Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

Summer is coming! I can feel it! And for me, summer means one thing: GRILLING!

There is no more classic grilled food, in my humble opinion, than the good old beef burger. This one will seriously tingle your taste buds, because it puts all the good stuff INSIDE the burger, instead of piled on top.

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

You’ll want to start by dicing 1/4 of a medium sweet onion (very small dice!) and cooking up 4 slices of bacon. Once the bacon is cooked and cooled, break it into small pieces.

Then, in a medium bowl, add a little over a pound of ground beef. (Generally, I see them in the store packed in 1.25-1.40 pound packages.) Personally, I like to use 93% lean beef. It’s a bit more expensive, but the burgers don’t shrink as much! If you use 85% or 73%, just bear in mind that there will be a fair bit of shrinkage to your patties once they start cooking!

To the ground beef, add your cooked bacon pieces, the diced onion, 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce, and hefty sprinklings of the following: salt, pepper, garlic powder, ground ginger, and if you’ve got it, your favorite dry steak seasoning. (I use Montreal Style Steak, which is made by McCormick.) If you’d like a little heat, sprinkle in either some chili powder or some cayenne.

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

Combine it all together with your hands. DON’T OVERWORK THE MEAT. Work it until everything is well distributed, and then stop! If you work it too much, the burgers will be tough – no bueno! Once it’s well combined, make it into four patties. They’ll be pretty big – that’s okay! Remember they will shrink!

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

To prep your grill, spray with with cooking spray and turn the heat to medium high. (Or equivalent process for a charcoal grill. Mine is gas – I know, I cheat!) Let it warm up for a few minutes, then put the burgers on! They should sizzle when they hit the grates. Cook to your desired level of done-ness, flipping halfway through. I like my burger pink inside because it’s super tender and juicy that way, so that should be about 5 minutes per side for burgers of this size. If desired, after you’ve flipped them and they are almost done, top with mozzarella cheese! Serve them on a toasted bun with whatever condiments you prefer. I LOVE barbecue sauce on my burgers. If you’ve never tried it, you should. It’s especially good with these!

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

I made a salad ahead of time to serve with the burgers – the freshness of the veggies in the salad is a great compliment to the savory burgers! (Plus it’s far better for you than a side of fries or chips!) Full Recipe:

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

Yield: 4 burgers

Ingredients:

4 pieces bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 sweet onion, small dice
1 & 1/3 (ish) pounds lean ground beef
1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
To taste: salt, pepper, garlic powder, ground ginger, steak seasoning, cayenne (optional)

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (if desired)

4 hamburger buns, plus condiments, for serving.

Process:

1) In medium bowl, combine ground beef with cooked bacon, diced onion, teriyaki sauce, and spices. Work with your hands until just combined. DO NOT OVERWORK MEAT.

2) Form into four equal size patties.

3) Spray grill with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Place burgers directly on grates and let cook for 4-5 minutes per side (medium), or until desired temperature is reached.

4) When only a minute or so of cooking time remains, top with mozzarella cheese, allow to melt, and then serve burgers as desired. (Try them with barbecue sauce!)

Advertisements

No more excuses! Three quick and easy vegetarian breakfast ideas!

I know, you’ve all heard it before. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”

But you just don’t have time, or energy, or skill, or food, or WHATEVER ELSE you might think you need in the morning to actually eat breakfast. So you go on through your life living on that convenience store coffee and donut (or worse, nothing at all) and somehow survive until lunchtime when you then gorge yourself because well, you feel like you’re starving.

Well, NO MORE, my friends! If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember my Four Super Simple and Portable Breakfast Ideas from a long ways back. Those are still totally A-game breakfast ideas, but I decided it’s time for some fresh new ones. So, this post is dedicated to three more really easy, really quick, and totally meatless breakfast dishes that are oh-so-much better for you than that glazed Krispy Kreme donut.

Quick Breakfast #1: Fruit, Yogurt, & Granola Parfait

DSC_1449

No joke, it’s just three ingredients! How easy is that?

Just get yourself a nice pretty glass (because that makes eating breakfast more worthwhile) and layer it with your choice of yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola.

I used regular vanilla yogurt and strawberries, but the combinations here are literally endless. Little tip, if you plan on making this fairly frequently, you can buy yogurt in 38oz containers, so you can just spoon out however much you need.

Also, granola is typically found in the cereal aisle of your grocery store. They make several different kinds, but the store brand is always cheapest and totally fine.

