How to Host Mardi Gras Brunch

How to Host Mardi Gras Brunch via Chrystina Noel

After spending three years working in Baton Rouge, Louisiana there will always be a place for Mardi Gras in my heart. Man, do those people know how to party. And while you might immediately start thinking of masses of people drinking on Bourbon Street, where it’s really at is when the brass band music comes on and everybody starts dancing. Doesn’t matter the time or place, they know how to drop what they’re doing and have a little fun. (Definitely something us Northeastern-ers have a problem with sometimes. Especially me.)

Three years ago (how was this that long ago??) I posted a hypothetical post on how you would host a Mardi Gras party. In 2015 I kicked it up a notch and hosted my own Mardi Gras party. I took the day off of work and spent the whole day cooking red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo, and beignets. We drank until after midnight, listened to brass band music, and ended the evening with some intense games of mafia.

Two years later, I’ve dialed it back a little bit. While the fridge is completely full of beer (purely by accident) I haven’t been drinking as much, but still wanted to celebrate the season. I realized some of my favorite treats from New Orleans would create the perfect menu for brunch: king cake and beignets. And there it was born, my Mardi Gras brunch idea.

How to Host Mardi Gras Brunch via Chrystina Noel

How to Host Mardi Gras Brunch via Chrystina Noel

Mardi Gras Brunch Menu

Brunch is my favorite meal to plan. I’m convinced the food is the easiest to cook, it’s the most fun, and you have the most options on the sweet to savory spectrum. I’m also finally learning that with only 6 people, you don’t need to make that many things. (Took long enough.)

  • King Cake: I used Joy the Baker’s recipe for king cake. King cake is essentially what you would get if you crossed a cinnamon bun with a bundt cake and added a hint of lemon. Absolutely delicious. And a Mardi Gras specialty. It was a pretty straight forward recipe, even for somebody who doesn’t work with yeast that often. I didn’t want to invest in green, yellow, and purple sprinkles, so I took my friend Stephanie’s suggestion and dyed the frosting to add some color. Purple frosting + green Christmas sprinkles = perfection.
  • Beignets: I don’t care if it’s touristy or not, but stopping at Cafe Du Monde for beignets and a hot chocolate is an absolute must for me when I’m in New Orleans. I used this beignet recipe from All Recipes during my last party and it came out delicious. They even have videos so you can be sure that you’re on the right track.
  • Breakfast Casserole: We needed something savory to balance all the sweetness of king cake and beignets. I decided on a Whole 30- and Paleo-friendly breakfast casserole from Paleo Running Momma that turned out to be absolutely delicious. (So delicious that I made another one last night to eat for breakfast this week.) On top of that, it ended up being purple (sweet potatoes), green (brussel sprouts), and yellow (egg). I’m going to pretend I did that by accident.
  • Sliced Fruit
  • Champagne, Tea, and Water

How to Host Mardi Gras Brunch via Chrystina Noel

Mardi Gras Brunch Ambiance

There are many things you can do to decorate for Mardi Gras, but I decided to keep it simple this year. I reused the paper chain I made for the last party I had which has been stored in the basement and turned on the Rebirth Brass Band Spotify station. Places like Party City and Oriental Trading have a million Mardi Gras decorations if you’re looking for more pizzazz!

How to Host Mardi Gras Brunch via Chrystina Noel

How to Host Mardi Gras Brunch via Chrystina Noel

Mardi Gras Brunch Plan

Half the battle of a party is figuring out how to get ready for it. The trick is reading all of the recipes before hand to understand exactly how much time they’re going to take; how much time things need to sit, settle, and cool before you can complete them; and making sure you have all the ingredients before you start. This party was on a Saturday morning at 11:00am. Here’s the breakdown of what the schedule looked like:

  • Friday Night: Grocery shop. Bake the king cake. Set the table and decorate while the king cake cools enough to cover for the evening.
  • Saturday Morning: Frost the king cake. Make the casserole. Make beignets and set aside so they’re ready to fry when your guests arrive. Put a pot of hot water on the stove. Enjoy.

