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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: February 2014

Friday, February 28, 2014

THE CARNIVAL OF VENICE FROM ITALY!!!



    The Carnival of Venice is a festival that's steeped in history, vibrant colors, outlandish costumes, spectacular masks and of course a whole host of events make the Carnival of Venice one of the most popular times to visit the wonderful City of Masks!!
    Venice is such a beautiful and amazing city that it really doesn't need a Carnival to attract even more tourists, but the Venice Carnival is definitely one of the city's top events, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors during a time of year that might otherwise be quiet. During the 1970's, the Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of their efforts.





    You have nearly two weeks to come to Venice and enjoy the carnival festivities and to really be involved in all the fun, you'll also want to buy or make a mask to partake in the festivities and to really enjoy them to their fullest capacity. The costumes, masks and an assortment of events that happen around Venice Carnival time, means that families with children can enjoy it too, after all, what child doesn't like dressing up in a costume?
    Once you've got your costume and mask sorted out you'll want to know where all fun is taking place! There are events around most of the city during the Carnival so you shouldn't have to look very far.





    The Carnival of Venice historically had a reputation for attracting Europe's aristocracy, but it was also a time when the poorer of society could dress up and mingle with the upper classes. Venice still has a reputation for being a very expensive city though, if you're on a budget don't let this put you off on visiting the Carnival of Venice as you can actually visit Venice on a shoestring budget.
    The Carnival of Venice starts around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.






Venetian Carnival Masks

    Masks have always been a central feature of the carnival; traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefan (St. Stephen's Day, December 26th) and the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday. They have always been around Venice. As masks were also allowed for Ascension and from October 5th to Christmas, people could spend a large proportion of the year in disguise. Maskmakers (mascherari) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.





    Venetian masks can be made in leather or with the original glass technique. The original masks were rather simple in design and decoration and often had a symbolic and practical function. Nowadays, most of them are made with the application of gesso and gold leaf and are all hand painted using natural feathers and gems to decorate.

Bauta

     Bauta is the whole face, with a stubborn chin line, no mouth, and lots of gilding. One may find masks sold as Bautas that cover only the upper part of the face from the forehead to the nose and upper cheeks, thereby concealing identity but enabling the wearer to talk and eat or drink easily. It tends to be the main type of mask worn during the Carnival. It was used also on many other occasions as a device for hiding the wearer's identity and social status. It would permit the wearer to act more freely in cases where he or she wanted to interact with other members of the society outside the bounds of identity and everyday convention. It was thus useful for a variety of purposes, some of them illicit or criminal, others just personal, such as romantic encounters.




    In the 18th century, the Bauta had become a standardized society mask and disguise regulated by the Venetian government. It was obligatory to wear it at certain political decision making events when all citizens were required to act anonymously as peers. Only citizens of Venice had the right to use the Bauta. Its role was similar to the anonymizing processes invented to guarantee general direct, free, equal and secret ballots in modern democracies.
    It was not allowed for the wearer to carry weapons along with the mask, and police had the right to enforce this ruling.

Moretta

    The moretta is an oval mask of black velvet that was usually worn by women visiting convents. It was invented in France and rapidly became popular in Venice as it brought out the beauty of feminine features. The mask was finished off with a veil, and was secured in place by a small bit in the wearer's mouth.





Volto or Larva

   The "Volto" was the more common mask used in Venice for centuries. Volto, means "face", a design that is was the most common, simplest mask.




Mask Makers

   The mascherari, or mask makers had their own statute date 10 April 1436. They belonged to the fringe of painters and were helped in their task by sign painters who drew faces onto plaster in a range of different shapes and paying extreme attention to detail.

HOW TO MAKE PUFF PASTRY THE EASY WAY!

   This diy comes from www.thepinkwisk.co.uk.   Baking desserts and pastries don't have to be have and difficult.  I have watched quite a few chefs make this.  They seem to make it a long drawn out labor intensive ordeal.  Follow this recipe and diy and it shouldn't be all that bad.  Tell me what you think?


