Monday, January 31, 2011

Blender Waffles

Blender Waffles

1/4 cup dates, pitted
1/4 cup cashews
2 Tbsp. flax seeds
2 cups oats, gluten free if necessary
1 cup corn meal
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free Mighty Tasty hot cereal
(you can substitute additional brown rice flour  for the Mighty Tasty cereal if desired)
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp. salt
5 cups water

Preheat waffle iron.  Be sure it is conditioned or brush with a teaspoon of olive oil so waffles wont' stick.

Add half the water to blender.  Then add dates, cashews, and flax seeds.  Blend on high until well mixed and nuts and seeds are ground.  Then, add oats, corn meal, Mighty Tasty cereal,  brown rice flour, and salt.  Add remainder of water and blend until very smooth.  If your blender is not large enough, mix in batches, then pour into a mixing bowl and stir batches together.

Fill waffle iron and close lid.  Bake about 6 minutes or until light goes off.  Be sure the waffle iron is preheated before every application so that waffles don't stick.

This makes a delicious, nutty waffle.  This is a variation of a waffle recipe that my friend, Barbara, from Wildflower Morning Recipes shared.  So, thank you Barbara for a great idea!  If you have any left-over waffles, they can be placed in a zip-lock bag and stored in the freezer until ready to use.  Place in toaster when ready to eat.  This recipe is vegan, gluten-free, and uses 100% whole foods.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Plants and Little Trees

Houseplants are beneficial to home and health.  Houseplants have the ability to remove toxins from the air.  Studies have shown that houseplants can remove 87% of toxins within a 24 hour period.  Plants also have a soothing and calming effect on the body, helping people live healthier lives.  Individuals who live in homes or who work in offices with plants have a 30% reduced chance of fatigue, coughs, sore throats, and other symptoms of colds.  Not only do houseplants have benefits for air quality and health, but they provide beauty to the home decor.

Assorted plants grace my home.  How about yours?  African violets, ferns, begonias, sweet potato vine, decorative pepper plants, scented geranium, ivy, and more fill home spaces and provide life to the decor.  I've also been tending little trees.  They are somewhat challenging at times, but well worth the extra attention.  Ficus and variegated ficus trees are fairly common, but I love their shiny leaves and airy branches.  They can grow to the ceiling and look great with little white lights added to their branches!  This past year I added several other trees to our home.  A camellia sinensis, commonly known as the source of tea leaves, is growing nicely in a pot, but it taking some tender loving care during the winter months.  It appears to love sunlight, of which we have very little on some weeks these days.  The coffee plant seems to thrive and is not particular as long as it receives water and natural light.  And the lovely bay laurel tree is thriving!  Winter hasn't seemed to slow it down and new leaves continue to be added to its splendor.  Bay laurel is known for its aromatic qualities and the leaves are commonly added to soups and stews to enhance flavor.  As January nears its end, I look forward to spring when the little trees can be set outside on the porch to grow in the sunshine again!

What are your favorite houseplants?  Do houseplants have a place in your home?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Quinoa Pancakes

It's pretty cold across most of the nation.  Cold weather and healthy carbs are a satisfying combination.  The desire to hibernate is present, so instead of tanking up on low-density carbohydrates, choose healthy, whole grains instead.  How about pancakes for breakfast?   
Quinoa Pancakes

1 1/2 cups quinoa flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vitamin C crystals
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups water or fruit juice

Mix together flours, baking soda, salt, and vitamin C crystals. Combine the oil with water or juice and wire whisk them together. Create a well in the flour mixture. Add the liquid and stir together. Bake pancakes on hot griddle until dry on top and browned on the bottom. Turn and cook the second side.

Serve with pure maple syrup. Garnish with something colorful and pretty like an orange wedge, banana slices, or fresh strawberry. Enjoy!

Makes 2 dozen pancakes.
*If you can't find quinoa flour, try blending whole quinoa in your blender and making it freshly ground.  Make your own vit. C crystals by pulverizing a vitamin C tablet from your medicine cabinet.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nutty Rice Salad

Nutty Rice Salad

This salad is one that never turns out the same, simply because I always use seasonal ingredients or what I have on hand.  It's tasty and wholesome and oh, so good!  Here's the basic recipe and you can adapt it to suit your needs.

3 cups cooked brown rice

Add chopped raw vegetables such as:

2 peeled and diced zucchini (small)
1 diced sweet onion
1 diced green pepper
3 stalks celery

Add nuts and seeds such as:

1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup coursely ground sunflower seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Add herbs such as:

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

Add dressing such as:

2 - 3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lemon, juiced

Add seasonings such as:

Italian seasoning
Bill's Best Chicknish'
garlic powder
onion powder

Mix, chill, and enjoy!

