Savories · Sweets

Fruit Preserves

                                                            photo credit: Mamiverse
Come next Monday, Lionel turns 6 months old. I’d like to know who switched on the fast forward button to my son’s babyhood!
With each passing day, I become increasingly desperate. Desperate to capture and cling to the precious moments shared with Lionel. All of his milestones, his bursts of laughter, his facial expressions when he sleeps and when he makes new discoveries — I want these things to stay fresh in my memory forever.
These desperate times call for none other than fruit preserves. Preserves represent my wish of harnessing moments and events at their freshest and sweetest. If only it were as simple as boiling and canning fruit.
Preserves punctuate the flavors of both savory and sweet dishes. And what’s afternoon tea without preserves?
Enjoy with beautiful jasmine green tea. The floral notes of the jasmine coax out the fruitiness of the preserves.
Once again, I am commemorating Lionel’s growth process and his current favorite book, Dr. Seuss’s ABC. Hence, this dish is called, “Jerry Jordan’s Jelly Jar.”
                        photo credit: The iMums
Sweets

Banana Magic Cake

My husband recently introduced me to the wonderful thing that is Banana Magic Cake. The “magic” is due to its single batter that, when baked, becomes three distinct layers of varying textures. The top layer is fluffy and sponge-like, the middle is a gorgeous custard, and the bottom crust is decadently dense.
Although the cake is complex in texture, its flavor is mild enough to allow fun toppings. In this case, we used blueberry pie filling/topping mixed with fresh lemon juice to add some zing and cut through the sweetness.
This treat is a Jack of all Trades; it’s got tricks up its crust. It’s impressive in its looks but also resourceful in that it calls for overripe bananas and hardly any dish washing afterwards. I’m calling this dish, “Over-Achiever.”
Pair with a delicate Ceylon tea.
Sweets

Pistachio Cake with Cherry Almond Frosting

Supposedly, there are five love languages. They are: physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, and gift giving.

What they forgot to include was cake.

Recently, my husband built me a cake. It wasn’t my birthday; it wasn’t any particular day. Just a Monday. When I asked him, “What’s the occasion?” He simply shrugged and said, “I thought it’d make you happy.” Of course, he was right. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. So who wrote the Book of Love? My husband did.

The cake is made of white cake mix and pistachio-flavored pudding, which yields a cheerful sea foam green hue and scrumptiously moist texture. Its wonderful ballerina pink color comes from maraschino cherry juice combined with buttercream frosting and almond extract. Crushed pistachios top the cake giving it a bit of crunch and whimsy. I’m calling this cake, “Monday I’m in love.”

It’s a piece-of-cake pairing with cherry black tea.

 

Sweets

Raspberry Tarts with Dairy-Free Vanilla Custard

My 3 1/2 month-old son is quite the flirt. He’ll fix a steady gaze on you before he flashes a gummy smile, wrinkles his nose, and squeezes his shoulders up to his ears. He is generous with his charm and will effortlessly woo family, friends, and strangers alike. Day by day, he adds to his seduction repertoire as his ability to engage with people becomes more intricate. While melting hearts left and right, he’s slowly breaking my heart.
Alas, past that sweet, benign twinkle in his eyes, there are woeful things in store for this mama. For there will come that day when his gaze will linger a while longer on someone extra special, and I’ll have to bust out my third-degree interrogation list for the unworthy date he brings home.
Why, yes, I am bound to be one of those moms. But before I lose any more hair over it (I’ve lost plenty already — postpartum life is really somethin’), I’m going to savor the affection that he has for me now.
And the flirtation continues. Lionel has recently learned how to blow “kisses” (raspberries), which inspired me to make a raspberry dessert. A jewel-like raspberry sits sweetly atop luscious vanilla custard and a buttery pie crust. I’m calling this dish, “Heartbreaker.”
Enjoy this delicate sweet treat with chamomile tea.
Ingredients for the vanilla custard  (Recipe adapted from Ashley Adams at The Spruce)
2/3 cups granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cornstarch
2 ½ cups plain almond milk
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
You’ll also need
  • Raspberries
  • Sieve/sifter
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Muffin pan/mini tart pan
  • Small dish
  • Small saucepan
  • Heatproof dish
  • Plastic wrap
Instructions
In a small saucepan, mix together the sugar and salt. In a small dish, combine the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of almond milk. Mix until dissolved.
Add the cornstarch mixture, remaining almond milk, and eggs to the saucepan, and whisk together. Over medium heat, stir constantly until mixture thickens. Bubbles will begin to form on the surface.
While stirring, turn down the heat to low and cook for about 1 more minute.
Pour the custard through a sieve into a heatproof dish and stir in the vanilla extract. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard, and chill at least 2 hours.
Scoop the custard into the cooled pastry/pie cups. Top with a raspberry, and enjoy!
Tea and Beauty

