Now that the weather is turning cooler, I can’t stop thinking about big hearty dinners. You know, the kind that feel like they stick to your bones and make you feel satisfied from head to toe. I’m talking big pots of stew and chili – my favorite winter foods.
This year, I decided to kick off fall with something just as bold, but a little more fun. Why shouldn’t red beans and rice be part of this list of robust meals? It’s as big and bad as they are, and maybe even more delicious.
I, as usual, make a few adjustments to a traditional recipe to boost the nutrition, save the calories, and let myself enjoy a piping-hot bowl guilt free.
Cooking from scratch is a thrill for me; I don’t mind the extra steps. So I start with dry kidney beans and soak them overnight. I’m old school like that.
When it’s time to cook, I love the way my house just fills with all these big aromas from the onions, garlic, bell peppers, and celery sautéing in olive oil (definitely not butter). The beans simmer for a few hours in a stock of cayenne pepper, dried herbs like sage, thyme, and parsley, and, of course, a Cajun seasoning blend. Honestly, it’s almost too much. It smells so good!
About 30 minutes before the beans are finished I start the rice. Long grain or brown rice, depending on which I have available. Either work very well and are so much more nutritious than that sticky ‘ole white rice.
Finally, I bypass the traditional andouille sausage for tender pieces of turkey kielbasa, a leaner meat with wonderful flavor. I also give this dish a gumbo treatment and add plump shrimp (sautéed with the sausage and a little more Cajun seasoning for flavor).
When the beans, rice, sausage and shrimp are individually done, it’s time to fold them all together. What you get is a wonderfully warm, thick, comfortably spicy dish that holds up to weeknight dinners, camping, tailgating, and potlucks.
It’s so good that some might say they’d want to slap their mama. I, as a mother, do not recommend this. Slap yourself if you need to, but I’m telling you, it’s good enough to slap something!
– 1 pound dry kidney beans
– 2 Tbsp. olive oil
– 1 yellow onion, chopped
– 1 green bell pepper, chopped
– 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
– 4 celery stalks, chopped
– 6 cups water
– 2 bay leaves
– 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
– 1 tsp. dried thyme
– 1 tsp. dried sage
– 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
– 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
– 1 lb. turkey kielbasa sausage
– 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 4 cups water
– 2 cups brown or wild rice
1. Rinse beans, and then soak in a large pot of water overnight.
2. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Combine and cook onion, bell pepper, garlic, and celery for 3 to 4 minutes, until they start to soften.
3. Drain beans from soaking and transfer to a large pot with 6 cups water. Combine sautéed vegetables with the beans. Add all spices. Bring pot to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer (covered) for 2.5 hours.
4. 30 minutes before the beans are finished, slice the turkey sausage and peel and clean the shrimp. Add these to a hot skillet with a dash of Cajun seasoning and cook until the shrimp turns pink and the turkey slightly blackens (you can grill these as well).
5. At this time, also prepare the rice according to package instructions.
6. When the beans, rice, shrimp and turkey are finished, combine all ingredients together. Serve immediately with hot sauce, if desired.
Preparation Note: This recipe makes a very large batch, which is great for a crowd. If you’re feeding a few people or a small family, this recipe easily freezes for fast prep later on. Before combining everything, divide the beans in to freezer-safe containers. In the future, you only need to prepare fresh sausage, shrimp, rice and stir together for a 30 minute meal! Because of the freezer, I had this on the table in 30 minutes on a weeknight after work!
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Recipe by Brandi Koskie; images by Kacy Meinecke Photography for DietsInReview.com