Other things you can add or substitute are:  carrots, red peppers, corn, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, cilantrao, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans, etc. and etc.  You are only limited by your imagination!  Have fun!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Primrose Perk

Have you noticed the seasonal blooming flowers that are showing up at the supermarket?  This week I found colorful primroses and miniature daffodil plants in bloom.  At first I was disappointed that the primrose plants were so small, but the blossoms were so cheerful, I bought some to bring home anyway.  They sat on my kitchen counter for a few days while I tried to figure out how I would display them. While watering my plants, I realized that my large terrarium was looking a bit scant and tired, so I decided that the primroses would perk it up considerably.  They fit in nicely and really sparked things up!  It's fun to have a little bit of spring in my living room on a January day.

If you haven't already checked in from the previous post, please do!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thinking of You!

It has been fun sharing "afternoon tea" with you during National Hot Tea Month.  We have one more week to celebrate! As a thank you to Gracious Hospitality readers, I am offering this little teacup and pansy cross-stitched needlework.  I will be drawing a name from those who enter by posting a comment on this post.  Please leave a comment here, telling either (a) something you have learned about afternoon tea by reading my blog or (b) one of your favorite memories of sharing afternoon tea with someone you care for.  In order to qualify, please sign up to be a Gracious Hospitality "Follower" on Google Friend Connect (scroll down on the left side of this page to find the "Follow" button).  Comments will be closed at noon on Friday.  Thanks!  I look forward to hearing from you!


Butternut Squash Soup

Each summer, Grandpa grows an abundant crop of butternut squash which he generously shares with family, friends, and neighbors.  We enjoy it in its simplest form, baked or steamed.  But it's also delicious pureed, seasoned, and made according to recipe instructions in a variety of ways.  Yesterday I tried a new soup recipe that featured this delicious squash.  It was wonderful!  The seasonings were perfect!  It was great for supper, but would also make a delicious first course for a lovely afternoon tea.  I am sharing the recipe with you here:

Butternut Squash Soup

3 - 4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes (10 cups)
2 onions, diced
4 stalks celery, diced (may substitute carrots)
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
8 cups water*
1/4 cup Bill's Best Chicknish'*
salt to taste
Fresh ground nutmeg

In a large kettle, saute squash, onions, celery, and thyme in olive oil.  When soft (about 10 minutes) add 8 cups of water and Bill's Best Chicknish'.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to medium heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.  When vegetables are tender, cool slightly.  Using a wand mixer, puree soup until smooth.  Salt to taste and sprinkle with nutmeg.  Stir and adjust seasonings to taste.

Garnish with parsley, chives, or thyme.  Enjoy!

*Instead of water and Bill's Best Chicknish, you can use a boxed vegetable or mushroom broth.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Tea. . .


In tea the host is simplicity and the guest elegance.
If all is done in sincerity it is better
than a thousand graces.

~Matsudaria Naritada

*Sandy, from Quill Cottage, has created a beautiful cup and saucer from paper and lace.  She shares instructions to make your own here.  Sandy shares many lovely things on her blog.  I think you would enjoy visiting her.  Enjoy a beautiful day!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Birthday Greeting

Happy birthday to my friend, Sharon!  

Wishing you all the best in the year ahead and a most wonderful day!

Be Still and Know...

"Be still and 
know that 
I am God."

Psalm 46:10

Photo:  at the top of Gwin Gwin Falls ~ Columbia Gorge Hotel

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Friday Evening Tea Tradition

Friday evenings are always welcome at our home! After a busy week of chores, work, school, and activities, everyone is ready to relax and spend some time visiting together.  Tea is a part of our Friday night ritual.   It's been a tradition we've always had, starting in my family home during my teen-age years. Herbal tisanes and infusions, although not technically "tea", are our favorites.  But all teas, white, green, black, and flavored are delicious too!  Setting aside a specific time each week for rest and regeneration is beneficial for individuals and families.  Having a 'no fail' plan for rest that one can look forward to during each week is a blessing to anticipate. 

As teens, sometimes my sister and I would bake a Snackin' Cake for Friday night tea.  Do you remember them?  The cake mix goes in the cake pan, liquid ingredients are added, and then after a quick stir the cake goes in the oven.  I don't think they make Snackin' Cake mixes any more, but they sure were popular in our family.  Recently Dad and Alma came to visit and we made a Depression Chocolate Cake.  It reminded me so much of the Snackin' Cakes that sis and I used to bake.  It goes well with tea.  Would you like the recipe?

