Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Chocolate Raspberry Dessert

Now who wouldn't love to have a piece of this pretty chocolate dessert. I found this recipe at Hershey's Chocolate site. I do have one warning: don't make the top chocolate layer too thick, thinking more is better. I did this when I made the cake and the chocolate hardened and was almost impossible to cut...or bite through. Everyone just lifted it off and ate it out of hand. Embarrassing but still tasty. :)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 cups (16-oz. can) HERSHEY'S Syrup
CHOCOLATE GLAZE(recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Combine flour, sugar, butter, eggs and baking powder in large bowl; beat until smooth. Add syrup; blend thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Spread RASPBERRY CREAM CENTER on cake. Cover; refrigerate. Pour CHOCOLATE GLAZE over chilled dessert. Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Cover; refrigerate leftover dessert. About 12 servings.

RASPBERRY CREAM CENTER: Combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter or margarine and 2 tablespoons raspberry-flavored liqueur* in small bowl; beat until smooth. ( A few drops red food color may be added, if desired.)

1/4 cup raspberry preserves and 1 teaspoon water may be substituted for the raspberry-flavored liqueur.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE: Melt 6 tablespoons butter or margarine and 1 cup HERSHEY'S SPECIAL DARK Chocolate Chips or HERSHEY'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips in small saucepan over very low heat. Remove from heat; stir until smooth. Cool slightly.


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Coconut Cake

Coconut cake is a Christmas tradition in my family. I'll be making my first one this year. This is the recipe I'll be using. The cake takes coconut milk and fresh grated coconut. While frozen or bagged coconut is okay for some things, if you're going to make a coconut cake, use a coconut!

2 1/4 cups cake or pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
10 tablespoons butter
3 large eggs

Fluffy Coconut Frosting:
2 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups fresh grated coconut

Grease two 9-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper or waxed paper. Grease and flour the paper and sides of the pans; set aside. Heat oven to 350°.
Heat the coconut milk or milk with 1/2 cup coconut and the 1 teaspoon vanilla until hot. Put in blender and process until coconut is finely chopped. Set aside.

Sift the cake flour into a bowl with the baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a bowl of electric mixer, beat butter until light and creamy. Gradually add the 1 1/2 cups sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, scraping the bowl and beating for about a minute after each addition. Add the 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping sides of the bowl frequently. Slowly add about one-third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture along with half of the milk/coconut/vanilla mixture. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape the bowl and repeat with another one-third of the dry mixture and the remaining milk mixture. Scrape the bowl and repeat with remaining flour mixture. Scrape the bowl and continue beating on low speed for a few seconds.

Spoon batter into the two baking pans, spreading evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans on racks for 15 minutes. Invert onto racks which have been sprayed with a little nonstick coating to cool completely.

Frosting: Bring the 1/2 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil; cover and cook without stirring for 1 minute. Uncover and boil, stirring frequently, until mixture is hot enough to spin a thread when a little is dropped from a spoon, or to about 230°. Remove from heat and set aside. In the bowl of electric mixer -- with whisk attachment if available -- beat the eggs until fluffy and soft peaks form when you lift the beaters or whisk. Still beating on high speed, gradually add the sugar syrup in a thin stream. Continue beating until the frosting is fluffy and holds peaks.

Invert one of the cakes onto a serving plate; frost top and sides with frosting. Place the second layer atop the first and frost the top and sides liberally. Sprinkle fresh grated coconut over the top of the cake and toss coconut gently onto the sides.


My World Wednesday

I had planned to show some photos of my home all dressed for Christmas but my new camera has a problem. The flash won’t pop up because it thinks another flash is attached. Apparently this is a pretty common problem with the Canon Rebel. There is a slim chance my husband can make the repair but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for him.

Instead of talking about Christmas, I'm going in a totally different direction today. I want to share some questions from the US Naturalization Test. As I might have mentioned before, I teach English as a Second Language. Helping my students become citizens is an exciting part of the job. The test is hard even for people born in the US. See how well you can answer the first 25 questions. There are 100 possible questions on the test. Even if you aren’t a citizen of the US, think about how you’d answer the questions about your own country.

