Mardi Gras is this week, and it makes me nostalgic for our trip there a few years back. We went down and participated with the Bacchus crew (Will Farrell was the king that year), and it was a trip to remember!
To get in the spirit this weekend, I thought I’d make a Mardi Gras themed dinner for the family. The kids usually each have friends over on the weekend, so we should have enough kids for a mini-crew of our own! I still have bags of beads in my attic, which I’ll pull out to decorate. Gumbo, of course, will be my main course, using a recipe I’ve melded together from my Louisiana relatives. However, it wouldn’t be Mardi Gras without a fun dessert and drink, too.
MARDI GRAS CAKE POPS
Let’s start with the dessert, because I’ll let the kids make these earlier in the day. I wanted something a bit different than a king cake for the dessert (we’ve done that too many times). I found a wonderful idea for Mardi Gras cake pops on one of my favorite baking blogs, PintSizedBaker.
The cake pops seem quite manageable for the kids to do, although I’m sure 10 year old hands won’t make them anywhere near as pretty as the PintSizedBaker did! Check out her blog for the full DIY and step by step instructions.
MOCKTAIL MARDI GRAS PINEAPPLE SMOOTHIE
It wouldn’t be Mardi Gras without a fun drink. I decided to opt for a pineapple smoothie – it will be a hit with the kids, but still have some health benefits.
The recipe is pretty simple. To make a pitcher, simply blend together:
- 1 fresh pineapple, cut into cubes
- 1-2 cups orange juice
- ½ cup mango juice (to taste)
- 1 banana
- ½ cup nonfat greek yogurt (or 1 individual serving container)
- ¼ cup water, as needed
- ice cubes, as needed to thicken
Of course, I almost always sneak in some chia and flax seeds, but don’t mention that to the kids! Garnish with pineapple wedges or a maraschino cherry.
It wouldn’t be fair not to share my Gumbo recipe while I’m at it. My husband was born in Louisiana, and will still visit the many cousins who live down there. I’ve had more amazing gumbo than I can count, and everyone has shared a slightly different recipe with me. I’ve picked and chosen the parts I like from each recipe to make a meld that works for me – basically because it’s easy, fast, and very manageable to whip up on a school night.
1/2 cup canola oil (works better than olive oil for the roux)
1/2 cup white flour
1 large yellow onion, diced
1/3 bunch chopped fresh parsley
3 stalks chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup sliced green onion
1 bag frozen okra (10 oz)
6 cloves garlic, pressed
4 cups free range chicken broth (free range not mandatory…just my preference)
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon creole seasoning
2 lbs any combo of sausage or 2 lbs shrimp or 2 lbs chicken*
* For the meat, I typically do a blend. I like a turkey sausage to keep it healthy. If I plan out my meals in advance, I’ll smoke chicken earlier in the week for a meal, and then use some of the leftover shredded chicken in the gumbo. The smoky flavor is a great depth addition to the flavor!
In a large stockpot combine oil and flour and cook over medium-high heat to make a roux. Cook about 15 minutes, stirring constantly, or until it turns very dark brown, almost between brown and black.
Add onions and stir until translucent. Then add garlic, parsley, celery, bell peppers, and green onions and cook about 10 more minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Add broth, okra, salt, and creole seasoning.
Cover pot and simmer 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add your chosen combination of meat at this point and simmer an additional 10 minutes.
Ladle over steamed white rice.