Over the Rainbow Tea

Today is the 78th year anniversary of the film, The Wizard of Oz.  Since its release on August 25, 1939, The Wizard of Oz has been viewed by more people than any other movie.  Nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1940, it got edged out by Gone with the wind in one of the toughest Best Picture races in Oscar history!

Last weekend, Lady MH hosted her Over the Rainbow Tea for the Victorian Tea Society’s summer tea, paying tribute to this beloved film based on the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)!

A motley cast of characters (Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Wicked Witch Elphaba, a munchkin, Glinda the Good Witch, and the Mayor of Munchkin City) arrived to find Lady MH’s humble abode transformed into the magical Land of Oz!  She left no detail unturned.

Click photos to enlarge

Lady J. pointed out that there is a real Land of Oz in Valley Center, CA with streets called Emerald City Dr., The Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy Lane, and Wizard Way!  There is even a Camino de Oro (Golden road).  No … Lady MH does not live here!

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Emerald City green salad by Lady K

“It’s a twister!  It’s a twister!”

Mini twister chicken salad sandwiches by Lady MH (like the tornado stuffed croissants?)

Wicked cucumber sand-witches by Lady SL

Follow the yellow brick road …

“Oh, dear! Oh, dear!” cried Dorothy, clasping her hands together in dismay. “The house must have fallen on her. Whatever shall we do?”

Petite twice baked “house” potatoes by Lady Henni

Petite twice baked “house” potatoes
(From the Kitchen of Lady Henni)
Serves 8

8 petite potatoes
2 Tbsp. cream cheese
1 Tbsp. Parmesan Cheese
1/4 tsp. pepper
Few leaves of kale
Salt, to taste

Bake or boil the potatoes until a fork easily pierces the flesh.  Add the kale leaves to the potatoes just until wilted.  Drain potatoes and kale.

If the potatoes are small, make a V-cut into the tops of the potatoes and remove the cut potato.  If the potatoes are a little big, cut them in half.  Using a teaspoon, scoop out the potato to create a “bowl” and reserve to make mashed potatoes.

Season the mashed potatoes with cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, pepper, and salt to taste.  Add more cream cheese or water/milk as needed to get desired consistency.  Fill the potato “bowls” with the mashed potato using a piping bag or spoon.  Reheat or bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 mins. until tops are browned and potato is heated through.

Wizard of Oz mushroom delight by Lady SH

Wizard of Oz mushroom delight
(from the Kitchen of Lady SH)
Serves 8

1 1/2 lbs. white button mushrooms
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. white miso
Chopped parsley, thyme, and basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix butter, olive oil, and white miso together and toss mushrooms in the mixture until coated.  Roast the mushrooms at 425 degrees for 1/2 hr. until the juices run.  Garnish mushrooms with the chopped herbs.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately, or at room temperature.

Rainbow fresh fruit cup by Lady J.

Lemon curd, cream, and scones, Oh my!

“We must be over the rainbow!  Now I … know we’re not in Kansas anymore!”

“Over the rainbow” surprise dessert by Lady KM.  I love this complete themed dessert!  Follow the yellow brick lemon bar, over the rainbow cake, to the Emerald City cookie.

Lady KM is the talent behind this impressive rainbow jelly roll cake.  These bright colors were achieved using gel food coloring or Wilton icing gels that were mixed into separate batches of cake batter.

Custom shortbread cookie by Penny’s Custom Cookies

Afternoon tea charms!  Hostess gift from Lady ML

Red slipper yoga socks! Hostess gift from Lady Henni









Thank you Lady MH for hosting an enchanting afternoon!  I enjoyed my journey to the Land of Oz with the whole gang and hope our paths cross again very soon … (will there be a sequel?!).

My favorite quotation is (of course) …

Hostess gift from Lady KM

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Rise of the humanists

I have been fascinated by the Italian Renaissance for as long as I can remember.  So much so that I feel I must have lived a previous life during the Renaissance.  Though the Renaissance was not by any means all moonlight and roses, I love the food, art, philosophy, architecture, music, history, and ideas that came out of this period in history.  I finally visited Italy for the first time last year and it was a dream come true–it was everything I thought it would be, AND more!  Everywhere I turned, history came alive for me and I may as well have stepped back in time.  I was moonstruck in Firenze, feeling giddy knowing I walked the same streets once traversed by the Medici Family, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Because of my interest and lifelong interest in the Italian Renaissance and my love for culinary history, I decided to host an Italian Renaissance afternoon tea for the Victorian Tea Society.


As the hostess for this tea, I faced many challenges.  The last-minute challenges I faced were timing and conversation, due to recent current events.  Conversation and friendship are the most important components of a tea party and even our society guidelines gives suggestions for the hostess’ role in this regard quite clearly:

Art of Conversation/Sharing: Members to let hostess know in advance if they have something to share/discuss, keeping conversations on a pleasant and positive note. Any time a member or guest brings up an unpleasant topic (i.e., politics, religion, personal problems, negative issues, etc.), it will be up to the hostess to direct the conversation back to more pleasant topics.

