Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, and Other Tasty Things

Okay, so we’re not great at Valentine’s Day.  Really not great.  Most years, our goal is to survive the day without it being plain old bad.  This year, I’m happy to report that we had an above average day.  Woohoo!  We basically aimed for just a nice day, and it worked.  Now I can breath a sigh of relief for 363 days.

Our most successful Valentine’s Day ever?  That would be our first Valentine’s Day when we had been dating a few months.  I cooked steak (this recipe is SOOOOO GOOD), and we watched Taken.  Just a sweet little chick flick, right?

With all of that in mind, I planned the week around Mardi Gras instead of Valentine’s Day.  I lived in New Orleans for a few years as a kid, and my mom picked up a great red beans and rice recipe along the way.  So that happened, and I experimented with King Cake for the first time.  Virginia isn’t all about Mardi Gras, so the store didn’t have any purple finishing sugar.  Thus our King Cake is more of a springy yellow and green cake.  That is almost shaped like a King Cake.  And almost looks like a King Cake.  Things I’m not great at–sealing seams in baked goods.  I’m working on my baking skills slowly but surely.

Honestly, the cake came out 2% drier than I’d like, but when we microwaved pieces for 30 seconds with a few drops of water on them, it was pretty great.

So there’s King Cake.  And then I had to do something for Valentine’s Day.  You can’t plan your menus every week without a slight nod to holidays.

But instead of going all out with steak and fanciness, I decided to go a bit more subtle with the fancy.  This year we had smoked salmon potato pancakes, and I am such a big fan!  They were crispy on the outside, perfectly smooth and simple but flavorful on the inside.  Mmm.  Work-intensive?  Well, not really.  I boiled potatoes in the morning, mashed them for a minute, moved on with the day.  In the early afternoon, I added a few ingredients to the mashed potatoes and formed the cakes.  Then right before we cooked them, Scott dredged the cakes in egg and bread crumbs.  If I did all of those steps at one time, it might be too much for an average night, but broken down into small parts, it was a cinch.  Throw some green beans on the plate with the potato cakes and the creme fraiche (or in my case, sour cream and homemade yogurt with the recommended additions), and there you go.  Simple and delicious.

Here is the actual meal plan for the week:


Skillet Cod with Lemon and Capers + a simple salad

photo by Lauren Volo via The Kitchn

I doubled this recipe, and it still only made enough for 3 servings.  I mean, we’re hungry people, but still.  It was really tasty and worked just the way it should, but I may or may not be repeating this one.  Lemon and capers do always work for me though, and this really hit the spot in terms of expense (as in not expensive at all), flavor and trying out different fish than my standbys (salmon, shrimp, tuna).


Paul Prudhomme’s Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage + Cinnamon Pecan King Cake

evidence of my seam-sealing weakness

The recipe I used for the red beans isn’t online, and kid naps only allow me to type so much.  But… this recipe is pretty darn close to what I used.  Take out the ham hock (although adding that would be delicious, I’m sure), and that’s just about it.  Thank you, New Orleans circa 1987.  This has been a good addition to our family’s repertoire of favorites.  Doubled and froze half of the red beans.

King Cake critique is in the top of this post.  Yummy, but I might experiment with a different recipe next year.


Smoked Salmon Potato Cakes with Herbed Crème Fraîche +green beans + J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

photo by Anjali Prasertong via The Kitchn

Well, the potato pancakes from The Kitchn were awesome.  The cookies are also really good.  But saying something like, “The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies,” is a tough way to start.  I’ll just be eating the entire batch to let you know if they’re really the best chocolate chip cookies or not.  (I like them enough to look forward to devouring them, but I’m not entirely sure if they’re the best ever.  I suppose that’s a pretty subjective thing.  If you like the science of tasty food, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is your man, and he does say that you should tweak the recipe to make them YOUR best chocolate chip cookies.  He gets it.)

Doubled the potato cakes recipe, because if you’re going to make something tasty, it should make more than 2 servings, in my opinion.


Cooking Recovery Day (A.K.A. Pizza? Peanut Butter and Jelly?  Not cooking.)


Pioneer Woman’s Veggie Scramble

I’ve made this several times, and it’s a good template for a super quick and healthy use of eggs.  Our chickens have been super productive lately, so we might just make it a big ol’ veggie scramble.


Giada’s Classic Turkey Meatballs + Zucchini Noodles

I said in 2014 that these are the best meatballs, and I’ll stand by that claim.  I mean, yes, I said that it was dangerous to call those chocolate chip cookies the best, and here I am making the same claim for these meatballs.  Oh well.  No one is perfect.



Because honestly, tasty leftovers are the best part of cooking good food.  No dirty pots or pans, please.


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