Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happy Mardi Gras!

I am writing this post from our basement, which for the past week I have called my "cave."  When you are spending the majority of the day down here, it certainly does feel like a cave.   Work on our kitchen is going pretty smoothly so far, and it's supposed to be done at the end of next week!  Let's hope we don't hit any snags!

2 weeks ago Kevin and I took a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  I had been to New Orleans during college, so I knew that it was crazy even when Mardi Gras wasn't going on.  I was not too excited about going during Mardi Gras, but we decided to attend for a couple of reasons:

1.  Kevin's 125 Places to Drink a Beer Before you Die List states "French Quarter During Mardi Gras" as #26.  God forbid we don't check something off of a list- ;)

2.  Check it off the old bucket list, before we become too old to walk down Bourbon Street (more on that later)

So my awesome parents came up to watch CJ and we flew down to New Orleans on Saturday.  We checked into our really nice hotel and ate our first meal at the Acme Oyster House.  The Travel Channel runs a "Chowdown Countdown" all of the time, and this is one of the two places in New Orleans on the list.  We both had oyster poboys and I also had gumbo.  The rest of the day was spent exploring the French Quarter and having some drinks.  That night we ate at Mother's Restaurant, but due to well, maybe one too many hand grenade drinks, I didn't eat much.  Kevin said it was good though. 

Sunday we had brunch reservations at Brennan's but once again those hand grenades from the night before kind of ruined the meal... very sad.  It will be the first on the list the next time we go to New Orleans.  I accompanied Kevin to #101 on his beer list- Cooter Brown's.  After watching a Syracuse basketball game at this sports bar, we decided to not try to meander around the Mardi Gras parades in a taxi and walk the 5 miles down St. Charles Ave back to the French Quarter.  The fresh air did us both good, and we got to experience how the locals celebrate Mardi Gras.  Since many of the parades travel down St. Charles Ave people just set up tents and tailgate the whole day.  They also have these ladder contraptions where kids can sit on top to be able to see and catch beads and other trinkets thrown off the floats.  By the last parade of the day, which we were able to see, you can imagine the party!  It seemed like the whole city came out!  It also is kind of crazy how nuts people (myself included) go just to catch beads and trinkets (don't worry, the parades are very family-friendly).
A cool alligator float

All of the people in the streets (to the left is the parade)
On Monday, we took a graveyard tour through the pouring rain.  I took one of these with my friends when we were down in college, and again found it very entertaining and interesting.  Afterwards, Kevin and I walked to another restaurant on the Chowdown List- Willie Mae's Scotch House.  Best.Fried.Chicken.Ever.   And might I add that I had it with mac and cheese?  Yum.  Totally worth the line to get in.  The rest of the afternoon?  French Market exploring and then Cafe Du Monde for Beignets.  Dinner was at Emeril's.  Luckily, there was a parade going right in front of the restaurant so were able to catch the end of that- as well as get up close as we were not on a main street.  Lots of beads and even a few trinkets!
St. Louis #1 Cemetary
My favorite meal
Drum dish at Emeril's

Tuesday was Mardi Gras so there were some pretty long parades that seemed to go on all day.  One of the downsides of going to New Orleans at Mardi Gras was that you had to really plan your day around these parades.  We actually were kind of stuck trying to find a place to go to breakfast because there were several streets blocked around our hotel and we had to wait awhile to cross the street.  Coincidentally, the day before the priest that married us and baptized CJ, Father Cool, texted Kevin to ask him if we would be free for lunch on Tuesday as he was coming into town for a wedding.  It was so nice to catch up with him (unfortunately at a forgettable restaurant that I don't even remember the name of, the place we wanted to go was closed due to Mardi Gras).  After that, we made sure we had a beer in the French Quarter on Mardi Gras, and then headed back to our hotel so we could grab our luggage and get to the airport!

Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras
Thoughts on the trip- still love New Orleans.  Would go back tomorrow.  I do not need to go back for Mardi Gras.  I AM happy we did go though and experience it.  It kind of reminded us of going to Spain during Holy Week.  Happy to experience all of the events and see what goes on, but would like to go at not such a crazy time.  Remember when I said that we wanted to go to Mardi Gras before we became too old?  Well, there didn't seem to be many people in their 30's frequenting Bourbon St.  There were the college kids just there to see or show boobs of course, AND there were also lots of people over the age of 50.  That surprised me.  The other thing that surprised me was all the people that brought their kids to Bourbon Street at night.  It seems like much of Mardi Gras is very family friendly, but Bourbon St. not so much.  I saw a couple pushing their double stroller while both holding hand grenade drinks.  With beads hurling above at 60 mph.  At 10 PM.  It just seemed wrong to me.  Anyways.  Overall, a great time, and it was nice to get away with just Kevin for a few days.

