East-Ka-Bobs

One of my favorite things to do on Holy Saturday is deliver these little kabobs — candy kabobs that is! Many of you wrote to me and asked about the Easter kabobs I made last year. So, back by popular demand…here they are.

I got the idea for these in a local boutique…so clever! The price: $8 per kabob!

I wanted lots of kabobs so I bought my own candy and materials and spent $20 max! So far, I’ve made 20 kabobs and still going. (Retail price for 20 would be $160.)

For all You DIYers Out There

Materials: wooden skewers (available in the grocery store), roll of cellophane, ribbon, Easter grass, twisties, ribbon.

Candy: I used Reese’s cups, Peeps, chocolate eggs, fondant eggs, and some gummy shapes. The candy is tricky. I found the candy wrapped in foil with soft centers (such as a mini Reese’s cup or caramel-filled eggs) work really well. Next time, I would like to find a little bigger chocolate egg wrapped in foil.

The photo tells it all – slide candy on skewers, wrap in cellophane, secure Easter grass with a twistie and finish with pretty ribbon!

The designs are endless depending on the candy, the type of Easter grass and the ribbon. Have fun!

Ring Tum Ditty

Rarely do I write about food with only a recipe attached. There’s always a back story involving tradition, hospitality, family, and friends. Even if food prep means a tired mom or dad cobbling together leftovers to hurriedly get dinner on the table, it’s done to feed the hungry family, with love.

Isabelle Kelley, my mother-in-law, introduced me to Ring Tum Ditty. I was never sure of its spelling but I went along with it. An Internet search shows many variations of Ring Tum Ditty, but it’s usually a combination of inexpensive ingredients, tomatoes being one, and it’s meat free. It’s a simple dish Bella grew up on during the Depression, but more recently, something she made for her 11 children, most likely during Lent as a meat-less meal.

Bella didn’t rush when she prepared the ingredients with her delicate and feeble hands. Ring Tum Ditty is a comfort food and the secret’s in the Worcestershire Sauce.

The Last Memory of Ring Tum Ditty
Almost 10 years ago, I gathered the ingredients and called Bella thinking I might stop in during my lunch break, make some Ring Tum Ditty, and have a visit.

Oddly, my brother-in-law Mike answered the phone instead of Bella. I told him my lunch plan. In his usual way (he’s a fireman so he’s always steady and calm), he said, “What a nice idea, I know mom would like that but I am going to take her over to the hospital right now.”

Bella, in her 80s, never returned to her home after that day. Her 11 children all came to be with her and she passed away peacefully to join her husband in eternal life.

I’ve never forgotten that day tied up in the memory of a tomato soup-cheese-cracker combination. Every time I make the dish, I think of Bella, the big Kelley family, and being so darn lucky to be a part of it! It’s Lent, and Ring Tum Ditty makes its usual appearance.

Today’s writing is for all our departed loved ones and memories of good food, good times, and good people. Do you have a memory or recipe you would like to share? Respond to this blog or email me at bagkelley@gmail.com.

Bella’s Ring Tum Ditty

  • 1 can Campbell’s®Tomato Soup, condensed version, mixed according to the directions on can
  • 1-1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Saltine crackers, about one cup in each bowl, or to taste
  • Worcestershire Sauce®, to taste

Heat soup according to the directions on the can. Add the shredded cheddar cheese and simmer on low until all the cheese in melted throughout. Keep warm.

Crumble saltine crackers in an individual soup bowl.

Pour hot soup over the crackers. Stir to absorb soup. Add more or less soup and/or crackers until desired consistency. Top with Worcestershire sauce and eat.

Yield: 2 servings

Leprechaun Hats

An Irish colleen (from the Irish cailín, meaning girl) just came a knockin’ at mee door with some leprechaun hats—edible that is!

“Me and the wee ones made ‘em up quite quick,” she said.

Here is Marion Devlin’s recipe for Leprechaun Hats. (At Thanksgiving they become pilgrim hats and, at Christmas, they become Santa Claus hats! She’s a clever colleen!)

Leprechaun Hats

INGREDIENTS

Arrange Fudge Stripe Cookies on a baking sheet with chocolate side up (stripes down).

Melt white and dark chocolate according to package directions; keep warm for dipping in separate bowls.

Dip marshmallows in chocolate and place on top of Fudge Stripe Cookies. Top with green sprinkles. Cool to room temperature.

