By Ann Cipperly
Two Christmas trees covered in sparkling white lights flanked the entrance to the West Campus of Providence Baptist Church in Beauregard for “A Cup of Christmas Tea” event on Sunday night, Dec. 15. In the kitchen, ladies are busy arranging trays of homemade cookies and candies to place on every table in the sanctuary, which was festively decorated with several trees with white lights situated around the room.
Suzanne Harris, Gayle Smith and Pam Morris, chairmen of the tea, named the event after the book “Cup of Christmas Tea.” Suzanne read the book after her sister-in-law gave a copy to her mother. The heartwarming story became special to her family.
Written by Tom Hegg and illustrated by Warren Hanson, the book tells the story of a man who reluctantly decides to visit his elderly great-aunt during the Christmas season. During the visit, he recalls past holidays, finds peace and the Christmas spirit.
“The story is a reminder,” says Suzanne, “that people need people at Christmas.”
When Suzanne, who is the church pianist, and other ladies in the church were on a trip for music, they talked about needing another tradition at the church. They decided to have a tea and name it after the book.
This year was the third year for the event presented by the church music ministry, with Dr. Thomas Smith as the director of music. Dr. Smith has served as the director for over 45 years and was also the director of the AU Singers for many years.
Round tables were covered in white cloths and centered with arrangements embellished with greenery, white flowers and red roses. A hurricane shade in the center of each held a flickering candle. The Blossom Shop donated the lovely centerpieces.
Every place was marked with a Christmas mug and a cloth napkin in a Christmas color. Bowls of seasoned crackers and mixed nuts were on each table.
Soon the tables filled with all ages. The event was offered without charge.
Youth in the church served the beverage choices of hot spiced tea, hot chocolate, coffee or milk.
Platters of Christmas cookies included sugar cookies, snowballs, shortbread cookies and molasses spice. Cheese straws were also served with the cookies.
Peanut butter fudge, Oreo balls, chocolate covered nuts and peppermint topped confections filled the Christmas candy trays.
Dr. Rusty Sowell, minister of the church, welcomed everyone and opened with the invocation.
Directed by Gayle Smith, the East Alabama Children’s Choir presented “Hurry to Bethlehem” and “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Jeremy Pyles followed with a poem “Christmas” by Valeria Brown and sang “The Work of Christmas.”
Tim Senn led the audience in singing “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls.”
Afterwards, the “Roving Reporter” asked the audience to share Christmas memories. John Reid and John Strong both shared Christmases that were meaningful to them.
As guests sipped tea and savored the cookies and candy, Jim Chaffin read the book “A Cup of Christmas Tea.”
Kate Senn followed with the reading of the Christmas story in Luke 2.
“Somewhere in Your Silent Night” was sung by Ben Ingram, and then the audience sang “Joy to the World” led by Tim Senn.
Terry Harris continued the music with “Christmas Isn’t Christmas.”
After Dr. Sowell gave closing thoughts, the Harris/Reid Ensemble closed the evening with “Sleigh Ride.”
Shirley Dismukes has attended all three teas. This has been an exciting time,” says Shirley. “It has been something we look forward to attending. It gets you in the Christmas spirit with the music, beautiful table settings and decorated trees.”
“A Cup of Christmas Tea” is a popular event that brings all ages together to celebrate the true meaning of the season and to share a time of fellowship, as the book resonates that people need people, especially at Christmas. While some are surrounded by their families at the table, others are lonely at Christmas and would feel blessed beyond measure to be included in a gathering or meal.
Following is a selection of recipes for a tea to plan your own special event for those who need others this season.
Hot Spiced Tea
18 oz. Tang
1¼ cups Nestea
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
Mix well in large container. Add more tea if needed. In one cup of water put 1½ tsp. of mixture.
4 cups tea (Milos or homemade)
4 cups cranberry juice
3 cups orange juice
2 cups pineapple juice
Little lemon juice
Combine ingredients; serve warm or cold.
Perfect Pot of Tea
When making hot tea, use 1 tsp. loose tea or 1 tea bag for every cup and one extra for the pot. Bring the water to a full boil, but do not allow it to continue to boil.
While the water is heating, pour hot tap water into the teapot to warm, which will help keep the boiling water hot.
Once water is boiling pour out tap water in teapot, add tea and boiling water. Let steep for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on strength desired. Serve with milk, not cream, lemon slices and sugar or sugar cubes. Darjeeling is a smooth black tea to serve.
Peanut Butter Fudge
1½ cups sugar 2/3 cup (5 fl.-oz. can) evaporated milk 2 Tbsp. butter or margarine 1/4 tsp. salt 2 cups miniature marshmallows 1½ cups (9 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate morsels 1 cup chunky or regular peanut butter 1 tsp. vanilla extract Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with foil.
