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Celebrate Mardi Gras with New Orleans favorites

Grab some beads, decorate your table in purple, green and gold and get ready for some Mardi Gras fun. Fat Tuesday is Feb. 21, and just because you're not in New Orleans doesn't mean you can't celebrate.

But before you get the party started, here's a brief Mardi Gras lesson. Fat Tuesday is the last day of the carnival season which begins twelve days after Christmas when the wise men are said to have arrived with their gifts for Jesus. Fat Tuesday is always held the day before Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22, 2012) when Lent begins. Traditionally Mardi Gras is a great celebration before the season of fasting and sacrifice that ends Easter Sunday. The colors commonly displayed in costumes and decorations for Mardi Gras are purple (for justice), green (for faith) and gold (for power).

OK, now you're ready to prepare your own Mardi Gras feast. Here are some recipe suggestions:

Chef Emeril Lagasse's cuisine is all about the Big Easy. Make Emeril's Cajun Jambalaya for an authentic New Orleans' style meal.

Don't let your dietary restrictions keep you from enjoying cajun food. Vegan gumbo with Light Life's Smart Sausages offers the flavor of New Orleans without the meat products.

You must finish your meal with a King Cake. This cake has a plastic baby toy hidden inside. The person who gets the piece of cake with the toy will be designated the host for the next year's celebration.

Wash your dinner down with a Southern Comfort Champagne Cocktail.