How to make Puff Pastry




It’s not complicated but it does take a bit of organising in advance. I do use shop-bought puff pastry and generally have some in the freezer. Making your own is quicker than the time it takes to defrost some
(and it’s not difficult either)
This version of puff pastry is referred to as rough puff pastry, the idea being that you only get 75% of the rise that you would get with traditional puff pastry – getting technical there! However, when you see the rise you get with this its far above and beyond shop bought.
Puff Pastry takes a couple of days to do and also means you have to wrestle with a full pat of butter – hmmmm, I can be organised but not that organised!



Ingredients:


250g strong plain white flour
250g butter, cold
juice of 1/2 lemon
5-6 tbsps cold water to combine
To make the rough puff pastry add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor and give it a quick pulse to mix.
Cut the cold butter into 1/2cm slices and add to the food processor bowl.





Using the pulse function whizz until the butter is broken up but still in visible lumps. Tip the mixture out into a large mixing bowl.






Make a well in the centre and add the juice of half a lemon and then enough super cold water to make a dough. Use the blade of a table knife to mix the dough rather than your hands as you don’t want to melt the butter.








Once the dough is into a ball wrap in clingfilm and pop it into the fridge for an hour so that the butter hardens up again.
After an hour take the dough out of the fridge, lightly flour your work surface and then roll out the dough into a rectangle shape.






Fold into three like an envelope (see pictures below).







Turn the dough 90 degrees to the right so that the folds are now left and right. Roll again to a large rectangle and fold into three again. Turn and then repeat this step twice more, turning before each re-rolling and folding.






Each time the pastry gets smoother and more refined. Wrap again in clingfilm and allow it to chill for another hour in the fridge.






See? – It wasn’t difficult was it?
The pastry is now ready to be used for whatever you need it for. It can be frozen, wrapped well in clingfilm for upto six months. When defrosting, just make sure it stays dry and doesn’t sit in a pool of water.






Half a block is sufficient for a puff pastry top for a pie so it may be a good idea to cut it into half before freezing.
Traditionally you shouldn’t re-roll puff pastry trimmings. It disturbs the buttery layers within the pastry which you’ve worked so hard to create. However, you can. In these times throwing away pastry trimmings is wasteful and I just can’t do it. Gather together the trimmings and gently squeeze them back together as a ball.  Chill this wonky ball of pastry for half an hour or so until firm again.
This ‘wonky’ trimmings puff pastry is ideal for Palmiers – see recipe here. You can’t guarantee a huge rise or that the rise is in the right direction but it still tastes delicious all the same (and its better than heading for the bin!)

10 MULTIPURPOSE KITCHEN ITEMS THAT WILL MAKING COOKING AND BAKING EASIER!

   The kitchen can either come with great amounts of pleasure or great amounts of stress. Luckily, with a few great kitchen tools that have multiple purposes, you'll be able to fret less and whip up many more delicious meals. These 10 affordable tools are essentials in any kitchen, and you probably have several of them in your own. Read on to find out the many uses for each tool and share your tips in the comments!


Silicone Spatulas

Silicone Spatulas

   Silicone spatulas come in pretty colors that brighten up your kitchen, and they come in very handy while baking, but I like to use mine for frying or scrambling eggs. They're delicate on the egg and help keep things from sticking to the pan too much.


Pastry Scraper

Pastry Scraper

   Typically, pastry scrapers are used for handling pastry dough. This handy tool is also incredibly useful when it comes to transferring chopped vegetables from your cutting board to your pan.



Microplane Zester/Grater

Microplane Zester/Grater

   One of my very favorite tools in the kitchen, the Microplane zester/grater is perfect for zesting all kinds of citrus fruits, as well as for grating garlic finely, which brings out excellent flavor. You can also use it to grate whole nutmeg and hard cheeses.



Mandoline

Mandoline

   This simple handheld tool speeds up prep work by a lot. I use mine for evenly and thinly slicing onions so that they're more palatable, and all different fruits and vegetables to get great texture in dishes. I particularly love using my mandoline to slice vegetables for pizza toppings. You can also slice up salami and cheese for great presentation. It's not as bulky as some of the other mandolines on the market, and it's a cinch to clean.



Cheese Grater

Cheese Grater

   Grate all the cheese you could ever want on this sturdy grater, but don't forget to try grating onions as well! Grated onions imparts a lot of flavor into recipes without adding texture, making it a great base for soups and stews. I also love to grate carrots for salads using my cheese grater.



