AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE – HAPPY 4TH OF JULY

Independence Day or 4th of July as we call it has only been a federal holiday since 1941, but of course the tradition dates back to 1776 when the Continental Congress voted on July 2nd in favor of Independence. Two days later delegates from all thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, and celebrated their independence and the birth of a nation on July 4th.

Since July 4th falls in mid summer, the celebrations major focus usually includes leisure activities, parades, concerts, backyard barbecues, games, bonfires and family gatherings culminating in fireworks later at night.

When the Revolutionary War broke out back in 1775, a few colonists wanted complete independence from Great Britain. These colonists were considered to be the radicals of their time.

However, more and more colonists came to believe in favor of independence. Many because of Thomas Paine’s famous writing “Common Sense” which he published in early 1776.

In June 1776, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion that called for the colonies’ independence. A heated debate followed and Congress postponed the vote to his resolution. At that time they appointed a committee of five men, Thomas Jefferson (Virginia), John Adams (Massachusetts), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Roger Sherman Connecticut) and Robert R, Livingston (New York) to draft a formal statement justifying the break from Great Britain.

On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Independence in a near unanimous vote. New York abstained, but later voted yes.

John Adams wrote to his wife that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” He believed that the American Independence celebration should occur on July 2nd since that was the day of the vote to secure it and would reportedly turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest.

Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson dies on the 4th of July, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Before the Revolutionary war, colonists would hold celebrations in honor of the king’s birthday. These celebrations included the ringing of bells, bonfires, parades and speeches. After the adoption of the Declaration of Independence these same colonists celebrated the birth of their independence by holding mock funerals for King George III as a symbol of the end of the British hold on America and a triumph to their new found liberty.
Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777. Festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence.

The war was still going on and George Washington issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778, and in 1781, several months before the key American victory at Yorktown, Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.

After the Revolutionary War and to this day, Americans continue to commemorate Independence Day every year, in celebrations that allow the new nation’s emerging political leaders to address citizens and create a feeling of unity. The tradition of patriotic celebration became even more widespread after the War of 1812. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday. Over the years, the political importance of the holiday has declined somewhat, but IndepThe most common symbol of the holiday is the American flag, and a common musical accompaniment is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States.

And did you know New York City has the biggest fireworks display in the United States and that three U.S. presidents died on July 4?

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HAPPY FATHER’S DAY

 My Daddy was the best!

He loved me even when I was at my worst and taught me to be my best.

He gave me strength ALWAYS.

He taught me about life and how to do for myself as well how to respect others, take pride in being myself, having a strong work ethic and loving without fear.

Losing him so close to father’s day 24 years ago has made all the father’s days since bittersweet.

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MEMORIAL DAY STEAK MARINADE

Remember why we celebrate this weekend.
It is NOT for the Monday off, , it’s NOT national BBQ day, it’s NOT for sales and so forth.
It IS for the veterans who gave their ALL for you to live a better and free life.

Have a safe and happy memorial weekend, but remember to thank a VETERAN.

Do NOT forget Memorial Day is ACTUALLY May 30th, not the Monday you are off, so think about it and thank that veteran on the actual day also when their sacrifices are most prevalent in their minds.

 

Here at our house, Memorial Day is a somber occasion after all the years hubby spent in the military, but we DO BBQ too. This is my go to steak marinade or marinade for ANYTHING going on the grill.

STEAK MARINADE
1/3 cup BRAGG’S liquid aminos
1/2 cup avocado oil
Juice of 2 large lemons
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 tablespoons fresh dried basil
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon Frank’s Original red pepper sauce
1 clove black garlic

  • Combine everything in a small food processor or bullet, blending until well mixed.
  • Pour mixture over meat, turning to coat.
  • Marinade 8-24 hours.
  • Drain off marinade.
  • Grill and Enjoy!

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PINEAPPLE CARROT TOP BROWN SUGAR GLAZED HAM and ALL the FIXIN’s

So we changed our mind and stayed home for Easter dinner. We decided it’s just too busy around here and we didn’t want to fight the crowds.  Fortunately, we decided on Wednesday night so I was able to shop on Thursday and NOT fight the crowds in the markets.

PINEAPPLE CARROT TOP BROWN SUGAR GLAZED HAM
1 spiral sliced ham 8-10 pounds
1 jar pineapple preserves
1/2 cup minced carrot tops
2 cups brown sugar

  • Add the ham to the slow cooker, trimming off the bottom as needed to fit it into the slow cooker Add the trimmed fat pieces around the ham in the slow cooker.  They will help keep the moisture level up.
  • Whisk together preserves and minced carrot tops.
  • Spread glaze on ham.
  • Cover with the brown sugar.
  • Cook on low for 2-3 hours.
  • Cover with a light covering of brown sugar and serve.

ROASTED CARROTS AND ASPARAGUS with BERNAISE SAUCE
3 large carrots, sliced thinly and diagonally
3-4 stalks asparagus, per person, trimmed and cut into pieces
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper, to taste
1 batch Bernaise sauce

  • Bring a double boiler of water to a boil.
  • Add butter, salt and pepper to water.
  • Add carrots and asparagus to vegetable steamer.
  • Cover and steam 15-20 minutes until crisp tender.
  • Top with sauce and serve immediately.