How to Host Mardi Gras Brunch via Chrystina Noel

I felt the need to include this photograph so that you understand while the table upstairs was lovely looking, the kitchen was (and will always be) kind of a hot mess. There is still flour on my black boots.

How to Host Mardi Gras Brunch via Chrystina Noel

How to Host Mardi Gras Brunch via Chrystina Noel

There’s still time this year to host your own Mardi Gras brunch, or at least to try your hand at making beignets or a king cake. Happy Mardi  Gras season, y’all. Can’t wait for my next trip down to the Bayou. Only 3 more months to go!

Cereal Valentines, Part of a Complete Breakfast

In true Valentine’s day tradition here on Chrystina Noel, Tory and I have put together some Valentine’s to share with each one of you. in 2013 we did 90’s sitcom Valentines, in 2014 we did Nickelodeon Valentines, in 2015 we did Disney Channel Original Movie Valentines, in 2016 we did Broadway musicals, and this year – well, this year life got the best of us, but we were still able to put together one set of Valentines. We give the credit to Phillip for choosing this topic. Without further ado, Tory and I would like to present some Valentines for the breakfast cereal lover in your life.

I will warn you, breakfast cereals can be a lot raunchier than I realized. But what fun is a set of themed Valentines without some there to shake it up a little bit? Enjoy!

Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Apple Jacks
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Cheerios
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Cheerios
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Ched
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Cocoa Puffs
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Cookie Crisp
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Corn Pops
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Count Chocula
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Froot Loops
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Frosted Flakes
Frosted Flakes
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Frosted Mini Wheats
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Honey Bunches of Oats
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Honey Nut Cheerios
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Honey Smacks
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Kix
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Lucky Charms
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Lucky Charms
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Raisin Bran
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Reeses Puffs
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Rice Krispies
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Trix
Breakfast Cereal Valentines - Wheaties

I wish each of you a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Whether your single, dating, or married, I suggest that you treat yourself today to something nice. You deserve it. Don’t forget to check out last year’s Valentines.

2013 Valentines: Boy Meets World | Family Matters | Full House | Saved By the Bell
2014 Valentines: Doug | Hey Arnold | Rugrats | The Wild Thornberrys
2015 Valentines: Zenon | Cheetah Girls | Motocrossed | High School Musical
2016 Valentines: Grease | Rent | Hairspray | Wicked

Also, if anybody can come up with a good thing to put on a breakfast cereal valentine for Cinnamon Toast Crunch, that would be great. The tagline is “the taste you can see.” Please leave all suggests in the comments below.

Images references: froot loop, frosted mini wheat man, raisin bran sun, frosted flakes tiger, rice krispies elves, cocoa puff bird, chocolate chip cookie

Handmade Valentine Cards with Pop Open Cards

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

This post is sponsored by Compendium, all opinions are my own.

Today we’re going to talk about (some of) this year’s Valentine’s Day cards. It always amazes me that I find the energy to do this right after the Christmas rush, but Valentine’s Day is one of those days that I really enjoying telling some of the ladies in my life how much they mean to me.

We’re going to take a look at the real process of making these cards today. Guess what? You can’t make 30 cards all during daylight hours on really pretty tables, it’s just impossible. Sometimes you need to do it while watching Girl Meets World in front of your computer on your far-too-tiny desk. So we’re taking a look at all of that today.

Also, I’ve been giving myself a hard time recently for making such repetitive cards. It’s so easy to make a rectangular card that has a piece of construction paper on the front with a smaller rectangle popping out from it stating the message (for example, this year’s Christmas cards). So this time I told myself I had to be more creative.

First, I chose the colors. I stuck to muted colors. Partially because they remind me more of Valentine’s Day and partially because I think Sarah needs all of my bright-colored card stock for The Blog Connect.

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

Then I started folding. You might not be able to tell from the photo below, but those cards are actually folded in thirds, not halves.

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

And then came the fun part. The cuts. Two diagonal cuts in the middle of my rectangle. That ought to spice it up.

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

I tried making a few of them and then chose one as a template and repeated making it two dozen times.

