Louisiana

Louisiana, Recipes

New Orleans Crockpot Red Beans & Rice

With this New Orleans Crockpot Red Beans & Rice recipe, there’s no need to watch the pot and worry about burning your beans! But I still cook them on a Monday. Growing up, families cooked beans on Monday or wash-day, to be near the pot.

When cooking beans on the stovetop, be sure to stir that pot so your beans won’t burn!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Camellia red beans
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ green bell pepper
  • 2 -3bay leaves
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 1 medium-sized ham hock
  • ½ lb. ham
  • ½ lb. beef smoked sausage
  • ½ 1b. hot sausage (chaurice)
  • ¼ cup butter (4 tablespoons)
  • 1 4 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups long grain white rice, cooked
  • French Bread

Directions:

  1. Soak beans overnight. Put beans in a large bowl, cover with about 2 inches of water. Beans will absorb most of the water.
  1. The next day, dice a yellow onion, garlic, and green bell pepper. Slice sausages and ham into bite-sized pieces.
  1. Drain the remaining water from beans, rinse. Put the beans in a Crockpot; fill with water about an inch from the top. Add meat, all fresh and dried seasoning except garlic.
  1. Cook on low for about 6-8 hours, or until beans are soft and easy to mash. Mash about a third of the softened beans on the side of the crock pot with a large spoon to create a creamy gravy.
  1. Add butter, tomato sauce, and garlic. Cook for another 30 minutes.

Serve over cooked white rice with French bread. Bon appétit!

Diverse Books, Louisiana, Picture books

Happy Book Birthday, Yumbo Gumbo!

What a fun book launch! Lots of moms, grandparents and a dad came to the Yumbo Gumbo storytime at Joseph-Beth Cincinnati. A sibling pair totally understood how big and little siblings relationships work and identified with my characters Annabelle and Beau. All the kiddos and their grown-ups were engaged, and they loved the bread basket craft. When a mom asked her son what he planned to put in his basket, he said cars. 🤣

 

[videopack id=”12197″]https://www.keiladawson.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/2024-Book-Tour-Video-1.mp4[/videopack]
History, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

The King Cake Ban

By the late 1700s, the mayor of Paris wanted to end Carnival and ban King Cake!

As early as the 14th century, historians have found documented evidence to show revelers baked King Cakes to celebrate the winter solstice. And the fève or fava bean hidden inside was associated with bringing good luck for fertility, or a bountiful harvest, and more. The holiday became quite popular across Europe and whomever found the bean, or fève, became the king or queen for the day. There was dancing in the street, lots of drinking, and other raucous behavior that accompanied the celebrations. This provided the lowest levels of society temporary relief from societal pressures imposed by the ruling class. And in the 16th century, French bakeries (boulangeries) and pastry shops (pâtisseries) both wanted the sole right to sell the cake. It was up to the king to decide.

As Christianity spread across Europe, the church prohibited the pagan festival and the worship of non-Christian gods. To assure this happened, the church influenced their followers to celebrate Three Kings’ Day or the Epiphany on January 6th which coincided with the winter solstice. And like the three wise men, Christians would celebrate and recognize the divinity of the baby Jesus. However, the fun, festivities and cake remained popular.

In fact, in France, there was a king cake war because the cake was so popular. So who won? What establishment did the king pick to make and sell their official kings’ cake, the boulangeries or pâtisseries?

Interestingly, even today, who can sell what—and where there—remains a matter of French law! You see, there’s a difference between a boulangerie and a pâtisserie. My son is in his third year at École Ducasse in Paris studying French Pastry Arts and he enjoys viennoiserie, which is like blending pastry and bread-making, but that’s a whole other topic. A boulangerie specializes in bread and other baked goods, whereas a pâtisserie sells pastries. That’s a very simplistic explanation. It’s far more complicated!

The king’s edict of 1794 granted pastry chefs the monopoly to make the Gâteau des Rois. This ring-shaped gâteau was made of a brioche with a dough using yeast.

How did the boulangers respond?

The bakers couldn’t sell the ring-shaped cake, so they created something new. They made Galette des Rois with a puff pastry in the shape of a pie! This Kings’ Cake has multiple thin layers filled with frangipane, an almond paste. And yes, a fève is hidden inside. Today, instead of a bean, there’s a trinket of some kind, perhaps a tiny porcelain or plastic figurine.

