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Throw a Mardi Gras Party

As they say in New Orleans, Laissez le bon temps rouler, Cajun for "Let the good times roll!"

Mardi Gras means fat Tuesday and is the final day of the season between Christmas and Lent. Mardi Gras is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday - the first day of Lent a period that many cultures traditionally give up favorite foods and alcohol in preparation for Easter. Fat Tuesday is a last chance party excuse before a six-week period of abstinence.

Mardi Gras Party ideas:
Decorations:
Grab some decorations in Mardi Gras colors of gold, green and purple representing the virtues of power, faith and justice. Hang streamers wrapped with christmas lights. Buy bags of gold doubloons and plastic beaded necklaces and fill large bowls with the typical booty thrown from floats at Mardi Gras parades.

Food - Easy Recipes:
Creole and Cajun foods are favorites for Mardi Gras parties.

Menu

Boiled Shrimp or Crawfish
Jambalaya
Seafood Gumbo
Loaves of French Bread
Red Beans and Rice
King Cake

Recipes:

Boiled Shrimp or Crawfish
INGREDIENTS:
* 12 pounds live crawfish
* 8 quarts water
* 1 package (1 pound) Zatarain's® Crawfish, Shrimp & Crab Boil
* 1 large onion, peeled
* 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
* 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
* 6 ears corn, shucked and halved crosswise

DIRECTIONS:
1. Pour live crawfish into a washtub or ice chest; cover with water. Drain. Repeat 3 to 4 times until crawfish are clean. Drain. Discard any dead crawfish and debris.

2. Mix 8 quarts water, Crab Boil, onion and garlic in large (20-quart) stockpot. Bring to boil on high heat; boil 5 minutes. Add potatoes; boil 5 minutes. Add crawfish and corn; return to boil. Cover and cook 2 minutes.

3. Turn off heat and let stand 20 minutes. Add about 6 to 8 cups ice to stockpot; let stand 20 minutes to cool. Drain and serve.

Seafood Gumbo
INGREDIENTS:
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 1 cup flour
* 2 cups chopped onions
* 8 ribs celery, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 8 cups chicken broth, canned or from base
* 2 large cans (28 ounces each) tomatoes, diced
* 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen okra, sliced, thawed
* 1 pound crab claws
* 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
* 1 tablespoon hot sauce
* 2 large dried bay leaves
* 1/2 cup fresh minced parsley
* 2 teaspoons dried leaf thyme
* 2 teaspoons dried leaf basil
* 2 teaspoons dried leaf oregano
* 1 teaspoon sage
* 1 teaspoon pepper
* 2 pounds shrimp, medium, unpeeled
* 1 quart oysters, undrained, optional
* 1 pound crab meat
* 1 pound fish fillets, such as catfish or other firm white fish, cut in 1-inch pieces
* hot cooked rice
* file powder, optional

PREPARATION:
Combine oil and flour in a heavy skillet; cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until roux is dark. Be very careful to keep the roux from scorching. Stir in onion, celery, and garlic; cook 10 minutes, stirring often. Transfer mixture to a Dutch oven or large kettle. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, okra, crab claws, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, sage, and pepper; simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Peel and devein shrimp. Add shrimp, oysters, crab meat, and fish to the pot; simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve gumbo over hot cooked rice and, if desired, sprinkle with file.

Jambalaya
INGREDIENTS:
* 1 broiler chicken, cut up, about 3 pounds
* paprika
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 cup chopped onion
* 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
* 2 ribs celery, chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 cup diced cooked ham
* 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) stewed tomatoes
* 2 cups chicken broth
* 1 cup long-grain rice
* 2 teaspoons leaf thyme, crumbled
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)
* 1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined

PREPARATION:
Wash chicken and pat dry; rub with the paprika. Heat olive oil in a large skillet; add chicken and brown on all sides. Remove chicken from skillet. Add onion, green bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Sauté over low heat until onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in ham, tomatoes, chicken broth, rice, thyme, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Add chicken and turn to coat with sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minute, or until chicken is tender. Stir in shrimp and cook about 3 minutes longer, or just until shrimp turns pink.

Red Beans and Rice
INGREDIENTS:
* 2 cups water
* 1 cup uncooked rice
* 1 (16 ounce) package turkey kielbasa, cut diagonally into 1/4 inch slices
* 1 onion, chopped
* 1 green bell pepper, chopped
* 1 clove chopped garlic
* 2 (15 ounce) cans canned kidney beans, drained
* 1 (16 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
* salt to taste
* 1/2 teaspoon pepper

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. In a large skillet over low heat, cook sausage for 5 minutes. Stir in onion, green pepper and garlic; saute until tender. Pour in beans and tomatoes with juice. Season with oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Serve over rice.

King Cake history and tradition
No Mardi Gras celebration is complete without a King Cake. This cake is actually a sweetened yeast bread, usually baked in a ring shape. The cake is frosted with gold, green, and purple icing representing in order, power, faith, and justice. Although this cake is colorful and tasty, the real fun hides within the cake.

The maker of each King Cake hides a token in the cake. The tokens used are a dried red bean or a figurine of a baby, representing the Christ child. When the cake is cut and shared, the finder of the hidden treasure is said to enjoy good luck for the coming year. The lucky recipient may also be expected to bake the King Cake or throw the Mardi Gras party for the following year.

King Cake Recipe
INGREDIENTS:
* 1 envelope active dry yeast
* 1/4 cup warm water, about 105 to 115 degrees
* 2 tablespoons milk, scalded and cooled
* 4 to 5 cups flour
* 8 ounces butter
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 4 eggs
* 2 teaspoons melted butter
* very small plastic doll, a large bean, or coin
* light corn syrup for topping
* granulated sugar colored with food coloring pastes: green, purple, and yellow

PREPARATION:
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add milk and about 1/2 cup of flour. In a large bowl, blend butter, sugar, salt and eggs. Add yeast mixture and mix thoroughly. Gradually, add 2 1/2 cups flour to make a medium dough.

Place in a greased bowl and brush with melted butter. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise until double in volume, about 3 hours. Use 1 cup or more flour to knead dough and roll into a 4 to 5 foot long rope. Form into a oval on a 14 x 17" greased baking sheet, connecting ends of the rope with a few drops of water to make a good seal.

Press the doll, bean, or coin into the dough from bottom. Cover dough ring with a damp cloth and let rise until double in volume, about 1 hour. Bake at 325° for 35 to 45 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Brush top of cake with corn syrup and sprinkle with alternating bands of colored sugar. If desired, freeze cake.

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