I have a confession: I’m pretty sure I’m deep-down a Louisiana native. Not sure how it happened, but I’m pretty sure I was transported or kidnapped or something. Maybe I lived there and worked in some rich guy’s kitchen in a former life. Either way, I love me some Creole cookin’.

red beans and rice

Also, every time I hear or say or think the words “Red Beans and Rice”, I immediately think of the Sir Mix-a-Lot song “Baby Got Back”…

“Give me a sister, I can’t resist her

Red beans and rice didn’t miss her”

I sing it every. single. time. Takes me back to middle school and pretending that I had dance moves.


Food for the Soul

Before I dive into this delicious recipe, I had to share a little goodness with you. Goodness for your soul that is.

Have you heard the name Greg Zanis yet? If you haven’t, let me fill you in on a beautiful story that’s good for the soul. Something we all could use right now in the midst of polarizing politics, hurricanes, and massacres at concerts. Greg Zanis made crosses for each of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting. He delivered them all himself and placed them near the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign to honor those who lost their lives last week. To think of the countless hours it must have taken him, not to mention the money, it really strikes me in the good feels. We need to hear about more of the positive things people do for one another instead of the negative.

Crosses for Las Vegas Victims - Gregory Bull

Image Cred: Gregory Bull / AP

See the full story HERE.


Food that Feeds My Soul (+ My Belly)

If I could choose one last meal to have before I go on to whatever lies next for me, I’d hands-down ask for Red Beans and Rice. It has to be authentic, slow-cooked in a Louisiana kitchen, spicy, comforting Red Beans and Rice. None of the boxed stuff.

red beans and rice

I actually used to really, really, realllyyyy love the Zatarain’s Red Beans and Rice mix (like for years and years and years). In my older years *adjusts weight using the cane in hand* I’ve found that I just can’t handle all the sodium that comes with the boxed stuff. It used to do the job, but now, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to this absolute epitome of Southern comfort food.

red beans and rice

I’ve tried A LOT of Red Beans and Rice recipes. This is a compilation of years of drooling, cooking, sweating, and dreaming about my favorite dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Here’s the breakdown:

The night before, soak yer beans with some Kosher salt + water at least 2″ above the tops of the beans. Cover with dish towel (because no one likes flies in their food) and set on your counter for up to 18 hours before you want to cook. Drain and rinse them before cooking.

red beans and rice

The next day, they should look nice and plump like these lovelies. Pick out any bad ones – like that one rebel in the middle of my bowl. Poor little halfling. He’s gotta go.

red beans and rice

It’s very not traditional to use chicken sausage, but I had to adjust the recipe to fit our diet. Regular andouille sausage is just a little too fatty for us, so I swapped it out for the andouille chicken sausage. Still tastes yummy and sausage-y to me! Feel free to use the real stuff though if you’re a purist.

red beans and rice

Sauté the sausage in vegetable oil until it’s browned.

red beans and rice

Throw in your vegetables and cook ’em down until they’re tender.

red beans and rice

Add your spices, herbs, beans, and some water. Stir it up, cover it up, and make it boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a medium-low-low setting (no other technical way to say that) so that it’s at a bare simmer. Cover and cook for at least 3 hours or until beans are tender.

red beans and rice

Serve with some white rice, your fave hot sauce, and garnish with green onions. Maybe even a little garlic toast on the side if you’re feeling crazy.

One other thing I love about Red Beans and Rice (at least this version) is that it’s relatively healthy. This recipe makes 6 big servings that come in at about 260 calories per serving with 5.7g fat and 29.4g protein (not counting rice). Not so bad for such a soul-filling dish.

red beans and rice


Red Beans and Rice

1 lb. dry red kidney beans
Kosher salt
1 tbs. vegetable oil
4 andouille chicken sausage links, sliced into discs
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
Freshly ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tbs. ground cayenne pepper (more or less depending on how hot you like it)
1/2 tbs. fresh sage, chopped
6 springs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1 smoked ham hock (optional)*

Place beans in a large plastic or glass bowl with 2 tbs. Kosher salt. Add cold water until the beans are covered by at least 2”. Cover with a dish towel and let sit for at least 8 hours and up to 18. Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a large Dutch oven or skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned (about 5 minutes). Add onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cook until vegetables have softened, stirring occasionally (about 8 minutes). Add 3/4 tsp. Kosher salt and 10-15 grinds of black pepper (depending on how much spice you want). Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add cayenne pepper and sage, stir, and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add beans and 8 cups water, thyme, bay leaves, and ham hock (if using). Stir to combine, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a bare simmer (medium-low-low heat) and cook until beans are tender (about 3 hours).

