Sunday, August 21, 2016

An Atmosphere of Beauty

"Children growing up in an atmosphere where beauty is considered an important part of daily life cannot help being inspired to develop their own original ideas in these areas, nor can they help being prepared to live aesthetically themselves. There is a 'togetherness' in sharing a prepared table that even very small children feel, although they cannot express it verbally." 

Edith Schaeffer

These are words that guided me on my homemaking journey at the beginning of my child rearing years. Mrs. Schaeffer speaks so eloquently when she writes; she creates word pictures of simple things that speak so profoundly to our souls. In another place she shares that every dinner table should have a centerpiece that is vibrant, interesting, and transitions with the seasons and experiences of life. Such a focal point provides family members with objects of nature and beauty to enjoy. Flowers, moss, rocks, shells, seed pods, and more can be gathered outdoors and be brought inside to make creative points of interest without added expense or fuss. Including children and grandchildren in the process might mean adding points of color found in small toys like Lego's, plastic figures, or miniature tea sets. An atmosphere where creativity is encouraged can inspire a child and set the stage for original ideas as they grow through life.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tea is Blue

Remembering a favorite song from my teen-age years as I share this vignette of favorite blue things.

Love is Blue

by Andy Williams

Blue, blue, my world is blue
Blue is my world since I'm without you
Gray, gray, my life is gray
Cold is my heart since you went away.

Red, red, my eyes are red
Crying for you alone in my bed
Green, green, my jealous heart
I doubted you and now we're apart.

When we met how the bright sun shone
Then love died, now the rainbow is gone.

Black, black, the nights I've known
Longing for you so lost and alone
Gone, gone, the love we knew
Blue is my world now I'm without you.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fragrance Extraordinaire

It's that time of year! Spring has erupted and the lilacs are in full bloom! I can see the row of lilac trees in the front yard, all abloom in several shades of purple. They were started from shoots taken from my in-laws home more than twenty years ago. They have thrived and ended up growing so tall that I could no longer reach the blossoms. Last year we decided to trim them to a manageable height, and although we were careful to trim at the right stage of their bloom cycle, I will admit to being somewhat fearful that we wouldn't have blossoms this year. But they are more abundant than ever! A walk down lilac row is filled with their fragrance. Extraordinary! Just wonderful. And with the gentle hum of bees as they work their magic among the blossoms. Someone is going to be fortunate to have some lilac honey in their hive! It's the little blessings, like lilacs, sweet fragrance, and beauty that make life happy and complete.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Spicy Vegetable Curry

Spicy Vegetable Curry

2 c. potatoes, cubed
1 c. cauliflower florets
1 large onion, slivered
1 c. carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium eggplant
4 Tbsp. oil
2 - 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
one 2-inch piece ginger, finely minced
2 Tbsp. green chilies
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2-3 Tbsp. curry powder
1 1/2 c. vegetable stock
3 c. canned tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2/3 c. coconut milk
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper 
salt to taste

1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, potato and cauliflower and cook gently for 3 - 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, green chilies, ginger and spices. Cook and stir for 1 minute.

2. Add stock, tomatoes, and eggplant and season with salt. Cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

3. Mix cornstarch and cold coconut milk together until smooth and stir into mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve hot with Basmati or Saffron steamed rice.

Yield: 18 half-cup servings

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Vegetable Stir Fry

1 lb. firm tofu
3 teaspoons McKay's Chicken-like seasoning
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced thin
3 stalks celery, sliced thin at an angle
2 medium carrots, sliced thin at an angle
1 medium green or red pepper, sliced in thin strips
2 cups broccoli florets
3 - 4 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup lightly toasted cashews or slivered almonds
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger root


1/4 cup soy sauce or Tamari
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 1/2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup water

Drain tofu, rinse and squeeze out excess water. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Place tofu in large non-stick skillet, add chicken seasoning and mix to coat. Saute until tofu is browned, adding oil as necessary. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

To make sauce, dissolve cornstarch in soy sauce in a small bowl. Add rest of ingredients and stir to mix.

Have all vegetables chopped and ready before proceeding with cooking.

heat a small amount of oil over medium-high heat in large wok, skillet or saucepan. Add vegetables in following order, sauteing briefly (1 - 2 minutes) between each addition:  1) onions, 2) celery and carrots, 3) green or red peppers, 4) broccoli. When broccoli has turned bright green and is still crunchy, add tofu and stir fry sauce.  Cook, stirring constantly until sauce thickens and vegetables are crisp tender. Add cashews or almonds, ginger and green onions. Serve over cooked rice, couscous or Oriental noodles.