Pyrex Baking Dish

Pyrex Baking Dish

   I can't sing the praises enough of the Pyrex baking dish. I'm convinced that it plays a role in roasting up a deliciously moist chicken, and I am a huge fan of how it evenly bakes sweets. I use my Pyrex dish on a daily basis. Roast vegetables, meats, and bake up all kinds of sweet recipes in yours.



Pyrex Measuring Cup

Pyrex Measuring Cup

   The clear glass cup makes for easy measuring, but I use mine primarily for mixing up salad dressings. You can adjust your measurements along the way and easily pour your homemade dressing all over your salad. It's also incredibly useful for pouring eggs out one at a time, which many cake recipes call for.



Cast-Iron Skillet

Cast-Iron Skillet

   Once you start cooking with cast-iron pans, it's very difficult to go back. This heirloom pan comes in all different sizes and it ensures even cooking. A number of recipes can be cooked using cast-iron, including bread, pizza, cakes, meat, and they will all turn out with excellent flavor.



Mason Jars

Mason Jars

   From vases for fresh flowers to more traditional jam or pickle containers, mason jars are one of the most useful containers you could ever own. Use yours to store leftovers easily in your refrigerator or bring meals to work or school (salads, soups, rice bowls, smoothies, etc.). They are easy to clean and last forever. Never again taste the undesirable flavor that comes from plastic containers in your food.



Mesh Strainer

Mesh Strainer

Dust powdered sugar on your chocolate soufflé with a mesh strainer, or rinse rice and beans before cooking. Strain stocks and soups or position it on top of a pot of boiling water to steam vegetables.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CHEESECAKE!!

   This recipe comes from www.mangiodasola.com .  WARNING! WARNING!WARNING! DO NOT MAKE WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION!! MAY LEAD TO YOU EATING THE WHOLE THING BY YOURSELF!......So Enjoy sparringly!!









Sunday, February 7th, was....*gulp*...my birthday. Whew! There. I said it. I know my mom's proud and shocked. It has taken me years to admit my birthday publicly to friends, students, and strangers. Usually I don't tell anyone and don't even celebrate the day of my birth. I also turn off my cellphone to avoid well-intentioned phone calls from relatives and my ex-girlfriend. I really don't like commemorating the 7th of February, but interestingly, food blogging is the catalyst behind my decision to slowly change my perspective.




   For weeks, I have been planning out what type of cake I wanted to make for my birthday. Like I said, I don't usually do anything for my birthday, but now that I have just started baking, I decided to make something special for it. (My friend guessed right that I made this cake for the blog more so than for my birthday haha)
   I wrote down notes for my quintessential cake. I wanted it to be special. I wanted it to have layers. I wanted it to be beautiful - no, I wanted it to be stunning. I wanted it to have my go-to cheesecake in it and chocolate. From there, I put together what I'll call a Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake made up of an Oreo crust, regular cheesecake filling (to contrast with the welcomed onslaught of chocolate), espresso mousse au chocolat, and espresso chocolate ganache on top.





Since I'm not very creative, I didn't add any frills such as whipped cream decorations or pieces of fruit, and ultimately, I was happy with that decision. It was already more than enough. It was decadent. Smooth. Silky with a slight crunch from the crust. Delectable. Rich. PERFECTION.

 




I really, really, really don't mean to brag, but every single layer was perfect. Every layer complimented each other brilliantly. I was shocked. I couldn't believe I had made this cake...every single layer. I was proud of myself for planning it out and allowing my plans to come to fruition successfully.






I knew that I couldn't keep this amazing creation in my house for long, so via text messaging and quick visits, I shared slices with my nearby colleagues/friends/neighbors (yes, they wear all three of those hats; I live in graduate housing, remember? :D). They all loved this cake. One person said I should sell it. Another person ate two slices in under 5 minutes. Another couldn't focus on our non-gastronomic conversation even after finishing off the cake and scraping the plate b/c she would interject repeatedly about how delicious the cake was haha.

My mom's birthday card in the background; she just couldn't resist...


Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake
A creation compiled by me along with two giants in the cooking world.
NOTE
: to make things easier, make the cheesecake and crust on one day and the mousse and ganache on the next day. Cheesecake lasts longer than mousse. Keep this cake refrigerated and will last up to 2-3 days but is best eaten the day it's made.