BERNAISE SAUCE
1 tablespoon plus 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
3 tablespoons minced shallots
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 large egg yolks
Juice of 1 large fresh lemon
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon

  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add shallots and a pinch of salt and pepper; stir to coat.
  • Stir in vinegar, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until vinegar is evaporated, 3-4 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to low and continue cooking shallots, stirring frequently, until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes longer.
  • Transfer shallot reduction to a small bowl and let cool completely.
  • Meanwhile, fill a blender with hot water to warm it; set aside.
  • Melt remaining 1 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is foamy.
  • Transfer butter to a measuring cup.
  • Drain blender and dry well.
  • Combine egg yolks, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon water in warm, dry blender.
  • Purée mixture until smooth.
  • With blender running, slowly pour in hot butter in a thin stream of droplets, discarding milk solids at bottom of measuring cup. Blend until smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes.
  • Pour sauce into a medium bowl stirring in shallot reduction and tarragon.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature. I prefer fresh if your time allows.


POTATOES AU GRATIN
1/2 cup butter
16 oz. whipping cream
5 large russet potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic (jar) or 1 clove
2 cups grated 4 white cheese mix (Gruyere, Muenster, etc…)
2 cups rates sharp cheddar
Wondra Flour

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Peel and thinly slice potatoes.
  • Grease 9×13 baking dish.
  • In a large sauce pan, melt the butter.
  • Gradually add the whipping cream and spices. Blend well.
  • Gradually add the flour until the mixture thickens, but it is still pourable!
  • Mix the cheeses all together.
  • Layer the potatoes, cheese and cream mixture ending with cheese on top.
  • Bake 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and golden brown.

I developed this recipe for a request from our youngest and it quickly became a family favorite.

Dessert was a recent inspiration from a new restaurant.  Tony Mandola’s Gulf Coast Kitchen is a fantastic place.  We had the BEST waiter who made our meal so enjoyable while he treated us to dessert and the history of two restaurant families (Carrabas Italian Grill and Ninfas Mexican Cantina) melding together to create this restaurant. I couldn’t find a recipe so I kind of made it up as I went and came VERY close.

BANANA KEY LIME PIE

1 large firm banana, sliced thin
1/4 cup Malibu rum
1 graham cracker crumb crust
14 ounce can Eagle sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks + 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup Key Lime Juice

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Soak banana slices in rum.
  • Pat banana slices dry.
  • Combine milk, egg yolks, sugar and lime juice, beating until smooth like custard.
  • Layer banana slices in a layer on top of graham cracker crust.
  • Top with custard and bake 12-15 minutes until JUST barely set.
  • Cool 10 minutes.
  • Move to refrigerator, chilling several hours before serving.
  • Top with whipped cream.

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GOOD FRIDAY and a simple definition

Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary and is observed during Holy Week on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday. It may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover. It is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, Black Friday or Easter Friday.

While Easter is a legal holiday, the date of the holiday on the Gregorian calendar varies from one year to the next, and there is quite a bit of disagreement about its calculation. Some countries even have laws prohibiting certain acts, such as dancing and horse racing, that are seen as profaning the solemn nature of the day.

Good Friday for Christians is a crucial day of the year because it celebrates what we believe to be the most momentous weekend in the history of the world, commemorating a day of suffering and death for Jesus. Christians have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation. On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Good Friday is followed by Easter Sunday which is the glorious celebration of the day Jesus rose from the dead.

Good Friday marks the day when God’s wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so Good.

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CORNED BEEF HASH – use your ST. PATRICK’S DAY leftovers

CORNED BEEF HASH
We like ours crisp so I use more of small dice/shredded mixture.   Cut yours according to your tastes.

about 1 pound left over corned beef, diced and shredded
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound cooked potatoes, diced
1 large bunch green onions, sliced
fresh ground pink Himalayan salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add onions, cooking a minute or two until translucent.
  • Add corned beef and potatoes.
  • Add seasoning and Worcestershire sauce, stirring and scraping bottom as necessary.
  • Serve with poached or fried eggs.

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KING CAKE for MARDI GRAS

So Mardi Gras ends Tuesday and I thought this would be a good time to run this recipe for Mardis Gras King Cake. I threw in some history for you also since King Cake isn’t just for Mardi Gras though that is what it is most famous for these days.  I do have to admit I made this cake a few years back when we were living in Texas during Mardi Gras season though since then I have made it for Epiphany without the Mardi Gras colors and using traditional Christmas colors.

A king cake (sometimes rendered as kingcake, kings’ cake, king’s cake, or three kings cake) is a type of cake associated with the festival of Epiphany in the Christmas season in a number of countries, and in other places with Mardi Gras and Carnival.