Depression Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups flour (gluten-free if necessary)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water

In a well-greased cake pan, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and  baking soda until well mixed. All at once, add the vinegar, vanilla, oil and water. Stir well.  Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick poked in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Now, go put the teakettle on!

Teapot ~ Teekanne Mikado
Table Runner ~ Gift from Aunt Cella; from one of her trips to Romania.


What do you eat with tea?  People usually think of toast or scones, but oatcakes are a variation of the bread theme and are delicious with jam and tea.  Traditionally they are can also be served with savory toppings and accompaniments as well.

Oatcakes made with yeast are commonly associated with North Staffordshire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire.  It was once common that oatcakes were sold from individually as housewives would market them from an open window of their home.

Scottish oatcakes vary in that they can be made from baking powder and are baked either on a griddle or on a baking sheet in a hot oven.  Scotland is known for growing oats, and since oatcakes are simple to make, they became a staple in the Scottish diet.  Soldiers in the 14th century would carry a metal baking plate and a sack of oats with them.  When hungry, it was easy for them to moisten the oats and create this quick bread as a carbohydrate staple in their diet.  Samuel Johnson once said that oats were 'a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.'  Sir Walter Scott was said to retort 'yes, and where else will you see such horses and such men?'

In Scotland, oatcakes are made on a girdle or by baking rounds of oatmeal on a tray. If the rounds are large, they are then sliced into triangular shapes. Oats are one of the few grains which grow well in the north of Scotland and was, until the 20th century, the staple grain used.  Generally they are very hard and dense, although with the addition of oil or shortening, a flaky and tender cake is easy to make.  I thought I'd try my hand at it recently, and was really happy with the result!  Here's the recipe I used:

 Scottish Oatcakes

1/2 c. vegetable shortening
1 c. whole oats (gluten free if necessary)
1 c. flour (gluten free flour blend if necessary)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2-3 Tbsp. ice cold water

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.  In a bowl, place oats, flour, baking soda, and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until the dough has a fine crumb.  Add ice water, a teaspoonful at a time.  Mix until mixture resembles a stiff dough.  Roll on waxed paper to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.  Using a cookie cutter or a drinking glass, cut into circles.  Place on a baking stone or cookie sheet.  Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.  Serve plain with honey, butter, or jam.  Also delicious with savories like tomato slices and a cup of soup.

It is said that Queen Elizabeth II of England enjoys oatcakes with tea for her breakfast every day.  May I suggest that the addition of oatcakes to your 'afternoon tea' routine might help enhance your celebration of January as National Hot Tea Month?

*I also made oatcakes with olive oil rather than solid vegetable shortening because olive oil, being non-hydrogenated, is a much healthier.  The oatcakes turned out very well, but were very tender, so handle with care.  The rule is that shortening provides a flaky crumb and oil results a tender crumb.

**Thank you to Vicki for the beautiful Celtic bookmark!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011



A young wife sat on a sofa on a hot humid day, drinking iced tea and visiting with her Mother. As they talked about life, about marriage, about the responsibilities of life and the obligations of adulthood, the mother clinked the ice cubes in her glass thoughtfully and turned a clear, sober glance upon her daughter.

"Don't forget your Sisters," she advised, swirling the tea leaves to the bottom of her glass. "They'll be more important as you get older. No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you love the children you may have, you are still going to need Sisters. Remember to go places with them now and then; do things with them. And remember that "Sisters" also means your ladyfriends, your daughters, and other women relatives too. You'll need other women. Women always do."

"What a funny piece of advice!" the young woman thought. "Haven't I just gotten married? Haven't I just joined the couple-world? I'm now a married woman, for goodness sake! A grownup. Surely my husband and the family we may start will be all I need to make my life worthwhile!"

But she listened to her Mother. She kept contact with her Sisters and made more women friends each year. As the years tumbled by, one after another, she gradually came to understand that her Mom really knew what she was talking about.

As time and nature work their changes and their mysteries upon a woman, Sisters are the mainstays of her life. After almost 50 years of living in this world, here is what I've learned: Times passes. Life happens. Distance separates. Children grow up. Love waxes and wanes. Hearts break. Careers end. Jobs come and go. Parents die. Colleagues forget favors. Men don't call when they say they will.

BUT Sisters are there, no matter how much time or how many miles are between you. A Sister is never farther away than your needing her can reach. When you have to walk that lonesome valley, and you have to walk it for yourself, your Sisters will be on the valley's rim, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley's end. Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you. Or come in and carry you out.

