Austen trivia game, which would also be loads of fun at a Jane Austen themed book club tea or a Jane Austen movie tea!  Speaking of movies based on her books, my sister and I watched a movie marathon before going to the tea so that we would be ready for the trivia. 
Pride and Prejudice (Special Edition)
(from the internet--best version ever!)
I'm joining these tea parties:

Bernideen's Friends Sharing Tea 
Rose Chintz Cottage's Tea time Tuesday

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Potato leek soup

I've been serving soups lately at some of my tea parties--I've always enjoyed making soups (probably my favorite type of "cooking"), so why not combine it with a tea party?  This also opened up my collecting habit to cream soup cups!

Since this party was low key, I just made the soup the same day, but it tasted fine reheated, so I'm sure it could be made the day before and put in a crock pot to make preparation easier.  The recipe below was inspired by this one on Allrecipes.  

Potato Leek Soup
3/4 cup butter
2 leeks sliced (small)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp onion powder
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cups heavy cream
white pepper and salt to taste
In a dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.
Sautee leeks, garlic, and onion powder until soft.
Add chicken broth, potatoes, and a few shakes of pepper.  Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and add cream.  Simmer for at least half an hour, or until potatoes are soft.
Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes into smaller bits.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
And that's it!  So easy.   I found lots of recipes online that used a blender to make it smooth, but I don't think it is necessary if you get the leeks small and use a potato masher.  My taste testers (potato soup connoisseurs) all really liked the soup, so this recipe is a keeper!


Monday, March 16, 2015

A tea for St. Patrick's Day

My sister usually comes over for Sunday night dinner, so this week I had a little tea to celebrate St. Patrick's Day tomorrow.

No Irish party would be complete without music, so here is tonight's song:

This was just a small tea, with my two shamrock place settings:


(my Belleek teacup with a small Belleek vase)


(I don't think my new to me vintage Aynsley set has ever been used--it still had its sticker on the teacup after I bought it!)

Of course I'm serving an Irish Breakfast tea for this party.

Since Irish Breakfast tea is extra strong, I take mine with cream,

and sweetener.  Because this is a small tea for two, I'm using an Irish Kearney crystal jewelry box that my aunt gave me to hold some splenda.  I think it is the perfect size to go with this small tea, and I really like the claddagh ring on the top with its green stone.   

I served potato leek soup in my Austrian clover cream soups.  I'll share the recipe for this soup later this week.

With the soup, I served two tea sandwiches:

cucumber and cream cheese, and corned beef with a sweet Irish cheddar ground mustard and mayonnaise.

I also served soda bread scones with currants and raisins.  I shared the recipe for these scones last year here.  I enjoy these soda bread scones with Irish butter spread on top--delicious!

For dessert, I served iced shamrock shortbread cookies on small depression glass plates.

Here is another view of the table in my kitchen nook.  The shamrock runner was a gift from my mother--isn't it pretty?

I have a couple of other touches of shamrock décor in the room, including the Oxalis plant on my buffet,

And shamrock window clings on the kitchen door to my deck.

Thanks for joining me for a St. Paddy's day tea!  I'll share an Irish blessing before I say goodnight:

“May you always have walls for the winds, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you and all your heart might desire.”

This week I'm joining:

Bernideen's Friends Sharing Tea 
Rose Chintz Cottage's Tea time Tuesday

Monday, March 9, 2015

Lorna Doone

Since it is March and the official flower of March is the daffodil, I thought today's set would be perfect to share.

This landscape pattern has a cottage near a field of daffodils and pretty blue flowers.

The cottage is also on the cup and saucer:

This design looks like a painting to me, especially those pretty trees.  Even the inside of the cup has daffodils and blue flowers.

This set is Lorna Doone by Hammersley.

 so maybe Lorna Doone from the book of the same name by Richard Blackmore is sitting in the spring sunshine in this beautiful field?

(This Royal Doulton figurine is called a Lady of Williamsburg, but she is at least closer in time to fashions from the late 1600s).

This week I'm joining:

Bernideen's Friends Sharing Tea 
Rose Chintz Cottage's Tea time Tuesday

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mini King Cakes for Tea

For the dessert at my Mardi Gras tea, I served mini-king cakes.

These little cakes are extremely easy.  as I mentioned on the main post, king cake is really more of a bread than a cake, and a cinnamon bread at that, so...I just used a roll of Pillsbury Grands Cinnamon Rolls. 