Variation: Substitute a frozen Oriental vegetable mix for fresh vegetables. Add water chestnuts, fresh or canned bean sprouts, or very vegetables as desired.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Corn Tamale Pie

Savory tofu mixed with vegetables and topped with a cornbread topping. Yum. It can't get much better than that!

1 lb. firm tofu, frozen, thawed, squeezed dry and cubed
1 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce or Tamari
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix together soy sauce, peanut butter, onion and garlic powder. Work mixture into tofu until well coated. Fry in non-stick skillet until tofu is browned, adding oil as needed to prevent sticking.

Vegetable Mixture:

1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon chill powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
1 cup sliced black olives
2 cups frozen or canned whole kernel corn
1 15-oz. can chili beans with liquid
1 4-oz. can green chilies

In a large non-stick skillet, saute onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a small amount of oil until soft. Add chili powder, oregano, and cuming. Saute briefly. Mix in rest of ingredients and browned tofu. Pour into a 9 X 13 inch oiled baking dish. Cover with cornbread topping.

Bake in preheated 350 degrees oven for 30 - 35 minutes or until cornbread is golden.

Cornbread Topping

Mix together in a bowl:

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup unbleached flour (or gluten free alternative)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir in:

1 cup soymilk or milk
2 Tablespoons oil
1 Tablespoon honey

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Creamy Tofu Garlic Dip

Fresh herbs, mustard, and creamy tofu create a delight for the taste buds.

8 oz. soft tofu, drained
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon)
2 teaspoons minced fresh chives or green onions
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoons stone-ground prepared mustard
Salt to taste

In a food processor or blender, puree' tofu. Pour into a small bowl and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Serve at room temperature as a dip or spread, with crackers or vegetables. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

As with just about anything made with tofu, dips taste better after having been refrigerated several hours or overnight, giving the flavors a chance to meld.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Cream Cheese & Tofu Dip

A creamy dip to serve with raw vegetables or homemade crackers or chips. Enjoy!

3/4 cup soft tofu (6 oz.), well drained
1/2 cup light cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese (4 oz.) or Tofutti
1/2 teaspoon herb-and-spice seasoning blend
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1 green onion, minced

In food processor, combine all ingredients and process until smooth. Transfer to serving bowl and serve, or cover and refrigerate until needed.

*For a vegan version, substitute Tofutti for the cream cheese in this recipe.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Zucchini Frittata

Abundant in vegetables, the tofu base and tomato topping make this the perfect addition to any brunch or lunch table.

Saute' lightly until tender-crisp:

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thin
4 medium zucchini, sliced thin
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced

In a separate bowl, mix together well:

3/4 lb. tofu, blended
1/2 cup tofu, mashed
1 Tablespoons soy sauce/tamari
3/4 cup flour (or gluten free alternative)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Prehead oven to 350 degrees F. Stir the sauteed vegetables into the tofu mixture. Scoop out 1/3 cupfuls of mix onto a sprayed baking sheet. Lightly flatten into circles. Bake for 15 minutes on one side, flip and bake 15 minutes more, or until golden brown. Serve over wide flat noodles or garlic and parsley fettuccine topped with tomato sauce.

Tomato Sauce Topping:

1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 Tablespoons parsley, chopped

Mix all ingredients together in small saucepan. Simmer 15 - 20 minutes. Spread over frittatas.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Cashew Cream for Scones

Those with an affection for afternoon tea delight in the creamy flavor and texture of clotted cream. This is a special, thick cream that's made by processing full-cream cows milk in a steam or water bath and then placing it into small pans where it forms clots as it cools slowly. It is served with scones, much to the delight of the the taster. Aunt Marcella enthusiastically comments on the subject whenever we share afternoon tea together. For nearly 30 years she would take an annual two-week summer holiday to the United Kingdom, planning the journey and schedule to include afternoon tea in Bed & Breakfast hostels across the countryside. Descriptions of puffy scones and large jars of clotted cream, so thick that a spoon stood straight up when set in it, delighted all of us in America as we marveled at such a creamy delight and wished to try something that seemed such perfection. Eventually, small jars of clotted cream have been found available in tea rooms and specialty shops. But for a premium price! Although this is near and dear to Aunt Marcella's memory, the jarred creams still don't meet the standard of her seasoned tongue. But something close is better than none.

