Holidays, Mardi Gras, Sweet Treats

Blinged out baby

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. 

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Holidays, Sweet Treats

Valentine Brownies
Sweets for the sweet

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.

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Holidays, Mardi Gras, Sweet Treats

King Cakes
Cartozzo’s Cream Cheese king cake from Greer’s Downtown Market

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.

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Breakfast, Christmas, Sweet Treats

 

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.

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Christmas, Sweet Treats

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.
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Christmas, Holidays, Sweet Treats

 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.

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Christmas, Cookies, Holidays, Sweet Treats

Peppermint Chocolate Shortbread

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.”

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Christmas, Cookies, Holidays, Sweet Treats

#12DaysofChristmas
Meyer Lemon Snowballs

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. 

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Entertaining, Sweet Treats

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 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.

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Sweet Treats

Varying shades of bears
Varying shades of bears

I have had a long-standing affair with gummy candy for as long as I can remember. After a disastrous attempt at Champagne jello shots (recipe didn’t call for any sugar and tasted like nothing other than gelatinous Champagne, which was surprisingly awful), I put my booze-infused gelatin dreams aside–until I saw that Sugarfina came out with rosé gummy bears, which promptly not only sold out but actually inspired a 12,000 person waiting list. Not exactly a patient sort, I knew I could at least try to make my own. So I ordered these molds and searched for recipes. Mine is adapted from Sprinkle Bakes. I didn’t have sparkling wine flavoring, so I substituted lemon juice plus lemon extract (Lemon Baby used lemon, go figure).  I used pink gel food coloring from my macaron baking days, and I fear that wasn’t best coloring agent. When I make these again, I’ll probably use liquid. Continue Reading

Cocktails, Sweet Treats

Can't even.
Can’t even.

Growing up, it was well-known among my friends that I loved to bake. It’s actually in my blood (but I’m saving that story for another post). Two of my best friends in high school, Julie and Vanessa, used to request meringues from me on almost a daily basis. I’ve even shipped them (although I wouldn’t recommend this, given their delicate nature.) Meringue is just egg whites and sugar whipped until desired,  but it has many iterations. It can appear as the fluffy topping on a lemon pie or banana pudding, or baked into a crackly cookie with a chewy, marshmallowy interior, studded with mini chocolate chips (Vanessa and Julie’s favorite). While whipping egg whites can be intimidating, (Firm? Glossy? Stiff? Soft?) it just takes a bit of practice. I’ve got some tips below to help. When I spied some very late-season rhubarb in the store the other day, I knew exactly the dessert I wanted to make. Continue Reading

Side Dishes, Sweet Treats

A little handmade touch never hurt a Father's Day cake.
A little handmade touch never hurt a Father’s Day cake.

There are two fathers who feature prominently in my life: my own father, and S. and Lemon Baby’s daddy (also known as my husband). They are vastly different men in trait and temperament, but one (very important) thing they have in common is the ability to drop everything and play. My own father demonstrated it countless times while I was growing up, and still to this day, when his grandchildren want him to chase them on all fours, roaring like a fearsome beast, he complies without hesitation. My husband, when asked to tell his nephew, niece, and son a bedtime story, grabs our stuffed Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat and enacts the storyline, complete with an inflatable tire float. (For those who don’t know who/what Mr. Bear is, it’s a ridiculous children’s story from back in the day about –you guessed it– a bear who squashes little woodland creatures’ homes). The ability to play on demand is reason enough to make whomever you (or your kids) call “Dad” a special meal on the third Sunday in June. Continue Reading

Cocktails, Sweet Treats

 

On the Gulf Coast, we get a beautiful (albeit short) spring before cool mornings and dazzling sunshine yield to the searing, unrelenting heat of summer. If you’ve never experienced July in Mobile (or New Orleans, or Tallahassee, or some other as-south-as-you-can-go-before-you-hit-water city), imagine going into the sauna at the spa and not being able to leave, even when your eyelashes start to sweat. A few things help us survive the onslaught of buggy, muggy 95-degree evenings: our gorgeous beaches, front porches (friends mandatory), air conditioning, and delightfully fresh and crisp wine like rosé and vinho verde.

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Sweet Treats

Rhubarb Anytime Cake

I named this next recipe “Rhubarb Anytime Cake” because in my research of recipes for something using rhubarb and yogurt, I came across rhubarb “snack cakes,” “breakfast cakes,” and of course, just “cakes”, but this beauty is one heck of a multitasker. Inspired by smitten kitchen‘s “snacking cake,” it’s perfect for breakfast, an afternoon pick-me-up, or some post-dinner sweetness. It’s pretty simple to put together, too. You just macerate the rhubarb (only, please don’t be tempted to add strawberries) with a little sugar and lemon for a few minutes while the batter whips up, then top with the fruit and a little crumble topping. Oh, and it has the most beautiful nooks and crannies. You just want to get up in there and crawl around in it. Continue Reading