Teacher Appreciation Tea: Cookie Dough Brownies

These are for serious chocolate lovers only. They combine two favorites, brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Cut these small, 8 rows by 6 rows, because they are so rich and sweet. This recipe uses prepackaged ingredients. Use your own brownie recipe and chocolate chip cookie recipe if you prefer.

1 box turtle brownie mix
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 roll refrigerated chocolate chip cookies
1 container chocolate frosting

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 13" x 9" pan. Set caramel pouch from brownie mix aside. In a large bowl, stir brownie mix, water, oil and eggs until well blended. Spread half of the batter in the pan.

Cut cookie dough into small pieces. Sprinkle pieces evenly over brownie batter in pan; lightly press into batter. Open pouch of caramel from bronie mix; squeeze caramel between pieces of cookie dough. Use entire pouch. Spoon remaining brownie batter over caramel and cookie dough.

Bake 28 to 35 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely. Frost with chocolate icing.

Yield: 48 brownies


My New Find!

I’m interrupting the Teacher Appreciation Tea today to show off my new tea cozy. This beauty was created by Tea Cozies By El Donna. It even has a name "Delicate Moments." Isn't it gorgeous!

Tea Cozies By El Donna is a family business according to their web site. El Donna created the pattern and sews most of the cozies, daughter-in-law Amber is the detail person, buying fabric and handling orders, and son Greg is the financial guy. They make a great team.

I love everything about these tea cozies, from the perfect stitching to the fabric choices to the unique design itself. Just look at some of the choices:

As soon as I received my El Donna tea cozy, I rushed over to show my mother (the original family tea diva.) We grabbed one of her tea pots and put on the cozy. You can see in my photo that we messed up the ties. It looked pretty to us anyway but I have a feeling that El Donna is shaking her head at how dumb we were.

With the holidays coming up, one of these tea cozies would make the perfect gift for any tea lover. The only problem is having to choose from all the lovely designs. Please visit their site at By El Donna.com. All photos, but the last one, were taken from that web site.


Teacher Appreciation Tea: Waldorf Salad

Waldorf Salad was invented at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at the turn of the twentieth century and was considered a very sophisticated dish. I think everyone who makes this today has her own version. I happen to like marshmallows in mine but feel free to leave them out if you don't.

3 cups chopped apples
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup thin celery slices
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup MIRACLE WHIP or mayonnaise

juice of 1/2 lemon

Mix all ingredients until well blended. Serve immediately. Or, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Yield: 6 servings
For something extra add: 1 banana, sliced; 1 cup raisins; 1 cup green grape halves; 1/2 cup chopped dates; 1/4 cup toasted coconut.


Teacher Appreciation Tea: Southwestern Ham Wraps

When having a tea party with several hostesses, cooking ability must be considered. Have a good mix of difficult and simple recipes. This is a simple one. It is also low fat.

1 1/2 cups reduced-fat shredded Cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1 can (11 ounces) whole kernel corn with red and green peppers, drained
10 fat-free flour tortillas (6 to 8 inches in diameter)
10 slices deli fully cooked ham
Cilantro sprig, if desired

Mix cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream and corn. Top each tortilla with 1 slice ham. Spread 2 tablespoons corn mixture over ham. Top with cilantro. Roll up. Cut in halves.


My World Wednesday: New Camera

Yep, my replacement camera has arrived. I chose a Canon Digital Rebel XSi 12MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (Black.) My, that seems an awfully lot of words to describe one camera and one lens. Having had the camera less than 24 hours though, I do believe it is just what I wanted.

My old Kodak had the astounding pixel rating of 2. The Canon shoots 12. I can’t imagine what I’ll do with those extra 10. It will require some time for me to be able to take pictures without using the auto button. While I used to set aperture and shutter speed and film speed on a 35 mm, I really need a refresher course. And a map. I’ve never seen so many buttons.

Will a new camera improve my blog photos? I doubt it. I don’t think I have a photographer’s eye. No camera will help me with that. I’ll have fun learning something new and I love the possibilities available now.
Have those of you in the US been getting tons of political calls and emails? I don’t think a day has gone by in the last weeks that someone hasn’t called to remind me of a candidate’s record or to ask for whom I’m voting or what I feel are the biggest issues. I don’t mind answering those things but I won’t give out personal information over the phone. It is funny that polling people save the questions about how much money you make until the end of their spiel and then they get quite testy when they don’t get an answer.