Remove thyme stems, bay leaves and ham hock. Stir and cook an additional 20 minutes without the cover on. If the mixture is too thick, add 1/2 cup water, cook another 5 minutes. Repeat an additional time if necessary.

Garnish with green onions. Serve over white rice with hot sauce on the side.

*I usually can’t find a good ham hock, so I leave this out most of the time.

Click Here for Printable Recipe: Red Beans and Rice

If you’re like me, when you hear Chicken + Dumplings, you think of the elementary cafeteria and the ‘mystery’ that would be slopped onto your plate and called Chicken + Dumplings. I had some friends who LIVED for Chicken + Dumpling Day. I was NOT one of those people. I dreaded that day. The soggy “dumpling” and the canned, processed chicken and sauce did not a yummy lunch make. I thought I’d give it a go and try a real recipe a few years ago, and OH YES – definitely not like the cafeteria days.

chicken and dumplings

Before I get to the recipe, here’s a little of our life lately:

This seasoning is the bomb.com. If you like everything bagels, you’ll love this stuff. I put it on my English muffin + cream cheese and have a couple of chicken sausage links on the side for my breakfast. Only about 230 calories and soooooo yummy!

trader joe's everything but the bagel seasoning

I don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, so I ordered mine on Amazon:

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Uhhhhmmmm… if your daily getup involves elastic waistbands and/or draw strings, then you need these pants. I posted about these during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (they’re still a great price now though). They’re super soft and comfy, plus they’re slimming so you don’t scream “Frumpy McFrumperson”. They’re just one step away from sweatpants, but I don’t even care. They’re my besties right now.

Make + Model All About It Lounge Pants

Make + Model All About It Lounge Pants

 

They’re the perfect pants for building blocks with homeboy, too, I must say.

make + model all about it lounge pants nordstrom

It’s nothing really newsworthy, but we got a “grown up” piece of artwork for our bedroom. Hobby Lobby had this bad boy at 50% off, so I snagged him immediately! The blues fit perfectly with our bedroom decor.

hobby lobby wall art

We’ve still got a few other house projects until I’ll feel “finished” after our move (almost a year later). Y’all. It’s a friggin’ process.

home decor

Penny’s been breaking my heart lately. This baby girl needs a companion badly. Ever since Osa passed in April, she’s been slowly getting better but I can tell she’s still a bit depressed. I’m trying to convince Jon to let us get her a sister, but no luck yet. Stay tuned though… I have some skills in persuasion.

penny

Nooooooooooow for this lovely bowl of comfort food. I have to say Jon Boy was extremely surprised when I told him the calorie count per serving. This recipe makes 6 very good sized portions coming in at (drum roll, please)…

405 calories per serving (14g fat; 21g protein)

Nope, you didn’t read it wrong. Only 405 calories per serving! Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.

chicken and dumplings

One of the BEST things about this recipe for Chicken + Dumplings is the fact that you get a TON of leftover, homemade chicken stock. All you have to do is throw it in some freezer-safe containers and store it up to 6 months. It’ll save you some money, plus it tastes WAYYYYYYY better than the store bought stuff. No joke.

chicken and dumplings

In the recipe, it says to cut the garlic head by the equator and throw it into the stock pot. It means to cut it like the picture below, and throw the whole thing in (paper and all). You’ll strain out the solid stuff from the stock later, so no worries about the mess.

chicken and dumplings

The stock is as simple as they come:

garlic + bay leaves + thyme + black peppercorn + Kosher salt + a biggo chicken + cold water

Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

chicken and dumplings

I always have at least 6 quarts of leftover chicken stock that I throw in the freezer. I use 6-8 cups in the recipe, too, so that should tell you how much yummy stock you can get from this lil recipe. Also – word to the wise – always label your tupperware when you freeze something. I had a bad mixup one time when I thought I was thawing cooked, shredded chicken and instead I thawed an entire quart of jambalaya. Whoopsie poopsie!

