Champagne Gummy Hearts

I have fallen in love with a great candy store named Sugarfina.  I visited one of their boutiques when visiting Chicago recently, and love the branding of this upscale candy. They offer a variety of lovely gummy bears in their stores.

So for my own wedding anniversary,  I decided to try my hand at making champagne gummy hearts, roses and leaves.  They were relatively easy to make.  And, I was quickly able to find a great recipe online. In fact, there are many websites and blogs with recipes out there for various type of champagne or other flavored gummy bears.

Here is how I made my selection of champagne gummy hearts.  First of all, I used my chocolate candy molds and purchased unflavored gelatin.  The other ingredients I happened to have in my pantry.  Many other types of molds are available, but I happened to have hearts, leaves and roses which seemed very appropriate for our anniversary.

Here is what you need:  1 cup champagne, 5 packets of unflavored gelatin which equal about 5 tablespoons, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon strawberry extract, a dot of Wilton pink food coloring, and the candy molds.

In a saucepan, add the champagne and mix in the gelatin.  Allow it to firm up, which will take only a few minutes.  Once the gelatin has set, place on the stove top and gently stir until heated, but not boiling.  Do not cook off the alcohol content by allowing this mixture to boil.

Whisk the contents and then add the sugar and continue to heat on medium-low until all of the sugar is dissolved into the gelatin mixture.  This will take a few minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and add in the strawberry extract and the food coloring.

Use your favorite small cup or a food syringe and fill the candy molds.  Place on trays in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to one hour until set.  Remove the hearts from the molds onto waxed paper, and then store in a sealed container until ready to use.

The champagne taste is very evident, and these candies are so festive for an anniversary party.  The candy treats are also fun for holidays, birthdays, afternoon tea or even for a small sweet dessert.  Serve a couple of them in a champagne glass to your adult guests. They will be surprised that you made them for a fraction of the cost of those in the boutiques.

Cinnamon Biscotti

While relaxing in front of the fireplace this cold winter, why not try a great homemade cinnamon biscotti cookie?  These cookies are crisp and crunchy and are perfect to dunk in a warm mug of tea or coffee. I have made several other biscotti recipes, but this one is one of my favorites.  The cinnamon sugar taste is just perfect and provides just a hint of sweetness.

To make this recipe, gather the following ingredients:  2 cups flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 stick unsalted butter, 2 eggs, 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with silpat mats or parchment paper. In a bowl, mix flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside. In a mixer, beating 1 cup sugar with butter until fluffy.  Add 1 egg and beat, Add egg yolk and mix into the bowl.  Mix in vanilla and then the bowl of dry ingredients.

     

Move dough to waxed paper.  Divide dough into two sections and roll into 9 inch long logs. With the remaining egg, beat and brush the logs when placed onto their baking sheets.

Bake 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and slice the logs into the biscotti cookies.  Place on their sides and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Bake another 20 minutes until done.

Cool.  These cookies will store for at least 1-2 weeks at room temperature in an airtight container.

 

 

Japanese Tea Ceremony

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Just a few miles away from Midland, we were able to experience an authentic Japanese Tea Ceremony.  The tea house was constructed in 1985 and is used for a variety of functions.

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We were served green tea and Japanese sweets in the traditional mIMG_9196anner.  The tea house has 8 reed mats and was constructed from Japanese architectural designs and with transplanted construction workers for the project.  There were no nails used on this building. The wood is natural and not treated with paint or stains.

The gardens surrounding the tea house are decorated with some elements traditionally found in Japanese gardens including a red bridge near the Saginaw River.  The area is peaceful and compliments the tea house. This experience was both relaxing and intersting.

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http://www.japaneseculturalcenter.org/index.html

 

Traditional Afternoon Tea

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So I am one of “those” who enjoy a traditional afternoon tea at a lovely hotel.  We visited The Peninsula when we were in Chicago a few weeks ago and had an amazing relaxing two-hour afternoon filled with a charming tea service and string music.

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Yes.  It is “old-fashioned.”  Yes. It is so amazing. Yes. I find it romantic. We were served Mandarin Orange Scones, Almond Financiers, Lemon Meringue macaroons, Raspberry Rose Cream Puffs, Strawberry Shortcakes, Pistachio & Raspberry Sachers, and Chocolate crumble tarts.

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We also sampled cucumber sandwiches, the famous Peninsula Egg Salad, Lobster Salad, and an Asparagus & truffle Quiche. We had sorbet too.

