INDEPENDENCE DAY – 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. Except maybe this year 🙁

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 The 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?

SNICKERDOODLE THUMBPRINTS for EASTER

I don’t know about you, but I have been watching A LOT of television during this pandemic lock down.  Or at least I have had it on to keep me company.  I had a Hallmark movie on the other day while I was cutting quilt pieces and they mentioned a cookie that I had all but forgotten about and can’t even remember the last time I made.  So, I dug out the recipe and made a batch for Easter.  I hope you are enjoying your Easter as best as you can and enjoy these cookies too.

SNICKERDOODLE THUMBPRINTS yield: 4 dozen

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1⅔ cups sugar, divided
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
1+ 1 teaspoon QUALITY ground cinnamon
1 cup prepared apple butter

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Line baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking powder, baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and salt.
    In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and ⅔ cup sugar. Beat at high speed with a mixer until light and creamy.
  • Add egg yolks and vanilla extract, beating until combined.
  • Add flour mixture, beating until incorporated.
  • In a small bowl, combine remaining 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon, stirring to blend.
    Using a levered 2-teaspoon scoop, drop dough into cinnamon-sugar mixture, tossing to coat.
  • Place dough balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
  • Using your thumb or the back of a rounded measuring spoon, press an indentation into the center of each dough ball.
  • Fill each indentation with ½ teaspoon apple butter.
  • Bake for 7 minutes.
  • Remove pans from oven, and fill each indentation with an additional ½ teaspoon apple butter.
  • Bake another 6-8 minutes until edges of cookies are golden brown.
  • Transfer cookies to wire cooling racks, and let cool completely.
  • Store in a single layer in airtight containers, and refrigerate for up to a day.

A LITTLE VALENTINE’S DAY SWAP

Hubby and I never go out on Valentine’s Day.  I just make a nice dinner and desert at home and we stay in to avoid overpriced dinner ad crowds.  I joined a Valentine’s Day Swap this year and I received this sweet box of gifts from Shellie.  I LOVE my new mug and will be having my coffee in it this morning!  The first 2 pictures are the gift I sent to my partner.

KING CAKE FOR MARDI GRAS since I missed posting it for the EPIPHANY

Mardi Gras 2020 falls on Tuesday, February 25, this year and is also known as Fat Tuesday, the last day of the Carnival season as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Fat Tuesday is EXACTLY what it sounds like – time to party and EAT!  I thought this would be a good time to re-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°.
  • 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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Oh my, can you believe it’s the first day of 2020?  HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU!  I cannot believe how fast time goes, not just this past year, but this past decade! We are 20% done with a century that seemed unimaginable when I was a girl! My plan is to go simpler in ALL things. I started awhile back and have even donated MANY Christmas decorations and such already. I LOVE streamlining my life.

This was a tough year, but not as tough as many have been.  And I’m so blessed to still be here and more so to actually realize that.  Many say it was a bad year and I agree there were MANY ups and downs, but you know what?  That’s life!  It’s NEVER ALWAYS up or always down and our ability to ride this roller coaster we call life with a smile on our face is what makes it worth living – knowing there is ALWAYS good to come our way.

In 2020 my wish is to accomplish my list of goals, which is NOT a resolutions list, but a realistic list of things that have needed done in my life to uncomplicate it and make it more enjoyable.  Many of the things on that list just happen to mean doing things simpler than I’ve done them before 😀  My wish is that others realize that simple IS BETTER also.  Our world has become so unnecessarily complicated!  It’s time we uncomplicate it and get back to the JOY of living it!

Every year I plan on getting more organized than the last.  😀 That said, I’m actually a fairly well organized person, a list maker and love things clean, but sometimes I do give in to the clutter when I’m not feeling great.  The one thing I do religiously though is meal plan. 

To start the year off right I sat down and made my January meal plan and even part of February.  I organized it right down to the cookbooks I’m referencing during the month for new experimental recipes and even color coded them for ease of use.  Thursdays are traditionally my C.O.R.N. (clean out refrigerator nights) because it’s also trash night, so the timing is perfect!  If I happen to miss a meal I will simply add it to an upcoming month in an attempt to clean out all my recipe scraps and notes.  My ultimate goal in 2020, at least for meal planning, is to have a WORKING menu planner full of notes that make an easy reference for future meals.