The strangest political call I received was for my state’s attorney general. The questions were so skewed that I almost had to laugh. They asked things like "Does knowing that XXa took money from big oil make you more likely to vote for XXb?" "Does knowing that XXa has been seen sneaking around with organized crime figures make you more likely to vote for XXb?" There were 10 questions of this nature. Who comes up with such ideas!

My friend Luda received her citizenship in March so this is the first election in which she can vote. She’s been putting so much thought into her choice. Her parents, still in the Ukraine, recommend one candidate while her husband recommends the other. But Luda will make up her own mind as should we all.


Teacher Appreciation Tea Party: Crunchy Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches

2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 medium unpeeled red apple, chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon curry powder
12 slices bread
Lettuce leaves

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lime juice and curry powder; pour over chicken mixture; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cut each slice of bread with a 3-in. heart-shaped cookie cutter or simply cut into triangles. Top with lettuce and chicken salad. Yield: 12 shaped tea sandwiches or 24 if bread is cut into triangles.


Teacher Appreciation Tea Party: Angel Sandwiches

These pretty little sandwiches are especially appropriate for honoring teachers at church or at a Christian school. But we all know public school teachers who are absolute angels too.

2 packages (3 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup orange marmalade
16 slices white bread

In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and marmalade until blended. Using a 2-in. angel-shaped cookie cutter, cut out 16 angels from bread. Spread half with cream cheese mixture; top with remaining bread. Yield: 8 sandwiches.


Teacher Appreciation Tea: Apple Scones

Photo used under Creative Commons Licensing

Use a firm baking apple for these scones. Braeburn, Gala, Granny Smith and Haralson are all good choices. Soft or super juicy apples will add too much moisture to the recipe.

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
½ cup finely chopped, peeled apple
1 egg
½ cup whipping cream
½ teaspoon grated lemon peel
¾ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 400º. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; mix well. With pastry blender or fork cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in apple.

Beat egg in small bowl. Stir in cream and lemon peel. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until moistened.

On floured surface, gently knead dough 5 or 6 times. Place dough on cookie sheet; press to form 8-inch round, about 1 inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges. Separate wedges slightly.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown.

In a small bowl combine powdered sugar and lemon juice; blend well. Drizzle warm scones with glaze. Yield: 8 scones


Teacher Appreciation Tea: Spicy Carrot-Ginger Soup

Photo used under Creative Commons Licensing

Be sure to taste the carrots you plan to use for this soup. Carrots that have been in storage sometimes have a musty taste that you definitely don’t want in your soup.

1 teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
3 tablespoons peanut oil
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cups chopped onions
1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds
1 ½ teaspoons finely grated lime peel
5 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Plain yogurt for garnish

Grind coriander and mustard seeds to a fine powder. Heat oil in a large pot. Add ground seeds and curry powder; stir 1 minute. Add ginger; stir 1 minute. Add next 3 ingredients. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 5 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot. Add more broth by ¼ cupfuls if too thick. Stir in lime juice; season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowl and garnish with a dollop of yogurt. Yield: 8 servings


My World Wednesday: Kaput

My camera is kaput! I love the word kaput. Not exactly an onomatopoeia but I find the sound of this German word quite descriptive. You don't even have to speak that language to understand "Meine Kamera ist kaputt." Cool word, bad situation for a blogger.

I remember my first camera. A Kodak Instamatic, it was a birthday present when I turned eight. I took pictures of my family, of squirrels in the woods, of flowering trees...all in black and white. A roll of film came in 12 or 24 exposures. It sometimes took forever to fill up a 24 roll because you didn't want to "waste" a shot. Often one roll would contain Christmas pictures from two different years.

After the roll will full, it had to be sent away to be developed. Oh, sure, you could take it to a shop where they'd develop the pictures but that was so expensive. Actually it was never cheap to get the pictures developed. I remember paying almost $4.00 per roll way back in the '60s.

When we got married, my husband wanted a good 35 mm camera. He took photography classes and bought equipment to develop his own pictures. He's still a good photographer today.

I loved my digital camera when I got it back in 1999. It was point and shoot, no more dials and settings to figure out. The pictures were so clear and crisp and so much better than I ever took before. The camera was small enough to slip in my purse so I used it a lot.

Knowing what to do with the pictures once they were taken has been a challenge. Early on, they were saved on floppy disks, then a zip disk and now on CDs. Each time I updated a computer, I had to transfer my photos to the new media. I hope CDs stay around for a while.

I'm going backwards now because I want a digital camera that has all the dials and settings and 100 lenses. Well, maybe not 100 lenses but I'm hoping my husband will spring for two. It has always bothered me that I couldn't take close-up pictures with my old camera.

