Sunday, June 11, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me...

We celebrated my birthday weekend, by taking a minibreak, roadtripping in search of zen. We found our peace (and quiet) in Rockford, IL at Anderson Japanese Gardens. (When you visit the website, make sure to have the sound turned on, especially while viewing the numerous gallery pages). Designed by Hoichi Kurisu, these fourteen acres of serenity and remarkable beauty contain, 'the finest Japenese garden in North America,' as declared by theJournal of Japanese Gardening, in 2004. The gardens are designed in the traditional strolling pond style, with an additional, more contemporary Garden of Reflection also included. Unfortunately, the complete experience cannot be properly described; it is a personal experience that is truly appreciated, onlyin the midst of a personal journey through these special, healing gardens.

Once back at home, I sought a similar serenity in my kitchen. I revisited the peaceful scenes of the gardens in full screen mode on my laptop, complete with sound, courtesy of the Anderson Japanese Gardens online galleries. Inspired, I baked these lovely little Green Tea Shortbread Leaves from Martha Stewart. While I didn't have any Matcha, I simply used finely ground green tea leaves (taken from my Tazo bags and then reground in my mini food processor). The shortbread dough blended with the Tazo still worked very well. Warm leaves perfumed my kitchen as they baked. Once finished, they tasted fresh and wonderful. A calm returned and again, there was zen.

Green Tea Shortbread Leaves
(recipe courtesy

2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 tablespoons green tea powder (Matcha)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners or granulated sugar

Sift flour, tea powder, and salt into a small bowl; set aside. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar; continue to beat until very light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Add flour mixture; combine on low, scraping sides of bowl with a spatula if necessary, until flour is just incorporated and dough sticks together when squeezed with fingers.

Place a piece of parchment on a clean surface; dust with flour. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness; chill in refrigerator or freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Cut chilled dough with 2-inch leaf cutters. Using a wide spatula, transfer to baking sheets. Chill until firm. Gather scraps together, reroll, chill, and cut shapes. Bake until firm and barely starting to color, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cool completely on wire rack; store in an airtight container for up to 3 to 4 weeks. Makes 3 dozen.

(Each week at Sweetnicks, there is a weekly round-up of healthy contributions from various food bloggers, promoting the use of antioxidant rich foods in home cooking; since green tea is extremely rich in antioxidants, these Green Tea Shortbread Leaves will be my offering to this week's ARF/5-A-Day plate.)

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