Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mardi Gras is February 5th--Time to PARTY!!!

February 5th is Mardi Gras. A time to party and let loose your inner part animal. So says the official website at I’ve only been to New Orleans once—back in 1988, Labor Day weekend at the World Science Fiction Convention then. Even then, I could see that New Orleans was one of a kind. We did Bourbon Street, I visited a Voodoo Museum in the French Quarter, check out shops and places with floats and costumes inside the buildings and chow down on wonderful New Orleans food and breakfasted on beignets. And of course, did World Con too.
Every year, on Fat Tuesday, just before Lent starts (and being Catholic, I know this means giving up something near and dear to me (like chocolate), we make jambalaya or gumbo, or something appropriate to New Orleans. I know for others, this being two days after the Super Bowl, is just another excuse to keep on partying.
Now if you want to go all the way, here’s some links to places. Floats for Dummies: . Make an easy float and parade it around your neighborhood. Heck, get the neighborhood into the act!
Make a King Cake. Or buy it. If buying
A small plastic baby is placed inside the cake, and tradition is that whoever gets the baby must bake the next cake or throw the next party.
And don’t forget the costume, or at least wear a mask. Then make a Hurricane or some super neat beverage, and party.

Now for recipes:

King Cake
1/2 cup warm water, about 105 to 115 degrees
2 envelopes active dry yeast
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
3 eggs
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
with 1 tablespoon milk
a tiny doll or coin
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice, strained
3 to 5 tablespoons water
2 candied cherries, halved
Sugar Topping
Paste food coloring: purple, green, and yellow
3/4 cup sugar
Brioche:Combine yeast and the warm water. Combine flour, sugar, nutmeg and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir in lemon peel. Make a well in center and add yeast and water mixture, along with milk. Lightly beat the 3 eggs and 4 egg yolks; add to liquid mixture. With a large wooden spoon, gradually incorporate dry ingredients into liquids in the center well. Beat in 1/2 cup of the butter and continute beating until dough forms ball. Use a food processor or dough hook for beating, if desired. Place ball on floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, incorporating more flour as necessary, a little at a time. Butter the inside of a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Place dough in bowl and turn so the entire surface will be buttered Cover bowl and set aside for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Brush a large baking sheet with remaining butter. Punch dough down on lightly floured surface. Knead, then pat and shape dough into a cylinder about 14 inches long. Place on baking sheet and form into a ring. Press bean or doll well into dough so that it doesn't show. Set aside again to rise for about 45 to 60 minutes. When ready to bake, brush the top and sides of the ring with the egg-milk mixture. Bake the King's Cake in middle of oven at 375° for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Slide cake onto wire rack to cool.
Icing:Combine the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of water in a deep bowl; stir until the icing smooth. If too stiff to spread, beat in 1 teaspoon water at a time, until desired consistency is reached. It should be thin enough to run slowly down the sides of the cake. Spread the icing over the top of the cake, letting it to run down the sides. Prepare the colored sugars:Squeeze a dab of green paste into the palm of one hand. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the paste and rub hands together to color the sugars evenly. Put colored sugar in a cup and repeat process with green, then twice with purple and yellow, putting each color in a separate cup.
Sprinkle the colored sugars over the icing immediately, forming a row of purple, yellow, and green strips, each about 2 inches wide, on both sides of the ring. Arrange cherry halves evenly on top of the cake, pressing them gently into the icing.

Crock-pot Jambalaya

1 pound chicken breasts or tenders, boneless, cut in 1-inch cubes
8 to 12 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons dried leaf oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound shrimp, cooked
2 cups raw rice, cooked

Combine chicken, sausage, chopped bell pepper, and chopped onion in slow cooker. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, wine, oregano, parsley, Cajun seasoning, and pepper; stir gently. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours. About 30 to 45 minutes before eating, add cooked shrimp and hot cooked rice; heat thoroughly.Serves 8.

Now get out there and PARTY!!!!!

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