Reward Offered….Missing Sugar Baby (Mardi Gras Wrap Up)

Last night we did our final mardi gras meal and king cake for the season.  There was much build up after all the recipe testing and fanfare.  I even found these fun mardi gras masks.

After reading an article recently from the SF Chronicle about grits making a comeback in restaurants, I thought I’d try their Shrimp and Grits with Tomato-Bacon Relish for Fat Tuesday dinner.  This was great and did not dissappoint.  I wasn’t able to find yellow grits, so I made white.  I only used half the amount of Tabasco and substituted smoked red pepper powder for the cayenne in the shrimp, as my kids are not always excited about too much spice.  I ended up deconstructing theirs (shrimp without sauce, and grits on the side), as the sauce was still a bit hot for my daughter.  But they really loved the meal, especially the grits with cheddar cheese.  I will make this again and would even make it for guests as it was easy and very pretty, besides tasty.  (See entire recipe below)

The moment everyone was waiting for was the king cake.  I decided I had made the cresent version and the cupcake version and was time to try and compare a traditional version of someone else’s.  And sometimes I have to remind myself that I can’t make everything, all the time.  It was difficult to find a local king cake, but I  called around and ordered one from Arizmendi Bakery in San Rafael.  They were making them for Fat Tuesday only.  This was a good option because while it was still large it wasn’t giant like many of those online and most of the recipes (makes 2 cakes to serve 12 – 18 people).  This was mid-week, after school, Tae Kwon Do and doctor’s appointments, so I would be able to squeeze in a cake pick-up but not a make from scratch cake.

My first impression was “This is lovely and very reasonable at $15.”  While it had all the mardi gras colors, it was somehow not as tacky as many pictured online.  Plus everything from Arizmendi (pizzas, scones, muffins etc) is wonderful.  After out great dinner it was time to cut the cake.  I explained to my family what the baker had told me about the “baby”, and that it was “a baby made out of sugar”.  We were so anxious to see the sugar baby.  We each chose a piece and took a bite.  My next thought was “This cake is great”.  Sweet frosting on top of wonderful layers of brioch.  We found the occassional hole that we thought the baby was hiding, but no.  We only ate about 1/4 of the cake and no one found the baby.  My kids and I were very curious.  We decided to cut the remaining cake into slices. 

Still no baby.  We were still hopeful and not yet ready to wreck the yummy cake.  We waited…

Overnight.  Again after dinner, we each chose a slice.  No baby was found.  It was time to butcher the cake.  We cut the remaining slices into small pieces and we never did find the sugar baby.  However we did find a hole with about 1/8 teaspoon sugar.  Was this once the baby?  Did he melt?  Or was this just another sweet bite and the baby made an escape before baking?  We’ll never know.  This baby didn’t bring us luck, but lots of intrigue. 

Shrimp & Grits With Tomato-Bacon Relish

Serves 4

 From Brenda Vuenviaje, chef-owner of Brenda’s French Soul Food cafe in San Francisco. Prepare the grits – which should be soft and spoonable – with 4 parts salted water and 1 part grits.

  • Tomato-Bacon Relish
  • 1/4 pound smoked bacon
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 medium red onion, about 1/2 cup
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, some juice reserved
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce like Tabasco or Crystal, to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar, or to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar, or to taste
  • — Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • Shrimp & Grits
  • 2 cups prepared grits (Bob’s Red Mill yellow grits preferred)
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, about 2 ounces
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound large shrimp, 26-30 count, peeled and deveined, tails on
  • — Kosher salt, to taste
  • — Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • — Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • — Thinly sliced green onion, for garnish

For the relish: Thinly cut bacon crosswise into lardons about 1/4-inch thick. Cook bacon in a medium-size skillet over medium heat until crispy and fat has rendered. Move bacon to paper towels and reserve. Drain skillet and discard excess fat, while wiping away any burned bits. Add olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook – stirring frequently – until onion is a medium brown color, about three minutes.

Add tomatoes, hot sauce, brown sugar and sherry vinegar then bring to a simmer. Cook briefly until slightly thick, stir in bacon and add salt and pepper to taste. The relish can be made a day or two ahead and kept refrigerated. Makes about 1 cup.

For the shrimp & grits: Preheat oven to 350°. Portion hot grits into 4 large, oven-proof dinner bowls, sprinkle cheddar over and place in oven until melted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Or melt in the microwave, about 30 to 60 seconds per bowl.

Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons oil to a hot saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute briefly until slightly brown. Add shrimp then season with salt, black pepper and cayenne to taste. Saute briefly until edges of shrimp start to turn pink.