Fast forward to Louisiana, once a French colony, where the cake tradition continues. In France, King Cakes are sold from January 6th throughout the month of January. In Louisiana, the first King Cake appears on the same date, kicking off the Carnival season. But there, they are consumed until Mardi Gras Day—Fat Tuesday. The King Cake baby is the most popular fève hidden in Louisiana King Cakes. And the baby comes in many sizes and colors.

I’ve had my share of King Cake varieties from different bakeries over the years and I continue to experiment with making my own. This year’s Epiphany cake was filled with Valrhona chocolate from Tain L’Hermitage, that my son brought home and caramelized for me.

Whether you prefer a Galette des Rois, Gâteau des Rois, or a variety of the Louisiana King Cake, you have until February 13, 2024, Mardi Gras Day, to eat your share. And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll find the fève!

Happy Mardi Gras!

Diverse Books, Louisiana

Yumbo Gumbo Cover Reveal

YUMBO GUMBO cover reveal today on Vivian Kirkfield’s Picture Books Help Kids Soar blog! Read about and see the photo inspiration behind this story. I also share one of many funny exchanges with my editor during the editing process.

Comment to enter the giveaway!

Written by moi, illustrated by Katie Crumpton, and published by Charlesbridge, YUMBO GUMBO will be on shelves February 20, 2024. Available for pre-order today!

Louisiana, Recipes

Pot-au-feu a la Creole

On this first day of the new year, I am sharing another recipe my mama passed on to me. Looking at her handwritten recipes fills my heart with warm memories and my tummy, too.

As the weather cooled in the fall, I wanted to use the last of my farm fresh garden veggies, so I looked for another old-world recipe from my childhood. I made Pot-au-feu (pot on fire in English). So worth the time it takes!

As always, I consulted The Picayune’s Creole Book to learn some of the food history about this dish and yes, for a good chuckle, too. Here’s what it says about Pot-au-Feu a la Creole…”This POT-AU-FEU, properly made, is truly delicious, savory and delicately odorous. It is important to have good beef, and that it be as freshly killed as can be had. Many of the Creoles add the beef spleen or brisket to the soup. This is rich and juicy, and gives nutritive value to the dish.” 😁

Check out how a chef makes the old-world French version of Pot-au-feu in this video.

Where American recipes brown the meat in veggie beef soup recipes, this one requires boiling the meat with soup bones, so first you make a stock. YUM.

Happy New Year! Wishing you health, happiness, and lots of good food to eat in 2023!

Mama’s Pot-au-Feu a la Creole

Ingredients:

1 gallon of cold water

6 pounds beef (boneless chuck roast and eye of Round)

2 lbs. beef soup bones

2 large yellow onions

3 stalks celery

½ tsp. thyme

3 bay leaves

1 8 oz tomato sauce

2 tomatoes

2 rutabagas

6 carrots

3 turnips

4 or 5 ears of corn

1 lb. green beans

2 bunches of green onion   

1 small cabbage

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 potatoes

salt & pepper

Louisiana Creole Seasoning:

  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried garlic powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp onion powder

Directions:

1. Dice fresh vegetables and beef into small bite-sized pieces.

2. Season boneless meat with salt, pepper and Louisiana Creole seasoning. Then add meat, tomatoes, tomato sauce, yellow onions, celery, thyme, bay leaf and soup bones to a large 12–16-quart stockpot with a gallon of cold water. Boil at least an hour or until the meat is tender. Do not stir. As the fat rises to the top, skim from the broth and discard or save for another dish. OPTIONAL: To reduce the need to skim, remove most of the fat from meat before boiling. However, leave some as the fat and marrow from soup bones to add to the taste.

3. When meat is tender, add rutabagas, carrots, turnips. Reduce heat to simmer and cook about 30 minutes.

4. When the root veggies are tender, add corn, green beans, green onion, cabbage and cook for 30 minutes.

5. Add potatoes and garlic. If needed, add more water to the pot to keep meat and veggies covered. Cook 20 minutes.

5. Add more Louisiana Creole seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

6. Served with French bread.

Bon Appétit!