Health bonuses: You get protein from the yogurt and fiber from the granola. These will help you to feel fuller, longer!

Total prep time: 3 minutes (or less).

Quick Breakfast #2: Spinach & Veggie Omelet

DSC_1459Yes, this one actually requires the stove, but if you’ve got ten extra minutes, it’s worth it! Just saute 1/4 of a red onion, 1/4 of a green pepper, and about a 1/4 cup of frozen spinach with olive oil for about five minutes. Remove that from the pan, coat it with about a 1/2 tablespoon of butter, and then add two beaten eggs to the pan on a medium-low heat.

Let the eggs cook slowly until they are almost cooked through, then add a handful of shredded cheese and your veggies to one side. Let it cook another minute or so, fold it in half, and then plate it!

If you’re not watching your fat intake, this would be totally amazing with sour cream on top, but otherwise, it’s great with just some salt and pepper!

Health bonuses: eggs are packed with protein and the spinach is full of vitamins!

Total prep time: 10 minutes.

Quick Breakfast #3: Cranberry-Pecan Oatmeal

DSC_1463“Ew, oatmeal??”

I can almost hear the groan of distaste. I know, most people think oatmeal is for little kids or the elderly, and that it’s a mealy, gross, nasty bowl of lukewarm nothingness. I get it. But this oatmeal will change that.

Quick-oatmeal can be made right in the microwave. I use 3/4 cup of quick 1-minute oats and 1/2 cup of milk – microwave that for 60 seconds and then take it out and stir.

Meanwhile, roughly chop about 1/4 cup of pecans. When the oatmeal is done, add the pecans, 1/4 cup of dried cranberries, a few tablespoons of granola (for additional crunch) and a tablespoon of brown sugar. Stir and enjoy!

Health bonuses: you get fiber from the oatmeal and granola and protein from the pecans. Plus, the cranberries give you a nice serving of fruit!

Total prep time: 2 minutes.

So, no more excuses! Including the linked back post, here are seven total breakfast ideas that are good for you, filling, and super quick and easy. I promise, it will make SUCH a difference in your life if you start eating a decent breakfast every day!

Pasta with Lemon Pepper Parmesan Cream Sauce

Holy wow you guys. I sort of… accidentally made this one day for lunch. (Yes, really, “accidentally.”) It turned out so awesome that I tweaked it a bit and adjusted the recipe to serve four people. This is a fabulous quick and easy dinner or lunch idea, and is definitely versatile!

DSC_1438text

For a lighter dish, this would be good without any meat at all. However, to make it a little heartier, saute up your choice of protein to go into the pasta. I chose kielbasa, which everyone knows is my favorite, but any smoked sausage would do. You could also use chicken (2 large breasts cut into bite size pieces), or even ground turkey (about a pound). The main point is just that the meat is fully cooked before anything else goes into the pan.

In my case, since I used kielbasa, my meat was already cooked through. I just browned it in the pan with some olive oil for a few minutes, then added 1 diced sweet onion. (Sweet onions are pretty small, so using a whole one shouldn’t be overpowering.)

DSC_1435

Let those sweat on medium-high for about two minutes, then add in 3 cloves of minced garlic and let simmer for one more minute.

Then, keeping the heat fairly high, add in the juice and zest of a large lemon, 3/4 cup of half & half, and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Quickly stir this together so it combines and the cheese starts to melt, and then let it reduce for about two minutes.

DSC_1436

While it’s reducing, add in two teaspoons of fresh cracked pepper, and then salt and basil to taste. (I didn’t need as much salt since I used a cured meat – it’s to your taste!) Once the sauce has thickened, add 1 pint of halved cherry tomatoes. Stir these in and then remove the pan from the heat.

Add the sauce to cooked pasta of your choice, top with more shredded Parmesan, and serve! I used penne pasta for mine.

DSC_1439

I’m of the opinion that anything with a lemon-pepper flair is amazing, but I’m telling you, this pasta is shockingly good! And it’s totally fancy enough to entertain with. 🙂

Full Recipe:

Pasta with Lemon Pepper Parmesan Cream Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 package of kielbasa, cut into coins (or enough of your choice of meat to serve 4)
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup half & half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
Salt & Basil, to taste
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Process:

1) Brown kielbasa with olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Add sweet onion and saute for another two minutes. Finish off with garlic and let simmer for one final minute.

2) Keeping pan over medium-high heat, add juice and zest of the lemon, half & half, and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine and let reduce for about 2 minutes.