Several of my blogging friends have recently gotten new cameras so I'm going to look through their posts to see what they like about theirs. I know replacing my camera isn't going to make me a great photographer; in fact, I'll probably be worse for a while. Hang on, it's going to be a bumpy ride.


Teacher Appreciation Tea: The Menu

Since several students or students’ moms will be preparing this tea, some recipes must be simple enough for those with only basic cooking or baking skills. Allow each hostess to pick from a list of recipes and make it clear that for consistency’s sake, each recipe should be followed exactly.

This tea party menu starts with a pretty orange Carrot Soup with a small kick of ginger. It is sure to wake up everyone’s appetite. Hostesses can transport this soup and keep it hot in slow cookers.

Since there might not be access to an oven to warm the scones, bake naturally moist Apple Scones. They are delicious at room temperature. Serve them with clotted cream and apple jelly or with apple butter. Don’t ask an inexperienced baker to contribute these scones to the tea as they need a light touch.

You might decide to serve only one kind of tea sandwich or two or all three; that’s up to you. I like to serve Angel Tea Sandwiches at Christmas but I think they are appropriate for this tea in honor of teachers too.

Southwestern Ham Wraps look so pretty on the plate. This is a good item for a non-baker to contribute. It’s a simple mix and assemble dish.

Festive Chicken Tea Sandwiches round out the tea sandwich selections. Sliced chicken instead of the usual chicken salad is used for these treats. Decorated with greens and cherry tomatoes, they’re hard to resist.

There has to be an apple dessert for teachers! Serve Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars. These are baked in a 9"x13" pan. Cut the bars into 32 pieces and one pan might be enough for your tea. They are super rich so this won’t seem skimpy.

Waldorf Salad is an old favorite that also features apples. Any of the tea party hostesses can chop and mix. Suggest this dish to non-cooks.

I’m a firm believer that every tea needs something chocolate. Cookie Dough Brownies are quick and simple to make. Throw them in the oven just before leaving for the tea party site and they’ll still be warm when the party begins.

Finally the tea, a Homemade Chai will go beautifully with this tea party menu. This is a bit unusual and I think teachers, who are always the first to try something different, will really go for this. As a contrast or back-up, have some icy cold cider on hand too.

Recipes begin tomorrow!


Teacher Appreciation Tea Party

In high school, I belonged to a club called Future Teachers of America. Each autumn we held a tea for all the teachers in the district. Back then we had three elementary schools and a junior-senior high school. And almost every teacher attended our tea. It was quite the event.

This tea party theme is a way to honor teachers; there are so many in our lives. Perhaps a group of mothers would like to get to know the teachers at their children’s school. A tea would be the perfect venue. Consider too the various teachers we have at our churches, everyone from the minister to the choir director to the kids’ Bible teachers. Many of us take continuing education or hobby classes ourselves. Say thank you to your teachers with tea.

Wouldn’t it be nice for a teacher to go to her school mailbox and find a pretty invitation for tea there? Do use the available mail system to avoid having to collect home addresses. No doubt some teachers prefer to keep those private.

There is no doubt a room available at the school or church or community building that you can use for your tea. Don’t expect to use a school cafeteria kitchen as they have pretty strict health and safety rules that they must follow. But a church kitchen or one attached to a community center would allow you the use of an oven, sink and fridge.

Set the tea for right after school or classes. Don’t expect the teachers to drive home and then back again. They are too busy for that. Depending on the number of teachers and hostesses, you might want to invite just the teachers from one grade or you could invite the entire school. Don’t forget that male teachers like tea time too.

You won’t be able to do a lot of decorating for this tea party because of the setting. Do have a little flower arrangement on each table and use a tablecloth. While it is possible you might be able to borrow dishes from the kitchen, I recommend using pretty paper plates and napkins. They are much more festive and will be a nice change from every day cafeteria dishes.

Since this tea party honors teachers, use apples in your decorations. A big bowl of shinny red apples on the serving table will look pretty and can be eaten. Tie a glittery ribbon around each apple stem. You might use apples too as place card holders on the guest tables. Or use cored out apples to hold candles.

In talking with teachers, I’ve learned that they love to receive gift cards to office supply stores. This allows them to buy something they can really use for their classroom, they aren’t fattening and teachers really don’t need more mugs. So for favors, I’d give gift cards enclosed in pretty little envelopes that have been decorated by hand. If that’s out of the budget, make up rosebud corsages/boutonieres in your school colors, if appropriate. Or give a little nylon net pouch filled with candied almonds or some other candy.