Normally, this is not a problem with our group but hosting a tea fresh on the heels of the most derisive and divisive presidential election in our nation’s history, the topic of politics assuredly weighed heavily on everyone’s minds.  How could I steer our conversation away from the events of the past week?1112161009a-small

As soon as all my guests arrived, I announced that we would not discuss politics for the next 3 hours and concentrate only on “pleasant conversation”!  Since the theme of the tea was the Italian Renaissance, I took the liberty to explain that one of the reasons I loved the Renaissance was the rise of humanist thought.  Humanism started in Italy with thinkers like Petrarch, Machiavelli, Cosimo de Medici and then spread across Western Europe in the 14th-16th centuries.  Renaissance humanists believed that by studying the classics and humanities, they could better understand people and the world.  Secular and human interests became more prominent during this period, creating a new consciousness that promoted the virtues of intellectual freedom and individual expression which influenced everything from art, food, music, literature, law, and philosophy to politics.  Humanism was important because it bridged the gap between medieval religious dogma/superstition and the modern scientific method and critical thinking (rationalism).  As the hostess, I urged and invited my guests to embrace and embody the spirit of the Renaissance humanists, to learn from our history, and strive to become better human beings!  And we would do this one Tea at a time! 🙂

Putting aside my last-minute challenges, my main challenge was to organize an afternoon tea around a theme that was not tea friendly or conducive to tea foods.  I wanted to preserve the look, feel, and tastes of afternoon tea without compromising my theme.  In the end, I got inspiration from the Renaissance master himself, Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”1112161010-small

So the table would not look too empty, I made a simple centerpiece using candles with medieval designs (although they could pass for Renaissance) surrounded by rosemary branches, tangerines (during the Renaissance, these would have been bitter oranges), and pomegranates, ingredients heavily featured in Italian Renaissance cooking.


Table centerpiece

I served the food as a Renaissance feast so I didn’t use tea caddies for this tea party but I did enlist a co-hostess to help me serve the food (Thanks Lady S.!).  This worked out well to help promote conversation across the table which is sometimes difficult with tea caddies in the way.

I also made simple placecards which were perched on cupcake pedestals.

1112161009-small-2For the tea favors, I wrapped bottles of flavored olive oil and balsamic vinegar in paper that resembled Italian majolica, tin-glazed ceramics.  The tin glaze created a white opaque surface that was ideal for painting and gave majolica its characteristic luster and bright colors.  It was also non-porous making it ideal for storing liquids and for use as apothecary jars.  Majolica was first developed in the 14th century with production peaking during the Renaissance and dwindling by the 18th century.

I had a lot of fun creating the menu and researching Renaissance food and cooking.  I wanted to create a vegetarian menu that was as authentic as possible while upholding the idea of an afternoon tea.


Erratum: The last dolci should be ricciarelli, not riciarelli.

I served 3 different teas, 2 hot teas and 1 iced tea.  I bought the first 2 teas at the wonderful Oronero tea shop in Firenze.  The first teas, Il Sogno di Michelangelo (The dream of Michelangelo), is an oolong tea with pinenuts, raisins, cornflower, sunflower petals, and safflower.  The second tea, Palazzo Belfiore, was blended specially for a 15th century residence, now a guest apartment, with the same name.  It’s a blend of two types of blacks teas (China and Ceylon), with notes of pomegranate, orange peel, safflower, and chocolate.  The third and final tea was an iced tea, Persian melon white, from the St. James Tearoom.  Though it’s not an Italian tea, I chose it to give a nod to Marco Polo and other merchants/traders/explorers of the Renaissance period who, I imagine, must have introduced exotic fruits like Casaba melon to Europe.  The Palazzo Belfiore was, hands-down, everyone’s favorite tea of the day.

The first course was Ribollita, a famous Tuscan bread soup dating from the Middle Ages, when servants collected trenchers of uneaten bread for boiling in their own dinners.  It is a hearty soup containing stale bread, cannellini beans, and vegetables.  Tomatoes were not used in Renaissance cookery but this soup is so delicious that I wanted to share it.  My friend S. originally turned me onto Ribollita at a previous New Year’s tea and it’s become a favorite in our winter rotation.  Leave out the bacon for a vegetarian/vegan version.



Tramezzini are triangular-shaped Venetian tea sandwiches with fillings such as tuna, proscuitto/ham, asparagus, and hard-boiled eggs.  Though they are not a Renaissance food, they utilize ingredients from the period and were invented as an alternative to English tea sandwiches.  Usually eaten as a snack or for lunch, most tramezzini have some kind of meat in it but we made 2 vegetarian versions that pleased everyone: Paprika egg salad, arugula, and edamame (substituted for fava beans) and polenta crostini with mushrooms.

Polenta crostini with mushrooms and Paprika egg salad with edamame and arugula

Polenta crostini with mushrooms by Lady K. and Paprika egg salad with “fava beans” and arugula by Lady ML

Meat, cheese, and egg pies or tarts were popular during the Renaissance.  Spinach and herbs such as parsley, fennel, chervil, and ginger often appear in Renaissance recipes for egg pie.  Lady B. served a delicious spinach and herb quiche (egg pie).

Spinach and herb quiche

Spinach and herb quiche by Lady B.

Panzanella salad is another recipe dating from the Middle Ages that makes use of stale bread.  There are many recipes for Panzanella salad but leave out the tomatoes for authenticity.  To learn about the origins of Panzanella salad, I refer you to Emiko Davies’ post on Bronzino’s Panzanella.  Lady J. based her recipe on Davies’ suggestions.

Of all the dishes for the tea, the one that I was most excited about was the Spiced walnut linguine.  It’s a pasta dish that can include any combination of popular spices from the Renaissance period such as cloves, nutmeg, saffron, cinnamon, allspice, coriander, and pepper and epitomizes the sweet-savory taste that is so characteristic of Renaissance cookery.  Lady MH added some Parmesan cheese which contributed to the savory aspect of the dish.  She also presented the pasta beautifully on mini ceramic plates which added to the Renaissance feel since Renaissance food was not very colorful, comprised mainly of neutral tones.  I really enjoyed this dish and can’t wait to try making it myself!