My daughters, sisters, sisters-in-law, and "ladyfriends" bless my life! My world wouldn't be the same without them, and neither would I. When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible joys or devastating sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other. Every day, we need each other still. Tomorrow we will need each other even more. 

Author:  Unknown

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oatmeal-Nut Pie Crust

This is a wonderful pie crust and is especially good for cheesecake.  I prefer it over a graham cracker crust.  The walnuts provide great depth of flavor.

Oatmeal-Nut Pie Crust

1 cup uncooked rolled oats (gluten free if necessary)
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2/3 cup minced walnuts
1/3 cup margarine (or nut butter, or vegetable oil, scant)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spread oats in large, shallow pan.  Bake 10 minutes to toast.  Toss with sugar, nuts and melted margarine. 

Press into pie pan.  Refrigerate while making filling.

Yummy!  Can be used this way for a pudding or fruit filling - or - filled and baked again as for cheesecake.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Happy Ending

"A Happy Ending"

by Aunt Cella, posted by permission
Originally written October, 1969
Part 4of 4

Meantime she sent her daughter-in-law (who incidentally had worked two years at Schrafft's Restaurant in New York but got homesick and came back to marry a local boy) to the neighbor's house at the end of the road for a car.  No one was home, and now we were all in a frantic frenzy.  That boat was due to leave 30 minutes before.  I threatened to walk, and finally they consented, but insisted the daughter-in-law walk the 5 or 6 miles with me.  In a few minutes, we heard a car driving up behind us, and the much-sought neighbor materialized.  We roared over ruts and believe it or not, when we arrived, the boats were just leaving, having waited over 30 minutes for me.  Mike, who was beside himself, had just told them to go on without.  He was going to start after me, spend the night in the mountains, stay with a farmer, hire a car (no more horses!) or anything that was necessary.  An interesting postscript was that the California woman's horse also took her to its house in a different direction from me, and the farmer there had to bring her back in his car also.  Well, now that it's all over, I'm glad it happened.  How else could I have taken tea in front of an open peat fire with the turkeys and the dogs and the O'Donahue's of Killarney?

Photo credit of Lake Killarney/Creative Commons:  mozzercork

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An Authentic Irish Tea

"An Authentic Irish Tea"

by Aunt Cella, posted by permission
Originally written October, 1969/a true story
Part 3 of 4

An old peasant lady appeared in black dress and stockings, and at the sight of another human being, I nearly broke down in weeping.  Struggling for control, I told her I must be lost (although I suspected that she already suspected that).  I told her the boats were leaving soon (there was only one a day), but this horse insisted on coming here.  She then dropped her little bombshell --- the horse belonged there and was merely coming home --- with an unwilling visitor!  She later admitted it was not the first time it had happened.  The horse and I had been on the trail for four solid, er, liquid hours!  She led me inside her home (which I was than anxious to see despite my distressing situation) to an open peat fireplace with an old black kettle hanging over it, and then began stripping off my soggy clothes.  I sat by the fire with this kindly soul bustling about, putting warm clothes on me, getting hot tea, trying to hurry with three huge dogs, and a red-haired Irish grand baby, and a flock of baby turkeys all under foot.  I couldn't believe my eyes and wanted to laugh and cry both, at this unreal situation.  I watched bemusedly while one little turkey jumped into the rim and then into a large pail sitting on the kitchen floor.  Hearing noise, the lady of the house rushed over to the pail in time to pull out a half-drowned little turk from what was obviously a pail of water.  Calamities!  It was a wild scene.  She shoved them all under a basket and then proceeded to cut a homemade raisin loaf for my tea without benefit of hand washing of any sort between turkeys and bread.  I may have winced, but I wouldn't have refused her hospitality for anything.  It tasted delicious and was served on her best china.  She commented that I "seemed to fit in very nicely here in this country" probably because I was petting her dogs that were running in and out, and trying strenuously to see everything I could while just trying to appear as if I had grown up with peat fires and turkeys drowning themselves in the center of the kitchen floor!  When I told her I was from California she was very surprised and said she thought I was one of the local Irish girls from "up North".  I concluded that I must be fitting in very well indeed.  My Yankee twang was mistaken for an Irish brogue...!

To be continued.