Grands Cinnamon Rolls with Icing
(picture from Pillsbury website)
To make the little cakes, I unwound each of the cinnamon rolls.  I placed the dough in my mini-bundt pan wells until the ends slightly overlapped, pressing down.  I cooked the buns for about 15 minutes at the temperature instructed on the package.  After they were done, I cut off part of the bottom so it would lay flat.  One roll made 12 mini-cakes.
Icing is included in the package so I spread it on the warm mini-cake.  I poured onto plates colored sugar in green, purple, and yellow (separated of course).  I pressed a portion of the top of the cake into each color.  And that's it!    I did have to make a little extra icing one time, but not another, so it depends on how generous you are with the icing.  I just made a normal confectioner's sugar with a bit of milk icing, although I think the icing for king cakes do sometimes have lemon juice.     
Thanks for checking back in this week!  I hope you enjoyed my Mardi gras party.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bananas Foster Scones

Bananas Foster are a decedent New Orleans dessert, so I figured they'd made the perfect scones for my mardi gras party.  The recipe below was inspired by this post  on peanut butter and Julie, with my own modifications, of course.

Bananas Foster Scones

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large banana, quartered (make sure banana is very ripe with lots of brown spots on the peel)
1/4 cup spiced rum (or brandy)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk

Heavy whipping cream for brushing
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Prepare the bananas:  Place the brown sugar in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the bananas, cut side down, and cook for 2-3 minutes without stirring, until the sugar starts to dissolve.  Add the rum and cook for several minutes more, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture thickens.  Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.  Chop the banana and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees.  Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. 
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the reserved bananas; toss to mix.  Add buttermilk and mix until just combined and the dough begins to stick together.
Spoon mixture onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper to desired size.
Brush each scone with the cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  The scones I made (which are on the small to medium size) took 18 minutes. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mardi Gras tea savories

At my Mardi gras tea party on Monday, I served Cajun inspired dishes that I will share the recipes for today  Here is another look at the menu:

I will admit, I cheated quite a bit with this party by not making everything from scratch, but it made it way easier to put it together!  For example, the night before I made some cornbread just by using a Jiffy mix and my mini-muffin tins. 
 That was one savory down!  The rest did require a bit more effort, however.


For the jambalaya, I started with two boxes of Zatarain's mild jambalaya mix. 
Zatarains Jambalaya Mix, New Orleans Style, Mild ImageI made the mix as instructed on the box, but added:
Two Hillshire Farms kielbasas (cooked for 5 minutes in the microware and then sliced) and
Two cans of petite diced tomatoes.

While the rice mix is cooking on the stovetop, make the "holy trinity" of Cajun cooking by sautéing in a large frying pan in about 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat:  (1) 3 stalks of celery, minced; (2) 1 medium sized yellow onion, minced; (3) 1 large green pepper, minced.  To this combo  add 3 garlic cloves, minced, and sautée until the celery, onion, and green pepper is soft.

Once the rice is done to the box instructions (it took me a little longer for a double batch--probably about 35 minutes), put the jambalaya in a crock pot set to warm.

Take 2/3 of the celery/onion/green pepper mixture and add it to the jambalaya in the crockpot.  Reserve the remaining 1/3 of the mixture in the frying pan. 

***If the mixture starts to look dry while you are preparing other foods, add some chicken broth.

 Chicken Creole Bites


This recipe was inspired by Paula Deen's shrimp creole tarts found here. The bites use mini phyllo shells that should be removed from the freezer to defrost while preparing the filling.  This recipe makes around 45.

Add two tablespoons of flour to the 1/3 remaining celery/onion/green pepper mixture.  Cook for 2 minutes over medium-high heat stirring constantly.  Stir in 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, and 2 tsp. of McCormick's Cajun seasoning.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering until the mixture starts to thicken.  Add 3 ounces of softened cream cheese, whisking until melted.

I bought a whole rotisserie chicken the night before the party, and removed the breast meat, cutting it into small pieces and putting it in a gallon freezer bag.  The day of the party I added almost all of that meat to the mixture.  Remove the mixture from heat.

3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tbls minced fresh parsley
1 tbls butter, melted.
Mix topping ingredients.

Place phyllo shells on a baking sheet covered in tin foil.  Fill with filing and top with a pinch of the topping.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. 

Shrimp Canapés

 For the shrimp canapés, I used a nice quality white bread and cut it into the shape of flower with a cutter roughly 2 inches in diameter.  I spread on top of the flower softened cream cheese.

I bought some frozen pre-cooked medium shrimp, and defrosted the amount needed for the party in hot water.  After they were defrosted, I added a tablespoon of butter to a frying pan and (once melted) added the shrimp.  I sprinkled on a little Cajun seasoning on one side of the shrimp, and then flipped the shrimp.  I sprinkled the Cajun seasoning on the other side, and flipped the shrimp again.  I removed them from heat and placed them on top of the cream cheese after removing the tails. 

 And there you have all the savories!  In my next post I'll share the recipe for the bananas foster scones.