1. What is the supreme law of the land?
▪ the Constitution

2. What does the Constitution do?
▪ sets up the government
▪ defines the government
▪ protects basic rights of Americans

3. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
▪ We the People

4. What is an amendment?
▪ a change (to the Constitution)
▪ an addition (to the Constitution)

5. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
▪ the Bill of Rights

6. What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?
▪ speech
▪ religion
▪ assembly
▪ press
▪ petition the government

7. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
▪ twenty-seven (27)

8. What did the Declaration of Independence do?
▪ announced our independence (from Great Britain)
▪ declared our independence (from Great Britain)
▪ said that the United States is free (from Great Britain)

9. What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
▪ life
▪ liberty
▪ pursuit of happiness

10. What is freedom of religion?
▪ You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion.

11. What is the economic system in the United States?
▪ capitalist economy
▪ market economy

12. What is the “rule of law”?
▪ Everyone must follow the law.
▪ Leaders must obey the law.
▪ Government must obey the law.
▪ No one is above the law.

13. Name one branch or part of the government.
▪ Congress
▪ legislative
▪ President
▪ executive
▪ the courts
▪ judicial

14. What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
▪ checks and balances
▪ separation of powers

15. Who is in charge of the executive branch?
▪ the President

16. Who makes federal laws?
▪ Congress
▪ Senate and House (of Representatives)
▪ (U.S. or national) legislature

17. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
▪ the Senate and House (of Representatives)

18. How many U.S. Senators are there?
▪ one hundred (100)

19. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
▪ six (6)

20. Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now?
▪ Answers will vary. [District of Columbia residents and residents of U.S. territories should answer that D.C. (or the territory where the applicant lives) has no U.S. Senators.]

21. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
▪ four hundred thirty-five (435)

22. We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?
▪ two (2)

23. Name your U.S. Representative.
▪ Answers will vary. [Residents of territories with nonvoting Delegates or Resident Commissioners may provide the name of that Delegate or Commissioner. Also acceptable is any statement that the territory has no (voting) Representatives in Congress.]

24. Who does a U.S. Senator represent?
▪ all people of the state

25. Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?
▪ (because of) the state’s population
▪ (because) they have more people
▪ (because) some states have more people


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Muscat Poached Pears

At our family Christmas tea, the tea room we visited served a similar pear dish for the salad course. Everyone loved the sweet pears.

This recipe is for only four pears. You can double it if you have a big and deep pan in which to poach the pears. Make sure to turn the pears often while poaching to ensure they soften all the way through.

1 ½ cups Muscat or other sweet white wine
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
4 firm ripe pears, peeled

Bring first 5 ingredients to boil in heavy saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Using apple corer, carefully remove cores from pears at base, leaving pears whole and stems intact. Add to wine and poach until tender, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Transfer pears to serving dishes. Garnish each pear with 1 bay leaf and 1 whole clove. Boil poaching liquid until reduced to ½ cup, about 20 minutes. Pour syrup over pears and refrigerate. Can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead.


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Fresh Gingerbread Men

Actually it’s the ginger that is fresh, not the gingerbread men themselves. :) This takes a lot of ginger; grate it in a food processor.

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg
½ cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup grated fresh ginger
3 cups flour

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. Beat until combined. Beat in egg, molasses and vanilla until combined. Beat in grated ginger and flour. Cover and chill dough about 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375º. On a floured surface, roll dough until 1/8-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out dough. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Decorate as you please.


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Tiny Ham and Pineapple Pot Pies

Perfect for the Progressive Christmas Tea, these little pies can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead and refrigerated. Bake just before serving. The recipe has been adapted from “Pillsbury’s Holiday Baking.”

½ cup finely chopped cooked ham
½ cup finely shredded Swiss Cheese
½ cup drained canned crushed pineapple
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
½ teaspoon ground mustard
1 box refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon sesame seed

Heat oven to 450º. In small bowl, mix ham, cheese, pineapple, onion and mustard.

Remove crusts from pouches and unroll. From each crust, cut eight 3-inch rounds and eight 2-inch rounds. Press the 3-inch rounds in bottoms and up sides of 16 ungreased mini muffin cups so edges of crusts extend slightly over sides of cups.

Spoon about 1 rounded tablespoon ham mixture into each crust-lined cup. Brush edges of crust lightly with beaten egg.

Cut small vent in each 2-inch round. Place 1 round over filling in each cup; press edges together, pushing toward cup so crust does not extend over sides. Brush tops with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seed.

Bake 10 to 14 minutes until crust is deep golden brown. Remove from muffin cups. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Makes 16.


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Cucumber Rounds

I'm off to make Christmas cookies with my mother today but I'll leave you with this recipe. Really, can you have a tea without a cucumber sandwich?