 

Layer 1: Oreo Cookie Crust
30-32 Oreo cookies (or chocolate sandwich cookies) for a high crust
4 Tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
1-2 tsp espresso powder (optional)

Crush cookies in a food processor or in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin or mallet. In a bowl or food processor, pour melted butter on top of the crushed cookies and add the espresso powder (optional), and mix or pulse well. Place the oreo mixture at the bottom of a springform pan. Smooth out the mixture with the bottom of a measuring cup or glass. Wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil. Place the crust in the freezer while you make the cheesecake.
Layer 2: Tall & Creamy CheesecakeHALVED & adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
For the cheesecake:
1 pound (two 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (I always use kosher salt)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup heavy cream (or sour cream or combination)

Put a kettle or pot of water on to boil. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Working in a stand mixer (or large bowl with hand mixer), preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft for about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt, and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition to yield a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and stir in the heavy cream or sour cream.
Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan, and pour in a few cups of the hot water in the pan around the springform pan (I do half before putting the cheesecake mixture, to reduce my chances of getting water in the cheesecake and to get everything ready.)
Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter should fill only half of the pan. Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour the rest of the boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 15-30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven's heat, and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours or overnight. Make the mousse once the cheesecake has cooled.



Quality chocolate courtesy of Callebaut Chocolate. YUM.

Layer 3: Mousse au chocolat/French Chocolate Mousseadapted from Tyler Florence on Food Network

6 ounces semisweet baking chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut; use good chocolate)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp espresso powder (added to intensify chocolate flavor, optional)
3 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

DIY ORIGAMI SEPTIMA STAR!

   This comes from www.goorigami.com .  I thought these looked like something that could be made into an ornament or even made larger for the start on your Christmas tree.






Septima Star by Ekaterina Lukasheva




It seems like this is the first origami star I’ve folded this year. And what a cool star it is!
Wondering how to make it? Follow the links below to the diagram and video instructions!

Description

Name:Origami Septima Star
Designer:Ekaterina Lukasheva
Units:6 / 7 (5 and 8-unit assembly is also possible)
Paper ratio:square
Assembled with:no glue
Paper size:7.5 cm
Model size:~ 9 cm
Paper:Patterned kami origami paper (China)
Origami paper, Folia (Germany)
Diagram:Septima Star – diagram
Video:Septima Star – video




Septima Star by Ekaterina Lukasheva






MARDI GRAS FROM NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA!!!








    The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced back to Medieval Europe, though we have no written record of how that really transformed into the current Mardi Gras of today. But the origins of the Mardi Gras we celebrate today....with Kings, Mardi Gras colors, and brass bands....are traced to New Orleans.
    Although we can trace its history to the Romans, a French-Canadian expolorer, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, landed on a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans in 1699 and called it "Pointe due Mardi Gras". He also established "Fort Louis de la Louisiane" (which is now Mobile) in 1702. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated the very first Mardi Gras.










    In 1704, Mobile established a secret society (Masque de la Mobile)....similar to those who form our current Mardi Gras Krewes. It lasted until 1709. In 1710, the "Boef Graf Society" was formed and paraded from 1711 through 1861. The procession was held with a huge bull's head pushed along on wheels by 16 men. This occurred on Fat Tuesday.
    New Orleans was established in 1718 by Jean-Baptise Le Moyne. By the 1730's, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans...but not in parade form. In the early 1740's, Louisiana's Governor The Marquis de Vaudreuil, established elegant society balls...the model for the New Orleans Mardi Gras balls of today.










    The earliest reference to Mardi Gras "Carnival" appears in a 1781 report to the Spanish colonial governing body. That year, the Perseverance Benevolent & Mutual Aid Associaiton is the first of hundreds of clubs and carnival organizations formed in New Orleans.
    By the late 1830's, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras. newspapers began to announce Mardi Gras events in advance.
    In 1871, Mardi Gras's second "Krewe" is formed, the Twelfth Night Reveler's, with the first account of Mardi Gras "throws".











