Friday, October 16, 2015

Inspirations for the Weekend ...

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” ― Henry David Thoreau


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cooking is Cheaper than Therapy: Cheddar Olive Balls

Life changes. There was a time in my life when I needed to be prepared as I never knew when to expect the former husband to invite a working colleague, a fraternity brother, or even his boss over for cocktails, and sometimes even dinner. 

When it came to cocktail time appetizers, there were key ingredients I kept in the pantry: various cheeses, nuts, an assortment of crackers, a jar of green pimento stuffed olives, some kind of a pickled vegetable, can of garbanzo beans and tahini (for hummus), apples, and sometimes I might even have salami available, and meatballs and homemade salsa in the freezer. 

When needed, and rather quickly, a couple wedges of cheese and a few sliced apples are always in order. I also had several quick go-to recipes I could whip up in time that were perfect for noshing, such as these savory little appetizers, Cheddar Olive Balls. All you need is a few kitchen staples, some cheddar cheese, and a jar of green olives. Green stuffed olives was another staple for the evening martini. Now, I have experimented using black olives, but they just didn't have that salty-ripe-brine "zing" like a green olive has. They tasted rather bland. 

To this day, possibly because old habits die hard, I still keep many of these staples about for quick entertaining - - even if it is just to "entertain" myself. One can make these ahead of time and freeze. Before baking, place directly into the oven from the freezer, and extend the baking time by just a few minutes. 


Cheddar Olive Balls

2 cups (8 oz.) Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1 1/4 cups white flour
1/2 cup melted butter 
1/8 tsp smokey paprika or cayenne pepper (optional)
36 (about) pimento-stuffed green olives

Mix cheese and flour. Add melted butter. Mix well. If dough seems dry and does not stick, work with hands. Pat olives dry. With 1 tsp. of dough, flatten it on the palm of your hand, and then cup and shape the dough around each olive - covering the olive well. Continue to shape into a ball rolling around with your hands. Place the finished balls on a baking sheet. Cover and chill for about one hour (or you can make these ahead and chill for several hours before baking). Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Let cool. Eat. Yum. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Inspirations for the Weekend ...

“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” - L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Monday, October 5, 2015

How to Have a Witches Tea

Come in and sit for a spell ...

It's the first of October and one of my favorite holidays is Halloween. Thankfully my parents and grandparents always made it a grand and magical time! When it came to choosing a costume, I always wanted to be a witch or a vampire, but mom knew best. She would often dress me as a princess, and the most daring was a gypsy. 

There was a time when I use to hold a lot of themed tea parties with several friends. We had our Victorian High Tea, Mad Hatter Tea, Forest Fairy Tea, Teddy Bear Tea, and even a Retro Trashy Tea complete with bologna sandwiches and Jello salad. Then I read online about a Witches Tea and I just knew I had to host one. We are now on our Sixth Annual Witches Tea. 

So, how do you have a Witches Tea? First we start with the "Who, What, Where, When, and Why?" 

Who: Friends and acquaintances that you enjoy, and especially those who enjoy dressing up. Nothing worse than a party pooper who doesn't at least wear basic black and a witch hat. Then there's Great Aunt Bessie who just sits and stares while shaking her head in protest. No, the point of this party is to celebrate with girlfriends, and laugh. It's an afternoon where there are no children vying for mom's attention, and no male partners who may stifle the silliness. It's just a girl's afternoon - a sorority gathering, so to speak. 

There are many witch outfits to choose from. Check out some of the favorite witches of TV and movies; such as Aunt Clara, Samantha, Esmeralda,  Winifred Sanderson, and Professor Minerva McGonagall. How about a Kitchen Witch? A black chef's hat is always in order. You just have to ask yourself, "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?"



Witch Way?
What: Besides enjoying tea, there are plenty of things you can do to keep entertained. Witchy word games, a witch fashion show with each witch showing off her outfit, a parade around the block (my neighbors loved it and were out with their cameras), and even have a "witchy" craft project to do. One year I had a fortune teller who read cards. Know a tea leaf reader? Contests for the best costume or even a cackling contest is always great entertainment. 

Be sure and have "witchy" sounds or music in the background (Stevie Nicks and Enya work well, as far as music), or even a favorite witch movie playing on a screen such as "Hocus Pocus" with the volume turned low - don't want the movie too loud so your guests have to yell to be heard during conversation. 

As a courtesy, don't forget the "broom parking" for your guests. 

Invites can be sent in the mail or hand delivered, and even "e-vites" via the internet work well. Decorations can be simple as just table centerpieces or go with the full scary haunted witch house. Be sure and have a guest book for your guests to sign.  I use a decorated notebook that I have my witchy guests sign, year after year. I also use the same book to jot down ideas for the next year. It's become a diary of sorts.




Host witch greeting her guests with a glass of bubbly
And most important is the food that goes along with a Witches Tea. My first three teas, I originally hosted all of the food, and then as the tea grew and with limited time, we now do a pot luck, or would that be a "black cauldron luck?" The creative and fun foods the witches have come up with are not only tasty, but part of the entertainment. Pinterest is a good source with many ideas on the Pinterest Halloween food boards. See ideas below of photos from past Witches Teas.  
Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Cupcakes
Black Widow Spider Cheese Log
Human eyeballs, of course. 
Witch Shortbread Fingers
Pumpkin Barf aka Spinach Dip
Caramelized Frog Feet (Caramel) and Eye of Newt Pate (Lemon Curd) for Cookie Spreads
Toad Bladders aka Grapes Wrapped in Bleu Cheese and Almonds
Sea Monster aka Gin Cured Salmon (Lox)
Savory Witchy Mini Quiche




Drinks can be anything, from Champagne, wine, a fun festive drink in a bubbling cauldron, and yes  - even brewed tea. It's always fun to add "scary labels" to the wine bottles.




