I'm falling behind. I just finally sucked up all the feathers and pulled the last of the 3M strips off the living room ceiling yesterday. But I promised recipes and rundowns of all the Halloween 2010 highlights, and I intend to deliver, so today here are the recipes I tried out for NOLA themed food. Keep in mind, I'm the pickiest eater on the face of the planet, and add pregnancy on top of that. I don't eat anything spicy, seafood, white sauces, vegetables, sour cream, or a million other things that most people do. So...I didn't actually try most of these. Yeah, that's right. I have no idea how they taste other than the reviews my guests gave and how much was left over at the end. But I can comment on the process of making them, from the eyes of someone with zero experience.
First Up, Confetti Rice:
I knew I needed some vegetarian dishes to balance out the meaty main courses I was bringing in, and I wanted something that still had relevance to the theme. I started googling "Cajun recipes" and wandered onto Zatarain's site, where I found "confetti rice." I decided to try it because it fit the theme & was vegetarian friendly, and also since it was served cold I could make it ahead and didn't have to find another chafing dish or crock pot to keep it hot.
Confession: I have never cooked rice. Seriously. I'm scared of it. I assumed it was hard. On Hell's Kitchen, people always get yelled at for bad rice. But guess what? I followed the directions on the box, and it worked just fine. I couldn't find Zatarain's Long Grain & Wild Rice in the 3-4 stores I looked in, so I ended up grabbing another brand (Rice a Roni maybe? It was right next to the Zatarains stuff). The boxes were remarkably similar, so I convinced myself it would be fine. I quibble a little with the "preparation time" being listed as 5 minutes...maybe if you are used to chopping onions and peppers, but I surely am not. I'm also terrible at estimating how many peppers and onions I needed to get a cup or half cup (this was a recurring theme in everything I cooked). I made a double batch of this recipe, and I used less than one onion, and less than two really small peppers (I got a 4-pack of small but pretty colored sweet peppers. I figured something called "confetti" needed a few more pops of color). It did look pretty, and at least one person told me they liked it, so I consider it a success. There was a lot left over, but in general I make too much food, so it's hard to say if that meant anything.
Next Up - something I did actually try, and it was WAY BETTER than I had thought! SWAMP JUICE punch:
We asked guests to bring a bottle for the bar (for the first time ever, usually we've provided everything) but with myself + a bunch of other pregnant ladies in attendance, I knew I wanted a few NA beverage options too. In addition to all the mixers, a punch seemed like a good idea. I went with this "Green Punch Recipe" from allrecipes.com. I think I may have added too much ginger ale, and my husband added way too much ice...but I'm glad he did. I had planned to float chunks of rainbow sherbet on top, but I didn't...which was also good. This is actually a REALLY sweet punch, and cutting it just a bit with more ice and not adding more sweet sherbet wasn't a bad decision. You might even consider leaving out some of the sugar or adding more water to taste. The color is a very vivid green (perfect for the name "SWAMP JUICE"), and the taste was more citrus than limey, which I prefer. It was quick - I dissolved the jello early in the day, let it cool, and then mixed in everything else except the ginger ale and refrigerated it till party time. I'd definitely make this again, would be perfect for St. Patty's day.
Another themed attempt - also from the Zatarains site, I made "Creole Mustard Dip" for veggies. Since I don't eat either veggies or dip, I have no idea how this tasted. I do know I made WAY too much (a double batch), even the "normal" batch seems big for veggie dip.
This was really easy to make as well, my only difficulties were finding the creole mustard (finally tracked it down at Byerly's) and again, estimating how much of an ingredient I really needed. I failed on the latter situation at EVERY possible turn -I bought 3 of the tiny jars of mustard, and used 1. And again, that was for a double batch. I bought at least double the sour cream I used. Oops. I clearly need to learn my conversions before shopping for ingredients :) I also saved time by pairing this with a store-bought veggie tray from Target - I'm not fast at washing & chopping fruits & veggies, and it's not stuff that can be done very far in advance, so it was worth it to me to pay a little more and save the time for more pressing needs.
A final recipe I used, that I don't have a photo to share of, was a Bananas Foster recipe cooked in a crock pot. This got rave reviews! I used AllRecipes.com again, and on their site you can scale recipes to the number of servings you want - I used 10. I wouldn't go much more than this in a standard size crock pot, but 10 servings fit okay. I also used a crock pot liner, since I knew I was going to end up with sticky caramelized sugar and I did NOT want to scrape that all off! For rum I used Malibu, because we had it on hand, and because there was coconut being added anyways I figured the flavors would mesh just fine. We offered pound cake and vanilla ice cream to serve it over, and it was nearly gone by the end of the night. I meant to try this, and somehow was too busy till it was about wiped out. Heard great things though, and I'll probably try it again on a smaller scale.
None of these were showstoppers on the scale of last year's "Peppered Pigs in a Blanket," but they were all easy enough to make and fit the theme, so I'd recommend them for a Mardi Gras/New Orleans themed event.