Heart-Shaped Shortbread Cookies | Recipe | Meredith Sweetpea


Heart-shaped shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate

Nothing goes better with a cup of tea than a delightful shortbread cookie. Try this recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 to 7 ounces good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.
  • Dump dough onto a flour-dusted surface and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  • After 30 minutes, roll the dough to 1/2″ thickness. Cut with heart-shaped cookie cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  • If you would like to dip your shortbread cookies in chocolate, place the cooled cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on HIGH for 30 secoonds. Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 10- to15-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Stir in the remaining chocolate until it is completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smoothed and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
  • Dip 1/2 of cookie in just enough chocolate to coat it.

–Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cooking show; Improptu Dinner episode.

 

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Collecting Teacups


pink-teacup-with-bird

One of Meredith Sweetpea’s favorites. Purchased in Ireland.

Miss Meredith Sweetpea loves collecting tea cups. There are so many pretty patterns, shapes and colors. That’s why she was thrilled to see an article titled “Tea Cups: From Pretty to Practical”  in one of her favorite magazines: Tea Time.

In the piece, the author talks about why teacups are “beloved collectibles,” and the evolution of the teacup from its roots in China through Europe and beyond.

Did you ever wonder how porcelain cups came into being? Or why milk is added to tea? You’ll have to read the article to find out.

One fun fact: “During both world wars, teacups helped denote status, as officers sipped from china, and enlisted troops drank from metal or tin cups.”

Tips on Collecting Teacups

Continue reading

Cooking From Scratch is an Art Form


bacon-and-cheddar-savory-scones

Savory Scones

When I tell people I cook everything from scratch, I get one of three responses: “Good for you,” “I don’t cook,” and “Why?”

Which begs me to think, “Have we truly lost the art form of creating a delicious meal?”

“Cooking can be an act of love and delight, or it can be yet another exercise in racing through life on automatic pilot–never stopping for a moment to notice, feel, or taste. Cooking performed as an act of love brings us renewed energy and vigor-cooking performed on auto pilot is draining.

When we dook in a hands-on, no-rush style, we are forced to stop, taste, feel, smell, see, and experience our food. Isn’t this what life is all about? Isn’t this what is missing from a harried life?”     –excerpted from The Simple Living Guide, by Janet Luhrs

Cooking meals, and living simply, can take some planning ahead. But all you need are simple ingredients stored in your pantry. Continue reading

Pinky Up or Pinky Down When Drinking Tea?


The Queen enjoys a good cup of tea.

Miss Meredith Sweetpea was invited to partake in a lovely tea last week where the subject arose of whether or not it is proper to raise the pinky when raising the teacup to one’s lips.

Heavens, do people still think that “pinky up” is the proper way to drink tea?

 

Those in attendance were divided as to the correct answer, with each believing their method to be right. This called for an exploration of how to properly drink tea.

The Proper Way to Hold a Teacup

pinky-up-tea-drinking

Pinky up? Wrong!

The proper etiquette for holding the teacup is to pinch the handle of the cup between the thumb and the index finger if the handle is small, or pinching the same two fingers together through the handle.  The finger should not hook through the handle to raise the cup.

The handle should rest on the third finger, using the pinky beneath the cup to stabilize it, or using the 3 open fingers under the handle pressed against the cup to balance it, with the fingers curving back toward the wrist. Never should the pinky be raised.

hooking-finger-through-teacup

Hooking through the handle? Wrong!

In fact, it is considered rude to stick out the pinky, in addition to looking ridiculous. The practice originated from those wishing to elevate their status, however, it is ultimately taken as a symbol of elitism. In social settings, lifting the pinky will surely identify you as unsophisticated rather than what you intended it to mean.

Adding Milk and Sugar to Tea

If you wish to add milk to your tea to lighten or cool it, add the milk after the tea is poured into the cup. If you add it before the tea, you will not be able to tell how much is needed.

When stirring tea, use a back and forth swish of the spoon rather than a circular motion. And never clink the spoon against the side of the teacup to shake off any remaining drops. Simply place the spoon on the saucer behind the teacup.

If you are standing and drinking tea, hold the saucer with one hand as you drink with the other. Look down at your cup while you drink, and not at the others in the room. This will help prevent you from spilling your tea down the front of your frock or necktie.

Need a New Royal Doulton Tea Set?

If you need a new tea set, consider the lovely Royal Albert New Country Roses tea service from Royal Doulton, and its matching cups and saucers.

Royal_Doulton_new_country_roses_cups_saucers

Befuddled by the Flatware at a Formal Dinner?


formal-place-setting-silverwareMiss Meredith Sweetpea loves to attend a formal dinner. All the courses, with their delightful tastes, are just a pleasure to enjoy.

Attending a formal dinner, however, can befuddle some who are not familiar with the array of flatware (a.k.a. silverware) that is set upon the table. Often you’ll see a variety of forks, knives and spoons set beside and above the plate setting, along with a number of drinking glasses.

According to Miss Manners Judith Martin, when it comes to silverware, Continue reading

A Meredith Sweetpea Visit to Glenfiddich Farm Cookery School


meredith-sweetpea-chef-olwen-woodier-glenfiddich-cookery-school-virginiaFood is certainly one of the joys of life, and what better way to enjoy food than to learn from a professional. Miss Meredith Sweetpea had the pleasure of attending a cooking class at the Glenfiddich Farm Cookery School this past week. Located on a lovely acreage in Loudoun County, Virginia are the gardens from which chef Olwen Woodier selects her fresh produce for the menus she so lovingly prepares. The gardens are filled with vegetables, fruits and herbs to delight any palate.

The Glenfiddich Farm Cookery School was started in February 2005 in a stone-walled 1840s home that was formerly a dairy. Continue reading

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