Friday, January 30, 2009

Yeast Scones

I've been on the lookout for a very special scone recipe for over 4 years. My favorite tea room (in Albuquerque) makes divine scones. They're soft, light, and heavenly. Now let me say up front - there's no such thing as a bad scone. But I've longed for the texture and flavor of this one particular kind. I've tried many, many different scone recipes but I've never been able to quite replicate the texture. My friend, AZ Tea Lover, also a fan of these scones, found a gem of a recipe that I think fits the bill. The secret ingredient is yeast. This recipe came from cooks.com.


12/17/11 - Update:  I just made these with 3 cups white flour, 2 cups whole wheat and it worked great!

Yield: 2 dozen

1 pkg yeast
2 tbsp lukewarm water
1 cup shortening (we actually used 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup Smart Balance)
5 cups flour
3 tbsp baking powder
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In a small cup, dissolve yeast in water.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk/sift together dry ingredients (sift flour).
  4. Cut shortening into dry ingredients.
  5. Blend together yeast, buttermilk and shortening/dry ingredients until sticky.
  6. Knead and roll out on floured surface to desired thickness. (We did about 1/2 inch.) Cut with cookie cutters.
  7. Bake for ~15 min, until tops are golden.
  8. Serve with jam and cream. (My favorite is mock Devonshire cream.)
Notes:
  • Recipe can be halved.
  • AZ Tea Lover recommends freezing uncooked scones on a baking sheet, then storing them in the freezer in a zipper bag. Take one out and thaw it for 15 min, then pop it into toaster oven for an individual treat!. (The thawing helps it puff up a bit more.)
  • You could easily add in dried fruit, nuts, etc. to this recipe.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sunny Days and Snow

I'm looking out my window at grey skies and a foot of snow (and it's still coming down!), so I wanted to bring a little sunshine into my life. Here are some photos from my recent visit to Arizona.

This is me, giving some love to Junior, a Quarter Horse. I had the chance to ride Junior, which made me very happy! I grew up on a horse farm and love riding. I don't get to ride nearly enough these days.

A curious (bordering on nosy!) goat.

Being stalked by burro Dorothy.
Looking toward Phoenix, from the White Tanks Mountain Park. The name comes from white granite basins that hold water, formed from years of flash floods.
Hiking in the White Tanks.
Petroglyphs in the White Tanks. Petroglyphs are etchings in the rock. These were made by ancient Native Americans.
Me, with Buddy and Charlie. Corgis, the royal breed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Rainy Day in the Desert

I was delighted to spend a few days last week in the desert, with AZ Tea Lover. She and I have been tea friends for many years, and I feel so blessed when I get to see her in person!

I also had the pleasure of being in the desert when it rained, a rare occasion. I love the smell! Such dramatic skies, too.

To make use of our indoor time, we (of course!) had a tea party! AZ Tea Lover gave me the task of setting the table. Ooooohhhhh! One of my favorite jobs! We initiated this gorgeous cream and red china. It was fun to discover all the accessories (like the flower boxes) that coordinated! (Photos from the cell phone, so they're a bit dark.)


We made two types of cucumber sandwiches. My all-time fave is very simple. Simply blend butter and rosemary and top with cucumbers. We also had cucumber-dill with a blend of cream cheese and goat cheese. A new fave!

We enjoyed these wonderful yeast scones. I will not say much about them now because they are worthy of their own blog posting!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Vegas

I'm returned now from a 10-day work and pleasure trip. I'll share a few photos here from the work part, then dive into the fun part!

I delivered training and other tech support at a conference in Vegas. The best part of the trip was staying at the Palazzo hotel. Incredible! At the end of a very long day, I wanted to do nothing but go to the room and collapse on the bed! The room was quite a change for me. I don't have a TV at home, and in this hotel room, I had 3!! The Palazzo connects to the Venetian and is a new Vegas hotel.
photo from hotel

Here's a picture of me and my teammate, CW, as we were setting up. (Photos from cell phone, and thus the blur.) This was a funny moment because we moved four laptop/monitor systems this way. We wanted a better spot in the demo room, and we didn't want to disconnect the systems. It was really funny, but you probably had to be there.... Also notice the uniform. I had three of these shirts and I was so glad to NOT wear them after the conference was over!




On a break, CW and I wandered through the shops at the Venetian. The shops are inside, but the ceiling is painted to look like the outside. The shop facades are made to look like Venice. It's quite lovely, tho I had to break free a few times and get myself out in the real sunlight for a few minutes.

I managed to escape Vegas without gambling even a nickel. I'm just not the gambler type. It was a fun and productive event, despite the long hours. And I'm always grateful when I get to see my teammates, as we are a dispersed team.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ready to Serve

I'm still reflecting on the significance to our country for electing President Barack Obama. I am full of hope for the future. And, as I think about history, I realize there are people living who, in their life times, have not been able to vote because of their skin color. I am humbled by that thought. I look forward to the day when we elect a person based on her/his character and capabilities, and neither ethnicity nor gender has a bearing.