3) While sauce is reducing, add pepper, salt, and basil, and stir in.

4) Once sauce has thickened, stir in cherry tomatoes and remove from the heat.

5) Toss a cooked pasta of your choice with the sauce, plate, and top with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Warm Greek Salad with Chicken

I’m pretty convinced that everything good in the world comes from the Mediterranean region. As my loyal readers know, Tuscany is probably my favorite place on the planet, as I illustrated in my most pinned and most popular blog post ever, Tuscan Pasta in Lemon Blush Sauce. (Guys, it’s been pinned 142 times as of today. That’s a LOT for a small town girl like me!)

But I digress.

A place I have yet to visit in the world (but is TOTALLY on my bucket list!) is Greece. Not only is that a country steeped to the bursting in history and rich culture, but their food is known for being natural and wholesome. The Greeks are not at all fans of processed food – most McDonald’s that have tried to open there have ended up closing. Because of this, it’s naturally the ideal kind of cuisine for someone like me.

So, I’m sure a lot of you frequently visit Panera or some other establishment that serves a “Greek Salad.” Usually, it’s mixed greens with some olives, peppers, and feta tossed on top. Now don’t get me wrong – I will tear up a Greek salad from Panera Bread if I’m waiting to meet a client there. But did you know, the classic “Greek” salad actually has no lettuce at all?

Yup, that’s right. It’s a tomato and cucumber based salad, tossed with red onion, green pepper, kalamata olives, and feta cheese, and dressed with an olive oil vinaigrette.

Mouth watering yet? Yeah, mine too.

Read on my for my take on the classic Greek salad – warmed up with sautéed chicken!

DSC_1397text

Mise en place – French for “everything in its place,” or doing all of your prepwork before you start cooking – is so important for this dish! The only thing you have to cook is the chicken, and that goes so fast that you’ll need to have everything else ready beforehand!

So, get yourself your favorite large cutting board (my father made mine for me, crafty gentleman that he is) and prep the following:

One pint cherry tomatoes, halved.

One cucumber, large dice.

One green pepper, small dice.

Half a red onion, small dice.

About 40 (ish) kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped.

Three cloves garlic, minced.

DSC_1394

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Kalamata olives typically come with the pits still in them. To get them out, crush the olive under the side of a chef’s knife (sort of like how you’d smash a clove of garlic to peel it) until it smashes down and the skin breaks, then pull the pit out with your fingers. It’s a little tedious, but once you get a rhythm, it’s not so bad.

Once this is all done, cube two large chicken breasts into bite sized pieces. Put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and once the pan is hot, add the chicken and season liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Toss to coat and let simmer for five minutes or so, tossing occasionally. When it’s just about done, add your minced garlic, toss to combine, and cook for one additional minute.

DSC_1395

While the chicken is cooking, make your dressing by whisking together the zest and juice of one lemon, 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (the really good stuff!), 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. I know it doesn’t look like a lot, but I promise, you only want a light coating of dressing!

Once the dressing is done, add your prepped veggies to a large bowl and pour the dressing overtop. As soon as the chicken/garlic is finished cooking, get it off the heat and immediately into the bowl. Toss it all together so the heat from the chicken warms up the vegetables a bit, and then dish it out and top with crumbled feta cheese!

DSC_1399

We eat with our eyes before we ever taste with our tongues, and I have to say, the colors in this dish make it look SO appetizing – and the flavors packed into it don’t disappoint!

Alternatively, you could of course make this into a vegetarian dish by removing the chicken. (Removing the chicken also turns it into a super awesome side dish, especially for summer!)

Full Recipe:

Warm Greek Salad with Chicken

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, large dice
1 green pepper, small dice
1/2 red onion, small dice
Approx 40 kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large chicken breasts, cubed into bite size pieces
Zest + juice of one lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more for sautéing chicken)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Salt, pepper, oregano, basil, to taste

Process:

1) Prep all vegetables first (tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, and olives), putting them into a large bowl as you finish each one.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Add to vegetables.

3) Cube chicken and add to a heated skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil. Season liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Toss occasionally and allow to cook for about five minutes, or until cooked through. Just before chicken is done, add minced garlic and toss to combine, allowing to cook for one additional minute.

4) Remove chicken from heat and immediately add to the vegetables. Stir to combine. Sprinkle with feta cheese after serving.