Add 1 cup white wine, deglaze pan and cook until wine is reduced by half. Add the Tomato-Bacon Relish and 2 to 3 tablespoons butter. Cook for another minute until sauce is hot and slightly thickened and shrimp are cooked through.

Divide shrimp and sauce into the bowls and garnish with sliced scallion.

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King Cake, Take 2 …Cupcakes

I was searching through more king cake recipes and found one for cupcakes on the king Arthur Flour website.  This was immediately exciting to my kids because they both realized everyone could get their own “baby” (walnut) and luck for the year.   

Since I haven’t tasted anyone else’s king cake version, I still can’t compare.   This cake had a few of the elements of the crescent version – including the cream cheese frosting and the decorative colors.  However these may be my new go to vanilla cupcakes.  The cake was moist and the cream cheese frosting very versatile.  The few unique ingredients that are in a classic brioch like king cake and not in a classic vanilla cupcake are the addition of Fiori di Sicilia (a combo citrus and vanilla flavor) and nutmeg.  I made a few tweaks to the recipe I found online, as there was too much sugar in the frosting, which was plenty sweet enough.  I used a mixture of lemon oil and vanilla extract as I did not have Fiori di Sicilia.

These are great for a mardi gras party with kids, so no one gets left out of the luck.  Just be sure of any potential nut allergies if you use the walnut “baby”.Also good for a small goup or family, rather than making a whole cake.  You can even freeze cooked, unfrosted cupcakes to enjoy another day.  Here’s how to make them…

  Mardi Gras King Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons soft butter
  • 2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia; OR 1 teaspoon vanilla + 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 2 large eggs

Icing

  • 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • colored sugars, preferably purple, yellow, and green
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers.
2)In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.
3) Cut butter into pieces and beat in with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.
4) Combine the milk and vanilla in a small bowl.  Add milk to butter mixture, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.
5) With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Add the second egg, again beating for 30 seconds.
6) Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat briefly, just till smooth.
7) Scoop the batter by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into the prepared muffin tin. A muffin scoop works well here.
8) Bake the cupcakes for 23 to 25 minutes, until they’ve domed, and are a light golden brown around the edges. They’ll spring back when pressed gently on top, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
9) Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and place on a rack to cool completely before icing.
10) To make the icing: Combine the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and lemon oil in a medium-sized bowl, and beat them together until light and fluffy.
11) Add the sugar gradually, beating well.
12)optional – you can 1 – 2 tsp. add milk if frosting is too thick.
13) Spread each cake with icing, and immediately dip in gold, purple, and green sparkling sugars, covering about 1/3 of the cupcake with each color sugar.
14) Store at room temperature for several days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.
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King Cake Take 1

So remember I was going to research and test a King Cake?  Since I wanted to make my own, I decided to try the “simple version” first, as found on a few websites.  Some said to make the filling in a food processor to combine, but I omitted that step and just creamed the ingredients in a bowl.  Even easier.  Also most recipes are to serve a party of 8 – 12 (or even more).  This king cake was only going to my 4 member family, so I reduced ingredients for a smaller version.

I had to not overthink the quick version recipe.  I was going to have to buy cresent roll dough from a can.  I know I’m a snob.  I have never bought this myself however I remember having these many times as a kid and watching and helping my mom open the can and arrange them on baking sheets.  I now introduced my daughter to the can and how to bang it on the counter just right to get the dough to pop out.  She thought it was odd.  However she loved getting her hands in the dough and pinching seams to hold in the filling.  She also chose where to put the “baby” (we used a walnut halve as I didn’t have a plastic baby on hand).  This came in handy later when she was able to choose her piece and (miraculously) she got the “baby” and the luck – much to my son’s dissapproval.  Although he wasn’t around for making the cake and filling, he was there for decorating and had a good time with the colored sugars.  Our cake actually looked tame and healthy compared to photos of others we found online.

Since this method is a common one for making filled coffee cakes or Danish pastry rings, and we weren’t having a Mardi Gras party this evening, I decided to serve it for breakfast the next morning with eggs and fruit.  It was yummy.  And I think I’d make the filling again to spread on bagels and toast.
 
Filling:
2 ounces cream cheese

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons raisins, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, drained, and patted dry on paper towels

1/4 cup chopped pecan pieces

Cake:

1 roll refrigerated crescent rolls in the can

Icing:

3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar 

2 to 3 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Purple, green, and yellow colored sugar crystals or food coloring

To make the filling:  In a small bowl, cream together cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Add peacan pieces. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line and grease a baking sheet.

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 on the baking sheet. 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.

Spread the filling around in a ring covering the center sealed seam of each triangle.

Place a small plastic baby or nut somewhere in the filling. (The person who gets this piece will have good luck for the year and has to supply next year’s cake.)