There is so much to respect about our President, but what I love most is his ability to reach out beyond party lines. I think he calls for people to be their best, regardless of ideology. We all want our nation to be stable and strong. I hope that we can learn to work together to get there.

I am also energized by President Obama's charge to us to be of service to our country. I am thinking of what I can do in my community to meet this challenge. I hope you will do the same.

Two of my friends (and their families) were in DC for the inauguration. I can't wait to hear their stories!

To a new way of being in this country....

Monday, January 19, 2009

Never Say Never...

I'm sitting here, in an open forum with one of my company's execs, and I'm thinking, "Wow! My world didn't turn out like I imagined." What I mean by that is that I work for a very high-tech company, and I like it! When I was in grad school, I thought I would never go the high-tech route. In fact, I had plans to actively avoid it. ;-) Funny how things turn out. Here I am, and I like it!

I'm a service provider at this conference, so that means loooong days for me. But I'm grateful for the chance to hear the CEO explain how our company will come out from this down economy, and to think about the opportunities of this mess instead of just the doom.

Over and out, from Vegas.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I made a Sew, Mama, Sew roundup!

Hey - I feel pretty honored! I made a Sew, Mama, Sew roundup. :-) Check it out!

Also, I will be on a work trip for the next week. I will be more sporadic in my posting, tho I do hope to fit in a few here and there.

Cheers!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tea Time at Starbucks


I fully expected to be disappointed. In fact, I secretly hoped not to like it......

I am not a fan of Starbucks. I think what the company sells is mostly sugar and fat, with a little coffee thrown in. It's nothing personal. Just not my cup of tea - literally. (I don't like coffee, tho I love its smell!)

Even so, I recently found myself in possession of a Starbucks gift card (a kudos from work). The DH (dear hubby) and I headed out on a chilly winter night for a date. We walked to the library and then to Starbucks. It was an adventure, can't you tell? I wanted to check out the new campaign, "Tea Time at Starbucks."

Starbucks has expanded its line of Tazo teas to include whole-leaf tea pouches. This definitely gets a thumbs-up from me! I'm not sure, actually, if it's an expansion or a replacement. Either way, this is a step in the right direction.

Now to the sugar and fat. Being out for an adventure, I decided to try the London Fog. I fully expected to be disappointed. In fact, I secretly hoped not to like it. But the truth is, I did like it! A London Fog is a mix of steamed milk, earl grey tea, simple syrup and lavender. The trick to enjoying this beverage, in my humble opinion, is to remove the tea pouch after it has steeped, about 3 min for my taste.

The DH had the apple chai. It did not impress either of us. My spiced cider is better.

Have you had any of the new Starbucks tea lattes, or the new tea pouches? What did you think?

Marie Antoinette Award


I was so touched recently to receive the Marie Antoinette award from Melody. "This award is for people who are deemed real in who they are." That gives me a sense of satisfaction, because I work very hard at being true to myself....being real.

In other news, the DH and I went for a walk in the cold, cold temps this morning and played in the snow. It was so good to get out, despite the chill. I've been cooped up too long! "No such thing as bad weather - just bad clothes." Some wise person from Wisconsin or somewhere really cold said that. :-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Teany

If you like Moby's music, or if you like good vegetarian food, or if you like reading books with an offbeat sense of humor, then Teany is a book for you! I really enjoyed this book. What does that tell you about me? ;-)

Teany itself is a tea room, of the modern style. It's in NY (tea-ny) and it's small (teeny) - and thus the name. Moby is co-owner, with his ex-girlfriend Kelly Tisdale. The book chronicles the beginnings of the tea room and leaves us with all kinds of interesting tidbits and recipes. My friend Amanda is a fan of the "top-secret chili". I am looking forward to someday trying the chocolate and green tea pudding (with soy or rice milk). The lavender lemonade is just about the prettiest cold beverage I've ever seen!
If you've read the book, I'd love to hear your opinion!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tea Toys for Wee Bit


My one-year-old niece received a number of tea-themed toys for Christmas, and I thought I'd share a few with you. Ironically, none of these came from me! But I'm all for her early indoctrination into the world of tea! The set here is the Little People Royal Tea Party.


I'm so proud of my niece....see how she practices her tea-serving skills! (And I love her cute pig tails!)



And here's the Disney Beauty & The Beast set...

Friday, January 09, 2009

National Hot Tea Month


To celebrate National Hot Tea Month, I encourage you to try this mindfulness meditation. I wrote it for myself, because I often need it!

Gather your equipment, paying special attention to both the function and beauty of the tea vessels.

Choose you tea with special care. What tea matches your mood, your needs, the weather? Take a moment to enjoy the look and aroma of the dry leaf.

Bring the water to boil and listen to its music as it changes from the heat.

