Saturday, December 3, 2016

Garden Glamour Tablescapes and Holiday Door Decor

One of the seasonal songs that keeps ringing in my head is the refrain, “It’s the most wonderful time … of the year.”

While it can be somewhat unnerving for us horticulturists in the northern temperate climates when the season demands we change out our sunscreen for windscreen and bandanas for winter scarves, I honestly embrace the opportunity to design something different than the garden beds brimming with perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs for my garden client’s exterior -- and bring the garden to the interior designs.

I’m excited to create seasonal container compositions, entrance decor, and tablescapes -- showcasing the beauty of the garden and how plants -- and bit of fantasy -- can help tell their personal and family stories.

Every design is different. No two garden clients’ look is the same -- each is unique because we are all special in our own way -- just as a plant or blossom is..

This season, one of my dearest garden design clients --and a muse -- needed to prepare for a one-two series of family gatherings: for both Thanksgiving and again for Christmas and Hannukah. What good fortune!
So too, there was a series of design and work stages in a series to produce the look she was hoping for.

We started by walking the property and noting where she wanted to change and boost the look. That turned into establishing a border garden on one side of the circular driveway (curiously, the other sides all possessed border beds of mixed plantings.)
Wow -- this area would be brought up to par. More on this later.

Welcome Entrance Design
In terms of the welcome entrance decor, I started by creating a private Pinterest board for my client to respond to. I selected a number of images that we could use -- a little of this, a little of that, and of course, adding our own personal touch and her special personality and taste -- that is her love of beauty.

Once we had a working composition, I set out to source the material to create the design.
That included the floral district in New York City -- those that Martha and Ralph Lauren use for their compositions - not far from my Gotham apartment - in addition to local craft stores, our own backyards and gardens, too.

My client and I determined we’d use/repurpose lanterns I suggested and she purchase some years ago from Restoration Hardware to highlight the pool.
I placed two of the lanterns on each side of the door, filled the bottoms with unpopped popcorn, and loaned my flameless candles that work on timers.
That was backed by two very large flameless candles that my client already had.

In addition, I made three sheave designs for each side of the door -- two each of wheat-color stalks of cereal grass and the center was her favorite color (besides white) of a potato vine bright green.

It was an elegant composition even before I did the posts and door frame! 

Later, I wrapped the posts in a spiral of burlap ribbons overlaid with gold silk flowers and berries. Over the door we hung faux Chinese Bittersweet berries -- that glorious, rich, cinnabar, smash-pumpkin hue. Brilliant -- and glowed off client’s signature hair color.

The door was caressed / wrapped in a kind of spun white and gold microfiber that has a life of it’s own -- all the better to nestle sweet moss-covered little bird’s nests and gold and white feathery little birds, perched in the nests and looking to welcome guests in a regal “love-bird” kind of way. 

The custom-made pumpkin topiaries are tiered like a three-layer cake.

For the designer pumpkins I used ghost, Cotton Candy, Blue Moon, Pump Ke Mon (white with green or yellowish stripes), white, the Tiger Tiger and very stylish Brode Galeux d’Eysines -- an heirloom pumpkin from France that boasts a pebbly texture that makes you want to almost pet the pumpkin!

I chose a mix of pumpkin styles with each layer a smaller size to create four distinct pumpkin topiaries.

We created this layered look by drilling a hole into each of the pumpkins in a set, then inserting a rod to hold the topiary together. 

I then “gilded the lily” -- hot glueing a mix of adornments: silk, seasonal flowers, leaves, ribbon, acorns from the property, grass head plumes, and ivy. 

Cinderella should’ve had it so good!

We anchored silk leaf “ropes” around the bespoke address light posts on the street side.

And wrapped a bit of it around the statue of Alice in the Alice in Wonderland garden (all dressed for the occasion to greet her former mistress, the client’s talented granddaughter). 

The entranceway was special, seasonally-appropriate and looks good in the day or glowing at night.

In the same way, when asked to create a tablescape for the dining table using a crystal vase that measured just shy of a foot tall, I started by selecting some photos to post to the private Pinterest board in order to gauge the client’s reaction to a look and style.

I knew we should do a mix of ornamental and edible - given it was for a Thanksgiving celebration - so it should be about the harvest. 