1 cup mayonnaise
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 tablespoon minced chives
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon each dried oregano, thyme, basil, parsley flakes and dill weed
1 loaf (1 pound) white or rye bread
2 medium cucumbers, scored and thinly sliced
Diced pimientos and additional dill weed

In a blender or food processor, combine the mayonnaise, cream cheese, onion, chives, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and seasonings. Cover and process until blended. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Using a 2-1/2-in. biscuit cutter, cut out circles from bread slices. Spread mayonnaise mixture over bread; top with cucumber slices. Garnish with pimientos and dill. Yield: 2 dozen.


My World Wednesday: Cookbook Review

Reading a cookbook is my favorite way to relax and unwind. I always have several at my bedside and I read a few pages each night before I sleep. At this busy time of year, I make sure to have a few new cookbooks on hand. I recently picked up three that I want to talk about. You can find links to them on Amazon on my sidebar.

Heirloom Cooking with the Brass Sisters

I have the Brass Sisters’ Heirloom Baking and use it all the time so when I saw their new cooking book, I had to have it. I’m not disappointed. It is just as wonderful as the baking book. This cookbook has so much more than recipes; it tells the stories of families and life.

Often when I read a cookbook from even ten years ago, the recipes and techniques seem outdated. The Brass sisters have taken their heirloom recipes and updated them for today. I’m not saying they make everything low-fat and low-calorie but they did leave out the lard and other ingredients we don’t use much today.

A few of the recipes I want to try from Heirloom Cooking are: Savory Tomato Peanut Butter Soup, Louella’s Church Cauliflower, Sweet Potato Salad, Mrs. Yaffee’s Pierogi, Easter Meatloaf, Hot Chicken Salad, Mrs. Naka’s Lemon Angel Pie, Orange Drop Cakes and Edinburgh Tea Squares.

Church Socials, 782 Delicious Recipes from our Church Communities by Barbara Greenman.

With 782 recipes, it’s hard to go wrong with this cookbook. Church social, doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? These recipes are homey comfort food for the most part. Some of the chapters included are: After the Service, Dinner on the Grounds, Potluck Suppers, Holidays & Special Occasions and Bake Sale Treats.

As someone who grew up with her church’s yearly Turkey Supper, Winter Chicken and Waffle Supper, Church Picnic, Memorial Day Soup and Sandwich Lunch, Ladies’ Aid Refreshment Tables, Bake Sales and Christmas Parties, this cookbook brings back wonderful memories. No matter what part of the country, the place to find real ethnic or regional cooking is at a church meal.

Saving the best for last, Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics by Ina Garten. I love Ina. Her recipes are always stylish and elegant but easy enough for anyone to do. She doesn’t believe in food trends like foam or faux food or the crazy combinations featured on “Top Chef.” Her food is all about using the best ingredients and letting the taste of them shine through.

One fun feature of this cookbook is Ina’s top ten lists. She covers things like 10 no cook things to serve, arranging flowers like a pro, and things not to serve at a dinner party.

Ina has such a dry sense of humor throughout the book and she’s totally honest. She mentions that at one fancy holiday dinner party she was catering, a guest brought a cheesecake covered with canned cherries. She hated to add it to the dessert table but she didn’t want to offend the guest or the hostess. At the end of the party, every piece of the cheesecake was eaten and some of her fancier desserts were left.

Making old favorites in the best ways possible is kind of the theme of this cookbook. The dishes are familiar but the prep and ingredients are great, fresh ideas. Each recipe has a gorgeous photo to show how the dish should look. This is so helpful for new cooks as well as seasoned ones.


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Party Pinwheels

Another recipe for the would-be hostess who doesn't cook or bake. So simple but these are such a festive and tasty dish.

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 package (.4 ounces) ranch salad dressing mix
1/2 cup minced sweet red pepper
1/2 cup minced celery
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed olives
3 to 4 flour tortillas (10 inches)

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and dressing mix until smooth. Add red pepper, celery, onions and olives; mix well. Spread about 3/4 cup on each tortilla. Roll up tightly; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Cut into 1/2-in. slices. Yield: 15-20 servings.


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Thai Crab Cakes

There are five common varieties of crab that we use in the US. Blue crab is our local variety here on the East coast and it really is blue before it is cooked. Dungeness crab is found in the waters of the Pacific, from Alaska to Mexico. King crab is known for their foot-long legs. Rock crab live among the rocks deep in the ocean. And finally Stone crab is found in the waters surrounding Florida. They have large, lobster-like claws full of meaty goodness.