Louisiana, Media, Picture books

Louisiana Book Award Nomination

I am thrilled to announce that Louisiana readers nominated OPENING THE ROAD for a Louisiana Readers’ Choice Award! This is such an honor, and I am beyond grateful to know this work of nonfiction is resonating with kids. Click here to find a list of other titles nominated for this award.

How exciting to know my book is hanging out with the Newbery Medal winning book by a fellow Kidlit For Growing Minds member, Rajani LaRocca.

Merci beaucoup to my home state!

Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras, Recipes

Easy Peasy Crescent Roll King Cake

This year I’m sharing an easy peasy crescent rolls king cake recipe.

When it was time to make a king cake this year, I couldn’t find Pillsbury Dough Sheets, so this was an opportunity to figure out how to make a king cake with crescent rolls. The stores said they had the inventory, but not enough employees to keep the shelves stocked. YIKES. It takes a little more skill, but it’s still easy peasy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls or Grands!
  • cinnamon sugar mix: ½ c. granulated sugar + 2 tbsp cinnamon  or filling of your choice
  • plastic king cake baby (to hide inside, of course!)
  • purple, green, & gold sugar sprinkles
  • 1 can Pillsbury Cream Cheese Icing or make your own

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  2. Grease a pizza pan or cover with parchment paper. (Easily transfers to a serving dish using parchment paper.)
  3. Mix the cinnamon and sugar.
  4. Unroll one can of crescent rolls and separate into 8 triangles. Arrange the triangles, slightly overlapping all sides into a half circle with tips pointed toward the center.

5. Finish the circle by laying the triangles from the second can.

6. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mix around the middle of the dough.

7. Pull the narrow part of the triangle from the center toward the widest part.

8. Pull the widest part of the triangle from the end toward the center.

9. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. (a liquid filling may require a longer baking time)

  10. While the cake is in the oven, read THE KING CAKE BABY. Don’t let your baby run away!

Decorate the King Cake

1. Soften ½ can of Pillsbury Cream Cheese icing or make a cream cheese icing using the recipe below.

Cream cheese icing:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract  
  • 3 tablespoons milk

2. Hide one plastic king cake baby in the cake’s underside.

3. While the cake is still warm, pour icing on top.

4. Top with sugar sprinkles, alternating purple, green colors.

5. Before eating, check your piece to see if you got the baby!

And check out my post on how to host an Easy Peasy King Cake Party with pictures.

Bon appétit!

History, Holidays, Louisiana

12 Days of Christmas

Did you know? Today is the first day of Christmas! The 12 Days of Christmas starts today and ends January 5th.

Many of us know the 12 Days of Christmas song. We know it’s about someone getting lots of gifts, especially birds, from their true love. A wee research led me to a number of ideas about its origin. I found reference to an early written version from 1780 published as a children’s “memory and forfeits” game, much like ‘I went to the market and bought’ game where players are tasked with remembering and repeating what was said before their turn. Others hypothesize it’s an English Christmas carol, a French folk song from 1770, and even a ‘code’ persecuted English Catholics used to practice their faith back in the 16th-17th centuries. A century later, it was described as a game played at a Twelfth-night celebration.

Fast forward to the 19th-20th centuries and the parodies ensued. Watch this family of 12 sing their own version called “Creative 12 Days of Christmas” because it’s hilarious!

https://youtu.be/0L3cdVB3H3I

Although opinions vary about the origin or meaning behind the song, today it’s rooted in both secular and Christian Christmas traditions. And it’s so much fun to sing! Whether the song is enjoyed for a secular or religious reason, we can extend the spirit of the season 12 more days, not only through gift giving but also through acts of kindness. 

And on January 6th, also known as Twelfth Night, Le Petit Noël, Little Christmas, Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day, the celebration continues! More about that later.

I hope you’ll join me!

 

Louisiana, Recipes

Creole Louisiana Mirliton Recipe

Happy fall, y’all!

Today’s post comes with a family recipe for one of my childhood favorite foods. But, we need to dig into some world history first!

