It’s Mardi Gras season, so a celebration is definitely in order. Mardi Gras, which marks the end of the Carnival season,  has been a state holiday in Louisiana since the 19th century. New Orleans has long been a city which thrives on traditions and takes Mardi Gras parties to a new level—with bold sights, sounds and flavors.

“Food is an integral part of New Orleans history and Mardi Gras celebrations,” said Craig Nielsen, CEO, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc. “By introducing the rich notes of Nielsen-Massey’s high-quality vanillas and flavors to your favorite Mardi Gras recipes, you can create your own spin on traditions to celebrate for years to come.”

Want to bring the party to your house? Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc. has a few party ideas.

Top Four Tips for Throwing a Successful Mardi Gras Party

Tip 1: Decorate for the Occasion

An easy and inexpensive way to bring the colors of mardi Gras to your home is to place candles in the traditional colors of purple, green and gold around the room or used as centerpieces on tables. Mardi Gras decorations shouldn’t be limited to just the room decor. Why not purchase a variety of inexpensive masks, hats, boas, and beads at your local party store for your guests to wear? These colorful costumes will make your guests feel like they are right on Bourbon Street.

Tip 2: 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. For beer lovers, grab a six pack of Abita Brewing Company’s Mardi Gras Bock. For your guest who prefer beverages of the non-alcoholic kind, chicory coffee or nonalcoholic punches made with fruit juices and ginger ale are a great option.

Tip 3: Serve the Classics

Food is an integral part of any Fat Tuesday celebration. You can bring a little bit of New Orleans to your party by serving classic dishes such as gumbo and jambalaya.

Tip 4: Sweeten the Party with New Orleans Staple

Everyone loves dessert—especially on holidays! Satisfy your sweet tooth with classic New Orleans’ treats, like king cakes and beignets. Need a recipe? Nielsen-Massey Vanillas passes along the crowd-pleasing how-to for Vanilla Beignet Bites with Vanilla-Lemon Raspberry Jam below. Enjoy!

Vanilla Beignet Bites
  • 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.