I love savory scones and this tea was the perfect opportunity to incorporate it.  Since I didn’t have much time to put this tea together, doing less was ideal.  In this case, we didn’t have to make scone condiments to go with the scones. The idea for these scones were inspired by the cheese & sundried tomato scones I once enjoyed at Avoca cafe in Dublin, Ireland but I couldn’t find the recipe and came across Feta, olive, and sundried tomato scones instead which were just as delicious!


Feta, olive, and sundried tomato scones by Lady T.

Biancomangiare, “white dish,” originated during the Middle Ages, perhaps with the Arab introduction of rice and almonds to Europe.  Variations of the dish existed across early modern Europe (French blancmange, Turkish tavuk göğsü, Spanish manjar blanco, Danish hwit moos, etc.).  I highly recommend checking out Emiko Davies’ beautiful blog post about The art of Renaissance comfort food, if you would like to learn more about the origins of biancomangiare.  The biancomangiare I chose to serve at my tea is a vegan version based on various recipes for “Sicilian white pudding,” touted as the most traditional and famous white food in Italy.


Biancomangiare by Lady H.

(adapted from various recipes online)

4 c. unsweetened almond milk (store-bought or homemade)
6 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. rosewater or orange blossom water

Mix 1 /2 c. almond milk with 6 Tbsp. cornstarch to make a slurry and set aside.  Put remaining 3 1/2 c. milk, sugar, cinnamon stick, and rosewater in a pot and heat to just under a boil.  Add the cornstarch slurry and heat just until thickened (until mixture coats the back of a spoon).  Pour the mixture into individual cups or one big pan.  Chill at least one hour until firm like pudding.  Garnish with chopped pistachios, pomegranate seeds, ground cinnamon, organic edible rose petals, mint leaves, unsweetened cocoa, etc.


Ricciarelli (almond cookies) by Lady S.

Ricciarelli is a traditional Italian cookie made with almonds that originated in 14th century Siena.  They are chewy, light, and crisp at the same time, similar to a French macaron but better!  Everyone went crazy for these cookies!  Fortunately for us, Lady S. made 2 batches! 🙂  And Lady MH declared Lady S. her new best friend!  Yes, these cookies are quite enchanting indeed.

Ricciarelli (almond cookies)

(Recipe from Fearless Fresh)

3 c. fine almond flour (NOT almond meal)
1 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 egg whites
2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. lemon zest

Combine the almond flour, granulated sugar, 1 cup of the powdered sugar, the baking powder, and the salt in a bowl.

In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites into soft peaks. Fold in the almond extract, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and almond-flour mixture. Stir until completely combined.

Use a tablespoon to scoop out a large ball of cookie dough. Roll the dough into a ball in your hands, then use the bottom of a glass to gently smash the cookie into a disk about ½-inch thick. Roll in the remaining powdered sugar and set on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Let sit, uncovered, on the counter for about 45 minutes, or until the surfaces dry out just a touch. Preheat the oven to 250°F (121°C).

Place the cookies into the preheated oven and bake for 22 to 27 minutes, until they are golden brown around the edges.

Cool completely on a cooling rack, then store in an airtight container for up to a week.

And last but not least, a tea fashion show to illustrate how creative everyone was with their tea attire!  Hair garlands, crocheted snood, hair bands, Renaissance style dress, and a dress with constellations, a tribute to Galileo.

Thank you ladies, for a wonderful and memorable afternoon!  The food was delicious and I couldn’t have asked for better company.  It was definitely one for the ages! 😉

Instead of ending my post with a quotation about tea, I’m going to end with some prudent words from my favorite Italian Renaissance masters, to remind us of our humanist duty to think for ourselves, continue to learn, and not blindly accept the dogma of the day.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

There are three classes of people: Those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see.”
Leonardo da Vinci

“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.”
Galilei Galileo

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
Leonardo da Vinci

Membership Tea encore

The philanthropy organization to which I belong held a membership tea last year to recruit new members.  It was so successful that we hosted another membership tea this year, with the possibility of making it an annual event!  Like last year, all the china, tables, chairs, and food were provided by members.  What can I say?  We are a bunch of ladies who love to cook and enjoy afternoon tea!  🙂

invitationSince we had guests who were not familiar with afternoon tea, we included some tea etiquette on the back of the menus.  🙂  It is not only a great conversation starter but helps continue the tradition of afternoon tea.

Tea etiquette

Tea etiquette

We had 14 tables with 62 guests in attendance this year.  Are you ready to see some beautiful table settings?

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Red poppies (the tea favors were Tea Forte pyramid tea infusers in an organza bag)

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Don’t you love that cow creamer?

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Hawaiian theme

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Paris theme (there is an Eiffel Tower on the top tier of the caddy)

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Frogs in the swamp theme (love the lotus fold napkins)

Lovely detail on the plates

See the lovely detail on the plates

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Some of the members' husbands helped serve at the tea. They had their own special table, complete with bow tie napkins to match their tuxedo shirts

Some of the members’ husbands helped serve at the tea. They had their own special table, complete with bow tie napkins to match their tuxedo shirts

Tea menu

Tea menu

Savories: Spinach, artichoke & parmesan pinwheel, stuffed mushrooms with sausage and goat cheese, and garlic shrimp canapes

Savories: Spinach, artichoke & Parmesan pinwheel, stuffed mushrooms with sausage and goat cheese, and garlic shrimp canapes (I don’t like shrimp but those garlic shrimp canapes were delicious!)

