Pretty in pink, Cathy Smith adjusted a string of pearls over her rose-colored “Let it Be” Beatles T-shirt and tipped the broad brim of her hat to frame her face.
“I like to dress for the occasion,” she said, daintily raising a pink, yellow and green chocolate-covered morsel to her lips. It was Mother’s Day at Parker Place, a Mentor retirement community where mothers had gathered for an afternoon tea in the Activities Center off the dining room. The morsel was a Venetian Cookie, its colorful layers separated by an apricot glaze and draped in dark chocolate.
Other residents had convened for their mid-day meal – called dinner – in the adjacent dining room where servers with rolling carts brought choices such as soup, salad, fresh rolls and beef tips. But the afternoon tea – a lighter meal in a festive pink space – would serve the community’s women as their main meal of the day.
Pretty floral teapots filled with hot water were on a pair of long tables draped in heavy pink paper tablecloths, place settings marked by ornately embossed cutlery. A dozen varieties of tea awaited selection nearby in a mahogany tea chest.
A counter fluffy with green mounds of dark, light and red lettuce leaves beckoned salad lovers next to an array of toppings, including blue cheese and bacon crumbles, and a large covered pot of hot homemade chicken noodle soup. Nearby was a six-foot table punctuated by vases of fresh flowers and plates piled high with fresh croissants stuffed with chicken salad opposite those with tuna salad. Pert purple and yellow pansies marked the boundary between the croissants and the dainty sandwiches of herbed cream cheese with crunchy cucumbers.
Chocolate-dipped strawberries and other desserts framed the selection of finger sandwiches.
“Those who are able may come and help themselves,” announced Executive Chef Joshua Wellman. “Others please be patient and Christian will serve you.”
Built in 2010, the 124 Parker Place apartments are scattered over three floors of a main building on landscaped grounds at 7960 Center St. in Mentor and among several single level cottages. They’re studios and one- and two-bedroom units, some with balconies, fireplaces and attached garages. Three meals a day are included in the month-to-month rent residents pay so most units have no kitchens, just a refrigerator flanked by a counter and sink.
It’s a retirement community for independent – not assisted — living although some residents use wheeled walkers for mobility assistance.
Here are some of the recipes developed by Chef Joshua Wellman for the Mother’s Day Tea. They will adapt well for other occasions.
PIMENTO CHEESE SANDWICHES
2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup mayonnaise
1 4-ounce jar diced pimento, drained
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
¼ teaspoon onion powder
salt and black pepper to taste
Place Cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, pimento, minced jalapeño, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and onion powder in a large bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Spread cheese mixture on slices of bread from which the crusts have been trimmed. Place on a plate and serve.
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces almond paste
1¼ cups unsalted butter (2-½ sticks) softened, plus more for buttering parchment
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
25-30 drops red food coloring
25-30 drops green food coloring
¾ cup apricot preserves, warmed and strained
⅓ cup seedless red raspberry jam, warmed
9 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
chocolate sprinkles (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in middle position. Butter a 13×9-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on each of the long sides. Butter the parchment paper.
Place egg whites in stand mixer and beat at medium-high speed with the wire whip attachment until they begin to hold stiff peaks. With mixer at high speed, gradually add ¼ cup of sugar, beating until stiff and glossy peaks are formed. Transfer whipped egg whites to a holding bowl.
In the now-empty mixing bowl (no need to wash), add the almond paste and ¾ cup sugar. Beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until almond paste is broken up and combined with the sugar, about 4 minutes. Add softened butter and beat until mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping once to scrape sides of bowl. Add yolks and almond extract and beat for an additional 2 minutes. Scrape bowl. With mixer running on low, gradually add flour and salt and mix just until no streaks of flour remain.
Stir about a third of egg whites into the almond mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain.
Portion batter into three separate bowls. Fold red food coloring into one, green into another, and nothing into the third. Spread the contents of one of the bowls into the prepared pan (an offset spatula is helpful here). The layer will be thin, about ¼ inch. Bake 7 to 10 minutes, until the batter is set. Do not allow the cake to brown.
Remove the pan from the oven, loosen the two “short” edges of the cake from the pan with a sharp knife, and immediately use the parchment overhang to lift the cake onto a wire rack to cool. The cake will be pliable and will lift out easily. Wash and prepare the pan again, repeating for the remaining two layers.
Line a baking sheet or cutting board with wax paper. When all layers are baked and cooled, invert the green layer onto the prepared sheet. Remove the baking paper and spread with the apricot preserves. Repeat, this time inverting the white layer onto the green layer, discarding the baking paper, and spreading with raspberry jam. Invert the red layer onto the white layer and discard baking paper.
Cover the assembled layers with plastic wrap and place a baking sheet on top, weighting with a cookbook, grill press, or unopened canned goods. Refrigerate at least 8 hours, or overnight.
Remove chilled layers from the refrigerator and uncover. In a bowl over simmering water, melt chocolate until glossy and smooth. Pour half of the chocolate over the red layer, spreading to edges. The chocolate layer will be thin. Let sit at room temperature until chocolate is set, about 15 minutes.
Cover the chocolate with a piece of wax paper and invert onto a baking sheet. Spread the remaining chocolate onto the green layer. Sprinkle evenly with chocolate sprinkles, if using. Let the chocolate set completely, 15 to 30 minutes.
Trim edges with a long knife to make a clean rectangle. With the long end facing you, and your knife parallel to the short edge, cut cake into ¾-inch strips. Clean knife with hot water (and dry) between each cut to facilitate easy slicing. Cut each strip into 4 cookies, about 2 inches each.
Store cookies in airtight containers with wax paper or parchment between layers. Cookies will remain fresh up to two weeks at room temperature.
PEANUT BUTTER SNICKERS PIE
(Makes 2 pies)
3 pounds cream cheese (softened)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
6 Snickers bars chopped up into small pieces.
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
2 prepared graham cracker crusts
Whipped cream, for garnish
Shaved dark chocolate, for garnish
Mix cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Turn down the speed to low and add the sugar in two parts
Add the peanut butter and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
Once it is creamy and smooth, fold in candy bar pieces.
Add to prepared graham cracker crusts and refrigerate for at least six hours to firm up.
Top with whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate.