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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: March 2015

Sunday, March 29, 2015

THE CARNIVAL OF VENICE, FROM ITALY!!

  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.

DARK CHOCOLATE CANDY BARK!

Dark Chocolate Candy Bark



   Chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, malted milk balls, or your favorite candy bar can be the star of this easy Christmas candy-bark recipe. If you're not big on dark chocolate, use white chocolate instead.





Dark Chocolate Candy Bark



ingredients
  • 6
    ounces chocolate-flavor candy coating, chopped (1 cup)
  • 6
    ounces dark chocolate, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1
    tablespoon shortening
  • 2
    cups chopped assorted chocolate candy bars, such as chocolate-coated caramel-topped nougat bars with peanuts, chocolate-covered English toffee, chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, or malted milk balls
  • 1/2
    cup salted peanuts, chopped
directions
1.Line a large baking sheet with heavy foil; grease foil. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl combine candy coating, chocolate, and shortening. Microwave, uncovered, on 100 percent power (high) for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until chocolate melts, stirring every 30 seconds.
2.Stir 1 cup of the assorted chopped candy bars and the peanuts into melted chocolate mixture. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Spread mixture into an even layer about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup chopped candy bars; lightly press pieces into chocolate.
3.Chill about 30 minutes or until firm. Use foil to lift candy out of pan. Using a sharp knife, cut candy into pieces.

To Store:
  • Layer pieces of candy bark between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
White Chocolate Candy Bark:
  • Prepare as directed, except substitute vanilla-flavor candy coating for the chocolate-flavor candy coating; chopped white baking chocolate for the dark chocolate; and chopped, toasted slivered almonds for the salted peanuts.

STARBUCKS PEPPERMINT MOCHA KNOCKOFF WITH SOME HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE SYRUP!





   This recipe comes from www.madincrafts.com .  This is for all of you that miss those chocolate mochas from Starbuck's, after the holidays are over.  Enjoy!


Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Knockoff (with Homemade Chocolate Mint Syrup)



starbucks peppermint mocha recipe square








Do you remember how I told you I was going to share a yummy way to use up my herb garden mint? Time to make good on that promise.




chocolate mint




If you have ever grown mint, you know that it is an “aggressive grower” A.K.A. even Jess can’t kill it. Despite my brown thumb, my chocolate mint plant has been producing like crazy, so I needed to find a good way to put it to use.
What better way than to make some yummy chocolate-chocolate mint syrup?




chocolate mint leaves




For the recipe, you will need about 30 mint leaves. I didn’t actually count mine out, but I am pretty sure I had a good 3 dozen. Rinse them and pat them dry with a paper towel.




torn mint leaves




Next, rip the leaves into small pieces. Rip, don’t cut. You want to bruise and beat up the leaves as you go. This makes the mint release more of its oily goodness.
Oily goodness isn’t a term I use often.




swampy deliciousness




In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of white sugar, 3/4 cup of water, 1/2 cup of cocoa powder (I used my beloved Special Dark)and the torn mint leaves. I know that this picture resembles Shrek’s swamp, but it smells way better than ogre farts.




chocolate mint syrup recipe





Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sugar is all dissolved. Let the syrup cool.





strain out the mint leaves




Strain the syrup into a jar or plastic container. I used to have a nice mesh strainer, but I gave it to my 3 year old to play with and now it’s rusting in the backyard somewhere. So, I improvised by stabbing some small holes in the bottom of plastic baby food container. Whatever works, right?
The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, so drizzle it on ice cream, make chocolate-mint milk, or treat yourself to one of my favorite coffee drinks.




starbucks peppermint mocha knockoff recipe





I love Starbucks Peppermint Mochas, but not only are they expensive, Starbucks only carries them around the holidays. You can use your homemade chocolate mint syrup to make your own at home!
The homemade syrup provides the “coat your mouth chocolatiness” of the Starbucks version because it is made with cocoa powder. Regular Hershey’s syrup will work, but not as well. And it won’t be all minty fresh.
To be really decadent, you can top the coffee with whipped cream and sprinkles. If you know you are going to have one of THOSE days (like for instance you are putting your obstinately un-potty trained 3-year-old in underwear for the whole day for the first time), go ahead and use ice cream instead of the whipped cream.
I won’t tell.



Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Knock-Off
3 T. chocolate-mint syrup
1/3 c. warm milk (or steamed, if you’re fancy)
6 oz. strong coffee
whipped cream and sprinkles (optional)
Mix together syrup and milk. Pour in coffee. Top with whipped cream and sprinkles.

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.













Tuesday, March 24, 2015

WINTER FESTIVALS IN QUEBEC, CANADA, EH!!!








   Visitors from all over the world will be playing in the snow and enjoying the winter festivities at one of the biggest winter celebrations that Canada has to offer.  Quebec, Canada has been host to the winter wonderland known to locals as "Carnaval de Quebec", for more than 50 years and shows no signs of slowing down anytime in the near future as this year's carnival will see more than 400 unique activities.  It has been dubbed as the "The coolest Part in the World", and why not?  It has all of the offerings that you would expect form traditions Nordic culture, only they have went all out and included events for people of all generations, tastes, and backgrounds.
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    The Winter Carnival got its start in 1894 and has grown each consecutive year by updating events and festivities to fit every lifestyle.  Starting at the end of January and lasting up until the middle of February.  Quebec opens its doors for a winter celebration that includes snow baths, glittering night parades, slide runs, ice fishing, concerts, snow rafting, snow sculpture competitions, a canoe race over the frozen St. Lawrence River, horse-drawn sleigh rides, husky powered dogsled rides, and skating.












      Music, dancing, live entertainment, deliciously prepared cuisine, rides and activities are also part of the Winter Carnival.  The activities are non-stop throughout the week, but the special events are typically held during the weekend.  If this isn't enough to tantalize your taste buds, then the city of Quebec itself might be what you are hungering for.  The medieval setting is something straight out of a book as you will delight in seeing everything from the French architecturally designed homes nestled along narrow, winding streets to the colorful and inviting restaurants and shops that demand your attention.  It is truly one of the most beautiful destinations that you will ever have the pleasure of laying your eyes on.














    The heart of the carnival is set up at the Plains of Abraham where the French and British once battled, but is now home to grazing cattle and the Winter Carnival.  A particular favorite is the St. Hubert Derby that easily draws crowds of people waiting to see the single and double championship drivers of the horse team competition.  While other visitors can't wait to chill out in the Ice Palace and see the one of a kind structure made up entirely of ice.  Children gather in large crowds awaiting the arrival of Bonhomme the snowman who  plays as Master of Ceremonies during the snow bath event where daring adventurists play in the snow the Eskimo way, in bathing suits.












   The city of Quebec not only offers fun winter festivities, but it also holds the allure of being the only walled city in North America.  More than 1.5 million visitors find their way to the Carnival de Quebec, and most of them will eventually find their way to the ancient part of the walled city that houses French neighborhoods that closely resemble a European village of sorts.  Brightly lit shops and local cuisine can be found along the heart of the city as well as scenic views of the lake and mountains.

ANGEL FOOD CUPCAKES WITH COOL WHIP FROSTING!





   This recipe comes from www.clairekcreations.com .  Two things that always go well together, cool whip and angel food cake (possibly with some strawberries)!



Today I am very excited to play host to my very first guest post! I discovered Mother Thyme a few months ago and I love reading her fabulous recipes. She’s the woman behind the delicious tomato pasta sauce and choc-ginger biscuits. Please make her feel welcome and be sure to stop by and check out all the fabulous recipes on Mother Thyme.




Hi everyone! I’m Jennifer from Mother Thyme. I am so thrilled to be guest posting on my foodie friend Claire’s fabulous site today!
Today I will be sharing with you a light and refreshing dessert that you can enjoy without the guilt, Angel Food Cupcakes. These cupcakes are light and airy and made with a few simple ingredients such as egg white, confectioners sugar, sugar, salt and vanilla. The egg whites are whipped to form stiff peaks that makes this batter light and airy.
Sure I could have topped these cupcakes off with a creamy, eat with a spoon buttercream frosting, but that defeats the purpose of composing a light cupcake. My first thought was to just add dollops of cool whip on top of these cupcakes with slices of strawberries, but after some experimenting and recipe developing I came up with this creamy, delicious cool whip frosting that is flavored with vanilla and a hint of almond. This frosting is creamy, tasty, and delicious without all the extra calories and fat. So instead of having one cupcake, let’s have two (or maybe three)!
Thanks for letting me share my recipe here with you today. Be sure to stop by and say Hi to me at Mother Thyme. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!
Enjoy!




