Monday, November 29, 2010

Tea at the Four Season's Boston

A couple of weeks ago my cousin and I went to the Four Season's Boston for High Tea. It was a cold November afternoon and this was a perfect way to finish a day filled with shopping and walking all over the city.

I am a fan of High Tea and love to go to all the hotels in the city for tea and see who has the best tea, treats and ambiance. The Four Season's Boston is so beautiful since it overlooks the park, and this time of year the park is full of skaters, lights and happy people walking. We may live in one of the coldest cities in the country but we do make the best of the cold days, and look beautiful in our coats, hats & scarfs.

Boston is a famous place to have tea since the most famous "tea event" happened here ... The Boston Tea Party, in 1773. It was a cold December night, when a small band of colonists threw 340 chests of tea into the Boston Harbour as a sign of protest against “taxation without representation.” It was the beginning of a chain reaction that eventually led to the Declaration of Independence.

"Today, afternoon tea is no longer a sign of protest – it is a civilized, refined respite from the taxing pace of the day’s activities." - Four Season's

This is what we had ...
Scones and Tea Bread
Strawberry Jam, Lemon Curd and Devonshire Cream

Selection of Tea Sandwiches and Pastries

Served with a Pot of Brewed Tea of Your choice
Gunpowder – Organic Variety of Rolled Chinese Green Tea with a Crisp Refreshing Flavour
Crimson Berry – Lively Herbal Tea Made with Elderberries, Grapes, Currants, Bilberries and Hibiscus
Wild Mint – This Mint Herbal Tea is very Aromatic, but not Sharp. A Full, Complex and Refreshing Tea
Lemon Camomile – Herbal Tea, Blending the Camomile with Lemongrass and Lavender Flowers

All the treats that were served were so yummy and very traditional for tea. We had sandwiches such as cucumber, curried chicken, and smoked salmon. Sweets such as lemon tartlets, profiteroles filled with whipped cream and raspberry, a lemon poppy bread, and how can I forget scones. Scones that were warm when they were delivered to the table and tasted so full of flavor with tea.

The best part of going out for tea is how relaxing tea is and how much uninterrupted time you can spend with a person when you are having tea. There is no need to have your cell phone on, and ll that matters is what is in front of you ... the company and the treats.

If you have never experienced an outing for tea you should definitely do it. Bring your Mother, Sister, Best Friend, Daughter, etc. This is the perfect way to end a day of shopping, or a day walking around the city in the cold. Tea warms you up and the company you have will warm your soul.


Peanut-Rasin Granola Bars

Last week I was looking through my pantry for a snack and found so many different granola bars. Some we like and some we are not too fond of but still eat, but there were so many. And they all have such crazy ingredients in them, some I cannot even pronounce, I thought they were healthy treats but when you have no idea what is in them how can be healthy.

I seem to be on the kick on making everything we put in our bodies at my house. It may take a bit of time and energy but in the long run now you know what is it so you know how healthy it is. The other nice thing about making more of the things you eat is the love that you put in each meal you cook. Love translate in taste, flavor, and texture ... believe me when someone makes something with love it shows.

This is how I made my granola bars ...
cooking spray
2 1/2 cups organic rolled oats
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup of raisins (or 3 boxes of Sunmaid raisins)
1 cup organic sunflower seeds, hulled
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.

Mix the oats, peanuts, raisins, seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, condensed milk and butter in a bowl. Bake in oven till golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly, flip over, peel off the foil and cut into bars.

These are such a yummy treat when you need a pick-me-up. Thinking of using dried cranberries, mini chocolate chips, and possible chocolate drizzle on future ones. Maybe even candied ginger or dried apricots. Wow the possibilities are endless.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cottage Pie

I would like to start by saying for the past few weeks I have been looking for a mandolin slicer. But I have not been able to find one, or maybe find one I like. So the other day my Mom & Dad came over to visit and they gave me a mandolin slicer they found while they were out shopping. How sweet of them to find a tool I have been looking for. Now no more looking and lets get slicing.