I also knew the flora from both silk and fresh can be maximized.   This means the look can be de-constructed as the fresh flowers wane and the guests depart for home (whichever comes first!)

I created a series of low vases to surround the tall centerpiece (they can take away that away to foster easy table conversation) and still keep a pretty, glamorous, tablescape.

For the centerpiece it was a mix of rich hues: purple, bright green, pink, lilac, blue and white and gold was agreed upon.

For the small vases, it was gold football mums, magnolia leaves, and luscious as a candy apple rose called, Rose-Cherry Brandy whose gold amplified the mums and the delicate cherry color complemented the centerpiece -- and the red wine served up in the wine glasses.

Here too, I shopped the markets in the floral district in New York City where … plus sourced the fresh flowers from a local florist and flower friend.  I picked them up from her storybook home cum workshop and home-crafted greenhouse.

I filled the small vases with acorns, fragrant star anise and the fresh flowers.

I arranged the centerpiece with the silk flowers: ranunculus - green and burgundy red, peony, followed by the fresh: amaranth - red and green, roses, sea holly, ranunculus, two kinds of kale (love that frilly, ruffled leaves look). On site, I added the silk edibles: artichokes, clementines, and a few real purple turnips.

Around the centerpiece I placed faux grapes, gold baubles and beads to add just the touch of elegance this truly glamorous tablescape demanded.

In a room this grand, tall centerpieces can be almost be necessary.
And yet, those low vases facilitate the conversation - so good to have both low and high tablescape designs to accommodate guests.

Cheers to seasonal plant decor, tablescapes that sparkle and Finishing Touches. Remember, the eyes eat first - so be sure to design your home to welcome your family and friends with beauty and love.

Border Beds to be continued…

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Garden-to-Glass Cocktails using Homegrown, Seasonal Ingredients

This holiday the emphasis is on great food and drink. While the food often gets the spotlight - don’t get sidetracked by all the stuffing and gravy and miss out on creating a special, holiday-themed cocktail menu.

Here are a few of my favorites, with the emphasis on using lots of seasonal ingredients.

The Beverage Testing Institute awarded Strongbow the Best Tasting Common Cider about this time last year. I was fortunate enough to attend a tasting and dinner curated and prepared by oh-so-creative James Beard Foundation award-winning Chef Wylie Dufresne. Loved the lamb with barley, hibiscus-date and the Bay Leaf Ice Cream with brownie and Yuzu Fluff!

Strongbow has four cider flavors and each took home an award:
  • Gold Apple: gold medal, 92 points
  • Honey: gold medal, 92 points
  • Red Berries: silver medal, 88 points
  • Ginger: silver medal, 87 points

Hard Cider owns a very prominent place in American history - so what better way to celebrate Thanksgiving - this most American of holidays? And surely a drink that harkens to our colonists’ roots is needed to nurse our souls in this post-election sense of anxiety.

Gingerbread Sacrifice

1.3/4 oz Vodka
.33 oz Lemon Juice
3.1/2 oz Apple Cider
1.3/4 oz Orange Liqueur
A little Agave syrup
Gingerbread crumbs

Rim a martini cocktail glass with agave syrup then roll in gingerbread biscuit crumbs. Pour 11/2 oz of lemon juice, 1 ¾ ozs of orange liqueur and vodka into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into the cocktail glass. Add 3.5 ozs of apple cider and stir.

More American roots cocktails

Here is another cocktail with a decidedly patriotic American history. I’m serving it as part of our Thanksgiving cocktails - not only because of its antecedent or pedigree, but also because the distillery is located near our Garden State home - and maybe most important :) I was inspired to create a cocktail and garnish for my soon-to-be-published book - Finishing Touches: The Art of Garnishing the Cocktail  (you can get in pre-sale!)  

Here is an excerpt I created and wrote for the cocktail and garnish book, along with suggested food pairing. 

For more than 300 years, the Laird family has produced AppleJack in Freehold, Monmouth County New Jersey - the Garden State since 1698. It is the holder of America's first commercial distillery with License #1. According to the company, Robert Laird - a descendent of founder Alexander - was a Revolutionary War soldier serving under George Washington, and the Laird family supplied the troops with Applejack. Historical records show that, prior to 1760, George Washington wrote to the Laird family requesting their recipe for producing Applejack, which the Laird family gladly supplied. Entries appear in Washington’s diary in the 1760s regarding his production of "cyder spirits."