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

Sooner than later, I had finished all of the card bases.

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

Then I decided I wanted to use my scrap paper form the original cuts to add alternate colors to the cards. It looked a lot like this:

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

Step one:

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

Step two:

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

Then the sun went down. Girl Meets World went on. And then my life started to look like this. (Yes, those tissues were absolutely necessary. Did you people even watch the last two episodes of Girl Meets World.?)

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards - Workshop via Chrystina Noel

Once I finished the adding pops of color to the fronts of all the cards I had to figure out where to write Happy Valentine’s Day. Which was SO much harder than I thought it was going to be. First I thought it would be good to write it on a rectangle at the top of the card, but with so many diagonal lines my rectangle looked super awkward. (I probably should have tested this out before cutting thirty purple rectangles.)

Then I tried writing Tory’s name at the top on a sheet of white paper to hold it over the top of the card to see if I liked something like that any better.

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards - Workshop via Chrystina Noel
Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards - Workshop via Chrystina Noel

It looked better, but the shape was still wrong. Then I finally succumbed to the fact that I was going to need to cut a weird shape for the top piece as well. Just to you know, keep it asymmetrical. (I think I knew the answer the whole time, but I was trying to avoid it because I knew how much work it was going to be. Note to self: Don’t waste time, just do it in the first place.)

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards - Workshop via Chrystina Noel
Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards - Workshop via Chrystina Noel

Then I added a Chrystina-usual: dotted dashes. I wrote everyone’s name on the top of the card, signed my name on the back, addressed all of the envelopes, and stamped all of the envelopes so that the next time I jumped into this project all I would have to do was write in the cards.

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards - Workshop via Chrystina Noel
Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards - Workshop via Chrystina Noel

Also. Sometimes you send cards overseas and get to use a whole bunch of the stamps you have laying around. Which is always really fun.

Here’s a look at what the final product looked like (I waited for sunshine to take these photos.)

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

So. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for being here. If you’ve read my Valentine’s Day posts before you know that I love to try to come up with other things besides cards to send to people. For example, two years ago I put teabags all of my cards. (Last year I sent socks, which was slightly more expensive than I had anticipated. Oops.)

Also around a year-and-a-half ago I received a card from a friend that had this little bite-sized pop-open card in it. And I loved it. I loved it so much that I added it to my display/work shelves so I could look at it all the time.

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

What, you can’t find it in that hot mess? (Ha.) Let me help you out:

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

There it is, right there! The rainbow-polka dot colored thing. It’s an adorable little card that you pop open (get it?) and there’s a happy little message. For example:

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

They’re sold by Compendium, a company whose motto is “live inspired,” and they sell so many adorable paper goods: notebooks, greeting cards, stationery, and more. (My kind of place, huh?) And the boxes that they’re sold in are also adorable.

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

So I’m going to be putting pop open cards in each person’s Valentine so they get a tiny little package that looks like this:

Handmade Valentines with Pop Up Cards via Chrystina Noel

I’m super excited about it and I hope my friends enjoy the little moments of inspirations as much as I did. So excited about this year’s cards, now I just need to finish writing in them.

Do you send Valentine’s Day cards? What was your process like? Also, no shame in buying boxed Valentines (especially Disney ones) or Fun Dip Valentines (because Fun Dip). I’m also really excited to give out the rest of my Minted Classroom Valentines day cards from last year at the office this year. There is construction equipment on it. Can you say networking at it’s best? So good. So excited. Remember to have fun with it!

(Also. Shhhhhh. No, Ben’s card definitely is no where near done yet. I’ve got 5 whole days left… plenty of time to think of something.)

An American-Italian Christmas Eve: The Seven Fishes

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

Guys. It’s about time that I share some photographs of what my Christmas Eve looks like. People (who know I have an Italian heritage) always ask if we do “the Seven Fishes” for Christmas Eve. And the answer is yes. Wikipedia tells me that, “the Feast of the Seven Fishes is thought to be a celebration of the story about a fisherman that could not catch any fish and then a fish came up to him and then seven types of fish were caught.” Who knew. All I know is that it’s flipping delicious.

