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Party Plan: Mardi Gras

Check out a parade of fun party ideas and recipes to help make your Cajun celebration fun for everyone.

Make Your Mardi Gras a Party to Remember!

Be the captain of your Fat Tuesday celebration by throwing the liveliest Mardi Gras party around! Start by Setting the Table with a colorful presentation, and check out Bringing it On: Mardi Gras-Style for next-level decorating on a budget. Up the fun factor with a Mardi Gras Grab Bag of Games to entertain party guests, and a Mardi Gras Photo Booth to provide celebration souvenirs!

Of course, every Mardi party needs some delicious grub, so try King Cake Dip, or make it extra hip with a Muffuletta Dip! Jambalaya Stuffed Mushrooms and Cajun Shrimp with Remoulade Sauce bring in a bit of the bayou, while Bourbon Street Chicken Thighs are like a tasty stroll through N’awlins itself. Party beverages like Bananas Foster Cocktail and Spiked Iced Chicory Coffee will get spirits into high gear, making sure your Mardi Gras is a party to remember.

King Cake Dip

King Cake Dip

All the flavor of king cake with almost none of the work.

Ingredients:
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 each 10-inch flour tortillas
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 8 oz. whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted
  • Mardi Gras colored sugars – green, purple, gold
Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Cut tortillas with a 3-4” Mardi Gras themed cutter. Place on baking sheets; brush with melted butter on one side; flip brush with remaining butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake 6-8 minutes until browned and crispy; cool.
  3. Meanwhile beat cream cheese with brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla until fluffy. Fold in whipped topping until combined. Stir in pecans. Transfer to serving dish; top with colored sugars and serve with tortilla crisps.
  4. Refrigerate leftovers.
Tip:

Instead of using Mardi Gras cookie cutters use 6" tortillas and cut into wedges.

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Cajun Spice Popcorn

Cajun Spice Popcorn

Fresh popped popcorn with a Cajun kick.

Ingredients:
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ½ cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. Cajun spice blend
Directions:
  1. In a 4-quart sauce pan with lid heat oil over medium heat with 2-3 kernels in the pan. When kernels pop add remaining kernels and cover.
  2. Shake and lift pan to prevent burning while corn is popping; vent the lid slightly to release steam. When popping slows remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Drizzle with melted butter and spice blend; toss to coat.

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Muffuletta Spread

Muffuletta Spread

Classic New Orleans sandwich chopped together in a cheesy spread.

Ingredients:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 oz. smoked ham, finely chopped (about ⅓ cup)
  • 2 oz. genoa salami, finely chopped (about ⅓ cup)
  • 2 oz. provolone, finely chopped (about ⅓ cup)
  • ¼ cup giardiniera, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup pitted green olives, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. giardiniera brine
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼- ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • ⅛ tsp. garlic powder
Directions:
  1. In a bowl combine all ingredients until well mixed. Serve with crackers or bread.
  2. Refrigerate leftovers.
Tip:

Flavors continue to develop as the spread sits. Make it the day before for best flavor. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

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Banana Foster Cocktail

Banana Foster Cocktail

Famous New Orleans dessert served up in a tasty beverage.

Ingredients:
  • 2 oz. rumchata
  • 1 oz. banana liqueur
  • 1 oz. butterscotch schnapps
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Slice of banana
Directions:
  1. Fill low ball glass with ice. Add rumchata, banana liqueur and butterscotch schnapps; stir to blend. Sprinkle with cinnamon and garnish with banana slice.

Drink responsibly.

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Spiked Iced Chicory Coffee

Spiked Iced Chicory Coffee

Traditional New Orleans coffee over ice with a kick.

Ingredients:
  • ½ cup brewed chicory coffee, cooled
  • 1½ oz. brandy
  • 1 oz. crème de cacao
  • ½ oz. coffee liqueur
  • 1 oz. half and half
Directions:
  1. Fill a highball glass with ice. Add coffee, brandy and crème de cacao; stir to mix. Pour in half and half.

Drink responsibly.

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Cajun Shrimp with Remoulade Sauce

Cajun Shrimp with Remoulade Sauce

Quick cooking shrimp and an easy to mix sauce means appetizers are just minutes away.

Sauce
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. grainy mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. green onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
  • ½ tsp. hot sauce
  • ½ tsp. lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp. grated garlic
  • ⅛ tsp. Kosher salt
  • ⅛ tsp. ground black pepper
Shrimp
  • 1 lb. 16/20 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tsp. Cajun spice blend
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
Directions:
  1. In a bowl mix together sauce ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. Toss shrimp with spice blend. Heat a large skillet over medium heat; melt butter. Add shrimp, cook 2-3 minutes; flip and continue to cook 1-2 minutes until shrimp are pink and cooked through.
  3. Shrimp can be served warm or allowed to cool completely. Serve with sauce.
  4. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Jambalaya Stuffed Mushrooms

Jambalaya Stuffed Mushrooms

Shrimp, spicy sausage and flavorful rice packaged in a bite size mushroom cap.

