Times like these call for a hot cup of tea. Lulled into a false sense of spring fever by the warm weather last week, we are now plunged back into winter weather with a bitter wind and even snow. I am pretty sure by next week things will feel like spring again, but for now, we need to cope with this sudden blast of cold. Hot tea is the most soothing and comforting drink I know, and tea tastes even better with cookies. I wanted to make some cookies with a fruity flavor, but also with dark chocolate (since dark chocolate is good for us), and I have always loved the combination of orange and chocolate. I built this recipe based on basic sugar cookie ingredients, and just added some orange zest, dark chocolate chips, and almonds. The cookies are lightly sweet with a subtle orange flavor, and the unmistakable taste of dark chocolate.
A cup of tea and a plate of cookies signals comfort and quiet joy to me. A pot of tea and a plate of cookies shared with a friend or family member invites intimate conversation and trust. We are urged to slow down and wait for the tea to cool to a temperature we can drink. We sit quietly and breathe in the aroma of the tea and let the steam warm our faces. The warm liquid soothes our busy minds and allows us to think more clearly. To drink tea and share cookies with someone is to slow down and savor the present moment with them. To be present with someone or even to be present with oneself is a great gift. We are able to hold the moment as it passes into the next, enveloped in a comforting glow of warmth, no matter what is going on in the outside world. That, to me, is the beauty of cookies and a cup of tea.
Orange Chocolate Tea Cookies
Servings: about 36 to 42 cookies, depending on size
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grate the peel of an orange for your orange zest. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with a wooden spoon. Add half of the flour, and all of the sugar, egg, baking soda, vanilla, and orange zest. Stir until well combined. Add the rest of the flour and stir again, incorporating the dry ingredients into the moist batter. Stir in the dark chocolate chips and the slivered almonds until well combined. Drop the batter by a rounded teaspoon onto a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. (I like to made these cookies on the small side, to made them perfect to go with tea.) Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are firm, yet soft, and lightly golden. (The orange zest will make them lighter in color.) Repeat until all the batter is baked. Enjoy!
This versatile sauce gives a burst of flavor, color, and nutrients to a bowl of pasta. In my household, spring sports are now in full swing, and it is a valiant struggle to create quick, healthy dinners to squeeze in between school, work, homework, and soccer and track practices. I know we all function so much better when we are well-nourished, so to me, it is a worthy struggle to find ways to put quick, healthy meals on the table. This sauce is great, because it can be made ahead of time if that works best, and then warmed up, and it even tastes good at room temperature.
The pureed almonds give the sauce a creamy texture, and the tangy balsamic vinegar brings out the flavors of the red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes. I bought a couple jars of organic roasted red peppers from the grocery store, but if you have time, you can certainly roast your own. The recipe below is based on one I found in my Family Circle: New Tastes for New Times Cookbook. As I have used this recipe over the years, it has evolved a bit, and I like to add fresh herbs (straight from my own garden when I can) and sun-dried tomatoes to the original recipe for extra flavor. Just make the sauce, cook some pasta, throw together a green salad, and you have a healthy, light meal. Perfect for people on the go.
In these busy times, it can be hard to make the time to take some deep breaths and notice the spring blooming all around us. The frogs continue to sing at night, the daffodils are now in full bloom, such a pure, bright yellow, and the bare trees have tiny little buds on them. We now have a refugee pigeon sleeping on our roof at night. From what I can tell from talking to the Department of Natural Resources, it seems to be a racing pigeon taking a break from its course. I am beginning to wonder if it is retiring from racing though, because it has been sleeping on our roof for about 3 weeks. I am beginning to like this pretty, white pigeon, though I wonder where it came from. But if it wants to take a break on our roof for awhile, it is fine with me. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!
2 cups (about 14 ounces) of roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup of vegetable broth or chicken broth
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1-2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs (such as oregano, parsley, thyme, or basil)
2-3 tablespoons of chopped sun-dried tomatoes
12 ounces of pasta
Cook pasta according to directions. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook until just golden, about 2 minutes. Add the slivered almonds and cook about 2 minutes more, till the almonds are just golden. Transfer the garlic and almonds to a blender or food processor and add the peppers, broth, tomato paste, vinegar, salt, sugar, herbs, and sun-dried tomatoes to the blender/food processor. Puree until smooth. Pour into a large serving bowl. Drain the cooked pasta and place it into individual bowls. Spoon the desired amount of sauce on the bowls of pasta. Serve with a green salad, if desired. Enjoy!
This recipe is adapted from the Family Circle: New Tastes for New Times Cookbook
This time of year, our bodies yearn for fresh, green food. It has been a long winter, and we are ready for an influx of new growth. In my yard and garden, there is not much growing yet. We are barely out of winter, it seems. However, there are some promising and exciting signs of spring. Herbs are starting to poke their bright green stems and leaves through the wet, brown remains of winter. Our chives are almost always the first to be ready, and the oregano is just starting to give some fresh growth.
And of course the crocuses are a treat to see. I had forgotten where I planted the daffodil bulbs last fall, so it has been fun to walk around the yard and see where there are daffodils popping up. And the frogs! In the evenings, the spring peepers are really starting to sing. I love to sleep with the window cracked (even if it is a chilly night), just to listen to the frogs.
Since I have been longing to make some kind of food from just-picked ingredients, I decided to make biscuits with chopped, fresh herbs. We have some parsley growing in a pot at the kitchen windowsill, and that has perked up since the spring sun has been shining through the window, and I picked some chives and some oregano from the yard. Just picking and chopping herbs is a pleasure for me; I love the scents that are released. Instead of the standard butter, I used plain yogurt for moisture in the biscuits. They were delicious. Biscuits go with almost anything–eggs, soup, or use them to make a sandwich. The herbs give these biscuits a subtle, savory flavor. I look forward to joining Fiesta Friday this week at The Novice Gardener! The co-hosts are Hilda from Along the Grapevine and Julianna from Foodie on Board.
1 and 1/2 cups flour (I used 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of white)
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1-2 tablespoons fresh, finely chopped herbs (I used chives, oregano and parsley)
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir with a fork. Mix in the yogurt with your hands until a dough forms. (Your hands will get very messy!) Resist the urge to over-knead this dough–unlike with bread dough, too much kneading with biscuit dough makes the biscuits less fluffy. Combine just until the dough holds together as a ball. Then transfer to a floured work surface. Pat the dough down till it is about 1/2 inch thick. You may need at add some flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. With a cutter about 2 inches round (I turn a small glass upside-down), cut the dough into circles and place on greased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden. Enjoy!