09 February 2010

Easy Party For a Crowd: Marti Gras King Cake, Kicked Up Red Beans

Photos from 2theadvocate.com

From Denny: Two recipes are easy to make and real crowd pleasers for the Marti Gras season of parades when you invite a lot of people over to your house to view the parades. Even if you live in a part of the country that does not celebrate Marti Gras the way we do you will still find these recipes a lot of fun. You could serve these even at a family reunion gathering or at Easter. The recipes? They are a red beans and rice dish and King Cake from a local food writer in Baton Rouge.

Do you know anything about the history of the King Cake? General opinion dates it back to the Middle Ages in Europe. It was made to honor the Magi, the famous three kings (who may have also been astronomers) who came to visit Jesus Christ as a child. In the 1700's when the Acadian French were chased out of Canada all the way down into the malaria infested swamps of Louisiana they still clung to many traditions. The King Cake custom was one of them, celebrated on the Feast of the Epiphany.

In 1800's Louisiana was when the Marti Gras Krewes (clubs) began forming in New Orleans. When was the official kickoff date of the Carnival season? You guessed it: the Feast of the Epiphany and the King Cake became associated with the Carnival. We always top the cake with colored sugars in three colors: purple, green and gold. The colors represent special elements: purple for justice, green for faith and gold represents power.

There are many pastry and grocery shops from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to Lafayette that make dozens of varieties of King Cake like stuffed with blueberries and cream cheese, chocolate fudge, boston creme and an endless variety of creative ideas that all taste awesome.

Why make you own? Awww, come on, why not? Besides, if you are like me there are times when you have lived away from an area that makes these and it's wonderful to make your own. Baking sweetened bread is so easy like making the old-fashioned Swedish cinnamon breakfast rings. You can involve the kids in this recipe too. There is something so rewarding about baking your own bread and even more so when it is for a holiday.

This recipe for a cinnamon version is easy and makes for a very light and moist King Cake. It does take some time, like any bread recipe from scratch. So make sure you allow time for the dough to rise for the full 60 to 90 minutes recommended - or at least until it's doubled its size. It's the doubling that is the key to a light and moist dough that can hold that fragrant cinnamon filling.

*** Feel free to comment as I enjoy hearing from all of you!

Homemade King Cake

Tracey Koch

Serves: 12

Dough Ingredients:

1 (3/4-oz.) packet or a little more than 1 tsp. rapid-rise yeast (Be sure to check the expiration date before using.)
1 tbl. sugar
1 cup warm water (about 105 degrees)
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs (slightly beaten)
4 tbls. butter (melted and cooled)
Purple, Green and Gold Sugar Toppings (see recipe)

Filling Ingredients:

1/3 cup sugar
2 tbls. cinnamon
2 tbls. softened butter


1. To make the dough: In a 2-cup measuring cup dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in the warm water and allow it to sit for 3 to 4 minutes or until it becomes frothy.

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together 3 cups of the flour, 1/4 cup sugar and salt.

3. Make a well in the sifted flour and add in the frothy yeast mixture along with the eggs and cooled melted butter. Using a wooden spoon, combine ingredients until all is incorporated and a sticky ball is formed.

4. Sprinkle the dough with a tablespoon of flour, and sprinkle an additional tablespoon of flour onto a work surface. Knead the dough for 1 minute and then return it to the mixing bowl to rise.

5. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and place in a warm, draft-free place. Allow the dough to rise for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

6. Cut out a piece of parchment paper to measure 15x10 inches and sprinkle with a little of the remaining flour. Roll dough out on the parchment paper to about 1/2-inch thick and into a 14x9-inch rectangle.

7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

8. For filling, combine sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

9. Spread softened butter onto the rolled-out dough and then sprinkle the top with the cinnamon-sugar.

10. Roll the dough up lengthwise to form a log, sealing the seam to keep the cinnamon-sugar inside. Bring both ends of the log together to form a ring. Press the ends together to connect them.

11. Line a baking sheet with a fresh sheet of parchment paper. Place the ring of dough on the parchment paper.

12. Stretch the dough to form an oval shape. Pulling the dough ring will also help to make the king cake even all the way around and bake more evenly.

13. Sprinkle the ring with purple, green and gold sugar and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Purple, Green and Gold Sugar Toppings


6 tbls. sugar

Yellow, green, red and blue food coloring


1. Divide the sugar among three bowls, placing 2 tablespoons in each bowl.

2. To make the gold sugar use 2 to 4 drops of the yellow food coloring. Use the back of a teaspoon to mash the food coloring into the sugar. Repeat the steps, using green food coloring, to make green sugar.

3. For the purple, use 3 drops of blue food coloring followed by 2 to 3 drops of red. Mash the colors into the sugar until you reach the desired hue.

Kitchen helpers: This is a great way to introduce your children to working with yeast dough. It is easy to make and doesn’t require any electrical appliances. Youngsters will also enjoy coloring the sugar.

This is one of the simplest red bean recipes and it derives most of its flavor from the turkey tasso. If you are unable to acquire tasso, whether pork or turkey, just substitute your favorite sausage or prosciutto. This simple savory recipe would appeal to a wide range of people.

You can make this easily in a slow cooker. It's also topped with a tapenade to give the plain red beans more interest and kicked up flavor. Any time you add fresh vegetables to a slow cooked dish it gives it another dimension.

You can always place Tabasco sauce and Cajun seasoning on the side for people who want to kick up their bowls with more spice. :) Many times for families with small children we cook a less spicy version and then offer spices on the side for the adults to add to their personal taste.

Three-Step Red Beans

Tracey Koch

Serves: 6


1 (1-lb.) pkg. dried red kidney beans
1 tbl. olive oil
1 lb. smoked turkey tasso (cut into chunks)
1 cup chopped onions
2 tbls. minced garlic
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Put beans in large pot and add in enough cold water to cover them. Bring beans to a rolling boil; allow beans to boil for 15 to 20 minutes, remove from heat and drain well.

2. Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat oil and sauté tasso, onions and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes or until onions are translucent.

3. Return drained beans to pot and add sautéed onions and tasso. Pour in broth and slowly bring beans to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Adjust seasonings, serve.

Note: You can do Step 3 in a slow cooker. Put all prepared ingredients in slow cooker and set on High. Once beans begin to boil (takes about 1-1/2 hours), reduce heat to Low and cook for an additional 2 to 3 hours.

Kitchen helpers: Kids can be a big help in chopping the onions and tasso. They can also help watch the beans as they cook.

Marinated Veggie Tapenade

Tracey Koch

Serves: 6


1 English cucumber (seeded and diced)
1 cup chopped grape tomatoes
1 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 cup seeded and chopped banana peppers
1/4 cup chopped red onions
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste


1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, peppers and red onions.

2. In a measuring cup, whisk together the vinegar and oil and pour the mixture over the vegetables.

3. Season with a little salt and pepper and cover.

4. Chill the marinated vegetables for an hour or so before serving.

Kitchen helpers: Kids will enjoy mixing up this colorful vegetable medley. It is great tossed in a salad, but the cool, crisp and tangy tapenade will add another dimension of taste and texture to red beans. This is a great way to sneak more vegetables into the meal. It is also a great way to let your kids experience a variety of textures using flavors that are very family friendly.

ALSO: 5 Slamming Valentine Godiva Chocolate Recipes

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