In our Army wanderings, we found ourselves stationed at Fort Polk, LA for about 3 years. While we were still four hours from New Orleans, the entire state celebrates Mardi Gras in one way or another. Growing up in Oklahoma, I knew plenty of people who went to Mardi Gras, but I never realized all the traditions until we were at Polk.
I converted to Catholicism while there, as well, which probably contributed to my appreciation of Fat Tuesday…I had never sacrificed anything for Lent or experienced meatless Fridays (on purpose), either. If you’re Catholic, I’m sure you can relate…year-round, we eat meatless meals two to three nights a week in our family, but as soon as Lent arrives, you can bet all we want on Fridays are steaks and burgers! But I digress (imagine that).
This year I found a King Cake kit at World Market. In the past, I’ve made it from scratch or ordered King Arthur’s kit. Of course, when we lived in the South, every grocery store had them, so I just bought them.
I was a little skeptical of this cake once I read the directions. It came with a heavy duty Ziploc bag, and we were instructed to mix and knead the dough right in that. So we did, and, much to my surprise, it worked wonderfully. It rose the first time in the bag, even.
After it rose, I rolled it out, mixed up the filling, and spread it on. If you’ve never had King Cake, it’s a little like a cinnamon roll ring, sliced to serve. It’s so much better than cinnamon rolls, though. Really.
Another thirty minutes in the oven, and it was perfectly golden brown.
The kids helped decorate it, and I’ll stick the baby in just before serving. Although, really, who in our house is going to throw next year’s party if they get the baby? Yeah, it’ll be me, no matter what!
If you can’t find a mix nearby, here’s a link to a tasty from-scratch recipe. You’ll just need to pick up purple, green, and yellow sanding sugars…and a plastic baby to stick inside!
My recipe for Jambalaya came from a friend at Fort Polk who was born and raised in New Orleans. I was amazed at how tasty and easy this is to prepare. I’ve taken out quite a lot of fat (the original recipe had a whole stick of butter in it), but it’s just as delicious as Lindsay’s. I serve it with French rolls, honey butter, and a salad.
By the way, there’s no photo because it’s not all that pretty…jambalaya means a mishmash, after all. But what it lacks in looks, it sure makes up for in flavor!
2 cups Uncle Ben’s converted rice
1 can condensed French onion soup
1 can double strength beef broth
1 soup can water
8 oz tomato sauce
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
2 onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
12 oz reduced fat Jimmy Dean sausage
3 boneless chicken breast, in 1” cubes
1 lb smoked turkey sausage, sliced 1/2” thick
1) In a large Dutch oven, brown all meats together.
2) Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil.
3) Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check it at 1 hour…you may need to add 1/2 to 1 cup water if it seems dry.
You can also add shrimp, crawfish, or ground beef, instead of chicken. You just need to end up with about 2 lbs of meat other than the sausage, in whatever combination works for you. If you’d like it spicy, substitute hot sausage for the Jimmy Dean’s.
Enjoy your Fat Tuesday, and Let the Good Times Roll!