Spinach, artichoke, & Parmesan pinwheels
(Each sheet of puff pastry will yield about 18 pinwheels)

1 package of puff pastry
1 tub of Stonemill Kitchens spinach, artichoke & Parmesan dip

Thaw puff pastry just enough to unfold it without breaking.  Spread the sheet with about 1/2 cup of dip.  The dip should be spread evenly within 1/2″ of one border (the top side away from you).  Roll the pastry sheet into a log ending with the 1/2″ border.  You may press the dough lightly to “seal” the log at the border.

Slice the log into 1/2″ slices.  Or to use later, wrap the log in plastic wrap and freeze until ready to use.  When ready to use, thaw for about 30 mins. until it can be cut with a knife (the log should keep its shape).  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 mins.  Serve immediately.

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Sandwiches: Smoked salmon with cream cheese on rye, cucumber sandwiches, and chicken salad croissants

Chinese almond dessert with fresh berries

Chinese almond dessert with fresh berries

Apricot pineapple jam, Mock Devonshire cream, and lemon curd

Apricot pineapple jam, Mock Devonshire cream, and lemon curd

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Desserts: Mini chocolate chip bundt cake, dark chocolate strawberry shortbread, and lemon bars

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Mini chocolate chip bundt cake, dark chocolate strawberry shortbread, and lemon bars

It was another successful membership drive for us with 6 new members joining our organization by the day’s end.

And here I’ll conclude with another Healtheries tea tag!  If you can figure out “oh tea tea”, and are the first person to comment with the correct answer, you’ll win a prize! 🙂


St. Patrick’s Day Tea

May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.

–Irish blessing

Lady T. invites you to a …

invitationLady T. hosted the first Victorian Tea Society tea for 2015, a St. Patrick’s Day tea, to ring in the first official day of spring.

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Shamrocks, gold coins, and festive polar bears

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“A four leaf clover for good luck”

DSC05295 (Small)Lady T. designed her St. Patrick’s Day tea menu to include lots of potatoes and green colored foods.menu

Green bears too!?

Green bears too!?

Lady K.'s Irish soda bread and Lady T.s' green shamrock butter

Lady K.’s Irish soda bread and Lady T.s’ green shamrock butter

D. says that only Americans make soda bread with raisins or currants.  I hate raisins in any form but I enjoyed Lady K.’s soda bread with currants!  A testament to her baking skills!

Lady T.'s potato leek soup

Lady T.’s delicious potato leek soup

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Lady B.’s spinach salad with spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, toasted pecans, feta, avocado, and warm maple Dijon dressing

The warm maple Dijon dressing was good enough to drink!

Warm maple Dijon dressing
(Adapted from Eating Well)

1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 thyme leaves (optional)
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Whisk ingredients together and warm in a saucepan.  For best flavor, make ahead the night before and re-warm it before serving.

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Lady H.’s mini baked potatoes and Lady T.’s spinach artichoke puff pastry cups

The mini baked potatoes are a tribute to St. Brendan’s voyage.  They were made in the image of St. Brendan’s boat with a bacon sail and a savory deck of sour cream, scallions, and cheddar cheese, the ingredients comprising the colors of the Irish flag.

Now for a history lesson: Who discovered America?  Well, that depends on who you ask … the Italians/Spanish will tell you that Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492; the Chinese will tell you that ancient Chinese sailors from 2200 BC discovered America, or that Admiral Zheng He discovered America in 1421; and the Scandinavians claim that the Vikings reached America in 1000 AD.  Finally, the Irish claim that St. Brendan discovered America in 5th century.  Which theory do you support?

Spinach artichoke puff pastry cups
(Adapted from My Recipes)

1/2 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 (14-oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper
45 frozen mini-phyllo pastry shells

Preheat oven to 350°. Drain thawed spinach, pressing between paper towels. Stir together drained spinach, artichoke hearts, sour cream, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, and a dash of freshly ground pepper. Spoon spinach mixture into pre-baked phyllo or puff pastry shells (about 2 tsp. per cup), pressing into bottom of each cup. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Serve immediately.

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Lady J.’s shamrock shaped corned beef tea sandwiches with mustard butter and cornichons

The triskele, triskelion, or Triple spiral is a Celtic and pre-Christian symbol found on a number of Irish Megalithic and Neolithic sites.  When Christianity came into the forefront in Ireland before the 5th century, the triskele took on new meaning, as a symbol of the Trinity (i.e., Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and eternity.  Its meaning can be interpreted so many ways that I cannot name them all here.  For the purposes of this tea, I declare that the triskele represents the 3 foundations of afternoon tea: Tea, Relaxation, and Friendship!

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Irish cheddar on soda bread with apple cranberry chutney (by Lady H.) and Goat cheese and fresh herb triangles (by Lady ML)

Goat cheese and fresh herb triangles
(From Tea time magazine, Sept./Oct. 2012)

2 (4-ounce) packages goat cheese, softened
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 slices wheat bread, such as Sarah Lee Honey Wheat
Garnish: minced fresh parsley

In a small bowl, combine goat cheese, cream cheese, and cream, stirring until smooth. Add herbs, salt, and pepper, stirring to combine. Spread cheese mixture evenly onto 6 bread slices. Top each with a remaining bread slice.

Using a serrated bread knife, trim crusts from bread with a gentle sawing motion. Discard crusts. Cut each sandwich into 4 triangles.

Garnish by pressing additional parsley onto edges before serving, if desired.