I Cannot Tell A Lie

2 jiggers Lairds AppleJack brandy
1 jigger caramel simple syrup
4 jiggers crisp apple sparkling water
4 shakes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters 

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Pour over rocks in tall highball glass. Garnish with apple slice and cinnamon stick.

Food Pairing and Cocktail Composition
Serve with Quaker Rice Crisps Caramel Corn cups filled with fresh, homegrown apple butter. Add Godiva salted caramel chocolates (or other high-quality chocolates), sliced apples (rubbed with lemon to prevent yellowing), and sprinkled with cinnamon. The tasty treats echo the apple, caramel, and chocolate flavors swizzling in the drink.

Highlight the cocktail’s rustic, Americana roots. Feature the snacks on a wooden cutting board, sprinkle Cracker Jacks caramel coated popcorn and peanuts around the presentation; add apples - in various colors: red, greens - and various sizes, including those adorable Lady Apples. Some apples can be used as candle holders for an “honest” glow.

Toss in a Jacks & Balls (game) for a whimsical tablescape decor touch. Provide festive red and white straws to help spark an “honest” cocktail conversation!

While not American, this hard cider is undoubtedly delicious. And with all “honesty” our colonist ancestors had to learn their cider crafting somewhere - bringing over skills from their homelands and their ancestors.
Rekorderlig is a premium hard cider brand born and brewed in Sweden. I was fortunate to attend a few  taste-testing opportunity recently.  The cider is delicious served over ice with fresh fruit garnishes or mixed into cocktails, Rekorderlig is available in five flavors:
  • Pear 
  • Strawberry-Lime 
  • Wild Berries 
  • Passionfruit 
  • Spiced Apple.
Rekorderlig Spiced Apple Hard Cider is $4.99 for 16.9 ounce bottle. The company claims it is the only cider on the market that can be enjoyed either hot or cold; the product is a beautiful blend of fresh, effervescent apple cider infused with vanilla and warming cinnamon.

Hot Swede

1 oz spiced rum
1 tbs honey - local is best
¼ lemon (squeezed) 
1 cinnamon stick
Half a bottle of hot Spiced Apple Hard Cider

Mix the rum, honey, and lemon together; Add hot Rekordlig and stir. Serve with a cinnamon stick and an orange wheel.

The Pear Jam

1 oz Ford’s Gin
.75 oz lime

Muddle 1 Sprig Fresh Mint
Shake and strain into glass
Top with Rekorderlig Pear Cider
Garnish with Fresh Mint

Another spirit with lots of history that has recently experienced a resurgence is the small batch distilleries in New York, particilarly in the Hudson Valley. In fact, the number of craft distilleries increased by more than 25 percent in just one year (from 2014 to 2015) up to nearly 80. (Thanks, Governor Cuomo!)
I love Hudson Whiskey, the first legal pot-stilled whiskey distilled in New York state since prohibition, who sources 90% of its grains from within 40 miles of the distillery.

The distillery notes in a press release sent to me recently, “For the first time ever the Maple Cask Rye is available in 750ml bottles in addition to the well-known 375ml apothecary-style bottles. This Hudson Whiskey variant is the result of a partnership with Wood’s Syrup maple tappers who use Hudson Whiskey barrels to age their syrup then returns them to the distillery to finish off the Maple Cask Rye and impart a subtle maple sweetness into the classic whiskey. The Maple Cask Rye will have a recommended retail price of $54.99 and will join Hudson Whiskey’s signature Baby Bourbon, Manhattan Rye and New York Corn variants in larger size bottles, affirming the industry and consumer demand for Hudson Whiskey’s award-winning spirits.

“With Hudson, we set out to make great whiskey in New York again,” said Hudson Whiskey co-founder and craft distilling pioneer Ralph Erenzo. “With the investment from William Grant & Sons, we’ve been able to expand our production to support increased demand without ever cutting corners. BTW William Grant is the global brand that is genius at tapping into the crafted, hand-made spirits without losing its step as a major producer. Best of all worlds. Cheers to you.

