Sunday, January 29, 2017

Week 58, 1-29-2017

Thoughts and Quotes: Yard by Yard, it’s very hard; but Inch by Inch, it’s a cinch.

I know this. I preach this. I finally decided to practice this. I'm always complaining that I can never get to my books. Joey told me to drop everything and just work on them. Bev told me to just do a little at a time and soon it would be finished. So that's what I'm going to do. Instead of Tidying up the house on Tuesday, I tidied up my mind, which was going in a million directions.

I'm working on three books: Tablescapes, Teas, and Theme Dining.

A Year of Everyday Tablescapes will have 52 tables (one per week) and will be a photo book with a recap of where I found the things to do the tablescape.

A Year of Everyday Teas will have 12 teas (one per month). I showed you a sample of one of the teas last week.

A Year of Theme Dining will have 24 meals (two per month). Each meal has the tablescape, invitation, menu, and party favor. This book started it all, and it's just for fun. The other two are to encourage young people to have friends over and eat family dinners at a nice table instead of on a tray in front of the TV.

So I cut it down from "yard by yard" to "inch by inch". If I do four tablescapes, one tea, and two theme meals per month, I'll be finished in one year. I'm already a month behind, but some of this is ready to go - I haven't completely lost my mind to think I can do it in a year; actually eleven months since January is almost history.

However, I do have the Spring Tea, Summer Tea, and Fall Tea for my Cooking Club also. I can delay the Winter Tea to January. And don't forget Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Mardi Gras, Easter, Cinco de Mayo, 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The books don't require that I actually have people over, but all of these do. Maybe I should do a book of Holiday Dining as well. This would be a good start. We'll see. I've already done New Year's Day. I could add a Mother's Day tea and Super Bowl Sunday or Chinese New Year and Voila! A Year of Holiday Dining.

So for January,  the four Winter tablescapes are: 

Tiny Doll



Snow Village

Of course, the book will have more photos of each table. This is just a sample. I'm not entirely pleased with the Snowmen table. I might redo it, and I need to refine the table explanations as well.

The Winter tea I've already shown you back on Year 1, Week 4, and it's completely finished.

The two theme dining meals would be Black and White Indoor Picnic and Winter Wonderland. I didn't intend to do this book, so I have photos only, and I didn't always take photos of the food, but I think it's part of the fun. I also decided to add recipes.

Black and White Indoor Picnic

I haven't even one photo of food for this table, and I would need the recipes for the Bean and Corn Salad and the White Chocolate Nut Cookies.

Winter Wonderland

I'm not happy with this table. I can do better. I have some food photos, but most have people in them so need to be redone. And I'd add recipes for the Chicken Pie, the Frozen Fruit Salad, and the Baked Alaska.

I have my assignment - now to just concentrate on January and do it. We'll talk about February next week.

Thread: Not something I created, but I wanted to show you this. My top button came off my sweater top. I've never liked these buttons, so I changed them. I think it made a big difference.

Thank You: Joey gave me the Red Copper Square Pan which they advertise on TV. It's all they advertise and more. I cooked scrambled eggs in it and it looked like this:

It was a real mess - everything you see was glued on. I washed it with a dishcloth in soapy water and it came out looking like new. I highly recommend that you get one.

Muffin Tin Monday: Carrie ( suggested this recipe from Pillsbury. It's called Tiny Ham and Pineapple Pot Pies. You can get it HERE.

I didn't love them, but I don't care much for Hawaiian pizza either. They're really cute though, and I discovered that I can use 3" circles of ready-made pie crust to make Pecan Tassies - a real time saver.

Tidy-Up Tuesday: As I told you, it was my mind and not my house.

Where to Wednesday: We went to Zio's and I wish I'd taken photos of the restaurant. It's very Italian and very cute. 

Some highlights were Martha's Chicken Cannelloni:

And the Chicken Parmigiano which Joey and I chose:

The service was great. The temperature was perfect. The music (a nice Italian tenor) was subdued. I'd love to go back soon. They graciously substituted all Romaine for the lettuce mix in my tossed salad.

Try Something Thursday: I tried a new recipe which I loved. It's a perfect take-along and also the perfect dessert when you don't have much time. You have to like coconut, though.

(5 Ingredients or Less Cookbook)

1 pkg white cake mix
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 15 oz can cream of coconut
1 8 oz. Cool Whip
7 oz shredded coconut

Bake the cake in a 13” X 9” pan as directed on the package.

Mix condensed milk with cream of coconut. Set aside.

While cake is warm, pierce all over top with a fork.

Cool cake in the refrigerator.

