My weekend with Sam

casaveneracion.com Cupcakes with herbal tea

Yes, the title is a play on the movie about the beautiful American actress. And, yes, it’s just Sam who’s home for the weekend. Alex hasn’t been home for many weekends; she’s deep into rehearsals and stage set-up, and will be for another few weeks. I miss her so. We talk via Face-Time often but it’s not really the same as having her here. But, anyway…

Even with only one daughter home for the weekend, things don’t really slow down — especially in the kitchen. Sam has this thing about having at least one baking project every weekend. And I don’t mean Sam baking anything. Rather, it means, “Mommy have you baked already?”

So, last night… late last night, I baked following her brilliant but vague suggestion. She always has ideas. Last night, she said tea-flavored cupcakes but without saying exactly how it would be executed. Like, she’s done her part by coming up with the idea and it’s my job to execute it. Okay, I’ve seen a lot of tea-flavored cupcakes around the web — green tea cupcakes, mostly. But Sam wanted something fruity and I figured we could use the bags of strawberry and mango infusion. Not real tea but herbal tea. No, they are not the same.

I heated milk, dropped in a couple of teabags and let them steep. Didn’t work. The milk hardly acquired any flavor. Worse, the liquid didn’t turn a deep dark red the way water does when I drop in a bag of that strawberry and mango infusion. I read the tea bag label, checked if there was any bark among the ingredients or anything that would be as hard as a bark. Nothing. Just peels and leaves. I cut open two teabags and dumped the contents directly into the milk. I made the cupcake batter, poured in the milk (yes, including the contents of the tea bags), added the finely grated zest of one lemon, scooped the batter into the prepared pans, put the pans in the oven and…

Oh my goodness, the aroma alone while the cupcakes were baking was to die for. And when they came out of the oven, I couldn’t wait until they were cool. Unbelievably good. All the concentrated flavors of those bits from the tea bags just seemed to explode. My only complaint — the color of the cupcakes was rather dull. I have to do something about that next time. When I’ve fixed that small issue, I’ll post a full recipe for… okay, I still have to think of a name for those cupcakes.

Meanwhile, I do have a soup recipe to share. Speedy loves soup, especially when it’s rainy. Sam loves soup whatever the weather condition. This soup was made with chayote, carrot, potatoes, spinach and the meat from the scrap bones I used for making the broth.

casaveneracion.com vegetable soup

Recipe: Rainy day vegetable soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsps. of vegetable cooking oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 10 c. of meat broth, preferably home made
  • 1 large chayote, peeled and cored, and cut into half-inch cubes
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
  • 1 to 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
  • patis (fish sauce) or salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 and 1/2 c. of flaked or roughly meat (I used the meat from the soup bones) — pork, beef or chicken will all do
  • a large handful of spinach leaves

Instructions

  1. Heat the cooking oil in a pot.
  2. Saute the onion and tomatoes (don’t say that the garlic has to be sauteed first) until a bit softened. Add the garlic and saute for another half a minute.
  3. Pour in the broth. Season with patis or salt, and pepper. Bring to the boil.
  4. Drop in the cubed carrot and chayote (because they take longer to cook than potato). When the broth is boiling once more, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer the vegetables for about five minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  5. Drop in the cubed potatoes. Simmer for another five minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings again. Yes, remember layering flavors. Every ingredient you add will absorb seasonings so the broth will be blander than it was in the beginning.
  6. Add the meat and spinach. Continue cooking just until the meat is heated through and the spinach leaves are wilted, about two minutes. Taste one last time and, if needed, adjust the seasonings once more.
  7. Serve the soup immediately.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 to 25 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4 to 6