Also, I have technically posted about this before. On January 1, 2012 to be exact. That said, since January 1, 2012 I have gotten a new camera, gotten a few new lenses, and had 4 more years of blogging experience. So we’re going to do a take two of this. (Go ahead, click through to that old post, I dare you. You’ll see why.)

Lucky for me my aunts humored me and helped me get photos of each part of the meal. A big thanks to Aunt J for being my own personal Vanna 75% of the time.

When we arrive at Aunt M’s the table is already set. With chocolates as nametags from one of the best chocolate shops in Connecticut, Munson’s Chocolates.

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

The crab sauce had been on the stove for hours at this point, and Aunt L was given the job of constantly turning the lobster bisque (for at least 45 minutes) until it was served.

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

Which was absolutely worth it. I mean, look at all that lobster. Wouldn’t want that to burn.

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

Also. Just to clarify, Aunt M and Pop actually went crabbing for the crabs, months ago.

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

The first course is shrimp cocktail. The shrimp are usually bought raw, cleaned, and steamed. And it is served with extra martini glasses full of cocktail sauce on the table.

An American-Italian Christmas Eve with Chrystina Noel

Lucky for Aunt L, course two is the lobster bisque. The key to this course is trying not to full up on bread because there is so much more to come. This year’s lobster bisque was extra fantastic.

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

Onto course three. This is where you need the bread. (But still sparingly.) THIS IS THE COURSE WE WAIT ALL YEAR FOR. Pasta and crab sauce. And it’s incredible. So much so that I literally printed a picture of last year’s pasta and crab sauce course and put it on this year’s Christmas card for the family. Because it’s that good.

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

Course four? Course three-and-a-half? This is where it gets iffy. It’s the crab course. There are a few cousins (and Pop) who love this course. For me personally I’ve found that the amount of work is not worth the reward. Also, my nails are usually pretty long so it gets really gross really fast. (I realize neither one of those is a good enough reason not to eat these delicious crabs, but you’ve really got to pick and choose this meal. Why? You ask. Because there’s still a heck of a lot more food.)

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

The biggest temptation this entire meal can be found in front of your face the whole time: the garlic bread. So good, so deadly when it comes to filling up all the space in your stomach before you get to the good stuff.

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

Then comes the main course. (I feel the need to tell you now that I have no idea what the real names of these items are, I made them up. Dear family, please feel free to correct me. Mom, I’m expecting a text message.) It includes: breadcrumb-covered scallops,

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

stuffed clams,

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

lobster tails (the meet from the rest of the lobster was included in the bisque earlier),

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

stuffed shrimp,

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

fried shrimp,

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

broccoli (with options of both lemon and butter),

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

twice-baked potatoes,

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

and sauce-covered shrimp.

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

So what does that look like all together? Well, here’s Aunt J’s plate as an example:

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

My cousins will tell you that my plate during this particular course this year was a complete embarrassment. It had one piece of broccoli, a half a scoop of potatoes, a scallop that I didn’t ask for, and a piece of Alex’s lobster tail because she accidentally took too much food. Next year I’ll play my cards better. I think? That’s always the intention.

After all is said and done, we take some time to exchange presents, and then finally put the desserts out. Most of which nobody has any room for at this point:

An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel
An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel
An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel
An American-Italian Christmas Eve - The Seven Fishes via Chrystina Noel

Now, it is very clear that this takes an army. If you’ve been counting this whole time you know that there are four aunts to split the work for food preparation between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (yes, we eat all over again on Christmas Day). And by “split the work,” I mean the majority of Christmas Eve dinner is prepared by Aunt M (with a few sides and desserts made by other sisters). I’m not sure I will ever actually understand how much work goes into it. But we are all very, very appreciative of it.

So you may be asking yourself? Well, the seven fishes. Were there actually seven? Unclear. I don’t think we ever actually try to get to seven, it just happens sometimes. This year it appears we got to… shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, scallops, Alaska pollock in the stuffing… well, only six. But they were damn good.