Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

The Art of Receiving: The Five Week Manners Makeover Step 5

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

 

Now that we’ve covered Basic Table Manners, The Art of Conversation, The Art of Greeting, and the Art of Giving, now it’s time to learn The Art of Receiving.

 

Everybody likes to receive presents, right?  In theory, receiving an outpouring of someone else’s thoughtfulness and generosity should not only make us feel super-special, it’s supposed to be downright fun.  So why is it that so very many of us unwittingly make an absolute mess out of the act of receiving a gift?  See if any of these scenarios sound familiar:

 

Scenario #1:

After spending a month quizzing common friends on gift ideas, scouting out every retail shop within a 50-mile radius for exactly what she was looking for, and spending nearly an hour gift wrapping, Betsy finally found what she thought was the perfect gift for her dear cousin.  She was so excited!  Upon arriving at the cousin’s annual holiday party, Betsy proudly handed her the gift and said, “This, my dear, is for youwith a look of anticipation all over her face.  “Oh!  Thank you so much!” her cousin replied, giving her a hearty hug.  Then, without opening the gift and much to Betsy’s dismay, her cousin proceeded to tell her all about the wonderful, mind-blowing gift she’d just received from another friend of hers.  Betsy’s package disappeared into the hustle and bustle of the house, and she ended up leaving that evening not even knowing if her cousin had opened her gift or what she thought of it if she had.

 

Scenario #2:

Still smarting from her gift-giving experience the night before, Betsy delivered a small but thoughtful gift to a co-worker.  Upon presenting the gift, the co-worker looked at her, cleared his throat, and said, “So I suppose you want me to open this now?”  The situation became instantly uncomfortable; Betsy replied that he should feel free to open it whenever he had a minute – it was nothing big, just a small token to say “happy holidays”.  The co-worker brusquely said “Thanks”, and Betsy spent the rest of her workday feeling awkward and uncomfortable about having tried to do something nice.

 

Scenario #3:

Betsy had had just about enough, but she figured that the holidays were really for children anyway.  She’d been invited to have afternoon tea at a friend’s home.  Knowing that her friend had children, she brought a little something for each of them in beautifully wrapped boxes.  Her friend called her children, telling them that Betsy had brought them each a present.  The kids ran into the room, snatched the presents from Betsy’s hands without even saying “hello” to her, and ripped into the boxes.  Two of the three seemed to like what they got, quickly saying “thanks” as they ran upstairs with their new toys.  The third opened his box and said, in front of everyone in the room, “That’s it?  But I don’t want this one.  It’s a little kid toy.”

 

Ever been in Betsy’s position?  “Just can’t get no respect“?  Before you find yourself stocking up on lumps of coal to hand out next year, here’s something to consider:

 

For some people, receiving isn’t as easy as it seems.

Sometimes people who are normally terrific, jovial, outgoing folks can morph into somewhat defensive, definitely ungracious, and in some cases downright rude individuals when they are presented with a gift.  These folks demonstrate receiving issues for a variety of reasons:

1.  They feel embarrassed that they don’t have anything to give in return;

2.  They don’t feel worthy;

3.  They’re not comfortable showing you how much your gift really means;

4.  They feel vulnerable, like they’ll owe you something by accepting your gift;

5.  They simply don’t know how to be grateful;

6.  Alas!  They are rude and selfish ingrates who should be banished from society forevermore.  (Thankfully, this isn’t usually the case.)

 

The Art of Receiving

Receiving is an art form that must be carefully considered and even practiced, especially if you or your child happens to experience receiving issues accompanied by any of the feelings listed above.  Receiving graciously is ultimately an act of humility, and, in the words of Jacques Maritain, “Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.”

When mentally practicing the Art of Receiving, here’s some things to keep in mind:

1.  Receiving is the other part of a two-way street.  By receiving any gift graciously, you are allowing the Giver to experience the joy of giving.  To receive in an ungracious, stunted, or rude manner strips the Giver of his/her opportunity to experience that joy..

2.  The Giver has already decided that you are worthy.  Accept their opinion.  Insecurity is a heavy beast to battle.  But if feelings of low self worth are stunting your ability to receive graciously, turn your attention to the thoughtfulness of the Giver.  Make them feel appreciated and special for their kindness and consideration towards you.