Where: Where ever your broom flies you. Originally our party started at my home using card tables scattered about in my main room. When the party grew beyond a dozen, then we took it to various places from a dungeon-like basement below a wine shop, an old theater, and this year will be the production room of a brewery.

Old Theater
House Party




Dungeon

When: For my group of friends, I found that a Sunday afternoon was a great time for tea, especially since so many of my guests often worked on Saturdays. I chose to always keep it the Sunday before Halloween, that way any of the "witches" who still had kidlets at home, could still spend their Halloween with their family. Traditional tea time is at 4:00 pm, so the time set for the Witches Tea was from 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm. Those set of numbers just seemed rather "witchy." The time and calendar date has never been changed and will remain an annual.

Why: Why Not?






Thank you to my witchy friends for their joy and enthusiasm of the Witches Tea, as well as their creative ideas for costume and food. Let's face it, we cannot have a party without you. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Inspirations for the Weekend ...

"Sometimes I pretend to be normal, but then it gets boring. So I go back to being me."



Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cooking is Cheaper than Therapy: Clotted Cream

In August I wrote about my favorite scone recipe. I suggested to adorn these light crumbly little beauties with choices of "strawberry preserves, even raspberry or blackberry, unsalted butter or clotted cream (with recipe to come).I am keeping my promise, but first of all, what is "clotted cream?"

Obviously we don't see clotted cream at our local supermarket, and to our American ears the word "clotted" associated with cream, definitely sounds like "cream gone wrong." However, in England clotted cream is a wonderful thick buttery cream that is often used for dessert toppings, and especially for scones. It is typically produced with 55% milk fat, and often referred to as Devon or Devonshire cream, as it was originally from the Devonshire County in England. 

Since we cannot just run to our local market to pick up a container, here is an easy recipe to make our own version of "Clotted Cream." You may find you will be making a lot of it because it is so easy and so tasty. 

Clotted Cream (Mock Version)

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons powdered (confectioners’) sugar, sifted

Using an electric mixer or a hand whisk, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. With a spoon or spatula, gently fold in the sour cream and powdered sugar until combined well. Refrigerate and cover the clotted cream until it is ready to serve. Makes approximately 2 cups.

Also, there has been a long running feud between two villages in England, which comes first on the biscuit, the cream or the jam? The village of Cornwall claims it is jam first and clotted cream on top. The village of Devon claims the opposite - clotted cream on the bottom and jam on top.  You decide for yourself, as I happen to think, it's all good. 

Clotted cream on top or bottom? 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pin it! Pinterest

It's fun!

Some evenings, while I still want to be entertained, but don't want to watch TV or read, Pinterest is the answer. 

What is Pinterest, you ask? Think of it as a bulletin board, scrapbook, or file folder, and you are going to save your "clippings" and tag them on your board, scrapbook, or in your folder. Like any free social media tool, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, first you are going to create your profile and then you will want to collect some "friends."
Decorating Ideas
As a user of Pinterest, you can upload, save, sort, and manage special images or any media content (aka "Pins"), such as recipes, DIY projects, collectibles, travel, cars, media tips, and anything else that may be of interest to you. 
I Need
It is especially a great source for recipes. If I try out a recipe and if it's a keeper, I will always have a safe place to store them. If the recipe ends up it isn't quite to my "taste," then I can delete. One tip I have found, is in the case of recipes and instructions, I always follow through to find the list of ingredients and read, as sometimes they may take you to a site for the ingredients, and the site may be dead. 
Butter Me Up
There are many applications to use depending on your device, but I always recommend to first sign up using a browser, such as Google, Firefox, or Safari; and then go from there. Once you set your profile and get a few "boards," started, then it is easy to work the apps on your pad or phone. 
Delish Drinks
Take a "stroll" on the main page and you will see many ideas that may be of interest to you. Go to "search" and click the tab to look for certain collections, or type in your interest. Once you get a few boards going, then Pinterest will pop up new "Pins" that will be of interest to you based on what you have previously pinned. 
Delish Desserts
Now follow the instructions and create a couple of boards. Here are some examples and titles of my boards: Chocolate, Delish Dish, Delish Drinks, Delish Desserts, Winter, How My Garden Grows, No Reason, and many others. 
Comforting Quote
Another way to gather "Pins" for your boards, is to add the "Pin It" button to your favorite web browser, such as Google, Firefox, or Safari.  It's a handy pin if you see a recipe or instructions from a different web page, other than the Pinterest page, that you would like to save on your Pinterest board. 
No Reason
Pinterest can be another form of being social, such as you can follow old friends and new, and see what their interests are, which also allows you a new venue of possible "Pins" to be added to your boards, as well as new idea for boards.  You may also create "shared" boards inviting friends with shared interests. There are "secret" boards that are not shared with the Pinterest population - - but that's no fun, unless you are keeping a surprise. 
Tea Cup Garden
"Pins" will often have a detailed comment from the previous pinner, but you can change the comment and make it your own before and after you "Pin It."  
I Need - Paris Apartment
Hopefully, this describes Pinterest and will encourage you to use this fun social media tool, as I often see many friends and familiar names who have created profiles, but they have not yet created any boards.
Delish Dishes (So he ain't food, but he is delicious!)
Now go and find your "Pinspiration" and "Pin It!"


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