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The afternoon was simply the best. Conversation  occurred without noise, with white glove service, with music, and with a lovely view. My goal is to experience afternoon tea at many of the great hotels in Europe.  We have had tea at several hotels in Canada and in the United States, but being served a traditional tea in Great Britain, France and Italy is a dream of mine.  Someday.  For now, I will continue to enjoy some of the best hotels in America and sit for tea. Yes. Sit and savor. Time is required. The pace is slow.  Yes. I love that so much.

The two seatings were filled with ladies, couples, families and a combination of locals and visitors to the city. I love Chicago.

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Oatmeal and Tea at Brew

We took a quick trip up North last week to enjoy the cool fresh air and the lake views of Northern Michigan.  The beautiful blue water captivates me every time we drive into Traverse City, and it is nothing less than spectacular.

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While there, we stopped at Brew, which is a local coffee-house featuring bakery items, breakfast, sandwiches, appetizers, soups and a variety of amazing beverages including beer and wine.  I could stay there all day, just sipping on almond oolong tea and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere.Brick and harvested barn wood covers the walls and is a perfect rustic contrast to the upscale beverage bar with shiny espresso machines and steamed milk frothers working overtime. The building has been refurbished from days gone by as the old Opera House.

We had a quiet breakfast one morning and although it was mid-week, the establishment was filled to capacity.  Every table, sofa, high-top and even the beverage bar was occupied with locals or guests.  Not even the high season for the resort community, Brew seems to be offering just what this community desires.

As an oatmeal aficionado, I had to order mine with chopped pecans.  It was served with a hot-pot of water, so I was able to make my own bowl, adjusting for the optimum consistency of the mixture.  I loved this and asked for the brown sugar on the side. Nothing was more perfect or simple for a delicious breakfast.

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Others were enjoying a variety of offerings and everyone seemed to be totally enjoying their choices.  If in Traverse City, be sure to check out Brew, I highly recommend it for any time of day.

For more information, please follow this link: http://www.brewtc.com/

 

The Tea Book

One of the most relaxing ways to end a dinner party has to be offering a selection of tea choices to guests. Sipping a cup of tea allows for more time to enjoy the table decor, a small dessert, or even just more time to watch the candle flames flicker.  As a true tea enthusiast, I try to have at least 40 different choices as there as so many types and varieties of teas available in today’s marketplace. I have found that every one of my guests seems to have such a different expectation when it comes to tea flavors.

It could just be their mood that day, or perhaps the seasonal blend that entices them, but often it is the taste and variety of tea blend that seems to capture their interest.

Recently I found this product called The Tea Book.  This beautifully bound book displays up to 144 tea bag selections in clear pocket windows. The display allows for easy and clear viewing for any guest at a table, as well as the ease in passing around for everyone to page through and make their own tea bag selection. I love the classic look and feel of this book. The design is timeless and will be a fun way to encourage more people to participate in tea drinking at the table.  As the lovely book is being passed around, how could anyone resist taking a look and joining in with their individual selection?

I am always looking for fun ways to encourage table interaction during a meal, and I believe this unique presentation should be something novel for my next dinner party.

Even better, this tea book can easily be stored on the bookshelf for the next dinner event or evening around the fireplace.  I am so happy to have found this product and to share with my blog followers.

For more information, please follow this link:  http://www.theteabook.com

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shopping in Holland MI

handmade wooden shoes

 

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As a gardening and cooking enthusiast, I search to find the best stores for cooks and gardeners.  I love to find unusual gourmet foods from other countries, as well as gardening tools and historic seeds.  On my recent trip to western Michigan, I found some great boutique shops in downtown Holland Michigan.  Michigan is filled with small towns and darling shops.  I love to browse these stores to see products I am not able to buy in my local markets. This was my first trip to western Michigan since we moved back to the State.

Since Holland is well-known for Dutch history and authentic customs, such as wooden shoe dancing, the shopping is very unique.  Some shops have authentic food products from the Netherlands, along with wooden shoes and other Dutch items. The downtown area is beautiful. The stores have been renovated, and the merchandise is amazing.  Some of the shops seem geared to summer Lake visitors with nautical merchandise.   A very large cooking and home store is located downtown, Teermans, which I could have shopped for several hours. A hometown candy store  was totally fantastic.  Other shops included The Seasoned Home filled with spices, loose leaf teas, gourmet foods, kitchen accessories and home decor.

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In another part of the city, was the wooden shoe factory with the only blue and white delftware made in the United States.  Here visitors watch how wooden shoes are made on machines imported from the Netherlands.  And, artists paint the delftware while visitors watch.  The store is filled with merchandise not found other places in the United States.  Many of the patterns are garden themed.

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This was so much fun.  And, of course Lake Michigan is less than thirty minutes away.

 

 

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