June 17, 2024


Simply The Best Food

Food Notes: Take time for a cup of tea … and a scone

4 min read

If ever there was a January when we needed a calming cup of tea, this is it.

In the many British shows on television they often reach for the tea kettle in times of crisis, knowing that the warm brew offers a moment of calm amid life’s storms.

Perhaps we can follow their lead, along with some comforting homemade scones with jam and butter or whipped cream (clotted cream for a truly English effect).

It sounds simplistic, but I say any port in a storm of political controversy.

Drinking tea first became popular in ancient China, but the British made it their own in the 19th century when afternoon tea became a way to stave off hunger until dinner at the traditional hour of 8 p.m.

Beginning with the Duchess of Bedford ordering tea, butter bread and cake sent to her room around 4 p.m., it involved into a fashionable social event.

Today’s English tea (the meal) is enjoyed by everyone; it can be a bone china platter loaded with finger sandwiches, scones and desserts along with a brewed pot of tea, or a simple sandwich and a cup of tea.

Yours can be whatever you like. Scones are easy to make, as are cucumber sandwiches, and small cookies or slices of cake are a satisfying dessert. You might even have a few leftover Christmas cookies tucked into the freezer. Those, and a few holiday chocolates are what I reached for when I hosted a favorite out-of-town niece forea. In happier years we have gone to local tearooms, but to be prudent, this year we made ours together and had a lovely visit and meal.

In the farm markets

One happy excuse to get out of the house is to head for one of our local winter farmers markets. In Princeton and West Windsor they are being held outside to allow for social distancing; in Trenton and Stockton they are sheltered indoors with protective protocols in place. There we can find locally grown apples, squashes, cabbage, white and sweet potatoes, kohlrabi, kale, turnips, radishes, lettuces, garlic, beets and turnips. Also available are honey, cheeses, meats, baked goods, cider and a variety of other products.

Blueberry Scones

This recipe from tasteofhome.com is as basic as it gets. If you don’t have or like blueberries, substitute raisins or dried cranberries. Or make them plain. Serving jam or marmalade on the side adds plenty of flavor. See the website for a video on how to make them.

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk, divided
  • 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1. In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a bowl, whisk eggs and ¾ cup milk; add to dry ingredients and mix just until moistened. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; gently knead in the blueberries.

2. Divide the dough in half. Pat each portion into an 8-inch circle; cut each into 8 wedges. Place on greased baking sheets. Brush with remaining milk. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Serve warm.

Cucumber Mint Tea Sandwiches

Cucumber sandwiches are a favorite of mine, although I probably wouldn’t add the mint called for in this recipe from thespruceeats.com. I think the cucumber can hold its own. Cream cheese can be substituted for the butter if you prefer, and any white bread will do. Thinly sliced breads work well.

  • 1 loaf white bread (such as buttermilk bread)
  • 1 English cucumber (thinly sliced, peeling is optional)
  • 2 large sprigs fresh mint (leaves only, chopped or whole)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (softened)

Optional: lemon juice (to taste)

1. Gather the ingredients.

2. For every two slices of bread, spread both slices evenly and thinly with butter (or cream cheese if you prefer).

3. Cover one side of the sandwich with sliced cucumber in one to two layers.

4. Add a thin layer of fresh mint.

5. Season with lemon juice, salt and/or pepper.

5. Put the slices together, cut off the crusts and slice the sandwich diagonally two times to create four triangle finger sandwiches.

Chicken and Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

Starting a diet in January doesn’t mean you have to give up all the foods you love. This recipe from thehealthycookingblog.com packs plenty of flavor in 235 calories per slice. And if you don’t like cilantro, leave it out.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes

8 servings

  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast rotisserie
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14.5-ounce can diced green chilies
  • 1 10-ounce can red enchilada sauce
  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas quartered, 6-inch
  • 2 cups shredded reduced-fat Mexican blend cheese divided
  • 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Coat an 11x7x2-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In bowl, combine chicken, chili powder, cumin, cilantro, black beans and green chilies Spread half of enchilada sauce over bottom of baking dish. Place four quartered tortillas over the sauce, overlapping. Spoon half the chicken mixture over tortillas, and sprinkle with 1 cup cheese and dollop the yogurt on top. Next, spoon remaining enchilada sauce, and make another layer of tortillas, and remaining chicken mixture.

Cover dish with foil. Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Return to oven 5 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Nutrition: Calories 235, calories from fat 30%, fat 8 g, saturated fFat 4 g, cholesterol 50 mg, sodium 740 mg, carbohydrates 18 g, dietary fiber 4 g, total sugars 2 g, protein 23 g, diabetic exchanges: 1 starch, 3 lean meat

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