Slow-cooker Mardi Gras-inspired recipes

02/26/2014 12:00 AM

02/25/2014 10:37 AM

Say “Mardi Gras,” and you probably conjure images of bead throwing, parade watching and general wild-and-crazy revelry on the streets of New Orleans.

Though it’s celebrated other places, the Big Easy is the Mardi Gras capital of the world. And when you think New Orleans, you can’t help but think of its distinctive cuisine — jambalaya, red beans and rice, shrimp Creole — all of which pairs (a little too) easily with those famous sazeracs and hurricanes.

Whether you’re past your partying days or just can’t make it to New Orleans for Fat Tuesday next week, bring the tastes of the city home to your family with these easy slow-cooker meals.

Slow-cooker recipes are busy parents’ and bad cooks’ best bets for delicious weeknight meals, said Nicole Sparks, 34. Sparks, one part of the two-mama duo known as The Crockin’ Girls ( www.crockingirls.com), simmered her way to cookbook fame with her best friend and co-author, Jenna Marwitz, 28.

Since publishing their 2012 cookbook, The Crockin’ Girls Slow Cookin’ Companion (Five Star Institute, $32.95), Sparks and Marwitz — who live in Paradise, in Wise County — have added more than a few new recipes to their collection thanks to fan suggestions, and they’ve gotten a little healthier, too.

“Bell peppers, onions, and celery is the holy trinity of Cajun food,” said Sparks, who added that a lot of staple Cajun ingredients are healthful in the raw. Throw those healthy veggies in a slow cooker with some lean protein, such as chicken, shrimp or beans, add some spice, and set it to cook.

In a few hours, your family will sit down to a filling Mardi Gras meal. Bead throwing optional.

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