Monday, February 04, 2008

And a merry Mardi Gras to you too!

Happy almost Fat Tuesday, y'all!

I imagine at least a few of you are brushing off your Super Bowl-related hangovers and preparing to rip it up again in honor of Mardi Gras. I understand...Mind over matter. I used to be able to do that too when I was in my early to mid 20s. Not so much anymore. Moving on...With the bulk of my extended family hailing from Louisiana - New Orleans and Lake Charles to be precise - I've always been a sucker for a good Mardi Gras party. And while I'm sad I can't be in NOLA this week, celebrating in style, I plan to entertain a few friends post-elections tomorrow evening with a "King Cake" and some seasonal cocktails. Hand grenade anyone?

Seriously, though, I've found the sugar-free variations of a few Carnival-related treats and I'm eager to try them out. Take the "King Cake," for example, a popular Mardi Gras dessert that features colorful icing and a plastic baby. Seriously. The traditional version is a braided coffee cake decorated in purple, green and gold sugar. Each one contains a hidden plastic baby - with custom dictating that whoever finds the toy must buy the next cake or throw the next party. Hundreds upon hundreds of "King Cake" parties are thrown every year. Growing up in the Midwest, however, my reference to King Cake often generated raised eyebrows, blank stares or questions. It's not a huge tradition up North, ya hey.

I know it's hard to believe that a sugar-free, lower-calorie version can exist, but here ya go!
Cake Ingredients:
2 (8 oz.) pkg. Fat Free Cream Cheese
2/3 cup granular Splenda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 cup no sugar added apple pie filling
2 pkg. Crescent Rolls
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine cream cheese, 2/3 cup Splenda, egg yolk and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
3. Unroll crescent rolls and place on cookie sheet with points towards the center, overlapping as needed. Try to make a circle.
4. Spread cream cheese mixture over the dough leaving 1/2-inch from edges.
5. Mix the apple filling with 1 tsp. of Splenda and mash until slightly lumpy. Spread the filling on top of the cream cheese and then fold the outside edges over the filling to prevent leaking.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Cool and glaze.

Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup granular Splenda
1 to 2 tsp. fat-free milk
Food coloring
1. Mix Splenda with milk.
2. When desired thickness, add food coloring to create three different toppings.
3. Spread with ease and let sit for a few minutes.

Adding to the festivities, if you can't make it to Pat O's in the French Quarter this week for their world-famous hurricane cocktail, here's a version you can make from home!

2 oz light rum
2 oz dark rum
* 2 oz passion fruit juice
1 oz orange juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
* 1 tbsp simple syrup
1 tbsp grenadine

* For a healthier recipe, use some V8 Splash Guava Passion and make sugar-free simple syrup combining 1 cup of sucralose with 1 cup of boiling water. Once it has cooled, strain the sucralose and water through a coffee filter.

Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, pour into a hurricane glass and garnish with an orange slice and cherry.

Finally, if you've been jonesing for a Cafe Du Monde beignet (and some coffee and chicory...yum!) check out this tasty treat.

2 tablespoons granulated Splenda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
1 cup water
1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vegetable oil for frying
Powdered sugar
1. In a saucepan, combine Splenda, salt, butter, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil.
2. Add flour and cook over medium heat, beating with spoon until dough forms a ball and leaves side of pan. Remove from heat.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with electric mixer at medium speed after each addition. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth.
4. Mix in vanilla.
5. Roll dough on a floured surface and cut into 2-inch squares.
6. In skillet, heat 1 to 2-inches of oil. Then fry dough (three or four pieces at a time) until puffy and golden brown on both sides.
8. Remove beignets and drain on paper towels. While hot, sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.

Don't forget. Tomorrow is Election Day in many states so, if at all possible, please get out and vote.

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