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It's not "life's illusions", but "life's infusions" that I recall!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bourbon Balls & Velveeta Cheese Fudge

One year in the late 1960's when we were poor, newly married and college students,  we decided to give all our family Bourbon Balls for Christmas.  These were popular with our friends and we had lots of fun making them !  They are easy and fast and just need a day or two to blend all the flavors.

My daughter & son-in-law gave me a sweet little Christmas with Paula Deen book, full of stories and recipes...my favorite kind of cookbook !  The most unusual recipe in the book, and maybe the most unusual recipe I've ever seen, is the "Chocolate Cheese Fudge.  It calls for Velveeta Cheese !  I mean, if you are from the South, Velveeta Cheese is a staple !  But I have never heard of it being used in a recipe for Fudge !!  I had to try it.  It's tasty...not really a gourmet fudge, but good and quite unique!

Hope you enjoy the recipes and may your Christmas be full of joy and peace and lots of tea !!

Bourbon Balls

1 box vanilla wafers
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate--finely chopped
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup light corn syrup
⅓ cup Bourbon or Brandy
pinch salt
2 cups pecans or walnuts, lightly toasted & finely chopped

Crush the vanilla wafers until fine. Use a food processor or place vanilla wafers in a heavy duty plastic bag & crush with a rolling pin.

In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Remove from the heat. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, bourbon & salt & stir to blend. Stir in the crushed vanilla wafers & half & half.

Spread the remaining pecans on a plate. Shape the dough into 1" balls. Roll the balls in the nuts & coat thoroughly. In a container that can be tightly sealed, layer the balls, separating them using wax paper. Refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

Makes approximately 4 1/2 dozen 1" balls.

To toast pecans or walnuts
: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts evenly on a cookie sheet. Toast for 8-10 minutes. Cool before chopping.

Velveeta Cheese Fudge



½ pound Velveeta Cheese, sliced
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts
2 -16 ounce bags confectioner's sugar-sifted
½ cup cocoa

Lightly spray the bottom of a 9 " square baking pan with vegetable oil cooking spray

In a sauce pan, melt the cheese & butter together over medium heat. Stir continuously until smooth. Remove from the heat. Add the vanilla & nuts.

In a large bowl, sift together the sugar and cocoa. Pour the cheese mixture into the sugar-cocoa mixture, stirring until completely mixed. Candy will be very stiff. May need to use your hands to do the final mixing.

Remove the candy from the bowl and press it evenly into the square pan. You may need to pat the top of the candy, because of the amount of butter.

Refrigerate until firm. Usually about 30 minutes. Should make about 36 small squares.

Joy and Peace and May everyday be your cup of tea !

Happy Infusions,



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hot Tea-Toddy--- Hot "My-Chai" and more....

'Tis the season for gathering, celebrating, eating and drinking.  Tea, that versatile, cooperative, beverage is easily incorporated into a myriad of cocktail  drinks.  This time of year, I am especially fond of hot drinks.  An old favorite...the Hot Toddy made with tea is warm and toasty.  Most black and green teas mix well with honey and lemon, and experimenting with a Toddie recipe can elicit a whole repertoire of hot tea mixed drinks.

In this blog, I've included  a recipe for  a Hot Tea-Toddy, a Hot "My-Chai" tea, and a White Russian also using chai tea.  My daughter introduced me to a simple way to use tea in mixed drinks with Tea-Forte's  collection of cocktail infusions.

We wish you a beautiful, happy and very Merry Christmas !



Hot Tea-Toddy


1 ounce brandy, whiskey, or rum
1 tablespoon honey
¼ lemon
1 cup hot water
1 ounce tea or 1 tea bag (black or green--your preference)

Steep the tea in the hot water for 3-5 minutes. (Depending on the tea and your preference..the longer the steep, the stronger the tea.

Use the honey to coat the bottom of a mug. Add the brandy, whiskey or rum and the juice from the lemon.

Pour the hot tea into the prepared mug, stir and enjoy !