Apple cranberry chutney
(adapted from Ocean Spray)
Yield: 1/4 cup

3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup peeled, diced apple
1 Tbsp. diced red onion
Pinch each: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves
1 oz. dried cranberries

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and cook until apples are tender, stirring occasionally.  Add water if needed for consistency.  Puree with a hand blender or leave chunky.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Lady T.’s double chocolate oatmeal scones with brown sugar glaze

Lady MH got into the swing of spring by serving her pistachio fruit fluff in glass cups that resembled planters and shovel shaped spoons.

Lady MH.'s pistachio fruit fluff

Lady MH.’s pistachio fruit fluff

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Lady MH.’s mint brownies–BEST BROWNIE EVER!!

Mint brownies
(from About Food)
Yield: 16

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. water
1/4 cup fudge ice cream topping
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 tub vanilla ready to spread frosting

1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
Few drops green food coloring
1 cup powdered sugar

2 Tbsp. cocoa
1-1/2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a heavy saucepan, melt butter with brown sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and blend in fudge topping with wire whisk.  Add sugar, beating well.  Then add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa and mix well.  Stir in 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips.  Grease 9×9″ square pan.

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until just set. Cool completely.

In small bowl combine frosting, green food coloring, and mint extract and beat well until frosting is evenly colored. Spread over brownies in pan.

In medium bowl, combine powdered sugar and cocoa and mix with wire whisk. In microwave safe bowl, combine 2 Tbsp. butter and 1-1/2 Tbsp. water and microwave for 30-45 seconds until butter melts. Add to powdered sugar mixture and beat with wire whisk until smooth. Stir in vanilla. You may need to add more water to reach a pouring consistency. Then carefully pour this frosting over the green frosting and gently spread to cover.

Thank you, Lady T. for hosting such a grand tea!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

“In Ireland, you go to someone’s house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea. You say no, thank you, you’re really just fine. She asks if you’re sure. You say of course you’re sure, really, you don’t need a thing. Except they pronounce it ting. You don’t need a ting. Well, she says then, I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble. Ah, you say, well, if you were going to get yourself some, I wouldn’t mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it’s no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen. Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting.

In America, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no, and then you don’t get any damned tea.

I liked the Irish way better.”

C.E. Murphy, Urban Shaman

Valentine’s Day Tea

The inimitable Lady B. hosted a Victorian Valentine’s Day Tea to start off our first Victorian Tea Society tea for 2014.

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Rose petals leading the way to tea

Greeted by this at the door

Greeting at the door

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Vintage Victorian valentines display in the parlor

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In Lady B.’s house, it is even elegant behind the scenes!  This is where we plated the food before it went out to the table.

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Lady B. made these heart shaped sugar cubes!


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More Valentine’s Day touches!

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Place names were anchored with red Hershey’s kisses.

Lady B. made each of us a unique Victorian style valentine with the message, "You're my cup o f tea!"

Lady B. made each of us a unique Victorian style Valentine with the message, “You’re my cup of tea!”

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Shrimp bisque

True love shrimp bisque by Lady B. (this soup was amazing!)

Heartbeets salad

Garden of Eden beets salad by Lady J. (I like to call this “Heartbeets” salad)  🙂

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Be mine cucumber and radish sandwiches by Lady ML

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Kiss me orange-ricotta sandwiches on whole wheat and Mad about you peas & carrots sandwiches on whole grain toast by Lady T.

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Lover’s delight egg salad sandwiches by Lady MH. Lady MH commissioned the red and white marbled bread from a local bakery, specially for this tea party!

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French kiss smoked salmon and caper sandwiches with cream cheese by Lady L.


Fire of love red pepper heart pinwheels by Lady Henni

Lady Henni’s Red pepper heart pinwheels
(yield: 12 servings)

1 sheet of puff pastry
1/2 c. Boursin or herbed cream cheese
1/2 c. finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
Chopped green herbs (parsley, scallions, oregano, and/or basil)

Spread herbed cream cheese evenly over puff pastry.  Sprinkle red pepper and Parmesan cheese over the cream cheese layer.  Carefully roll long edges of dough to meet in center like a double scroll.scrollWith a sharp knife, cut dough into 1/2-inch slices.  Place slices, cut sides down, on greased cookie sheet.  Slightly pinch the center between the rolled edges (base of heart) into a point.  Sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese on tops (optional).  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 mins. until golden brown.

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Sweetheart cherry-rose scones

Sweetheart cherry-rose scones

After the sandwiches, savory, and scones courses, we migrated out into Lady B’s inspired English garden to have dessert in her gazebo.


Dessert — this way!

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The outdoor tea party!

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Whimsical teapot chandelier

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Lady B. and her husband decorated the gazebo with beautiful details such as this hanging teacup flower arrangement

DSC02887 (Small)To embrace the theme of Valentine’s Day, Lady B. asked each of us to bring a Valentine or love letter to share.

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Lady B’s favorite Valentine from her granddaughter

Lady J. also gave us each a special Valentine with a personal poem inside

Lady J. also gave us each a special Valentine with a personal poem inside

While we were waiting for dessert, Lady T. shared a great Valentine’s Day story that made us laugh.  Lady T.’s husband once bought her a small white teddy bear with a heart on its belly for Valentine’s Day.  She gushed about how much she liked it and her husband was so happy!  In fact, he was so happy that Lady T. has has received a white teddy bear at Valentine’s Day every year for the past 10 years!  She now has a closet full of them but she doesn’t have the heart to tell her husband that she’s really not that into the bears.  Lady T. said that the moral of the story was to be careful about telling little white lies. 😉

Lady L. related a similar story of a new wife who once made a special meatloaf for her husband’s lunch.  Her husband thought the meatloaf was horrible but didn’t want to hurt her feelings so he ate it all up and said it was delicious!  The wife made him meatloaf for lunch everyday after that …!

