New Year’s Tea 2014

Last year, I hosted a New Year’s Tea party for my friends, A., N., and S.  Collectively, we are the 4 Musketeers, among other things …  Our first New Year’s Tea was such a success that we decided to make it an annual tradition.

new year

You are invited to a New Year’s Tea!

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Bird of paradise napkin fold

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White beans bring good fortune and greens, good wealth!

White beans bring good fortune and greens, good wealth!

 Tuscan white bean soup with kale
(from the kitchen of N.)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
2 medium carrots, finely diced (about 1 cup)
2 ribs celery, finely diced (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 quart chicken broth
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans (cannellini or great northern), with their liquid
4 6-inch sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped and stems reserved
1 (3-4 inch) chunk parmesan rind (optional)
2 bay leaves
3 to 4 cups roughly chopped kale or Swiss chard leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and dried red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken broth, beans and their liquid, rosemary stems, Parmesan rind, and bay leaves. Increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a bare simmer, add kale, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Discard the bay leaves and rosemary stems. Use a hand blender to roughly puree part of the beans until desired consistency is reached. Alternatively, transfer 2 cups of soup to a blender or food processor and process until smooth (start on low speed and increase to high to prevent blender blow-out). Return to the soup and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with reserved chopped rosemary leaves, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and a grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve with crusty toasted bread.

DSC02919 (Small)I served 3 teas: Jasmine pearls (green), passionfruit black tea, and hazelnut chocolate truffle (black).

Curried egg salad croissant and cucumber cream cheese by A.

Curried egg salad croissant and cucumber cream cheese by A.

Red pepper pinwheels (Round and round, we (will not) go!)

Red pepper pinwheels (Round and round, we (will not) go!)

Left to right, clockwise from top: Curried egg salad croissant, Red pepper pinwheel, Gourmet sourdough grilled cheese (English farmhouse white cheddar with black truffles), Cucumber cream cheese

Left to right, clockwise from top: Curried egg salad croissant, Red pepper pinwheel, Gourmet sourdough grilled cheese (English farmhouse white cheddar with black truffles), Cucumber cream cheese

To usher in a sweet and uplifting year …

Blueberry scones by Henni

Blueberry scones by Henni

Even though it’s an integral part of afternoon tea, I decided to forgo the fruit course to make things easier for myself.  As a compromise, I combined the fruit and scones courses by making blueberry scones.  Sometimes it’s better to go with simple rather than perfection.

Mock Devonshire cream, Lingonberry jam, and vegan lemon curd

Mock Devonshire cream, Lingonberry jam, and vegan lemon curd

Lemon bars by S. (out-of-this-world good!)

Lemon bars by S. (out-of-this-world good!)

I have always liked lemon bars … the idea of them, the taste, and presentation … but I have never truly liked any of the lemon bars I’ve ever tasted, including my own.  I don’t even have a standard for what a good lemon bar should be.  But, stop the presses!  I have finally encountered the perfect lemon bar!  I officially proclaim S. to be the Queen of Lemon Bars!  Her lemon bars were out-of-this-world delicious!  Not too tart, not too sweet, and the texture was, in a word, sublime!  First of all, you can see that these are even shaped like lemon bars.  Not lemon squares, but lemon BARS.  These were bars of gold as far as I’m concerned!  🙂  I’m not sure how it was possible for that soft creamy lemony custard to sit atop a thick crisp crumbly shortbread crust (which was a work of art in itself) without falling apart.  The powdered sugar was the perfect amount of sweet to counterbalance the tart.  I shamelessly ate 2 bars in one sitting and still dream about them … 🙂  Long live S., Queen of the Lemon Bars!

Teapot sugar cookies with passionfruit black tea

Henni’s teapot shaped sugar cookies with passionfruit black tea (ending on a sweet note!)

We ended our tea party on a sweet note, sharing our aspirations, hopes, and goals for the new year (see list below).  We learned a lot from each other and as a result, we are now ready to tackle the new year. 🙂

What a year it’s been!  Highlights from 2013
Favorite new food: ____________________________________
Favorite activity: ______________________________________
Favorite book: ________________________________________
Favorite movie: _______________________________________
Greatest lesson learned: _______________________________
Hardest thing I had to do: _______________________________
Favorite memory: _____________________________________
What I love most about 2013: _________________________­__

Looking forward to 2014
What I want to learn: __________________________________
What I want to get better at: ____________________________
Biggest goal: ________________________________________

Happy new year!

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”

— Melody Beattie
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