What does Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean have to do with my Creole Louisiana Mirlton recipe? Read on…

Mirliton, [MEL-ee-tawn], [MER-lee-tawn], or [MEEL-ee-tawn] in Louisiana, [MEER-lee-tawn] in French, is a south Louisiana staple. The squash, called chayote [chah·YOH·teh] in Spanish, is native to Mesoamerica. This old world plant has documented roots in Louisiana dated in the mid-1800s. However, evidence suggests it reached the Louisiana colony much earlier. In one theory, the plant came to the port city of New Orleans, while a Spanish colony, via other Spanish colonies in Latin America. Another explanation is that it came with colonizers (including gens de couleur libres) and the people they enslaved that fled to New Orleans from Saint-Domingue and Cuba from 1791 to 1815, during and following the slave rebellion that created the Republic of Haiti in 1804. The evidence supporting this latter theory is the fact that there are two places that use the word “mirliton” for this squash—Louisiana and the former French colony renamed Haiti after the revolution. In English, Anglo-Americans call this squash a “vegetable pear” because of its shape. So was the staple called chayote brought to colonial Louisiana during the Spanish period? If so, did the influx of roughly 15,000 French-speakers from Saint-Domingue and Cuba that arrived in New Orleans influence using the French name for the squash? Or was it brought to Louisiana by Saint-Dominguans?

Food history is so fascinating!

This squash is technically a fruit and grows on a vine in warm climates. I remember mirliton growing in my grandmother’s backyard in New Orleans. The plant grew all over the city before Hurricane Katrina decimated the plant. As part of hurricane recovery, a nonprofit organization dedicated itself to the revival and conservation of the Louisiana mirliton.

Чайот.JPG” by SKas is licensed with CC BY-SA 4.0

Below is the recipe passed on to me that I will pass on to my children.

Louisiana Creole Mirliton Recipe

Ingredients and prep:

  • 6-8 medium mirlitons
  • 2 pounds gulf shrimp
  • 1 pound white lump crab meat
  • 1 pound cooked ham, cubed
  • 1 medium bell peppers, diced
  • 1 medium onions, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stick butter
  • Louisiana Creole seasoning
    • ½ tsp cayenne
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • ½ tsp dried oregano
    • ½ tsp dried thyme
    • 1 tbsp dried garlic powder
    • ½ tsp black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ½ tsp onion powder
  • cayenne pepper  to taste
  • Italian bread crumbs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176 °C).
  2. Boil whole mirlitons in salted water until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from water and set aside to cool.
  3. While the mirlitons cool, sauté onion, celery, and bell pepper in butter until soft, about 5 minutes. Add ham, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. Cook another 20 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle shrimp with Louisiana Creole seasoning. Set aside.
  5. Cut cooled mirlitons in half and remove the seeds and pods. Scoop out the mirliton flesh and place into a colander. Lightly squeeze out excess moisture. TIP: If you want to stuff the shells instead of making a casserole, score on the sides before scooping to leave a little flesh on the sides. The skin tears easily.
  6. Add drained mirlitons to Dutch oven. Add cayenne. TIP: If there’s a lot of water, add a tablespoon of breadcrumbs to thicken or cook on medium-low heat, uncovered, until most of the liquid evaporates.
  7. Add seasoned shrimp. Cook about 20 minutes.
  8. Fold in crabmeat and parsley. Put mixture in mirliton shells.
  9. Top with bread crumbs. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bread crumbs turn brown.
  10. Serve with Louisiana French Bread or French baguette.

Bon appétit!

OPTION: Make as a casserole.

Author visits, Louisiana, Mardi Gras, Picture books, School Visits

Kings’ Day School Visit

It was a pleasure to have Keila V. Dawson speak to my Kindergarten class about her book The King Cake Baby! She really connected with my kids and had them saying words in French by the end of her visit.  She inspired us to write our own class book!” Elizabeth Gates, Kindergarten teacher, Rothenberg Academy, Cincinnati Public Schools.

On January 6th, the first day of Carnival, I had the pleasure of virtually visiting with Kindergarten students at Rothenberg Academy in Cincinnati. We compared Cincinnati to New Orleans and talked about things that are the same and different. Ok, mostly we talked about food!

And I read THE KING CAKE BABY. So happy to have inspired them to write their own stories, and I can’t wait to read them!

Louisiana, Mardi Gras, Recipes

Easy Peasy King Cake Party!

If you want to host an Easy Peasy King Cake Party for Carnival…

See my earlier post for the recipe.