Maple Old Fashioned

2 parts Hudson Maple Cask Rye
Teaspoon good maple syrup
3-4 dashes (to taste) aromatic bitters
Garnish: apple slice and cinnamon stick


To an Old Fashioned glass, add maple syrup, then bitters, then ice, followed by the Hudson Maple Cask Rye. Stir well to mix and chill. Add garnish and serve.

Fall Back


2 parts Hudson Maple Cask Rye
1⁄4 part fresh lemon juice
1⁄4 part maple syrup
2 parts apple cider
Cayenne pepper


To an Old Fashioned/rocks glass, add ice, then lemon juice, then maple syrup, then whiskey, then apple cider, and stir briefly to mix. Add dash cayenne pepper on top, and serve with straw.

Other Thanksgiving and fall cocktails to enjoy.

Delicious drinks made with one of my most favorite mixers: Q Drinks,

Dark, Stormy & Cidery


3 oz chilled Q Ginger Beer
2 oz dark rum,
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 oz chilled apple cider
1 apple slice
1 lime wedge


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the rum and lime juice and shake well. Pour the Q Ginger Beer into an ice-filled collins glass and then top with apple cider and then the shaken rum. Garnish with an apple slide and a lime wedge. Try to balance the lime wedge on the apple slice like a sinking ship. It gets easier on the third drink.

Sailor Jerry Apple Ginger Punch

1 ½ parts Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
2 parts sour mix
1 part apple juice
1 part ginger syrup
Pinch of ground cinnamon


Add ingredients into mixing glass, add ice, shake, strain over ice into a rocks glass and garnish with an apple slice and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum is a Caribbean Rum blended with 100% natural spices and flavors.

Reyka Snap Mulled Cider

1 ½ parts Reyka Vodka
¾ part Snap Liqueur
3 parts Apple Cider


Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake, strain into wine glass or mug and garnish with candied ginger on a skewer.

Reyka Vodka is an Icelandic born vodka and provides a smooth and crisp base for both complex and simple cocktails.

Drambuie’s Prince Pum King


1 part Drambuie
1 ½ parts Pumpkin Puree
1/8 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg
4 parts Steamed Whole Milk (Or choice milk-base)


Steam milk, pumpkin puree and spices together until hot. Double-strain into cup. Stir in Drambuie. Serve in Irish Coffee Mug
Garnish with steamed milk foam and freshly ground nutmeg dusted on top.

Apples & Honey


1 ¼ parts Drambuie
2 parts Kosher Pressed Apple Cider
¾ part Lime Juice
1 sm pinch Kosher Salt
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 part Kosher Sparkling White Wine (For dryer Cocktail 2 parts Sparkling wine)


Combine liquid ingredients and salt minus wine into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and stain over ice in a rocks glass. Top with Sparkling wine and garnish with thinly apple slices and mint.

Drambuie is made from a delightful combination of scotch whisky, heather honey, herbs and spices. This cocktail created by Drambuie Brand Ambassador Vance Henderson.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving - cheers to family, friends, good food and drink. And Finishing Touches!


Friday, November 4, 2016

Award-Winning Plant-a-Bar Celebrates Garden-to-Glass Cocktail Culture

If there was ever a product that so directly appeals to my twin passions of homegrown garden art and cocktail culture - it’s this snazzy number - an award-winning bar cum herb planter!

As soon as I received this news I knew I had to share with you. It’s perfect for a true “Garden-to-Glass” cocktail experience.

Order now for spring - just in time for the launch of my next book, Finishing Touches: The Art of Garnishing the Cocktail 

So Cheers! To the garden creatives that dreamed up this cutie pie. I might get two and arrange them as mirror decor - across from one another -- with garden and bar accessories framing the bar decor.

Gardener’s Supply Company is being honored with a national, “Green Thumb,” award by the Direct Gardener’s Association for its innovative new product, “Plant-A-Bar.” Plant-a-Bar, one of only five winners, is an elevated cedar planter box with an integrated bar shelf so you can grow herbs for your favorite cocktails and then harvest a fresh sprig as you relax at the bar.