The “king cake” takes its name from the biblical three kings. Catholic tradition states that their journey to Bethlehem took twelve days (the Twelve Days of Christmas), and that they arrived to honor the Christ Child on Epiphany. The season for king cake extends from the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Twelfth Night and Epiphany Day), through to Mardi Gras day. Some organizations or groups of friends may have “king cake parties” every week through the Carnival season.

Related culinary traditions are the tortell of Catalonia, the gâteau des Rois in Provence or the galette des Rois in the northern half of France, and the Greek and Cypriot vasilopita. The galette des Rois is made with puff pastry and frangipane (while the gâteau des Rois is made with brioche and candied fruits). A little bean was traditionally hidden in it, a custom taken from the Saturnalia in the Roman Empire: the one who stumbled upon the bean was called “king of the feast.” In the galette des Rois, since 1870 the beans have been replaced first by porcelain and, now by plastic figurines; while the gâteau des Rois Also known as “Rosca de Reyes” in Mexico.

In the southern United States, the tradition was brought to the area by colonists from France and Spain and it is associated with Carnival, which is celebrated in the Gulf Coast region, centered on New Orleans, but ranging from the Florida Panhandle to East Texas. King cake parties in New Orleans are documented back to the eighteenth century. The king cake of the New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition comes in a number of styles. The most simple, said to be the most traditional, is a ring of twisted bread similar to that used in brioche topped with icing or sugar, usually colored purple, green, and gold (the traditional Carnival colors) with food coloring. Cajun king cakes are traditionally deep-fat-fried as a doughnut would be, and there are many variants, some with a filling, the most common being cream cheese and praline. It has become customary in the New Orleans culture that whoever finds the trinket must provide the next king cake or host the next Mardi Gras party.

Some say that French settlers brought the custom to Louisiana in the 18th century where it remained associated with the Epiphany until the 19th century when it became a more elaborate Mardi Gras custom. In New Orleans, the first cake of the season is served on January 6. A small ceramic figurine of a baby is hidden inside the cake, by tradition. However now, the tradition is giving way to the baby being supplied and the customer placing the baby were ever they wish in the cake. Whoever finds the baby is allowed to choose a mock court and host the next King Cake party the following week (weekly cake parties were held until Mardi Gras).

The classic king cake is oval-shaped, like the pattern of a racetrack. The dough is basic coffee-cake dough, sometimes laced with cinnamon, sometimes just plain. The dough is rolled out into a long tubular shape (not unlike a thin po-boy), then shaped into an oval. The ends are twisted together to complete the shape  (HINT: if you want to find the piece with the baby, look for the twist in the oval where the two ends of the dough meet. That’s where the baby is usually inserted.) The baby hidden in the cake speaks to the fact that the three Kings had a difficult time finding the Christ Child and of the fine gifts they brought.

The cake is then baked, and decorated when it comes out. The classic decoration is simple granulated sugar, colored purple, green, and gold for the colors of Carnival. King cakes have gotten more and more fancy over the years, so now bakeries offer iced versions where there’s classic white coffee cake glaze on the cake before it’s decorated, and even king cakes filled with apple, cherry, cream cheese, or other kinds of coffee-cake fillings.

King cakes are available at bakeries all over South Louisiana, but only after January 6 through Mardi Gras Day.

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which starts on Ash Wednesday. Popular practices also include wearing masks and costumes, overturning most social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades and such. Similar expressions to Mardi Gras appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition. In English, the day is called Shrove Tuesday, associated with the religious requirement for confession before Lent begins.

This is my version of this yummy yeast bread/cake.

MARDI GRAS KING CAKE (makes 2 cakes)

PASTRY
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

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

FROSTING/GLAZE
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon water

  • Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the 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.
  • When yeast mixture is bubbly, 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.
  • 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.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with SILPATS or parchment paper.
  • In a large mixing bowl 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.
  • Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10×16 inches).
  • 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 sharp knife 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.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  • Push the doll into the bottom of the cake.
  • Decorate with beads.
  • Frost while warm with the glaze.

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APPLE PIE SNICKERDOODLES and my new FAVORITE ornament

One of my favorite ALL time cookies is the Snickerdoodle.  One of the most versatile cookies, in my opinion, is the Snickerdoodle. You can change up the flavor for whatever holiday – pumpkin pie spice for fall, apple pie spice for for Christmas or Easter…, decorate or not, but according to hubby plain is BEST. I LOVE this time of year with ALL the baking and fun treats!

I also love that Victoria and Dave send a new unique snowflake in their Christmas card and I just ADORE my new FAVORITE ornament that my friend brought over for me.  She saw it at a boutique and said it reminded her of me – such a sweet thought and absolutely beautiful ornament.

APPLE PIE SNICKERDOODLES
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, beating well after each addition.
  • Gradually add in flour mixture until well blended.

3-4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon apple pie spice

  • Combine sugar and apple pie spice until well blended.
  • Form cookie dough into small balls about walnut sized.
  • Roll each cookie ball in the sugar spice mixture and place on un-greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
  • Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden.
  • Cool 2 minutes before placing on wire rack to cool completely.
  • Decorations are melted candy bark and sprinkle.