Who’d like to help?

You’ll need three Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheets.

Roll out each dough sheet into a rectangle

Mix cinnamon and sugar for the filling and divide among each dough sheet.

Gently roll each from the shortest side of the rectangle.

I can do it myself!

Connect here, here, and here to create an oval shape.

And place the cake into the oven to bake.

Whoever finds the baby will need a crown! The origami crown was easy peasy for the 10-year-old but a challenge for the younger kids. But I had a plan B!

Make a paper plate crown. Here’s a video. Easy peasy!

Don’t forget the baby!

Soften the icing while the cake cools…

Soften the icing while the cake cools…

…so it spreads easily.

…so it spreads easily.

Easy peasy!

See! I can do it all by myself!

Let it flow! Let it flow!

Allow the icing to pour over the sides of the cake. YUM!

Add the sugar sprinkles in a pattern- purple, green, and gold.

I picked purple. I’m first!

What’s next?

Then…

My turn!

And one more round of sprinkles.

There’s more than one way to get the job done.

Easy peasy!

Voilà. It’s a king cake!

Let’s eat!

Time to cut the cake.

Check your piece for the baby before you eat.

I didn’t get the baby.

Who got the baby?

All hail to the Queen!

What an easy peasy and fun king cake party!

Find the recipe here. If you can’t find dough sheets, here’s an Easy Peasy Crescent Roll King Cake Recipe.

Why is there a baby in a king cake? How did the tradition of eating king cake during the Carnival season come about? Read my guest post over at Alphabet Soup to find the answers.

HAPPY MARDI GRAS!

Louisiana, Mardi Gras

King Cake Baby Needlepoint

At my annual physical with my doctor we had this conversation:

DOC: How’s the book biz?

ME: Busy with an upcoming release.

DOC: Oh good, I bought your last book. My son lives in Manhattan and needlepoints in Central Park. He made a King Cake. Look, he added the baby! 💜💚💛👑😍⚜️🎭

How cool is that! KCB in NYC.

Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

King Cake Season is here!

On the first day of Carnival, I cut the first piece of our first King Cake and I got the baby!  It’s Day 2 of Carnival and I ordered my second King Cake! It’s just too tempting with all the varieties, favorites, and new versions. So I wrote a serenity prayer to get me through this visit!


The King Cake Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept these King Cake calories.

Courage to stop when I’ve had enough,

and the wisdom to choose wisely.

AMEN!

Louisiana, Recipes

Recipe: Creole Louisiana Smothered Cabbage Recipe

I am often asked for my recipes after posting pictures. Here’s one for the cabbage I grew up eating in New Orleans. Folks in Louisiana do appreciate good food!

Bon appétit!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Creole Louisiana Smothered Cabbage

_____________

Ingredients:

2 Tbls. olive oil

1 Tbl. butter

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 strips of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 lb. ham, cubed

1 lb. andouille sausage or another smoked sausage, coin sliced

2-3 heads of cabbage, cored, cleaned and chopped

1 tsp. Louisiana Creole Seasoning

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • -1 teaspoon paprika
  • -1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • -1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • -1 tbl dried garlic powder
  • -1/2 tsp black pepper
  • -1/2 tsp onion powder

½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 cup white rice, cooked

Salt & pepper to taste

Cornbread (optional)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Instructions:

  1. Cut and clean cabbage leaves.

  2. In a 6 quart pot, fry bacon on high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high, add ham, and sausage. Cook for about 15 minutes.

  3. Add oil and onion, cook until onion is brown. Reserve the meat & onion in a bowl.

  4. Use the same pot, add a little water, reduce heat to medium. Fill the pot with cabbage and cover. Check often, stirring cabbage until the cabbage wilts, adding water as needed.

  5. Continue adding more cabbage to fill the pot. Cabbage is cooked when all leaves are wilted and some turn light brown. Add Louisiana Creole Seasoning and cayenne.

  6. Return meat to pot, add garlic and butter. Do not cover. Instead, allow remaining water in the pot to evaporate.

  7. Serve over white rice.

 

Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

Happy Almost Mardi Gras!