The DGA Green Thumb Awards recognize outstanding new garden products available by mail or online. The awards are sponsored by the Direct Gardening Association, the world's largest non-profit association of companies that sell garden products directly to consumers.

Plant-a-Bar is made in the USA and it’s ‘green,’ because it’s crafted from reclaimed wood. Only the best reclaimed pieces are selected to form strong, solid panels which are planed smooth to highlight the attractive variations in color and grain.

The skilled craftsmen in the Vermont factory transform the panels into a uniquely beautiful combination of planter and furniture.

Durable butcher-block cedar sides are crafted from reclaimed wood, with rustproof aluminum corners and trim. Bar shelf folds down when not in use.

To make the most of our precious forest resources, Gardener’s Supply uses reclaimed pieces of high-quality North American cedar from lumber mill trimmings and give them new life in the butcher-block planters. Only the best reclaimed pieces are selected and glued together to form strong, solid panels, which are planed smooth to highlight the attractive variations in color and grain. The skilled craftsmen in their Vermont factory transform the panels into these uniquely beautiful planters.

Product Details

  • Assembly required
  • ​Butcher-block cedar, aluminum
  • 4' L x 39-1/4" W (including shelf) x 42" H
  • 9-3/4" planting depth
  • Holds 180 quarts of potting mix
  • Weighs 123 lbs.
  • Ships in two 60-70 lb. boxes
“Plant-a-Bar has been a real hit with our customers,” says Gardener’s Supply spokesperson Claudia Marshall, “so we’re delighted to see this product getting the industry recognition it deserves.”

Plant-A-Bars are available in 2 sizes. The 2x4 bar is $549 and the 2x8 bar is $699. For more details and to make a purchase, call 1-800-427-3363 or visit

About Gardener's Supply Company

Gardener’s Supply Company is a 100% employee-owned company of avid gardeners providing garden-tested, earth-friendly products combined with practical information. Located in Burlington, Vermont, the company has won many awards for its innovative gardening products, online gardening content and progressive management style. Gardener's Supply is also a Certified B Corporation and donates 8-percent of its profits to charity.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Learn To Take a Relaxing "Me Time/Tea Time" Break with Pure Tea

Cookbook Author & The Chew's Daphne Oz Celebrates Pure Leaf's Ten New Teas  & Tea Time

Pure Leaf® Celebrates its Love of Tea with new Bagged and Loose Tea Varieties 

By some benevolent twist of nature, Pure Leaf® has buoyed its line of tea products and expanded beyond the brand’s ready-to-drink offerings. I attended the informative and entertaining launch of Pure Leaf’s new 10 long leaf bagged and loose teas and can heartily recommend these new, pristine teas. Pure healthy elegance. Just the way nature intended...

While I have used the bottled Pure Leaf teas in cocktail creations and more than a few celebratory punches, I have written that the sugar content was a bit of a concern - especially for caregivers serving the drink to their families. In contrast, the ten new teas are pure, delicate leaves that the company claims are picked, rolled, and blended with real fruit, petals, and herbs, allowing the “tea essence to shine through.”

The bagged tea comes in light, gossamer “bags” that seem more exquisite and intimate. And the fact that the transparent tea bags are plant-based and biodegradable, UV barrier-protected, and come in BPA-free PET jars - demonstrates the brand really did their homework on these new tea offerings and is so very gratifying.

You’ll love the herbal blends and fruit notes that add a lovely hint of flavor to every glamorous sip. It’s lovely just to read the provenance of the teas...

The new bagged teas are:
  • Black Tea with Vanilla - Indian black tea leaves with bright marigold petals and flakes of Madagascan vanilla beans
  • Green Tea with Mint - Indonesian gunpowder green tea coupled with green peppermint leaves
  • Chai Tea - Sri Lankan and Kenyan black leaf teas crafted with cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and bold spices 
  • Iced Green Tea with Citrus - mildly smoky Indonesian green tea blended with bold bursts of natural lemon and lime and pieces of orange 
  • Iced Tea with Peach - High-grown Kenyan black tea with peach, mango, and apricot pieces and a medley of herbs
  • Iced Tea Classic Black Tea - High-grown Kenyan black tea with floral and malty notes 
  • Iced Tea with Raspberry - High-grown Kenyan black tea blended with raspberries, blueberries, black currants, blackberries, rosehips, and hibiscus flowers 
All the aforementioned iced teas can be brewed hot, so I wasn’t really sure why the distinction…but oh - the company explains! The Pure Leaf Iced teas are crafted “using a highly invigorating blend of long leaf teas” that deliver flavors “specially designed to shine at colder temperatures.” The color is rich, vibrant, “with a silky smooth tea flavor that is crisp ad refreshing. The specially brewed iced teas offer a base tea with a pleasant malty flavor, a floral aroma and natural tea sweetness - tastes that can stand up to ice.”
Available in 16-count jars for the Pure Leaf bagged teas, at a suggested $4.99.

