Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Laissez la Bon Temps Rouler

That's Cajun (okay, maybe it's French) for "Let the good times roll!"

Today is MARDI GRAS!!!  WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!!  Can you tell I'm excited???  I. LOVE. MARDI GRAS.  When I was in 9th and 10th grade I was in Marching Band and we would go down to Mobile to be in Mardi Gras parades.  It was a lot of fun but being in the parade as part of a large band doesn't allow you the chance to experience what Mardi Gras is all about.  But my junior and senior years of high school changed all that.

For those who don't know, when I was in 11th and 12th grades I attended a residential public high school.  You're all familiar with those, right?  No?  Oh, well in simpler terms, I went to boarding school.  But not a stuck up, snobby, my-parents-are-too-busy-to-deal-with-me boarding school.  It's a public boarding school.  Meaning it's free just like any other public high school in the state.  And yes, it was often referred to as a "Nerd School" because, well, most of us who went there were just a wee bit, um, nerdy I guess.  Actually it focuses on math and science and we were given an amazing opportunity to take math and science classes in high school that were very much on par with what most don't experience until college.  And quite a few of my fellow classmates were NOT the math and science type that I was (okay, that I AM).  There was also a very extensive assortment of options for those more interested in the humanities.  I've been asked more than once, "Did you WANT to go there???"  Absolutely.  Or "Are you glad you went there?"  Heck yes.  I absolutely, positively L-O-V-E-D it.  It was an amazing experience and one I wouldn't trade.

I loved living in the dorms.  I loved being around all my friends 24/7.  And I loved the freedom and independence I had while there.  I loved not being in my parents' house under their watchful eye.  For those of you who really know me, you know I wasn't a rebel.  I wasn't off drinking and partying all the time.  I was actually quite responsible I think.  Many of my friends, particularly my senior year, were a little more "into partying" but I never felt pressured to join in.  So I loved living there and loved that my parents weren't constantly telling me what to do, but for the most part I know my parents would be very proud of the way I conducted myself.

I mention all of this to explain why I "heart" Mardi Gras so much.  You see, this school I attended was in Mobile, Alabama.  I know when you think about Mardi Gras you likely think about New Orleans and they do a fine job with Mardi Gras there, but the first Mardi Gras parade in the United States was in Mobile, Alabama.  My school was located not too far from the heart of downtown Mobile and the parades passed right by the school.  Let me tell you, sometimes it can be difficult to concentrate on differential calculus, but when you hear a parade going by outside on a beautiful spring-like day, concentrating becomes impossible.  Really Dr. Dunagan?  You really expect us to concentrate when you have all the windows in the classroom open?  But I digress...

I remember the parade schedule being posted in the newspaper and we'd all huddle around to decide which ones we would go to.  Most of the time we would have a huge group of us kiddos going out to enjoy the festivities.  I'm sure you've heard stories about what women have to do in New Orleans to get beads, but Mobile wasn't like that.  Mardi Gras in Mobile was dialed down a few notches and was much more in the teen and family-friendly arena.  Getting beads was fun, but there was something I enjoyed even more.  That was getting MoonPies!  Apparently it's not a very well-known fact that in Mobile, in addition to beads, MoonPies are thrown from the floats.  Now it's not the large MoonPies you might be familiar with but rather a smaller "single decker" version.  The best part was that they were in silver wrappers so you didn't know what flavor it was until you tore into it.  Mmmm.  MoonPies and coffee at 11 pm with friends.  Let the good times roll, indeed!
**Note: I've searched google images frantically for a pic of the silver wrapped MoonPies but haven't had any luck.  Maybe they've done away with the the silver wrapper???**

Now I'm all grown up with two kids of my own and I am working to teach my boys about the awesomeness that is Mardi Gras.  Every year on Fat Tuesday I cooked SOMEthing for dinner that seems, at least in my mind, to be worthy of Mardi Gras.  That something usually ends up being Red Beans and Rice with Sausage, Shrimp Po' Boys, or even Jambalaya.  This year it was shrimp po'boys because the hubs made Red Beans and Rice for dinner Sunday night so I was wanting something different.  And of course Mardi Gras isn't complete without King Cake.  Sometimes we've ordered them from Lousiana and had them shipped to us.  Other times I've bought them in the local grocery store.  And still other times I've attempted to make one myself.  Now King Cake isn't really a cake but more of a pastry or bread.  It is NOT easy or quick to make.  But I'm all about easy and quick.  So I've tried shortcuts with little success.

This year I was seriously thinking about making my own "from scratch" King Cake BUT I'm still trying to lose the 15 pounds I found at Christmas so I really don't want all that yumminess sitting around my house for the next week.  Then I saw these mini faux King Cakes on pinterest and decided it was worth a try. Wow.  It turned out SO. GOOD.

I started out trying to follow the directions from the original post I saw, but it ended up a jumbled mess!  So at that point I decided to try my own thing.  I took 3 of the canned cinnamon rolls, unrolled them, and braided them together neatly.  Then I stretched it a little and curved it around to form a circle and baked!  When they were done, I used the icing that came with the cinnamon rolls and then added my yellow, green, and purple sugar.  Making colored sugar is SUPER easy, in case you haven't heard.  Just put a small amount of sugar in a small contiainer, add a couple drops of food coloring, and shake until the color is distributed.  Voila!  Colored sugar.

This is what I got when I tried to do it according to the blog.  Just a jumbled mess of dough.  Actually in this picture it doesn't look so bad but trust me, it was like I just wadded up some dough and hoped for the best.

So then I attempted to use a more refined approach by using three unrolled cinnamon rolls to braid the bread before cooking.  It worked MUCH better in my opinion.

Here it is at the top, braided and shaped into a ring, which is THE shape of a King Cake.

I took some "after" pics of the mini King Cakes after they came out of the oven but they weren't in focus.  And honestly it's hard to tell in my pics which are the raw cakes and which are cooked.  So if you want to know what it looked like after baking, just put on some sunglasses and look at the above picture again!

The boys had fun helping me make the colored sugar to sprinkle on.  I did NOT put a baby inside because, well, I don't have one.  I'm not talking about a real baby, of course.  I'm talking about the little plastic baby that's supposed to be hidden in the cake.  Luckily neither boy asked about it.  They did ask for more King Cake though!

 I also made a homemade Roumalade to go on my shrimp po'boy but I'll get to that another time.  Right now, it's nearly midnight and I got less than 3 hours of sleep last night plus I've got to get up to go running in the morning thanks to my overconsumption of King Cake, so it's off to bed I go.  And if the last paragraph or two doesn't seem to make such sense, then please excuse me...  I think I nodded off at least 6 times while trying to write those last few sentences.

No comments:

Designed by Lena Graphics by Melany