Monday, February 28, 2011

Mardi Gras King Cake

It's Mardi Gras season and time to enjoy King Cakes! This tradition has been around for centuries in Europe and certainly is a huge part of the Mardi Gras celebrations in Louisiana for hundreds of years. The origins of the King Cake are widely debated. Most believe the following history.

Mardi Gras season begins on January 6 and continues until Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. During this time of year, one of the most beloved traditions in New Orleans is that of the King Cake.

On the Christian calendar, the twelfth day after Christmas is known as "Epiphany", "Twelfth Night", or "Kings Day." It is the day the gift-bearing Magi visited the baby Jesus, and is celebrated with its own unique rituals.

While the Twelfth Night customs that spread throughout Europe were subject to numerous variations, one element transcended virtually every culture that observed the holiday: the choice of a mock king for the occasion.

The ritual of hiding a tiny treasure in a celebratory cake became a symbolic reenactment of Epiphany. In France, the bean, la feve, eventually was replaced by a bean-sized baby Jesus; its discovery commemorated the discovery of Jesus’ divinity by the Magi. Legend has it that the cakes were made in the shape of a ring and colorfully decorated to resemble a bejeweled crown.

The New Orleans tradition, begun in the 1800s, borrows heavily from European customs. As part of the celebration of Mardi Gras, it is traditional to bake an oval cake in honor of the three kings - the King Cake. The shape of a King Cake symbolizes the unity of faiths. Each cake is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors: purple represents justice, green represents faith and gold represents power. A small baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is baked into each cake.

In New Orleans, King Cake parties are held throughout the Mardi Gras season. In offices, classrooms, and homes throughout the city, King Cakes are sliced and enjoyed by all. Like the biblical story, the "search for the baby" adds excitement, as each person waits to see in whose slice of cake the baby will be discovered.

While custom holds that the person who finds the baby in their slice will be rewarded with good luck, that person is also traditionally responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next party or gathering.

The traditional King Cake is made from twisted strands of cinnamon dough, topped with icing, and sprinkled with purple, green, and gold colored sugar. Today, there are many ways to make a King Cake as there are fillings such as cream cheese, strawberry, blueberry, and pecans with brown sugar. This is an easy and delicious variation.

2 - 12 oz cans crescent rolls
1/4 cup cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 - 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1 - 21 oz can fruit pie filling, optional and flavor of your choice
1 cup powdered sugar
Plastic baby (available in the crafts section of Walmart, or use a coin or red kidney bean)

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbls lemon juice
1 tbls water
3/4 cup sugar, divided into 3 parts
Food coloring (yellow, green and red and blue)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a pizza pan or baking sheet with butter flavored vegetable oil.
Unroll crescent roll dough and separate into triangles.

Position triangles next to each other with the points toward the center, overlapping the long sides about 1/4-inch, forming a large round.

Where the pieces overlap, press the seams together only in the center of each seam, leaving either ends of the seams unsealed so you can fold them up over the filling.

Mix together butter and cinnamon, gently spread over the dough. Mix together cream cheese and powdered sugar. Spread the cream cheese filling around in a ring covering the center sealed seam of each triangle. Do the same with the pie filling. (Optional. I prefer blueberry) Place baby, coin or bean anywhere on the dough.

Fold the long side of each triangle toward the center just to the edge
of the filling to cover. Then pull the point end of the triangles toward the outer rim of the pan to fully enclose the filling, tucking under the points. Lightly press the seams.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

While the cake is baking, make the icing. Then use the food coloring to dye the sugar. In three separate containers, place 1/4 cup of sugar in each. Add one drop of red and one drop of blue into the first container to make purple. Add 2 drops yellow to the second container and 2 drops green to the third container. Stir each well and set aside.

When cake is cool, pour icing over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the colored sugar, alternating the three colors as you go around the circle.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Oven Broiled Steak

As a followup to the last post on great steak preparations, this is my second favorite way to have steak.

My grandmother got this recipe from one of the steakhouse's in Fort Worth, Texas that she and my grandfather preferred and this is the method used at Ruth's Chris Steak House! I kid you not, it really is how Ruth's Chris prepares their steaks. The difference is we don't have commercial equipment in our kitchens, so forget the sizzling platter. However, the end result is the same and is wonderful.

This is the way I prepare steaks when the weather prohibits outdoor grilling. Again, any cut may be used, but I still prefer Ribeye's and Mignon's for this method.

2 large thick cut (over 1") Ribeye steaks (bone-in or boneless)
Garlic powder
Onion powder

Place steaks in a cast iron pan or grilling pan. Sprinkle top side of the steaks with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Then, place pats of butter all over top of each steak. This will add flavor and keep the steak from drying out.

Broil on high until steak is browned well and cooked to your preference. Remove pan from oven and turn the steaks. Sprinkle the other side with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and cover with more pats of butter. Return to oven to broil until desired doneness is achieved.

Plate and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Grilled Steak With Garlic Butter

My Grandfather had two cattle ranches and farms where he raised cattle, crops as well as having pecan orchards. As a result of having the cattle ranches, we had the best beef available for our own consumption. My grandmother mastered their favorite steak preparations from the many steakhouses they visited when in Texas and other areas of Louisiana for rodeo's and auctions.

Her motto, and obviously the restaurants too, was to keep it simple. Forget the ketchup, A-1 Steak Sauce and marinating your steak in salad dressing. That's for amateurs! There are two ways they favored their steaks. This one is my favorite, Grilled Steak with Garlic Butter. You can use any type of cut but my preferences are ribeye's and filet mignon's. These simple ingredients bring out the flavor of the steak without masking it and are incredibly delicious.

Grilled Steak With Garlic Butter

2 large thick cut (over 1") Ribeye steaks (bone-in or boneless)
1/2 stick butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, pressed

Press the garlic and mix it in with softened butter. When your grill is prepared and ready, grill your steaks on one side until ready to turn. After turning, sprinkle the cooked side with salt and pepper.

Allow other side to cook and turn again. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Once your steak is cooked to preferred doneness, flip again and spread a coating of garlic butter over the top of the hot side you just turned up. Remove from grill and flip it over onto the plate. Spread other, hot side, with garlic butter. Allow to sit 5 minutes before serving.

If there is any garlic butter left over, I either use it to butter some French bread or throw it in with some vegetables or on a baked potato. Mmmm, Mmmm, good!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine's Day Red Velvet Cake

I hope you all have a very happy and romantic Valentine's Day! Here is one of my very favorite cake recipes just in time for you to make it especially for the love in your life. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Ice the cake and add fresh rasberries or strawberries for garnish.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Show Me The Money!

.....Well, in this case, the love. Show me the love! If you like my blog, if you want to continue to come here for new recipes, thoughts, stories... please let me know. Post a comment, follow me, send me an email...something, ANYTHING! Just let me know, please! Is anyone out there? Helllllooooo?