Saturday, February 26, 2011

King Cake for Mardi Gras

For our Mardi Gras celebration…a King Cake!
The term Mardi Gras refers to the carnival celebrations beginning on or after the Epiphany (the visitation of the 3 Kings to the Baby Jesus) and ending on the tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is french for "Fat Tuesday". It marks the beginning of the Lenten season and your last chance to eat whatever you want before the fasting begins! Fasting has changed a bit since I was a young girl…but Mardi Gras is the same! Recently I have added a visit to New Orleans, to my bucket list! I have been to Europe, I have been to Iceland and yet, have never been to New Orleans. I was so close a few weeks ago…but alas, it did not happen!
I see myself sitting at the Cafe Du Monde having hickory coffee, a plate of Beignets and watching the world go by! Simple pleasures! Until that day comes, I will celebrate Mardi Gras at home by making a King Cake.  
This week, while kid sitting with my grandsons, I thought it was the perfect time to bake a King Cake. A fun activity with a scrumptious outcome!  
I had made the dough in the early afternoon before they came home from school. So by the time they came home it had risen nicely. After my oldest grandson left for baseball practice, my younger grandson and I rolled out the dough, sprinkled it with the sugar and cinnamon mixture and put a coffee bean in it to be found when eaten, instead of a toy baby (which is tradition).  I then rolled it and let it rise again, then baked it. When it was done we let it cool and frosted it. We then sprinkled it with sugar in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. We all enjoyed it for desert that night! It was fabulous!

Such a lovely way to enjoy the Mardi Gras

Traditional King Cake

This traditional Mardi Gras dessert makes two king cakes each topped with a creamy glaze and festive gold, purple, and yellow sugar sprinkles.

Yield: Makes 2 cakes (about 18 servings each)

1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour*
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Recipe of Creamy glaze
Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sparkling sugar sprinkles

Cook first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Set aside, and cool mixture to 100° to 110°.

Stir together yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.

Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough remaining flour (4 to 4 1/2 cups) until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.
Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.
Punch down dough, and divide in half. Roll each portion into a 22- x 12-inch rectangle. Spread 1/3 cup softened butter evenly on each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border. Stir together 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over butter on each rectangle.

Roll up each dough rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side. Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends of roll together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with second dough roll.

Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
Bake at 375° for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden. Slightly cool cakes on pans on wire racks (about 10 minutes). Drizzle Creamy Glaze evenly over warm cakes; sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors and forming bands. Let cool completely.

Cream Cheese-Filled King Cake: Prepare each 22- x 12-inch dough rectangle as directed. Omit 1/3 cup softened butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon. Increase 1/2 cup sugar to 3/4 cup sugar. Beat 3/4 cup sugar; 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened; 1 large egg; and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly on each dough rectangle, leaving 1-inch borders. Proceed with recipe as directed.

*6 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour may be substituted.

Creamy Glaze

Yield: Makes 1 1/2 cups

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons milk


Stir together first 4 ingredients. Stir in 2 tablespoons milk, adding additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreading consistency.

This Recipe is from Southern Living Magazine February 2006

Friday, February 25, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie Short Ribs in Red Wine and Port

