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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 03/12/13

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH MILK CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING AND PEANUT BUTTER BRITTLE!


   Peanut butter brittle adds crunch to this decadent, eggless chocolate cake. No, it's not a mistake. This cake really doesn't contain any eggs. The oil in the batter makes the cake moist; the rest of the ingredients provide enough structure to give the cake a great crumb.






Ingredients

Brittle

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1cupsugar
  • 1/2cuplight corn syrup
  • 1/4cupwater
  • 1cupchopped lightly salted dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1teaspooncreamy (smooth) natural peanut butter (made with only peanuts and salt)*
  • 1/2teaspoonbaking soda
  • 1/2teaspoonvanilla extract

cake

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 3cupsall purpose flour
  • 2cupssugar
  • 2/3cupsifted natural unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted, then measured)
  • 2teaspoonsbaking soda
  • 1teaspoonsalt
  • 2cupswater
  • 2/3cupvegetable oil
  • 2tablespoonsapple cider vinegar
  • 2teaspoonsvanilla extract

Filling and frosting

  • 4ouncesimported milk chocolate, chopped
  • 5tablespoonsheavy whipping cream
  • 2 1/4cupspowdered sugar
  • 1 1/2cupschilled heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4cupcreamy (smooth) natural peanut butter (made with only peanuts and salt)*
  • 3/4cupchilled mascarpone cheese**

Preparation

brittle

  • Line large rimmed baking sheet with foil; brush with oil. Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber, swirling pan occasionally, about 10 minutes. Immediately stir in peanuts and all remaining ingredients. Scrape out mixture onto prepared sheet; spread out to about 13x9-inch rectangle. Cool completely. Coarsely chop enough brittle to measure 1 cup and finely chop enough to measure 1/2 cup. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Store in separate airtight containers at room temperature.

cake

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line pan bottoms with parchment paper. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into large bowl. Whisk 2 cups water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. Gradually add water mixture to dry ingredients, whisking until batter is smooth. Divide batter between prepared pans (scant 3 cups each).
  • Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs still attached, about 28 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Cut around cakes and turn out onto racks. Peel off parchment and cool.

filling and frosting

  • Place chocolate in medium bowl. Bring 5 tablespoons cream just to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Pour cream over chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Let stand until thick enough to spread, whisking occasionally, about 30 minutes.
  • Beat powdered sugar, 1 1/2 cups chilled cream, and peanut butter in large bowl just until blended. Add mascarpone; beat frosting just until thickened (do not overbeat).
  • Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread milk chocolate filling evenly over; sprinkle with 1/2 cup finely chopped peanut brittle. Spread with 1 cup frosting. Top with second cake layer, flat side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Cover with cake dome and chill 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours before continuing.
  • Sprinkle 1 cup coarsely chopped brittle over top of cake and serve.
  • *which peanut butter to use

    For this recipe, we used creamy (smooth) all-natural peanut butter. To make sure you're buying the right stuff, check the label. There should be only two ingredients: peanuts and salt. This style of peanut butter may have a layer of oil (from the peanuts) on top. If it does, chill the jar for a few hours, then slowly mix until smooth. Don't use freshly ground peanut butter: It can have inconsistent flavor and texture.
  • **An Italian cream cheese; sold at many supermarkets and at Italian markets.


10 ODD SUPERSTITIONS ABOUT FOOD!


   Superstitions can fill peoples lives with a bit of innocent fun, but they can also be incredibly crippling. This is a list of some of the more unusual superstitions that surround food. Many of these superstitions derive from Great Britain, and therefore ultimately found their way around the world through colonization.



10. Hollow Bread













   It was once (and perhaps still is) a superstition that if you found a hole in a loaf of bread you cut, it symbolized a coffin and meant that someone was soon to die. If a person found a loaf in this state, there would be days of discussion to guess who it might be that would be stricken down. Of course, these days we are less likely to cut our own loaves of bread, so this one is likely to die into obscurity.



9. Egg shells













   It was once a superstition that if you did not crush the ends of an egg after eating it, a witch would gather the shells and use them to craft a boat that she could use to sail out to sea to raise storms. This is a very ancient superstition which seems to originate in the 1580s. If you shattered the end of the shell, it would create enough holes to make it useless as a boat. We won’t even go into the logic of how a full-sized human might be able to stand in an egg shell – that was obviously not on the minds of our superstitious forebears.