DSC02889 (Small)Lady B. was behind the scenes, working fast and furious, decorating and putting together a strawberry ice cream brownie birthday cake to surprise Lady T. who turned 70 this day!  Lady B. makes her own ice cream so this was a special cake indeed.  Happy birthday T.!


Strawberry ice cream brownie cake

Sweetheart shortbread cookies
(From the kitchen of Lady B.)

1 c. walnuts, toasted
1/2 c. plus 2 T. sugar
1 1/2 c. butter (3 sticks), slightly softened
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. salt
3 c. cake flour (not self-rising)
6 oz. milk chocolate

1.  In food processor with knife blade attached or in blender at med. speed, blend walnuts and sugar until nuts are finely ground.
2.  In large bowl, with mixer at med. speed, beat butter, vanilla extract, salt & ground-walnut mixture until light & fluffy.  With wooden spoon, stir in flour until dough forms.  If necessary, with hands, press dough together.  Divide dough into 3 equal pieces; wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough until easy to handle, about 2 hrs.
3.  Preheat oven to 375 F. Sprinkle 15-inch long sheet waxed paper with flour.  Place 1/3 of dough on floured waxed paper (keep remaining dough refrigerated).  Lightly sprinkle dough with flour.  Place another sheet of waxed paper over dough.  Roll dough between waxed paper 1/4 inch thick, sprinkling dough with more flour if necessary to keep from sticking.
4.  Remove top sheet of waxed paper.  With floured 3-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many hearts as possible from dough; reserve trimmings in refrigerator.  With floured pancake turner, place hearts, about 2 inches apart, on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake cookies 10 to 15 min. until golden.  Allow cookies to remain on cookie sheet 2 min. before removing to racks to cool completely.  Repeat with remaining dough and trimmings.
5.  When cookies are cool, melt chocolate.  Dip or drizzle chocolate onto cookies.  Let chocolate dry about 1 hr. or until firm.  Store cookies in tightly covered container.  Makes 28 cookies.

For my Valentine love letter, I shared the excerpt of a poem that D. once sent me:

Love, is it day that makes thee thy delight
Or thou that seest day made out of thy light?
Love, as the sun and sea are thou and I,
Sea without sun dark, sun without sea bright;
The sun is one though day should live and die.

–Algernon Charles Swinburne, from Tristram of Lyonesse: And Other Poems

Thank you Lady B. for a wonderful Valentine’s tea!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Japanese friendship tea

The second VTS tea of 2013 was a Japanese friendship tea hosted by Lady MH, complete with a cherry blossom theme that sang, “Spring!”  Can you believe that this was her first time hosting an afternoon tea?!

Lady MH's lovely origami invitation

Lady MH’s  creative origami invitation (Dress code: Kimono optional)

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Setting the stage for the Japanese Friendship Tea

To start, Lady MH regaled us with stories of the Japanese side of her family, including a moving one about her father-in-law who spent time in a Japanese internment camp.  During his internment, he carved wooden birds from scraps of wood to pass the time.  The birds now sit lovingly framed and displayed in the dining room.  His motto was, “Keep moving forward!” which he used to keep himself going and a guiding principle he passed on to his family.  If anyone is a model for that motto, it’s Lady MH!  🙂


The special wooden birds

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Sunny table setting designed to bring the outdoors inside

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Tea cookie favor: Shortbread cookie with cherry blossom design by Lady P.

How lucky were we, to be drinking tea from exquisite Japanese Sōma-yaki pottery!  Sōma-yaki pottery originated about 300 years ago in Fukushima, Japan and in 1978, it was designated a national object of traditional craftsmanship (from Wikipedia).  Sadly, the Sōma-yaki pottery industry was destroyed in the 2011 tsunami which makes these pieces even more rare and special.  Lady MH received these heirloom pieces from her mother-in-law.

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Tea cup saucer: Soma-yaki pottery is characterized by its green color and blue cracks in the surface glaze. Many pieces have a stylized horse painted in metallic gold. This piece also has a cherry blossom.

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Soma-yaki stylized horse painted in metallic gold at the bottom of the tea cup

Another unique characteristic of Sōma-yaki pottery is its multi-layered structure.

DSC01804 (Large)The double walls of the pottery insulate hot liquids while keeping the outside cool, to prevent burned hands.  A hole is built into the bottom of the outer layer to allow drainage of water when washing.

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The green teas were aromatic and paired nicely with the food courses

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Soma-yaki sugar jar/bowl

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Japanese Friendship Tea menu


I love Lady MH’s clever construction of the menu holder that consisted of an origami crane in front and a pretty river rock supporting the back.  The crane and river rock were glued to a flat mesh platform.

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Meditation miso soup by Lady T. (recipe adapted from Just One Cookbook)

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Japanese Friendship Garden soba noodle salad by Lady S.

Japanese Friendship Garden soba noodle salad
(inspired by the soba noodle salad at the Japanese Friendship Garden)

4 small bundles of soba (buckwheat noodles)

Assorted lettuce  red, butter, romaine, etc.
Cucumbers, sliced thin
Carrots, sliced thin
Green onion, chopped thin
4 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
Pinch of toasted pine nuts (optional)

4 Tbsp. sugar
1/3 c. vinegar
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. finely minced ginger
1/2 c. salad oil

Mix dressing.  Break noodles in half for easy serving. Follow cooking directions, drain and rinse in colander.  Mix a little bit of dressing with the noodles to keep them from sticking together and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.  Layer salad ingredients on a small 7″ diameter salad plate in the following order: Soba on the bottom, topped with greens, and drizzled with dressing.  Top with a pinch of pine nuts if desired.  Serve immediately.