chicken and dumplings

The original recipe I started from years ago is from Tyler Florence. I loooooove me some Tyler. He has/had a show on Food Network (not sure if it’s still on air), and I really liked the way he broke down the technique and steps in his recipes. I learned a lot just by watching his show. For example, don’t over-mix your biscuit mix otherwise they’ll be too dense. Just fold it together until it looks like this:

chicken and dumplings

Y’all. I can’t even with these biscuits. So light, easy, and delicious. The balance of the dumpling + the sauce are perfect in this recipe! Not too much sauce, not too much biscuit. Yummo!

chicken and dumplings


Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and Stock
1 5 lb. whole organic chicken
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
5 black peppercorns
1 head garlic, split through the equator
2 tbs. Kosher salt

Buttermilk-Chive Dumplings
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
¼ cup chopped chives
1 cup buttermilk

Sauce
2 tbs. unsalted butter
2 tbs. EVOO
2 carrots, peeled and diced (or about 10 baby carrots, diced)
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
8 cups chicken stock, divided (may not use all of this)
¼ cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen pearl onions
Chopped chives, for garnish

For the Stock
Place the chicken and all stock ingredients in a large Dutch oven or pot and cover with cold water. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Occasionally, skim the surface of fat and scum.

When finished, remove the chicken to a cutting board and allow to cool. Shred the chicken into large pieces. Place a large sieve into an even larger bowl and pour in the chicken stock to strain. Discard the solids and save the chicken stock. (You should have way more than enough – usually at least 6 quarts remaining to freeze after you’ve cooked this recipe.)

Stock + chicken can be made up to three days ahead. Store in fridge in airtight containers, separately.

For the Dumplings
While chicken is cooking, sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, using a whisk, lightly beat the eggs, chives, and buttermilk together; pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently fold. Mix just until the dough comes together; the batter should be thick and cake-like. Do not over mix! This will make the biscuits tough. Refrigerate biscuit dough until ready to use.

For the Sauce
In a large Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the butter and oil. Add the carrot, celery, and bay leaves and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Sprinkle in 1/4 cup of flour to make a roux (this makes the sauce thicken). Continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes to coat the vegetables in the flour. Slowly pour in a total of 6 cups of chicken stock, one cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add heavy cream and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Allow to simmer for 15 minutes, until thickened. If sauce is not thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, then combine 1 cup of chicken stock and 1/4 cup flour in a small measuring cup, whisking until smooth. Slowly pour this mixture in to the large pot, stirring to combine. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If this sauce is still not thick enough, repeat this process again (1 cup stock + 1/4 cup flour). Allow sauce to simmer at least 15 minutes after each addition. (I usually only do this once and it’s thick enough.)

Once sauce has thickened, add frozen peas and pearl onions. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Fold the reserved, shredded chicken (I use about 12 oz. chicken) into the sauce and turn the heat up to medium-high. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dumpling batter into the hot mixture. The dumplings should cover the top of the sauce, but should not be touching or crowded. Let the dumplings poach for 10 to 15 minutes until they are firm and puffy. Feel free to turn the dumplings, but not more than three times.

Garnish with chopped chives before serving.

Freeze reserved chicken stock and shredded chicken in airtight containers for up to 6 months for the stock and 3 months for the chicken.

Who doesn’t love a loaded baked potato? Ohhmyygeeerrddd. When I was pregnant, I devoured potatoes. I found this recipe around]]>

loaded baked potato casserole

One of the BEST things I love about recipes like this one is when you can make it AHEAD OF TIME. You do the dirty work, throw it in the fridge [even do the dishes so it looks like you’ve got your act together], and then when it’s time to eat – POP THAT *ISH IN THE OVEN. Bam.

loaded baked potato casserole

Crowd pleaser + make ahead = winning.

loaded baked potato casserole

I leave the skins on [because I’m lazy], and I cut them into chunks like these. It’s just 2 cuts per potato to make them into quarters, but feel free to cut them as you see fit. I kind of like the non-mushy texture they have when they cook in the casserole.