3.  The Giver didn’t expect you to have a gift ready to reciprocate.  Honestly, unless you just totally blew off your duties as a Secret Santa, the person who just gave you a gift really has no expectation of receiving anything in return.  Your sincere expression of joy and gratitude will be enough to make their giving experience complete.  Don’t rush to reciprocate, either, or you’ll run the risk of looking like you’re giving out of a feeling of obligation rather than inspiration.

4.  Learn how to be grateful for the little things. Learning to focus on and be grateful for seemingly little things that we receive every day is a great way to become accustomed to the experience of receiving.  Maybe it’s really appreciating how your mom always put the right amount of brown sugar on your oatmeal in the mornings, how your husband always brings you perfectly-brewed coffee every morning as you are getting ready for work, or how Grandma always sets out hot tea and cookies when you drop in out of the blue.  Maybe it’s really noticing that your co-worker always has your back in a pinch, or that your neighbor always brings in your trash cans while you’re at work. Getting used to feeling grateful on a daily basis will hone your ability to experience and convey a genuine feeling of gratitude for any gift you’re given, no matter how big or how small.  Becoming acutely aware of and grateful for the little gestures people extend to us every single day sensitizes us to our own ability to positively impact others’ lives in little ways, as well.

 

The Formalities: What to do when you are given a gift:

Having tuned into your sense of gratitude, it’s now time to practice the formal expression within the Art of Receiving:

 

1.  Look the Giver in the eye, smile, and say “Thank You”.

2.  Mention that you sincerely appreciate their thoughtfulness, and express excitement at seeing what they’ve given you.

3.  When opening the gift, your focus and attention should be on the Giver; try to avoid becoming distracted until you’ve finished opening and appreciating the gift.

4.  Take a minute to compliment the gift wrap, if applicable.  Express gratitude over the time and effort taken.

5.  Even if you HATE the gift you’ve been given, look past any personal disappointment and find a way to compliment the Giver’s selection, i.e. “This scarf is simply the nicest color pink!”

6.  Look the Giver in the eye again, smile, and express your gratitude again for the Giver’s time, consideration, and generosity.

 

How to teach your kids the Art of Receiving

Practice makes perfect.  Role-playing potential gift-related scenarios in advance helps kids know what to do and say when the time comes.

 

Hopefully, with awareness and a bit of practice, the circle of giving will be complete and joyous this holiday season and beyond.

 

Enjoy!

 

Photo Credits:

Baby with gift courtesy www.thehalfwaypoint.net

Woman handing gift courtesy www.jessicakateproductions.blogspot.com

Woman with several gifts courtesy www.life123.com

Disappointed child courtesy www.parentsconnect.com

Rodney Dangerfield courtesy www.ranker.com

Insecure girl courtesy www.ronedmundson.com

Circle of hands courtesy www.nonprofitlawblog.com

Chinese women exchanging gifts courtesy www.blogofasia.com

 

Add a comment

Nifty Napkin Folds: The French Fold

by Danica Waters

 

Of all the napkin folds, the French Fold is one of the easiest to achieve; it’s simple, elegant, and fast!   When you’ve finished the fold, simply drape it at the dinner place.  Voila!

 

Here’s the “How-To”:

 

 

Step 1:

Lay the napkin face down in front of you.

Step 2:

Fold the napkin in half diagonally, making sure the corners line up neatly.

Step 3:

Bring the top corner down diagonally towards you, so that the crease is an inch or two in from the original bottom corner and creates a new point a few inches to the right of the same original bottom corner.

Step 4:

Bring the top point down towards you, being sure to pivot at the same place the last fold pivoted, to create a new point on the far right.  Ensure the new fold is placed at an equal distance from the other folds for a crisp, symmetrical presentation.

See?  The French Fold is EASY.

 

 

1 comment

Chipotle Cornbread

by Danica Waters

It is cold and wet today, just like the weathermen promised.  The rain is coming down in big, splashy drops and I must confess: .I absolutely love days like today.   Ella Fitzgerald is simmering on my speakers, a pot of dee-lish Lentil Soup simmering on the stove, and this spicy little number will be the perfect accompaniment to all of it.

You can make this cornbread with any type of salsa; it’s milder and more innocent with a good green chile salsa or even  a basic tomato-jalapeno salsa.  But there’s something wicked and deliberate about the smoky nature of chipotles.  Be careful – the heat will sneak up on you, so if you’re serving kids or a crowd, either use the salsa sparingly or only marble half the batch.

