Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tea Party Animal Annual Family Tea

Tea Party Animal????  Fresh Cup Magazine reviewed my book, Tea with a Twist for their December issue and gave me the title of "Tea Party Animal" which I thought was very amusing!  I never thought of myself in quite that way, but after some reflection, they could be right!   When you think about tea most of the day, conjure up recipes that tea would taste good in, write about tea, speak about tea, teach others about tea, pair tea with foods, and try to get everyone you know to drink tea, tea party animal could describe me. 

Well how does a "tea party animal" celebrate Christmas?  She celebrates with a tea party, naturally.  My husband Joe and my two kids, Zach and Kate, have had an annual Christmas tradition for ten years.  We go have tea somewhere and take time for just us during this crazy time of year.  My son is now in college and my daughter is finishing middle school and they still love our Christmas teas.  It is a time for us to slow down and think about the real meaning of this season and all our blessings. 

Yesterday was our day for our annual Christmas tea!  It was  a great time to reflect on the past year and how far we have come as a family and giggle about the crazy things we have all done.  I love that it is just "us".  One of my passions is for people to know that drinking tea isn't just for afternoons, ladies, grandmas, and children-its for everyone, anytime of the day! 

I hope this may be an inspiration for you and your family to start the tradition of an annual Christmas tea.  It doesn't have to be elaborate.  If the budget is tight, just sitting down as a family while you sip some tea and eat scones or some baked goodies is perfect. It is not about the tea or the food, but the time you spend together and the memories you create!  That is one of the reasons I love tea so much.

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Truffles, Chestnuts, and My Stage Debut

Growing up in South Florida meant the "Winter Wonderland" at Christmas time was sand going between your toes while you walked barefoot on the beach.  The closest we got to chestnuts roasting on an open fire was the crackle and pop the LP made as our treasured Nat King Cole Christmas album played the tune on our record player.  My dad is a huge Nat fan and has collected his albums for years.  In fact, I often wondered if that was why his album was the only holiday music we owned growing up-nobody could out do Nat King Cole. 

My dad was also a singer himself.  For several years, my father was asked to be a part of a Living Christmas Tree production in St. Petersburg, Florida.  When I was around 8 or so, I was asked to be a part of the production.  My role was to just sit still on my dad's lap as he sang the old favorite that I had heard every year-The Christmas Song better known as Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.  The night of the performance I was so nervous that my mom kept having to take me to the ladies room.  I was afraid I was going to miss my stage debut due to a nervous bladder! 

Alas, my time had come to go on stage. I remember getting up onto my dad's lap and nervously looking out into the audience when I realized I couldn't even see them.  The lights on stage were so bright that all I could see was their bright beams .  So, I just looked at my dad as he sang my  favorite Christmas song to me and I forgot all about the audience.  I have to say his rendition that night of The Christmas Song was the best I had ever heard-even Nat King Cole couldn't out sing my dad!

My South Florida upbringing didn't allow me to experiment with recipes for roasting chestnuts, but as promised here is my Microwave Chocolate Truffle Recipe.  Some of my readers have emailed me that it has  become their "new favorite" Holiday Recipe-so good and so easy.

Easy Microwave Chocolate Truffles
from Tea with a Twist - All About Chocolate Tea Party

 ½ cup heavy cream
3 Tablespoon butter cut into chunks
2 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
10 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate (60%) I like Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips* (If not using chip, break up chocolate into small pieces)
½ teaspoon salt

Cocoa Mixture

Mix 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa and 1/3 cup powder sugar together. For a saltier taste add 1/8 teaspoon fine salt.

