Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday!

Hello everyone in digital pixel land! It is I your host for however long you plan to stick around and read what I have to say. So originally my next post was going to be about geocaching, and I promise that in the near future there will be such a post, I just want it to include some videos and pictures that I have yet to take. So! As the weather hasn't been too permitting this year as of yet, you're stuck with some information on Mardi Gras.

So today is Fat Tuesday. Interestingly enough I had no idea what this supposed holiday was before one of the guys on the floor approached me and asked me if I was partaking in the pot luck that was planned for the next day. After agreeing I promptly went home to look up just what this whole thing was about.

It turns out that Fat Tuesday is actually Mardi Gras. Does that sound a bit more familiar? I'm the one who's supposed to know French and even then it didn't click with me. Mardi = Tuesday and Gras = Fat. Simple? Good. Moving on.

Mardi Gras is the last day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. It turns out that this particular day is just an excuse to party big time before the ritual fasting begins. With that in mind I figured I would get into the spirit of things and hunted down the perfect recipe for the party. I came across an interesting little pastry and I decided I wanted to try called the Mardi Gras King Cake.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Apparently, the Mardi Gras King Cake is a rather famous dessert that is found in every shop during Mardi Gras. The tradition is that you bake the cake and while it's hot stuff a plastic baby into it somewhere, symbolizing baby Jesus. The person who gets the piece of cake with the baby inside either has to make the cake next year or host the party or something to that degree. As I was making this for a work function I opted out of stuffing a baby into the cake and went with the just desserts. SO! How did it turn out?

I think it went great over all - I'm a little disappointed that it dried out after it was cut because it was sitting out on the table, but I had a piece of it (several in fact) and they were great. I was even more disappointed at the people unwilling to even try it because it had pecans in it. Makes me wish I hadn't put them in there. Because of that fact I'll be working on designing another version of this cake without the pecans just to make the nut haters happy. Me personally? If I make it for Shawn and I again I'll be leaving them in. So take that nutters!





Mardi Gras King Cake

Ingredients

  • PASTRY:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • FILLING:
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

  • FROSTING:
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

  1. Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  5. To Make Filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
  6. Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners' sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.
My Take: (And yes I'm stealing this from you Shy...)

So this wasn't nearly as hard to make as I feared it would be. Essentially what I realized is that this was more of a heavy sweet bread than a cake really which was kind of neat. But, it involved kneading the dough and letting it rise and working with it some more and letting it rise again which was different for me. Having never made bread before I imagined this was going to be a lot tougher. I was pleased to find it wasn't.

I did, however, change a few things. The first was that I halved the entire recipe. Why? Because this is A LOT OF CAKE otherwise. I mean if you plan to feed a load of people at a party or something then by all means, go for it. But, as I feared, I knew this wasn't going to be a very big hit at work and Shawn and I are bad at eating stuff like this in a timely manner around the house so I wanted less cake to waste. I found it to be quite successful so if you want to halve the recipe you can and it doesn't take away from the final product.

I also used milk instead of butter in the glaze that goes on top of the cake. I found it to be much creamier. However, the next time I make this I will not be halving the frosting as well. I found I didn't have enough glaze and longed for more.

On top of the glaze I made my own colored sugar in the Mardi Gras colors, and I almost wish I hadn't. It was more about the texture than anything else and having those colors, while festive, annoyed me more than anything. The picture of the cake I found had the colored sugar on it and thought that was really neat. I even had fun shaking the bejeebus out of a container with food coloring and sugar in it. But the final product wasn't worth it. Next time I plan on coloring the glaze itself and pouring it over the top and that should be enough if I ever color it again. Otherwise just the glaze was pretty and tasty.

For the next time, I will be shaving about 5 minutes off the cook time. While thirty minutes gave me a very nice dark and crispy crunch it was just almost too dark. So next time I plan to watch it a little more. I think less baking will help keep the insides nice and moist.

Also, next time - I want to use Applesauce instead of butter. And along with that I want to make more of the filling to put inside. The cake itself was good, but that filling, that was just amazing and with the applesauce I'm going to be begging for more of it. Not to mention it's much healthier to use the applesauce instead of the butter. Might as well. Not to mention something about Apple, Cinnamon, Raisin filling sounds AMAZING!