Perfect French Toast

Wow! What a year it has been. It’s hard to believe it’s been over 10 months since I last posted. Here’s the obligatory explanation and apology, before we get into the meat of the post:

As you may have read somewhere in my About, my profession is a professional wedding photographer. I own my company, and I have been growing exponentially. (Yay!) I also made the decision to go back to school for my Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and that started up last January (2014). Both of those things by themselves are big time commitments. Both of those things TOGETHER took up nearly all of my free time while I adjusted to dealing with the two coinciding. I let Sweet, Spicy, and Neat tragically fall by the wayside as I determined how to allot my time and remain successful, and for that I deeply apologize.

With that being said, I can’t promise updates as frequently as I was once posting them. However, this little blog was a great source of happiness for me, and I loved reading comments from people who were excited to try the recipes! I will be doing my best to pick it back up with a moderate amount of frequency. You may have to bear with me for a while as I get back into the swing of things, but the best way to encourage continued updates is to FOLLOW and COMMENT and LIKE! 🙂

And now, onto the real reason you’re here!


Folks, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s only a WEEK away! Hopefully you already have your evening plans set in stone with your Valentine, but I’m hoping this post might give you an idea to start that romantic day a little bit earlier! (Hint: No woman ever turned down breakfast in bed…)

Of course, this little gem is good for more than Valentine’s Day. It was written partly out of my sheer exasperation at the plethora of sad, flimsy, flavorless, and otherwise pathetic versions of French Toast I’ve had the misfortune to be exposed to throughout my adult life. Now, I get it. Kids don’t care. Give ’em good ol’ Wonder Bread dipped in eggs and milk, and to them, that’s the breakfast of the gods. My four year old cousin will easily 4 pieces of that all by himself. But we’re all adults here. And darn it, it’s time for some decent, ADULT French Toast.

DSC_1347text

Now, don’t be intimidated. It’s really not hard. It’s just that the devil is in the details here. French toast is a really basic staple breakfast dish. And it’s time we stop insulting it and start giving it the reverence it deserves.

The first step in your journey to French toast nirvana is ditching the Wonder Bread. It practically dissolves in your mouth. It just doesn’t have the stability and stamina to stand up to truly good French toast. Instead, grab yourself a loaf of unsliced Italian bread. You know, the kind your grocery store makes every morning in their bakery. Little tip: usually, a loaf of bread from your grocery store’s bakery is far cheaper than your favorite sliced loaf from the big companies.

DSC_1339

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Make your slices about 1 to 1.5 inches thick, and cut the bread with a long serrated knife.

Since I’m gearing this for Valentine’s Day, this recipe will be set for two people, but it’s very easy to double to make more, if needed. So, cut 4 slices of bread and set them aside. Then, in a shallow dish, whisk up your egg batter.

DSC_1340

This batter is everything. This is a huge part of what makes this French toast so good. Whisk together 3 large eggs, 1/4 cup whole milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp almond extract, and a shot of spiced rum.

Yes, rum. It’s distilled from sugar cane, and then aged and spiced. What part of that DOESN’T sound like it belongs in French Toast?? Bacardi Gold or Captain Morgan are my favorites, but you can use whatever spiced rum you prefer.

So, once your eggs are all broken up and it’s looking pretty consistent (see photo), it’s time to start cooking! Put a griddle pan over medium low heat and melt a 1/2 tablespoon of butter on the pan. Yep, we’re using good old butter. No canola oil or cooking spray here! It’s all about FLAVOR.

Once the pan is heated, soak each piece of bread one at a time in the egg mixture, making sure to let each side really soak up the egg. (Read: don’t just dip it in and move on! Take your time with it. If you get to the end of your four pieces and you still have a lot of egg left, you did it wrong.) Lay each piece in the pan, spacing them accordingly. Now, here’s the really sweet part of the deal: liberally sprinkle the top side of each piece with cinnamon sugar, while the egg is still wet.

DSC_1343

For those of you doubters wondering why there was no cinnamon in the egg batter… this is why. If you put cinnamon loose in the egg mixture, it all floats on top. Consequently, your first piece of French toast is nice and cinnamon-y, and your last piece gets totally shafted. Not so nice!

Since your pan is on a nice medium low, they should cook nice and evenly. Let them stay on the first side for 3-5 minutes, and then flip them over.

