Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Happy Mardi Gras! Fat Tuesday and Mini King Cakes

Happy Mardi Gras! I love the history of the Mardi Gras celebration. Here are some fun facts for you about this annual event imparted to me by a number of the French Quarter's fabulous tour guides: 

*"Mardi Gras" is French for "Fat Tuesday"and it is an official holiday in the state of Louisiana since 1875.

*French explorer Sieur d'Iberville is credited with bringing the Mardi Gras tradition to America in 1699 because the festival had been celebrated as a major holiday in Paris, France since the Middle Ages.

*Some historians have said New Orleans' grand traditions began in 1827 when a group of students returned from school in Paris and donned strange costumes and danced their way through the streets during Mardi Gras after taking part in this type of revelry in Paris celebrations. Other history sources attribute early French settlers to Louisiana to the growing revelry of this literal holiday. During the years 1827-1833, the New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebrations became more elaborate, culminating in an annual Mardi Gras Ball. 

*The exact date of the first revelries cannot be determined, but  it was well-established by the middle of the Nineteenth Century. The Mystick Krewe of Comus presented its 1857 Torchlight Parade with a theme taken from "Paradise Lost" written by John Milton.

*The colors of Mardi Gras are purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. 

I am serving up a "piece" of Mardi Gras tradition in a bite-size cake at my house today to celebrate. I am a huge fan of Nordic Ware baking pans because of their durability, non-stick coating and even baking nature. I love mini cakes for personal-size treats and this pan was perfect for my miniature King Cakes for Fat Tuesday. For their 65th anniversary, the Nordic Ware company released a special edition cake pan for mini cakes. They are called "bundtlette" cakes and I think the name is just as cute as the pan. 

Native New Orleanians and locals alike can tell you about the history behind the King Cake and here are some fun facts about this tasty treat. It is traditionally oval in shape, made from a sweet dough and covered with a poured sugar topping decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras-colored sugars of purple, green and gold, symbolizing the  Three Wise Men who visited the Christ Child. This cake tradition is believed to have begun with French settlers around 1870, who were themselves continuing a custom which dated back to Twelfth Century France, when a similar cake was used to celebrate the coming of the Magi twelve days after Christmas bearing gifts for the Christ Child. As a symbol of this Holy Day, a tiny plastic baby (symbolic of the baby Jesus) is placed inside each King Cake but other items sometimes used are coins, beans, pecans or peas. In 1871, the tradition of choosing the Queen of Mardi Gras was determined by who drew the prize within the cake. Today, finding the baby or other prize in the cake is a sign of good luck to the one who finds it. It can also mean the person who finds the prize has to host the next King Cake Party.

I make an easy mini King Cake using Pillsbury reduced fat cinnamon rolls and ready-made writing icing found in the cake decorating section of the baking aisle. It is customary to place a plastic baby inside the cake, but for times when I don't have or want to use a small plastic baby in the cake, I have found a good and fun substitute is to use a pecan instead, and the recipients had just as much fun seeing who finds the pecan in their cake. 


I hope you enjoy your Fat Tuesday and as they say in NOLA, "Laissez les bons temps rouler!" (let the good times roll!)



"Mini King Cakes"

1 can Pillsbury reduced fat cinnamon rolls
1 shelled pecan  
1 small tube purple writing icing
1 small tube green writing icing
1 small tube yellow writing icing

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray mini bundt pan with cooking spray and dusting of flour. Remove rolls and glaze from can. Cut each roll in half to make each mini cake. In one of the pieces of dough, add the pecan and shape dough around pecan. In each mini cake mold, shape dough halves around center of bundt mold, then gently press the ends together. Bake 11-13 minutes, or until top is golden brown in color. Cool for 10 minutes and revert pan onto cooling rack or heat-safe surface and remove rolls from pan. Coat rolls with the glaze that comes with the can of rolls. I then drizzle the purple, green and yellow icings across the cakes in sections. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Presidents Day and a Cherry Pie tradition

Happy President's Day! My family has always had a tradition to bake a cherry pie on this holiday synonymous with George Washington's childhood cherry tree tale. This is the quick and easy recipe I use to carry on this family tradition in my household. 

Did you know this holiday never falls on the actual birthday of any American president. According to the History Channel's website, four US presidents were born in the month of February—George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, but their birthdays all come either too early or late to coincide with Presidents’ Day, which is always celebrated on the third Monday of the month. It is celebrated on a Monday as part of The Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed by Congress, which took effect in 1971 to  create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. 