¼ cup flaked coconut
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup fine dry bread crumbs
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup finely chopped green onions
¼ cup bottled red peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint or basil
2 teaspoons finely shredded lime peel
2 teaspoons lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 pound crabmeat, picked over
2 tablespoons cooking oil

Chop coconut in a food processor until it is fine; set aside. In bowl, combine egg, ½ cup of the bread crumbs, mayo, ¼ cup green onions, peppers, chili sauce, cilantro, mint, lime peel, lime juice, salt and pepper. Add crabmeat and mix gently. Shape crab into ¾-inch balls.

In a pie pan, combine coconut and remaining ¼ cup bread crumbs. Dip crab cakes into this mixture. Place crab cakes on waxed paper and chill for 1 to 24 hours.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add crab cakes, spacing 1-inch apart, as space in the pan allows. Cook about 6 minutes or until golden brown and heated through. Turn only once. Keep warm in a 300º oven while cooking the remaining crab cakes. Serve warm. Makes about 24 crab cake balls.


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Orange-Poppyseed Scones

While I love lemon, orange seems more like Christmas to me. Each year at Sunday School, every kid received a Christmas gift of a little box of candy and an orange. I always buy extra special oranges at Christmas and put one in the toe of my husband's stocking.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons orange juice

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly flour heavy large baking sheet. Mix 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, poppy seeds, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in 2 teaspoons grated orange peel. Whisk egg and 2 tablespoons orange juice in medium bowl to blend. Add to flour mixture; stir just until blended.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface; knead gently until smooth. Divide dough in half. Pat each half into 3/4-inch-thick round. Cut each round into 6 wedges.
Arrange wedges on prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 12 scones.


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Cherry Pistachio Scones

Don’t use the pistachio nuts in the red shell because they’ll bleed into the dough. Use the tan shell nuts.

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup butter
¾ cup dried cherries
½ cup chopped pistachio nuts
½ cup milk
1 egg, separated
4 teaspoons coarse white sugar

Heat oven to 375º. Line baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, mix flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder and cinnamon. With pastry blender cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cherries and pistachios.

In small bowl, blend milk and egg yolk. Add to flour mixture. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

On floured surface, gently knead dough several times. Divide dough in half; place on cookie sheet. Pat each half into 6-inch round. Cut each round into 6 wedges; do not separate. In small bowl, beat egg white, Brush tops of each round with egg white and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake 17-22 minutes or until golden brown.


My World Wednesday: Dog Days

Last fall, when my husband was on vacation, his mother suffered a ruptured appendix and was in the hospital the entire time he was off. I had a root canal that went bad a day after the procedure, leaving me in agony. To say it wasn't a good vacation is putting it mildly.

My husband is on vacation again this week. So far no human illnesses but we have two pups in treatment. Mr. Seamus has had a terrible tummy ache. I won't go into details but we've almost depleted the household paper towel supply. He's getting more rest than usual as you can see from the photo below.

Now for Miss Maggie, she caught her toenail in the metal strip that goes across the bathroom threshold. I should have known something was wrong because she was hiding underneath the bed and Seamus was under there too trying to see what was going on. What a mess!

My husband is quite the emergency medical person. He had Maggie inspected and bandaged in a few minutes. After lots of cuddles in a warm bed with Mom, she, uh, we, stopped shaking and fell asleep. Doesn't she look like the saddest little girl in the picture?

I'm thinking, maybe my husband should just work year round. :)


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Blueberry Orange Bread

This recipe is so easy; it doesn’t even take a mixer. It is a nice change from the usual Lemon Blueberry bread. You can make this in mini loaf pans if you prefer just as yesterday’s bread could be baked in regular loaf pans. Just switch the timing between the two.

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
½ cup orange juice
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons grated orange peel
¾ cup fresh or frozen blueberries

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients. In another bowl, combine egg, orange juice, water, butter and orange peel. Add to dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in blueberries. Pour into a greased and floured 8”x4”x2” loaf pan.

Bake at 350º for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Makes 1 loaf.


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Little Lemon-Cranberry Loaves

This festive bread is not only great for the Progressive Christmas Tea Party but it also would be a wonderful Christmas gift for friends. The recipe makes 4 mini loaves, 6 slices each.

2/3 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
4 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup milk
2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, lemon juice and peel. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir in cranberries and walnuts. Pour into four greased 5-3/4-in. x 3-in. x 2-in. loaf pans.

Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. With a toothpick or skewer, poke 12 holes in each loaf.

For glaze, combine sugar and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Spoon over loaves. Cool completely before slicing.