Combine sugar, evaporated milk, salt, and butter medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Stir in marshmallows, morsels, peanut butter and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted.
Pour into prepared baking pan.
Chill for 2 hours or until firm. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into squares.
1 pkg. Oreo cookies
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
24 oz. almond bark
Crush Oreos in Ziplock bag and place in mixing bowl with cream cheese. Mix with mixer. Roll into balls. Chill. Dip in melted almond bark. Makes 3 dozen.
Chocolate Peanut Clusters
16 oz. salted peanuts
16 oz. unsalted peanuts
12 oz. pkg. chocolate chips
24 oz. pkg. block almond or chocolate bark
1 container German sweet chocolate
Place in crock-pot in order listed. Do not stir. Heat 3 hours on low. After 3 hours, stir and drop by teaspoons on wax paper. Cool. Store in airtight container.
Lemon Meltaway Cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 tsp. lemon juice
In large mixer bowl, combine all cookie ingredients. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (2 -3 minutes). Divide dough in half. Shape each half into 8×1 inch roll. Wrap in plastic food wrap. Refrigerate until firm (1-2 hours). Heat oven to 350 degrees. With sharp knife, cut each half into 1/4 inch slices. Place 2 inches part on cookie sheets. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until set. Cookies will not brown. Cool completely.
In small mixer bowl, combine all frosting ingredients. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until fluffy. Frost cooled cookies. Makes 4 dozen cookies.
Chocolate Covered Cracker with Crushed Peppermint
1 box Ritz crackers
3-4 bags chocolate melts
Crushed candy canes
Pour all chocolate melts into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes on half power. Stir, then microwave at half power for 30-second intervals until totally melted when stirred.
Line baking sheets with wax paper.
Using a fork, dip Ritz crackers in chocolate, flipping to coat both sides. Tap fork on side of bowl to smooth out top and then skim bottom on side of bowl.
Place carefully with fork onto wax paper and sprinkle with crushed candy cane.
Let cool several hours before removing from wax paper.
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Two 1 oz. envelopes ranch dressing mix
3 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Box cheese or saltine crackers
Place vegetable oil, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, ranch dressing mix and crushed red pepper flakes in a 2-gallon plastic zipper bag. Seal the bag and smooth with your hands to thoroughly combine the oil and spices.
Place crackers into bag, seal, and turn the bag over to cover crackers with the spice mix.
Let bag sit for about 1 hour, then turn again. Repeat several more times until the crackers are well-coated with spice mix, and allow the bag to sit overnight. Remove crackers and serve.
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for coating cookies
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 270 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Using an electric mixer at low speed, cream butter and sugar until smooth; add vanilla. At low speed gradually add flour. Stir in pecans.
With floured hands, take out about one tablespoon of dough and shape it into a ball. Place the cookies one inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly done. Roll in additional confectioners’ sugar while still warm. Cool completely on wire racks and store in airtight containers.
1 cup margarine or butter
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
Mix margarine, sugar, egg and flavorings. Sift dry ingredients together and blend into above mixture. Cover and chill 2 to 3 hours.
Roll dough into 1/4 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters dipped in flour.
Cookies may be sprinkled with granulated sugar (white or colored) if desired before baking. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 to 8 minutes or until edges are light brown.
(If decorating cookies, omit sprinkling with granulated sugar noted above.)
Cool and frost with icing.
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 Tbsp. margarine, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 to 2 Tbsp. milk or light cream
Mix ingredients and tint with desired food coloring. Spread cookies with frosting and allow to dry before storing in cookie tins.
Molasses Spice Cookies
¾ cup shortening
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup sugar
Beat shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until soft and creamy; gradually add brown sugar, beating well. Add egg and molasses, mixing well. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients; add flour mixture to shortening mixture, mixing well. Cover; chill 2 hours.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls, and roll balls in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheets; bake at 350 for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove cookies to wire racks to cool.
Brown Sugar Shortbread
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease 9 by 13-inch pan.
In a large bowl, beat butter with both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and salt. Gradually add flour on low speed until just blended.
Pour dough into pan; press to cover bottom.
Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool 10 minutes; slice into bars. Cool before removing from pan.
Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1½ Tbsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
1½ Tbsp. poppy seeds
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
Extra confectioner’s sugar for dusting on bars
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in remaining ingredients until just blended.
Press dough into greased 8-inch square pan.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; cut into bars. Cool completely before removing from pan. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cold water
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. soda
Cream butter and sugar; add flour. This will look crumbly or coarse. To the ¼ cup water add vanilla and soda. Sprinkle liquid over crumb mixture; blend into mixture. Chill until dough is easy to handle. Divide dough into two. Roll each into a log and freeze. While still frozen, slice cookies very thin. Bake at 350 degrees on ungreased cookie sheets.