As you may have heard, king cake is king around these parts this time of year. I hope none of you are king caked out yet, because this weekend, Mardi Gras kicks into high gear as we approach a five-day celebration from today until Tuesday. A few weeks ago, I posted a guide to king cakes around the Mobile and Eastern Shore area. It’s in no way exhaustive, as I’m pretty sure my guests and I would’ve succumbed to a sugar coma before tasting every single king cake available in the area. But we tried, and I’ve gotten some great feedback on some we’ve missed. Read on to discover those and for a recipe for a king cake you can make right in your own kitchen.
Growing up, my family treated Valentine’s Day a little differently than the romantic, red rose holiday it is to most. For us, it wasn’t so much a couples-only holiday as it was a day to let those you love know how much they mean to you. My maternal grandmother was the queen of homemade Valentines, and my mother has taken up that torch with pride. Every year, she crafts adorable homemade Valentines for her grandchildren to distribute to their friends.
When everyone else is packing up their Christmas decorations in early January and succumbing to a slight post-holiday funk, revelers all around the Gulf Coast (and in Europe and South America, too) are gearing up for another major holiday season: Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras or Carnival, as it’s known in other parts of the world, is a weeks-long celebration of Catholic origins between Twelfth Night/Epiphany (the celebration of the three wise men’s visit to the baby Jesus) and culminating on “Fat Tuesday” (named for the tradition of feasting on meat, milk, cheese, butter, and everything else that tastes good). Today’s celebrations involve parades, balls, beads, luscious and decadent food, and plenty of booze. It’s your one last chance to party until midnight on Ash Wednesday, when everyone goes home to fast and repent for the forty days of Lent. New Orleans is, by far, the most famous North American city to revel; however, 14 years before New Orleans was founded, the fair port city of Mobile, Alabama, held the very first Mardi Gras in 1704.
It should go without saying, but I love trying new restaurants, both on travels and in my home city of Mobile, Alabama. As a mom of two children under five, I can’t say I get out as much as I’d like to, so it’s a pretty monumental thing to be able to enjoy some cocktails and a nice meal with my husband, out, alone. Säisho, one of Mobile’s newest restaurants, has beckoned me ever since it opened. Their own website states describes a “modern American gastropub, inspired by the kitchens and bars of Japan.” Some of my favorite flavors and dishes (ahem, ramen) are Japanese, so I was seriously pumped. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about Säisho, and it did not disappoint.
On the 12th day of Christmas, there was an awesome giveaway! This lovely set of Williams Sonoma* citrus-themed plates will be my present to one of you. Glazed earthenware with a hand-painted green rim, these salad plates will brighten up your winter table, for sure. It’s a set of four, one of each design of grapefruit, lemon, orange, and lime.
All you need to do to have a chance to win is write a comment on this post answering the following question:
“What’s on your wish list this year?”
*Williams-Sonoma is in no way affiliated with Lemon Baby or this giveaway. No purchase necessary to enter. Sweepstakes will run from 12/21/2016 6:00 PM EST and close at 6:00PM on 12/25/2016. Winner will be chosen at random and notified via email. Prize is valid only to US residents and will be shipped only to an address in the 48 contiguous states.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, there were oysters swimming in butter and cream. “Oh, that sounds good,” you say? You bet your Hatchimal it’s good. Good enough for Christmas Eve (or even the first course that is the marathon Christmas Day meal).
On the tenth day of Christmas, there were nuts. No, I’m not talking about Great Aunt Bethany with the jello mold that may or may not contain cat food (if you don’t get that reference you need to watch more Christmas movies). I’m referring to the nuts of the pecan variety, lightly coated in a shiny glaze and spiced to perfection with paprika, cumin, cayenne, sugar, and ginger.
On the ninth day of Christmas, mama needed a hot toddy. For those of you not familiar with this libation, it’s a warm cocktail of whiskey, hot water, lemon and honey, usually reserved for medicinal purposes. Like the Thai chicken soup I posted for the third day of Christmas, it’s my go-to when I’m suffering from a cold, but on a chilly, rainy night like tonight, it’s perfect, too.
On the eighth day of Christmas, there were still lemons in my kitchen. That’s right, I have not somehow figured out how to use 200 lemons in one week. But lucky for me, I’m not sick of them yet, despite drinking them in my water, and cocktails, and adding them into any recipe I can think of. So that’s why I bring you lemon curd tonight, and even better, a recipe that takes fewer than 30 minutes from start to finish.
On the 7th day of Christmas, there was more peppermint and chocolate. In case you didn’t believe me when I said this is one of my favorite combinations, here’s more proof. Peppermint patties are one of those things I never thought about making myself, but along came Gourmet magazine’s December 2007 issue, and my Christmas treat-making has never been the same.
