We had an Epiphany…

…and now it’s over, and we’re in the midst of Carnival (the last days and hours before the Lenten season). Next week Mardi Gras will be upon us, and that’s got us craving some good, Louisiana cooking.

So, what is Mardi Gras anyway? Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, the pinnacle of Carnival. Always the day before Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras is about merriment and indulging in our favorite foods before Lent begins, and the vibe becomes more somber.

Over at AllSpice, we’re planning to spend the last bits of Carnival whipping up some of our favorite Mardi Gras recipes from the AllSpice recipe library.

King Cake: The tradition of the king cake traveled here from France in the 1870s. The cake is a well known part of pre-Lenten Mardi Gras celebrations.  Oval in shape, it’s a bit like a coffee cake with the wonderful flavors of French patisserie. And there’s a surprise! A small plastic baby figurine is baked into each king cake to celebrate the upcoming holy period.  Whoever finds the baby in their piece of cake is said to enjoy good luck and prosperity in the upcoming year, and because of that, is responsible for purchasing or making next year’s king cake.

Gumbo: This popular Louisianan stew is a combination of a strong broth or stock, meat or shellfish, roux, and the “Holy Trinity” of Cajun and Creole cooking, bell peppers, onion and celery. For a traditional gumbo, add a half teaspoon of Gumbo Filé Powder to each bowl just as it’s served.

Red Beans and Rice: Arguably the quintessential Louisiana Creole dish, this entree is the king of leftovers. Red beans and rice were often made on Monday, using up leftovers from the weekend. A combination of red beans, veggies, spices and left over pork bones are simmered slowly in a pot, then served over rice. Today, other meats such as sausage and ham are regular additions to this traditional recipe.

Muffuletta Sandwiches: Muffuletta is practically synonymous with New Orleans. Muffuletta is a Sicilian round sesame bread.  The sandwich, though, is a New Orleans original, created by Sicilian immigrants in the late 1800s. A traditional Muffuletta Sandwich is piled high with salami, ham, provolone and a tasty “olive salad.” Once you’ve had a Muffuletta Sandwich, you’ll be addicted!

Beignets: This ancient pastry is so good because it’s fried. Who doesn’t love a doughnut? In New Orleans beignets are known as a breakfast, served hot and fresh with powdered sugar on top. They’re so popular they earned the title of “State Doughnut of Louisiana” in 1986.

Bananas Foster: Last, but very certainly not least, is the New Orleans creation, Bananas Foster. This delicious banana and ice cream dessert was created by Paul Blangé and Ella Brennan at Brennan’s Restaurant in the early 1950s. Our take on Bananas Foster involves heating butter, Butternut Squash Seed Oil, and brown sugar in a skillet, adding sliced bananas, and throwing in some rum extract (watch out – it might flame up!). Serve over ice cream.

What are your Mardi Gras traditions? (PG-13 only, please!) Have you celebrated in New Orleans? Tell us more in the comments below.

Photo Credits: French Quarter by Rosie Kerr and Beignets by Chelsea Audibert.