Angel Food Cupcakes with Vanilla Almond Cool Whip Frosting
(Click here for a print friendly version)


Yield: 1 ½ dozen cupcakes
Angel Food Cupcakes
Ingredients
12 large egg whites (about 1 ½ cups)
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup confectioners sugar (icing sugar)
½ cup sugar
1 cup cake flour (plain flour)


Directions

Preheat oven to 350F degrees (160C). Line cupcake tin with liners, set aside.
Using an electric mixer with whisk attachment combine egg whites, cream of tartar, vanilla extract and salt in a large bowl. Blend on medium speed for 4-5 minutes until stiff peaks form. Gradually add in sugars and continue to blend until just combined. By hand fold in cake flour.
Pour batter into cupcake liners filling ¾ full. Bake for 15-18 minutes until cake tester comes out clean and top is firm. Do not overbake.
Cool on wire racks completely before frosting.
Vanilla Almond Cool Whip Frosting
Ingredients
1 3.4oz (90-120g) package of vanilla instant pudding
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 8oz tub (240) of cool whip, thawed (fat free, light or regular)

In a medium bowl combine pudding, milk and almond extract until smooth. Fold in cool whip until combined. Frost as desired.




THE TAIWAN LANTERN FESTIVAL!!!










    The 15th day of the first lunar month each year, known as "Yuan Xiao", it is one of the three major traditional festivals in Taiwan.  It is also the first festival celebration after the start of the Lunar New Year.  Special events include the Taiwan Lantern Festival, Pingxi Heavenly Lanterns, Taitung Bombing of the god Handan, the Beehive Rockets of Yanshui, the Taipei Lantern Festival, and traditional celebratory temple rituals.
   Since 1990, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau has organized the Taiwan Lantern Festival, and this year, the the festival enters its 22nd year.






Year of the Rabbit Lantern





   The centerpiece of the event is a giant themed lantern modeled on the Chinese zodiacal animal of the year, accompanied by subsidiary lanterns and special lantern areas such as the Hope & Wishes lantern section, the Fun Filled lantern section and many others, all of which successfully display the art of lantern making.  During the official opening ceremony, performing groups from Taiwan and overseas enliven the festivities, making this an event you don't want to miss.












History

   Starting in 1990, the Tourism Bureau integrated civilian and local governmental resources to conduct the event to celebrate the Lantern Festival (15th day of the first month in the lunar calendar).  The purpose of the festival is to spread the traditional folklore of the festival.





Image result for taiwan lantern festival 2015






   The firecrackers ceremony of the Wumiao Temple in Yenshui Township was held by ancient people in order to show respect for the exploits of Guan Yu.  Fengpao, is the ceremony to start the burning of thousands of firecrackers hung on  15 to 75 foot high wooden stands.  This ceremony starts from 6 p.m., and goes on until 5 the next morning.  Thousands of visitors attend the ceremony.

Friday, March 13, 2015

TOP SELLING CANDIES FROM AROUND THE WORLD!

  You wouldn't wear the same food costume every Halloween — so why trick-or-treat with the same candy? This year, try something new. If you're already well-versed in the categories of movie treats and nostalgic candies, then consider serving various candies from around the world. Need a bit of an education in global candy culture? Then test your knowledge of the world's candies and check out some of our favorites here.



Bounty, United Kingdom

Bounty, United Kingdom



   Mounds lovers will appreciate Bounty, a coconut-filled bar enrobed with milk chocolate.



Botan Rice Candy, Japan

Botan Rice Candy, Japan

   Even if you've never been to Japan, you may have come across Botan Rice Candy in Asian supermarkets. Botan, which means "peony," is a prominent brand in Japan and makes a sticky rice candy with a slightly citrusy flavor.



ToffeeCrisp, United Kingdom

ToffeeCrisp, United Kingdom

   NestlĂ© makes a number of chocolate bars in Europe that aren't readily available in the United States. One of them is ToffeeCrisp, a staple in the United Kingdom. The long, slender milk chocolate bar is filled with crackling puffed rice and caramel. Its motto? "Somebody, somewhere, is eating a ToffeeCrisp."