Enjoy!

 

Chipotle Cornbread

1 cup Yellow Corn Meal (I use Alber’s)

1 C all-purpose flour

1/4 C granulated sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 C milk

1/3 C vegetable oil

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 – 3 Tbsp chipotle salsa, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 8-inch square baking pan.

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, oil and egg in small bowl; mix well. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour into prepared pan.

Spoon chipotle salsa in small mounds onto the cornbread surface; using a knife, swirl salsa through batter to create marbled effect.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm with butter.

NOTE Recipe may be doubled. Use greased 13×9-inch baking pan; bake as above.

 

FOR MUFFINS:
SPOON batter into 10 to 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling 2/3 full. Bake in preheated 400°F oven for 15 minutes.

Add a comment

Lentil Soup, Chateau Vegas

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

This is one of my all-time favorite winter soups, the recipe for which hailed from the old Chateau Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada.  This is going to sound weird, but this soup tastes glamorous.  And powerful, too, in a Sinatra sort of way.   Try it – you’ll see what I mean.  It is hearty, with a delicious tang and terrific texture.  It’s also incredibly easy to make, which comes in very handy when you have a million holiday-related things to do on top of the million other normal everyday things you have to do.

 

While the original recipe calls for the addition of bacon and frankfurters.  I’ve found that substituting a bit of diced turkey ham and a few drops of liquid smoke flavoring substitutes for the bacon just fine.  With respect to the frankfurters, I use Foster Farms turkey franks.  Rated #1 in taste tests for best flavor and best overall texture (no tough skins – could easily double as a regular hot dog), Foster Farms guarantees no added hormones or steroids. (source: http://www.seattlepi.com)

 

Serve it with a thick slice of Chipotle Cornbread (recipe to follow tomorrow!) and a crisp salad.  It’ll warm you up…

 

Enjoy!

Lentil Soup

(Chateau Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada; as seen in Bon Appetit’s Favorite Restaurant Recipes)

 

Serves 6

 

2 slices bacon, finely chopped

1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil (optional)

1 celery stalk, diced

1 carrot, diced

¼ medium onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 quarts water (8 cups)

1 pound lentils (brown lentils preferred for texture)

¼ C diced canned tomatoes

1 bay leaf

 

6 frankfurters, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp steak sauce

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

½ tsp Kosher salt, or to taste

 

Fry bacon (or diced turkey ham) in Dutch oven until almost crisp, adding oil if necessary.  Add celery, carrot, onion, and garlic, and sauté until onion is translucent, about 3-4 minutes.  Stir in water, lentils, tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 1 hour.

 

Stir in remaining ingredients and continue cooking until frankfurter slices are heated, about 10 minutes.

 

Photo Credits:

Bowl of lentil soup courtesy of  www. chicgalleria.com

Raw lentils image courtesy of www.slowcarbfoodie.com

Foster Farms Turkey Franks image courtesy of www.fosterfarms.com


 

Add a comment

Alabama Yams With Oranges

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of www.unwinnable.com

Traditionally, any yam served in my childhood home during the month of November was baked, mashed with butter, cream, a wee bit of salt and brown sugar, and covered with mounds of fluffy marshmallows that were subsequently broiled until nearly black and gooey on top.  Come to think of it, the only time we actually ate yams back then was during the month of November.

Upon having children of my own and deciding early on there was no way I was going to feed my babies processed baby nasty-food,  I did some research into the nutritional merits of these terrific tubers.  It seems they have a far lower glycemic index than regular potatoes.  They also happen to be packed with potassium, manganese, vitamin C and vitamin B3 while registering low on the sodium counter.  Best of all, kids actually like to eat them with little or no negotiation, marshmallows or no marshmallows.   I started serving them regularly to the whole family as a tasty side that could double as homemade baby food.  Two birds with one stone?  That’s how I roll!  Baked in their skins with a dash of butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, or cut up and oven-roasted, yams are delicious and appear on my household menus at least once a week.