DSC_1344

They should be a nice golden brown! Now, here’s where the magic happens. Once you flip them over, that cinnamon sugar caramelizes with the butter on the hot pan and fuses into the egg. Let them cook for another 3 minutes or so, then remove them from the heat and serve them cinnamon side up! If you’re feeling really fancy, slice up a large banana and cover the toast in bananas before drizzling with syrup and sprinkling with powdered sugar.

DSC_1347

There you have it, folks. Doesn’t get any better than that for a lazy Saturday morning breakfast! Also, just a disclaimer: I know I sometimes talk about healthy ways to eat, and I’ve even done some posts where I post nutrition info. However, there are some things in life that just shouldn’t be messed with, unhealthy as they are. French toast is carbs dipped in cholesterol and fat… let’s just let it do its thing, and not try and slim it down!

Full recipe:

Perfect French Toast

Yield: 2 servings (4 pieces)

Total time: 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

Four 1-inch slices good Italian bread
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 shot spiced rum
1/2 tablespoon butter
Cinnamon sugar, to taste
1 large banana, sliced into 1/4 inch coins (optional)
Maple syrup and powdered sugar, for serving.

Process:

1) Whisk up eggs, milk, vanilla extract, almond extract, and rum in a shallow bowl until eggs are well beaten.

2) Melt butter on a griddle over medium low heat. Soak both sides of each piece of bread in the egg mixture and lay on the heated pan.

3) Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of each piece while the egg is still wet. Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

4) Serve cinnamon side up and top with banana, syrup, and powdered sugar. Enjoy immediately. 🙂

Hearty Chicken Stew

In light of the fact that winter is just NOT giving UP, here’s a fabulous cozy winter dish to keep you warm until spring finally decides to arrive! I’m a big fan of any kind of stew, but this one is like if you made chicken pot pie without the crust – it is so thick and hearty and full of goodness.

What makes this even more awesome is that it’s SO cheap. I mean like less than $7 when you break it down – and this feeds 5-6 people. The most expensive part is the chicken – all the vegetables come SUPER cheap in the produce department.

DSC_7351text

The best part is that the whole thing is made in only ONE pot – which means less dishes! Yay!

Start by doing all your prep work – called “mise en place” – you’ll need a cutting board and a good kitchen knife. 😉

Dice: 1/2 an onion, 2 stalks of celery

Peel & Slice: 2 carrots

Cube: 2 red potatoes, 1 large chicken breast

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Do it in THAT order and you should only need ONE cutting board and ONE knife! 🙂

Once this is all completed, put a couple tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. After the oil has heated, add the chicken to the pan and season with salt, pepper, and oregano.

DSC_7343

Allow the chicken to brown, moving it around the pan occasionally to keep it from sticking. This should take about 5 minutes or so. Once it’s browned, remove the chicken and then add the diced onion and celery.

DSC_7344

Sweat the onions and celery until they start to become translucent (about 3-5 minutes), making sure to scrape those brown bits off the bottom of the pot as you go! Once they’ve sweated, remove them from the pan.

Now, here’s where you can cheat a little: to the pan, add 1 can of condensed cream of chicken soup and 2 cups of milk. Stir this until it has all combined, and then add two teaspoons of salt and a teaspoon each of pepper, oregano, and thyme. To give depth, add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and the zest of half a lemon. Stir in all the spices, and then add your previously cooked chicken, onions, and celery, along with the potatoes and carrots. Stir those in, then add 1 cup of frozen peas, 1 cup of frozen corn, and 1 cup of uncooked white rice.

DSC_7346

Cover and cook on LOW for about an hour (maybe even 45 minutes if you need it quick!), returning occasionally to stir. (The rice likes to settle to the bottom, so you’ll have to stir it every so often and scrape the rice off the bottom of the pan.)

After an hour of cooking it should be nice and thick and everything in it should be cooked through. Ladle it out and serve immediately!

DSC_7349

Best part, it just gets thicker and better if you leave it overnight! The starch from the potatoes and rice seeps into the liquid and just keeps thickening it!

Alternatively, you could do this in a crock pot by adding the soup and milk first and stirring until smooth, and then putting in everything (raw) at once and leaving it on low for about 4-5 hours or so. But I like this quicker version better. 😉 After you spent a few minutes prepping and browning, you can essentially busy yourself with something else for the hour that it’s cooking on the stove as long as it doesn’t take you too far from the kitchen. If you’re home from work at 5:00, you could theoretically have this on the table by 6:30!