Ingredients:
  • 2 lb. large button mushrooms, stems removed and brushed clean
  • Salt and pepper, if desired
  • 1 cup prepared jambalaya rice from mix
  • 3 oz. andouille sausage, finely chopped
  • 3 oz. raw medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Lightly spray or oil a rimmed baking sheet. Place mushroom caps on prepared pan, stem side down; season with salt and pepper.
  2. Bake 10-12 minutes until mushrooms release liquid. Remove from oven.
  3. Mix prepared rice with sausage and shrimp.
  4. Flip mushrooms over; fill each with rice mixture mounding generously. Bake 15-20 minutes until mushrooms are tender and shrimp is cooked through.
  5. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

A little prep in the morning means coming home to a hearty and flavorful dinner of a Louisiana classic.

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. dry red kidney beans, picked through and rinsed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 9 cups hot cooked white rice
  • Green onions, chopped
Directions:
  1. Place all ingredients except salt, pepper and rice in a 5-quart or larger slower cooker; stir to combine. Cover and cook on high 7-8 hours until beans are cooked through. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  2. Serve with rice and garnish with green onions.
  3. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Bourbon Street Chicken Thighs

Bourbon Street Chicken Thighs

Creole seasoned chicken baked with a sticky, sweet bourbon sauce.

Ingredients:
  • 2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tsp. Cajun spice blend
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. fresh grated garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. water
Directions:
  1. Place chicken in a baking dish; season with Cajun spice blend.
  2. In a bowl whisk together vinegar, bourbon, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and garlic. Pour over chicken and cover pan; refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Heat oven to 375°F. Bake chicken 30-35 minutes or until internal temperature reached 165°F. Transfer chicken to serving plate.
  4. Pour remaining sauce from baking pan to a small sauce pan over medium heat; bring to boil. Mix together cornstarch and water; whisk into sauce. Cook 1-2 minutes until thickened. Pour over chicken.
  5. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Mardi Gras Grab Bag of Games

Mardi Gras Grab Bag of Games

If you’re gathering friends and family to help you celebrate this holiday known for its high energy and excess, you’ll up the fun factor by pulling any of the following games out of your party hat.

  • Gold Coin Treasure Hunt: Design three Treasure Chests (cardboard boxes – one painted gold, one green, one purple) and fill them with costume jewelry, play money and candy gold coins. Hide the boxes throughout your party space and write three sets of clever clues (bonus points for rhyming!). Divide your guests into gold, green and purple teams and give each the first of their set of clues. Solving it will lead each team to its next clue and so on. First pair to find their treasure chest wins bragging rights!
  • Project Mask: Provide at least one blank mask (available at craft stores) per guest along with clear-drying glue, beads, feathers, sequins, glitter, permanent markers and anything else worthy of embellishing your Mardi Gras masks. Assign prize categories such as Simplest, Most Extravagant, Most Colorful and People’s Choice.
  • Mardi Gras Trivia: Think back to Trivial Pursuit as you search the Internet for more on the history, legends, traditions and foods associated with the weeks-long celebration that is Mardi Gras. Write questions (and answers) on index cards and play a round or two of Who Knows What About Mardi Gras?, with correct answers collecting points along the way. Speed and bonus rounds will keep things especially lively.
  • Mini Carnivale: Invoke the spirit of Mardi Gras carnivals by partitioning off part of your party space for games often seen in Midways. Mini Bowling is as easy as setting up empty 20-ounce soda bottles bowling pin-style and rolling a small ball (softballs work well) to knock them down. Mini basketball hoops are found even at dollar stores and can be set up on a door or wall for Hoop-Throwing Challenges. If you have young kids involved, they’ll enjoy the Duck Pond, where you fill a wide, shallow container with water and rubber ducks. Numbers on the bottom of the ducks correspond to the prize earned.
  • Mardi Gras Musical Chairs: This party game isn’t just for elementary school carnivals! Set up chairs (one fewer than number of players to start) and play the Mardi Gras tunes (Zydeco and swing bands are good bets). Assign someone – or yourself – to start and stop the music and let the crazy begin.
  • Find the Baby (Again): If you’re serving King Cake, ask the guest who finds the “baby” in his or her slice to hide it in the party room. The hider can encourage party guests with hints of “you’re getting hotter” and “colder, colder!” to lead party guests to finding that baby a second time.

Games need prizes, so reward your winners with fun Mardi Gras trinkets such as gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins; feather boas; gold, green and purple strings of beads; mini bottles of favorite Mardi Gras spirits such as rum (age-appropriate, of course); and costume crowns.

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Mardi Gras Photo Booth

Mardi Gras Photo Booth

What better souvenir to send home with your party guests than a picture of them letting the good times roll at your Mardi Gras festivities?

Find a friend willing to snap shots and either provide a Polaroid for instant pictures or use your or the guests’ cell phones. (If using yours, you can include their photo in a “thanks for coming” text you send the next day!)

Go glam with your photo booth background by hanging bed sheets (purple, gold or green if you have it). Paper chains are another easy fix: make 8’ chains (from floor to the top of your background area) using purple, gold and green construction paper. Another idea: Cover your backdrop wall with those same colors of post-it paper for a patchwork-style background. String colored lights in the background for extra sparkle.

