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Cooking With Myra: Celebrate LaMardi Gras

By By Myra Starkey
Feb. 5, 2013 at midnight
Updated Feb. 5, 2013 at 8:06 p.m.


KING CAKE WITH CINNAMON FILLING

Cake

• 1 cup milk

• 2/3 cup warm water

• 1/4 cup butter

• 2 packages active dry yeast

• 1/2 cup white sugar

• 2 eggs

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

• 6 cups flour

Filling

• 1 cup packed brown sugar

• 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

• 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

• 1/2 cup flour

• 1/2 cup melted butter

Frosting

• 1 cup confectioners' sugar

• 1-2 Tbsp. water

Scald milk and stir in 1/4 cup butter. Cool mixture. In large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with the 1 Tbsp. of sugar. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Yeast will start bubbling, then add milk. Whisk in eggs, stir in white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat flour in 1 cup at a time until dough pulls from the side of bowl. Turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Oil a large bowl and place dough in bowl, turning once to coat dough on surface. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for two hours or until doubled in volume. Punch down and divide in two equal parts. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

Make filling by combining brown sugar, cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 flour. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over and stir. Mixture will be thick and crumbling. Roll dough out into two large 10 inch-by-16 inch rectangles and sprinkle the filling over the dough. Press filling into dough gently. Roll up tightly like a jelly roll, starting on widest side. Bring the two ends together to form an oval and pinch to close. Gently place the two ovals on prepared cookie sheets. Using scissors, snip 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1-inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. This will look kind of like a flower. Make sure you do not snip to the other side. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Place the doll or a bean in through one of the slits. The person who gets the doll/bean will have the next Mardi Gras party.

Blend confectioners' sugar with 2 Tbsp. of water and 1 tsp. of lemon juice. Add additional sugar if needed to have glazing consistency.

Frost while warm with the confectioners' sugar.

Makes two small cakes or one very large one.

All of us have an ongoing list of things we want to do before we die. Some of us write it down, and others keep a mental list. Regardless of the technique, we put items on the list with the intention of making them happen.

I have a list, and it is fairly simple. It can all be achieved. I do not have go to the moon on my list, but I might have to dance in moonlight. Some things I tell Taylor about, and others I keep to myself.

One item on the list is a little strange, and that is to explore Cedar Bayou. I became interested when our neighbor at the bay house, Kevin, talked about going there to camp and finding great seashells. I don't like camping, but I love to find seashells. He talked about how remote a location it is and that the only footprints there are the ones you are leaving. Kevin made it sound like an adventure. There were miles of unexplored beach with only me to beachcomb. I put that on my list.

If you are a fisherman, you would not think of Cedar Bayou as a place to look for shells but rather a location of great fishing for reds and specks. This was the place where Mesquite Bay opened to the Gulf of Mexico, only some years back, this pass silted in with sand.

There is currently a strong movement to dredge it open again to allow for the passage of fish and so the waters of the bays can mix with the Gulf. The Corps of Engineers finally issued the permit, and now funding is pending. It will probably be another year until it is done.

One obstacle to me getting to this remote spot was that we didn't have a boat, and it is on an island. Friends offered to take us, but somehow that day never came. Even if it had, we still had to cross a large body of water. I easily get seasick. I can get sick just sitting on a boat while it is tied to the dock.

For this reason, purchasing a boat was not high on my list. Somehow, the beautiful Texas bays began to call our names. You can't just stand on the shore forever. We would be at a boat dock and guys would get off their boats with stringers of fish. I like to eat fish. Taylor already wanted a boat, but don't all guys? We bought a boat. It is not a large one, but it is good for the bay.

Our friend, Clay, took us fishing in our boat once, and I caught one redfish. That is the only fish we ever caught from our boat. We mostly just ride along with the wind in our faces and soak up the warmth and ultraviolet radiation of the sun. I love to see the dolphins surfacing or jumping.

I used to have "swim with the dolphins" on my life list. I think I got that idea from watching "Flipper" on TV as a child. Once when we were near Cancun at this water park, you could pay to swim with trained dolphins in a pool. I signed up. The leader would blow a whistle and the dolphin would swim next to you, and you could pet it. It might have been on tranquilizers because I don't think that a dolphin would naturally cuddle up to a stranger like that.

Once the trainer gave the dolphin a fish treat, it would swim away. This made me realize the dolphin had no desire to bond with me. It only wanted the treat. They took my picture while the dolphin was swimming near me. I looked terrified, so I threw the photo away.

This past weekend, the water on the bay was exceptionally calm, so we decided it was the day we would fulfill our dream of going to Cedar Bayou. Since we are middle-aged, we did not immediately set out on our adventure but rather first went to a pottery festival. Younger people would never put off a great adventure to go to a pottery show.

There were about 50 ceramic artist vendors there, and we had a fun time looking around. Our former pottery teacher at the Arts Co-op, Bill Bauer, had a booth there, and we bought a neat bowl from him. I have to say I rushed through the show knowing that I wanted to get in the boat and go exploring. I had packed a picnic lunch of boiled shrimp with peppercorns, assorted cheeses and crackers.

We asked the guys at the dock about Cedar Bayou, and they cautioned us that Mesquite Bay was shallow, and that we risked running aground. We threw our cares to the wind and set out. I did take my cellphone just in case we needed to call for rescue.

We made it without incident across Aransas Bay, north up the Intracoastal Canal and turned off at the channel into Mesquite Bay. That was the first place we ran into shallow sand. We got out and pushed the boat back into the deeper channel. We did not get stuck again until we were across the bay. We stopped for our lunch and enjoyed the beautiful view from the shore.

We then ventured up Cedar Bayou until it became too shallow to progress, and we knew we were near our destination because we could hear the Gulf waves crashing on the beach a short distance away. We saw large flocks of white pelicans and many whooping cranes along the way. We anchored the boat, waded ashore and walked about 15 minutes across the sand to the deserted beach. There was no sign of anyone. A mast of a wrecked sailboat protruded from the shallow surf just offshore.

There were lots of sand dollars and other shells along with all sorts of junk that had washed ashore from near and far. The sand was littered with trash, a red child's shoe, plastic water bottles, netting and ropes and a hard hat from an offshore rig. We walked silently side by side taking in the majesty of the remote place.

The day was getting late so we had to leave to make the long return journey. We only got stuck once more on the return trip, but by then, we were getting experienced on pushing the boat off sandbars. The sun was setting as we cruised across the beautiful bay toward the harbor.

It was a great adventure that we shared together. I crossed another item off my bucket list. If the water is calm enough in the future I hope to return to that remote place, stay longer and fill up large bags with seashells.

Next weekend is LaMardi Gras on Lamar Peninsula. Lamar is just this side of Rockport and is best known for the Big Tree, whoopers and Goose Island State Park. The proceeds benefit the Volunteer Fire Department. The party is from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. There will be a parade, live music and lots of Cajun food. Come and feast on fried shrimp, gumbo, jambalaya and red beans and rice. Bring the family and enjoy a Cajun good time.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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