Friday, January 14, 2011

An Unforgettable Horseback Ride through Killarney Countryside

"An Unforgettable Horseback Ride through Killarney Countryside"

by Aunt Cella, posted by permission
Originally written October, 1969/a true story
part 2 of 4

The strangest tea I will ever have in my life occurred in Ireland, which, by the way, is green, friendly, progressive, and lots of fun.  In the wild, rugged, southern Killarney Lake country, Mike and I took an all day trek, making a complete circle, first by pony cart, then by horseback, and later by boat, which circled us back to the starting point again in the evening.  Not being so lucky weather-wise in Ireland (where are all those green shamrocks?), we had rain most of the six days we were there.  This memorable day was no exception, but we wanted to take this trip badly enough to do it in the pouring rain.  We had another lady and a foolhardy couple from California with us and a little sort-of-girl-guide.  We set off in high spirits, which sank lower and lower as we got colder and wetter.  Transferring from the pony-trap after an hour, we found the horses typical nags, and cantankerous to boot!  However, I felt somewhat smug and self-assured, since I was almost raised on a horse.  After two hours on horseback and getting into deep, wild mountains, we were stiff and frozen.  Our sack lunch became a mass of mush, vitamin pills in my purse ran red all over, our clothes were sodden, and our limbs were paralyzed with cold.  Our little-girl-guide reassured us by telling us we only had three hours left to go!  We saw an isolated house that offered tea, and gratefully groaned off our horses and dripped inside, running rivulets on her kitchen floor, and apologizing between chattering teeth.  We gulped hot tea with Irish soda bread, and stayed as long as we dared.  Again, we struggled aboard our plugs, who would not do anything they did not feel like doing. 

In the meantime, the country was frighteningly beautiful, with deep gullies, broad rocky valleys, and treeless craggy mountains --- what a fantastic trip in good weather!  After two more frozen hours, Mike and I approached the summit (we were ahead) and looked into desolate virgin territory beyond.  My tendency was to go left, because it look like we might meet our boats there.  But my horse was going right whether I consented or not, and trusting the sure-direction instincts of a horse, Mike and I went right.  After a while, Mike wasn't so sure, so turned his horse back to the crossroads, but mine would not go.  I kept assuming the others would come (since my horse insisted this was the right road) but, hill after hill, I kept looking back.  No horses appeared, and soon the crossroad was far behind me.  Gradually I decided this must be the wrong way, and tried again to turn around.  I tried to go into the lane of an isolated house, I tried to stop. . .I tried everything, but that broken-down horse was impossible.  When I tried to let the horse know who was in charge, he promptly backed me right down a bank into a ravine.  Then, for the first time I was frightened, because I knew that I could not handle that horse.  I began (in growing terror) to contemplate spending the night out in the wilds of Killarney and likely freezing to death.  I had no idea where we were headed, but it certainly wasn't toward human habitation.  These were very bad moments.  Spying an inhabited old cottage, I decided to stop, even if I had to leap off the horse, but surprisingly she was willing and I lumbered off, hallowing to the occupants. . .

To be continued.

Photo credit/Creative Commons:  Tony Hisgett

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Left My Heart in England

 "I Left My Heart in England"

by Aunt Cella, posted by permission
Originally written October, 1969/a true story
Part 1 of 4

I left my heart in England this time.  And have left pieces of it in nearly every country we've visited.  But with England it went deep.  It's simply my kind of quaintness, countryside, people...and my language.  We were actually passing through England on our way to Ireland, having "done" England "last" summer, or so we thought.  But it's a big mistake.  One should not ignore present joys in the hopes of greater, later.  Neither, is a country ever really "done" --- most of us just scratch the surface.  We were blessed for nine days with classically beautiful weather, a little nicety not often enjoyed in the British Isles.  Loved rugged Wales, but the southern counties of Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall stretching to the very tip of Land's End, are dearest to the heart of every Briton, and were sheer joy, joy, to us.  We loved the high hedges, the hidden "smuggler's cove" beaches, the cottage rambled with roses, old inns with low oaken beams, cozy fireplaces, hanging copper ware and pewter, peaceful villages, and always decency, charm, refinement.  It's such a "civilized" country!  As travelers, we felt a graciousness here not encountered since leaving Japan.  One is never a customer, but a guest to be treated with grave respect.  I discovered early how enchanting their old homes and tea houses were, so having a passion for this sort of thing, devised a system for getting into at least three a day.  Morning beverage, lunch at noon, and afternoon tea, which is promptly at 4:00.  All England pivots on the "Tea at 4:00" schedule. . .even if the house is burning, you must not rush out without having tea first!  We had Devonshire clotted cream with fresh strawberries, rhubarb pudding, deep-dish English apple pie, high tea, low tea, cream tea, country tea, lunch in a 12th century manor house, and scones, scones, scones.  We are talking of another trip. . .

To be continued.