8. Crossed Bread












   This innocent old superstition dictated that all loaves of bread must be marked with a sign of the cross before baking. The idea was that the cross would prevent the devil from sitting on the loaf – and thereby prevent him from cursing or spoiling the bread. The upside to this superstition is that bread rises much better in the oven when crossed – though obviously not from the influence (or lack thereof) of the wicked one.

7. Salt











We all know of the superstition surrounding the spilling of salt, but here is a slightly more unusual one. It used to be considered bad if you helped another person to the salt – there was even a little phrase that evolved from the superstition: “help to salt, help to sorry.” Salt is such an important part of human life that it is no wonder that it appears so frequently in the history of superstition.



6. Tea Rituals












   It used to be considered bad luck for two people to pour tea from the same pot. In addition, if you left the lid off the teapot while brewing tea, it was meant to mean that a stranger would visit soon. There were even a series of small rituals you could perform to determine the exact day, hour, and gender of the visitor by means of tapping the wrist.




5. Christmas Cake












   Superstitions surrounding Christmas are as numerous as Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands. One such superstition says that all members of a family must have a turn stirring the Christmas cake mixture or else bad luck will befall them. Young unmarried girls were especially supposed to have a turn – otherwise they would remain alone for another year.



4. Eggy Luck












   In many parts of Europe, farmers would take a fresh egg into the fields in the hopes that it would bring a good healthy crop. Eggs were also used to tell fortunes – two yolks would mean a marriage was coming up soon, a black spot on a yolk was a bad omen – and an egg with no yolk at all was just about as bad as you could get.



3. Garlic











   In Greece there is an ancient superstition called the Evil Eye. It is believed that when someone gives you the evil eye, bad luck (usually minor) will befall you. Now you may be wondering why this is on a food superstitions list; the reason is that the way to prevent the evil eye from affecting you is to carry around a piece of garlic. This is unlikely to help you when you are having a night out looking for a date!


2. The Wishbone













   Before we all sit back on our laurels and laugh at the superstitions around the world that would never afflict us; let us remember one of our own most revered superstitions, the pulling of the wishbone. In Western (especially American and British) tradition, two people use their pinky finger to break the wishbone. The person who wins the longest piece gets good luck and usually makes a wish. We may all say we aren’t superstitious – but this is something we have all done at one time or another which leads us to our last (and equally common) superstition:



1. Wedding Rice













   Throwing rice at a wedding is such a common event that we don’t even bat an eyelid when we see it happening. But what most of us don’t realize is that this a very superstitious tradition with a very long history. The throwing of rice is meant to bring prosperity, wealth, and happiness to the couple. Frankly though, with the amount of money people spend on weddings these days, it would be more useful to throw wads of cash rather than rice.

MAHA SHIVRATRI FESTIVAL FROM INDIA!







   Maha Shivaratri is celebrated with great devotion and religious fervor by Hindus, in honor of Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Gods forming the Trinity. The festival falls on the moonless, 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun (in the month of February - March, according to English Calendar). On the festival of Maha Shivaratri, devotees observe day and night fast and worship Shiva Lingam, to appease Lord Shiva. Many interesting legends have been related to the festival of Maha Shivaratri, explaining the reason behind its celebrations as well as its significance.
   According to one of the most popular legends, Shivaratri is the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. It is also believed that Lord Shiva performed ‘Tandava’, the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction on this auspicious night of Shivaratri. According to another popular legend, described in Linga Purana, it was on Shivaratri that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga for the first time. Since then, the day is considered to be extremely auspicious by the devotees of Shiva and they celebrate it as Maha Shivaratri - the grand night of Shiva.
   Shiva devotees observe strict fast on Maha Shivaratri, with many people having only fruits and milk and some not even consuming a drop of water. Worshippers dutifully follow all the traditions and customs related to Shivaratri festival, as they strongly believe that sincere worship of Lord Shiva, on the auspicious day, releases a person of his sins and also liberates him from the cycle of birth and death. As Shiva is regarded as the ideal husband, unmarried women pray for a husband like Him, on Shivaratri. On the other hand, married women pray for the well being of their husbands, on this auspicious day.