Hot "My-Chai"


1 ounce or tea bag Chai tea
8 ounces hot water
3 ounces milk
1 ounce bourbon
¼ ounce amaretto (almond-flavored liqueur)
¼ ounce Grand Marnier (orange-flavored liqueur)
1 wedge lemon
3 whole cloves

Brew the 1 ounce of loose chai tea (placed in an infuser) or the 1 chai tea bag in 8 ounces of hot water for 3-5 minutes, depending on your preference. The longer the steep (brew) the stronger the tea.
While the tea is steeping, put the cloves into one end of the lemon wedge & set aside.
In a saucepan, combine the tea, milk and simmer, stirring gently.

Pour the tea/milk mixture into a tea (or coffee) mug. Add bourbon, amaretto & Grand Marnier. Stir briefly.

Add the lemon wedge, with the cloves dipping into the hot "My-Chai".  Enjoy !

Chai White Russian


1 ounce or tea bag Chai tea
2 ounces rum
2 ounces light cream or half & half
1 ounce sugar syrup

Place Chai tea bag or tea infuser with 1 ounce of Chai tea in a glass. Pour rum over tea infuser or tea bag and steep for 3-5 minutes, depending on your preference. The longer the steep the stronger the tea. Add cream and sugar syrup and gently stir. Add ice.  Enjoy !

Tea Forte Exotic Cocktails

tea_forte_front_of_box These are very pretty drinks and easily made.  We've sampled several and can

recommend them with confidence !


Again, Happy, Merry Christmas !  May you be blessed and may everyday be your cup of tea !



Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oh my, I love Sweet Potato Pie !

I don't remember the first time I tasted it.  It must have been in the South someplace.  My Grandmother didn't make it, and not one of my Aunties made it. My Mom didn't either.  One day, somewhere, at some time, I tasted it and fell in love. And I have held Sweet Potato Pie in high regard ever since !

I adapted this  recipe from a storybook full of recipes: Sweety Pies by Patty Pinner. She says, "What a woman cooks is a window into her womanly personality---what she thinks, how she behaves, how she feels about herself and the people she cooks for."  I'm still mediating on this little quote, wondering what the full implications could be ? If she means, what a woman cooks, when she cooks, well then, that might open a window into my "womanly personality".

Frankly, sometimes, I don't cook.  I eat cottage cheese and yogurt or a bolonga sandwich with mayo.  I use whole wheat bread though.  I think this means I'm flexible, healthy and maybe not in the mood to clean up a cooking mess !  I am blessed though..... I have a Sweet Husband who is an excellent cook and he enjoys it.

When I do cook, I love to bake this Sweet Potato Pie.  My family and friends keep coming back for seconds.  If there is any left, we have pie for breakfast !   I'm sure your family will want second helpings too.


Sweet Potato Pie


9" Pie crust

3 medium sweet potatoes

2 large eggs

1 ½ cups sugar

1 teaspoon lemon extract

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ cup butter, melted

½ cup half-and-half or evaporated milk

1-2 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

Cover the sweet potatoes with water and boil until tender. Drain. Let them cool.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the pie crust.

After sweet potatoes have cooled, peel and mash in a large bowl until smooth.

Add the eggs, sugar, lemon extract, bourbon (optional), salt, and nutmeg and beat together until blended and smooth.

Add the melted butter and half and half and beat until creamy. Pour into the pie crust.

Place in the oven. I usually put it on a cookie sheet, just in case it spills over.

Should cook about 45 minutes. Test the center for doneness. Set on a wire rack and cool completely.

Can be served with whipped cream or plain. I think its perfect plain.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chicken (or Turkey) In Every Pot...Pie

It seemed like the perfect evening for a pot pie.  Rainy and chilly .

Our guys are at the ranch, braving the cold, taking care of cows, and fixing an old yellow truck and two chain saws.   They are killing mice and stalking one sneaky raccoon that has taken up residence in our fruit shed.

My daughter and I decided to make a chicken pot pie and watch chick flicks!