For those who cannot easily obtain jarred clotted cream, vegans (or those intolerant to dairy), or the health minded, other options are welcome. Although most alternatives are not equivalent substitutions, they can be just as delicious by their own right. Dairy cream is known for its high fat content and for the role it plays in raising cholesterol. Weight gain and heart disease can result from liberal use of high fat dairy products. Alternatively, non-dairy toppings can be free of saturated fats and can actually assist in healthy body weight and reduced risk of heart disease. A study reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that women who ate one to two tablespoons of nuts or nut butter daily (peanuts, almonds, or cashews) weighed four pounds less and had waistlines an inch smaller than those who did not eat them. Nuts activate the metabolism. They also add protein and fiber to one's diet, making them feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time. So, what does this have to do with cream? Nuts and nut butters make delicious creamy topping! Here's my family's favorite cashew cream recipe (below):

Cashew Cream

14 oz. soft tofu, organic
1 cup raw cashews, washed
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. stevia
1 tsp. vanilla
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbs. agave syrup, organic

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Whiz until smooth and creamy. Pour immediately into a small pitcher or serving container. For a varied flavor, add a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

This makes a creamy, thick topping can can be poured over fruit or scones for tea. For a thicker topping, stir in some instant sure jel. This recipe will thicken over time as well.

Spaghetti Primavera

This is a dairy free version of Spaghetti Primavera. The secret? The cashews that make the sauce so creamy and smooth. I hope you enjoy it.

1 lb. firm tofu, cut into 2" x 1/8" pieces
3 - 4 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
4 cups broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups peas (fresh or frozen)

1/2 cup raw cashews
2 cups water
1/4 cup unbleached flour (or gluten free alternative)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion npowder
1 tsp. salt

Spaghetti noodles, cooked

Marinate the tofu pieces for 2 hours in mixture of soy sauce and oil. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the marinated tofu pieces lightly in the leftover marinade, adding more oil as necessary to keep from sticking. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat a small amount of oil. Add onions and mushrooms and saute' untl onions are soft and mushrooms are browned. Add broccoli and peas with a small amount of water to keep from sticking and steam until almost tender.

While vegetables are cooking, combine 1/2 cup cashews and 1 cup water in blender. Blend thoroughly until very smooth. Add remaining water and other ingredients and blend to mix.

Add blended sauce and cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring often. Stir in tofu pieces and serve hot over spaghetti noodles (or zucchini noodles).

Friday, April 01, 2016

Fresh Noodles Lo Mein

Fresh and light, this recipe is sure to please your crowd. Easy-peasy, since it uses frozen vegetables, it saves on chopping.

1 Tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 lb. firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 1" cubes
6 cups grated fresh ginger root
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
3 Tablespoons bottled teriyaki sauce or soy sauce/tamari
1 large clove garlic, minced
9 or 10-oz. frozen Oriental-style vegetables, unthawed
1 small onion, sliced lengthwise
2 scallions, finely chopped

Heat sesame oil and soy sauce in a skillet over medium-high heat and saute tofu until golden on all sides. Moisture should be cooked out.

In a large stock pot, bring bouillon or broth powder and water to a boil. Add ginger, red pepper, teriyaki sauce, garlic and linguine. Simmer 2 minutes.

Stir in browned tofu, frozen vegetables and onion; return to a boil and simmer two minutes more. Stir in sliced scallions and serve.

Makes six servings.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Did you know that mushroom soup doesn't have to come from a can? Here's a simple recipe that you may want to try.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 cups milk (cashews, soy, or dairy)
2 Tablespoons unbleached white flour (or gluten free alternative)
1 1/2 teaspoons chicken-style seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dry parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 4-oz. can mushrooms with liquid

Place milk and seasonings in blender. Blend until smooth. Add mushrooms and blend briefly until mushrooms are chopped. Pour into saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until thickened.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tofu Enchiladas with Mushroom Sauce

Tofu is a product that seasons beautifully. Although it is somewhat tasteless plain, it fancies up nicely with the addition of herbs and spices. Here it is used to create a Mexican enchilada dish. I think you'll like it!

Tofu Enchiladas

1 lb firm tofu, frozen, thawed, squeezed dry and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 4-oz. can mushrooms, chopped
1 can olives, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups grated cheddar cheese or soy cheese (optional)
Corn Tortillas

1 cup plain yogurt or low-fat sour cream or Tofutti vegan cream cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup or soup recipe below
Pinch garlic powder
1 small can chopped green chilies

In a large non-stick skillet, saute onions, tofu, soy sauce and cumin together in a small amount of oil until onions are transparent and tofu is browned. Add mushrooms and olives, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a medium bowl,  mix together all the ingredients for the sauce. Dilute with water to reach consistency for sauce.