Anyways, there you have it.

Happy Fat Tuesday everyone!

Cassie

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Starting over...

Hello everyone, or rather hello to the few people who may or may not stop by and see my blog. I apologize for my extended absence. I would usually have a long list of excuses to insert as to why I haven't been around to post anything but I don't see the point in wasting our time. So let me just say that it feels good to be back.

So, in the last few months I've picked back up on a novel that I started sometime ago. I'm not sure why I out it down but the good news is that I'm back in the game. It's a slow process which is strange to me since back in my big time writing days I was always so quick but I blame that on the length of my chapters and the quality of my work. I'm a much more complicated and mature writer now that time has passed for me. Not to mention the full time job that I have trying to support both my husband and myself. Times are tough for us at the moment, but I am grateful for my friends who have really uplifted me in the more recent days. The book I'm working on is called "The Other Side" and if anyone shows interest I will post a synopsis (since I have yet to write one) and chapters. I know I don't have many readers but I am really hoping to change that. If there is enough interest I will share with everyone what I've been slaving away on which is new for me. I've always been so shy about my works that the idea of offering it up to be read by other people is a very scary step but this I am really proud of. I hope someone takes interest.

I'm also working on two crochet projects with the likelihood of picking up more. My dear sweet cousin in South Carolina has started a business of photography specializing in infants. As such she has recruited me to crochet her all kinds of little hats and diaper covers. My dilemma is that I'm having a really hard time finding patterns. Sure, there are all kinds of free patterns on the internet that I have slaved hours and hours trying to find but I'm having a hard time finding exactly what she wants me to be making for her. Specifically an aviator hat for a baby. I can't find that anywhere, not even in books that I've checked out for purchase. I'm half tempted to ask the owners of the page where she saw them to see where they got their pattern. I just have to remember the name of the site now.

So as I mentioned before:
two projects. Currently I'm working on a blanket for a friend at work which you will see a square of on the right here. The way this blanket works is you make all the little squares then sew them together. I think since my ability to sew is not as good as my talent for Crochet that I will me crocheting the pieces together. It will give them some ridges but I think it adds character more than anything else.

The second project is another doily which you will see on the right
here. I started it yesterday out of boredom and got pretty far. I'm just about done with the ocean color in the center. However, I'm having trouble with it rippling which is a bummer. I think maybe my stitch is too tight which is causing it to happen. I've made the smaller 5 point doily of this pattern already and had the same trouble so with this one I tried to crochet looser. That didn't work out so well unfortunately. Oh well, it's good practice and I want a full set of these doilies.

Well that's all for now. My next blog is going to be all about the great world of geocaching for those who don't already know what it is. Now that the weather is getting warmer I have plans to go much more often than I already am. I'm so excited!

~Cassie

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Long Time No See...

Hello World!

My apologies for not having posted since Christmas. Not that most of my time has been very very busy, but every time I've gone to make a post, something small has always distracted me.

This last week however has been a tough one. The world lost Christina Wallerstedt on January 9th, and the week that proceeded was filled with preparations for her farewell and funeral. The week ended with the death of one of my Sugar Gliders, Pete, who I will post a picture of once I get home tonight after work. He was the first one my husband and I had together, which has made his death all the more difficult. I think that and the fact that we just had Christina's funeral as well has made this week an emotional roller coaster.

Everything has been on pause, all of my projects, my writing...my life, and I feel like finally I might be able to get things going again, hopefully. I know in the next blog I put together, whenever that is, I intend to put some writing up here on this thing. We've seen enough of my crocheting for now. I'm just looking for some inspiration as I have a novel to complete and get published! (Yah...right.)

Well, that's all I can really think of for now.
Until we meet again,
Cassie

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Yes I realize it's Christmas Eve but as I have volunteered to work on the day of the festivities today is the day I will be celebrating Christmas. Money has been more than tight, so having been unable to provide many Christmas presents I hope that my greatest gift to my family will be the cooking I have done since before I even went to bed last night.