Photo:  afternoon tea at Aunt Cella's on a sunny winter day 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sweet Warmth and the Heart

I'm sending you love and tea,
To warm your winter's day.
Think of me as you pour your cup
And all the good things we would say.
If we could be together now
Instead of miles apart,
We'd sip our teas and memories,
The sweet warmth fills the heart.

Susan Young
*a blue teapot tea-towel that I stitched for Karleen

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bake Away the Winter Blahs

Are you suffering from the winter blahs?  Snow storms, cold weather, and a lack of sunshine can take away quick smiles and replace them with a frown.  Sometimes an hour in the kitchen, making something you've never tried before, can help you find comfort and joy.  How about trying one of our favorite family recipes?  Here it is:

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs (or regular)
1 Tbsp. oil
4 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 package Mori-Nu Lite Extra Firm tofu, pureed
8 oz. tofu cream cheese
2/3 cup granulated Sucanat
1/2 cup peanut butter, natural, crunchy
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. clover honey (or agave syrup)
1/4 cup fat-free chocolate syrup (reserve for topping; may substitute 3 Tbsp. carob chips melted in warm oven)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9" or 10" round pie pan with cooking spray. Mix graham crackers, oil, and maple syrup together and press into the prepared pie pan. Place remaining ingredients (except chocolate syrup) in a food processor, puree until smooth, and pour into the crust. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes and then refrigerate overnight or 5 - 6 hours before serving.  Drizzle pie with chocolate syrup just before serving.

Serves: 8 - 10

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blueberry Scones

Blueberry Scones

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rolled oats, whizzed in blender
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer*
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 cup soymilk

Combine flour, oat flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugar in a large bowl.  When well combined, add dried blueberries.  In a cup, blend Ener-G egg replacer and water.  Then add soymilk and olive oil.  Form a well in the mixture of dry ingredients.  Add liquid ingredients and stir with a fork until ingredients are moist and blended.  Work mixture together with hands until a soft dough is formed.  Form into a small ball.

Place dough on a floured board.  Roll the dough into one large round, about 1/2-inch thick.  Place on a baking stone.  Using a sharp knife, cut into eight wedges.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden brown. 

Serve warm with your favorite fruit jam. 
*May substitute one egg; omit water.

A Cup of Tea

When the world is all at odds
And the mind is all at sea
Then cease the useless tedium
And brew a cup of tea.
There is magic in its' fragrance,
There is solace in its' taste;
And then laden moments vanish
Somehow into space.
And the world becomes a lovely thing!
There's beauty as you'll see;
All because you briefly stopped
To brew a cup of tea. 


Photo:  china cabinet with Old Country Roses and a 
beautiful handmade card made by Serena.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Whitman Teapot & Story

In the 1830's the Hudson Bay Company commissioned the Spode and Copeland company of Staffordshire, England to be their official supplier of china.  At many outlets throughout North American, a variety of their transfer-print designs were offered for sale to those who helped to develop the frontier.  Fort Vancouver and other sites in the Pacific Northwest show samples of some of the china pieces that have been excavated at their sites.  This beautiful teapot is on display in the museum at Whitman Mission.  Are you familiar with Dr. and Mrs. Whitman and their role as missionaries in the Pacific Northwest?   If their teapot could tell a story, I know it would have many stories of hospitality, adventure, and heartache to share.

Marcus and Narcissa Whitman were Presbyterian missionaries who settled in the Walla Walla Valley where they established a mission that gave religious instruction and medical care to the Cayuse Indians.  Narcissa was the first white woman to travel overland to the western frontier (1835).  It soon became evident that their mission was not only to the Cayuse, but to a myriad of  pioneers from wagon trains of the Oregon trail.  Often, travelers would arrived at Whitman Mission deficient in food or ill and in need of a physicians care.  The trek over the rugged Blue Mountains was arduous and being near the end of the journey, supplies and energy were often sparse.  Marcus and Narcissa would minister to these pioneers, providing not only a place for food and medicine, but a safe place to stay as they were restored to health and wellness and could find regeneration for the last part of their journey to the Willamette Valley.  For many years Marcus and Narcissa ministered to those in need.  They had a beautiful daughter whom they named Alice Clarissa.  When a little tot, she drown by the gristmill in the Walla Walla River.  She was their only child.  Frequently, Marcus would take overland journeys on horseback to the east coast, leaving Narcissa behind to tend to the needs at the mission.  She spent many lonely days and nights in waiting.  A single hilltop on the compound grounds provided a view of the mountains and distant valley, and when Narcissa thought that her husband's return might be near, she would climb the hill each day, looking to see if she could find him in the distance.  Sadly, tragedy struck in 1847 when measles affected pioneers brought their wagon trains to the mission so they could rest and receive medical care.  The disease was new and strange to the Cayuse, and soon they were infected and many died.  In retribution, they massacred Marcus, Narcissa, and others at the mission compound.  The mission buildings were burned to the ground.  The mission site is now a National Historic Site.  Many people visit each year, walking the pathway Narcissa took to the hilltop, or visiting the river edge where little Alice Clarissa drowned.  Although the buildings are gone, some foundation stones remain and outlines of the buildings have been restored.  A small cemetery on the grounds shelters these missionary pioneers and others who served on the mission grounds.  

