Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tea Sandwich Saturday #53 - Cornbread Madeleines with Black-eyed Pea Hummus & Hot Collard Dip

Having grown up in the South, I am of course accustomed to eating traditional New Year's foods such as greens and black-eyed peas. Legend has it you're supposed to eat lots of greens to represent the "greenbacks" (dollars) you will see in the new year, and the peas represent the coins—so make sure you eat many more greens than peas! Ideally you should have some of both, so I have incorporated these foods into my final tea sandwiches of the year.

First, I made a small batch of cornbread mix that I spooned into my madeleine pan. Whatever cornbread recipe you have will be fine, just make sure there's enough milk added so the mixture isn't too stiff.

Then, I made my version of a recipe I found in Southern Living a few years ago for this Hot Collard Dip. I substituted collards for the turnip greens they used, and it is quite amusing to me to watch people who declare they *hate* greens scarf this down because they think they're eating spinach dip and not collards. If you add enough cheese and bacon to anything, it has to be good, I suppose!

And this isn't the first time I've made a tea sandwich with hummus this year, but it is the first time I've used a Black-eyed Pea Hummus. These "spreads" are both, obviously, designed to be dips, so if they don't find a place on your tea table, perhaps they are something you might want to try for a New Year's buffet. Here are the recipes.

Hot Collard Dip

5 bacon slices
1 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup apple juice
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen chopped collards, thawed
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, cut into squares
1 (8-ounce) carton sour cream
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook bacon in a large pot oven over medium-high heat until crisp; remove bacon and drain on paper towels, reserving a tablespoon or so of drippings in pot. Sauté onion and garlic in drippings for 3 to 4 minutes, then add apple juice and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring well. Add collards, cream cheese, sour cream, pepper flakes, salt and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Cook, stirring often, until cream cheese is melted and mixture is thoroughly heated. Garnish with crumbled bacon and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese before serving. You can also keep this in a crock pot on low if you'd like to keep it warm for a party!

Black-Eyed Pea Hummus

1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2-1 teaspoon cumin seed
3 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)

Pour drained black-eyed peas into the food processor along with the garlic, lemon juice, salt and olive oil and process until well-blended. Add the cumin seed and tahini and process until combined. If the mixture is too thick, add a few tablespoons of water and process until it reaches desired consistency. Serve on tea sandwiches or with chips, pretzels, etc.

And finally, I wanted to say thank you for reading along this year and for your encouragement with this particular project! You friends are an adventurous bunch, I'll sure say that. Also, some readers have asked if I might consider publishing these recipes together in a printed form. I'm trying to find an affordable way to do that (without printing a full-fledged book), and I'll let you know once that's done. Meanwhile, please drop by next weekend to find out what my "Saturday tea project" for 2012 is going to be. It's something I've been eager to try for a while now, and I think you just may approve! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A look back at "The Year in Tea"

I always love this week before New Year's because it's such a great time of reflection on the past year as well as looking forward to the new year ahead. Once again, I'm sorting my "tea memories" of the past year, and I thought I'd share a few highlights of The Year in Tea. January saw a rare number of snow days here in Georgia, enabling me to finish piecing the top of my Sweet Tea Quilt! (Sorry to say that's as far as I got. If January 2012 brings more snow days, perhaps I can finish the border!)

In February, my sweet husband continued his tradition of treating me to tea for Valentine's, this year at Tea Leaves and Thyme in Woodstock. My favorite way to celebrate!

March brought a fundraiser for the Carnegie Library in Newnan, and I got to enjoy a visit with my dear friend Joanie over tea!

April, of course, brought what was perhaps the highlight of the tea year for many of us, the Royal Wedding and a Royal Wedding Tea! I will never forget the fun of getting up at 4 a.m. to watch that magnificent wedding with friends!

May brought the full onset of the gardening season, which meant new herbs in my clay teapots.

June saw a visit to "Tea on Tuesdays" at the Veranda in Senoia with my friend Liz. I hope to return there in 2012!

July meant heading north to visit family in Wisconsin ... and a side excursion to the Door County Master Gardeners' display garden, where I enjoyed seeing the fairies in the garden at tea!

August found me flopping, yet again, in my attempt to make a Hess's Strawberry Pie—but it wasn't all bad, as that blog post was one of the best-received ones of the year!

