Mardi Gras & King Cake: YUM!

The season of Lent begins this week… on the 10th.  Can you believe it’s already here?  It comes especially early this year since Easter is early.  But honestly, for many years of my life, Lent would catch me off guard whether it came early or late!  😉

Being the Baptist girl that I am, I didn’t grow up observing the Lenten season.  In fact, I just learned of this season’s specialness not too many years ago.

Basically, Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ – His Cross, His suffering and His sacrifice, His life, death, burial and resurrection.

Lent follows the Liturgical seasons of Advent and Epiphany where we seek and find Jesus, celebrate His coming into our lives, and determine to follow Him into the new year.  From fellowship and intimacy with our Holy God inevitably comes the realization of our sins.  And that’s where Ash Wednesday comes in, where Lent picks up, and we are led into the blessed celebration of Easter.

This week I’ll be sharing a bit of what I’ve gathered over the years about Lent and some resources to help us turn our eyes upon Jesus during this season.  But before Lent begins, there is Mardi Gras… And that is this Tuesday.

 

Mardi Gras and King Cake. SmellingCoffee.com

 Mardi Gras 

Which literally means “Fat Tuesday” in French.

The name Mardi Gras comes from the tradition of slaughtering and feasting upon a fattened calf on the last day of Carnival (see below). The day is also known as Shrove Tuesday (from “to shrive,” or hear confessions), Pancake Tuesday and Fetter Dienstag. The custom of making pancakes comes from the need to use up fat, eggs and dairy before the fasting and abstinence of Lent begins.  {This explains why IHop often gives out free pancakes on Fat Tuesday. (Which I was so glad to have figured out! – It puzzled me every year!)}

What is less known about Mardi Gras is its relation to the Christmas season, and that the days following Christmas in many Catholic cultures are known as Carnival.  The word Carnival comes from the Latin words carne vale, meaning “farewell to the flesh.”

 The Carnival season kicks off with the Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, Three Kings’ Day and, in the Eastern churches, Theophany. Epiphany, which falls on January 6, 12 days after Christmas, celebrates the visit of the Wise Men bearing gifts for the infant Jesus. In cultures that celebrate Carnival, Epiphany kicks off a series of parties leading up to Mardi Gras.  (http://www.americancatholic.org/features/mardigras/)

Interesting, yes?

During the longer Epiphany season (from Christmas until Lent) many (including us!) enjoy a popular treat, King’s Cake.  The King Cake (which is really a yummy iced cinnamon roll/cream cheesy-type pastry) is said to have originated in France in the 12th century as a celebration of the coming of the Three Wise Men bearing gifts for the Christ Child.

Part of the celebration was the baking of a King Cake to honor the Three Kings. Legend has it that the cakes were made in a circle to represent a both a king’s crown and the circular routes that the Wise Men took to find Jesus, in order to confuse King Herod and foil his plans of killing the Christ Child.

In the early King Cakes, a symbol of baby Jesus was hidden among the dough.  Later, Jesus was replaced with a coin, pea, pecan, or bean was hidden inside the cake, and whoever found the item was said to be “king for the day” or was said to be blessed or lucky for the rest of the year.

When the King Cake was brought to Louisiana by French settlers in the 1870s, bakers began putting the small baby (representing the Christ Child) back in the cake.  Now the one who finds the baby in his/her piece of cake is said to be extra blessed and is expected to host the next King Cake party.

The three colors of Mardi Gras and the King Cake are Purple, which stands for justice, Green for faith, and Gold for power.

Want to make your own King Cake?  This is an easy 30 minute recipe I found on Pinterest.  (TBH, I haven’t made it yet, but if I were going to make a King Cake myself instead of buy one, I promise, I’d use this recipe.) haha

Easy 30 Minute King Cake Recipe for Mardi Gras from Paula @Frog Prince Paperie

Ingredients

CAKE

  • 1 12oz tube refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup brown sugarFROSTING
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Purple, gold and green sugar sprinkles

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Roll out tube of crescent rolls on parchment lined cookie sheet, pressing the seams of the dough together to form one large layer of dough.

