Monday, June 29, 2020

Tea with the Prince

I'm about to sit down for a quiet tea in the Library. There's magic in this room. All my books are kept here, and characters come to life in the afternoons. Today, I'm keeping company with His Highness and his entourage. Won't you come in for a peek?

First, let's select the tea, shall we? My son, David, sent me this box of tea from England when he visited a while ago.

Once the teabags run out, I guess I'll have to go in person to pick up another box. I can't wait to see my husband's reaction when I break the news to him.

How about Afternoon Tea? It seems appropriate.

I try to allow myself a small flower budget to supplement the seasonal offerings from my garden.  Nothing picks up the spirit like fresh flowers.

And, when I can't get fresh flowers, I improvise.  Even pictures of flowers can improve my mood.

His Highness follows me all over the house, especially he likes to be around flowers. There’s a perfect rock set for him in the backyard, at the base of the clematis vine, but the opossum that lives under our deck keeps knocking him off his throne, so, in order to save his crown, literally, I've brought him inside.  I'm rather fond of him, you see, and I dislike bullies.

Once he settled in, the Prince invited other courtiers to follow him, and set up his court.  He brought with him the Chief of Protocol . . .

Madame Pompadour Butterfly . . . His Highness can be quite naughty, and I had to remind him that this was a respectable house.

Miss Bee, the Lady-in-Waiting . . .

And the Court Gossip, Mr. Dragon. He spends the day buzzing about, and knows the latest "on dits."

Perhaps I can get Miss Bee to bring in another cup for you . . .

Or perhaps not.  I'm terribly sorry, but I've been overruled. Miss Bee complained that I didn't give her enough notice, and the Master of Protocol says you are not wearing a hat. No hat, no tea. He’s very strict.

I guess I'll be eating the cookies by myself today, but I'll invite you for tea very soon, once I clear it with the staff.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Ensalada Malagueña (Cod and Potato Salad, Málaga-style)

This salad is simplicity itself and makes a great middle-of-the week dinner when you need something simple, fast and filling.

Here's the recipe:

3 large Idaho potatoes (or 4 smaller ones), peeled, boiled and cubed in 1-inch pieces
3 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and set aside to cool (can be done the day before)
2 lbs. Cod fillets, either fresh or frozen (can be done the day before)
3 large oranges, supremed - that is, peeled, and sections removed without the outer membrane (can be done the day before)
1 bunch scallions, chopped finely, or ¼ white onion, shaved or sliced thinly (can be done the day before)
½ cup Aloreña olives
½ cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

1.  Cook the potatoes the day that you are planning to serve this dish.  I don't like the taste of leftover potatoes, but this is a personal preference, if you don't mind, then make them the day before.

2.  Slice the hard-boiled eggs into wedges with an egg slicer.  Set aside.

3.  Cook the cod following your favorite method.  I bake mine with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  When it's cooled, shred it with a fork into chunks.

4.  Supreme the oranges:  Here's a tutorial:  How to Supreme an Orange

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Notes:  1. Aloreña olives come from the Málaga region in Spain.  If you can find them it'll make the dish more authentic, however, Manzanilla olives will do in a pinch.  Get them without any filling. 2. Spanish olive oil is great for the same reason, but you may substitute your favorite olive oil, if you prefer.  3.  Scallions are preferable because of their mild flavor.  You do not want a strong onion flavor in this dish.  Depending on what I have on hand, I sometimes use white onion, shaved thinly in a mandolin.


Monday, May 11, 2020

A Mother's Day Tea with Roses

Happy Mother’s Day, to all my dear blogging friends! Today, I’m missing my boys terribly, and in Illinois, we are still sheltering in place. The weather is also dreadful, still in the low 50s, and it's been raining all day, so I decided to cheer myself up and dedicate this little tea party to me, myself, and moi.

Yes, indeed, I've given myself the kind of tea party I would love to attend, and, since it's all about me, I've chosen my favorite dishes, my favorite colors, and my favorite foods without having to think of anyone else's tastes or wants.  It seems a little selfish, I grant you, but just once, I wanted to indulge in a harmless fantasy.  I'm also married to the most agreeable man in the world, and, fortunately, our tastes coincide in most things, so he was more than willing to humor me, and ate with gusto everything I put in front of him, especially the sweets!

The first thing I did was to surround myself with roses.  The universe was aligned with my wishes, because I was able to get them at my local grocery store for $9.99 a dozen, and, since my peonies, hydrangeas and even the day lilies are still sleeping, and, after all, it's Mother's Day, I decided to indulge.  I may have to invoke Mother's Day privilege now and then throughout this post.

If you truly want to understand Maria (notice the 3rd person), you only have to look at these colors.  I play with all kinds of colors throughout the year, but this is where home is. This is what says peace and happiness and love to me. I also think of Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel and all the women who define chic and they’ve never shied away from this oh-so-female shade.  It can take a bit of work to find the right pinks, but when you do, it's pure delight.

Remembering Mae West’s quote that “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful” I added the flowers that my children sent me today. This bouquet came from David, my youngest, his wife, Erica, and my granddaughter, Piper.  Another lovely shade of pink on that rose.  Isn't it lovely?

This one, made of paper roses, was sent by my son, John. John is always looking for a new way to send me flowers that's creative and amusing.  I loved them!  However, it's not as wonderful as those handmade cards of long ago with childish handwriting and funny looking flowers. I get sentimental thinking about them.

I pulled out my trusted white quilt from Restoration Hardware, that I almost threw out once. I was very frustrated at the time because after the first wash, it had shrunk and no longer covered the Queen Size bed for which it was intended. But throwing out a white quilt that didn't even have a single stain seemed criminal, so I kept it. Now, of course, I’m very happy I did. The placemats and napkins are Sferra, the color is Petal.  I want a job naming colors!