Cover the bottom of a 9 X 13 inch sprayed casserole dish with a thin layer of sauce. Put tofu mix and cheese on tortilla and roll up. Place seam side down in casserole dish and repeat until filling is used up. Pour rest of sauce over the top of rolled tortillas. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 - 30 minutes. May sprinkler cheese or olives on top.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 cups milk (cashews, soy, or dairy)
2 Tablespoons unbleached white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons chicken-style seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dry parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 4-oz. can mushrooms with liquid

Place milk and seasonings in blender. Blend until smooth. Add mushrooms and blend briefly until mushrooms are chopped. Pour into saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until thickened.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sour Cream Mushroom Sauce

Yesterday I posted a recipe for Pecan Balls with Apricot Sauce. The recipe I'm sharing today is for Sour Cream Mushroom Sauce. It can be used to cover the Pecan Balls instead of the Apricot Sauce. It can also be used in potato or pasta dishes.

Sour Cream Mushroom Sauce
Serves 10

1 teaspoon oil
1 - 2 chopped green onions
1 crushed garlic clove
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2/3 cup sour cream (soy)
1/2 11 ounce can cream of mushroom soup

Saute onions in oil until they are transparent and soft. Add the garlic and continue to saute 1 minute more.

Add the soy sauce, sour cream, and mushroom soup. Heat through. Pour over nut balls (or food you'll be serving this with).

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Tea Ladies

The Tea Ladies

Pecan Balls with Apricot Sauce

This is a delicious savory recipe that creates a delightful main dish for a festive meal. The apricot sauce adds a bit of "sweet" to the dinner table for variety and your enjoyment.

Pecan Balls
Makes 10 servings

1 1/4 cups cracker crumbs
3/4 cup ground pecans or pecan meal
1/2 tsp. salt
1 finely chopped onion, small
1 1/2 tsp. sage
3/4 cup grated longhorn or mild cheddar cheese (soy)
2 pressed garlic cloves
3 Tablespoons minced parsley, fresh
4 eggs

Mix all ingredients. Form into walnut sized balls.

Pour apricot sauce over meatballs (recipe to follow). 

Bake in a covered casserole at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes.

The pecan balls may be made ahead and frozen. Freeze uncooked balls at least 2 - 3 hours on cookie sheet. When ready to bake, place in baking dish and bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees F. Then pour sauce over nut balls. Return to oven and bake covered at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Apricot Barbecue Sauce
10 servings

1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar or lemon juice
3/4 cup apricot jam
1/2 cup catsup
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons grated onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Dash hot pepper sauce
Handful of raisins

It is suggested that the raisins be cooked separately and added at the last minute or cooking time as they may sink to the bottom and stick, causing them to burn. Raisins may be omitted from recipe.

Mix all ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Pour over nut balls and bake.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Walla Walla Sweet Onion Ice Cream

I love unusual recipes. Like this one! Who'da thought that onions could make delicious ice cream? I dare you to try it.

Walla Walla Sweet Onion Ice Cream

1 cup milk
1 cup sugar

heat milk to where bubbles form on the edge of the pan. Stir in sugar until dissolved. Cool.

Add 4 pints whipping cream
2 cups finely shredded Walla Walla Sweet Onions
2 teaspoons vanilla

Chill in ice cream freezer. It is ready to serve in about 30 minutes.

Serve with shortbread or caramel topping.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Slavic Sunday Morning: Friendly Village