3. Mix cream cheese, 1/4 cup powdered sugar and and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and spread it along the center of your dough.

4. Cut a few slits in the sides of the dough to make flaps that can be folded over the filling.

5. Sprinkle brown sugar and pecans over the cream cheese.

6. Fold the flaps over the filling to make a “braid” and pinch together any holes along the bottom so the cream cheese doesn’t leak out while it’s baking.

7. Gently form the dough into a ring on the cookie sheet.

8. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

9. While cake is baking, mix together the frosting: 3 cups powdered sugar and 1/4 cup water with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. This mixture will be rather thick.

10. When your cake is out of the oven, spread it in a ribbon around the top of the cake, a section at a time. You have to work quick to add your sprinkles before the icing hardens after you put on the icing.

11. The finishing touch is the baby. Slip it under the cake and see who gets to hit the kitchen next to bake up another cake!

 

 OR…

Want to try a bite-sized King Cake treat?  One of my favorite food bloggers posted this recipe on her blog last year, and a friend of mine (who actually TRIES the recipes she finds) made these a few weeks ago and they were wonderful!!!

King Cake Bites  from Steph @Plain Chicken
32 bites
(Printable Recipe)

Bites

    • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 2 cans (8 oz each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

Glaze

    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 2 Tbsp milk
  • yellow, green, purple sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar and lemon juice with mixer until well blended.

Separate dough into 8 rectangles; seal seams. Sprinkle each rectangle with approximately 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Spread cream cheese mixture down middle of each rectangle. Fold each rectangle lengthwise into thirds to enclose filling (bring long edges up to cover cream cheese); cut each into 4 squares. Place, seam-sides down, on baking sheet.

Bake 13 to 15 min. or until golden brown. Cool slightly.

Mix together remaining 1 cup powdered sugar and milk. Spread on top of King Cake Bites and sprinkle with colored sugars.

Read more at http://www.plainchicken.com/2015/02/king-cake-bites.html#BSp6i4LyaG5Gsq7g.99

 

Enjoy your King Cake, pancakes, or whatever else it is that you plan to enjoy this week. I’ll be back to share some resources for Lent in a few days.

The Lord’s blessings upon you all~
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Valentine Mix – Our Favorite February Treat!

 

Do you remember Amy’s Fall Mix?  This is that, but with red, pink, and white ingredients… perfect to toss together and share with friends, family, teachers, coworkers, and anyone else you want to bless during this “season of love.”

Amy’s Valentine Mix looks especially pretty presented individually in crisp cellophane bags or half-pint jars wrapped in red or pink ribbons!  The possibilities are endless.  The mix is addictive.  The recipients will be elated.  Just trust me on this and try it for yourself…. you may have to make TWO batches – one for YOU and one to share.  😉

To make it an extra meaningful gift to yourself or others, add a tag or label with a Scripture verse about the incredible LOVE of God toward us.  One of my favorites is Zephaniah 3:17 in the New Living Translation:

 For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a Mighty Savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With His love, He will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Isn’t that beautiful and wonderful???

OK… here’s the recipe.  Brace yourselves…

Amy’s Valentine Mix

  • Sam’s Choice brand Indulgent Mix (from Wal Mart)
  • Valentine colored M&MS – both plain and peanut
  • Valentine pink candy corns
  • dry roasted peanuts
  • Craisens – I used the blueberries this time
  • Chocolate covered raisins
  • Sugar Babies (the store was out – so I left theses out)
  • Toffee peanuts (if you want)
  • Anything else you want to add would be fine.  Just don’t add anything like cereal or pretzels.  The mixture retains a bit of moisture because of the raisins in the indulgent mix, and pretzels, etc. tend to get soggy over time.    

    That’s it!  Mix, enjoy, and share. :-)

Valentine Mix - Best Valentine Treat! SmellingCoffee.com

Valentine Mix - Best Valentine Treat! SmellingCoffee.com

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How to Fight Fear and Win – 4 Steps to Victory!