Lately, I feel a bit like a traveling chef! I have spent 2 weeks in Florida and now I am in Atlanta to do some babysitting. Actually kid sitting…my grandsons are 6 and 9.  I baked the Orange Almond Tart in the lovely kitchen of the beach house we were staying in. Although the kitchen was not equipped with a food processor, it was a successful venture! Last week, I missed making the green beans because we were quite busy and were eating out a bit more. After all, it was vacation! So this week, I didn't want to miss the Short Ribs. I was concerned that my grandsons would not eat these ribs because of the wine addition. Boy, was I wrong. My older grandson C. ate 3 ribs and loved them so much he asked me to give his mom and dad the recipe. His brother R. also really liked them. He ate one, but he is only six. The funny thing is that I served them with mashed potatoes and peas because I wanted the dinner to be somewhat kid friendly. They ate the ribs but not the potatoes or the peas. Well not the cooked peas. The 6 year old ate his peas frozen. He likes them that way.  The nine year old ate raw carrots. I'm just happy they enjoyed the ribs. The boys and their grandfather decided these were keepers and rated them a 10!!
I had a somewhat difficult time finding the ribs, so when I was in the grocery store, I asked the butcher to cut them for me. He was very accommodating. He cut them just as I requested. I picked up all the ingredients and the next morning I started the Ribs. You really need a lot of time to make this meal. The prep is pretty involved. First you have to broil the ribs, then chop all the vegetables. Start by heating oil in dutch oven and adding the veggies and cooking till soft and just starting to brown. Then add the tomato paste and cook a few more minutes before adding the bottle of wine, the port and bouquet garni. At this point the kitchen smells incredible!  Reduce the liquid, then add ribs to the pot along with the beef broth. This is where it gets easy. Put the pot, covered with aluminum foil, and the lid in the oven and do not disturb for 2 hours. Then remove the lid, loosen the foil and let cook for another hour.  Since I was serving this for dinner, I let them sit out for about an hour on the baking sheet and strained my sauce. My grandson had baseball practice last night and they got home late so I actually held up dinner a bit longer. In the end, it all came together beautifully.  The only thing I didn't do was make the gremolata. You have to know your audience, and mine was eating frozen peas and didn't like the mashed potatoes. They certainly weren't going to eat the gremolata!!
This Recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans new book "Around My French Table".

The ribs after being broiled.

Veggies being cooked.
Wine and port added. Since I had no cheesecloth in the house I put the herbs in the pot and fished them out in the end.

Sauce reduced and ready for ribs and broth.

Everything covered and  in oven for two hours.

Our dinner minus the frozen peas and raw carrots…delish!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Puff Pancake with Fresh Fruit

Delicious Puff Pancake

I love breakfast! Omelets, pancakes, french toast, waffles and especially puff pancakes. When I'm at home I usually have a cup of tea and then, about an hour later, have something to eat.  However, when I'm on vacation, I love to have a nice breakfast! Even if I have to do the cooking.  Yesterday we were planing a trip to St. Andrews State Park, to do some shell hunting. A favorite activity, when in Florida. I wanted us to eat a nice breakfast before we set out on our adventure. I also wanted to use up some of the fruit I had in the refrigerator.  I thought…Puff Pancake! Easy, not too many ingredients and a good way to use up all the fruit I had.  This is one dish that always looks impressive, even though it is just as easy as making scrambled eggs.
After breakfast, I put together a picnic lunch and we were off on our excursion to find prized shells. When we arrived at the State Park it was about 9:30 am. A gorgeous, sunny day. There were already a bunch of people out there enjoying the beach. Since this is February, and still a little cool...shorts and a t-shirt were perfect attire for shell collecting.  As I walked the beach, I took a few pictures.  Then I put my camera away and got serious. I met a lovely lady who had found a star fish and several "Lettered Olive Shells". Additionally, she found a shell I had never seen before; an "Atlantic Baby's Ear".  She was sweet enough to give me one of her olive shells, since I had not found any yet.  Maybe I was looking a bit pathetic. Shortly after that I ran into 2 women who were digging in the sand. I mean a 5 foot ditch, that was at least 2 to 3 feet deep.  I noticed the outside of their ditch was littered with conch shells. Curiosity got the best of me and I had to ask what they were doing.  It seems that they were excavating sea shells from the deep wall of sand. The shells littering the outside of their ditch were throw aways they had discarded for reasons of imperfection. They looked better then the shells I was finding on the beach, so at their insistence I took a few. They also asked my friend with the "Baby's Ear" and me to join their excavation, which we did for at least an hour.  We were having a great time and I can't tell you how many great shells we found.  It was a fun day, meeting fun people from all over the states.  But all good things must end and my husband was hungry. So we found ourselves a picnic table and ate lunch. I then thought, much too late, we missed a great opportunity for some photos of our archeological (shell) dig! 


1/2 c. flour
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 c. butter
Powdered sugar

Mix flour, eggs, and milk together, leaving batter a bit lumpy. Melt butter in 9" pie plate in oven; I use a cast iron fry pan. Pour batter on top of it. Bake 425 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes until nicely browned and puffed. Sift powdered sugar on top. If serving with fruit, put fruit on top before serving. Serve at once.