The new loose teas are:
  • English Breakfast Black Tea - Blend of dark Assam and Ceylon black tea with a robust, full taste
  • Gunpowder Green Tea - Tightly rolled, long-leaf Indonesian greentea pellets with a fresh, clean taste 
  • Iced Classic Black Tea - High-grown Keynan black tea with balanced floral and malty notes 
The two Pure Leaf loose teas English Breakfast and Iced Classic Black Tea are available in 4.7 ounce jars and the Gunpowder Green Tea in 5.8 ounce jars; both retail for suggested price of $6.99. All products are available nationwide on and in grocery stores, mass market retailers and select club stores.

“We at Pure Leaf believe that the most delicious tea is real tea, simply picked, rolled and crafted from sustainably grown leaves,” said George Hamilton, Tea Director at Unilever. “We have poured all of our expertise into this new range, which we hope people will enjoy drinking as much as we do.”

In a “tour” of creatively designed pop-up compositions at the launch space, the company posed representations of the four key tea regions of India, Kenya, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.

Here, Pure Leaf’s Certified Tea Specialist, Lisa Boalt, took the press on an informative tour of the tea-producing regions, highlighting the growing, climate, and harvesting of the tea leaves. 
We learned these are all sustainably sourced teas. And the importance of Long Leaf tea or Orthodox tea vs. CTC or Cut, Tear, Curl.
These are the two main methods to produce drinking tea; Long Leaf is crafted by an artisanal batch process by hand or mechanical rollers. This way the leaves are gently bruised and the exposes the tea leaf’s natural essence. According to the company, “Compared to CTC teas, Orthodox or Long Leaf teas are more elaborate and display more complex array of aromas, colors and mouthfeel.” Love the way that sounds! Brewing naturally releases the teas’ sweet and delicate character. (CTC teas are more often enjoyed with milk to balance their more bitter nature.)

The company explains, “Pure Leaf’s delicate tea leaves are kept long, then simply picked, rolled and expertly crafted with real fruit pieces, petals and herbs, allowing the natural tea essence to shine through. 
To ensure an exceptional and authentic taste experience, Pure Leaf offers single-source tea leaves from Rainforest Alliance Certified tea estates in India, Kenya, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. 

Pure Leaf’s uniquely transparent packaging reveals the masterful tea blends and lets the quality of the ingredients speak for themselves.”

There is no substitute for the ritual and tradition of brewing tea. In fact, entire cultures have elevated the process to high art: especially the Japanese art of the tea ceremony -- as performed by TeaWhisk Inherent in the tea ceremony is a thoughtful mindfullness that celebrates nature, calm, peace… 
You too can practice your own mindful tea ceremony - a kind of escape and special retreat to help you take a moment to indulge in a natural, healthy break.

The Happy Cook
Besides the new teas, the Pure Tea launch featured a star of TV’s The Chew and cookbook author star, Daphne Oz who was there to celebrate her new cookbook, The Happy Cookbook.   Daphne is a doll! She posed for pictures, signed copies of her cookbook, and offering tea tips and food pairings. 

I'm the short one!
Daphne is indeed a happy cook and baker, very focused on her extended family (in case you're not a TV watcher - her father is Dr.Oz) and her adorable two children.

She spoke to the members of the press in a living room kind of composition - with her homemade Blueberry Tea Cake served up on a tray on the center “tea table” (no coffee table here, please!)

Daphne described how she adores teas - from tea parties with her daughter - to tea times while waiting for the cake or food to cook up. She encourages home cooks to be confident, be casual and have fun! You need to get her cookbook for lots of holiday home recipe ideas.