You will want music at your tea party. If a sound system isn’t available, use a boom box. Play upbeat, happy music; this isn’t the time for heavy classical music. (Unless you’re honoring music teachers.) If your tea is for teachers at church, gospel music or Christian rock might be nice.

Coming up tomorrow: A cooperative tea party menu that can be divided among all the hostess/helpers.


Tea Party Help from Catalogs

The Christmas catalogs have started arriving at my house this week. Some go directly into the pitch pile but some make my mouth water. I’m not going to mention any tea catalogs today; instead I want to talk about those that offer wonderful things for tea parties.

I’ve mentioned Stonewall Kitchen before but their catalog arrived yesterday and they have even more great stuff than ever. The cover features a jar of Maple Pumpkin Butter. Can’t you just imagine how that would taste on scones! Wild Maine Blueberry Jam, Mimosa Jam, Mango Peach Jam—I could eat these from the jar. Their Lemon Curd tastes just like homemade, complete with pieces of lemon zest. Think of the tarts you could make with that. I’m definitely ordering their Balsamic Fig Salad Dressing and will be using that in an upcoming recipe. My favorite item of all though is their Farmhouse Ketchup. It tastes just like the ketchup my grandmother made. You might not use this for a tea party but once you taste it, you’ll use it on everything. Visit their web site if you don’t receive the catalog.

Yesterday’s mail also brought the Wolferman’s catalog. You might find it strange to get excited about English muffins but if you’ve ever tasted Wolferman’s you’ll understand. They have unusual flavors like Apple Orchard, Cranberry Citrus and Cherry Jubilee. Their mini English muffins are perfect for serving at a tea party. Top them with either sweet or savory ingredients for a wonderful little bite. Wolferman’s has crumpets too and scones and tea breads. If you don’t like to bake, this is the place for you. Find them here.

The Baker’s Catalogue says they have quality products, recipes and inspiration for bakers. They do! King Arthur Flour is the best but my local grocery store doesn’t carry it. It is worth paying shipping for it. This catalog has a mix for every baked good you can imagine. They also sell individual products for baking. And they sell baking pans and dishes and gadgets. I just counted; they sell over 20 different kinds of flours. How special it is to offer homemade bread for your tea sandwiches. There web site is here.

Williams-Sonoma has lots of stores but looking through their catalog is a special treat. They carry knives, pans, dishes, tablecloths, appliances and gadgets. Everything is top quality. Whether you are a serious foodie or a casual cook, you’ll find something for your tea parties that you need here. One of the especially nice features of their catalog is that there is a recipe on almost every page. Look for them here.


My World Wednesday: How I Spent My Vacation

Even though we didn’t go away for our vacation, it was still supposed to be a time of having fun, eating some good food and relaxing on the porch swing. Unfortunately none of that happened.

Over the weekend my husband visited his mother and found her not feeling well. They both chalked it up to her usual medical problems. She kept getting worse though and had to be rushed by ambulance to the hospital. Doctors discovered she had a ruptured appendix. Apparently elderly people don’t get the amount of pain that others do so they don’t recognize appendicitis for what it is. She’s recovering quite well and today will move to a nursing home for a few weeks to regain her strength.

In the middle of all that, I had a root canal scheduled. I told my husband that it would be a quick and simple matter because as a front tooth it has only one root. Sure enough, I was in and out of the endodontist’s office in 45 minutes. The next day I had significant pain which the doctor had told me to expect. Taking 3 Advil every 6 hours as instructed didn’t help at all. By Sunday morning I was in agony. My dentist called in a prescription for antibiotics and pain medication—I had an infection in the root canal.

I’d taken Vicodin through the years and it always worked miracles on pain. It did nothing for my tooth pain though. I tried ice, I tried heat, I tried vanilla, garlic and alcohol. No relief. My face was swollen to the point that my husband said I looked as though I’d just come from a prize fight.

The antibiotics did finally catch hold and this morning I am out of pain. Whew!

Did you ever hear the old saying that things come in threes? That crossed my mind and I wondered what would be next. I didn’t have to wait long. Last night I received a call from my credit card company asking if I’d made certain charges. No, I definitely did not join an online single parents’ dating club, an online escort service and I didn’t buy a pair of cowboy boots. Isn’t that a funny combination. I had to cancel the card, which I use for everything, and wait for a new one to be issued. Oh, bother, as Alton Brown would say.

So I have my three in for now and things are looking up. It will probably be days until I can get around to visit my friends as I have a lot of catching up to do around the house. I’m sure things will settle back to normal soon though. At least I’m hoping so.