Let me start by saying what all I did last night. I baked nearly 10 dozen sugar cookies for everyone. They aren't just ordinary cookies though, they are very special because they are my Grandmother's recipe. See, for the holidays my grandma goes to South Carolina now, which means we don't get to see her at all. Her absence has left a hole in our hearts that I hope to fill up a little bit by giving everyone what they look forward to the most: grandma's sugar cookies. See what makes them so very special is how unlike ordinary sugar cookies they are. To explain the taste and texture of them would be very difficult, so I will reside in saying you must try them to understand what I mean. They are a very special addition to our family and as you see them on the right they are exactly as my grandma makes them. I think having them for the holidays helps us cope with the fact that she's not here with us to celebrate such a momentous occasion. Do I blame her for wanting to escape the Winter Weather? Absolutely not. I just miss her.

Well as I sit here and type this up, my mother's trailer is filled with the smells of pumpkin pie that I just pulled out of the oven and plan to give a few hours to cool down. As you can see on the left here, it turned out fantastically. This is one of the two pies that I baked this afternoon. All I'm waiting for now is the stroke of 4 to start peeling potatoes and get the sweet potatoes into the oven so they have at least an hour to bake. My mother and I bought an enormous 24 pound turkey yesterday which is in a roasting oven on the counter on the other side of the kitchen. I can hear it cooking now. Another hour or so and it should be done as well. Dinner is at 5:30PM and so far everything is on time for the most part. All I have left is mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and gravy. Oh and fruit salad! Sure it seems a lot like Thanksgiving dinner was but who cares. Not everyone has to be traditional.

Well fellow bloggers, this is me signing out. Wish me luck to get everything finished in time. And pray I have the patience to put up with so many family members in one place for an extended period of time...

Feliz Navidad!
Cassie

Monday, December 13, 2010

Just Another Day In Paradise...

I used the beginning title because today I counted a coworker who sits in ear shot of me saying this phrase to technicians on the phone a total of 18 times during my shift today. Now if you take into consideration the fact that we only have a span of about 2 hours in which we work at the same time, I would say his overuse of the phrase is quite substantial. Still - The fact that I was able to follow through and count the number of its uses will put into perspective the kind of day I've had so far.

Boring...

Oh well, we'll have those from time to time. Now that the weekend is over it's back to the usual routine. I've really got to start showering at night though because I'm really really tired of my hair freezing before I get to work. that is the bad side of not using a blow dryer in the morning before going to work. My hair
is typically a bit damp before my day begins which wouldn't be a big deal if it wasn't below freezing outside. I can't imagine that's any better for my hair than blow drying it. What can I say? I'm lazy. I just can't justify waking up a half hour earlier than I already do just to pointlessly blow dry my hair.

So my latest project is a pair of socks for a woman that I work with. She requested them for her Step Mother. I'm not quite finished yet, but I figured I would at least post what I have thus far for your viewing pleasure. That way you can follow my progress. To the left is the beginnings of the ribbed cuff. Eventually this piece gets connected from beginning to end to form a tube. As you can see the requested colors were pink and gray. I can't say they're my favorite two colors to go together (and for those of you who know me, know I hate the color
pink), but once I got started on the project I was pleasantly surprised to find a humble mesh of the two. I've been using Caron Simply Soft Medium sized yarn in Plum Wine and Grey Heather colors. Did I mention that Michaels had an amazing sale on Yarn the other day? Did I buy a load more yarn? Hecks yah I did.

To the right you'll see the original striped stitch has been made into the tube and in gray beneath it the heal has been attached. At this point the pl
um wine yarn is worked in rounds connecting the rest of the tubing to the heel itself. All that I have left now is to finish the rounds until it's long enough for the requested size foot (in this case a woman's 9) and then the toe can be connected. Then VOILA! 1 sock done. You know I've done this pattern so many times I could probably do it in my sleep now. In this case I had to make the ankle a few rows shorter as the woman I am making them for has particularly skinny ankles. I'm a bit nervous that overall it may be a bit too small. I'm going on the fact that this style of stitch has some room to stretch a little though. Cross your fingers! I'll post the completed project when it's all done. I really gotta get on it and finish these socks soon. So many projects before Christmas! WHICH IS NEXT WEEK!