Sometimes I throw some cut apples or pears in fry pan with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and serve on top of the pancake.
Most of the time I use berries or peaches when in season. So delicious! 


butter melted in fry pan, in oven

the fruit

just out of the oven


Monday, February 14, 2011

Farmers Market in Seaside Florida

Beautiful Seaside Florida…the movie "Truman" was shot in this town.

We are staying in Seaside, Florida. It is absolutely one gorgeous place and we are lucky enough to see the beautiful Gulf from our porch. It is 6:00 am and the sun is starting to rise over the Gulf. The sky is an awesome pink. Today is promising to be a lovely day. It has warmed up quite a bit and our temperature should be in the high 50's with a bright sunny sky. No snickering! I left NJ a week ago with temps that were below zero. The 50's sound tropical to me. The best part of today will be the farmers market that this town does every weekend. I love this farmers market. The last time I was here they had a duck egg lady, a Middle Eastern food booth, a farmer who sells his persimmons and other fruit. As if that wasn't enough, today they will be having a flea market as well. Last October when we were down here I wanted to buy the duck eggs. They happened to be ten dollars a dozen. I just couldn't bring myself to spend that much for a dozen eggs, even though they were organic duck eggs!! So for the last few months (just in case you haven't guessed I'm a bit obsessive) I have thought of those eggs and how I wished I had tried them. I told myself this February when I am in Florida, I will try those duck eggs at least once.

Roaming the farmers market was so enjoyable. The sun felt so warm even though the temps never went above 58 degrees. The honey man was back with his 3 or 4 varieties of honey. I still have my jar from last year. He called it popcorn honey…a deep dark honey. So very delicious. A faint resemblance to molasses. There were a few new booths, one being the dairy booth. All fresh organic dairy products made at a local dairy farm. Milk, cream, freshly made butter. Then I saw the duck egg lady…I walked away and checked out the flea market for a few hours. But, I knew I was going to buy those eggs before I left.

I found the cutest little rice bowls, $2.00 each. I also found a cute little dress I think my granddaughter will love. The hours passed with not much more excitement, so I decided to go get those eggs and go home.

OK, after all my lusting…the eggs were good, not amazing! They had a very rich taste but all and all, just EGGS! We did enjoy my frittata and the fried eggs had huge yolks!

The Seaside Farmers Market banner

Fruit and veggie stand

The Honey man…sells several different kinds of honey

Middle Eastern food stand

Fresh dairy…organic milk sold in glass bottles. Butter, cream, milk and cheese!

Juice Bar

This was at 9 am in the morning…crowds of people roaming till about 3 in the afternoon.
The coveted duck eggs...

One thing I did notice about these eggs were the yolks are quite a bit bigger.

So for lunch that afternoon I made a frittata...

And for breakfast the next day, I made my famous egg dish! Toast brushed with
olive oil and fried along with the eggs and fresh salsa made with olive oil and
balsamic vinegar on the side!

And I found these charming little rice dishes for only $2.00 each

…The view from our porch


Friday, February 11, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie Orange-Almond Tart