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(top to bottom) Mt. Fuji turkey river boats by Lady MH, Kabuki spam musubi by Lady ML, Zen-sational mushroom delights by Lady Henni

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Kabuki spam musubi by Lady ML

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Zen-sational mushroom delights by Lady Henni

Zen-sational mushroom delights
(adapted from Wonder bread Mushroom Appetizer Croustades recipe)

Makes 12 appetizer servings

12 slices white bread
2 green onions or leeks, finely sliced
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, both dried* and fresh,  finely diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese
Truffle salt for finishing (optional)

*Rehydrate the dried shiitake and roast them for extra flavor before sauteing

Bread croustades: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut crusts from bread and flatten with a rolling pin until quite flat, about ⅛-inch thick. Cut circles from the bread with a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter. (You can cut 2 circles from each slice of bread.) Lightly brush mini-muffin pan with melted butter. Gently press each round of bread into a mini-muffin cup, forming it into a bowl shape. Repeat, making as many croustades as specified in the recipe. Bake about 9 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly, then remove the croustades from the pan and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.

Mushroom filling: Reduce oven temperature to 350F. Melt butter in medium skillet over medium high heat. Cook green onions and mushrooms about 4 to 5 minutes or until moisture evaporates, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour and stir well. Add cream and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, lemon juice and cayenne pepper.

Fill cups and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes. Serve at least 2 per person.

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Kushisashi (chicken on a samurai stick) by Lady MH.  For the zen centerpiece decoration, Lady MH stacked and glued together 3 river rocks.

Kushisashi (Chicken on a Samurai Stick)
(by Lady MH)

1 chicken breast, cut into marble sized pieces
6-7 in. bamboo skewer sticks
Panko crumbs

Prep skewers the night before.  Skewer, alternating 3 pieces of chicken.  Layer into a container and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Keep layering and cover container and refrigerate overnight.

Lightly dust chicken with flour, shake off excess.  Scramble 3 to 4 eggs in a large drinking glass (large enough to fit the skewers).  Put panko into a pie pan.  Dip chicken skewers into egg, then dredge with Panko crumbs.  Prepare all of the chicken skewers, then get ready to fry.  Fill a large frying pan about half full of oil.  Heat to med. high and start frying.  Cook until light brown, drain.

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Yes, it was as delicious for the eyes as for the tummy!

Scone condiments (lemon curd, Devonshire cream, and clotted cream) by Lady ML

Scone condiments (lemon curd, Devonshire cream, and clotted cream) by Lady ML


Sakura (cherry blossom) shaped butter pats for scones

Tranquil matcha green tea scones by Lady J

Tranquil matcha green tea scones by Lady J

Tranquil  Matcha Green Tea Scones
by Lady J.

1 8.3-oz. package of Matcha Green Tea Scone mix*
1 c. heavy whipping cream
¼ c. currants
¼ c. walnuts
¼ c. sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and pour in the heavy whipping cream, mixing as you pour. Mix until the cream is absorbed in the dough. Work dough around the bowl until all dry ingredients are incorporated and dough is already
sticky to the touch.

Place dough on a floured counter; press into 6-inch circle; then cut into 8 pie-shaped wedges. Place wedges on a baking sheet (grease or use parchment paper); sprinkle with sugar (optional) and bake for 20-24 minutes or until lightly brown.  Test by inserting toothpick into center of scone; it’s done if it comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.

*                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *

After the scones course, Lady MH asked us to share our favorite quotations about friendship.  On the table was a beautiful Japanese zen meditation bell that has been in her family for generations.  Lady MH instructed us to strike the bell before unveiling each of our friendship quotations.

Zen Bell

Japanese Buddhist Zen bell with a clear lasting tone

Lady MH read her favorite quotation which she received from her friend, Lady S., 30 years ago!  It is something she has cherished since and she wished to pass it on to all of us.

DSC01876 (Small)Lady J. contributed the following quotation: “Friends are special people.  We can’t pick our family, and we’re sorely limited in the number of them at any rate.  Society and mores (and often our own conscience) dictate we select a single mate.  But our friends can be as diverse and infinite as the adjectives we choose.  Our friends, in a very real sense, reflect the choices we make in life.”

Lady ML followed up with, “Friends are the family we choose.”  Great friends think alike, Lady J. and Lady ML!  😉

I surprised everyone with a friendship poem that D. wrote specially for this occasion.  It reminds us that friendship is the foundation of all love.

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Friendship poem by D.

In addition to the special quotations above, Lady KL played a song (theme from Friends), and Lady B. showed us a piece of artwork with a quotation about tea and friendship.  In addition to the sentimental moments, there were some funny moments too, like when Lady MH and Lady T. both simultaneously quipped, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold,” recalling their days in the Girl Scouts.  The exchange of friendship quotations was the icing on a lovely afternoon.  Lately, I had been feeling tinges of regret that I am not able to foster all my friendships on a deeper level but this day reminded me to be grateful for what I do have: I have many friends for which I am privileged to have in my life and I will enjoy and appreciate the moments as they are presented to me.  Thank you, Lady MH, for a memorable and special afternoon tea and for making me reflect on friendship this day!  I’m grateful for your friendship.

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Sakura strawberry dessert by Lady MH and Joyful fruit treats by Lady B.

Sakura strawberry dessert (aka Pink Stuff)
(by Lady MH)

1 c. flour
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 c. brown sugar

Stir together and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until crunchy.  Set aside with 1/4 of mix reserved for topping.