On the sixth day of Christmas, there was caramel. Gooey, soft, sweet, buttery caramel, dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with tiny grains of sea salt. I’m a huge fan of caramel, in any form. Dulce de leche, caramel sauce, and caramel truffles are all good in my book. I’ve never been much into making candy (I’m pretty sure it’s because of the time I burned myself with sugar syrup in high school cooking class), but as long as you pay attention during the last stage, you don’t even need a candy thermometer for these.
On the fifth day of Christmas, there was Champagne. There’s nothing like bubbly to toast the holiday season (and keep on toasting ’til the New Year). Last night was our annual gift exchange, hosted by Allison, party thrower extraordinaire. In characteristic fashion, the bubbly was flowing. Champagne is nice, but champagne cocktails are the bomb. For our holiday shindig, Elizabeth brought a grapefruit syrup she made with fruit from her own tree. Paired with bubbly, it was light, refreshing, and the perfect libation to sip while enjoying friends and laughter.
Elizabeth found the recipe from Epicurious. It’s as easy as peeling a grapefruit, squeezing the juice, and letting it sit overnight with some sugar. The next day, strain it and then top a few tablespoons with some sparkling wine for a lovely Champagne cocktail. Alternatively, too four tablespoons of grapefruit syrup with sparkling water for a refreshing Italian soda.
It’s as easy as peeling a grapefruit, squeezing the juice, and letting it sit overnight with some sugar. The next day, strain it and then top a few tablespoons with some sparkling wine for a lovely Champagne cocktail. Alternatively, top four tablespoons of grapefruit syrup with sparkling water for a refreshing and kid-friendly Italian soda.
Did someone send you a box of holiday fruit? Get to squeezing.
On the fourth day of Christmas, there was peppermint + chocolate, a match made in the North Pole. When I say I love chocolate and peppermint together, that means that I can easily eat an entire tin of Williams-Sonoma peppermint bark by myself. That’s $40 well spent, my friend. Now, I’m pretty sure at one point you’d have never been able to convince me that there was anything better than that combination. Once Bon Appetit added shortbread to the equation, however, I was hooked. I say the word “shortbread” the way Garfield says “lasagna.”
On the third day of Christmas, there was cold and flu season. Yes, while this seems odd to include in a Christmas countdown, no one is immune to the common cold. What’s more, it tends to strike around the least opportune times (i.e., during the holidays, when we have better stuff to do than being stuffed up.) Clear your sinuses with my favorite remedy, this Thai Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup.
On the second day of Christmas, there were cocktails. Because of crowds at the mall, the fact that your kid told you he wanted the impossible-to-find Nintendo NES from Santa (I said “Santa doesn’t bring presents for grown-ups, and we both know that’s really for your daddy”,) and perhaps you (with the help of your husband and two friends) just harvested over 200 lemons from your backyard tree.
For the next twelve days, Lemon Baby is bringing you twelve mini-posts of our holiday favorites. Cookies, cakes, side dishes for the holiday meal, candies, soups, and even some edible gift ideas. Starting #12DaysofChristmas off right is a recipe for one of my absolute favorite cookies. They go by several different names (Snowballs, Meltaways, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Tea Cakes) but they all translate to a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie dusted with powdered sugar.
Fall is my favorite season, hands down. And for good reason–I spent most of my early childhood through my teens in Brookline, a suburb of Boston. September meant apple picking. October often meant trick or treating wearing a heavy coat over our costume. November usually ushered in the first light dusting of snow. To me, autumn tastes like the snap of a Honeycrisp apple, my absolutely favorite variety. Fall, with its leaves a riot of flaming reds, yellows, and oranges, is the last exhale before the brutal, breath-snatching New England winter. It was–is–magical.
On the Harry Potter Superfan scale of one to ten, I’m probably an eight and a half. I’ve never written Harry and Hermione love story fan fiction or tattooed a snitch on my body, but I did go to every single midnight book release party, wand (aka knobby twig) in hand. There’s something about Rowling’s world building that just captured me, from the clever beginning to the poignant end.
I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. On one hand, it’s an easy way to quickly search for meal or design or fashion inspiration. On the other hand, it’s an easy way to throw myself into a total inferiority complex/shame spiral. Everything on Pinterest, especially involving babies, is just so perfect. Like intensely, cutesily, professionally styled and photographed kind of perfect. And I’m just not. I’m that person whose hair always has flyaways, I most likely have a coffee stain on my shirt, and I once went out to Starbucks while wearing two completely different shoes (by accident, of course). I’m not a perfect Pinterest mom (or food blogger, for that matter) and I’ve been okay with it (for the most part). Well, at least until Lemon Baby’s first birthday rolled around.
To a lot of people, baking is scary. Baking (usually) requires precise measurements using cups (different ones for liquid and dry ingredients) or worse, scales, and leveling off instead of scooping. Unless you’re me and you make a pie without measuring a single thing.