September found me speaking at a library fundraiser tea at the Central Library in Newnan. A fun event!

October brought a trip to the mountains, where an antique mall turned up this unusual wide-brimmed teacup.

November was a biggie with the publication of my first book, "Dainty Dining," largely thanks to you dear tea friends who have encouraged my research and writing about all things related to tea!

And December brought a fun tea party with my sister and her friends. I can't look back on this (or any) year without thinking how God has thoroughly blessed me with my family, friends and so many fun opportunities in life. Now I can't wait to see what 2012 brings!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Just in the (St.) Nick of time ... Candy Cane Lane

'Twas the Friday before Christmas, and all through the house ... there was no Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Lane tea, because I hadn't seen any this season. At all. Anywhere. And I'd looked. I could order it online, but the shipping cost as much as the tea and I just didn't want it *that* badly. And then, in a surprise find on the very eve of Christmas Eve, I nabbed the very last box at a Whole Foods store in Atlanta! This super minty green tea has quite a following and can be hard to find, as I learned the past two years.

My pink glass teacup and saucer with the elegant scalloped details was a surprise gift from Darlene of The Tea Enthusiast's Scrapbook in honor of the publication of my book last month! What a lovely and thoughtful gift—and one I have used to sip away at that box of Candy Cane Lane tea.

My friend Deberah gave me a box of old-fashioned stick peppermint for Christmas, and I made a cup of the Candy Cane Lane tea extra peppermint-y with the addition of a stick. Are you a fan of Candy Cane Lane tea? If so, did you find any this year, and where? I'd love to know!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A practical use for old tea tins

Do you save old tea tins? I used to, but then I had too many of them and began tossing them when I finished the tea inside.

Last Christmas, however, I was packing up fragile ornaments, wishing I had small tins to store each individual ornament in, when it dawned on me I should be saving my tea tins to use for Christmas ornament storage. Especially for the ornaments on my tea-themed tree, it seems quite fitting to use old tea tins as storage containers!

This glass teacup ornament fits inside with just enough room for some tissue or bubble wrap to cushion it. So if you've been throwing your tea tins away, you may wish to reconsider!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The mystery mug revealed ...

So, did you know what this unusual piece was at the end of yesterday's post? I certainly did not.

I knew that it was pretty, though, and probably very old, since these old soft roses usually appear on pieces from the late 1800s or early 1900s.

And what do you suppose these holes were for?

Or this ornate but oddly placed spout?

A pretty handle, obviously designed as a ... handle. So, I did what I usually do and went online to search for a string of terms like "Victorian pitcher spout strainer handle." Before too long I had come across a photo of a similar piece, and lo and behold, this is an old scuttle style shaving mug! Can any of you friends picture your husband shaving with such a mug? I sure can't! It seems the bar of soap (presumably round) would go in the top, and as it was lathered up the soapy water would drip down below where it could be discarded after shaving. Then, that piece I call a "spout" was actually where they'd store the shaving brush. Who knew? Well, I'll bet *somebody* knew, perhaps some of you, but I did not, and neither did my completely horrified friend when I wrote her a thank-you note for a shaving mug! Actually, I had so much fun joking with her about it that the story surrounding this gift actually means more to me than the gift itself!

And besides, who says this can't be used for tea? A few Jasmine Dragon Pearls in the top, some hot water poured over, twice (since the water obviously won't stay there very long) ...

... and you have a lovely and most unique steeping device! I can also see this holding teaspoons or flowers. I don't think my sweet friend should feel too badly about giving me a shaving mug, do you?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Teawares for Christmas!

I was pondering my habit of always blogging about "What Tea Stuff I Got for Christmas" each year, but then it dawned on me that I sure enjoy seeing everyone else's tea gifts, so I hope you won't mind hearing about mine! First, my mom drew my name in the family gift drawing this year, so she asked me to pick out my gift one day a few weeks ago when we were in a T.J. Maxx. There were quite a few choices, but I settled on a pattern of dishes I've admired for some time now, these Ralph Lauren Skyler salad/dessert plates and mugs. I decided these would be my new "wintertime" dishes, and I can also accessorize them at Christmas if I choose.

My husband is good about asking for "wish list items," and I saw this tea tasting set on sale on the Elmwood Inn Teas website, and he happily ordered it for me. Once I've figured out how to use it, I'll share a review!