Pot pies usually describe a method, rather than a recipe.  Generally, a pot pie is a crusted pie made with poultry or meat and chopped vegetables in some kind of sauce.  A little trivia note: the first frozen pot pie was made by Swanson in 1951.

This recipe is delicious and perfect for leftover turkey.


We just put the chicken and vegetables in the crust, now it's ready for the oven.


Ready for serving.


Tender flaky crust, yummy chicken and vegetables....oh so good !

Chicken or Turkey Pot Pie


2 pastry crust (bottom & top) to fit your casserole or pie dish

6 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 ¾ cups chicken stock or broth

1 cup half-and-half or cream

2 cups cut up cooked chicken or turkey

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup cooked chopped carrots

½ small onion, diced

2-4 cloves garlic, minced or diced

1-2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out pastry crust to fit the bottom of the casserole or deep dish pie pan you are using for your pot pie. Line your dish with the pastry. Set aside.

Saute the garlic and diced onion in oil. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a skillet over low heat, blend in flour and seasonings. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth & bubbly. Remove from heat.

Stir in chicken stock or broth and half & half (or cream). Bring to a boil, stirring. Boil 1 minute. Stir in chicken (or turkey), peas, carrots, onions & garlic.

Pour chicken mixture into pie crust. Roll out the other crust to fit the top of your casserole or deep dish pie pan.

Cover top with this crust, seal, cut away excess crust and make several slits in the top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Happy Infusions,




Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Pursuit of Pleasure......

A delicious moment in time is when I can sit with a good cup of tea and a good book.  (Unless you have your own stash of great tea, a good book will be much easier to come by than a good cup of tea).

I was raised by a father and mother who revere books.  My father reads strictly for information.  His books center around whatever subject he happens to be pursuing at the moment: auto mechanics, horse racing, stock market, health products or internet sales.  His office resembles  the "How To" section of a bookstore.

My mother reads for pleasure.  She reads best sellers, historical fiction and a few self-help authors.  It is hard for me to suggest a "good read" for her, because, usually, she has already read the book and one or two others by the same author!  Several months ago I thought I had a genuine "find".   I wanted to introduce her to Big Stone Gap, by Adriana Trigiani.  I called to share my excitement and discovered she had read that book, and several others  by this author.  Recently I had been thinking about purchasing Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls.  My mother and I were discussing Thanksgiving plans and she mentioned she had two books she wanted to loan me.  Oh yes,  that's right,  Half Broke Horses !  And of course, the other book by Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle.  I'm telling you, when it comes to books, it's hard to keep up with her.

Her office is like an overstocked library.  Her desk is surrounded by bookcases on each wall. Books are shelved, stacked and in various states of cascading disorder.  And she has read them all.  She is a book lover and a book giver.  She is of the opinion that a book is one of the finest gifts to give or receive.

The other day I had the privilege of thumbing through the worn red notebook she takes when shopping for a book gift.  A page is designated for each family member  where she has listed what book she purchased and for what occasion.  This wouldn't seem unusual, except over the years,  her family has continued to expand and now, counting the youngest great-grandchild, there are thirty-three family members and another one on the way !

A personalized bookplate adorns the inside of each grandchild and great grandchild's book.  Each bookplate is chosen according to the child's interest. I have to check with her before I can buy a  book for my own grandchildren !

I tell myself this explains why I am a little fanatical about books. I tend to purchase for future reading, not necessarily for the moment.  I'm not sure I know what to do with myself, if I don't have something to read !

At the Author's Fair in the Shasta Mall  I scored these treasures.


A stop at  Barnes & Noble to gather a few joke books...our grandson is memorizing jokes, and of course, making them up.  He's also crazy about baseball and learning to read....


and our granddaughter loves dogs, horses and rhyming.


On Tuesday, Cindy Martinusen Coloma was at Barnes & Noble for a book signing.  I anticipate curling up with one of these lovely books and a nice cup of tea.


There are few pleasures as enchanting as a good book and a good cup of tea...both carry me into other realms.