   On Maha Shivratri, devotees wake up early in the morning and take a bath, if possible in river Ganga. After wearing fresh clothes, they visit the nearest Shiva temple, to give ritual bath to the Shiva Lingum (with milk, honey, water etc). The worship continues the whole day and whole night. Jaagran (nightlong vigil) might also be observed in Lord Shiva temples, where a large number of devotees sing hymns and devotional songs, in praise of Lord Shiva. In the morning,g devotees break their fast by partaking the prasad offered to Lord Shiva, after the aarti, the night before.
   Mahashivaratri is one of the important Hindu festivals celebrated with religious fervor across the length and breadth of India. Followers of Lord Shiva consider the festival very special, as it is the time to show their love and devotion to their favorite deity. It is significant in every devotee's life, as it also tests ones ability to abstain from food (because fast is observed on the day) and remain vigil in the night without sleeping (because one has to remain awake all through the night, on Mahashivratri). In addition to this, Maha Shivaratri bears significance in Hindu mythology. In the following lines, learn all about the significance of Mahashivaratri.


Significance Of Maha Shivratri

Importance In Hinduism
   According to the Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva declared that the rituals performed by his devotees on the 14th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Phalgun please him the most. Therefore, year by year, the day is observed as Mahashivratri, wherein devotees observe fast, sing songs and bhajans and offer prayers to the  Almighty to seek his blessings. Pujas conducted in Lord Shiva temples during the day have significance too. This is because the rituals are conducted strictly in accordance with the method that is prescribed in Shiva Purana, a Hindu epic. According to the Purana, poojas are conducted once in every three hours, on Maha Shivaratri.










Importance In Human Lives
   It is believed that the devotion of Lord Shiva on Mahashivaratri would freed the devotee from the past sins. Moreover, the devotee would reach the adobe of Lord Shiva and live there happily, because he/she is liberated from the cycle of birth and death, once he/she attains moksha or salvation. Therefore, all the devotees of Lord Shiva would flock the temples to offer their prayers. To serve the purpose, jujube fruits, stalks of Bilwa leaves, flowers and garlands are offered to the Shiva Linga by the devotees. If the devotee celebrates the festival at home, he/she would perform the Mahashivratri Puja by taking a holy bath (in warm water) early in the morning, wearing new clothes and then smearing bhasm (holy ash) on their forehead.

Importance For Women
   Maha Shivaratri is especially important for women. Ladies, both married and unmarried, would perform Shiva Puja and observe fast with great devotion and sincerity. This is predominantly done to appease Lord Shiva along with his consort Goddess Parvati, who is often called Ma Gauri. It is believed that Ma Gauri bestows marital bliss on unmarried women and blesses the married women with healthy and blissful married life. Since Lord Shiva is regarded as the ideal husband by the Hindu women, the unmarried women would not miss to observe the stringent fast on Shivaratri.

Maha Shivaratri Celebrations

   Mahashivaratri is celebrated with gusto by the Hindus all over India. It is an important day for the followers of Lord Shiva, as it honors their favorite deity. The celebrations are marked by fasting and the observance of a number of rituals. The festival is significant in many aspects. For instance, it bears mythological importance, because Lord Shiva is considered one of the deities of Hindu Trinity, the other two being Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. On Maha Shivaratri, the devotees of Lord Shiva observe a stringent fast, which is broken only during the next morning, after prasad is offered to the deity. Know more about the celebrations of Mahashivratri, in the article.








Maha Shivratri Festival Celebrations

In the Morning
   The devotees of Lord Shiva wake up early in the morning to take a ceremonious bath, after which, they would wear new clothes, smear bhasm (holy ashes) on their forehead and head towards the nearest Lord Shiva temple to take part in the celebrations. On the other hand, if they are at home, they would conduct a puja in the morning, by offering Bilwa leaves, flowers and garlands to the deity and thereafter, observe a fast for the entire day. A certain diet is formulated especially for the day, which consists of fruits and beverages (including tea, milk and coffee) as the food for the day.

Celebrations At Temple
   Lord Shiva temples are decorated beautifully with festoons, on the wonderful occasion of Mahashivaratri. Apart from the usual pujas of the temple, special pujas are conducted to make the day different from the ordinary. On the festival, as many as six types of Abhisheks can be witnessed, each using milk, ghee, sugar, honey, water and sandalwood paste. The priest would chant mantras and conduct the pooja, while the devotees would queue up to have a glimpse of the rituals performed at the altar and offer prayers to the deity. The devotees would often offer incense sticks, dhoop, Bilwa leaves and garlands to the temple, which are offered to the Shiva Linga.