Fear or Faith: Only one of these can be present at the same time…

How to Fight Fear and Win. SmellingCoffee.com

Do you ever feel a sudden onslaught of panic and fear? I admit that I struggled with this for forty years of my life, and to an extent this beast still rears its ugly head now and then. Fear is a battle for so many vibrantly beautiful Christian men and women… But, praise God, we can have HIS victory in this fight, and I’m living proof of that!

In the past decade God has had me in a “training program” where we’ve been working on building those muscles needed to triumph over fear, and my Warrior King is helping me put an end to this debilitating stronghold. As I share what I’ve learned, I’m praying that 2 Timothy 1:7 will be a conquering reality in each of our lives:

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (Amp)

My victory over fear began one morning as I was in the middle of studying a daily lesson in Beth Moore’s Bible study, Esther, when the Holy Spirit used a paragraph to send me on a Word-study detour. Little did I know at the time, but that early-morning-moment’s choice of obedience when I got out of bed to meet with the Lord in His Word was a fundamental life-changer for me. {Shameless plug for making time before your busy day begins to spend with the Lord in His Word!!!}

By the time I closed my Bible and put down my pen, God had presented me with 4 Steps that would immediately supply the muscles needed to break every chain that had held me prisoner to fear for as long as I could remember. {In fact, when I stop long enough to analyze my life, even in the best and most joyful of times, I don’t remember NOT living with some type of fear lurking around in my thoughts, just waiting for an opportune time to jump out and grab me.} {{PS: Nothing in my childhood warrants this – We can’t figure out a “why” – it just seems to be the place where the enemy sees me weakest and the battlefield on which I fight.}}

This is what I read on that day:

“The enemy is trying to get back at God by attacking us. Because Satan has a limited leash where believers are concerned, his most powerful tactics are psychological. Though he can’t possess our minds, he profoundly and destructively influences our thoughts.” Beth Moore, Esther, week 3, day 3.

At that particular point, more than at any other stage of my life, I was constantly fighting the battle between faith and sight, hope and fear. (Some days I won, many days I lost.)

It was in 2009, the calendar was ticking by, and our family was caught in the crossfires of the economic downturn. We were on our eighth month without employment as God continued to say about each open door, “This is not my best Yes.” Faith fought sight, and hope fought fear at every turn.

As I watched our young teens grow and mature, and I began that process of thinking about releasing them, faith fought sight and hope fought fear. Sometimes I would be doing nothing but driving or riding down the road and notice another vehicle, and immediately my imagination would take off into horrible “what-if’s” and faith would fight sight and hope would fight fear. (If I was not careful, my mind could work up any number of disastrous scenarios that would be so life-like, I could end up frozen in panic, fear, and grief over a made-up scenario.) Do you ever do that?

This is not the way God intended for ANY of us to live.

The enemy was having a field day with me! I was weary of the battle, and tired of being held captive to fear!

That morning with the Lord was a turning point for me, and praise God, I’ve learned to fight like the warrior He created me to be!!! And through using the powerful weapons of God’s Word and Prayer, I’ve been FREE ever since!

Can you imagine living without fear?

…Without the nagging sense that everything is about to go horribly wrong?

…Without the occurring assumption that making it through the week with no incident was a happy surprise or blessed accident?

In Beth Moore’s 4th video session of the Esther study, she poses this set of questions to process:

“If ________________ happens, then God ______________. And if ____________________, then God ______________________. And if ____________________, then God ____________________….. then what?”

In my mind, I had already planned out those terrible scenarios, but I never completed them.

The “If ______________” wasn’t the problem. The fear trap was that I never completed the sentences and scenarios with “then God _____________.”

I learned that it is not enough to trust God to never let that which I fear the most happen. I must face that fear, and trust that IF it does happen, My God will take care of me – of them – or of it!

For instance, Psalm 46:1-3 promises that God is our Refuge and Strength, and that even when our stable worlds crumble and fall apart, we have no need to fear, because He is with us, and He is our well-proved help.

“Fear not” is the most frequent command in the Bible. In fact, that command is repeated over 365 times – more than one for each day.

