Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!


Did you see these cute little Peep Heart Marshmallows at Target?  They made the perfect addition to some Valentine's hot chocolate this morning.  Ahhhhh...... I love life's simple pleasures!

Happy Valentine's Day!

xo
Rachel

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Surviving Winter



The key to surviving a Minnesota winter, it turns out, is not snuggling under a blanket and sitting by the fire.  The key to surviving a Minnesota winter is bundling up and playing outside.  This includes ice skating.  Every single person in the north owns a pair of ice skates.  It's required by state law.  And the winter ritual of taking one's skates to get sharpened at, say, Hisdahl's, a converted house with gingerbread trim, makes it quite apparent that, Dorothy, we're not in Georgia anymore.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

History of the King Cake


If you are from The South, especially near New Orleans, there's a good chance you've eaten a King Cake.  King Cakes are traditionally eaten during Mardi Gras, the period between Epiphany and Lent.  The cake is a brioche-style cake similar to a giant cinnamon roll with a delicious, sweet glaze.

To understand the significance of the King Cake, you need to backtrack.  To Christmas.  That's right.  Just when you thought you finally got your last ornament tucked away.  It's back!  If December 25th is the First Day of Christmas (thing Partridge in a Pear Tree) then January 6th is the 12th Day of Christmas.  On the Christian Church calendar, this day is also known as Epiphany, or King's Day.  King's Day is the day when the Christian Church celebrates the Wise Mens' (or the Three Kings') journey to see baby Jesus.  

The King Cake tradition in the United States is believed to have begun with French settlers around  the year 1870.  These French settlers were continuing a custom dating back to the Twelfth Century in France when a similar cake was used to celebrate the coming of the Magi (or Kings) who bore gifts for the Christ Child.  As a symbol of this holy day, a tiny plastic baby (symbolic of baby Jesus) is placed inside the cake.  It is hidden because The Kings had to search for the baby Jesus.  The round shape of the cake portrays the circular route taken by the Magi in order to confuse King Herod. At the time, his  army was attempting to follow the Wise Men so that the Christ Child, who Herod viewed as a threat to his throne, might be killed.

The cake is decorated with colored sugar in the traditional Mardi-Gras colors of purple (symbolizing Justice), green (symbolizing Faith) and gold (symbolizing Power). This colorful topping is representative of a jeweled crown in honor of The Three Wise Men who visited the Christ Child on Epiphany.

In places such as New Orleans, King's Day also marks the beginning of the Mardi Gras (or Carnival) season which culminates on the day before Ash Wednesday.  This day is called Mardi Gras which is French for Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday refers to the practice of "the last chance" to eat richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season. Now don't be confused. The practice of "Mardi Gras" is nowhere to be found in the Bible.  Fat Tuesday is a tradition which was started in the 1700's, brought from France to New Orleans as an excuse to "overindulge" before the "fast" of the Lenten season.  The Lenten season starts on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days until Easter.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentine Owl S'mores


 You might remember these super cute Owl S'mores from Amy at Living Locurto.  Well, since I'm still in love with owls, I decided to update them for Valentine's Day!


Just a few switcheroos on the ingredients, and you have the perfect Valentine's treat!


I know my kids are going to love them!


Friday, February 8, 2013

Bacon Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese


Back by popular demand.....  You may remember a similar post I did last year about these scrumptious bites of ambrosia.  Recently, I found the original recipe, which I got from my friend Libby, and made this version for the Super Bowl!   Sweet and salty, creamy, crunchy and chewy, these would make the perfect finger food for you and your sweetheart!

Goat Cheese Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Dates

Ingredients

  • 12 slices of bacon
  • 24 large Medjool dates
  • 3 ounces of Chevre (goat cheese)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup Pecans, chopped
  • 24 wooden toothpicks
  • Either 1/4 cup soy sauce plus 1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar or 1/4 cup maple syrup
Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Slit the dates lengthwise along one side using a sharp paring knife.  Gently remove the pits and discard.

Combine the cheese, chopped nuts and honey.  Put 1 tsp of filling into the cavity of each date.

Cut the bacon slices in half, crosswise.  Place bacon on two sheet pans and bake for about 5 minutes until no longer sticks to the pan and releases easily.  cook until the edges just begin to brown and the slices are about half done.  Remove the bacon from the pan while still limp.  Drain on paper towels.

Wrap one slice around each date.  Secure the bacon with a toothpick to keep in in place.

Mix the soy sauce and brown sugar in a small bowl.  Place the wrapped dates on the rack of a broiling pan.  Using a pastry brush, lightly swab the wrapped dates with the soy sauce mixture.

**Note:  I used maple syrup instead of the soy sauce mixture, but they  both taste great!

Bake for about 10 minutes, then remove from the oven.  Turn the appetizers and brush the soy mixture on the other side.  Continue to bake until your bacon wrapped date appetizers are golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes more.




Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Super Easy Football Brownies


Pin It for next year!  I always have a dozen party ideas swarming in my head, but when it comes down to the wire, the easy ones usually win!  These football brownies were a last minute edition to Sunday's Super Bowl line-up, but nearly every kid under age 80 took one!

Look how easy they are.



Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies are my go-to basic brownie mix because A) They are super moist and delicious and B) I can get them at Costco. Sigh. I love Costco.


This is my half-sheet pan.  It's the perfect size for a big batch of brownies.  I mixed together a triple batch of 8x8 inch pan brownie batter and poured it all in.  The parchment-lined pan sprayed with cooking oil is the key to removing the brownies later.  It's kind of like wearing belts and suspenders.  You just don't want your brownies to stick to the pan.


While the brownies are baking, locate your football cookie cutter.  I know you have one.  If not, draw a template and cut it out.  If you are cutting out the brownies with a knife rather than stamping them with a cookie cutter, use a PLASTIC knife.  I don't know the science behind why the  brownie doesn't stick to the knife, it just doesn't.


If you are using your football cookie cutter, spray it with cooking spray.


Stamp out your footballs and watch all your kids walk by, including your husband, and listen to them say, "What are you going to do all with the scraps?"  Watch the horror in their face when you casually say you're just going to throw then in the garbage, but then secretly save them for Brownie Truffles.  Valentine's Day is just around the corner!


Using melted white chocolate, pipe an outline and some football laces.
How cute is that?