|Lots of great food to help celebrate Mardi Gras!|
HAPPY MARDI GRAS!
This weekend marks the end of the Mardi Gras season, which begins on January 6 and culminates in Mardi Gras Day (aka Fat Tuesday), on February 9 this year. We used to live in New Orleans, so our annual Mardi Gras party has become a tradition among our friends here in Delaware, many of them whom also lived in New Orleans when we did (we all met working at a DuPont plant in Louisiana, and DuPont's headquarters is here in Delaware, so many of us ended up back together!). I cooked all last week, our house is all decorated, we had our party last night, and on Tuesday we will go to another friend's house for another gathering of old Louisiana friends and our traditional Popeyes chicken dinner (yes, Popeyes is absolutely authentic!).
If you'd like to celebrate Mardi Gras this week, it's not too late. Here are some great foods you can cook yourself, as well as items you can order or purchase:
|Just a few of Zapp's fabulous flavors!|
First, we always order a carton of Zapp's Potato Chips from Louisiana a couple of weeks before the party. Zapp's are the most amazing chips you've ever tasted, with unique flavors you can't get anywhere else, like Cajun Crawtator, Cajun Dill (my personal favorite), VooDoo (my son's fave), and many more. They are made in a little Louisiana town called Gramercy, just north of New Orleans, and you can order them any time of year by clicking that link above or calling 1-800-HOT-CHIP. They now have some regional distributors, including Utz, near us in PA, so they arrive even faster than they used to. You won't regret it!
|Red Beans & Rice|
For dinner, you might want to try one of these classic New Orleans' dishes. These are my own recipes, all easy and healthy (they were published in Family Fun magazine February 2012). Red Beans and Rice is a favorite at our house that we eat all year-round. It is tradition in Louisiana to eat it on Mondays, so if you get the ingredients today, you can have a pot on your stove for tomorrow night. My version is super-simple, quick, and so tasty, your family will be begging you to make it again next week!
Everyone looks forward to Jambalaya at our party each year, and it is a favorite among my family, too. This one takes a little more work, but it is well worth it. The recipe makes a big pot of jambalaya, so invite some friends over to share it! We usually make it with chicken and low-fat Andouille sausage, but you can use any combination of chicken, sausage, and/or shrimp.
Another classic New Orleans dish is Shrimp Etouffee. We don't usually make this one for Mardi Gras (it's harder to make a big batch for a large group), but we have it for dinner throughout the year. If you live somewhere where you can get fresh crawfish or even frozen crawfish tails, then you can substitute those for the shrimp. Either way, this is a delicious, simple dinner perfect for the cold weather!
And, if you don't feel like cooking, go to your nearest Popeyes and pick up some delicious, authentic (though not very healthy!) treats. Popeyes really was started as a local business in New Orleans by a local businessman there, and the food is actually pretty good for fast food and quite authentic - we usually get the spicy chicken, red beans & rice, dirty rice, and of course, their delicious biscuits.
|Bread Pudding in front and a King Cake|
Last, but not least, you must have King Cake to properly celebrate Mardi Gras! Family Fun included a recipe (not mine) in my article for baking King Cake from scratch, but we usually get ours from a bakery. In Louisiana, King Cakes are everywhere for the entire Mardi Gras season - at the plant where we worked, there was a King Cake every single day from January 6 until the Friday before Mardi Gras (no one worked on Monday or Tuesday of Mardi Gras week!), and whoever found the little baby baked inside had to bring the cake the next day. You can order directly from bakeries in New Orleans - two of the top ones known for their king cakes are McKenzie's and Gambino's - but we were happy to discover that most towns and cities have a local bakery or two that make King Cakes this time of year. Just check your local listings for bakeries and make some phone calls. We found two here in our area that make King Cakes, plus a grocery chain (Giant) that also bakes them this time of year.
Finally, to put you in the Mardi Gras mood and give you an idea of what you're missing in New Orleans, NOLA.com sponsors a number of live web cams. This is the paradecam, which gives you a great view of St. Charles Street (where the classic street cars usually run), along one of the major parade routes. They used to have it on round-the-clock. This year, it seems they are only turning it on during certain times of day to catch certain parades, but the page I linked to includes a timetable. There will be parades every day right through Tuesday. In a sidebar on the right side of that same page are links to other live webcams in the New Orleans area. And this page on the nola.com site is a starting point for lots more content related to Mardi Gras, including fantastic photos and videos of parades and more.
There's still plenty of time to celebrate Mardi Gras! Make or buy some Louisiana food and join in the celebration. Laissez les bon temps roullez!
|My sons and I, about 8 years ago, celebrating Mardi Gras|