However tasty the good old fashioned yam might happen to be all by itself, the holidays call for something a bit more elegant, more celebratory.  This is it.  From the Heritage of Southern Cooking, author (and southern cooking guru) Camille Glenn has this to say:

 

” This is the Deep South way with yams or sweet potatoes.  It seems to always show up with the Thanksgiving turkey, but it is just as compatible with a good ham or chicken.  Do not peel either the potatoes or the orange.  If you don’t have a luscious rich sauce, you have been too cautious with the butter.”

 

Amen.  Be sure to slice the oranges as thin as possible – if you have a mandoline slicer, use it, but if not, just be sure to cut the slices super-thin.  Use real butter, and for heaven’s sake, listen to Ms. Glenn!  Don’t be shy!  It’s the holidays, after all.  This dish is excellent served with Green Beans Sauteed With Olive Oil; the citrus overtones keep the palate fresh and thoroughly entertained.

Enjoy!

 

Alabama Yams With Oranges

(Heritage of Southern Cooking, by Camille Glenn)

6 yams or sweet potatoes, fully cooked and cooled (I bake mine for approximately 30 minutes at 400 degrees – the yam shouldn’t be too mushy, but it should be cooked to the point that it can be easily sliced)

3 navel oranges, thinly sliced

1/2 to 3/4 C (1 to –1/2 sticks) butter

3/4 C sugar

1 C fresh orange juice

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Peel and slice the cooked sweet potatoes very thin and place one layer in a shallow buttered baking dish.  Top with a layer of orange slices.  Dot generously with butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Continue layering.  You should have 3 layers, ending with a layer of potatoes, butter, and topping it off with sugar.

Mix the orange juice with the lemon juice and pour it over the potatoes.

Bake until a pleasant syrup has formed and the top is tinged with brown.

Serves 6 – 8

 

 

Add a comment

The Art of Giving: The Five Week Manners Makeover Step 4

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

With three weeks of practicing Basic Table Manners, two weeks of practicing the Art of Conversation, and a week’s worth of practice on how to nail the perfect greeting and a great handshake, it’s time to move on to the next step in our Five Week Manners Makeover:

The Art of Gift Giving

 

This next step takes some time and lots of talking, so be prepared.

 

With the sometimes mind-numbing hustle and bustle of the holiday season, all too often gift-giving endeavors are reduced to:

a)  an ever-evolving list of people who should receive something of equal or greater value to the gift slated for the next person on the list, often based on a sense of historical or social obligation vs. inspiration and joy;

b)  a distribution from a pile of whimsical but impersonal things collected from various sales throughout the year;

c)  a detached, materialistic and rather mechanical “thing that must be done” during the holidays, often accompanied by little or no thought of the person to whom the gift is to be given;

d)  a dreaded financial burden when all is said and done.

 

Needless to say, kids get confused when they are told time and again that “giving is better than receiving”, and yet they never really learn the art of giving and how it can make them – and the gift recipient – feel when the act is genuine, personal, and from the heart.  Like any other life skill, kids only know what they’re taught.  Kids can learn how to “get off the hook” and mechanically give Grandpa another token pair of holiday socks just as easily as they can learn how to really consider everything Grandpa really means to them and construct a meaningful gift accordingly.

Listen to your heart.

Try this:  before you write your holiday gift-giving list, take a quiet moment to ask yourself who impacted your life in a truly positive way this year.  What does that list look like?  Don’t be surprised if you’re surprised; the list may include people you don’t really know, but really, really appreciate, like that checker at the grocery store who always manages to put a smile on your face, even when you’re grumpy after a long day, or that teacher that makes your children feel inspired, like they can achieve anything?  (Note from author: To me, honoring these folks first makes me feel like I’m honoring myself and my intuition, adding emotional substance to the gifts I choose to give and the reasons why I choose to give them. It also helps me put my values and my relationships in perspective, while taking a good look at how I impact others’ lives, as well.)  Do this by yourself first; then sit down and try the exercise with each of your children.  You’ll gain precious insight into their lives and their values, as well.

 

Give unconditionally.

Sometimes folks can feel put on the spot, or perhaps as though you have ulterior motives, when they receive a gift of appreciation. In instances where you would like to show your appreciation but feel that it might result in an uncomfortable situation, giving anonymously is a great way to go.  Even if you don’t get the pleasure of seeing the recipient’s response, please don’t ever underestimate how much that coffee house gift card will be appreciated.

