Carnival time is coming to a close, and tomorrow is Fat Tuesday! It's time to laissez le bon temps roulez even if your home is no where near a parade route. Here is a list of some great reads to get you in a Mardi Gras state of mind, and while you read, set a pot of red beans simmering on the stove. Every Monday in New Orleans is red beans and rice day. Traditionally speaking, it was because Monday was also laundry day, and red beans is a dish that can cook without much fuss since the cook was busy washing clothes. Modern washing machines might free up more time to cook, but cooking red beans on a Monday is still a tradition because, well, they are tasty!
A little girl named Mimi is going to celebrate Mardi Gras for the first time! Her mom and dad wake her up early to get ready for their day. They put on costumes and head out to watch parade floats cruise by with krewe members throwing out beads, candy, and other treats. This book does a great job of teaching kids about all of the most important Mardi Gras traditions - king cake, costumes, marching bands, and the king of Mardi Gras, King Rex.
Jenny the Giraffe lives in New Orleans and loves learning more about her town's history and traditions. In Jenny Giraffe's Mardi Gras Ride, Jenny gets to ride on a real parade float where she tosses colored bead necklaces to parade-goers. The parade ends in one big party that Jenny will never forget!
Here is my recipe for red beans and rice, to be eaten any day but especially Monday.
1 green bell pepper
3 celery stalks
2 bay leaves
2 lb. bag of dried red kidney beans
smoked Cajun sausage
1. Soak beans overnight in enough water to cover them by two inches.
2. The next day, drain the beans and rinse them.
3. Dice the onion, celery, and bell pepper.
4. In a large pot, heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil. When it is hot, add the diced veggies.
5. Saute for a few minutes, until they get soft and glossy. Once they are done, add the beans and enough water to cover the beans.
6. add the bay leaves and a pinch of salt and Cajun seasonings.
7. simmer until the beans are soft. I like my beans really, really soft, so I simmer mine until a portion of the beans have broken down into almost a paste and they are thick. This takes about one and a half to two hours. Keep adding water when it gets too low.
8. When beans are done, adjust seasonings to taste. Split sausage down the middle lengthwise without slicing completely through. Grill or saute sausage cut side down until browned and heated through.
9. Serve beans with rice and sausage. Yum!