On this day last year I wrote a blog post about the popular song, The 12 days of Christmas.  This is the time of year to actually sing that song. The first day is today, December 25th. The twelfth day is January 5th, Little Christmas, also known as the Twelfth Night, Feast of the Epiphany, Women’s Day, Three Kings’ Day and or Kings’ Day.

During this time of year of course you’ll hear Merry Christmas, Happy Hanakkah, or Happy Holidays. Thanks to the Dirty Coast store there’s have another greeting you should know…

While the holiday season ends for most on New Year’s Day, those of us with roots in Louisiana are gearing up for another season -Mardi Gras, baby!

We get this party started on January 6th with King Cake. And we’ll keep buying, baking and eating them all season long. According to tradition, you want to “get the baby” because it will bring you blessings or good luck.

This year, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is February 13, 2018. That’s 39 days of celebration. Can’t wait to get this party started!

 

Diverse Books, Louisiana, Picture books

The Littlest Streetcar by Vernon Smith

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is The Littlest Streetcar by author-illustrator Vernon Smith. What a sweet story!

Written & Illustrated by: Vernon Smith

PublisherPelican Publishing Company, Inc. (February 2017)

Suitable for ages: 3 and up

Themes/Topics: Self-Concept, Self-esteem, New Orleans, Louisiana, Streetcars & Trains, Transportation

Brief SynopsisThis is a story about a little streetcar named Charlie who wasn’t as popular as other streetcars because he was a maintenance vehicle. Convinced he was “just a worker car”, Charlie didn’t feel worthy or as important as the other streetcars until his skills helped them out of trouble. Charlie then realized he is appreciated and valuable and special, just they way he is.

 Opening pages:

“Charlie the Streetcar liked to roll down the tracks and enjoy his day. It made him very happy, because he didn’t go out all the time like the other streetcars.

Some days, Charlie was called upon to put sand on the rails. This would create traction, so the other streetcars could move without the wheels slipping and sliding.” 

 Why I like this book This is such an endearing story with a wonderful message. The Littlest Streetcar reminds readers that there is something special about each and every one of us. The artwork is colorful and expressive showing every character’s personality. See if you can find the spread where Vernon Smith gives a shout out to The King Cake Baby the first book we both published with Pelican; he as the illustrator.

In the back matter Smith gives a brief history about New Orleans streetcars and his inspiration for writing the story.

Resources

  • Learn more here about New Orleans Streetcars. And if you are ever in the city take a ride on one!
  • Read the history of trams, trolleys, and streetcars here and or visit your local train museum.
  • See this KidsHealth PreK-2 Teacher’s Guide on Self-esteem
  • Extension activities to help children develop self-esteem.
  • Extension crafts from Pinterest to help children develop self-esteem.

Read more today’s reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

Author visits, Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras, School Visits

Author Visits: Mardi Gras 2017

I had a wonderful time celebrating Mardi Gras 2017. The King Cake Baby and I ran all over south Louisiana parishes, visiting with students, parents, teachers, and school librarians.

As a guest author for Scholastic, I met many wonderful educators who work tirelessly to bring books into schools for kids. Book fairs are quite popular and the state is recognized as one of the top sales areas!  📚

And while there, of course, I ate a lot of different types of King Cake!  I even ate a King Cake hamburger. Yes. I. Did. The food truck @FoodDrunknola sold them at the King Cake Festival. To my surprise, it was deliciously sweet and savory. Yum.

I was fortunate to visit Impact Elementary School at their Family Literacy Night. And had delightful visits at Port Allen Elementary and North Iberville Elementary. Watch these Port Allen Pre-K students dance! 🎶🎶

Second graders sang the 12 Days of Carnival. So much fun!  🎶🎺🎵🎷🎶 

Kindergarten students at North Iberville sang “Five Little King Cake Babies“. Cutest babies and baker in the city!

The King Cake Baby and I love to Skype with classes, especially during Mardi Gras. We hung out with a great group of first grade students in Kentucky who knew all about Kings’ Day.

Just so happens World Read Aloud Day, known as WRAD, is always during Carnival season. So the baby ran west…to Texas!

All hail the North Pointe Elementary grade 2 Kings and Queens!

                                              💜💚💛🎶🎺🎵🎷🎶 📚

It was wonderful to see kiddos from coast to coast celebrating Mardi Gras, like this Girl Scout troop from San Diego!   💜💚

Every year I bring a King Cake to my tennis club. Guess who got the baby?