Daphne was kind enough to share this recipe straight away. Enjoy. It was moist (made with sour cream, she noted) and delicious. Here she pairs the cake with Black Tea with Vanilla. Very soothing and healthy...  

Daphne's Blueberry Tea Cake Recipe  

Pairs with Pure Leaf Black Tea with Vanilla

Makes one 9-inch square cake
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 21/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square cake pan with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter, lay down two sheets of parchment paper perpendicular to each other, leaving overhang to use as tabs to lift the cake out when it is cooked, and grease again with another 1/2 tablespoon butter.
To make the streusel, in a medium bowl, whisk together 11/4 cups of the flour, 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter in the microwave. Drizzle in the melted butter and use a fork to stir the mixture together until large streusel-like crumbs form. Set the streusel aside.

To make the batter, in a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 11/4 cups of the flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and lemon juice. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the granulated sugar and the remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar and 10 tablespoons butter and cream on low speed until the mixture is combined. Increase the speed to medium-high and cream until the butter is airy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed between each addition. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.

Reduce the speed to medium-low and add half the reserved flour mixture, then the sour cream mixture, then the rest of the flour mixture, mixing until combined and scraping down the bowl as needed. Remove the bowl from the stand and fold in the blueberries
Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top evenly with the streusel and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a crumb or two attached. The top will be a rich golden brown under the streusel, and the cake will give springy resistance to pressure.

Use the parchment paper to remove the cake from the pan, then discard and cool the cake completely on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve, or cover with a dome or plastic wrap for up to 3 days (though there’s no chance it lasts that long in your kitchen).

Tip: This batter works very nicely in a muffin tin, a loaf pan, or practically any baking dish. The cook time will vary depending on whether you use a dark coated pan, cast iron, or glass dish, so just keep an eye out for the golden brown top and springy texture to make sure you don’t overcook.

* From THE HAPPY COOK by Daphne Oz. Copyright © 2016 by Daphne Oz. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.  Book officially on sale November 1st.

The Pure Leaf team also provided some sweet treats - delicious food and drink:

Thank you, Pure Leaf and Daphne. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

First Lady Michelle Obama planting in her White House Kitchen Garden. The Edible Garden will endure thanks to Burpee Foundation 

A $2.5 Million gift has been announced to ensure the operation and maintenance of the White House Kitchen Garden initiated by First Lady Michelle Obama. The donation will be made by the home gardening company, W. Atlee Burpee, and The Burpee Foundation.

According to George Ball, chairman and CEO of the 140 year old Pennsylvania based Burpee, establishment of a formal vegetable garden at The White House resurrects a tradition that goes back to John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. “As America’s leading home gardening company we recognize the importance of continuing The White House Kitchen Garden and developing its educational activities in support of The White House initiative.”

The gift will be made to the National Park Foundation (NPF) to cover direct costs to expand and maintain the Garden. The donation is a long-term commitment to the preservation of the White House Kitchen Garden.

“Everyone at Burpee is proud of the First Lady’s ‘Can-Do!’ attitude,” Mr. Ball says, “and we hope that a well-conceived long-lasting version of The White House Kitchen Garden will be fully supported by ensuing Administrations for so long as The White House serves as the residence for The President of the United States.”    

Burpee has been working with the NPF for more than two years to help reverse the dramatic loss of bees and other pollinators. The company donated more than one million seed packets to help home gardeners plant gardens that attract bees and butterflies. The packets were distributed free of charge to visitors to national parks throughout the 2015/2016 season.

Funding for the donation will come from W. Atlee Burpee Company, a privately owned home gardening company in Bucks County, PA, and The Burpee Foundation, which was established in 2003. The Burpee Company breeds, produces and distributes seeds and plants of vegetables and flowers both nationally and internationally.

The First Lady of the United States commended Burpee and The Foundation for its generous gift in support of the future preservation of The White House Kitchen Garden and its impact on her “Let’s Move!” initiative, at a ceremony, Wednesday, October 5th, on the South Lawn next to the Garden that she planted in 2009. 
Thank you, Burpee. And First Lady, Michelle Obama - for your vision and integrity and dedication to all things Homegrown.