Celebrations In the Night
   The merrymaking reaches its peak in the night of Mahashivratri, when devotees of Lord Shiva would sing songs, bhajans, chant mantras and offer prayers to the Almighty. The devotees would continue to observe their fast. In fact, they would remain at the temple premises all through the night, to take part in the keertans or jaagrans that are arranged by the temple authorities, for the festival. The devotees are served tea occasionally, to keep them awake during the night. Either the devotees themselves would sing the bhajans or professional singers are called upon on the festival, to serve the purpose. The celebrations of Maha Shivaratri would culminate only in the dawn of the next day, when the devotees would break their fast by eating the prasad that was offered to the deity in the previous night.
Maha Shivaratri Legends
There are various legends related to the auspicious festival of Maha Shivratri. These legends are similar in one sense, as they all throw light on the greatness of Lord Shiva and his supremacy over all other Hindu Gods and Goddesses. They also explain the importance of fasting on Shivratri and chanting the name of Lord Shiva, while staying awake all night. The reasons behind worship may be many, but the motive is one, to make Lord Shiva happy. The day is considered to be extremely auspicious by the devotees of Lord Shiva and they celebrate it as Maha Shivratri - the grand night of Shiva.







Legends & Stories Of Maha Shivratri

Marriage of Shiva and Shakti
   One of the most popular legends of Maha Shivratri is related to the marriage of Shiva and Shakti. The day Lord Shiva got married to Parvati is celebrated as Shivratri - the Night of Lord Shiva. It tells us how Lord Shiva got married a second time to Shakti, his divine consort. There is another version of the legend, according to which Goddess Parvati performed tapas and prayers on the auspicious moonless night of Shivratri, for the well being of her husband. Believing in this legend, married women began the custom of praying for the well being of their husbands and sons on Maha Shivratri, while, unmarried women pray for a husband like Shiva, who is considered to be the ideal partner.

Samudra Manthan
   There is another very popular Shivratri legend from Puranas, which explains why people stay awake all night on Shivratri and why Lord Shiva is also known as Neelakantha. According to the story, when the battle between devas and asuras took place, a pot of poison came out of the ocean and on the request of gods, Lord Shiva drank the poison. The poison was so potent that it changed the color of His neck to blue. For this reason, Lord Shiva is also called Neelkanth, where ‘Neela’ means blue and ‘Kantha’ means neck or throat. As part of the therapy, Lord Shiva was advised to awake during the night. Thus, to keep Shiva awake, the gods performed various dances and played music. Pleased with their devotion, He blessed them all, the next morning. Therefore, Shivratri is the celebration of this event in which Lord Shiva saved the world.

Legend of Shiva Linga
   The legend of Shiva Linga is also deeply related to Maha Shivratri. According to the story, Brahma and Vishnu searched hard to discover the Aadi (beginning) and the Antha (end) of Lord Shiva. It has been believed that on the 14th day in the dark fortnight of the month of Phalguna, Shiva first manifested himself in the form of a Linga. Since then, the day is considered to be extremely auspicious and is celebrated as Maha Shivratri - the grand night of Shiva. To celebrate this occasion, devotees of Lord Shiva keeps fast during the day and worship the Lord throughout the night. It is said that worshipping Lord Shiva on Shivratri bestows one with happiness and prosperity.







Legend of Ganga
   The legend of Ganga is another popular legend which is related to Shivratri. Ganga's descent from the heavens to the earth has been narrated in the Hindu mythological epic of Ramayana. This legend explains the popular custom of giving bath to Shiv Linga on Shivratri festival. According to this legend, Lord Shiva held out his thick matted hair to catch the river ganga, as she descended from heaven. The meandering through Shiva’s lock softened Ganga’s journey to the earth and the holy waters washed away the ashes of Bhagirath’s ancestors. The Ganga, thus, became an attribute of Shiva and therefore Shiva is also known as Gangadhara. Believing in this legend, Shiva is given a bath with gangajal and devotees take a dip in the holy water of river Ganga, on Shivratri.