Last months issue of Everyday Food Magazine had a Cottage Pie on the cover. This very beautiful Pie in a casserole dish with thinly sliced potatoes as the "top crust." All I wanted to do was make this beautiful dish. After receiving the mandolin slicer I knew this was the first dish I was going to make with this new kitchen tool.

I am such a fan of comfort food and things that make you feel good inside and out. They make the house smell wonderful in the winter and warm the soul of all those who pop in for a visit unexpectedly during the winter.

This dish has other advantages in that you can use what you have in your fridge to make it. Most of these ingredients can be exchanged for something different and it can still be considered a Cottage Pie. The original way to make Cottage Pie is to use Lamb but since Turkey day was just upon us I substituted Turkey for the Lamb and it was such a yummy idea.

This is what I did ...
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, sliced
coarse salt & pepper
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 1/2 cups of minced turkey (both dark and white meat)
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
1 cup larger beer
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup frozen peas
2 Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high. Add onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in tomato paste. Add meat and cook, until almost cooked through, 3 minutes. Add thyme and beer and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly reduced, 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Add 1 cup water and cook until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Stir in peas and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer mixture to a casserole like baking dish. Top with sliced potatoes, overlapping slices. Season potatoes with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons butter. Bake until potatoes are browned around edges and tender when pierced with a knife, 40 to 45 minutes. Then put in broiler for 5-10 minutes to crisp up the edges of the potatoes.

Let sit for 10 minutes to "settle and rest" before serving.

My husband thought this dish was so yummy he cannot wait for me to make it again. We although thought the next time we make it was are going to add 3/4 cup of frozen corn to add another level of sweetness.

As you can see there is so much you can do with this recipe from different meats you can use to veggies that can go in it makes it a frugal find, for what you have in your fridge you can use and it will come out just as yummy. It is so easy and looks so nice when finished it can even make a great casual dinner for you and another couple for a weeknight dinner


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jerk Chicken

This is a crazy time of year to be talking about Jerk Chicken, and Jerk Chicken that needs to be cooked on a grille, with fire, outside your house. Since I am blogging from outside Boston and today it is 39 degrees, and not many brave souls have the stamina to stay outside and cook chicken on their gas grille. But my Husband does!!!

You see he asked me two days ago to marinade chicken for him and he requested Jerk Chicken to take to the Patriots vs. Colts game at Gillette Stadium. He loves to go to the games but I think he loves tailgating more than the game itself. Even though we are in a cold weather land please do not mess with the boys who tailgate for they mean business when it comes to the food they make in the parking lot of Gillette. Mike's group of buddies usually plans on two meals while in the parking lot. One before the game and one post game. What they are varies because of the time of the game. Sometimes it is breakfast & lunch and other times it is lunch & dinner. This week was a lunch & dinner week, I made lunch, Jerk Chicken.
This is what I did ...
6 scallions sliced (green only)
2 large shallots, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 hot peppers, minced with seeds (if you do not like it hot omit the seeds)
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
Mix all the ingredients together, and marinate the chicken overnight.
Best if grilled either on charcoals or gas grille.
This time I used thighs and drums. We usually de-skin the chicken and let it set overnight in a zip-lock bag in a cold place.

This is Mike my husband grilling the Jerk Chicken today before the game. The picture was sent with a message ... "these were over the top, all the guys loved them, thanks."


Monday, November 8, 2010

Classic Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Yes!!! More whoopie pies. I think I am a bit hooked on them now and loving everyone that comes out of my oven. In my last post I mentioned that I had never made whoopie pies but they have a deep root in my life. You see when I was a kid my Dad would bring me to the local Italian bakery called Mirabella's Bakery to get fresh bread. But as a little girl I would see all kinds of pastry and treats in the glass refrigerator cases and would ask for a treat. Usually around the time I started looking for a treat the owner would come out and see my Dad and give me a special treat to take home, a Cookie Monster Whoopie Pie. It was the silliest treat but it was one of my favorite treats, and special because Mr. Mirabella always told me he made it special for me.