Easy Cherry Pie

1 box Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, softened according to directions on box
2 cans Wilderness cherry pie filling
1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Using a 9-inch pie plate, place crust across bottom of pan and seal crust around sides of pan. Spoon pie filling into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edges and press in with fingers to flute crust. Cut slits in several places on top crust. Sprinkle sugar over crust. Bake 40-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. After 15 minutes of baking, remove pie from oven and use strips of foil to cover edges of crust to prevent excessive browning. Remove from oven and cool at least 1 hour before serving. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Homemade Treat: Cherries Jubilation Refrigerator Jam


Happy Valentine's Day! The Southern Fried Husband and I enjoyed valentine breakfast here at home this morning, including some of my "Cherries Jubilation Refrigerator Jam". I make this cherry refrigerator jam with not one, but two kinds of cherries. I love the flavor combination of red cherries and black cherries. As a special touch for my valentine, I served it on slices of toast that I cut into a heart shape using a heart-shaped cookie cutter. This is also a fun jam recipe to celebrate the President's Day holiday on Monday.


"Cherries Jubilation Refrigerator Jam"

*makes 6 half-pint jars

1 cup red cherries, pitted and chopped
1 cup black cherries, pitted and chopped  
4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 (1.75 ounce) package powdered no-sugar fruit pectin
3/4 cup water
6 half-pint canning/freezer jars

Rinse 6 clean half-pint freezer-safe canning/freezer jars with boiling water. Dry thoroughly. Wash cherries, remove pits and chop in quarters. Place in medium bowl. Do not drain cherries. If cherries have been chilled, set aside until the cherries reach room temperature. In large mixing bowl, combine room temperature cherries with sugar and lemon juice. Stir well. Set mixture aside 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. In saucepan, combine powdered fruit pectin and water. Stir well. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Immediately add pectin mixture to cherries and stir well. Keep stirring mixture about 3 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved. Quickly pour into sterile jars to within 1/2 inch of top of jar. Wipe off top edges of jar and cover with lid. Makes 6 half-pint jars. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours to set. After jam has set, enjoy immediately or it can be frozen for up to one year. Once opened, it can be stored in refrigerator up to 3 weeks. Enjoy

Thursday, February 12, 2015

DIY Treat Goodness: Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

This year I have made several jars of this salted caramel sauce as a valentine gift for friends and loved ones and the response to their homemade valentine treat has been overwhelming. Here is the four ingredient recipe that yields an 8 ounce jar full of this caramel splendor that can be used for so many sweet concoctions such as an ice cream topping, cake filling (recipe coming soon!) and sweet bread drizzle.


Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
Yield: 1 cup


1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 stick salted butter, cut into 6 slices
1/2 cup light whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt 

Wash and dry an 8 oz. size jar and lid. Set aside. In medium saucepan, heat sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly as sugar melts and turns to a thick amber brown-colored liquid consistency.  Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add  butter, placing each slice of butter slowly and carefully into the saucepan. Stir butter into the caramel 2-3 minutes, until completely melted. Slowly add heavy cream to mixture carefully because adding the cold heavy cream to heated mixture will cause rapid bubbling than can splatter when added. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils. Remove from heat and stir in salt. Pour into jar and allow to cool before sealing jar. Store up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. arm caramel for a few seconds before using in a recipe.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Book Review- Team Us: Marriage Together

As the valentine season is in full swing, I have a book review to share with you about the subject of love and marriage. 

"Team Us: Marriage Together" is author Ashleigh Slater’s first book. 



A little bit about the author: Ashleigh and her husband, Ted, have been married for more than a decade. She is a regular contributor at several popular blogs and has her own blog at ashleighslater.com She has almost 20 years of writing hexperience and a master’s degree in communication.  

I enjoyed this read very much. As my husband and I prepare to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary in a few months, the theme of this book especially struck a chord with me. Ashleigh reinforces that marriage can seem so ideal when a couple on their wedding day, but it's when the newness of the marriage wears off and when the reality of being married to one another sets in that the true test of marriage begins.  

Something unique about this read is that it is a book for a couple to read together, not just one person reading it and coveying what they have read to the other. This is what Craig and I did as a couple for our devotional time recently and we have both been blessed by this book.

In the nearly 4 years that we have been married, we have seen a number of couples in our lives go through divorce. Each time this has happened, when we have seen one of these couples ending their marriage, it has brought a pang to our hearts. I was impacted by Ashleigh's emphasis that when a couple is first married, a team is formed but if this team spirit is not cultivated through intentional living, then separate lives cam emerge with the word "we" soon replaced by "me" and "you",

Ashleigh shares a number of ways couples can cultivate and strengthen unity in their marriage. I love the fact that she doesn't simply share the ideas, but she shares experiences from her own marriage as she illustrates realistic ideas on how couples can foster cooperation, deepen commitment and exercise grace on a daily basis. 

