Quickie King Cake

Sometimes Mardi Gras sneaks up on you. You wouldn't think so, as it is a set day every year - the day before Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter, and the whole Mardi Gras season actually starts on Three Kings Day (January 6) so, again, you think you'd have time to plan. Well, Mardi Gras snuck up on us. We managed to (barely) get our crawfish order in on time to have them delivered on Fat Tuesday, but the king cakes were outrageously expensive, if not sold out entirely. 

Amy hemmed and hawed and finally came up with a plan, inspired by a can of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls in the fridge and the vague memory of making some sort of stuffed holiday wreath appetizer with them at someone's Pampered Chef party years ago.

This particular version is simple enough to be worthy of the Big Easy itself, where King Cake rules tables in office lunch rooms and teacher lounges for the first two months of the year. Someone starts by bringing in the first cake, and the person who finds a plastic baby in their slice gets the dubious honor luck of bringing in the next one. Needless to say, King Cake has ruined many a New Year's resolution. 

The colors of Mardi Gras have meaning, so remember that when you are decorating - purple stands for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. And don't forget to put a plastic mini baby doll (or dried kidney bean) somewhere inside for luck.

If Mardi Gras snuck up on you, too, you still have time to grab a few ingredients and make this quickie version before midnight rolls around. 

Happy Mardi Gras! Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Quickie King Cake 

1 8-ounce container whipped cream cheese
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cans refrigerated croissant/crescent roll dough
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 plastic mini baby doll or dried kidney bean
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
purple, green and gold colored sugar

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350F.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the cream cheese, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla, and the cinnamon until well-combined. 

2. Unroll each piece of dough in a circle with the flat sides of the triangles on the outside of the circle and the pointed ends of the triangles in the center of the circle, slightly overlapping each other. 

3. Spoon the cream cheese mixture about half way out, then sprinkle with the chopped pecans, if using. Place the baby somewhere on there.

4. Flip each piece of dough over the cream cheese mixture and press on it the seam in the center so it doesn't leak out.

5. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, until golden brown and allow to cool completely.

6. Whisk together the sugar, milk and remaining teaspoon of vanilla to make the glaze. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake, allowing it to drip over the sides.

7. While the glaze is still wet, decorate with purple, green and gold sugar.


Maple Cheddar Dutch Baby, Baby!

It's a SNOW DAY, which in this two-teacher house means sleeping in and making something fancy for brunch. Today's fanciness is a Maple Cheddar Dutch Baby, a light, airy oven pancake with a savory flair. We have to give props to the food artisans in Vermont for this one, though. First, we love Grafton Village Maple Smoked Cheddar, which is made right outside of Brattleboro, and we sprinkled this on top as we put the batter into the oven. Not only did that offer a cheddary tang, but it crisped the top of the Dutch baby perfectly. A drizzle of maple syrup made by Amy's cousins at Maplehurst Farm in Greensboro, right when it came out of the oven, heightened the maple flavor. 

Maple Cheddar Dutch Baby
(serves 2-4)

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
1/3 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup shredded Maple Smoked Cheddar cheese
sea salt

Preheat oven to 425F (this is very important!). Whisk together the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Whisk the wet and dry ingredients until they are combined. Melt the butter in a 12-inch, preferably cast iron skillet, over medium heat. Let the butter cook until it is brown (2-3 minutes) and swirl it so it coats the whole bottom of the skillet. Pour in the batter and sprinkle the whole thing with the cheese and a pinch of sea salt. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until puffed up and golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve with real maple syrup. Or Amy will hunt you down and she can not be responsible for what happens after that. 


Go Local Magazine - February 2017 Issue

The latest issue of Go Local Magazine is in circulation around its free distribution spots and this month's theme is a celebration of love, just in time for Valentine's Day.  

There's quite a few foodie stories this month. The cover story celebrates the love and work of George and Fred Koulisis, the couple behind Stafford House of Pizza and Basil's Restaurant who have been married for 45 years and are still going strong. And speaking of restaurants, this month marks the debut of "Local Dish," a monthly feature on our favorite local eateries, such as this month's Crazy Jake's in Wilbraham. Amy wrote the article on the Ellington Winter Farmers Market, and A Couple in the Kitchen's recipe for Flourless Chocolate Walnut Torte (page 25) is the perfect dessert for your romantic V-Day dinner. But if you don't feel like baking, there's a list of "7 Heavenly Sweet Shops" that will do it for you.

Sharing the love this issue is a group trying to preserve the Farm at Hilltop in Suffield, developed by Indian Motorcycle co-founder George Hendee. "Local Tails" focuses on the K9 unit in Wilbraham, and who doesn't love those hard-working dogs and the officers who work with them? 

Of course, those are just a few of things you can read about in the February issue. There's a whole lot more, so go ahead and read it here now or get your copy at any one of these Go Local businesses and advertisers!

Happy Valentine's Day!