Celebrating the end of the season of Carnival, Mardi Gras has been a state holiday in Louisiana since the 19th century. Steeped in rich traditions, New Orleans is a city full of sights, sounds, and flavors that you can bring into your home this Mardi Gras season.
Even if you have never been to New Orleans, you can introduce the spirit of Mardi Gras into your home this year with these fun and festive party ideas:
• Decorate for the occasion: Candles in the traditional colors of purple, green, and gold can be placed around the room or used as centerpieces on tables. But don’t stop with just decorating the room: Purchase a variety of inexpensive masks, hats, boas, and beads at your local party store for your guests to wear. These colorful costumes are common in New Orleans during Mardi Gras celebrations.
• Stock the bar: Have a variety of ingredients on hand to make traditional Mardi Gras cocktails such as Hurricanes, Pimm’s Cups, or a classic Sazerac. Chicory coffee or nonalcoholic punches made with fruit juices and ginger ale are a great option for those who don’t wish to imbibe.
• Serve the classics: An integral part to any Fat Tuesday celebration, food is an ideal way to bring the soul of New Orleans into your party. Consider serving your guests classic dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, king cakes, and beignets.
While delicious beignet’s will be served on the 4th of March, they are a decadent option on any day with your morning for after dinner coffee. For a sweet end to your celebration, try the recipe below for Vanilla Beignet Bites with Vanilla-Lemon Raspberry Jam. We used Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract and Pure Vanilla Powder add a sweet twist to this New Orleans classic that is sure to please our and your guests.
Vanilla Beignet Bites with Vanilla-Lemon Raspberry Jam ~ Yield 6 dozen
- ¼ cup warm water
- 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
- 2 eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- In a small bowl, combine warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar; set aside to activate yeast. In a medium bowl, add butter, half-and-half and vanilla extract; stir and set aside. In a small bowl whisk eggs; set aside.
- In a bowl of a free standing electric mixer, add flour, sugar, salt and cardamom. Place bowl on mixer stand which has been fitted with a dough hook. Turn mixer on low speed and combine dry ingredients.
- Turn mixer to medium speed then add activated yeast mixture. Add half-and-half mixture, then add the whisked eggs. Mix until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl when necessary. Dough will be slightly sticky.
- Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead, about 2-3 minutes; adding additional flour only when needed.
- Lightly coat a large bowl with cooking spray and place dough into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and keep warm until dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours. After dough has risen, place on a lightly floured surface and gently knead. Roll dough into a rectangle, about ¼-inch thick. With a pizza cutter, cut dough into small rectangles, about 1 x ½-inch pieces.
- Heat oil to 375°F; carefully place dough in hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 45-60 seconds. Turn beignets so both sides are golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels; dust with Vanilla Powdered Sugar while bites are still warm. Dip Vanilla Beignet Bites in Nielsen-Massey’s signature Vanilla-Lemon Raspberry Jam.
Vanilla Powdered Sugar (Yield ½ cup sugar)
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder
In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and vanilla powder.
Vanilla-Lemon Raspberry Jam (Yield 1 cup jam)
- 1 cup seedless raspberry jam
- ½ teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
- ½ teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Lemon Extract
In a small bowl, add jam, vanilla and lemon extracts. Whisk until jam is smooth and serve with warm Vanilla Beignet Bites. Vanilla-Lemon Raspberry Jam can be refrigerated and also served with whole grain toast, English muffins or scones.