Do you want to fight fear and win?  Then read on, my friends!

4 Steps to VictorySteps to Fight Fear and Win

Romans 1:21 (Amp) says:

“Because when they knew and recognized Him as God,
they did not honor and glorify Him as God
or give Him thanks.
But instead they became futile and godless in their thinking
[with vain imaginations, foolish reasonings,
and stupid speculations]

and their senseless minds were darkened.”

Our enemy would have us focus on fear, vain imaginations, foolish reasonings, and stupid speculations – which he knows will tie us up in knots and entrap us.

But

our Lord, Savior, Lover, Strengthener, our Mighty God says in Hebrews 12:1-2 to

“Throw aside every encumbrance
(unnecessary weight and that sin
which so readily, deftly, and
cleverly clings to and entangles us…

looking away from all that will distract to Jesus,
who is the Leader and Source of our faith…
and is also its Finisher.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 

From these verses come the 4 Steps to Fight Fear and Win.

*However: We MUST be immediate and intentional with these actions:

1. Honor and Glorify God – We know and recognize Him as God… yet when fear hits, we panic and tend to forget what God being “God” really means.  Think about that, and make an intentional choice to honor Him with your thoughts by calling on the  names and characteristics of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit when fear and panic hit.  If you can’t think of any particular name at the moment, just simply say “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” until this beautiful Name and God’s presence starts to overpower your thoughts of sight, fear, and panic.

2. Give God thanks – Next, when you’ve centered yourself a bit on God’s “Godness,” begin thanking God for His provisions – His love, His protection, His provision, His promises, His Word… for how He will take care of you and the situation… If your mind keeps going to the worst case scenario, go through the “If ____ does happen, then God ____” thanking Him IN ADVANCE for what you can imagine that He WILL do – because that’s the kind of God that HE is.  Look around you, and thank God for all that you see.  God IS present with you.  Thank Him for that.  However, if you can’t yet feel God’s presence around you, Psalm 100:4-5 tells us how we can be made aware of Him – just keep thanking Him more and more until you do notice His presence.

Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
    Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
    Thank him. Worship him.
For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.
Psalm 100:4-5 (MSG)

3. Throw aside the weight of those sensless thoughts – those vain imaginations, foolish reasonings and stupid speculations. Sometimes you can’t reason or your way out of them.  Sometimes, they’re just ridiculous, and you know it. You are just going to have to discipline yourself to obey the Word and ABSOLUTELY REFUSE to let those run-away thoughts darken your mind. If you must, (and I do this sometimes) literally push your hands away from your head as if you are throwing them out! Then pretend to watch them land and crash on the ground!

4. Look to Jesus – And don’t look at your fears anymore! Turn your head, heart, and mind away (again, I will often do this literally with my body) and PUT YOUR EYES BACK ON JESUS. Over and over again if you must.  Determine to keep your mind and thoughts focused on Him. Here’s the best part: When you do this, Hebrews 12:2 tells us that He will actually finish and complete FOR YOU the faith you lack in the battle of your minds and thoughts.  Praise the Lord!!

The next time panic or fear grabs hold of you, you grab hold of Jesus, the Starter and Finisher of your Faith… the Victor over your enemy… the Peace in the midst of your storm…

4 Steps: Honor and Glorify God, Give Thanks, Throw Aside Sensless Thoughts and Vain Imaginations, and Look to Jesus. Keep doing this until you and Jesus have whipped fear and sent the enemy limping back to the lair from which he came!

One day there will be no more fear, but until then my friends, in Jesus Christ, fight like the warrior you were created to be! Because only in Jesus, you CAN fight fear and win!

A men!!!

“And let us rejoice and exalt in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.” Romans 5:2b

“O Lord of Hosts, blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who trusts in You [leaning on and believing on You, committing all and confidently looking to You, and that without fear or misgiving.]” Psalm 84:12 (Amp)

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We can do hard things. SmellingCoffee.com

HOW we can do what pleases God: Phil 2:13-14. SmellingCoffee.com

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