Microwave cream, butter and sugar in 2 quart microwavable glass bowl on high for 1 ½ minutes. Stir well; heat an additional 1 minute longer or until mixture comes to full boil. Stir in vanilla and chocolate into cream mixture until chocolate is completely melted. Add salt and blend. Chill until firm enough to shape into balls about 3 hours. Shape into 1-inch balls. If desired roll truffles in Cocoa Mixture. Another option is to roll in finely ground nuts and salt. Store covered in refrigerator. Makes about 2 dozen.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cooking at A Southern Season during Chocolate Season-Brings Life Full Circle

Calling all Chocoholics-the All About Chocolate Tea Party from my book Tea with a Twist was created just for us.  Christmas time is the perfect time of year to indulge and treat you and your friends to a chocolate party from first sip to last bite-savoury to sweet! In my next blog, I will be sharing my microwave chocolate truffle recipe with you that you will want to make for yourself and as gifts for friends-so easy and sooo good! 

Christmas is the time of year that I really embrace being a part of the Chocoholics group.  I recently returned from Chapel Hill, North Carolina where I was invited to a cooking demo and book signing at the most fabulous "foodie" store you could ever step foot in-A Southern Season and the All about Chocolate Tea Party was the main event.  Going back into A Southern Season really took my mind back 20 years to the first time I stepped foot in this store.  It was in a different location and much smaller, but still wonderful all the same. 

I had just graduated from California State University at Fullerton and moved to Durham, NC.  I was waiting tables to earn money while I looked for a job and met Anna who was also a waitress and finishing up at UNC.  She was my guide to realizing I didn't fall off the face of the earth moving from California to North Carolina.  It was Anna that took me to A Southern Season for the first time and I remember thinking how wonderful the store was and wanting to buy everything.  Anna and I lost touch over the years and we have just reconnected on facebook this year.

Life really does come full circle and there is a season for everything just as God says.  Twenty years ago, I would have never dreamed that I would be a tea specialist with 2 books published and one of them award winning!  It was truly surreal for me to be standing in A Southern Season's Viking kitchen with a sold out class and Anna sitting on the front row.  After the class, I signed books. 

You see 20 years ago,  not long after visiting A Southern Season,  I became a widow at the age of 25 and it was Anna that was with me the night I found my first husband had killed himself.  God has an amazing way of carrying you through something that you never think you can recover from.  How awesome it was for me to present a cooking class in the same town that almost twenty years ago, I thought I would never return to.  Now I have begun new memories in Chapel Hill-good ones and a reconnection to a dear friend.  How blessed we all are that seasons only last for a while but I do hope that A Southern Season is here to stay.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tea with a Twist - Best Tea Book by Gourmand

The day didn't start with a celebration so it just goes to show you, how a day starts isn't necessarily how it ends.  I woke up still tired from my trip to North Carolina where I did a cooking demo and book signing (details to come in next blog).  My husband woke up with a headache and stayed home from work and my daughter decided that she was going to use her mental health day.  For those of you are unfamiliar with a mental health day-let me explain.  I am not sure how far back the tradition dates in my family but I know my mom allowed me to have them and I have passed down the tradition to my children.  Each school year, my children are allowed to take one mental health day-a day where they just don't feel like going to school.

With everyone at home, there went my plans to have a productive work day.  Worst yet, I had errands to run in the afternoon, one of which included a dentist visit.  After finishing up at the dentist, I took my daughter Kate to the orthodontist.  While waiting on her, I decided to check  my emails on my blackberry.  I couldn't believe my eyes. 


When my daughter got back in the car, I shared the news and we put my French music CD in to play as we giggled.  As I strolled into the Post Office, I was so thrilled that I threatened my daughter with singing Christmas carols while we waited in line!

Now how does a tea specialist celebrate you ask-with a pot of tea and fresh baked batch of scones, of course!  Since my family had all stayed home, we were all able to celebrate the victory together.  How special it was to have those that have helped me make my dreams come true and have sacrificed their time in helping me while I was writing, be able to sit by the fire with a cup of tea, nibbling on scones, and celebrating our success!  My son in college even sent me an email message congratulating us on the award!

I feel so blessed to be recognized by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.  Many thanks go to Harvest House Publishers for believing in my ideas and also to the creative team of Lauren Rubinstein and Annette Joseph who made my words come alive in fabulous pictures!