• Frivolity,  Research

    Mardi Gras Redux

    Since today is shaping up to be a busy day, I’m re-posting my Mardi Gras info from last year! I hope you’re all having fabulous parties tonight…

    Happy Mardi Gras, everyone! Last week I talked about the vampire bar I want to open, and I’ve decided that every year we will have a Mardi Gras party, with a jazz band, Hurricanes, king cake, and costumes. And everyone here is invited! In the meantime, here are a few fun Mardi Gras facts you can tell people at a party tonight…..

    –The roots of Mardi Gras are in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was held in mid-February every year to honor the god of fertility. It seems there was much drinking, feasting, and wild sex…

    –The phrase “Fat Tuesday” might also arise from this festival, signifying the fatted calf that was paraded and sacrificed to the fertility god

    –The roots of Mardi Gras in the US are a bit murky. Some say the French explorer d’Iberville brought it to Louisiana in 1699, while others say the first Mardi Gras was celebrated by French soldiers in Mobile, Alabama in 1703 (it was already a big Carnival tradition in Europe, especially France and Venice). Wherever it started, by 1803 it was firmly entrenched as a New Orleans tradition

    –The first parade in the US was in 1837, with a grand total of one float

    –The beaded necklaces didn’t come into play until the 1880s

    –The Mardi Gras colors are purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power)

    –Everyone has to have a king cake for the holiday, with a little baby figure (Baby Jesus) baked in. Whoever finds the baby will have luck all year, and will have to bring the cake to next year’s party!

    Here is a recipe for your very own king cake:

    Ingredients

    • 3 (14 ounce) cans refrigerated sweet roll dough
    • 2 (12 fluid ounce) cans creamy vanilla ready-to-spread frosting
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 2 drops green food coloring
    • 2 drops yellow food coloring
    • 1 drop red food coloring
    • 1 drop blue food coloring
    • 1/2 cup multi-colored sprinkles

    Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.
    2. Open the cans of sweet roll dough and unroll the dough from each can into 3 strands. Working on a clean surface, place 3 dough strands side by side and gather them together to make one large strand. Fold this in half, and roll slightly to make a fat log. Repeat steps with the remaining dough. Place each log on the prepared baking sheet and shape to make a ring, overlapping the ends and pinching them together to make a complete circle. Pat the dough into shape as necessary to make the ring even in size all the way around. Cover loosely with foil.
    3. Bake in preheated oven until firm to the touch and golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes. Check often for doneness so the ring doesn’t overbake. Place on a wire rack and cool completely.
    4. Place the cake ring on a serving plate. Cut a slit along the inside of the ring and insert a small plastic baby, pushing it far enough into the cake to be hidden from view.
    5. Divide the frosting evenly between 4 bowls. Stir 1 tablespoon of milk into each bowl to thin the frosting. Use the frosting in one bowl to drizzle over the cooled cake. To the remaining three bowls of frosting, stir yellow food coloring into one and green into another. Stir the red and blue food colorings together with the frosting in a third bowl to make purple frosting. Drizzle the cake with yellow, green, and purple frostings in any desired pattern. Dust the cake with multi-colored sprinkles and decorate with beads, additional plastic babies, curly ribbon, and other festive trinkets.

    And here are some Hurricane recipes to go with the cake!

    For more information on the history of Mardi Gras, take a look here

    What are your plans for the holiday???

  • Uncategorized

    Mardi Gras!

    Happy Mardi Gras, everyone! (and sorry for the late posting–dog emergency here, now taken care of…) Last week I talked about the vampire bar I want to open, and I’ve decided that every year we will have a Mardi Gras party, with a jazz band, Hurricanes, king cake, and costumes. And everyone here is invited! In the meantime, here are a few fun Mardi Gras facts you can tell people at a party tonight…..

    –The roots of Mardi Gras are in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was held in mid-February every year to honor the god of fertility. It seems there was much drinking, feasting, and wild sex…

    –The phrase “Fat Tuesday” might also arise from this festival, signifying the fatted calf that was paraded and sacrificed to the fertility god

    –The roots of Mardi Gras in the US are a bit murky. Some say the French explorer d’Iberville brought it to Louisiana in 1699, while others say the first Mardi Gras was celebrated by French soldiers in Mobile, Alabama in 1703 (it was already a big Carnival tradition in Europe, especially France and Venice). Wherever it started, by 1803 it was firmly entrenched as a New Orleans tradition

    –The first parade in the US was in 1837, with a grand total of one float

    –The beaded necklaces didn’t come into play until the 1880s

    –The Mardi Gras colors are purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power)

    –Everyone has to have a king cake for the holiday, with a little baby figure (Baby Jesus) baked in. Whoever finds the baby will have luck all year, and will have to bring the cake to next year’s party!