Frost with Cool Whip and sprinkle with coconut.

Note: Look for cream of coconut in the liquor or international foods sections. One brand is Coco Lopez.

And yes, the cookbook title should be 5 Ingredients or Fewer, but it was prepared by Home Economics teachers, not English teachers, so we forgive them.

Friends Over Friday: This still hasn't happened. We went to Neighbors Mill to celebrate Mim's birthday and then I helped Sally do her table for her Supper 8 group. We finished just as the guests started arriving, so my photos aren't great. The ladies got to take the flowers home, and hopefully will remind the gentlemen that Valentine's Day is just around the corner.

I'll try to stick to the weekly schedule this week, but my focus will be books. I need to catch up and Valentine's Day is coming soon. 

For sure we'll do Where to Wednesday. This week we're going to Beth's Bake Shoppe and Tea Room. Here's the LOCATION and the MENU. Everyone is welcome. Hope to see you there.






Sunday, January 22, 2017

Week 57, 1-22-2017

Thoughts and Quotes: Do graciously that which you must do anyway.
                                                             My Aunt Yes-sir-ree

Hillary Clinton has had one disappointment after another. Her Hillary Care package was rejected during Bill Clinton's time in office; she lost in the primary to Barack Obama in 2008; and the biggest disappointment of all, the 2016 presidential election when Donald Trump was elected. In spite of all this, she showed up at the inauguration. She smiled and talked and waved and was a class act. I'm not a Hillary fan, but I was proud of her, and my aunt would have been proud of her, too.

Tasting: On Muffin Monday, I made Pineapple Muffins.


4 cups flour
2 Tbs baking powder (yes, 2 Tbs)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1-1/2 cups crushed pineapple, drained.

Heat oven to 425°.

Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Mix eggs, milk and butter in another bowl; add to dry ingredients.

Stir in pineapple and mix well.

Spoon into greased muffin pans, 3/4 full.

Bake 20-25 minutes.

Makes 24 muffins.

Note: They don’t have a pronounced pineapple taste, but they’re a nice not-too-sweet muffin to have with your morning coffee or afternoon tea.

As for the rest of the week -

Tidy Up Tuesday - I went through all my food stored in the garage, the garage refrigerator, the freezer, and the kitchen refrigerator. I made a vow to make a supreme effort to eliminate waste in the future. Now I'm wondering if that's a good move. I had some apple scones in my freezer, so I made caramel frosting to drizzle them and then took them to Robert on Where To Wednesday. But I had too much frosting, so I made cupcakes to use it. This "use it" problem continued, as you'll see later.

Where To Wednesday: As planned, we went to Cafe 11. Of the three different things we ordered - salad, sandwich, pizza - the pizza won first place. It has a thin crust, and the toppings are cut into nice small pieces so you get a variety on each slice. The owners are very nice, and very generous. My salad came with a breadstick and a drink. I don't drink soft drinks and usually don't like iced tea unless I brew it at home. I asked for water, so she gave me a cookie instead of a drink. She did the same for BilI with his sandwich. Their baked goods looked really fresh and really delicious. The replica wedding cakes were beautiful and they have photos of all kinds of cakes to choose from. 

I didn't forget to take photos - I forgot to take my camera to take photos. Duh!

Try It Thursday: I decided to make a new bread recipe (to use an envelope of Italian salad dressing mix). Can't waste!

(Quick Cooking Magazine)

1 cup plus 3 Tbs water (70° to 80°)
4-1/2 tsps butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 envelope Italian salad dressing mix
1 Tbs sugar
3 cups bread flour
4-1/2 tsps nonfat dry milk powder
2-1/4 tsps bread yeast 

Place ingredients in bread pan, sprayed with cooking spray, in order directed by the manufacturer.

For Oster: Water and butter first; then all dry ingredients whisked together; then yeast in nest made in dry ingredients.

Select Basic bread (1), medium crust (P), and 1.5 pound loaf.

Looks great, right? Wrong. This is the bottom - look at the top: 

I believe I need some practice. Between the sunken top and digging out the paddle, I ended up with small slices.  

But it tasted great, so I made croutons. Can't waste!

Friends Over Friday was delayed to Saturday when we planned to celebrate our Aunt's birthday. Besides, I wanted to see the inauguration. I watched all day and all evening. This is history in the making, and I didn't want to miss it.

So Sayonara Saturday became Happy Birthday, Auntie Kack. She would have been 103.