In this video clip, Ashleigh and Ted together share some of their tips for resolving conflict in marriage, including how they moved from being a "me first" fighter to a "team first" fighter.

"Team Us: Marriage Together" is available for order at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and ChristianBook.com

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Homemade Valentine Treat: Strawberry Sensation Swiss Cake Roll

Valentines Day is upon us and for the first recipe in my homemade valentine treat series, I am rollin'...rollin'...rollin' out a cake roll! 

I have always been a fan of Swiss rolls since I was a little girl. My first Swiss roll was Little Debbie's classic version. I created my version of this dessert and in the process, I learned about the history of this tasty treat from the company that introduced it to America. According to the Little Debbie company, they introduced the Little Debbie Swiss Roll to America over 50 years ago. The treat began in central Europe and made its way to a small Tennessee town—and then all over America. 

O.D. McKee, owner and founder of McKee Foods and the Little Debbie brand, attended a European trade show in 1962 and came across a “mini Swiss roll,” a small, rolled cake modeled after a popular Swiss dessert called a roulade. They were being made in Europe by several high-volume manufacturers and were very popular there. The Little Debbie company began manufacturing this treat in America when he returned from the trip and since then, it has become a beloved treat to many across this country.

A popular filling for this dessert is strawberry. Smuckers makes a seedless strawberry spreadable fruit called Simply Fruit that I like to use in my Swiss cake roll. I have plated it on my Rosanna serving platter in the beautiful red, white and black "French Linen" pattern that is my china pattern for the dining table during the month of February.     


Rollin', rollin', rollin'...keep those cake rolls rollin'! -xo Angela





Strawberry Sensation Swiss Cake Roll

4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Filling:
1/2 cup Smuckers Simply Fruit seedless strawberry spreadable fruit

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray jelly roll pan with cooking spray, or grease with butter and line pan with wax paper. In medium bowl, add flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In large bowl, add eggs and vanilla. Beat egg mixture on high speed for 5 minutes. Add sugar and beat until dissolved. Add dry flour mixture to egg mixture in thirds, mixing on low speed in between additions. Beat mixture until just combined. Pour batter into jelly roll pan. Spread batter evenly over pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Sprinkle cloth with confectioners' sugar. Invert cake onto cloth. Peel off wax paper from cake; slowly roll up cloth and cake. Cool. Unroll cake. Place strawberry filling in small bowl. Drop dollops of filling by the spoonful across cake and spread evenly to cover entire cake. Roll up the cake again and chill in refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving. Sprinkle top with confectioners' sugar. Enjoy!

a-wise-woman-builds-her-home

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Put Your Heart to Paper with Hallmark: Valentine Cards Review and Giveaway

Disclaimer: This post and giveaway are sponsored by Hallmark®. All opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.


I am honored to have the opportunity to be a new member of the Hallmark Cards blogging team. I have very special memories of spending lots of time in Hallmark stores throughout my life, looking for just the perfect card for someone special, just the perfect gift to celebrate an occasion. 

Since I was a young child, the written word and expressing sentiments have always been important to me. I was blessed to grow up with parents and two sets of grandparents who likewise expressed their love for me through the written word on all kinds of occasions, sometimes the important occasion of "just because". Among my treasures are cards I have received through the years from a number of loved ones who have passed on. I proudly carry on that written tradition as a grown-up as much as I can.   

Hallmark has launched a new campaign this Valentine's Day called #PutYourHeartToPaper and they have created a website called putyourhearttopaper.com where you can find  lots of ideas from Hallmark writers for creating a valentine message that is uniquely you. There are facts about the history of the Valentine's Day holiday and a look at some of the newest card designs in their valentine collection. 

The site also features a video series profiling six real-life couples who share what love means to them. Bob and Kim's love story about their 56 year marriage touched my heart so deeply and I want to share it with you today:


In a day and age that is becoming increasingly "electronic", I am proud to join Hallmark in the mission to encourage people to pause from the hectic pace of life for a moment and write down words of care for someone in your life on paper to create a lasting reminder of how you feel. 


Hallmark sent me an assortment of their Valentine's Day collection of cards from this year for me to review and give to dear people in my life. I was immediately drawn to the individual care put into each card. There are cards that convey everything from the ease of simplicity




to intricate artistry in craftsmanship, sparkling beauty and dazzling cut-out lettering.   




Thanks to Hallmark, one of my readers will win an assortment of Hallmark valentine cards like you see above to give to special people in your life.  To enter, leave a comment below and tell me if you have a favorite valentine memory of one you received from someone or one you gave to someone. Giveaway closes tomorrow on Wednesday, February 4 at noon EST and winner will be notified immediately.