1-10 oz. box frozen strawberries (slightly thawed)
2/3 c. sugar
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
12 oz. Cool Whip (optional)

Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Stir in Cool Whip if using.  Spread the Pink Stuff over the crunchy mix in a 9 x 13 pan (or portion it into individual cupcake cups), and top with remaining topping.  Freeze until ready to serve.

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Origami cranes–we took one home for good luck!

May we all eat, drink, and be merry!

Come and share a pot of tea,
my home is warm and my friendship’s free.”

― Emilie Barnes

The Witches’ Tea

You are hereby summoned to …

I summoned thee from far and wide
These witches gathered by my side

Table centerpiece by Lady Henni: Ceramic Japanese house lantern with an arrangement of tree branches and flying bats

To celebrate All Hallows Eve
And settle debts for less to grieve

Witches’ brooms parked outside of Henni’s dungeon

A piece of silver was required
For cards of fate to be inspired

Luminaries lighting the way to Lady Henni’s Reading Room where fortunes were told

The table was set with broomstick place cards, protection spells, and ribbon bats holding the menus together

The twisting wire wrapped around
The order for where you’re bound
For who could know if you’d be
The sacrifice at this tea!

The cauldron boiled, bubbled, and spat
Dragon’s blood fired in hellish wrath

Lady Henni’s Dragon’s blood cocktail (chilled roasted tomato soup with a provolone and prosciutto grilled cheese sandwitch with caramelized onions and Dijon mustard on sourdough) [Photo by Lady J.]

Fungus and mold hide in the dark

Lady J.’s Magick mushrooms (Insalata Caprese with cherry tomato, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil in a balsamic vinaigrette) [Photo by Lady J.]

Vittles puffed betray the spark
Of hot, then cold earthy sway
As spiced flesh burns to the core
Sweetened scents come to the fore

Lady Henni’s Toadstools and vittles pot pie (baby bellas, shiitake, peas, carrots, potatoes, celery and onions in a mushroom demi-glace topped with a puff pastry) [Photo by Lady ML and Lady Henni]

Henni’s Toadstools and vittles pot pie
(Adapted from Everyday Food, October 2012)

3 dried shiitake (soaked and diced, discard stems)
1 c. chopped fresh mushrooms (your choice)
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 potato, diced
1/4 c. peas (frozen okay)
1/4 c. diced carrots (frozen okay)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
5 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 c. vegetable or mushroom stock (I used a mushroom demi-glace)
pinch of ground black pepper
salt to taste
frozen puff pastry sheets or pie dough

Saute the celery, onion, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms until onion is tender.  Add flour and stir to coat mixture.  Add the stock and thyme and cook until thickened.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put filling in a casserole dish or portion into 4 oz. ramekins.  Cut out a piece of puff pastry the size of your dish and press the edges lightly to seal the dish.  Cut a slit in the top of the puff pastry so that air can be released during baking.  Brush the tops of the puff pastry with a beaten egg or Egg Beaters.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until puff pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly.

Yield: 8 small 4 oz. pot pies

Lady ML’s Secrets of Nimh (open faced radish and cucumber sandwitch with sprouts and cream cheese on Renaissance whole grain bread … see the rats’ tails?  ;))

Mystical chicken salad (curried chicken salad with toasted almonds and scallions on a mini croissant–my friend T’s recipe!)

Lady MH’s cauldron full of Lady T’s Squeamish pumpkin scones

Lady B’s Lemon curd

1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
1 T. lemon zest
1/4-1/2 c. sugar, divided
3 eggs
6 T. butter, cut into cubes

In heavy saucepan, mix together lemon juice, zest, and half of sugar.  Bring to  a boil.  In medium bowl, whisk together eggs and remaining sugar.  When lemon juice mixture reaches a boil, pour half of juice into egg mixture and whisking constantly.  Pour egg mixture back into saucepan and return to moderate heat.  Stir constantly until mixture thickens (curd will hold marks on the whisk).  Remove from heat and stir in butter until smooth.  Transfer to bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill over night.

Lady T.’s Teapot-shaped squeamish pumpkin scone with Lady B.’s homemade lemon curd, pumpkin butter, mock Devonshire cream, and huckleberry jam from Montana

     Lady B.’s Mock Devonshire cream

1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar
1 1/2 tsp. white vanilla extract
1 c. non-fat plain Greek yogurt

Beat whipping cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff.  Fold sour cream into mixture and refrigerate.

Lady MH’s Haunted Forest fruit (wild berries specially foraged from Transylvanian forests)

Nectars soft and sickly sweet
‘Ware the devil you shall meet!
And weathered you through it all
Supping teas with change of Fall

Lady L.’s Banshee barmbrack Scottish honey and orange tea loaf with butter and Lady Henni’s shortbread fingers

Lady Henni’s Death by chocolate (coconut milk infused chocolate truffles with chai spices (left) and green tea (right) [Photo by Lady J.]

Witches’ tea favors: Paper cuts (jam filled shortbread fingers) by Lady Henni

Now it’s time for the witches’ fashion show …

Pentacle amulet

Dragon’s claw with onyx stone

Lady MH and Lady ML in their elegant hats

Lady T.’s creepy witch hat

Lady B.’s vintage Victorian boots with hidden Halloween socks

Lady MH’s bad witch stockings and Mary Janes

Happy Halloween!

Disclaimer: The Victorian Tea Society’s Witches’ Tea (the original Witches’ Tea!) was hosted by Lady Henni and this post features a Halloween poem by the Warlock D.