She was the step-mother to our only blood cousin, Bos, who lived in California. When she was visiting Bos, they came to my house for lunch (I also lived in California at that time), and I made quiche. Auntie Kack had never eaten quiche, and she loved it. I gave her the recipe and I think she made it every week until she made her transition.

Tasting: So Brother Bill came over and we had ham, quiche, vegetable salad, and carrot soup. Tapioca pudding with peaches for dessert.

To make quiche, just whip up 3 eggs, add 1-1/2 cups half-and-half, and 1-1/2 cups shredded cheese (use Swiss or Parmesan or a mix of both - also can add in some Cheddar as part of the 1-1/2 cups). Add whatever you wish: bacon, mushrooms, olives, sauteed onions, green pepper. Bake 45-55 minutes at 400 degrees in an unbaked pie crust. Let stand 20 minutes before cutting. Easy-Peasy.

Then I made carrot soup to use up the extra carrots I bought for last week's stew. Can't waste!

I got this recipe from Taste of Home Magazine and didn’t change a thing, except to add some salt.  It had five stars (the best), and I liked it as is.

1 Tbs butter
8 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 medium tart apples, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
5 cups chicken broth
½ tsp rubbed sage
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
Salt, if needed

In large saucepan, melt butter.

Add all vegetables and cook and stir until onion is tender.  This will take about 5 minutes.

Add balance of ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook about 20 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Remove bay leaf and let soup cool for five minutes.

Puree in batches in blender, working from pulse on low to blend on high. 

Return to saucepan and heat again.

And Vegetable Salad. I made meatloaf on Monday, and had two extra green peppers to use, so I made a double batch. Can't waste!


1 15 oz can Le Seur peas, drained
1 15 oz can white shoe peg corn, drained
1 15 oz can French cut green beans, drained
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped green onions
Small container pimientos, optional

1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

While the green beans are still in the can, run a knife through to cut the pieces into 1/2’s or 1/3’s.

Mix all salad ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

Mix all dressing ingredients together in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stir to make sure sugar is completely dissolved, then cool.

When cool, add to salad and chill.

Note: Whole kernal corn can be used in place of shoepeg, if desired.

After lunch, Bill and I went to Urban (Flea) Market for a bit of -

Thrifting: Bill has a really good eye for quality (and he can spot napkin rings from fifty feet away), and he discovered some perfect dessert plates for me. Remember the dessert plates I bought from Craigslist which were advertised as Italian, but when I took a good look discovered they were French scenes? Well, these are truly Italian. They'r called "Tuscan Seasons". 




I paid $2 per plate, which is less than 10% of what they sell for on the internet.

 I had good luck with Craigslist also. I got all this for $5 total. It's all in perfect condition.

Candy dishes

Trivets - I needed these. The red ones are Hallmark. 

And from another Craisgist seller for $5

Mim made Chicken Curry at our last Cooking Club lunch at her house. I've never made it before, but thought I'd give it a try. This will be perfect for the condiments. 

The Pepper Report: His wounds have healed and the hair is growing back. It's a slow process, but if he'll just leave it alone, I believe it will grow back to completely cover the bald spots.

Temptations: I have so many things I wish to accomplish, and so many things I love to do, I've deviated from my main goals. I've decided to make my main focus the completion of the books I've started. 

First I'll work on the book of Teas. I'll share my progress, and hope you won't get sick of teas before I've moved on to Tablescapes.

This is the beginning of the book:


Regardless of age, inside every grown woman there’s a little girl who will promptly appear at the mention of a tea party.  Let’s release the little girls – bring out the teapots!

We’re all busy, we don’t have proper tea party paraphernalia, we’re on a diet, and we’re on a budget.  But – here’s some good news.  Teas are the easiest way to entertain and the least expensive.  Here you will find easy recipes for an afternoon tea using inexpensive super market ingredients. 

Here’s the next good news – you don’t have to wreck the budget.  You can set a beautiful table shopping Craigslist, thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales.  And the hunt is exciting – like searching for buried treasure.  Afternoon tea doesn’t have to mean china cups, a silver tea service, and white linens.  We all enjoy a beautiful formal tea, but everyday tables can be exciting, too.

Now about that diet – more good news.  A few finger sandwiches, a scone, and a couple of little cookies have fewer calories than a meal of meat and potatoes, salad or vegetable, and dessert.  Entertain your lady friends with teas.  When entertaining couples, go out to eat so you can select items which fit with your diet and you can skip dessert if you wish.

The best good news – these teas take place in the afternoon.  Working girls have plenty of time on a Saturday morning to prepare for a tea that same afternoon.  And some things can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated.  We retired ladies are lucky – we can work a tea into our schedule very easily.

