February 16, 2001
Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday,
is a New Orleans tradition that is one of the liveliest and most
colorful festivals in the country. Mardi Gras has been celebrated
for more than 100 years and is known for its riotous parades,
jazz and Dixieland music, masquerade balls, pageants, floats,
street festivals and, of course, delicious Cajun food.
People travel from all over the world to attend this wild and wonderful party. But now, with some helpful tips and classic Cajun recipes from Hillshire Farm, you can create an unforgettable Mardi Gras experience right at home.
Fun Invitation Ideas
Set the mood from the beginning with colorful, themed invitations that entice your guests to your Mardi Gras festivities and a great Cajun meal. Jazz up the invitations by including trinkets in each envelope; the trinkets can include plastic beads or small plastic coins called doubloons, customarily tossed out by krewe members-people who decorate and ride on Mardi Gras floats. Also, you can include or attach metallic masks to the invitations and request that your guests decorate them (with beads, feathers, etc.) and wear their newly decorated masks to the party.
Creating Mardi Gras Ambience
When decorating your home for Mardi Gras, think bright and colorful! Use balloons, streamers, masks and doubloons in purple, green and gold-traditional Mardi Gras colors. Provide a wide selection of beads, crowns and capes for your guests to wear (check out party supply stores) and encourage everyone to arrive in costume.
Sounds of the Quarter
Hundreds of years of blending different cultures and traditions have resulted in the Cajun heritage of Louisiana. This heritage is reflected in diverse musical traditions. For your party, set the stage by playing jazz or rhythm and blues music to recreate the sounds of Bourbon Street. Zydeco and Delta Blues are also popular choices for Mardi Gras music. There are no finer sounds to accompany a great Cajun meal.
Bourbon Street Bites
What's a Mardi Gras party without classic Cajun food? As everyone knows, New Orleans is famous for its Southern flavors and spicy seasonings, and now it's easy to treat your guests to the tastes of Bourbon Street. To start off the festivities, serve your guests Hillshire Farm's Louisiana Style Lit'l Smokies for a hot treat. If using this recipe as an appetizer, serve with colorful toothpicks.
For a signature New Orleans main dish, cook up hearty Jambalaya. This entr,e will be an instant favorite. Featuring Hillshire Farm sausage, onion, green bell pepper, rice and Tabascor Brand Green Pepper Sauce, it's a festive meal for all to enjoy!
And don't forget the red beans and rice! No Mardi Gras party is complete without this traditional Louisiana cuisine. Hillshire Farm's Red Beans and Smoked Sausage is a great variation of the staple dish and is sure to bring the smell and taste of the French Quarter into your kitchen.
Everyone's mouth is sure to be watering over these delicious meals-so don't forget to serve signature New Orleans drinks, such as "Hurricanes" and punch, that will quench even the spiciest palate.
For more Mardi Gras meal ideas, visit www.hillshirefarm.com or write to Hillshire Farm and Kahn's, P.O. Box 25111, Cincinnati, OH 45225 to receive a free booklet of recipes ideal for Mardi Gras season.
In order to set the mood for the festivities, decorations and fun activities are of the utmost importance. To create the atmosphere of New Orleans' nightlife, your Mardi Gras decorations should be fun and plentiful. Here are a few hints to get you started:
Brighten the Bayou: Keep in mind that the official colors of the Carnival are purple, green and gold, so try to incorporate those colors into the streamers and balloons you hang up throughout your home.
Beads Aplenty: No Mardi Gras event is complete without decorative beads tossed out during the festivities, so make sure your party has lots to go around.
Mardi Gras Madness: Purchase some decorative masks to hand out to your guests; the comedy/drama masks are a popular choice. Or, for a fun activity during the party, invite your guests to create their own masks and vote on the best one.
Create Carnival Magic: Sprinkle your table with metallic confetti in the shape of tiny masks, found at a party supply store or mail order catalog. Also grab a handful of noisemakers-Mardi Gras is a loud and joyous occasion.
Cajun Illumination: Hang a few strands of holiday lights around the house for a more festive atmosphere. You can even find lights featuring Mardi Gras colors.
Embellish in Bourbon Street: Call the costume shop or rummage through your garage digging up fun props to decorate your home. Adding posters of Mardi Gras locales and themes will also help set the scene.
Try setting up a display of jazz instruments, such as a trumpet, trombones, tambourines, drums, etc. Your guests might start their own impromptu entertainment.
Down-Home Fun: Beads provide a great incentive for any party game, such as Louisiana Trivia, a Bayou Balloon Toss, etc. The beads can serve as the "prize" for these games, and at the end of the night, whoever has the most beads can be rewarded with a "grand prize" of your choice.
Capture the Moment: Hand out disposable cameras to your guests so they can help you capture all the fun festivities throughout the night. At the end of the party, everyone will have a roll full of memories to take home with them.
Melt butter in heavy saucepan over high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and smoked sausage and cook for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring often. Stir in rice, chicken broth, green pepper sauce, tomatoes and, if desired, Cajun seasoning to taste; mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 25 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes before fluffing with fork. Makes 6 servings.
Fry bacon in large, heavy saucepan over medium heat until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Add onion and green pepper and cook until tender about 5 minutes. Stir in pineapple juice, ketchup and green pepper sauce, mixing well. Add Lit'l Smokies to the sauce, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Serve over rice, if desired. Makes 6 servings.
Red Beans and Smoked Sausage
Melt butter in large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, green pepper, celery, garlic and Lit'l Smokies. Cook 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring often. Add beans, bay leaf and pepper sauce, mixing well. Reduce heat and simmer 25 to 30 minutes. Serve over rice. Makes 8 servings.
Voodoo Pasta and Sausage
Cook fettuccine according to directions. Return pasta to pot. Meanwhile, sprinkle smoked sausage with blackening seasoning; place in large skillet over medium heat and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in Alfredo sauce, pepper sauce and parsley and heat through. Pour over pasta and toss until well coated. Makes 6 servings.