 

On the same note, unconditional giving means that even if you give personally and directly and do not receive the kind of appreciative response you’d hoped for, your heart was in the right place.  Do not become offended.  It just might be that the recipient is overwhelmed, self-conscious, or simply doesn’t know how to respond appropriately.  Move on, forgive, and be happy knowing you gave for all the right reasons.

 

A great way to teach your kids the joy of unconditional giving is to come together as a family to choose a recipient for an anonymous family gift.  In addition to charitable giving, choosing an anonymous gift for someone who is just simply an awesome human being is a fun way to bring your family together to celebrate great energy.

 

Great gifts mean something .

Retailers are there to be, well, retailers.  They put lots of “pretty shiny things” out to attract and distract shoppers, usually overwhelming and confusing them to such an extent that they end up purchasing items they never intended to buy in the first place.  Putting thought into the meaning behind your gift-giving will not only help you stay on track with your budget, but it will ensure that the meaning behind the gift you give will not be diluted along the way.  Does your aunt really need another scarf/hat/mitten set?  Or would it mean more to her for you to give her a unique piece of vintage jewelry to add to her collection?  In talking with your son about a possible gift for Grandpa, chances are that token pair of holiday socks will turn into an elaborate handmade picture of the time he took your son fishing, accompanied by an assortment of Grandpa’s favorite fishing snacks.  More expensive?  Nope.  More meaningful?  Absolutely.

 

“Think beyond the stuff”.

Most of the time, stuff is just that:  STUFF.  We don’t know what to do with the stuff we’ve already got, let alone more of it.  As a happier alternative, give gifts of shared time and/or experience, such as a monthly scheduled tea party with Grandma or tickets to the museum for your child and his/her BFF.  Be creative.  Make it special.  Try giving Grandma a new calendar with pre-scheduled dates for your tea parties already marked in bright, happy colors – make each party have a different theme, i.e. – February = Valentine chocolates, March = lemon cakes, September = celebrate the blackberries, etc.  Lighter on the heart, easier on the environment!

 

Wrap It Up!

Yes, it takes time.  And patience.  And maybe even a couple of tries.  But what would YOU rather receive:  an unwrapped gift, or one that had been carefully wrapped to the best of the giver’s ability?

 

Now take gift wrapping one step further:  how can you make it eco-friendly?

 

Here’s a video on how the Japanese utilize pieces of cloth to wrap their gifts:

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits:
Gift w/ Gold Ribbon courtesy of www.mysmartshop.wordpress.com

Hands holding heart courtesy of www.esquire.com

“Pay it forward” courtesy of www.midatlanticarthritis.wordpress.com

Smiling Child courtesy of www.couponsaver.org

Seedlings in eggshells courtesy of www.themorningnews.org

Clip art gifts courtesy of www.absoluteuniquegifts.com

 

Add a comment

Nifty Napkin Folds: Tiered Silverware Pouch

by Danica Waters

Now that we’ve mastered the Basic Silverware Pouch, it’s time to turn the aesthetics up a notch.  Ready?  You’re about to become a napkin-folding, silverware-pouch-creatin’ BOSS.  Here’s instructions on how to make a Tiered Silverware Pouch.

 

Tiered Silverware Pouch

 

Step 1:

Lay the napkin face down in front of you.  Keep your tag in the upper left corner.

 

Step 2: 

Fold the napkin in half so the open end faces towards you.

Step 3:

Fold the napkin in quarters.

Step 4:

Orient the napkin so that the open corner faces away from you and to the right.

Step 5:

Roll the top layer down to the center and press down.

NOTE:  Your tendency is probably going to be to try to create a hard fold the first time out.  Don’t – it overcomplicates everything and causes your tiers to overlap rather than lay flat neatly next to eachother.

Simply roll the first layer down…

 

Step 6:

… and then roll the second layer down to meet the first; press flat…

Step 7:

… and then repeat with the third and final layer.  Press all layers down well – you might want to use a warm iron at this point to reinforce the folds and give a super-crisp appearance.  Usually, though, pressing the folds with your hands is sufficient.

Step 8:

Carefully turn the napkin over.

Step 9:

Fold the right side in about a third of the way and press it down hard.

Step 10:

Now fold the left side back and press down hard.  This is another good time to use an iron, to make sure everything looks nice and crisp.