I’ve prepared a year of twelve teas for you.  There are three for each season; you can do a tea each month and impress your friends.  Each tea has recipes for two savories, two sweets, and scones with accompaniments; tables using mostly bargain finds, and a plan to make it easy. 

If you’d rather host a tea luncheon, simply expand the tea at the beginning with a cup of soup or a fruit cup, in the middle with additional savories, and at the end by adding a cake or tart.  You’ll still need only one kind of scone, and don’t omit them because they sound difficult.  They’re really quite easy and I’ll give you tips along the way.

Okay, ladies, choose a tea and let’s party.  Oh, and don’t forget to watch for some fun hats when you’re shopping for your table items.  You might want to do a fancy tea someday.     

And this is the first Spring tea - March




Savories: Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches, Ham and Cheese Tea Sandwiches

Scone: Prodigy Scones with Lemon Curd and Mock Devonshire Cream

Sweets: Coconut Macaroons, A Nice Chocolate Cookie

Tea:  Plain black tea goes with everything.  Keep herbal tea bags on hand to use on request.

Note:  This would be a perfect tea to use up Easter leftovers.  Leftover ham to make tea sandwiches, Easter eggs to make egg salad tea sandwiches, and coconut left over from the bunny cake to make the macaroons.



Tea sandwiches should always have both bread pieces lightly buttered to keep them from getting soggy.

Use different kinds and colors of bread and cut the sandwiches in different shapes to add interest to the sandwich plate.  Trim the crusts and with a sharp knife, cut squares, triangles, or strips.  To make circles, use a cookie or biscuit cutter, or the rim of a glass.

Use your favorite egg salad and a leaf of lettuce.  If your bread is soft, you might need to add body to the egg salad.  Just add one ounce of cream cheese for every four eggs and this will do the trick.

Make the ham sandwiches by putting a little mustard between the ham slice and the cheese slice of your choice.  Make sure the ham and cheese go right up to or overlap the edge of the sandwich.  When you trim off the crusts, you’ll have a nice clean edge.


Years ago, before we had internet, you could use a dial-up service to connect to different “Bulletin Boards” through a company called Prodigy.  My favorite was the crochet board, but as with all discussions between women, we soon turned from crochet patterns to recipes.  Someone posted this wonderful basic scone recipe, and it’s been my favorite scone all these years.  So thank you, Crochet Person Whoever You Are.  And now you know why we call them Prodigy Scones.


3 cups flour                                                     1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar                                                  1-1/2 sticks butter
2-1/2 tsps baking powder                               3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp baking soda                                         raisins or currants (optional)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Mix dry ingredients and cut in butter.
Add buttermilk and knead lightly twelve times.
Pat into a 1/2” high circle and cut with 2” cooking cutter.
Bake on ungreased cookie sheets 10-12 minutes.

Note: These can be made, put on a cookie sheet, covered with film, and baked the next day.  Or you can go ahead and bake them and then heat them quickly in the microwave.

Use larger or smaller cutters, if you wish, but be sure to watch them closely, as you might need to adjust baking time.

I can make these from start to cutting out in a matter of minutes.  You’ll get rave reviews for little effort.

1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of 3 lemons (optional)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Whisk together sugar and eggs in a microwave safe bowl.
Stir in the lemon juice, zest, and butter.
Microwave on high and stir at one-minute intervals until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon.
This will take approximately 3-1/2 minutes.
Strain to get out any cooked egg bits.
Cool several hours before serving.
Put any leftovers in a covered jar or dish and refrigerate up to two weeks.

Note:  Most lemon curd recipes are made in the top of a double boiler where you stir and stir.  You’ll like this nice easy alternative.  Serve it at the last minute.  It wilts a little on standing.


5 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. carton sour cream
3/4 cup whipping cream
3 Tbs. powdered sugar

Use blender or hand mixer and blend until fluffy smooth.  Hand mixer will take longer.  Chill.

Note:  Real Devonshire Cream is difficult to find and a little pricy.  I came up with this suitable substitute.   This can also be used as sauce or dip for fruits or berries by increasing whipping cream to one cup.  As with the curd, serve at the last minute.


(From Taste of Home Magazine)

2-1/2 cups flaked coconut
1/3 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the coconut, flour and salt.

Add the condensed milk and vanilla and mix well.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheet.  You should end up with eighteen.

Bake 15-20 minutes to golden brown.


1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsps vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup finely chopped nuts of choice (optional)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar.

Add eggs and vanilla.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and then add to butter mixture.  Add nuts.