CIDER BRINED BAKED HAM

When I was a kid, Honey Baked Spiral Hams were all the rage and are still quite popular. BUT, in my opinion they have lost a little something over the years. I don’t know if they have changed the recipe or downgraded the ingredients to make them more profitable, but I find them a bit dry and flavorless anymore. So I make my own these days. I start with a whole ham that has the fat cap still attached to keep all the juices in. Scoring the fat cap and roasting the ham with the brown sugar pepper rub results in a sticky, crispy sweet and peppery crusted juicy ham.

CIDER BRINED BAKED HAM
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
10 whole cloves
2 star anise stars
9 cups apple cider, divided 4 cups + 1 cup + 4 cups
8 cups ice cubes
7-10 pound shank end , bone-in cured ham (I used an 8 1/2 pound)
1 large oven baking bag
¼ cup molasses
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (optional)*

  • In a large sauce pan toast cinnamon, cloves and star anise about 3 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add 4 cups of apple cider and bring to a boil.
  • Pour into a large stockpot (that the ham will fit into), add 1 cup apple cider and 4 cups of ice and stir until melted.
  • Trim ham to ¼ inch thickness of fat and score with a cross hatch pattern. CAUTION: Cut down into fat, but NOT into the meat!
  • Add ham to the stock pot apple cider mixture, cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. The liquid should just about cover the ham.

 

  • Remove ham from marinade and add to baking bag already placed in roasting pan.
  • Add 1 cup of marinade to baking bag, tie securely and cut 4 slits in top of bag.
  • Let stand at room temperature for 1 ½ hours.

Preheat oven to 300°.
Bake 1 ½-2 ½ hours until ham registers 100°.

  • While ham is roasting, add remaining 4 cups of apple cider, molasses and mustard or horseradish to a medium saucepan, whisking until well blended.
  • On a medium low heat, stir often, cooking for about 2 hours until mixture is very thick and reduced to about ¹⁄³ cup. WATCH towards the end of the 2 hours, it will burn easily!

1 cup PACKED dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon FRESH ground pepper

  • Combine sugar and pepper in small bowl.
  • Remove roasting pan from oven and let ham rest 5 minutes.
  • Increase oven temperature to 400°.
  • Open oven bag and fold back to expose the ham.
  • Brush with the reduced cider mixture and carefully press the sugar and pepper mixture into the fat cap.
  • Return to oven without resealing the bag and bake 20 minutes until browned and caramelized.
  • Transfer to cutting board and tent with foil. Let rest 15 minutes.
  • Carve and serve.

NOTE: I’m deathly allergic to mustard so I substitute creamy horseradish.

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 25 – MERRY CHRISTMAS

Just a little trivia: From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote the 12 days of Christmas carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church.  Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

  • The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
  • Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
  • Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
  • The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
  • The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
  • The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
  • Seven swans a-swimming represented the seven fold gifts of the Holy Spirit–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
  • The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
  • Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit–Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
  • The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
  • The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
  • The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

Merry (Twelve Days of) Christmas Everyone – and, remember, the Twelve Days of Christmas are the 12 days following December 25th. The Christmas Season runs until Epiphany, January 6.

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 24 – CHRISTMAS EVE

THE HOLIDAY SEASON & CHRISTMAS EVE…
Usually the holiday season is an endless list of tasks and errands.  Christmas Eve is usually at our house and then Christmas Day many times too.  The last several years though the holiday season has been quiet, many times too quiet.  This year will also be quiet.  With having been under the weather the past week, I didn’t get my baking for the neighbor plates done until yesterday, but by last night I had everything cleaned up and the plates covered ready for delivery Christmas Eve afternoon. This year our selection is Cider Glazed Christmas Cakes, Golden Gate Brownies, Cinnamon Bun Cupcakes, Rolo Pretzel Turtles, Chocolate Pretzel PB Bars and Salted Caramels.