Step 11:

Flip over your pouch, insert your utensils, et voila!  Oooooh – Aaaaaah!  The Tiered Silverware Pouch is so pretty, it brings “tiers” to my eyes.  (Ok! Ok!  I couldn’t resist!)

Add a comment

Jam-Filled Walnut Scones

by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of wowhowsnacktastic.wordpress.com

While on the subject of tea and scones, this is an awesome little recipe you’ll want to have in your teatime repertoire.  These scones are easy to make and fill the house with a delightful smell; they’re just the thing for those stay-in-your-jammies, wintery weekend mornings when you want to treat the family (and yourself!) to something special.

 

They look as divine as they taste; the little wedges with their jewel-toned centers add visual richness and texture to serving platters at teatime.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Jam Filled Walnut Scones

(Simply Scones)

 

2 c all-purpose flour

½ C finely chopped walnuts

¼ C granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled

2/3 C buttermilk (or 2/3 C milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ C strawberry or other preserves

 

Preheat oven to 400? F.  Lightly butter a baking sheet.

 

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, walnuts sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture.  With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla and stir to combine.

 

With lightly floured hands, divide the dough into two equal-sized pieces and put each portion into a 5-inch circle on a lightly floured cutting board.  Cut each circle into 6 wedges.  Transfer the 12 pieces to the prepared baking sheet.  Dip the point of a sharp knife in flour and make a slit in the top of each scone, dipping the knife in flour as needed.  Carefully spoon 1 teaspoon of strawberry preserves into the sit in the top of each scone.  Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.

 

Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes.  Using a spatula, transfer the scones to the wire rack to cool.  Serve warm, or cool completely and store in a single layer in an airtight container.  These scones freeze well.

 

Makes 12 scones.

Add a comment

How To Make A Perfect Cup Of Tea

by Danica Waters /photo credits at bottom of post


Having published the recipe for what I think are the Best Traditional Scones In The World, it’s high time to get into how to make the perfect cup of tea to accompany them. Take a look:

 

 

There’s a lot of speculation as to whether it’s best to add milk to the cup before or after the tea is poured.  According to Margot Cooper, a tea specialist at London’s Fortnum & Mason, milk was originally added to the cup before pouring the tea to keep the teacups from breaking.  However, as finer materials were introduced, such as bone china, the English took to pouring the milk after the tea was served to demonstrate that they were serving on china of the finest quality.  She also advised that the advantage to adding milk afterwards is that you have the ability to gauge the strength of your tea prior to diluting it with milk.  While this train of thought made certain sense, it went against everything I’d ever been taught by my mother-in-law about making tea, so I decided to look into it a bit further.

 

It appears that my mother-in-law was right; scientists at the Royal Society of Chemists in England had something else to say about the “milk matter “entirely.  It seems that at high temperatures, milk proteins unfold and clump together in a process called “denaturation”.  Essentially, adding a thin stream of cold milk to a cup of hot tea causes your milk to go “bad”.  The RSC advises that to maintain the freshest flavor possible, “It is better to have the chilled milk massed at the bottom of the cup, awaiting the stream of hot tea.  This allows the milk to cool the tea, rather than the tea ruinously raise the temperature of the milk.”  (source:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/3016342.stm)

 

So now we know.

 

And according to my mother-in-law, there’s one more essential step to making the perfect pot of tea:   Pour a bit off the top.  That’s right.  Before your serve anyone, pour a little tea off the top of the pot down the sink.  It is said to improve the flavor by removing any bitterness.  While I haven’t been able to find any scientific information to support this, I’m not going to question it.  Her tea is perfect every time.

 

To Loose-Leaf or Bag It:

Regarding whether or not it’s best to use tea bags or loose-leaf tea, either will work.  However,  loose leaf tea is allowed to freely circulate in the water, allowing for maximum oil extraction and renders a richer, more flavorful cup of tea.  When using loose-leaf tea, figure on using one teaspoon per cup, plus one teaspoon for the pot, if desired.

 

Steeping Times and Temperatures:

Courtesy of www.seattleteacup.com, following is a handy reference chart for temperature and steeping times for different types of tea:

Tea type Water Temperature Steeping Time
White tea 160° 1.5 to 2 minutes
Green tea 170° 2 minutes
Oolong tea (greener) 170° 2-3 minutes
Oolong tea (darker) 190-212° 2-4 minutes
Black tea 212°(rolling boil) 3 minutes
Herbal tea 212°(rolling boil) 3-5 minutes

 

What to do with all those loose tea leaves?

