Wednesday, February 25, 2009

King Cake History and Recipe from Emeril Lagasse


"The King Cake tradition came to New Orleans with the first French settlers and has stayed ever since. Like the rest of Mardi Gras during those early days, the king cake was a part of the family's celebration, and really didn't take on a public role until after the Civil War. In 1870, the Twelfth Night Revelers held their ball, with a large king cake as the main attraction. Instead of choosing a sacred king to be sacrificed, the TNR used the bean in the cake to choose the queen of the ball. This tradition has carried on to this day, although the TNR now use a wooden replica of a large king cake. The ladies of the court pull open little drawers in the cake's lower layer which contain the silver and gold beans. Silver means you're on the court; gold is for the queen.

"With the TNR making a big deal over the king cake in the society circles, others in the city started having king cake parties. These parties particularly among children, became very popular and have also continued to today. The focus of today's king cake party for kids has shifted more to the school classroom than the home, however. Up through the 1950s, neighborhoods would have parties. One family would start the ball rolling after Twelfth Night, and they'd continue on weekends through Carnival. Whoever got the baby (the coin or bean had changed to a ceramic or porcelain baby about an inch long by then) in the king cake was to hold the next party. You can still hear stories from folks who were kids during the Great Depression of what their mommas would do to them if they came home with the baby from a king cake party, since so many families were short on money then.

"[Today,] schools and offices are the main sites for king cake parties these days. Someone will pick up a cake at the bakery on the way downtown and leave it out for everyone to grab a piece, or mom will send one to school on a Friday for the kids to share. You an always tell the locals from the transfers in any given office because the local knows what to do when he or she gets the baby. The foreigner just drops it on the counter or some such, and possibly might not even bring the next cake. Sacrilege."

NOTE! You may NOT prepare and serve this before Twelfth Night (Jan. 6) or after Mardi Gras Day!

If you're not in New Orleans and you don't feel like mail-ordering, you can always make your own. Here's an excellent King Cake recipe, provided courtesy of Chef Emeril Lagasse.

  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup warm milk (about 110°F)
  • 5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 plastic king cake baby or a pecan half
  • 5 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sugar sprinkles
Combine the yeast and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the melted butter and warm milk. Beat at low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the egg yolks, then beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest and beat until everything is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook. (If the dough is uncooperative in coming together, add a bit of warm water (110 degrees), a tablespoon at a time, until it does.)

Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar. Blend by hand or with an electric mixer on low speed. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your fingers, pat it out into a rectangle about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide.

Spread the filling lengthwise over the bottom half of the dough, then flip the top half of the dough over the filling. Seal the edges, pinching the dough together. Shape the dough into a cylinder and place it on the prepared baking sheet seam side down. Shape the dough into a ring and pinch the ends together so there isn't a seam. Insert the king cake baby or pecan half into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough.

Cover the ring with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush the top of the risen cake with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the icing. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons milk, the lemon juice, and the remaining 3 cups confectioner's sugar in medium-size mixing bowl. Stir to blend well. With a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors around the cake.

The cake is traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices with all the guests in attendance.

YIELD: 20 to 22 servings

Monday, February 23, 2009

Linda Lee's Magnificent Bracelet

I ordered this fabulous bracelet from Linda Lee Studio on Etsy.
Isn't it gorgeous!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

English Accoutrement

This photo of English Tea Accoutrement
was taken from Posy's blog.

I share her passion for all things
flowery and beautiful.
The teaware attracts me like a magnet.
I read Posy's blog first thing every morning.
It brightens my day and adds beauty to my life.

Cheers, Posy!
Ruth Ann

A Perfect Morning

Ray is off work today - all day!
I smell cappuccino foaming in the kitchen.
The day is grey with raindrops tinkling on the roof.
There is a crane at the pond -
he's early this year.
The house is fragrant with wood smoke.
The only light coming from the fireplace
in the drawing room.
My precious Poppett is sleeping in my lap.
Life doesn't get much better than this!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Grandma's Apron

I don't think our children or grandchildren know what an apron is.

The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath. Because she only had a few dresses, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.

And when the weather was cold,

Grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, while she bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool, now her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw after taking them from the freezer.

Some people today would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron...

I don't think I ever caught anything from an apron ... but love!!

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.

Tea Time Valentine Gifts

Somewhere on the Internet I found the instructions
for this adorable tea time dish cloth.
I wish I could remember where
so I could share it with you.
These lovely cloths are for
Valentine's Day
gifts for my friends this year.