My friend Beth and I got to meet up for our annual Christmas visit last week, and she gave me this lovely sugar and creamer from Staffordshire, England. This is a classic pattern to me, and though Beth worried perhaps I get tired of receiving gifts with roses on them, I assured her that is never going to be a problem!

She also gave me what is quite possibly the prettiest teaspoon I've ever owned, this porcelain piece topped by a dainty rosebud.

And while Christmas decorations are still up at my house (are you one of those who takes them down on Dec. 26? Not me!), I'm looking forward to pulling out the calm, soothing, winter whites in a few days. This Royal Doulton White Linen teacup and saucer from my friend Sandra will be perfect for wintertime sipping. I love the clean, simple, unadorned design. The very picture of elegance!

Though my mom got me to pick out the plaid and rose dishes, I was not at all surprised that my pile of Christmas gifts from her included a few other goodies, like some vintage pink glasses and plates. Thanks to this gift *and* a recent surprise gift of a pink Depression glass teacup from a reader of this blog (which I'll be showing soon), I now have enough pink teacups and plates to have a tea party for four!

My mother also gave me this great old silverplate pitcher. Iced tea, anyone? I can't wait to use this.

And last but not least, I wanted to show you a beautiful piece I received as a gift from a friend who wishes to remain anonymous! Neither she nor I knew what this was when I opened it, but with a bit of online searching I was able to figure it out. Do you know what this is? If not, stop by tomorrow and I'll tell you what I learned about this beautiful and intriguing piece of china. And if you got some tea goodies for Christmas this year, I'd love to hear about them!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tea Sandwich Saturday #52 - Lobster & Sun-dried Tomato

Christmas calls for foods a bit more festive than usual, so I got a bee in my bonnet to make something with lobster this week. I decided to make a simple spread, and then I used my Linzer cookie cutters to make sandwiches with Christmas cutouts. Neat and easy, just like I like 'em!

Before I chose to use lobster, I had mentioned to my friend Maureen (ParTea Lady) that I wanted to make a new Christmas tea sandwich recipe, for which I would obviously need a speck of something red. She offered the idea of sun-dried tomato. I LOVE the taste of sun-dried tomato and can't believe I haven't incorporated that into my sandwiches this year! Here, you can see the pretty red and green colors from celery and the chopped sun-dried tomato pieces. So here you go, an easy, last-minute recipe for Christmas tea sandwiches.

Lobster & Sun-dried Tomato

1 teaspoon sun-dried tomato pieces
1 celery rib, cut in large pieces
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 (6.5-ounce) can lobster meat
1-1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2-3 drops red pepper sauce
Dash of chili powder
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Place first three ingredients in bowl of food processor and pulse til combined. Remove to a small mixing bowl. Boil lobster meat for about five minutes, then strain and place in food processor, pulsing until light and fluffy in consistency. Add to mixing bowl with remaining ingredients and combine, adjusting seasonings as desired. Yields about 1/2 cup spread. (Expensive to make, but once a year I figure it's worth it!)

And finally, I'd like to point out that yes, today is Tea Sandwich Saturday #52 even though there is still one more Saturday in the year. I counted, and there are indeed 53 Saturdays this year. A minor point, but worth a mention in case like me you're wondering if the numbering got off one week!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cookies for your cup

The Christmas bakery at my house has now closed for the season, but before I pack things away I wanted to share some new cookie cutters that are especially appropriate for those of us who love cups and mugs. These cookie cutters create a little notch in your sugar cookie dough so that you can slip the cookie onto the rim of your teacup or mug. What a cute idea!

I found mine some weeks ago at a HomeGoods store. I could see there was a shooting star, a regular star and a Christmas tree, and I couldn't quite see the fourth cookie cutter because of the price sticker.

When I got home and removed the cookie cutters from the packaging, I *still* couldn't tell what the fourth one was. Can you? My husband's guess of "a Santa cap" makes the most sense, I guess, although I do think it also looks a bit like a hammer.

I love the English translation on the package, which seems a little off somehow but is still quite charming. I've seen these cookie cutters in other designs too, and I'm going to be on the lookout for some heart-shaped ones for Valentine's Day. It's never too early to start planning for holidays in the new year!