My recipe(s) for this week- it's kind of late, but I am providing the links to all of the recipes that I made for our Valentine's Day Dinner.  Every year I try to cook something a little fancy or out of my comfort zone for Valentine's Day- it seems like for the past few years it's been something that Gordon Ramsey is always yelling at someone about on Hell's Kitchen.  Last year I made Beef Wellington (probably won't make it again).  This year, I made scallops, risotto, asparagus, and a chocolate tart.

Sea Scallops with Mushrooms and Sherry - These came out even better than I hoped.  I need to make scallops more often! 
Risotto with Asparagus and Morel Ragout- I actually did not make the ragout part, just mixed in the peas and morels at the end.  I roasted the asparagus separately. 
Chocolate Truffle Tart- Actually pretty easy to make, and VERY yummy.

Hopefully next week I will be showing pictures of our new kitchen! 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Minimalist Mama?

Hardly so.  But, I did read an article written by a British mother of a 2-year-old and it got me thinking.  This mom, Hattie Garlick, lost her job around Christmastime and her son's 2nd birthday.  She did a little research and decided to give "Kiddie Consumerism" the middle finger by conducting an experiment on trying not spending any money on her toddler for a whole year.  To clarify- this child will still be fed, clothed, entertained, and otherwise well-cared for, but with parameters.  Such as, the food the child eats will be the food the parents also eat.  No special overpriced Gerber toddler meals.  All clothes, toys, and cloth diapers will be obtained for free either on Freecycle or from hand-me-downs.  She is blogging about her "experiment" at  I hope she is successful! 

Is she nuts?  I don't necessarily think so.  Could I do what she is doing?  Maybe.  But probably not.  I am the type of person who feels satisfied when clothes (that I've had for awhile) get holes in them, when old shoes finally fall apart, the fact that I've had my car for almost 10 years- I like things to be well-used.  Does that stop me from buying new things here and there when I don't necessarily need them?  Of course not.  Just look at all of my shoes.  Or purses.  Or kitchen gadgets (on that note, our whole entire kitchen in a month).  But I am pretty darn satisfied when they are so "loved" that I have to throw them away.  What has irked me for the past 19 months is how aside from the occasional onesie with a poop stain that I could not get out, CJ's clothes are NOT well-used.  He wears them for a few months at the most (it's slowing down now) but then need to be packed away.  A few nice outfits are never worn because who wants to wear a nice Gymboree sweater around the house?  Does my child, whose days entail playdates, Wegmans, and Target really need to be trendy?  Some of the millions of toys he has have never even caused him to give a smile.  Why are we spending so much money on our small children when (sorry for the cliche) they are happier with shoeboxes?  I've not been shy about accepting hand-me-down toys and clothes or shopping at consignment sales.  But, I occasionally have gone overboard- especially this past Christmas.  I fell victim to all of the cute toys available and now CJ has enough to entertain him for the next year or two.  The Easter Bunny may bring him a book or a puzzle (not that he knows any better anyway).  Thank God his birthday is not until June.  At least then we can get him outdoor toys.  Like a ball.  Or a glorified stick or something.
All this kid needs is a couch and some pillows.  That's entertaining enough! 

Anyways, I'm all for spending money on decent clothes and toys when I know they will be used for awhile or grow with the child.  Even his train table is sturdy, and can be converted to just an activity table once he is done with trains.  Should last 10+ years, right?  Food? I did try and make my own baby food last year.  I succumbed to the baby food grocery aisle.  It was only for a few months.  Now he pretty much eats what we eat.  Diapers?  Not against cloth diapers (although used?) but for whatever reason have no desire to venture into that world.  I'll keep Pampers in business.  Activities?  Yes, I have signed CJ up for some baby classes over the past year even though I could technically keep him entertained for free.  Oh well, change in the schedule is good.  What do you think?  Do you think you would be able to give up spending money on any of these things?

Switching gears (sort of) is this week's recipe.  We didn't have any plans for the Superbowl, so I knew I wouldn't be tempted to stuff my face with chips and Helluva Good Dip if I wasn't around it.  However, I still wanted to have something snacky and decided on a recipe I have seen on a few foodie blogs- Buffalo Cauliflower Bites.  Cauliflower florets battered, baked, and then topped with wing sauce.  Surprisingly good, and a lot healthier than actual chicken wings.  They probably won't actually satisfy a wing craving (talk to Kevin about that), but I was happy with them, especially with some light ranch dressing.

Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower Bites (adapted from


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 22 oz (6 1/2 cups) cauliflower florets (about 1 head)
  • 3/4 cup Anchor Original Wing Sauce (or you could just use Frank's Hot Sauce)
  • 1 tbsp melted unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly spray a large non-stick baking sheet with oil. Combine the water, flour, and garlic powder in a bowl and stir until well combined.  Coat the cauliflower pieces with the flour mixture and place on the baking sheet; bake for 20 minutes.  While the cauliflower is baking, combine the hot sauce and butter in a small bowl.  Pour the hot sauce mixture over the baked cauliflower and continue baking for an additional 5 minutes.