They may eventually appear in my etsy shop, as well.

Happiness and Love to You All!

Ruth Ann

Happy Valentine's Day

Good Morning and Happy Valentine's Day!
Ray got up early this morning,
did his exercises,
and fixed my breakfast -
Smithfield Bacon
Orange Danish Rolls.
Yum! Yum!!!

My gift was storage compartments for my jewelry components.
The compartments were stuffed full of
Valentine M&Ms
and Valentine Reese's Hearts.
Of course, we'll have to eat until it's empty before
I store my beady things.

It was a lazy day for all of us!

My two most favorite people in the world!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sew, Mama, Sew Quesionaire

This little quiz came from Sew, Mama, Sew. Here are my responses:

  • What do you usually sew?
Purses and totes. I used to quilt, but don't have time any more. To me, quilting means hand quilting with tiny stitches, not that machine done stuff.
  • When you shop for fabric, what size cuts do you usually buy? (i.e. If you see something beautiful, but you don’t have a use for it right away, how much do you buy?)
5 to 20 yards
  • Do you buy on impulse or do you go out looking for something you need?
Need? I could go the rest of my life without another piece of fabric and never get all I have sewn, but then there's desire.........................
  • Are you a pre-washer? If you are, do you wash your fabric before you need it, or only when you’re ready to use it?
If the fabric can be washed, it gets, washed.
  • Do you iron it?
  • How do you sort it? (color, print size, collection, etc.)
Sort it? Once I get it home, I may never see it again for months.
  • Do you have any special folding techniques?
The fabric usually remains in the bag to keep it clean, so it's folded however the salesperson folded it.
  • How do you store your fabric?
In the bags it came in. In a closet, on the dining room table, on the kitchen table, draped across furniture, etc.
  • What tips do you have for building up a well-rounded stash?
Who needs tips? If you love fabric, you buy it.
  • When do you say enough is enough?
Enough? What's that?
  • What are some of your favorite stash-busting projects?
  • Do you have a current favorite print in your stash? Let’s see it!
I love them all!
  • What’s your definition of the perfect stash? (Consider sharing a picture or two of your stash & storage, or direct us to a pic on Flickr!)
To have every piece of fabric that I love and to have all the coordinating pieces that go with it.
Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.


Evening Projects

I wish I knew to whom I should give credit for this lovely piece of handwork,
but, alas, it is just a picture that I found on the Internet
and kept for inspiration.

I make jewelry and handbags all day long
when my back allows it,
but, when evening comes,
I prefer to relax in front of the fire
with hubby and doggy.

We love to entertain with Mexican food and music,
so I thought this would make a perfect cloth for the side table.
(No! I won't allow anyone to eat from it!)
I'm going to make smaller versions
for hot mats.

I'm still going to use my
Mexican Mug Mats
for coasters
so the yarn will have to match.
These mats are available in my Etsy shop.

Have a great day!

Ruth Ann

My Next Project

Monday, February 9, 2009

Our Victory Garden

This year will be our first attempt at a real Victory Garden.

When we lived in Ohio, before Daddy died,
each year we would plant a little something -
no doubt, just for my benefit.

We would plant
1 watermelon vine
1 pumpkin vine
a few beans seeds
3 or 4 stalks of corn.

We only had one watermelon make it to fruition,
because when each melon reached a couple of inches,
I was determined to eat it.
Like a good Daddy -
and he was the best -
he encouraged me to leave each melon on the vine for just a few more days.
Then he'd pick it for me and let me eat the very heart of the melon
all by myself.
What luxury!
What joy!
What a great Daddy!

We would carefully watch our little pumpkin vine
and remove the little feeder vines
and the tiniest pumpkins.
We managed to have a decent sized jack o' lantern by fall.
(I still remembered the lessons learned from the watermelons!)
We carved our little Jack and
carefully laid the seeds to dry along
the brick boundary that Daddy made across the front of the garden.
How I wish I had pictures!
We didn't know about butter and seasoning and drying the seeds
in the oven in those days.
So just did what Daddy had done as a child.
Every few days, we'd taste one seed to see if they were 'ripe' yet.

I don't remember much about the beans,
but I never could postpone picking the corn,
so we had lots of little tiny, naked ears.