    Here is a recipe for your very own king cake:

    Ingredients

    • 3 (14 ounce) cans refrigerated sweet roll dough
    • 2 (12 fluid ounce) cans creamy vanilla ready-to-spread frosting
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 2 drops green food coloring
    • 2 drops yellow food coloring
    • 1 drop red food coloring
    • 1 drop blue food coloring
    • 1/2 cup multi-colored sprinkles

    Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.
    2. Open the cans of sweet roll dough and unroll the dough from each can into 3 strands. Working on a clean surface, place 3 dough strands side by side and gather them together to make one large strand. Fold this in half, and roll slightly to make a fat log. Repeat steps with the remaining dough. Place each log on the prepared baking sheet and shape to make a ring, overlapping the ends and pinching them together to make a complete circle. Pat the dough into shape as necessary to make the ring even in size all the way around. Cover loosely with foil.
    3. Bake in preheated oven until firm to the touch and golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes. Check often for doneness so the ring doesn’t overbake. Place on a wire rack and cool completely.
    4. Place the cake ring on a serving plate. Cut a slit along the inside of the ring and insert a small plastic baby, pushing it far enough into the cake to be hidden from view.
    5. Divide the frosting evenly between 4 bowls. Stir 1 tablespoon of milk into each bowl to thin the frosting. Use the frosting in one bowl to drizzle over the cooled cake. To the remaining three bowls of frosting, stir yellow food coloring into one and green into another. Stir the red and blue food colorings together with the frosting in a third bowl to make purple frosting. Drizzle the cake with yellow, green, and purple frostings in any desired pattern. Dust the cake with multi-colored sprinkles and decorate with beads, additional plastic babies, curly ribbon, and other festive trinkets.

    And here are some Hurricane recipes to go with the cake!

    For more information on the history of Mardi Gras, take a look here

    What are your plans for the holiday???

  • Uncategorized

    Mardi Gras Blog Party!

    Happy Tuesday (Fat Tuesday), everyone! I hope everyone has dug out from under the snow and is ready for a party. It’s been busy here, ending one writing project, starting another, revising another, but hopefully I can have a Hurricane and some King Cake while I settle in to watch the Olympics again tonight. I also got another new cover (for the US release of To Deceive a Duke in May!), and thanks to Julia Justiss who sent me a link to a new review of Countess of Scandal at All About Romance (A-, yay!), plus another new one at Single Titles. And I’m at the Unusual Historicals blog all week, giving away a copy…

    Mardi Gras has a very long history. In mid-February the ancient Romans used to celebrate the festival of Lupercalia, and after the rise of Christianity the tradition of a winter-time party continued (though it was re-fashioned as one last hurrah before the deprivation of Lent). It came to America in 1699 along with French explorer Iberville, who sailed into the Gulf of Mexico to launch an expedition up the Mississippi River. By March 3 he had set up a camp about 60 miles south of current-day New Orleans, and remembered it was Mardi Gras in France (thus the site was named Point du Mardi Gras). The French tradition took hold immediately in the new French settlement, and by the late 18th century raucous masked balls and festivals were commonplace at this time of year, only to be curtailed when the Spanish came to power and banned masking. In 1803 New Orleans became US property, and the ban against masked festival continued until the local Creole populace convinced the governor to make masking legal again in 1823.

    The first documented parade was in 1837, but soon things got way out of hand. The local press in the 1840s and 50s called for the end of the celebration, due to violence associated with the parties. In 1857 a group of 6 men took over and formed the Comus organization to keep things (somewhat) under control. They were the first group to use the word “krewe”, and they also started the custom of having a parade with a unifying theme, a ball after the parade, and secret Carnival societies. In 1871 the custom began of choosing a Queen of Mardi Gras, and in 1872 Mardi Gras had a pivotal year. The Grand Duke Alexei Romanov of Russia visited, the krewe of Rex debuted along with the Knights of Momus, and the Queen was joined by a King of Mardi Gras. Purple, green, and gold became the official colors, and “If Ever I Cease To Love You” became the official song.

    In 1882, the Krewe of Proteus debuted in an Egyptian-themed parade; in 1890 the first marching band, The Jefferson City Buzzards, marched (hard to imagined a parade without marching bands!), and things expanded with the first African-American krewe in 1894 (the Original Illinois Club) and the first all-female organization in 1896 (Les Mysterieuses).

    This is only the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to the history of Mardi Gras, of course! It’s a long, fascinating, and very special subject. You can find more here at MardiGras.com along with help planning your visit to New Orleans. You can have a party even if you’re at home, though! Here is a recipe for King Cake:

    • 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 10×16 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.

    And one for a Hurricane:

    Hurricane recipe

    1 oz vodka
    1/4 oz grenadine syrup
    1 oz gin
    1 oz light rum
    1/2 oz Bacardi® 151 rum
    1 oz amaretto almond liqueur
    1 oz triple sec
    grapefruit juice
    pineapple juice

    Pour all but the juices, in order listed, into a hurricane glass three-quarters filled with ice. Fill with equal parts of grapefruit and pineapple juice, and serve.

    And some music!

    What are your plans for Mardi Gras??? Anyone else as obsessed by the Olympics as me?

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