Cheong Woo, Korea

Cheong Woo, Korea

   Leave it to South Korea to come up with pumpkin candy — a mellow, slightly salty candy with a prominent squash-like flavor and the texture of Starburst. If you can track it down, it's perfect for this time of year.



Kinder Country, Germany

Kinder Country, Germany

   I wasn't sure what to make of Kinder Country, which was described on the wrapper as "milk chocolate with rich milk filling." It was unlike anything I'd ever had in the States: a creamy, milky white center, made crunchy with puffed rice and then doused in milk chocolate.



Lion, United Kingdom

Lion, United Kingdom

   I was really happy to bite into a Lion Bar, another chocolate confection that hails from the UK. It was similar to a ToffeeCrisp, with caramel, crisp cereal, and a wafer enrobed in milk chocolate and reminded me of an even heartier 100 Grand. This lion was one of my top candy picks and definitely made me roar.



Baci, Italy

Baci, Italy

   Hershey's isn't the only one with kisses — Italy has its own version, Perugina's Baci. These chocolate bonbons are filled with hazelnut chocolate cream, topped with a whole hazelnut, and wrapped in a love note.



Peko Milky Candy, Japan

Peko Milky Candy, Japan

   Peko-chan Milk Candy is commonplace among children in Japan. The individually-wrapped candies are firm yet chewy and have a distinctive sweet milk flavor.



Yorkie, United Kingdom

Yorkie, United Kingdom

   The Yorkie bar — originally titled so because it was made by Rowntrees of York — was created in the 1970s as a larger chocolate bar alternative to Cadbury's Dairy-Milk. To this day, the chocolate stays true to its original branding with the slogan, "It's not for girls!"



Chimes Mango Ginger Chews, Indonesia

Chimes Mango Ginger Chews, Indonesia

   I'd never heard of Chimes Mango Ginger Chews before, but these individually-wrapped Indonesian ginger candies in the quaint tin turned out to be my favorite. They had a latent heat and spiciness to them, thanks to ginger that's grown on volcanic soil in East Java.



HOW TO MARBLE ROYAL ICING!

 This diy is from www.sweetopia.net .  Another get turtorial to add a little decorating tip for your cookies and cakes.  Sit back, relax and take it in.  OOOOMMMM!!!






It’s called marbling, feathering or swirling, which is basically when one or more colors of icing are applied to a base coat of icing, and then a toothpick, cake tester, pin or skewer is dragged through the icing to create a marbled or swirly effect.



Each combination of colors creates another look.



Just by changing the way you set up your lines and drag the toothpick, completely different designs emerge.



You can incorporate the swirled icing into your design, like these feathered cookie friends:



How to Make Marbled, Swirled or Feathered Decorated Cookies


If you’d like to try the marbled effect, the most important thing for your success is the consistency of the icing. To help you with that, my cookie decorating tutorial goes over some tips and the 10-second rule here.



Once you have your cookies baked and icing made, it’s time to begin by piping your outline. I like to use a piping bag fitted with a coupler and #2 tip.
Fill or flood your cookie with royal icing right away. You could leave the outline to set to create a solid dam, but you’ll be able to see the border when the icing dries.



Once you’ve filled the whole cookie in, shake it gently left to right on your work surface, to help smooth the icing out.



Add your second (or more), layers or colors of icing. Work as quickly as you can before the icing sets.



Take a toothpick, pin, skewer or dough tester (hey, whatever works!), and drag it through the icing. In this case I drew S-like shapes. The image below shows which direction I dragged the toothpick in.



Finish off the edges with dots or another design of your choice and you’re done!




The hearts are made by piping dots and dragging the toothpick through the center of each dot.





Let your cookies dry, package and ribbon.




Simple, easy, fun and impressive!
If you prefer video, I’ve got a video tutorial on marbling here for you to watch.
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I’d also like to send out a big thanks agian to Bridget at Bake at 350 for having me as a guest contributor for her blog a few weeks ago. In case you didn’t see the post, it’s what I’ve shared with you here today, and if you haven’t seen Bridget’s eye-candy cookies and baked goods of all kinds yet, check them out by clicking here!
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Happy marbling!
xo,
Marian
p.s. Update – I’ve received so many emails asking where I got my square, fluted cookie cutter, so here’s the link for you.