Happy Reading and Happy Infusions,





Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Good News Is Happening on Oregon Street !!

After months of patiently working to obtain a building permit....

the Oregon Street Antique Mall ......


is in full swing ( that's with a hammer and crow bar) in creating a new stair case...



which will open up the entire second story.  Several dealers are arranging their wares in anticipation of the completed project. I know there is a grand opening planned and we'll keep everyone up to date !!

And right next door at Tapas Downtown there is more construction activity....


come take a peek.....


Yes, the walls have been knocked down and the gallery area is being expanded !!


This new room will accommodate large groups...so book your Christmas party now !!

We are blessed and thankful to be multiplying and growing on Oregon Street !!

All this work just makes me want to have a cuppa tea !

Happy Infusions,





Monday, October 26, 2009

Tea Tasting and Friends.....

A big thank you to all our family and friends who attended the Tea Tasting Party at the Antique Cottage and Garden Friday night.  I miss all of you and it was absolutely divine to connect again with so many of you !!

Thank you also to Lynni Miller, the owner of Antique Cottage and Garden, and Kelly and Mark, who all pitched in to help us get ready !  Lynni, the goodies were perfect with the teas....thanks !

Congratulations to the winners of the door prizes !!

My Sweet Husband is the best !  He patiently loaded and unloaded teas, teapots, hats and all kinds of other necessary "stuff" !

a_few_teas_for_tea_tasting We couldn't bring the entire tea room inventory......

so we brought some old favorites .....english_breakfast and some new ones to try.....

genmaicha oolong_orange_blossom

Of course, we had to brew a pot of our most requested tea at the tea room...French Creme Brulee...

Famous_French_creme_brulee and what's a tea party without a green tea ? We tasted our lovely Japanese Bancha !

Aunt Ressie May, a strawberry-kiwi fruit  infusion (no Camellia sinensis-- no real tea--) has been a delicious choice since we first  introduced it as our signature "Drink Pink" tea several years ago.


A blooming tea contributed to the ambiance of the evening...


The weather couldn't have been more perfect and the garden was delightful.......


Thank you again everyone for making this enjoyable, and successful and we look forward to the next Tea Tasting Party !

Happy Infusions,





Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Worth the price of admission

Our family made our annual trek to McCloud for our Pumpkin Train trip this last weekend !


Riding in the open air car on the top deck,  through the piney woods,  our view was spectacular....


though a bit windy.


We delighted in being together  on a train full of friendly, happy families....




We joyfully discussed how to find the exact, perfect pumpkin.


And we were transported by the magical  sound of the train whistle....


Departing the train for the pumpkin patch, we left our faithful "guardian of stuff"....


and began the search for The Right Pumpkin.....


Studying the pumpkin possibilities is one approach....

another approach is checking to see how tough it is.


At last a selection is made...our rule is you have to be able to carry the pumpkin you choose !




And everyone agreed, it was worth the price of admission !!

Happy Pumpkin Days....have some tea and enjoy !





Friday, October 16, 2009

Buttermilk Pumpkin Muffins

In anticipation of our annual Pumpkin Train Trip I made a batch....well, it's a huge recipe, so actually I made about 4 dozen Pumpkin Muffins! They are delicious !  Especially nice with a cup of Masala Chai tea or a good Assam tea !


Here is the recipe:

Buttermilk Pumpkin Muffins

1 cup cooking oil

1 cup buttermilk

2 ½ cups pumpkin

4 large eggs



1 tablespoon cloves

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

1 ¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

2 ¾ cup sugar

4 cups flour

1 cup pecan pieces

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix all ingredients . Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Take out of pan and cool on a rack.

This is a huge recipe and makes about 4 dozen medium sized muffins.

Enjoy.....and Happy Infusions,





Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cream of Wheat...and a stroll down Memory Lane

My Sweet Husband and I were standing in the kitchen, discussing breakfast options.  The wind whipped the tree branches back and forth and the rain pounded on  the roof.  We rattled off several possible choices; an omelet with sausage, waffles with whipped cream, scrambled eggs and toast, Cream of Wheat.