When the water is at the right temperature, enjoy the steam and the lovely gurgling sound as you pour the water over the leaves. This is a special moment as the leaves begin to unfurl, the "agony of the leaf."

As the tea steeps, practice breathing and stretching. Try not to do the dishes or other things. (This is the hardest part for me!)

When the tea is ready, pour a cup and take a moment to enjoy the aroma and color of the brew. Take a small sip and let the tea play in your mouth. Where do you taste it? What flavors are there? Now drink the rest of this cup in peace.

Cheers!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Using Old Calendars


If you're like me, you still have a couple of beautiful 2008 calendars around. Instead of sending them to the landfill, reinvent them into lovely things. You could use them as wrapping for small gifts, make wallets like I did here, or make envelopes.

For making envelopes, you'll need:
  • Pretty calendar pages
  • An envelope template - mine came from Stampin' Up, but others are on the market
  • A pencil
  • Scissors
  • Rubber cement (my preference) or glue
Step 1: Pick your page. Here, I am using a flower calendar page. I want to focus on the word simple.

Step 2: Place the template.
You'll want to play around with the template placement to get the best visual display of calendar elements.

Step 3: Trace around the template.
Don't forget to trace the fold lines. (Once you get used to the template, you may not need to trace the fold lines.)


Step 4: Cut and fold. Cut out the envelope. I find that small scissors work best. Then fold on the lines. I'm not a patient person, but I've learned that it saves me time in the long run if I take both parts of this step slowly.

Step 5: Glue three edges. Leave one edge open for slipping in the letter or notecard. I prefer using rubber cement because it doesn't dry immediately. Also, if I have any extra that smooshes out, I can rub it off. You'll get a feel for how much room you have for the glue. Be careful that you don't inadvertently glue the envelope shut! The trick is to keep the glue on the flaps, but not the inside of the envelope.

Step 6: Let the glue dry. I like to press my envelopes under a heavy book.

Step 7: Make a corresponding notecard. Write a letter and send off to make someone's day!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Felted Teacup Pincushion

This amazing felted teacup pincushion came to me from Sweetcakes. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so many creative friends. You all inspire me!

I think this is one of the most gorgeous tea things I own! Visit
Sweetcakes to find more info on how she made it. I think I will set this piece of functional art in a place of honor on my desk.


Monday, January 05, 2009

My New Year's Resolution


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In 2009, I will write my first tea book.
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Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Year of Teas in Review

In 2008, I hosted and blogged about a tea party each month. Some were elaborate and some were simple, but I enjoyed each of them! Here's a summary:
November - A Virtual Tea

Friday, January 02, 2009

Queen's Cakes for the New Year

I made these Queen's Cakes for the New Year, and I really enjoyed them, especially fresh from the oven. The golden edges are crisp and the raisins impart a nice flavor and texture to the very simple batter.

The recipe came from the book Dinner at Buckingham Palace. I was delighted to find this book at my library. I had often seen this book advertised in the Victorian Tracing Co. catalogue and wanted to peruse the book. The recipes are interesting, and I'm glad to know that the library has a copy. It's not a book I feel compelled to own; borrowing is perfect.

The book, by Charles Oliver (who spent most of his life in service to the Queen), is a compilation of stories and recipes from the kitchen of the current Queen and her family. There are some very interesting anecdotes and photos. It's a very enjoyable book, though I found very few recipes that I would actually attempt to make. Queen's Cakes were in the Tea section. As an aside, these little yellow cakes are often served on Victoria Day in Canada to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday.

The tea section was, of course, my favorite. Tea is "one of the Queen's most favourite meals." The recipe below for Queen's Cakes is approximately what was in the book. The recipe is from my memory, (I already returned the book!), so use at your own risk! The recipe was given in ounces, and I was grateful for my kitchen scale. Also, the recipe was rather sketchy on details...so I've added a few tips.

4 oz (1 stick) margarine (I used butter)
4 oz sugar
2 eggs
4 oz all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder..I can't actually remeber if it was one or two
2 oz sultanas (I used purple raisins)
A little milk

Grease 16-20 mini muffin tins. (The recipe just said "tins." I had to do a lot of research to figure out exactly what size! I compared to other Queen's Cakes recipes.) The recipe called for greasing with lard, but I used shortening.

Cream the butter (I softened it first) with the sugar. Add the eggs and beat well. Sift together the flour and baking powder, and add to the creamed sugar/butter/eggs a little at a time. Stir in the sultanas. Add a little milk to make the batter soft. (This is where I was puzzled - what was "soft" supposed to mean? I added about 1/4 cup milk.)

Spoon into mini muffin tins, until they're about 1/2 full. Bake for ~20 min, until golden brown.

These are best served fresh from the oven, when the golden edges are crisp and the centers are soft. Very nice with tea! I like these for their simplicity. As I looked online for other Queen's Cake recipes to compare, I found that many recipes are actually fancier than this one. I preferred to stick with the simple version, since it's fit for the Queen!