A waste of time, seeds, and energy?
This little gardening project may not have produced food,
but it created a bond between Daddy and I that will never be broken
even though he died 43 years ago.

Through the years of our marriage,
Ray and I have planted one tomato almost every year
and I have a small herb bed in a watering trough.
(Ray couldn't believe that I spent more than $100
on a watering trough and then had him
take his ax and make holes in the bottom of it.)

This year, our 401k is almost worthless
and the company has ceased its contribution.
We purchased our major stock at $16 per share.
It went up to $22
and is now worth less than $3 per share.
To top of off, Ray's pay was cut 23%.

Our garden is going to require a good bit more planning this year
and it will be much bigger.

We have large streams through our yard
which are supposed to stay under ground,
but sometimes they don't cooperate
and our seeds end up in the neighbor's pond.
we are going to try to channel the smaller streams
into our spring that separates our fields
from our woods.
We have consulted our extension agent about this,
but his knowledge and personality
remind us greatly of
Mr. Kimble of
'Green Acres' fame.
So we are on our own.

There are a large number of elderly and disabled people
in our community who have always shared their gardens with us.
Now it's time for us to share with them.

We have great ambitions,
but we'll need a lot of help from God
and the gardening books!

I'll post pictures as this thing happens
- or doesn't -

We shall see!

Ruth Ann

Friday, February 6, 2009

UWIB Giveaway

Mardi Gras

A BIT OF HISTORY: In Louisiana, the first Mardi Gras was in 1589 when the French explorers Bienville and Iberville landed at the mouth of the river in New Orleans. The next day was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. The tradition back in France and in Europe in those days was that there was always a major feast prior to the 40 days of fasting in Lent. The day called Mardi Gras aka Fat Tuesday, was when you could eat and drink all day long because you were going to have to go into repentance for forty days. As all good Christians, you would take care of yourself first, and the custom became known as Mardi Gras.

Ruth Ann

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Taco Soup for Dinner

We have 7 guests coming for dinner this weekend to celebrate our
January birthdays.
I'll be serving Taco Soup and Fried Cornbread.
Apple Pie for dessert, maybe?

Here is my recipe for Taco Soup.
I hope that you love it as much as we do!

Taco Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1 tablespoon chopped onion
2 cans Rotel tomatoes - we prefer the hot ones
2 cans Mexicali corn, undrained
1 can black beans, undrained
1 can hominy, undrained
1 small can tomato sauce
2 packages taco seasoning - we prefer McCormick
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing mix
Chopped hot peppers as desired
(I use a mixture of jalapenos, tabasco (peppers, not liquid), and habaneros)

Brown ground beef and onions in a skillet.
Pour beef and onion mixture into a crockpot.
(If you're dieting, you can drain off some of the fat.)
Add all ingredients to crockpot and simmer
for at least 8 hours.
If the mixture is too thick, add tomato juice.
Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, and Frito chips.

We like things muy picante,
so we usually add a few drops of
Dave's Insanity Sauce.

Buffalo Sauce is great, too - if you can find it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Limoncello Recipe

Lemon Tree, Very Pretty!

Makes about 3 1/4 quarts

Those who are lucky enough to receive this homemade lemon liqueur should keep it in the freezer, where it turns a milky white after 8 to 9 hours. It can be sipped straight-up, mixed with tonic or dashed into champagne. Recipe adapted from Magdalena Borea.

17 large lemons, preferably organic

Two 750-milliliter bottles grain alcohol - Everclear is good

5 1/2 cups water

6 cups sugar

Wash and dry the lemons. With a paring knife, remove the ends. With a vegetable peeler, remove only the yellow rind, leaving the pith intact. (Squeeze juice from the lemons and reserve for another use.)

Place the lemon peel in a 4-quart Mason jar with a rubber-seal lid. Add the grain alcohol, making sure the lemon peel is completely covered. Store in a cool, dark place, shaking the jar once each day to agitate the lemon peel.

On the 13th day, bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the sugar and remove from the heat, stirring until it is dissolved. Cover and let cool to room temperature.

Place a colander on top of the saucepan and strain in the contents of the Mason jar. Discard the lemon peel. Stir to combine the liquids, about 1 minute. Transfer back to the Mason jar. Store for 3 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking to agitate the liquid twice a day.

After 3 weeks to 4 months, transfer the limoncello to smaller bottles that can be sealed with rubber stoppers. Store bottles in freezer. Serve directly from the freezer.

Limoncello - Ready to Enjoy!