Eating King Cake during Mardi Gras is a longtime tradition and fun no matter your age or where you live. But no worries if you don’t eat any by Fat Tuesday on February 28th, there’s always next year!

                                                                                                                                               

Diverse Books, Louisiana, Picture books

Chicory and Roux: The Creole Mouse and the Cajun Mouse

I was so pleased to receive an advanced copy of Chicory and Roux: The Creole Mouse and the Cajun Mouse to review for today’s Perfect Picture Book FridayWhat a fun retelling of Aesop’s fable, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, told Louisiana style!

Written by:  Todd-Michael St. Pierre

Illustrated byLee Brandt Randall

PublisherPelican Publishing (February 10, 2017)

Suitable for ages5-8

Themes/TopicsLouisiana, Creole and Cajun culture, animal folk tale, city vs. country living

Brief SynopsisThis is a story about two mice, Chicory from the city of New Orleans and Roux from the countryside of Southwest Louisiana. One day, Chicory fell asleep in a picnic basket and ended up in the countryside where she met Roux. They explored Roux’s hometown. Chicory found Roux’s food boring, and yikes…there were alligators in the swamp!  Chicory invited Roux to explore the city of New Orleans. Although they did pass a good time during Mardi Gras, Roux prefers the way the tradition is celebrated back home. The city may have fancy food but there were dangers Roux was not used to! Chicory and Roux parted ways but promised to keep in touch. They agreed that where they live is exactly where they’re meant to be.

Opening pages:

“Once upon a Louisiana time, there lived a Creole mouse named Chicory. One morning she climbed into a picnic basket to nibble on some French bread, and she feel fast asleep. A nice New Orleans family had packed the basket with their favorite foods, such as roast-beef po’boys, Creole tomatoes, and pecan pralines. As Chicory napped, she was carried away to a picnic on a humid day!

When she awoke, Chicory discovered that the basket was smackdab in the middle of a swamp!”

Why I like this book Author Todd-St. Pierre cleverly adapted Aesop’s fable, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, to create Chicory and Roux: The Creole Mouse and the Cajun Mouse. He highlighted city vs. country life through the lens of Louisiana culture.

When people find out I’m from New Orleans, often they ask, “What’s the difference between a Louisiana Creole and Louisiana Cajun?” And I always reply that the difference is similar to any region’s city vs. country living. Simply, where you choose to live influences how you live. As a city girl, I attended undergraduate school in Lafayette, Louisiana, located in the southwestern corner of the state. I had a wonderful experience, but I’m a New Orleans girl and identify with Chicory, the Creole Mouse! Yet I have friends and family who are like Roux, the Cajun Mouse, who would never leave the countryside. Truthfully, whether folks live in the city or the country we all celebrate the same wonderfully unique Louisiana culture.

There are two original songs at the end of the book, “Song of Roux: The Cajun Mouse and Song of Chicory: The Creole House.

Resources

To read more reviews of today’s picks, visit author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

Holidays, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

Happy Mardi Gras 2016!

Happy Mardi Gras! After two weeks of Carnival back home I can imagine the excitement in New Orleans today. It wasn’t a long season, but sure wasn’t short on fun. I was able to indulge in family, friends, music, and my favorite foods while there. Of course all appear on the Mardi Gras food pyramid, but there’s only one at the top.

King Cake!

1. Mardi Gras food pyramid

Here’s a look at King Cake consumption over the Carnival season from the Twelfth Night on January 6 to Ash Wednesday, courtesy of a poster on reddit. I believe this info is pretty accurate!

And just about as popular as this tasty treat is our beloved King Cake Baby! Everyone loves that baby.

The best part of this holiday is that we get to enjoy Carnival again and again, year after year. Here’s to Mardi Gras 2017. Start the clock. Only 364 days away. But who’s counting? ME!

 

Author visits, Louisiana, Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras Season 2016

Mardi Gras Season 2016 will kickoff, as always, on January 6th. New Orleans and Brazil are well known destinations for those who want to experience one of the greatest parties on earth – Carnival. Although the season varies, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras day will always fall on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, 40 days before Easter in accordance to the liturgical calendar.