loaded baked potato casserole

This little ditty may seem like the WORST thing you could eat during swimsuit season, but you’re gonna be okay. If you make this recipe into 6 servings, each serving is only about 350 calories (18g fat; 13g protein). It’s not exactly a kale salad, but I’m willing to trade every now and then.

loaded baked potato casserole Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

2 lb. red potatoes, cubed ¼ cup bacon bits (plus more for garnish) 3 green onions, chopped (plus more for garnish) 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (plus more for garnish) 8 oz. sour cream 1/2 cup mayonnaise Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper Cooking spray

Place the potatoes in cold, heavily salted water. Bring to a boil. Cook until fork tender (about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile in a large bowl, combine the bacon bits, green onions, cheddar cheese, sour cream, mayo, a pinch of Kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.

Drain potatoes and add to mayo mixture while still warm (but not hot). Stir to combine.

Spray an oven-proof dish with cooking spray. Pour mixture into prepared dish, garnish with bacon bits and cheddar cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350. Remove dish + plastic wrap while oven preheats. Bake for 15-20 minutes (until cheese melts). Garnish with more green onions.

You wanna make some fast friends? Make this and feed it to people. The savory crust + the sweet caramelized onions + the salty bacon make this breakfast quiche (or lunch or dinner) one of my top favorites to make! (And it’s given me some extra friends, too.)

caramelized onion and bacon quiche

caramelized onion and bacon quiche

This little number is also freezer friendly! Just wrap each piece in foil, throw in a Ziploc, and freeze for up to 4 months. The night before you want to eat a piece, just take out the individual serving, thaw in the fridge, and then you’re ready to heat + eat in the morning!

caramelized onion and bacon quiche

These are ingredients you most likely already have in your kitchen which is always good for the ole wallet [and that grocery list that somehow grows literally the second you walk out of the store – but seriously… How does this happen though? I swear I get home, unload, and realize I need about 8 more things. Ridiculous…].

Anywho… the homemade crust is definitely worth the extra time and minimally extra effort [just 8 steps] to make. I promise. The store-bought stuff is just fine in a pinch, but you’ve gotta try this crust at least once. Check out these easy-peasy steps to making the King of the Crusts.

  1. Pulse the dry stuff in a food processor. NOT a standing mixer or a in a bowl with a hand mixer. TRUST me on this one, folks.
  2. Cut yer cold (and I mean straight from the fridge cold) butter into little squares of dairy heaven like so:

caramelized onion and bacon quiche

3. Add some Parm and pulse the butter + parm + dry stuff until it looks like this:

caramelized onion and bacon quiche

4. Drizzle some ICE cold water 1 tbs. at a time into the dough. Just pulse it, drizzle it, until it comes together to look like this:

caramelized onion and bacon quiche

5. Yank out yer ball of doughy goodness out of the food processor, form it into a ball, flatten it to a disc, throw it in some plastic wrap, and shove it in the fridge.

caramelized onion and bacon quiche

6. After 45 minutes, pull out the chill disc of fantastic. On a floured surface with a good ole fashion roller, roll out yer dough so it will fit your (greased) pie dish. Throw it in there. As you can see below, it’s a forgiving dough. If it’s not a perfect circle, grab some from over there to fill in the gaps over here. You know what I’m sayin’? Easy. Peasy.

6 1/2. Also – take out some rage and stab this bad boy all over with a fork.

Back in the fridge for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven.

caramelized onion and bacon quiche

7. Throw on some foil + pie weights* and toss it in the oven for 20.

8. Remove the foil + pie weights, and keep baking for another 15-ish.

*I got our pie weights wayyyyy back when we registered for our wedding. I’ve used them tons and tons of times! If you don’t have pie weights, you can use dried beans in a pinch. I’d def suggest investing in some though.

caramelized onion and bacon quiche

Also, if you haven’t invested in one of these bad boys, you’re missing out. I’ve done my own shredding for years [and I have the forearms to prove it], so when my sister-in-law told me about this little gem, I had to grab one. You can use it for hard cheeses or chocolate, it’s dishwasher safe, and you can *bonus* now buy the cheaper non-shredded cheese at the store. The pre-shredded is fantastic in a pinch, but it usually costs more and doesn’t taste as good as the block.