Paul Smith Rose Perfume Review

I’m just another sucker for roses. However, rose fans and I share the same plight as we search for the perfect rose fragrance: we know it’s going to be a long journey full of wincing and coughing through the perfume storm of poorly presented roses.
Paul Smith Rose EDP is a pale-colored rose dipped in a cup of lightly steeped green tea. There’s a juicy bite of citrus in the opening, and the mellow green tea note soon follows. I’ve yet to give this fragrance the title as my perfect, signature rose fragrance, but it comes very close. I adore the way it makes me feel: Cheerful and calm. It is light, modern, and pretty, with a quiet allure. It’s the ideal fragrance to wear to afternoon tea.
On my skin, it lasts a couple of hours even without any lotion to lock in the scent. The fragrance also makes a gorgeous hair mist; it seems to stay in hair all day. The very reasonable price point makes it even more enjoyable to generously spray on.
Paul Smith Rose EDP (1 fl. oz.) $30.67 on Amazon.
Sweets

French Macarons with Berry Filling

As a gift to me for my first Mother’s Day, my husband took on a baking challenge that has always intimidated me: French macarons. Those vibrant, perfect little cookie sandwiches make me squeal with delight at the very sight of them. It’s difficult for me not to use the words “cute” and “whimsical” when describing macarons. They’re almost cartoon images that have popped out of a children’s picture book — perhaps straight from the Mad Hatter and Hare’s tea table. Macarons place me in that “too pretty to eat” dilemma, and the ones that my husband made were no exception.

He not only succeeded in achieving the gorgeous “feet,” or ruffles on the edges, but also a sheen on the cookies that made them resemble jewels. They had a fluffy, marshmallow-like softness combined with a gentle crunch from the ground almonds. The slightly tart blueberry butter cream was a pop of fruity flavor with the mildness of the almond meringue.

The French macaron now represents for me the essence of motherhood: It requires patience, technique, and constant attention. It’s simple yet complicated. It’s delicate. And it brings so much joy. My husband lovingly calls this dish, “Macamom.”

Pair with a fruity black tea.

Recipe adapted by Elaine Lemm at The Spruce

Yields

12 macarons

Ingredients

1 cup icing (powder) sugar

1 cup ground almonds

2 medium egg whites

Small pinch salt

¼ cup caster (fine) sugar

For the filling:

1 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup icing (powder) sugar

2 tablespoons blueberry fruit spread

You’ll also need

Sifter/sieve

Electric mixer

Large mixing bowl

Piping bag with 1 cm nozzle

Baking sheet lined with parchment paper

Parchment paper with drawn-in circles to use as a template

Cooling rack

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 300.

Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds into a large mixing bowl. Combine well.

In the electric mixer bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks. Add the fine sugar a little at a time, and whisk until the whites are very thick and glossy. Gently stir in the icing sugar and almond mixture. The mixture will lose some air, which is normal. Add food coloring.

Fill the piping bag with the macaron mixture. Pipe small amounts onto the sheet remembering that the mixture will spread a little. Gently tap the baking sheet a few times on your work surface to help pop any air bubbles. Let dry for 20 minutes, or until the surface of the macaron becomes smooth and shiny.

Bake the macarons in the oven for 7 – 8 minutes. Open the door to release steam, close and bake for another 7 – 8 minutes. The macarons are ready when they appear firm and are slightly risen. Slide the parchment paper with the macarons onto a wire cooling rack and cool thoroughly. Do not remove the macarons from the paper until they are cold, or they will break.

For the Filling:

Beat the softened butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add fruit spread, or any flavorings. Place 1/2 a tsp of the filling to the flat side of one macaron and sandwich together with another. Twist the cookies slightly to create a bond. Continue with the remaining macarons.

Savories

Cucumber and Roasted Vegetable Sandwich

This year I’ve joined the ranks of motherhood. As I navigate my way through it for the first time, I’m seeing my mom with a new set of eyes.
My mom: She’s not the warmest of people. She’s distant and pristine. Mysterious and proud. But then, despite her cool composure, she’ll surprise us with a feisty remark or a heartwarming gesture. She’s both hot and cold.
Still, I’ve never questioned her love for me. She shows her love quietly, but I know it’s a strong, unrelenting love. It’s the unique love of my mother.
So this tea sandwich is dedicated to my mom. Robust flavors working with mild. Creamy textures complementing crunchy. I’m calling it, “Matriarch.”
Pair the sandwich with a smoky green tea.
Happy Mother’s Day! Here’s to the women who have given us everything.
Ingredients
Roasted red and yellow bell peppers, minced
Seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
Vegan cream cheese
Bread
Instructions
Create a sandwich spread by mixing the minced bell peppers into the cream cheese. Spread onto the bread slices. Layer on the cucumber slices. Cut off the crust, and cut into rectangles or triangles.