Well, here I am in the sunshine state. Unfortunately for me, there is no sunshine and the temperature is a balmy 32 degrees this morning.  Since this is not a beach day, it is a perfect day to bake my Orange-Almond Tart for FFwD. After reading over the recipe, I realized I had no food processor, no pastry blender, no rolling pin and no tart pan.  A trip to the outlet mall was required, directly to the kitchen store. I was able to get a rolling pin and tart pan but, I totally forgot about the pastry blender. A fork will work nicely, just a little more elbow grease.  Then a trip to the grocery store was needed. We're in a beach house, so I had to do a complete grocery shopping anyway.  Flour, sugar, eggs, and almond flour.  I was shopping with my husband and sent him on the mission to find the almond flour.  I thought it might be quite hard to find and was surprised that Publix had it! I was also quite surprised at the price. $11.98 for one pound. My husband looked at me with a big smile on his face and asked "Do you know how much this is"? I just smiled back, what could I say, I needed it!  Then went to the register.This tart was quite easy to make as long as you gave yourself the time it needed. I cut the oranges, a few hours before I needed them. They needed time to dry. I then made the pastry shell. I whisked the dry ingredients together and then added the butter, using a fork to cut the butter into the flour mixture.  After adding the egg, it still seemed a little dry to me so I added a tablespoon or two of milk. That worked just fine and I mixed it with my hands and pressed into a disk, wrapped and refrigerated it. Making the almond cream was again easy. I used a rubber spatula to whip it up. I then refrigerated it and went for a walk on the beach.  When I got back, I put the tart together. I rolled out the dough, spread the almond cream on the crust, placed the oranges on top and then placed it in the oven.
After dinner I served this tart and since I have baked many wonderful desserts in the past…I thought just another dessert. Wow, was I wrong...this unassuming tart was fantastic! The first thing I noticed was the wonderful butter taste of the crust. The filling was so delicious and I expected the oranges to be quite strong however, the oranges had a subtle flavor. I'm sure this is why Dorie said it was important to the recipe to dry them…a small thing that made a world of difference in the taste!  My husband said "This should go right to the top of the keeper list"!
Hope everyone loved this recipe as much as we did! It can be found in Dorie Greenspans new book "Around My French Table".  You can also find it HERE!

Butter being cut into the flour mixture for the crust.

ready to refrigerate 

Orange slices laid out on paper towels.

Rolled out and ready for the pan.

Almond cream

Ready for the oven…it took about 55 minutes to bake.
Just out of the oven.

My piece…wish I could share it!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

This must be award season. I have been honored once more, this time with the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award!
I want to thank Elizabeth of Food and Thrift Finds for this honor. I am truly flattered to be in such wonderful company! The best part of getting this award, is that I get to choose some very lovely, talented bloggers to join the sisterhood! Thanks again Elizabeth! Proud to be in the Sisterhood!

Copy and paste, and pay it forward to as few, or as many SISTER bloggers that you feel deserve it. No rules apply...just mention who it came from: Thanking you in advance!

  1. Yummy Chunklet
  2. California Living
  3. French Whisk
  4. Jumping off the Cliff
  5. The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler
  6. Miss Anthropists Kitchen
  7. Frolicking Night Owl
  8. The Screen Porch
  9. Lola's Kitchen
  10. One Wet Foot

Monday, February 7, 2011

Broken Heart Chocolate Cookies

Happy Valentines Day!!

Years ago, when I was a new bride, there was an Alka Seltzer commercial that was quite popular. It was about another new bride who makes her husband a heart shaped marshmallow meatloaf. When I think of Valentines Day, I sometimes think of that commercial. I have never tried the marshmallow version of meatloaf however, somewhere in the back of my head, I do seem to remember trying a heart shaped meatloaf for Valentines Day! I don't remember it getting rave reviews so, these days I stick to cakes and cookies. I am a chocoholic and love these chocolate cookies. They are so rich and chocolatey with a bite of pepper  and cinnamon.  I have been making them since my kids were in high school. When they left for college I would always send them in care packages for Valentines Day.  The recipe comes from Martha Stewart's "Hors d'Oeuvres" cookbook. They are one of our favorites and I now make them for my grandchildren. Last year I received my very best compliment ever! My 6 year old granddaughter, after receiving her cookies, called to tell me that, "me and mommy think you're the best baker ever".  I might have sent her heart shaped cookies but she melted my heart! 

Broken Heart Chocolate Cookies

3/4 lb. unsalted butter (3 sticks)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cocoa 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 to 6 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat until fluffy. Sift the dry ingredients together. 
Stir them into the butter mixture and beat until well incorporated. If mixture seems to soft you could add up to a 1/4 cup more flour. Divide the dough into thirds and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill well, at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375°
On a well floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into hearts or your desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies on a parchment lined or greased cookie sheet. To make broken heart cut zigzag into cookie..while baking cookie will separate slightly.  To look like a broken heart. 
Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on racks. When the cookies are cooled, drizzle some of the chocolate over each cookie.

3 sticks of  unsalted butter 


Eggs being beaten into butter mixture

Sifting dry ingredients 

Dry ingredients incorporated with butter mixture

Disks of dough ready for refrigerator 

Ready for oven with zigzag cut into cookies

Delicious and so pretty!!