If the Whitman teapot could talk, it would have many stories to share.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Walnut Date Truffles

Are you craving something new and delicious to go with tea?

Recently I was craving chocolate, but didn't want to cave in to the extra ingredients added to a candy bar.  I went in search of a recipe that would allow the natural goodness of pure cocoa and healthy ingredients to please the palette.  Here's what I found --- and it was well worth the effort.  Yummy, healthful, raw, and oh, so good!

Walnut-Date Tuffles

1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup Medjool dates
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. raw cacao powder*
2 Tbsp. water

Place ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.  Then, using a small cookie scoop, fill with dough to measure, then roll in hands to form a smooth ball.  Once round, gently roll in cacao powder.  Place into a mini cupcake or candy liner.  Chill until ready to serve. 

*May substitute carob powder if you'd like.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A History of Tea

It's National Hot Tea Month. Hot tea has been a popular beverage for hundred's of years. Although we think of tea as coming from China to England, it actually is the Dutch we can thank for bringing tea to Europe and later America. In the 1600's, Holland and Portugal were politically affiliated. The Portuguese would ship tea to Lisbon, and from there the excellent Dutch navy would transport the tea to France, Holland, and the Baltic counties. Eventually it's popularity made it's way to England as well. During this time, tea was very expensive. Being a lucrative commodity, the Dutch established many tea plantations in Indonesia where they grew tea for commerce. It was not unusual for it to cost more than $100 per pound. Only the wealthy could indulge in this amber liquid. The Dutch capital, the Hague, became a fashionable center for tea consumption. As imports increased, tea prices fell slowly. Eventually it was made available in shops throughout Holland. Dutch culture endorsed the consumption of tea with some controversy. Physicians and academics debated over the merits and detriments of tea consumption, but the populace mostly ignored them and consumed tea in great quantities. The first known coupling of milk with tea has been traced to 1680 when Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, the Marquise de Seven first mentioned it. About this time restaurants started serving tea to guests, some of them even providing personal tea service with warmers so guests could prepare their own tea out in the establishment's garden. The Dutch were key in trading tea throughout the West. American joined the tea craze about 1650 when Peter Stuyvesant brought the first tea to the colonists in New Netherlands (what is now known as New York). Americans took to tea so well that before long the small settlement in New York was consuming more tea than all of England! Of course, a few years later the Boston Tea Party changed all of that. So, although we may think of tea as an English beverage, I think we need to thank the Dutch for establishing tea as a part of mainstream Western culture. 

[This is a repost, but especially meaningful to me this year because Brandon & Sally honeymooned in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in September.  While there they purchased some lovely tins of tea for me and I'm enjoying them very much.  Thank you!]

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Tales at Tea-Time

If teacups could talk, what stories would they tell?  What are your favorite tea books?  Do you have a favorite tea story or verse?  Please, share!  Celebrate National Hot Tea Month with others!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Making a Perfect Cup of Tea

A visit to a tea shop is sure to delight the senses.  Seeing gallon jars filled with tea leaves and herbs of all colors, shapes, and sizes instantly brings delight!  The fragrance of a multitude of tea leaves melds together to create a pungent, earthy smell.  And the taste buds are awakened with sips and samples of specialty teas that most dedicated tea shops offer.  It's fun to peruse the shelves of tea, making choices of this or that.  Chatting with the shopkeeper as they measure out an ounce or two of tea is interesting, as they usually have some point of interest to say about each selection.  Of course tea can be purchased by the pound as well, but with such a plethora of choices, I have a hard time settling for just one or two, preferring to try a dab of this or that.  Although it might seem easier to buy tea in a box or bag, loose leaf tea is preferable because the tea leaves are just that, bits of whole or broken leaves, rather than the tea leaf tidbits and powder that usually frequent a tea bag.  Sometimes the consumer is not sure "how" to create a perfect cup of tea from loose leaf tea (actual or herbal) and so they tend to choose the safe, familiar option of a tea bag.  In celebration of National Hot Tea Month, let's review the steps to making a perfect cup of tea!  A pot of perfect, loose leaf tea is easy to make and can be pure perfection.