    1872, was the year that a group of businessmen invented a King of Carnival-Rex-to parade in the first daytime parade. They introduced the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold, the Mardi Gras song, and the Mardi Gras flag.
    In 1873, the first floats were constructed entirely in New Orleans instead of France. In 1875, Governor Warmoth of Louisiana signs the "Mardi Gras Act" making it a legal holiday in Louisiana, which it still is.
    Most Mardi Gras Krewes today developed from private social clubs that have restrictive membership policies. Since all of these parade organizations are completely funded by its members, we call it the "Greatest Free Show on Earth"!











History Behind the King Cake

    As part of Christian faith, the coming of the wise men bearing gifts to the Christ Child is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. We refer to this as the Feast of Epiphany or Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night.  This is a time of celebration, exchanging gifts and feasting. Today, the tradition continues as people all over the world gather for festive Twelfth Night celebrations. A popular custom was and still is the baking of a special cake in honor of the three kinds called "A King's Cake".
    Inside every cake is a tiny baby (generally plastic now, but sometimes this baby might be made of porcelain or even gold). The tradition of having King Cake Parties has evolved through time, and the person who receives the slice of cake with the baby is asked to continue the festivities by hosting the next King Cake party.












    Originally, King Cakes were a simple ring of dough with a small amount of decoration. Today's King Cakes are much more festive. After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the "baby" is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold.
In more recent years, some bakeries have been creative with stuffing and topping their cakes with different flavors of cream cheese and fruit fillings.











  January 6th, the Twelfth Night after Christmas, is also the day Mardi Gras season begins. Mardi Gras Day is always 47 days prior to Easter Sunday (Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday).
    So, in Louisiana, especially, Mardi Gras season and King Cakes go hand in hand with literally hundreds of thousands of King Cakes consumed at parties and office lunch rooms every year.
    Ordering King Cakes over the Internet has now become an annual tradition by consumers all around the world...and many of the bakers offer them year around. After all, you can't have a Mardi Gras party without a King Cake.

Friday, February 21, 2014

DIY RED HEART PAPER QUILLING!


Red Heart Paper Quilling

Let's just say there have been way too many snow days lately. This week has just been crazy and I feel like I haven't even got anything done! The other day we were stuck in the house while it was dark and rainy, so I decided to try paper quilling. I wanted to make a heart. I took some pics along the way of my first quilling project, I didn't really know what I was doing but I still had fun and liked how it turned out. Pardon the lighting, I had no natural light so I strapped on the external flash and went to town.







First I used cardstock in a deep red color I liked. Cardstock is a little tricky because of its stiffness but it is the only red I had on hand (besides kids construction paper) I cut them into 1 inch wide strips roughly because I wanted some good dimension for my final project.







I started at one end slowly rolling the paper tightly until it was all rolled.







They ended up looking like this. When I let go of them they loosen and each take on their own little personality.






I decided to use a little hot glue and dabbed a little on the end to keep the rolled paper bound.
I set up all my rolled circles together and put them in a heart shape. I kept rearranging them until I got them how I liked them. Notice the very bottom one is different, I squeezed the very bottom of the circle to elongate it. After I had them how I liked them I started using a little hot glue to glue them to each other. One thing to note: Using a craft glue of e6000 would probably be less obvious, I wasn't as careful as I should of been so if you look close you can see evidence of the hot glue.





I thought these could be so cute on a valentine card, hanging up, as a garland, or even just sitting out. I really loved how the look turned out. Okay, moving on. :)







I went to the basement to find something to put my heart on. I am working on crafting with what I have and re-purposing items already in my stash. I found this little wood plaque that I had previously painted black to use for a different project that never happened. I just got some flat white paint and painted over the black. I should have used primer, but I didn't, so after like 3 coats we were good to go.






I did a light sanding on the edges just to add some personality, and you can see that some of the black started showing through which looked good.Then I just lightly put a few dabs of hot glue on the back side of the heart and stuck it on. Didn't get a picture of that step but I'm sure you get the picture!






Final product. Note to self: be more careful with the hot glue next time! If I had my sillouette (I'm still dreaming of one...think of all the cool stuff I could make!) I would have possibly added a little vinyl to spice it up a bit.






I'm so Lovin' this...it doesn't hurt that it was free since I had everything I needed to make it work.