To get this party started, those who celebrate will make, bake, or buy a King Cake on January 6th.

Here’s one from last year. Keyword…”one”…I make, buy, and eat them throughout the season!

2015-02-18 19.55.47

And to show how big a deal these traditional cakes are, the King Cake Festival is an annual event to honor these delicious confections. The 3rd annual festival is January 31st. It’s a FREE family friendly event benefiting Ochsner Hospital Pediatric Departments. There’s something for everyone; music, games, food, and lots and lots of King Cakes to sample! A People’s Choice Award is given to the bakery with the most votes for the tastiest cake of the season.

Past winners included:

2015 Maurice French Pastries

2014 Haydel’s Bakery

Very excited that I will be there in Champions Square this year as a vendor with The King Cake Baby. Click here for more details and updates on this event.

There will be lots of celebrations on January 6th too. Some will attend the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc parade. Joan of Arc is a symbol of New Orleans’ French heritage. January 6th is her birthday.

Some will attend the ball of The Twelfth Night Revelers, a Carnival organization that had their first ball on January 6, 1870, a tradition that continues today. The female from their court who finds the bean- la fève – in the wooden King Cake is crowned Queen – La Reine.

The Krewe of Phunny Phorty Phellows will parade on the St. Charles Streetcar line the night of January 6th. That krewe is known as being the “dessert of Carnival”, a satirical and fun group. One of their mottos is “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the best of men.”

Click here to read my post from last year about the history of Louisiana Creole Carnival celebrations –  Twelfth Night or Little Christmas or Feast of the Epiphany or Kings’ Day and Mardi Gras.

And you don’t have to be part of a high society, live in New Orleans or where King Cakes are sold to celebrate the kick off of Mardi Gras. You can make a king cake in your very own kitchen. Watch Alex the French Guy make a French version –La Galette des Rois, he’s adorable and funny. CookingAndCrafting demonstrates how to make a New Orleans King Cake from scratch. The recipe I put in The King Cake Baby is a very easy one because it’s made from frozen dough. I used it with a handful of adults and a cafeteria full of kids to make 50 King Cakes in a few hours that we sent to our troops in the Wounded Warriors Project at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

If you don’t have a plastic baby, use a bean or a coin (wrap the coin in foil for hygienic reasons) to hide. Just remember, before you take a bite, be sure to check for the baby or whatever is hidden inside!

Bon appétit!

History, Louisiana

All Saints’ Day in New Orleans

All Saints’ Day or the Feast of All Saints is celebrated every November 1st. Today is the day the Catholic Church reminds us how we’re supposed to live, as saints did. Catholics love their saints and this is a special day to honor them. A saint, by definition, is a person recognized after death as a soul who’s made it to heaven because they’ve lived a holy life on earth. They are more than faithful, but rather exceptional. They were benevolent role models, teachers, miracle workers, and intercessors, who chose to live a consecrated life taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. There’s no shortage of souls who became saints in accordance to church doctrine. In fact, there’s probably a “patron saint” to pray to for guidance or even favors for anything you need or any area in your life you’d like to improve. Each known for their special interests and or talents. The belief is, since they’re already in heaven, they’ve got your back.

Today, New Orleans families traditionally visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the tombs of our loved ones in preparation for tomorrow, All Souls’ Day. Growing up, caring for your dead was a family event.

Below is a public domain photo from 1885, Harper’s Weekly “Decorating the Tombs”.

All_Saints_Day_in_New_Orleans_--_Decorating_the_Tombs

All Souls’ Day or the Feast of All Souls is celebrated every November 2nd. I wrote about the difference between these two days last year here. For centuries, New Orleans has had a special relationship with the dead. The idea that the souls of our dead live on allows us to continue to celebrate them in life. They body is gone, the spirit lives on. We want to believe our loved ones made it into heaven. But in case they lead a less than benevolent life and their souls landed in the mid-way point called Purgatory, rather than reach the ultimate destination, today is the day we pray for their mercy. The church encourages relatives on earth to celebrate the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. For all intents and purposes it’s an annual request for free ”get out of jail cards” for Catholics.

Although I am not there today, I do visit our family tombs when I am home. For all my family members who are out at cemeteries today, thank you. I plan to return the favor one day.

 
View More