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Afternoon tea made easy with ‘River Road Recipes’

While there are many things to be concerned about in today’s world, I am guilty of occupying just a small part of my mind with concern for the future of the tea party. I can’t be alone in my worry, surely. The fanciful occasions that seem so present in the pages of my favorite novels seem lost in time. At the last “tea” I attended, I wasn’t even offered a cup of the namesake hot beverage. Instead, mimosas and lemonade took its place. And while those drinks are nice, I long for the days when Earl Grey would make its appearance.

In doing my part to promote the orthodox tea party, I am digging up a few recipes from Junior League of Baton Rouge’s River Road Recipes IV: Warm Welcomes. Read on for everything from directions for brewing the “perfect” pot of tea to a recipe for old-fashioned tea cakes:

“The idea of a formal tea always evokes images of a complicated ritual, but brewing the perfect pot of tea is not all that complex.”
First, heat the teapot you intend to use for serving by filling with very hot water. Second, bring fresh, cold water to a full boil in a teakettle. Third, pour the water out of the warm teapot and add the tea to the empty pot. Use about 1 teaspoon of loose tea for every 3/4 cup of boiling water that will be added. Pour the boiling water over the tea. Steep for 3 to 5 minutes to bring out the full flavor; otherwise, the end result will be just hot colored water. Stir the tea, then discard the tea bags, or use a strainer when pouring to remove the loose tea.

These simple and sweet little cakes are similar to shortbread cookies.
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Sift the self-rising flour 3 times. Beat the sugar and butter in a mixing bowl until creamy, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the self-rising flour, milk, vanilla and nutmeg and beat until blended. Place the dough on a sheet of waxed paper lightly dusted with additional flour. Roll to the desired thickness and cut with a cookie cutter. Arrange on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes or until brown. Cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Serves 8 to 12

6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated
1/4 cup grated yellow onion
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
Salt to taste
1 drop of green food coloring
Mash the cream cheese in a bowl. Stir in the cucumber and onion. Add the mayonnaise and hot sauce and mix well. Season with salt and stir in the food coloring. Spread the cucumber mixture on thinly sliced bread and cut into finger sandwiches, use as a base for open-faced cucumber sandwiches, or add mayonnaise or cream cheese to the mixture and serve as a dip.
Makes 1 cup

For more recipes for tea parties and other occasions, order the River Road Recipes IV cookbook here.