You will need:
~ a teapot ~
~ a teakettle ~
~ a teaspoon ~
~ a tea strainer ~
~ and loose leaf tea ~

Start by emptying the tea kettle of water that may be sitting in it.  Fill with fresh, cool water and place on a heat source.  Bring the water to a gentle boil, removing from the heat just as a first rolling boil is achieved.  
While the water is coming to a boil, rinse a ceramic teapot with hot water from the sink.  This warms the teapot.  Then add 1 tsp. of tea (actual or herbal) for each cup of water to the teapot.  Add one extra teaspoon for good measure.  They call this "one for the pot". 

Pour the boiling water into the teapot and allow the tea leaves to brew for 4 - 6 minutes.  The smaller the tea leaf, the less time is required for brewing.  Then gently stir the tea.

Pour the tea through a strainer into individual teacups (or into a second teapot).  

Enjoy with a touch of lemon, a spoonful of sweetener, or a splash of your favorite kind of milk.

Take time to calmly enjoy a delicious cup of tea.  It's great, either alone or with a friend or family member.  Tea slows the pace of life for a few minutes and helps one focus on what is important in the day.

Photo:  Market Spice Shop at Pike Street Market.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Enjoying National Hot Tea Month

January is National Hot Tea Month!  Take the opportunity to enjoy fresh, hot tea every day in January, even if you are busy away from home.  Here are some tips to help make it happen!

Ten Ways to Enjoy Tea When Away from Home

1. take a thermos of hot water and tea bags with you in a tote

2. brew your favorite hot tea, then chill and place in a water bottle

3. keep a portable hot pot that plugs into a cigarette lighter and brew tea in your car

4. tuck a tea bag in your pocket and make tea at the convenience store by using their hot water dispense and hot beverage cups

5. stop at Starbucks or your favorite coffee shop and ask them to brew you a cup of black tea

6. learn about courtesy cups of tea available at places you visit (tire store; beauty shop; hardware store)

7. keep a hot pot by your desk at work and brew up a cup at a time

8. make a local tea room a part of your weekly routine; you can skip the food and go right for the hot cup of tea

9. cultivate friends who enjoy tea and stop by to visit them and share a cuppa

10. make a new friend; take a thermos of hot tea to a nursing home or retirement home and seek out someone who looks like they would enjoy chatting over a hot cup of tea

Enjoy National Hot Tea Month!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Joy Forever

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever;
Its loveliness increases:
it will never pass into nothingness;
but still will keep a bower quiet for us,
and a sleep full of sweet dreams,
and health, and quiet breathing."  

~ John Keats ~

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Whole Grain Bread

Fresh, fragrant whole wheat bread on a very chilly night is the essence of comfort food!  Slathered with butter (a healthy, vegan version is perfect), and served with a hot cup of Darjeeling, it is enough.  There's no need for jam, jelly, or peanut butter.  Just plain bread, butter, and a cup of tea is all it takes for a plain and delightful teatime snack, especially on a cold evening when you can eat it in front of a blazing fire.  
This is my favorite whole grain bread recipe.  Usually I bake it in a automatic bread machine, but sometimes it is nice to work the dough with one's hands and make it the old-fashioned way.  This evening I baked it in miniature loaf pans (an eight-place muffin tin with loaf-shaped holes).  These little loaves can be cut into miniature slices or eaten out of hand like a dinner roll.

Whole Grain Bread

2 1/2 tsp. fast rise yeast
3 cups whole wheat flour
(or 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
& 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour)
1/3 cup gluten flour (or up to 1/2 cup)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. honey
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup soy milk (or alternative)
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ascorbic acid
(or one crushed vitamin C tablet)

Place all ingredients in mixed (Kitchen Aid or Bosch).  Mix for ten minutes to develop the gluten.  Because each batch of flour has its own moisture content, you may need to adjust the amount of water in the recipe, adding up to 1/4 cup more water or milk.  Remove dough from mixture and allow to rest in a warm place until double in bulk.  Then, punch dough down and roll into a long, smooth roll.  Slice into eight sections.  Roll into mini-loaves and place in loaf tin.  Allow to rise again until double in size.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes.  Loaves are done when they sound hollow when tapped.  Remove from oven and brush with olive oil.  Remove from pans and allow to cool.

Rustic, wholesome, and delicious!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
All the best in 2011