Personally, I love the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  I’m a list writer and as a Virgo usually have my presents bought early and the Christmas cards ready to mail by Thanksgiving, many times they are even hand made.  Having all this done and ready made it possible for me to go to the malls, get a nice cup of coffee and just watch other people hustle and bustle.  Then I would go home and cook and bake and then bake some more!

I learned much of this from my folks.  My folks would have the majority of their shopping done before Thanksgiving and then because of their hectic schedules dad would sit me down with all the gifts, a card table, wrapping paper, tape, bows and tags on the day after Thanksgiving and that was where I would spend the Thanksgiving weekend watching Christmas movies, eating leftover turkey sandwiches and wrapping gifts.  When the gifts were done, I would start on the Christmas cards.  LOL this wasn’t an abuse of the child labor laws, it was how I earned a chunk of money for my own Christmas shopping.  Dad was a generous employer.

Christmas Eve was spent at our house with the immediate extended family (grams and gramps, aunts, uncles and cousins and many times neighbors too). We would do a big buffet and then open all our gifts to each other and have a party.  We’d go to sleep happy and sated while waiting for Santa.

Christmas day began with stockings and brunch.  By afternoon the turkey and ham were smelling great and we were ready to start all over.  Oh, it was the same bunch of people, but we would add a great aunt and uncle. Looney Louise, (okay we didn’t call her looney to her face, but it is what made her such fun) made us cornflake wreaths with red hots and fudge too!  All us cousins would sit on the front porch waiting for them and for our wreaths!  It wouldn’t have been Christmas without them!

Looney Louise many, many  years before she made us our wreaths!

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa Claus is coming to town tonight. If you have kids, or are just a big kid at heart, you can track Santa’s progress as he travels around the world on NORAD.
Merry Christmas everyone!

May the Christmas season bring you a bounty of joy,
happiness, health and everything else you desire!

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 22 – WEATHER

It’s been a whirlwind of weather changes around here.  Back at Thanksgiving I would have told you we were definitely in for a white Christmas, but sadly I think that chance has passed. 🙁  Last Friday we had a fluke warm up (65°) that only lasted the one day and then Friday night brought an unpredicted wind storm that had us scrambling to save the blow up from scurrying away despite his guide weights, but seems to have also influenced this next week.  ALL the predictions from before Friday have now warmed up a bit and even the rain amounts have decreased.  That said, I really don’t put much stock in the predictions anymore and take each day as it happens 😀

 

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 21 – PRESENTS

When does your family open their presents?

This category has changed a lot over the years for me as I got older. 

My family traditions as a kid were of a BIG Christmas eve open and that carried on through college, but as we (cousins) all got older and began getting married with families of our own, our grandparents passed on, blended families (with their own traditions) were formed, etc… getting together for both Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day became harder and harder to do. 

Eventually Christmas eve became a much smaller event for immediate family for a small dinner and to open our gifts to each other.  Christmas morning was for being at our respective home with our kids opening presents and then the larger family get together much later on Christmas day for dinner at just one place, usually my mom and dad’s house which became our house after my dad passed away.

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 20 – TREE REVEAL

I mentioned yesterday that I LOVE our tree this year.  We bought all new LED lights this year so I worry a lot less about the lights getting too hot. and it’s full of all our favorite ornaments.  I would still like to find a lighted star or angel that I really like. 😀

In reality how I decorate each year changes based on my mood, weather, where we are living, etc… so it will never be the same twice! But, it will at least be the same components.

This is my Snowman Family arranged from 2 different years.
We made candle yule logs for Advent craft night at church one year and they were a HUGE success and soooooooo easy to do.  The decorations below are a few of my all time favorites.
The ornaments below are some of our homemade bulbs.  Several years ago I made quite a few and then did them with my girl scout troop also.  Hubby liked them so well that we have now donated all our store bought bulbs and made enough of these for the entire tree.

My cousin that passed away in 2014 made the ornament below for me.  It will always be hung by my shooting stars in her honor even though I’m still mad at her for leaving the mess called A HOUSE FROM HELL for me to deal with.
And our handmade ornament by Design Chick Creations.