Full Recipe:

Hearty Chicken Stew

Yield: 5-6 servings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of oil
1 large chicken breast, cubed ($2)
1/2 onion, diced ($0.20)
2 stalks celery, diced ( ($0.25)
1 can cream of chicken soup ($1)
2 cups milk ($0.50)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into medallions ($0.16)
2 red potatoes, cubed ($0.80)
1 cup frozen corn ($0.50)
1 cup frozen peas ($0.50)
1 cup uncooked white rice ($0.10)
Salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, cayenne (negligible)
Zest of 1/2 a lemon ($0.25) – because you can still use the lemon for something else.

(Total cost, if you buy in bulk and fraction it out: $6.26. That’s $1.05 per person!!)

Process:

1) Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add chicken, season with salt, pepper, and oregano, and stir occasionally until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan.

2) Add onions and celery to pan. Stir, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Once onions and celery start to become translucent, remove from pan.

3) Pour in can of cream of chicken soup and 2 cups milk. Stir until smooth and combined, then add 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp each pepper, oregano, and thyme, 1/2 tsp of cayenne and the zest of 1/2 a lemon. Stir to combine.

4) Add previously cooked chicken, onions and celery, along with the potatoes, carrots, corn, peas, and rice. Stir until well distributed, cover, and cook on low for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to ensure rice doesn’t stick to bottom of pan.

5) After simmering for 1 hour, give it a final stir to ensure it has thickened properly and then ladle into shallow bowls and serve immediately.

Louisiana-Style Smoked Sausage and Rice

Louisiana is a slice of America that is truly unique compared to all the rest. With heavy influences from France and Spain, along with Africa, Italy, and Germany, it is quite likely the quintessential “melting pot” location of America. As such, their culture – especially their food – is rich and varied.

Gumbo is one of the more popular and well known dishes that originated in Louisiana, but gumbo is more of a brothy stew and typically cooks all day. So, when I got a craving for some real Louisiana flavors and it was already dinner time, I obviously didn’t have the time to create a slow-cooking, savory gumbo. So, I improvised, and incorporated some of the most classic Louisiana flavors into a hearty rice dish that is sure to satisfy the southerner in anyone!

DSC_7282text

Start by putting 1/2 cup wild grain rice, a heavy 1 cup of water, 1 tsp olive oil, and 1 tsp salt into a medium saucepan. Bring this to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until the water is mostly gone. While the rice is cooking, you can make the rest of the dish.

Slice up about 8-10 inches of your preferred type of smoked sausage. (As I’ve mentioned before, my favorite is kielbasa.) Heat up 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and then add the sausage to it, tossing to coat in the olive oil. Allow the sausage to brown for a few minutes, tossing occasionally, and then add 1/2 of a green pepper (or red, yellow, or orange – your preference!) diced, and 1/2 of an onion diced, to the pan. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme.

DSC_7277

Toss to combine and then cover and allow to simmer for a few more minutes. When the onions and peppers have gotten soft, add 2 cloves of garlic (minced) to the pan, toss to combine, and allow to cook for another minute or two, then remove from the heat.

DSC_7278

Once the water is just about gone from your rice, add another sprinkle of salt, then add pepper, cilantro, and cayenne. (The more cayenne you add, the hotter it will be! I like 1/4 tsp for a nice kick.) Finish it off by stirring in 1 cup of your favorite salsa (or regular diced tomatoes) and allow it to reduce down for a few more minutes.

DSC_7279

Combine your rice with the sausage and vegetables and serve immediately!

DSC_7286

Ta-da, fabulous Louisiana flavors in under 30 minutes!

Full Recipe:

Louisiana-Style Smoked Sausage and Rice

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
1 heavy cup water
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 cup salsa or diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cilantro
1/4 tsp cayenne

8-10 inches smoked sausage, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 green (or red, orange, or yellow) pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, pepper, thyme, to taste

Process:

1) Combine rice, water, 1 tsp olive oil, and 1 tsp salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes, or until water is almost gone.

2) Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, then add sliced sausage and toss to coat in olive oil. Brown sausage for 2-3 minutes, tossing occasionally, then add onion and pepper to the pan. Toss to combine, cover, and let simmer for another 3-5 minutes.

3) Uncover skillet and add minced garlic, tossing to combine, and cook for another 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.

4) When rice has almost finished cooking, add 1 cup of salsa or diced tomatoes along with 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp cilantro, and 1/4 tsp cayenne. Stir to combine and reduce for 3-5 minutes.

5) Combine your rice with sausage and vegetables and serve immediately.