Can you believe the holiday season is upon us? I mean we just had Thanksgiving and all, but next week is Christmas! I'll be working of course as we really could use the money as my husband hasn't found any work y
et. Holiday pay is a glorious thing. I'm not too concerned though. The fact that I get off work at 3PM is nice. That and my wonderful family will be celebrating Christmas on the 24th instead of the 25th to accommodate my work plans. I love my family.

Well, I would say that's enough from me for one day. Keep your eyes out, I'll be around soon!



Cassie



Edit:

Well instead of making an entirely new blog post, I figured I would place the finished product at the bottom of this one. There you have it folks! One of two socks completed! Hopefully I'll have the other one done in the next few days.



Saturday, December 11, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TONY!

Hello everyone!

I know that it's not formal to be doing more than one post in a day, but after the unexpected and wonderful evening I've had, I definitely wanted to make sure I shared it.

SO! With the weather that we feared was coming tonight, my plans to go to the Holiday Party at work were ruined. I will be the first to admit that I am terrified to drive in the snow. Well adverse weather in general terrifies me. Even the rain...Ugh. I'm a wuss I know. I don't know if it was the year I lived in Colorado and the monstrous weather they out there or what, but when it comes to bad stuff I stay home whenever I can. Heather wound up giving me a ring around 11 or so this morning with the idea of getting together for dinner to make some awesome soup - Which I will say was really really good. I didn't take any pictures of it, but Heather and I had a blast making it. I'll post the recipe another time if anyone is interested. Anyways - we were sitting down and eating when Tony called us and wanted to come over to celebrate his birthday. I tell ya, loads of birthdays today - Shawn's parents and Tony! Was a great day of celebrating.

Tony and Sarah showed up and after ordering some chinese came the brilliance of playing Just Dance 2. For those of you who don't know what that game is? Look it up. You literally follow the little figure on the screen while they dance around like maniacs - At least we looked like maniacs trying to keep up with them. I think the comment of the night was "I've never seen Tony move that way before..." I tell ya, not my initial plan for the evening, but a fantastic outcome. I just worry about people leaving here and driving around. ::Sigh.:: Let's hope we all end up where we're supposed to be. I've attached the hilarity of the evening. Enjoy!



video video

Oh The Weather Outside is Frightful -

- But the fire is so delightful!

No really it is. We lit a fire last night and when we woke up it still had embers going in the fireplace. So my husband tossed some wood on it, used this little air pump to blow on the embers and BOOM new fire! Which is good too, considering this is the first time all year we finally have snow on the ground. Can you believe it? December 11th and we're just now getting our first snow. To the left is a picture I took from our patio. As you can see we don't have a whole bunch of it but holy crap it's cold outside. Not to mention the sidewalk and the like is totally covered in ice. Makes me afraid of what the streets are like. Oh well, Shawn and I went on our last enjoyable walk in this weather yesterday with Sassy. Now I'm sad to say the one's from here on our will be too cold to really enjoy considering how far we actually walk. Two miles by my last count - And Sassy is STILL not totally worn out when it's over. I tell ya. Now I'm worried about my little girl getting too cold outside. So it's back to the sweater I made her when she was a puppy. I'll have to make a few more adjustments to it though so it'll fit her properly. I've attached another picture here. I believe Sassy was about 6 months old when this was taken. She's wearing the sweater I crocheted for her. Now that Sassy is going on 4, I've obviously had to make it a bit bigger for her. The other side of the sweater has a little Hawkeye on it. Yes, we're a family of Hawkeye fans and my husband and I both have matching sweaters, so naturally I had to make one for Sassy. I used Redheart Medium Worsted Yarn Black and Gold to make it. Thankfully I made it adjustable since I knew I would be making it bigger as my puppy grew up. You can't hardly tell but she looks so small there...

So Shawn and I went outside a bit ago and took Sassy with us. She, of course, still loves the snow even as an adult. It was flurrying while we were out there, but it doesn't look like it's doing it anymore, which is good. I hear we're supposed to get another 3-5 inches overnight. Remind me to wake up early in the morning so I can get my car cleaned off without much trouble. I get to work nice and early at 6AM. What I'm really disappointed about is that my work's Christmas Party is tonight. The weather has me afraid to go, because let me tell you, I hate driving in snowy weather.

Well then, provided all loads properly, I leave you with a video of Sassy in the snow, December 11th, 2010!


video

<3 Cassie