Read them, of course!  Do you see birds?  Triangles?  Courtesy of www.teausa.com, here’s a list of some of the more commonly seen symbols and their meanings:

 

ACORN—Continued health—improved health.

ANCHOR—Lucky symbol. Success in business or in love. If blurred or indistinct just the reverse.

HEART—A lover. If close to a ring, marriage to the present lover. If indistinct, the lover is fickle.

HEAVENLY BODIES—(Sun, Moon, Star)—Good luck—great happiness and success.

OWL—Indicates sickness or poverty. Warning against starting a new venture.

PALM TREE —Good omen. Success in any undertaking. Single people learn of marriage. MOON (crescent)—Prosperity, fame. If cloudy, difficulties will be solved.

ELEPHANT—Good Luck—good health—happiness.

TRIANGLES—Unexpected good fortune.

BIRDS—Good Luck. If flying, good news from the direction it comes. If at rest a fortunate journey.” (www.teausa.com)

 

For a complete, step-by-step guide on tasseography, or the art of reading tea leaves, check out their website.  It makes for loads of fun on chilly afternoons.

Enjoy!

 

Photo Credits:

(Tea Service photo courtesy of http://en0910.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/assessment-of-your-projects/)

(Milk pouring into teacup – photo courtesy of Caters News Agency / Mail Online)

(Smiling tea leaves in cup  – photo courtesy of mosangels.ning.com)

(Tea reading photo courtesy of www.teausa.org)

 

 

1 comment

The Best Traditional Scones In The World

by Danica Waters

Right.  I know I’ve already published a really fine recipe for scones.  But I’ve gotta’ be honest and recommend that you scratch it, because THIS IS THE BEST RECIPE FOR TRADITIONAL SCONES.  Like, EVER. 

Surprises like this are what keep me fascinated with cooking:  just about the time you think you know what it’s all about, something new comes along that’s even better.  Here’s the back story:  the day before yesterday, we stopped in to my in-laws’ home for afternoon tea.  My mother-in-law, who always sets out a beautiful selection of homemade cakes and sweets to accompany the tea, was particularly excited about a new recipe she’d discovered.  Given that my mother-in-law is a fabulous Scottish cook, when she gets excited about a recipe (especially for something like scones), I pay close attention.

It seems that the author of this particular recipe took all the best elements of her Scottish grandmother’s scones and combined them with all the best elements of the official scone recipe of London’s world-renowned Savoy Hotel.  She nailed it.  These traditional scones are perfect in flavor, body and texture.  They are also beautiful to look at.

While you can easily substitute raisins for dried currants, I highly recommend using the latter if you can find them.  With the holidays coming, keep in mind that these scones would serve as a welcome accompaniment to a gift box filled with an assortment of fine teas, coffees, or even hot chocolate.  They are easily reheated and go equally well  served with butter and jam as they do served with a mild cheese (such as Havarti) and a bit of turkey or ham.

 

Enjoy!

 

The Best Traditional Scones In The World

(by FRIENDLYFOOD, as seen on www.allrecipes.com)

 

1-1/4 C all purpose flour

4 tsp baking powder

1/4 C white sugar

1/8 tsp salt

5 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 C dried currants or raisins

1/2 C milk

1/4 C sour cream

1 egg

1 Tbsp milk

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl.  Cut in butter using a pastry blender or rubbing between your fingers until it is in pea-sized lumps.  Stir in the currants.  Mix together 1/2 C milk and sour cream in a measuring cup.  Pour all at once into the dry ingredients; stir gently until blended.  Note:  overworking the dough results in terribly tough scones!!!

With floured hands, pat scone dough into balls 2-3 inches across, depending on what size you prefer.  Place onto a greased baking sheet, and flatten slightly.  Let the scones barely touch each other.  Whisk together the egg and 1 Tbsp milk; brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash.  Let them rest about 10 minutes.

Bake for 10-15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the tops are golden brown (not deep brown).  Break each scone apart, or slice in half.  Serve with butter or clotted cream and a selection of jams – or even plain.

Note:  Scones can be reheated if not eaten promptly by wrapping in aluminum foil and heated through in the oven, or by simply cutting in half and placing in the toaster.

 

Add a comment