You may be wondering what is a Cookie Monster Whoopie Pie? Well, they would take a whoopie pie and fill the center but before putting the top on a pink butter cookie was cut in half to look like a tongue. The top was put on. Half the top was covered in blue frosting and sprinkled with coconut to look like fur. Two dollops of frosting made the eyes and M&M's made the pupils. It was sheer delight for a young girl like myself.

What also makes this so special is years later when I needed my first job, I went to Mr Mirabella and I started working for him. And all those Cookie Monster Whoopie Pies that I would see sold and the little ones who's eyes would light up when their parents would bye them one. Childhood memories last forever. When these whoopie pies came out of the oven all those childhood memories flooded back.

These were so much fun to make and very different from the Pumpkin ones I spoke of earlier. The real reason why these were made goes back to that very sweet book that was dropped on my desk. The original request was for traditional whoopie pies with traditional filling. So that is what I did. These are very yummy!!!

Classic Chocolate Whoopie Pie

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Preheat oven 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt onto a piece of wax paper.

Beat the butter, shorting, and brown sugar together until fluffy and smooth. Add the egg and vanilla, beat for 2 minutes.

Add half of the milk and half the four mix beat until Incorporated. Add the remaining four and milk and beat till completely combined.

Drop 1 tablespoon onto a prepared sheet spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on wire rack.

Classic Marshmallow Filling
1 1/2 cups of marshmallow fluff
1 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Beat together the fluff and the shortening until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until Incorporated.

These are so light and fluffy from the batter to the frosting. Let's hope everyone who eats them loves them like I love them. I wonder what will be the next Whoopie Pies I make?!?


Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies

Whoopie Pies are something that I have NEVER made in my life but was presented with a book the other day in my office called "Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix 'em Match 'em Eat 'em Up by Sarah Billingsley & Amy Treadwell.

This book is so sweet in more way than one. After looking through this book I knew I had to make the Pumpkin Spice Whoopies first. But before I start baking I looked through this very sweet book, everything you need to know about making, filling and the history of whoopies. The book is illustrated so simple, ANYONE can make these, and want to make these. The other really nice thing about this book is there are Gluten-free whoopies, Vegan whoopies, and Savory whoopies. The book is laid out so that the pies and the fillings are separate so you can mix and match. YUM!!

The Pumpkin Spice Whoopies seemed very fitting for a dessert with Turkey and all the fixings. Keeping the theme of dinner start to finish is what I like to do most often, and since pumpkin is in season this time of year, made it the perfect choice.

I will tell you that the recipe calls for pumpkin, and this when you have to decide do I want pumpkin that comes in a can or do I want to roast my own pumpkin? Even though filling in a can is so cheep you get so much more natural flavor and texture from the real thing. And since roasting a pumpkin is so easy why not roast your own vegetable. (side note: you can also salt and roast your pumpkin seeds for a snack while you make your whoopie pies

This is what I did ...
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

2 1/4 cups of all-purpose baking flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cup solid packed pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and salt on wax paper. Set aside.

Mix brown sugar and butter on low speed until combined. Add the pumpkin, then the egg, beat well. Add the vanilla and beat till combined.

Add the flour fix and to mix, beat on low till combined

Drop 2 tablespoons of batter on lined cookie sheets spacing them 2 inches apart. bake for 15 minutes, until firm to the touch and beginning to crack. Let the cakes cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack for them to cool completely before filling.

The filling ...

Classic Buttercream
3 cups confections' sugar
1/2 cup (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Beat together the confections' sugar with the butter, starting on low and increasing the speed until the mix is crumbly, about 1 minute. Add the heavy cream, vanilla,and salt and beat on high until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Fill the whoopies and serve!!!

These were such a hit after turkey I had to snap a photo before they all got eaten.