By Aunt Cella
Origionally written 1969

It seemed the roar of Saturday night's revelry (noisy, drunken brawlers in the streets that expanded into our quaint hotel) only barely exceeded the roar of Sunday morning's market carts, and the latter took up just about where the former left off.  Those rubber-tire-less wagons came wheeling into town loaded with produce and people, with a rumbling calculated to wake the dead, hurrying to nab a prime spot on the market place on which to sell their home grown goods. Peeking out the grimy window, we nervously accessed the risks in this new invasion.  Wearily, we gave ourselves up to it, got dressed and hit the street with the marketers about 6 am, or just in time for a good frost bite. Enter here a gnarled little old lady-hen, who took me under her kindly wing and together we clucked about the booths, watching the market grow from an early dawn trickle to a rushing river by 9 a.m.  She introduced me to her sister-in-law, who was presiding over her large basin of juicy, homemade sauerkraut.  I also met lots of other farmer ladies dressed in long skirts, aprons, and head scarves.  Clothes seemed to come in two colors; dark and darker, and life in 2 speeds; slow, and as the English say, dead slow.  We finally found a man who was willing to take our picture together near the sauerkraut.  No easy task, since the men here knew nothing about cameras and simply backed off in panic when approached.  Mike, who exercises every day, come riots or wagons, even when traveling, left the market to me, and started south on a 20 mile jogging workout, headed for Sarajevo.This was to take him about 2 and a half hours, and after settling on route, time, and meeting place, I had spare time enough to kick up some excitement among the wagons.  Good grief, hadn't I had enough of that all through the long night? No trouble this time, actually, just lots of fun, as I helped myself to liberal servings of that local market.  Mike gobbled the unique cultural scene with his eyes, while jogging slowly south to the rendezvous spot.  Later as I started down the Sarajevo road to catch that runner, I also wolfed large and nearly indigestible portions of that same 19th century scenery.  My excitement had reached a fever pitch by the time I caught him and I think his had too.  "Sheep, oxen, wells, mosques, geese, drying  red paprika's, Turks, thatched roofs..........."  It all came tumbling out at once.  What a country, such villages, what farmyards, what rustic landscapes with old ladies minding the geese by a pond with staff in hand.  Having less than two years in these heady foreign climes, we were pop-eyed, excited and excitable "babes in toy land", or perhaps children in Mother Goose land. We couldn't have known it then, but much was yet to come.  In succeeding revisits, Yugoslavia unfolded its magnificent entirety to us, converting that early scepticism into a robust pro Yugoslavian friendship. She quietly wove her lovely silken web around us with snow-capped mountains, superb Adriatic coastline, green fields, blue lakes, Renaissance bell towers, fields of storks, forgotten mountain valleys sauntering along in the 17th century, and a warm and lovely people. Yep, we're captured and this Slavic Sunday was a startling, and implausible opening to a very long lasting love affair.

My Favorite Tea Story

by Aunt Cella, posted by permission
Originally written October, 1969

A true story

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 copperware 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 Devon shire 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.

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. . .

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...!

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?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Walla Walla Sweet Onion Tarts

Spring is here! It's the time of daffodils, Easter eggs, lawns turning green, and planting gardens. It's a little early to plant very many things outside, but peas and Walla Walla Sweet Onion starts are hearty enough to withstand a bit of frost as the weeks go by. If you live in the valley, sets of onion starts can be found at any nursery and in most supermarket garden centers. It's possible to grow them "nearly" as sweet and delicious as the pros; the Italian sweet onion farmers who plant and bag Walla Walla Sweet Onions in abundance. Have you ever eaten an onion like an apple? If not, it's likely you've never tried a genuine Walla Walla Sweet.

I was going through one of my mother's recipe boxes a few days ago and found this delightful recipe. With spring here, it seems a perfect time to share! I hope you enjoy!

Walla Walla Sweet Onion Tart

1 cup butter
2 - 3 oz. packages cream cheese
2 cups all purpose flour, white

Combine ingredients and blend well. Then divide the doub into 48 equal balls. Press dough into 2" sections of ungreased, nonstick muffin tins. Work the dough up the sides of the tin to the rim. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Then cream together:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten lightly
2 cups Walla Walla Sweet Onions, diced
2 tsp. vanilla

Cream together butter and sugar. Add remaining ingredients. Fill tart shells to the rim. Bake from 30 - 40 minutes (check until golden brown). Cool completely before removing from muffin tin.

Serve as a "sweet" for afternoon tea. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Tea-Soaked Raisin Tea Brack

Ireland is known for their wonderful tea breads. Sometimes we call them tea cakes. Whatever the name, they are delicious and perfect to accompany a cup of tea. This recipe for tea-soaked raisin bread is called Irish Tea Brack. The Irish word 'breac' means speckled. So, you can just imagine what this delicious tea bread must look like! It's a simple and quick recipe, as long as you remember to start your raisins soaking the night before. Serve with butter and jam.

Tea-Soaked Raisin Tea Brack

1 1/2 cup raisins

1 cup brewed tea, strong and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg or 1 vegan egg substitute
Rolled oats

Brew one cup of tea. Pour over raisins in a bowl. Cover and place in refrigerator for 8 - 10 hours.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir together until well mixed. Then, create a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in the egg, raisins, and tea. Stir until just combined. Then, pour into a loaf pan that has been buttered and dusted with flour. Sprinkle rolled oats on the top of the loaf. 

Place loaf in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees. Bake until the top is browned, about 1 1/2 hours. When done, cool slightly and remove from loaf pan and allow to complete cooling on a wire rack.