Basket O’ Blarney

How about taking a basket of St. Patrick’s Day cheer to someone? That’s what we did today. I took two boys, each fortuituously named Patrick (one being our son and his friend), and we visited someone who really appreciated an Irish picnic lunch. Here’s what to put in your basket if you get inspired.

  1. Irish soda bread. Click here for my recipe
  2. Butter, unsalted, whipped (Land O’ Lakes makes it in an easy-to-carry tub)
  3. Corned beef, sliced for sandwiches, recipe below
  4. Swiss cheese, sliced for sandwiches
  5. Mustard
  6. Pumpernickel/rye bread and croissants for sandwiches
  7. Shamrock cookies
  8. Strawberries
  9. Irish tea
  10. Beverage of your choice
  11. Paper products — festive plates, napkins, forks, knives, cups (all for easy clean-up, take your own trash bag and leave no trace)
  12. Tablecloth, green preferably
  13. St. Patrick, if you happen to have a little statue of the Irish saint
  14. Last, take along a happy spirit and your smiling Irish eyes!
    Package the shamrock cookies in cellophane bags with ribbon

    Package the shamrock cookies in cellophane bags with ribbon.

Best Corned Beef with Glaze

  • Corned beef brisket
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup grainy mustard
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    Boil corned beef in water with spice packet enclosed with the beef. Simmer for at least one hour per pound. More cooking will not hurt it. Remove from water and place in baking dish.  Mix orange marmalade, brown sugar and mustard and spread on beef, Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes until topping is sizzling and crispy. Slice hot or at room temperature.
  • Our St. Patrick's Day table.

    Our St. Patrick’s Day table.

“Necessity is the Mother of Invention” — King Cakes for Mardi Gras

A few years ago about this time, in my exuberance, I volunteered to make King Cakes for Mardi Gras for my son’s school. I had no idea what was involved. I just raised my hand and said “King Cakes” because I knew they were associated with Mardi Gras. I left knowing I would figure it out later when the time came.

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the time from the Epiphany culminating on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which begins Lent, a time for penance and fasting. This year, Mardi Gras is on March 4. Here are some of the various names for the celebration. No matter where, it always involves a feast before the fast.

  • New Orleans/France: Mardi Gras
  • Brazil: Carnival
  • Italy: Carnivale
  • Germany: Fastnacht or Fasching
  • United Kingdom and Ireland: Shrove Tuesday

King Cakes

The King Cake takes its name from the biblical three kings who visited the Christ child on January 6, the Epiphany. In the Gulf Coast region of the United States, the tradition was brought to the area by colonists from France and Spain. King Cake parties in New Orleans are documented back to the eighteenth century. The most traditional style of King Cake is a ring of twisted bread similar to that used in brioche topped with icing or sugar, usually colored purple, green, and gold, the traditional Mardi Gras colors. Purple for justice. Green for faith. Gold for power.

Each cake is baked with a tiny plastic baby representing the Baby Jesus, or some type of trinket or bean. In the south, whoever finds the trinket must provide the next King Cake or host the next Mardi Gras party.

Now, Back to My Problem

All I know is I had to produce 10 King Cakes in a short time and I had no idea how to do it. I did my research on the Internet and found the Louisiana-style King Cake — a cinnamon-roll-like cake inside with sugary icing and traditional Mardi Gras-colored sprinkles on the outside.

I found the KingsCakeShop.com and Haydel’s Bakers, both in Louisiana, who were long-time bakers of this authentic cake. Oh that’s easy, I’ll just place an order and they can be shipped right to the school. Job done. Wait…King Cakes ordered from Mardi Gras town, although wonderful and authentic, ranged from $35 to $60. Okay…that times 10 cakes equals around $500! What did I volunteer for again?

Making them myself was an option but, really, ten of them? Brioche-like? Twisted yeast bread with fillings of cream cheese and cinnamon? Cinnamon-roll-like? Ten King Cakes by when? Once again, I had gotten myself in over my head.

I had to think fast. No way would I back down on my promise so I started thinking. Soon my easy, inexpensive King Cake version was born! I call the recipe, Easy King Cakes You Can Make When You Have to Make 10 of Them. And you know what? They are delicious too. So, all you busy people, go ahead and make a King Cake this year and impress everyone. Enjoix and laissez les bons temps rouler! 