caramelized onion and bacon quiche

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Caramelized onions are so easy and yet some of the BEST things you can make in your kitchen. They add TONS of flavor with just two little things: butter + onions. The key is low and slow with minimal stirring. The onions cook in their own natural sugars and become tender, sweet bits of great flavor.

caramelized onion and bacon quiche

Happy breakfast, y’all!

caramelized onion and bacon quiche


Caramelized Onion and Bacon Quiche

For the crust:

1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. sea salt (or table salt)
1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces
1 oz. grated Parmesan
5-7 tbs. ice water

For the filling:

1 1/2 tbs. unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup bacon bits
3 tbs. all-purpose flour
4 eggs, whisked
1 cup half-and-half
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1/8 tsp. dried thyme)

Make the crust:

In a food processor, pulse together the cornmeal, flour, and salt until combined. Add cold butter and Parmesan; pulse until the mixture has pea-sized bits of butter. While continuing to pulse, drizzle in the 5 tbs. ice water until dough comes together. Add more water if necessary, but not more than 7 tbs.

Roll the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm (about 45 minutes).

On a clean, floured surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it fits the shape of a 9” pie dish. Grease the pie dish with cooking spray; press dough into pie dish, crimping sides as needed. Pierce the bottom of the dough with a fork so the dough does not rise during cooking. Refrigerate the dough in the pie dish an additional 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Line the pie crust with foil and fill with either pie weights or dried beans (any kind). Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans; bake an additional 12-15 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Make the filling:

Meanwhile in a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until caramelized (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally. Lay the onions on the bottom of the cooled crust.

Mix the bacon bits, flour, eggs, half-and-half, a pinch or two of salt, ground pepper to taste, and thyme in a large bowl; whisk to combine. Pour cream mixture over onion.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until set.

Garnish with thyme leaves and/or bacon bits.

Okay, I have to be honest. I can NEVER remember how to spell Caribbean. I actually just misspelled it trying to type it just then. GUH! So, needless to say, writing this recipe was tough.

slow cooker caribbean pork

One day, maybe I’ll remember. Until then… thank you, spell check.

slow cooker caribbean pork

And thank you, Caribbean Pork Gods.

slow cooker caribbean pork

The flavors in this dish are perfectly balanced: citrus + sweet + spice (but not spicy). They are taken over-the-top when you pair with Zesty Coconut Rice, cilantro, and an extra squeeze of lime at the end. LOVE this one!

slow cooker caribbean pork
This was another Crock Pot Wednesday win! Jon Boy actually guffawed [and almost choked, but in a good way] when he took his first bite. I took that as a sign that he loved it, needless to say. “Definitely a repeat babe. Definitely.” Winner, winner, crock pot dinner.

slow cooker caribbean pork

I’ve had this cookbook for yeaarrrsssss. I love it. I’ve cooked this pork the way they’ve written it and loved it! I wanted to see if I could convert it to a Crock Pot recipe, and voila – it worked! They also have a great recipe for King Ranch Casserole that’s always done me proud. I love that these are recipes that Southern Living’s readers have actually tried, reviewed, and revised. Y’all know southern women can cook and be vocal, so you know they can be trusted.

slow cooker caribbean pork

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Crock Pot Wednesdays are the best. I know there’s a little extra step in searing the pork (or you can skip it, but I’d recommend taking the extra time). By searing the pork, you’re helping to seal in some of the juices and add some brown to the mix – which is always a good idea!

slow cooker caribbean pork


Slow Cooker Caribbean Pork

1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup grapefruit juice (1 large grapefruit)
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tbs. light brown sugar
3 bay leaves, crumbled
2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 (5 lb.) Boston butt pork roast (pork shoulder)

Combine all ingredients except the pork in a large bowl; stir to combine. Place the pork in a large Ziploc bag and add the marinade. Turn to coat and refrigerate overnight.

Option A (recommended): Heat a large Dutch oven or skillet over high heat. Place the pork in the Dutch oven and pour the marinade into the Crock Pot. Brown the pork on both sides (about 5 minutes per side). Place pork in Crock Pot.

Option B: Dump everything into the Crock Pot.

Cook on high 8 hours or on low for 12 until pork shreds easily with a fork. Occasionally baste the pork with the liquid if you can. Discard any fat from the pork.

Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges. Best served with green peas + Zesty Coconut Rice.

Adapted from Southern Living