Photographer assigned and backdrop created? Now you need props! Any or all of the following will bring the Mardi Gras spirit to life:

  • Masks masks masks – provide many and encourage guests to use their own if you’ve included mask-making in your party games.
  • Bead necklaces (especially gold, green, purple) – again, we’re going for quantity here!
  • Eye pencils for drawing mustaches, beauty marks and fancy eye-makeup.
  • Hats – think party fedoras, sparkly tiaras and crazy headdresses.
  • Feather boas.
  • Toy brass instruments.
  • Carnival glasses – buy cheap eyeglass frames at a dollar store, then decorate with sequins, feathers, beads, gold nail polish, etc.
  • Online templates for masks and other Mardi Gras-themed accessories are easily found via an Internet search.
  • Large cardboard cut-out frames to be held by the smiling groups being photographed.

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Bringing it On: Mardi Gras-Style

Bringing it On: Mardi Gras-Style

A decadent holiday deserves decadent décor. You can pull it off without having to spend oodles of money or overmuch time and effort.

Combine as many of the following decorating ideas as you’d like, and be open to inspiration for your own ideas as well!

  • Mardi Gras season isn’t too many months beyond the Christmas holidays, so it should be easy enough to dig out the colored lights you have packed away. String the lights liberally around the party space, plug them in and let ‘em shine.
  • As beautiful as the “simple is best” mantra may be, Mardi Gras is not the time for modest décor. Streamers, ribbons, balloons (Bottom halves spray painted with gold craft paint? Even better!), paper lanterns, beads, feather boas, DIY banners, fresh-cut flowers – all in the Mardi Gras colors of gold, green and purple – can be thrown and scattered and hung everywhere. Glitz and glam are where it’s at!
  • If your guests have made party masks, provide pins and a large bulletin board so they can turn their creations into a Collage of Masks to display as party décor. You can also hang pre-made masks around the house or lay them out on tables and other surfaces. Attach masks to long wooden sticks and stand them in vases for mask bouquets.
  • Twist, wrap and braid colored beads and ribbons into wreaths and other intricate shapes, then hang on walls and doors or from light fixtures for more party flair.
  • To make a Bead “Chandelier”: Spray paint an inexpensive wire planter (found at dollar and discount stores), then loop colored bead necklaces around the wires, cutting beads to fit and attaching with hot glue or floral or other light-gauge wire as needed. Crazy it up with different colors and an abundance of beads or go classy by sticking to one color and lining beads up to hang straight. Hang your “chandelier” from the ceiling.
  • You can also glue colored bead necklaces in circular shapes on small cardboard rounds, cutting beads to fit, to make decked-out coasters for your party drinks.
  • Decorate small white or natural-colored paper bags with Mardi Gras themes using colored markers and gluing on sparkly sequins or beads. Decoratively poke a few small holes in bags with a pencil tip, then fill each bag with a small LED candle and a bit of sand for extra weight. Place bags around the room, especially in darker hallways or an entrance. Switch the candles on to illuminate your party space.

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Setting the Table

Setting the Table

One you have your Mardi Gras menu planned, your feast is as easy as assembling the recipes (and the ones found here really are that simple) and setting a table worthy of Mardi Gras.

Hushed subtleties are not what you’re looking for here. You want your table to shout, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!

If you have gold chargers (or if you can borrow or buy cheaply at thrift stores), place them under simple white servings plates for a touch of glam. Look for “gold” plastic silverware. Find solid-colored napkins in green, purple and gold. Goblets – gold rimmed if you can find them – will be especially at home on a table set for your reveling guests.

Choose a solid-colored tablecloth – again in a Mardi Gras color – and scatter shiny bead necklaces anywhere and everywhere. Fill clear martini glasses with more of these beads and gently press one votive candle into each until secure. Light candles before guests arrive for lovely and brilliant centerpieces. Make place cards by creating small crowns from construction paper.

As for that menu: You’ll want to find as many “gold” and “silver” platters as you can. (Shiny plastic trays are easily found at dollar stores.) Spoon your King Cake Dip into a large martini glass, then place the glass in a large, deep and wide bowl (think large mixing bowl). Fill the cinnamon-sugar crisps in the bowl around the stem of the glass for an all-in-one crisps-and-dip.

Pour that Cajun-Spiced Popcorn into an elegant bowl, but also provide small brown paper bags or plastic red-and-white striped popcorn bags (found at grocery stores and dollar stores) to keep the carnival vibe going. Fill a bunch and set them out for grab-and-go snacking.

Your mains and sides will look especially stunning (and delicious) served on and in those fancy gold and silver platters and bowls mentioned earlier. Be sure to use equally elegant serving utensils. A set of tongs from a silver ice bucket make an easy serving tool for the Bourbon Street Chicken Thighs or Jambalaya Stuffed Mushrooms.

As for beverages, the above-mentioned goblets are beautiful glasses in which to present the Bananas Foster Cocktail and stark white mugs are a fun way to serve the iced coffee cocktail.

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