“Easy King Cakes You Can Make When You Have to Make 10 of Them”

  • Prep time: 8 minutes per cake
  • Baking time: 25-30 minutes per cake
  • Decorating time: 10 minutes per cake, if that
  • Cost per cake: Approx. $7

Ingredients

  • 3 cans cinnamon roll ready-to-bake dough (12.4 oz. can)
  • 1 can cream cheese frosting
  • Sprinkles – purple, green and gold
  • One naked plastic baby (Can be bought at party stores or places that carry baking items. These are specially made to withstand high baking temperatures.)

Pop open all three tubes of cinnamon rolls and put in a bowl. Knead all the rolls together and on a lightly-floured surface, roll the dough into a tube-like form.

Shape the tube into a ring. If you want your King Cake to be bigger, use more cans of cinnamon rolls.

Bury the naked baby deep into the dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the ring on the sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Bury the naked baby in the dough before baking.

Let cool and when still slightly warm, ice the cake with the icing from the three cans. Supplement with cream cheese canned frosting.

Decorate the icing with sprinkles of purple, green and gold, the colors of Mardi Gras.

 

Soothing the Soul

It was a hard week and our friends’ elderly mother passed away. We feel the loss of Edna Mae Reagan Devlin – a fine Irish cailín who never had a bad thing to say about anyone. She made you feel good about yourself and that’s something to be remembered for. Why not make some big, chewy cookies and share them with friends who need a little comfort?

Big and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – You’ll Want to Bookmark this One!
From The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

You can substitute any kind of chocolate or peanut butter chips for the semisweet ones. I used both white chocolate and milk chocolate. The recipe calls for 2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks (the extra fat makes it chewy but not tough). The melted butter accounts for the chewy inside.

Hint: What to do with the leftover egg whites? I decided to beat them slightly with a tablespoon of water and a few drops of vanilla extract. Brush the cookie all over with the egg wash before baking and you will have a nice browned cookie; otherwise they are a little pale. (If you want to read about pale cookies, click here.)

America’s Test Kitchen is famous for testing their recipes to reach perfection. Follow their meticulous instructions and you can count on them to bring it on home!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1-1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks (see my suggestion in the intro for what to do with the leftover egg whites)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until combined, one to two minutes. Beat in the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla, until combined, about 30 second, scraping down the bowl and the beaters as needed.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the chocolate chips until incorporates.

Working with 1/4 cup of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay on two parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about 2-1/2 inches apart. (Hint: Here is where you can brush with the egg wash.)

Bake until the edges are golden but the centers are still soft and puffy, 17 to 20 minutes, rotating and switching the baking sheets halfway through baking.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack.

Rita + Tom = Some Really Good Cookies

Melanie (blog follower, frequent contributor and test kitchen cook) made more than 100 Rita + Tom sugar cookie hearts for their 40th wedding anniversary. She got conscripted into service to make them as well as 100 German Chocolate cupcakes (but that’s another story).

Aren’t they pretty? I’ve been wanting to work with Royal Icing so maybe some pink-tinted hearts for Valentine’s Day would give me that chance.

The recipe she uses is well tested. Melanie doesn’t make anything that isn’t superb. Her test kitchen is always heating up!

Ann’s Sugar Cookies
By Ann Curry from The Today Show Cookbook

  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS

Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg, vanilla and orange peel. Beat together. Add flour and salt. Roll out to a quarter-inch thickness. Cut into shapes; place on ungreased cooking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Yield: Makes about two dozen, two-and-half-inch cookies.

Royal Icing for Hearts

Royal icing is a hard white icing, made from softly beaten egg whites, icing sugar, and sometimes lemon or lime juice. Melanie talks about why she uses Royal Icing and how she makes it:

“I use Wilton’s Meringue Powder to make Royal Icing instead of raw egg whites to make royal icing.  You just add powdered sugar and water, and beat it well.  It’s much easier to use than making Royal Icing from raw egg whites, and I’m not a fan of raw eggs being used anyway.

“When using Royal Icing, you have to be sure not to let it dry out because it sets up like cement, which is why it’s so good for icing cookies (they won’t get mushed).

“To ice Rita and Tom’s hearts, I piped an outline of the blue, filled it in with the blue, and then let that dry. The next day I did the white outline and the writing. I used Wilton paste colors to tint the icing.

“Hint: You can find lots of info and videos online about how to use Royal Icing that would explain it much better than I have.”

Video on how to make Royal Icing: Click here for a complete demonstration from the Joy of Baking on how to make the icing. It really makes a cookie very special.