Do you like the fringed napkins?  I liked them because they added a casual touch to the table, but now I'm being told that once you wash them, the fringes get matted.  Hmm . . . 

I love bees. Our poor honeybees are endangered, and now we have Killer Hornets threatening them! So, there’s plenty of room at my tea table to honor those hardworking bees that pollinate our crops, and also provide us with delicious honey. 

A big crystal honeypot, given to me for Christmas by John, was placed in the center of the table. Next to it, is its cousin, a hand-painted snuff box by Limoges in the shape of a bee skep (from my hubby).

 And look at the cute little fella that lives inside!

I brought out the Wedgwood Nantucket Basket dinner plates. Nantucket Basket is my latest love. I adore the basket weave texture that makes them so appropriate for spring and summer, or any time I want a pastoral or garden setting. They are paired with Johnson Bros Rose Chintz salad plates, which I've used before here and here.

These bee napkin rings by Joanna Buchanan are making their maiden voyage today. They were a birthday gift from a dear friend that probably knows a bit too much about me. Aren't they gorgeous?

More bees can be found in the Bee goblets by La Rochère.  They are holding Pink Lemonade.

I found these flower-shaped sugar cubes at a local baking supply store that has now closed, but they are also available at Fancy Flours.

Egg Salad with Pimiento Sandwiches . . . And, by the way, these were made at my husband's request.  It made me feel a little bit more generous, and not quite so self-absorbed.

Tomato Twiddle with white onion and Cheddar cheese. Meh! I was intrigued by the name (I also buy wine if the bottle is pretty). What can I say, I'm easily amused. However I don't think I'll make these again.

All I need is love . . . and Lemon Herbed Cucumber Sandwiches . . .

Open-faced Radish with Garlic Goat Cheese, sprinkled with Chives . . . These were very good!

Would you care for a sweet treat?  How about a honeycomb of Lemon Cake, dusted with powder sugar. But be careful with those little sugar bees!

I used only egg whites in the batter so the detail from the pan would show better. It was so light and moist!

Or perhaps a petit four? We pre-ordered them from my favorite bakery and traveled 35 miles to do a curbside pick up.

We also picked up some Strawberry Tarts and Chocolate Eclairs. Never waste a trip to the bakery, that's my motto. 🙂

However, the Strawberry Mousse (from the Silver Palate Cookbook) was made with my little ol’ hands . . .

What will you choose?

How about one of everything?

The tea was completely delightful and everything I'd hoped for.  I wish all my blogging mothers a happy Mother's Day.  May you be healthy.  May your children be healthy.  May your parents be healthy.  May they all be safe from this virus that is currently traveling throughout the world.  May your Spring be filled with flowers . . . and with love.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Easter with Peter Rabbit

Once upon a time there were four little rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail . . .

. . . and Peter.

Peter Rabbit reminds me of everything that was wonderful about my children's childhood:  The innocence, the mischief, the simple pleasures.  Oh, Beatrix Potter!  How I've missed you!  

When I saw these salad plates, I instantly new they were coming home with me.  I didn't even care if my husband, who had come along, was silently judging me.  I love all the charming details on these plates.  The insects put me right over the edge, especially the bee.  I love little bees.  If next year they come out with Jemima Puddle-Duck or Benjamin Bunny plates, I'm going to be in trouble again!

Since the setting of the Peter Rabbit story takes place in the countryside, I pulled out my Wedgwood Nantucket dinner plates and coffee cups with the lovely basketweave pattern.  They are quickly becoming my favorite dishes. 

Of course, willow chargers and napkin rings seemed to fit right in as well . . .

Here's the bird's eye view of the table.  The table cover picks up the color of Peter's jacket, and the gingham pattern provides another sweet country touch.  Does the table feel a bit French to you?  Whenever I take one of those "What's Your Style" quizzes, I'm usually identified as Cape Cod, Country French and Traditional.  That sounds pretty accurate, actually.

I found the flowers at my local grocer, in the perfect colors to match the Peter Rabbit plates.  In fact, I took the plate with me when I went shopping for the flowers.  See those tiny daisies?  I just learned that they are called Fleabane Daisies.  Before they bloom, the petals are closed so tightly that one might suppose they are giant fleas, but then, when they open up you have a plethora of cuteness!

I set up a Bread and Butter Station on the kitchen counter.  Would you prefer a slice of the French Cheese Brioche Braid, or a Hot Cross Bun?  Or a jelly bean? 

You can't have Easter at our house without jelly beans!

The menu was very simple:  A traditional Spanish Omelette with Onions and Potatoes, by popular request. I added fresh berries and coffee; for dessert, my mom's Vanilla Pudding, which I forgot to photograph.  I hate when I do that!

It was a quiet day for us, as it was for most of the country, staying at home in order to keep ourselves and our neighbors healthy.  My most fervent prayer this Easter is that we get past this tragic chapter in our country's history, the overwhelming challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Be safe, dear ones!

Dinner Plates and Coffee Cups and Saucers - Nantucket by Wedgwood
Peter Rabbit Salad Plates - Williams-Sonoma
Juice Tumblers:  La Rochère Napoleon Bee
Flatware:  Napoleon Bee by Wallace
Gingham Table Cover:  Pottery Barn, Sky Blue
Napkins:  Williams-Sonoma, Bluebell
Chargers and Napkin Rings:  Pottery Barn, Honey Willow
Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail figurine:  No markings, bought in a vintage shop

Join Susan at Between Naps on the Porch to see some wonderful tables!