Fold the short 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.

To make icing:  Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk or cream, and vanilla until smooth. The consistency should be fairly thick, but still thin enough to slowly drip down the sides. Add more milk as necessary. Spoon the icing in a ring over the top of the King Cake and allow it to slowly drip down the sides.

To decorate sprinkle wide stripes of purple (denoting justice), green (faith), and yellow (power) with colored sugars.

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Fat Tuesday, with Organic Jambalaya and Citrus Corn Muffins Recipe

From Lisa Barnes

Before having children my husband and I always managed to celebrate Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday in the local southern restaurant/bar. We love New Orleans – the people, the jazz, the food, the food, the food….  We haven’t been in a few years (pre Katrina) so we use any excuse to celebrate and bring attention to the great city at our house. Unfortuantely some of our favorite cajun restaurants are gone from San Francisco. If anyone can make a suggestion in the Bay Area, please let me know.

Fat Tuesday at our house will start with my kids and I making festive feather masks and donning our colorful beads. Next we will sit down to one of our favorite meals of jambalaya with corn muffins.  Every night at the dinner table my family has a ritual. Each person (no matter how young) shares three things they are thankful for, along with telling everyone the favorite part of their day. For Fat Tuesday we will be especially thankful and remember the people who lost their family, friends, homes and jobs, and who continue to struggle in the areas hit by Katrina.

Years ago I bought a souvenir cookbook on one of our New Orleans visits. It is very well used with stains and dog eared pages, but it still works great. I changed a favorite jambalaya recipe to one that is child friendly and not too hot (although you can make adjustments) for my own book. Enjoy!

Organic Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya Recipe

Jambalaya is an easy one pot meal to make for the whole family. In the South this is considered a major comfort food.  For a spicier meal, substitute a Cajun Andouille sausage. This one is less spicy, for little mouths, and more health conscious than authentic Jambalaya recipes. But there are plenty of flavors from all of the fresh ingredients. Serve with citrus-corn muffins, below.

2 tablespoons expeller pressed canola oil
½ pound organc chicken-apple sausage, cut into ½ inch slices
1 small onion, chopped, about ½ cup
1 large organic red bell pepper, chopped, about 1 cup
1 clove garlic, minced
1¾ cups organic chicken broth
3 medium vine ripened tomatoes, or 8 ounces of Pomi tomatoes, drained and chopped
¼ cup Pomi tomato sauce
1 Bay leaf
¼ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon chopped, fresh oregano
1 cup uncooked short grain brown rice
1 large (3/4 pound) boneless, skinless organic chicken breast, cut in 2 inch strips

In a large, heavy stockpot heat oil over medium-high heat.

Add sausage, onion, pepper and garlic. Stir together and cook 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in broth, tomatoes, bay leaf, and spices.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in rice. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken, cover and simmer 5 additional minutes until chicken is cooked and rice is tender. Let stand, covered 10 minutes. Remove Bay leaf before serving.

One to watch and wash!  A one pot meal is a great time saver. All the ingredients can be prepped beforehand (even the night before) and then added when ready. Only one pot means one pot to watch when cooking and only one to wash when finished.

Organic Citrus-Corn Muffins Recipe

This savory muffin is inspired from a spa recipe. These muffins make a great accompaniment to family soups and salads, as well as the perfect healthy snack for active toddlers. You can bake these in adult size or mini muffin tins. If using mini tins, reduce baking time to 10 -12 minutes.

1 tablespoon grated organic orange zest (about 2 medium oranges)
2 cups unbleached flour
½ cup organic cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 large, cage- free, organic eggs
½ cup organic light brown sugar, packed
½ cup mashed organic banana, (about 1 large banana)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease 12 cup standard muffin tin or 24 cup mini muffin tin with vegetable oil. Using a small knife or zester, remove zest from oranges.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, brown sugar, banana and zest. Mix well.

Using a rubber spatula, fold wet buttermilk mixture into flour mixture. Be careful not to over mix, as muffins will be tough. Spoon batter into muffin cups, about ¾ full.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until muffins are brown on top and pick test (see below) is successful. Remove muffin tin from oven and place on wire rack to cool. Turn out muffins onto rack to cool completely. If muffins stick to pan, run a dull knife around edge of muffins and pan to release.

Makes 18 large muffins or 36 mini muffins.

Get picky! Keep toothpicks or small wooden skewers on hand to check muffins and other baked goods for doneness. Simply insert pick in center, and when comes out clean, muffins are done.

~
See also Lisa’s Quick Organic Snacks For Kids
~~
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry [Avail. March 2009], and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Nola.com
OrganicToBe.org | OrganicToGo.com

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