Drop by teaspoons onto lightly greased cookie sheets.  Use only 1/2 teaspoon for tea cookies.

Bake 7-9 minutes, remove from oven, and cool on cookie sheet one minute.

Note:  These cookies make everyone happy because they’re crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  Adjust baking time according to the size you choose.

The Table

A card table with a 70” square white tablecloth is a nice start for your tea collection.  It can be moved wherever you wish, white goes with everything, and it can accommodate up to four people.  If you have four, you might wish to place the food on a side table or buffet and let everyone serve themselves.  You can buy nice quality tablecloths online for reasonable prices if you can’t find what you want at a thrift store or other bargain place.  Just do a search for “cheap tablecloths”, and you’ll find several sources.

You’ll notice that I have not put the milk, sugar, or artificial sweetener on the table.  I find that most people in my area drink their tea with lemon only.  I bring the other items to the table only on request.

As you can see, I’ve mixed the dishes with what I believe is a pleasing result.  The patterned dishes came from Craigslist.  I bought the entire set for $22 and it included four place settings of dinner plates, dessert plates, small bowls, cups and saucers.  If I had two more cups, I’d have six place settings.  The cups seem to be the first thing broken, don’t they?  They also came with serving bowls, a platter, salt and pepper shakers, gravy boat, cream pitcher, and sugar bowl.  Maybe you already have your wedding or Grandmother’s china sitting in the cabinet or packed away in the garage.  If so, you already have dishes for your tea.

The plain yellow dishes came from a thrift store.  I find thrift stores, yard sales, and Craigslist to have better prices than flea markets.  However, don’t rule them out – I’ve made some very good finds at flea markets.  For the solid yellow dishes, I only bought the dinner plates, salad plates, and salad bowls.  They came from a thrift store where the beginning price is usually $1 per dinner plate and 50 cents for salad plates and bowls. If they don’t sell right away, the price continues to decrease until sold.

I picked up the tiered server at a flea market for $5.  The teapot came from a thrift store and I never spend more than $3 for a plain pot.  I’ll go as high as $6-$8 for a nicely decorated pot, but check the prices at gift or department stores, and you’ll see that this is a bargain price.  Always put the teapot on a trivet or plate.  It looks better and it might save a delicate tablecloth if the pot is very hot or you have a little drip.

The gold dinnerware was purchased using coupons from flour years ago.  It has extra plate, and is one of my best purchases.

The doily in the center of the table is actually a pretty, but old, handkerchief - the kind you used to flutter from the train platform to say goodbye to your departing friends.

Yes, I confess, the flowers are silk and they came from my little kitchen desk.  I use silk flowers any time I don’t have the real ones blooming in my yard, and no one has complained yet.  Look around your house.  You have lots of items you can use on a tea table. 

I’m very fond of my yellow napkin rings.  I found eight rings for $2 at a flea market, but they were the kind you buy and paint yourself.  When I visited my friend who does ceramics, she painted four of them yellow and four of them pink and fired them.  Isn’t it nice to have talented friends?

Little glass condiment dishes are easy to find at dollar stores and cute little glass dishes for serving lemon are very inexpensive at thrift stores.

The Plan

Up to a month prior to the tea:  Make the Chocolate Cookies and freeze them.

Up to three days prior:  Make the Lemon Curd and Mock Devonshire Cream and refrigerate.

The day before the tea:
Boil the eggs for the egg salad.

Make up the Ham and Cheese sandwiches and wrap each in waxed paper, ready to trim off crusts and cut into squares, fingers, or triangles the day of the tea.  Don’t forget to butter the bread.  I know I sound like a broken record, but this is very important.

Make the Scones and bake or put unbaked Scones on a cookie sheet, cover with film and refrigerate to bake the next day.

The day of the tea:
Make the Coconut Macaroons.  (These can be made a day prior, but will soften, and they take only minutes to prepare).

Thaw the Chocolate Cookies.

Make the Egg Salad and prepare sandwiches – be sure to butter the bread.  Cut Ham and Cheese sandwiches.  Cover the sandwiches with lightly dampened paper towels and plastic film and refrigerate until serving time.

Bake or warm the Scones.  If warming in the microwave, it takes only seconds.  You don’t want tough Scones.

Make the tea, slice the lemon, and put out the Lemon Curd and Mock Devonshire Cream at the last minute.  Pat yourself on the back!

I've finished the three Spring teas and one Autumn tea. The master plan is in place, but there's lots of work to be done. This will be my focus in the days to come. Bear with me, and if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Where To Wednesday is at Zio's this week at 11:30.  Here's the link. All are welcome.