Rainy mornings and Cream of Wheat...a comfort food..stirring happy memories of childhood and those fun-filled years of rushing to have a healthy, yummy breakfast for three lively kids before they bolted out the door to catch the school bus.

I settled on Cream of Wheat.  Warm mush !  I like my Cream of Wheat with butter and sorghum.  Sorghum is similar to molasses, but much better !


I've never been able to find sorghum in grocery stores in California, so I am forced to ship a case home from my favorite supplier, an Amish family in Dunnegan, Missouri.


(This is my sorghum stash !)

Whenever I dip into my sorghum cache,  I am instantly transported to Amish country.

It is another world.  Quiet country roads...rolling green hills...and signs that remind us to  share our space.



And then I begin to reminiscence about My Grandpa's Farm.  A lovely Amish family purchased his farm after he died.

He would be blessed to see how they have loved and cared for his farm.

They expanded the house...(they have 10 children)....and resurrected the outhouse.


(My Grandpa did not have an indoor toilet or shower until 1978.  He never did get around to tearing down the old outhouse and it stands today where it stood when we were kids.  Showering, before he built the indoor bathroom, meant you filled a 5 gallon bucket, which sat on the roof of the cellar, with warm water.  You proceeded down the steps into the dark cellar, stripped down, turned on the water using a valve on a hose, soaped up, hurrying and hoping to have enough water to rinse !  We thought it was like camping out !)

They repaired the roof and are still using the beautiful rock barn My Grandpa built.......adjusted_lighting_rock_barn__amish_buggy

Wow..with a bowl of Cream of Wheat and sorghum I had a stroll down memory lane !!

Now it's time for tea !

Happy Infusions,





Friday, October 9, 2009


I used to call for directions to a shop or restaurant.

Then I began googling to get directions.

But now,  I have a new BFF (Best Friend Forever)....a GPS (Global Positioning System).  The sound of it, Global Positioning System, is incredibly Sci-Fi or maybe Techie.  I'm neither, so I like to say it and imagine that I am somewhere in the universe, and have no fear, because, this Global Positioning System knows the way to my home....wherever home is at the moment .


My Sweet Husband rented a car in Virginia with this  NEVERLOST GPS.   I didn't think we needed it, and I wasn't sure it would be reliable, since this was a  rented car.

But he likes the GPS we have in our van.  Truthfully,  the van GPS has saved our bacon several times in Portland, when we consistently miss the "slight left middle lane veer to the right" exit onto the next freeway!  The GPS knows how to get us through downtown Portland...no easy task....and back on the right freeway!

We entered the Williamsburg motel address in the NEVERLOST.  I continued to be mildly skeptical and kept the printed directions out of sight, folded neatly in my purse, just in case this GPS failed.

We had no trouble getting on the freeway from the airport,   but when we got off and started having to find streets and make turns....which we occasionally missed...I was  grateful to hear the words" recalculating route" emanating from the NEVERLOST !


On the day I went by myself for tea and shopping,  hearing   "recalculating route" and "when possible make a legal U turn"  made me feel all warm and fuzzy... cared for, safe and secure.  I knew I would get where I was going.  No matter what mistakes I made, the NEVERLOST gently and continually recalculated my route trying to help me find my way.  It never through up its hands and declared it was "so done" with me because I kept making wrong turns !

Wouldn't it be incredible if we had a LIFE GPS.  We enter our goal and begin our journey.  With the first bad decision, and the next and the next,  the device would  "recalculate our  route".  Modifying our mistakes, the  LIFE GPS would alter our route constantly guiding us toward the intended goal.

Sounds like my relationship with my Lord !  Navigating life is difficult!  I have made many wrong turns and gone down some crazy roads and always, gently and consistently,  I see Him adjust and "recalculate my route".  Not in anger and disgust, only with love and patience, redirecting my mind and heart, and I am NEVERLOST !  Sometimes I'm late to the party, but I get there feeling safe and secure and beloved !

Happy Travels.... and have some tea along the way !