Time on your hands? Try Martha Stewart’s King Cake for Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras: King Cake

Mardi Gras: King Cake

Last year at this time I was still on crutches from my debilitating and nightmare of a knee surgery, so I had a lot of time on my hands and I was BORED. I decided to make the traditional King Cake for Mardi Gras, it is more danish like than a cake, not too sweet and the best part is you get to hide a small plastic baby in it. I followed all the instructions from my idol Martha Stewart’s recipe found here. The only difference was that I rolled my dough in cinnamon sugar before braiding it. It was delicious and I was quite proud of myself, I even colored my own sugar. However this is a process, an all day affair if you will. Well it’s Mardi Gras time again, Fat Tuesday is less than a week away and I don’t think I will be making one this year, I have proved that I could so I am going to save my day for something more productive. (Mardi Gras Cocktails may be an option)  I will probably buy a King Cake at Publix just for the pomp and circumstance of the holiday, and make some sort of New Orleans themed dinner, but as of now the cake is out. If you are feeling up to the challenge you should definitely try it , it was delicious, let me know how it turns out. Here’s more pics to prove I did it.

Mardi Gras King Cake IMG_0330 IMG_0334

 

 

Bacon Jam: Yes, there is such a thing and it’s delicious

I have a friend who lives in England and I kept seeing her posts on Facebook about something called Bacon Jam. I had never heard of such a thing here in the states. I googled it and saw some jars of it all available in Europe, but not here. But it was bacon so I somehow had to try it.looked for a recipe for it and of course my favorite woman to love and hate but mostly love, Martha Stewart had one on her site. I am never one to follow a recipe verbatim but I have never actually had bacon jam so I didn’t want to start experimenting too much until I actually tasted it. I was envisioning serving it with cheese and crackers or maybe as a topping on pizza so the only thing I did differently was change out the vinegar, as I thought balsamic would go better with those things.

1 1/2 lbs of bacon cut into 1 inch pieces

2 medium yellow onions diced

3 garlic cloves peeled and crushed

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/4 pure maple syrup

3/4 c strong brewed coffee

Cook bacon pieces in a large pan over med-med high heat until they are slightly browned about 20 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Reserve one tablespoon of bacon grease in the pan  and discard the rest. Heat onions in garlic in pan over medium heat and cook until translucent about 5-6 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add bacon back to pan and stir.

Add contents of pan to a slow cooker and heat on high with a piece of foil loosely place on the top for about 3 hours or until liquid becomes syrupy.

Place mixture into a food processor and pulse until it becomes jam like.

The possibilities are now endless. Serve with a cheese plate, on pizza, in a quesadilla, we even tried it with peanut butter on a chocolate graham cracker. Will keep up to 4 weeks, in the refrigerator in an air tight container.

with apple slices on crostini

With goat cheese on crackers

What’s for Dinner: Menu Planning 101

I just don’t have time, it’s too hard to plan a menu, I never have the ingredients I need, these are several complaints I have heard from myself and friends as to why the food in the refrigerator  spoils and we end up eating out, getting take out or relying on convenience foods. The trick is to have a system in place, only buy what you need and to know your weekly schedule in advance. This will help you save time, money and your sanity. There are several ways to do this but I am going to share what works for me.

Pre planning, This can be the most time consuming of the process but is the key. I keep a spiral notebook that I use for everything that way I only have to look in one place for all I need to know. Mine has pockets which are useful to hold important papers and recipes, sale ads, coupons etc… I start a new page for each shopping week. I like to shop on Sunday nights or Mondays after the kids get home from school. This way I am guaranteed to have someone here to help put groceries away.

During the week ahead I look for recipes, I try to only use 2 sources of recipes per week to lessen the confusion. An example would be the new Food Network Magazine and My Southern Living Cookbook. I will go through these while watching TV, or  waiting to pick up the kids and use sticky tabs or post it notes to mark the recipes I want to use. Then I make my list of the ones to use and the page number or source where they came from. Other good sources besides cookbooks and magazines are Pinterest, Epicurious.com, or the Martha Stewart  Everyday Food App, for smart phones.

The next step is to make the actual grocery list. I set up my page like my grocery store is set up.

I then go through my recipes and add the ingredients that I need in the right categories, check the pantry to see what other things I need, as well as asking the rest of the household if they need anything. Then I shop. I make sure I also have my menu with me in case I need to make any substitutions if they are out of something or something else is on sale. I find with this system that now I only need to shop once a week which saves time and money.

The Menu Board: After I get home and unload all the groceries I write the weeks menu on a chalkboard in our kitchen. I try not to put any meats into the freezer because if you forget to defrost you are heading out for takeout that night and your whole meal plan is ruined. So I check the dates on the meats and try to use the ones that expire first earlier in the week. I also try to do the easier meals on the nights when we are busy, and add in take out for the nights when cooking is impossible, or on Fridays, I never cook on Fridays, but thats my own little rule.

The menu board helps me stay organized and eliminates the need for me to answer, “What’s for dinner ?”, a thousand times each week. I got mine at Ikea. And of course the last rule is be flexible, we are a family of four and things come up and emergencies happen but that is what the eraser is for.