Middle of February and Mother Nature has let us know she still knows how to host a winter. We haven't had as hard a winter as many other areas of the country, but many of our folks in the valley have had problems with power outages and frozen pipes. We have been so lucky here on the hilltop - so far - as we haven't lost power and have had minimal problems with these old pipes. Our fuel tank is sufficiently full, and we have a fully stocked freezer and pantry. We are thankful. So far, I have really enjoyed the snow, as I don't have to go out of the house much. I did try to walk to the mailbox the other day, and promptly fell down in the snow with the second step I took. As I crawled out, I decided there was no mail important enough for me to try it again. We seemed to have more here on the hill than there was closer to the river. Of course, the kids will be celebrating the Fourth of July at school if it keeps up.
Did you enjoy the Super Bowl last weekend? It was a pretty good game to watch, but my favorite quarterback couldn't do it all by himself this year. That's OK, Peyton. I still think you are the best.
This weekend is a busy one, too. NASCAR starts, Valentine's Day is Sunday, Tuesday is Doughnut Day (Shrove Tuesday) and the last day of Mardi Gras and Lent starts Wednesday on Ash Wednesday.
Of course, New Orleans has been wild all week. That is the most well known city for Mardi Gras although it isn't the only one that celebrates it. The parades are always spectacular and one should go see them at least once in his or her lifetime. Plan early, though, if you don't want to sleep in your car.
I plan to celebrate the other activities this year. Mardi Gras is a little too wild for me at my age. I will be making doughnuts for my family on Tuesday, just like Grandma Semon used to make for us. They aren't hard to make, either the raised ones or the "cake" ones. Dad never considered the cake doughnuts to be "real" doughnuts as he was raised on the raised kind. Some recipes will be included today. The history behind them is that all fat was to be out of the household's kitchen for the Lenten season, so it was used up to fry doughnuts. If someone is "giving up sweets" for Lent, those sugary doughnuts are the last treats they will get until Easter, too. Traditionally, meat is not eaten during Lent. Fish on Fridays was allowed, and that is why many churches have fish fries on the Fridays during Lent. Whether you follow the traditions of Lent or not, those church suppers are great. Personally, I need to give up all eating for Lent, but I will probably "take on" some studies instead of "giving up" too much.
Of course we will take in the start of the NASCAR season even though many of our favorite drivers have retired from racing.
Our local church always has a Valentine's dinner where the men cook the meal for the rest of the family, so I won't be cooking at home. Encourage that at your church; it is a true Valentine's gift.
St. Valentine was an early martyr. The Roman emperor forbid marriage among the young men of Rome because he wanted them for the army and they were deferred if they were married. St. Valentine secretly married them, so the emperor took care of removing him permanently. Or so the story goes.
Enjoy this coming week. And enjoy the beauty of the snow. Be thankful if your utilities stay on and handle things if they don't. The pioneers in this area didn't have electricity or warm houses or grocery stores or good heating systems and they survived. It makes us appreciate the luxuries that we have now.
Be thankful for the workers that keep everything going for us to enjoy and for those who are protecting our way of life and say a prayer for all of them. Be nice to your Valentine and always tell your family you love them.
1 cake compressed yeast or one package granulated yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup milk, scalded and cooked to lukewarm
4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1/2 cup shortening, melted and cooled
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Soften yeast in lukewarm water, stir and combine with cooled milk. Add half of the flour and two tablespoons of the sugar. Beat until smooth. Cover and let rise in a warm place (80-to-85 degrees) about one-half hour. Stir in beaten eggs, lemon rind, shortening and remaining flour that has been sifted with the remaining sugar, nutmeg and salt. Beat for 10 to 15 minutes by hand (or four to five minutes by electric mixer) or until bubbles appear on the surface. Cover and let rise about an hour. Turn out on floured board and roll out one inch thick. Cut with doughnut cutter. Cover and let rise about an hour or until doubled in bulk. Drop, raised side down, into deep, hot fat (365-to-370 degrees) and fry about two or three minutes, turning doughnuts to brown on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper. While still warm, sugar by shaking them with granulated or confectioners' sugar in a brown paper bag. They can be dipped in thin confectioners' sugar icing or iced with any thinned icing for an iced instead of a sugared doughnut.
NEW ORLEANS BEIGNETS
1/2 cup milk, warmed to body temperature
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 egg, beaten
1/8 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups bread flour
1/8 cup butter, softened
Oil for deep-frying
Dissolve the yeast in warm milk, then add the sugar, salt, and beaten egg. Gradually add half the flour, stirring until well blended, then mix in the softened butter. Gradually add the rest of the flour until dough is very stiff and can only be mixed with your hands. Place dough in a warm bowl and cover with a towel. Leave it to rise in a warm place for about one hour or until it has doubled in bulk. Knead gently on a floured surface, then roll out to a one-fourth-inch thickness. Cut the dough into rectangles approximately two-and-one-half by three-and-one-half inches and place on a lightly floured pan. Cover with a towel and let rise about 35 minutes. Fry in 360-degree oil, turning once when the bottom has browned. Drain on paper towels, then dust generously with confectioners' sugar.
1 cup mashed potatoes - no additions to potatoes
1 cup potato water
3/4 cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 envelope dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
2 eggs, beaten
5 to 6 cups flour
6 cups powdered sugar
1 cup boiling water
Mix potatoes, potato water, shortening, salt and sugar. Dissolve yeast in warm water, then add to potato mixture. Stir in eggs and enough flour to make a stiff dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth. Cover. Let rise for 90 minutes. Pat dough out to three-fourth-inch thick and cut with a doughnut cutter. Let rise again until doubled in bulk. Fry doughnuts in 3-to-4 inches of oil that has been heated to 375 degrees until golden brown. Drain on paper toweling. Mix powdered sugar and boiling water to make a glaze. Spread doughnuts with glaze while warm.
NOTE: It makes less of a mess if you have wire racks set over waxed paper that you can put the doughnuts on after they are glazed. They can be dipped in the glaze, using a fork or the handle of a wooden spoon if they are cut in regular doughnut shape.
2 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup sugar
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, mace, and nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Fat for deep-frying
Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together dry ingredients and add alternately with the milk. Chill for one hour or longer. Roll out on lightly floured board to one-half-inch thickness and cut with floured doughnut cutter. Fry in hot deep fat (370 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer) until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Drain on absorbent paper. Shake with sugar while still warm.