Pining for NOLA….

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God, I wish I was in New Orleans right now.

I love that city.

I visited for the first time in October of 2012, and was back in January of 2013. I dragged Jimmie with me that second time, and ever since, I’ve been dying to go back. It rained the entire second trip…a real downer…and it was cold. And I was working, which was a bit of a drag. (Actually I was working both times and it really wasn’t an issue, but I’d like to go back when I’m NOT working.)

The middle of the night, on our way down to NOLA

The middle of the night, on our way down to NOLA

Sigh.

I actually thought about going for New Year’s Eve, and then I thought about going for Mardi Gras, and then I thought about going for St. Patrick’s Day. Just wasn’t in the cards, for multiple reasons. Now I’m thinking maybe Halloween would be a good time.

I’m actually craving it.

The muffuletta from Corner Grocery. Swamp Lily at Maison Bourbon. Red beans and rice at Mother’s. Fish Tacos at Lucy’s. Everything at Mulate’s. Beignets at Cafe Beignet (MUCH better and less crowded than Cafe Du Monde). And all the places I didn’t get to eat (sadly, I never got to try a Po’Boy, as I was only free in the evenings and all the best places were closed).

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Gahhhh I’m dying.

And that’s just the food. That’s to say nothing of the people watching, the music, the art, the history, the architecture, the streets, and yes…the fact that you can walk around drinking all day. Can’t forget that.

I’ve got to stop.

But seriously, it’s only 9 hours from me. Why am I not planning a trip RIGHT NOW???

Since I can’t be there for Mardi Gras, I thought the next best thing would be to make myself some NOLA-style food. So I decided to make Red Beans and Rice. I’ve been craving it for a while, it’s easy, and it was easily my favorite thing to eat there. Yum.

Problem is, I don’t have a lot of time or energy to devote to elaborate cooking. I also didn’t want to make it super unhealthy, and I’ve been wanting to try using dried beans. Plus we have a giant bag of long-grain rice in the pantry. So I thought….CROCKPOT!!!

I knew I had to soak the beans, so after a call to my mother to find out just what exactly I was supposed to be looking for when I sorted them, I put the beans in some water and let them soak overnight. Easy enough. Then I spent an hour looking for a recipe. 

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Do you know how hard it is to find a crockpot recipe that A) doesn’t call for canned beans, B) doesn’t call for cooked rice, and C) doesn’t tell you to cook the beans first? I mean, seriously, what’s the point of the crockpot – sorry, I should be calling it a slow cooker – what’s the point of the crockpot if you have to cook the damn things first???????

Am I the only one who sees this as a problem???

Mom thought I could just put everything in the crockpot together, turn it on low, and let it sit all day. I’m really glad I didn’t take her advice. I was worried about the rice…and after reading for a while, I finally found an article that explained to my confused brain that crockpots are moisture factories. And rice in a moisture factory for more than an hour or two turns into glue.

I finally settled on cooking the beans in the crockpot during the day, then coming home and making the rice on its own. I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to do it all in one giant pot. So this morning, that’s what I did.

And then about 3:00 I panicked, and couldn’t remember if I’d turned the crockpot on, and if I had, if I’d turned it on low or on high. All of a sudden I had visions of burning my house down with my darlings inside, and I couldn’t handle it. I needed to go home, NOW.

My boss is awesome, by the way. He totally let me go. (I worked from home the rest of the day, so don’t think I skipped out.)

I’d turned it on low. Crisis averted.

On the plus side, I now know that ADT and several other companies offer alarm systems that include fire monitoring. I’m seriously going to be looking into it, because that terrifies me…the thought that something would happen and our babies couldn’t get out. I’m also going to talk to Jimmie about putting in a dog door…of course, that won’t help Luka, who has to be crated, but maybe we can work on getting him to where he doesn’t need the crate. Anyway, sorry to be a downer.

Back to the food.

The beans were cooking pretty well when I got home. I never found a recipe I liked – so I just made the ingredients up. I added smoked sausage and some onion, and after thinking about it for a half second, dumped the rice in. I had no clue whether it would work or not, but I figured if it didn’t I could make a sandwich.

IT WORKED.

Oh my god it worked. And it was amazing, so I’m sharing it with you. Be warned – this makes a ton. Next time I’d probably half the recipe, but at least now I have tons of leftovers. And the best part? I was all prepared to feel guilty about indulging myself, but when I put it into the SparkPeople Recipe Calculator, it’s surprisingly not as horrible as I thought it’d be.

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Slow-Cooker Red Beans and Rice

  • 1 pound dried kidney beans
  • 2 cups uncooked long grain white rice
  • 1 pound smoked sausage
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 3 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 tsp Creole seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic and peppercorn seasoning

I know, you think I’m nuts about the Worcestershire. But I put everything else in, and I was looking at it, and I decided to taste it…and it was boring. And all of a sudden, I’m like…Worcestershire! And believe me, it was the right decision.

Oh, and if I’d had my garlic press that I just ordered from Pampered Chef, I’d have put minced garlic in there too. But I didn’t have it. And funny how I never needed it until I ordered it, and then in the 4 days its taking to get here I’ve needed it 3 times.

Back to the food. Right. 

Day 1: Sort the beans. You’re looking for stones (I actually found one!), broken beans, shells, or beans that just look “wrong.” Don’t worry, when you see them you’ll know. Then soak them overnight. Make sure you have plenty of water, because the beans are going to at least double in size. (I know there are ways to get around the overnight soak, but really? That’s the easiest method ever. Just dump in water and go to bed.)

Day 2: Drain your nice fluffy beans. DO NOT KEEP THE WATER. Apparently kidney beans give off some toxic gas, and you don’t want that anywhere but down your drain. About that gas…almost all the recipes I read said to cook your beans for at least 10 minutes on the stove because of this toxic gas.

Yeah, I didn’t do that. And I’m fine. Your call.

So you’ve drained your beans. Put them in the crockpot with 7 cups of water. Turn on low, and let it cook for about 7 hours (or however long until you get home – they’ll just be softer than mine were).

Then, put all the other ingredients, INCLUDING THE UNCOOKED RICE, into the crockpot, and turn it up to high. Cook for 1-2 hours, checking every 30 minutes or so, until the rice is done as much as you want.

Now, I mentioned the moisture factory thing. While I was eating, I turned the crockpot off, and just left everything in there. The rice on the bottom got a bit gummy. My suspicion is you could easily turn the thing off after 30-45 minutes, and just let the residual heat cook the rice the rest of the way. Next time I make it, I’m going to try that, and I might also try adding a little more water when I put the rice in (maybe a cup). It was just a smidge drier than I’d have liked.

That’s it – super easy. Super yummy.

This makes a ton. But you don’t need to eat a ton all at once, so you’ll have meals for days. And yes, it’s going to make a mess in your crockpot. Here’s a tip – after you’ve transferred it all over to Tupperware, fill your crock with water and turn it back on for a couple hours. The water and the heat will soften all the gunk, and it’ll wash right out. Easy.

I know you don’t believe me that this isn’t THAT bad for you, but look:

beans and riceYeah, it’s really freakin’ high in sodium and fat. That’s the sausage, so if you used turkey sausage (which I didn’t) it’ll be better. The bouillon is probably killing the sodium too. So make some changes to that, it’d be easy enough to do…in fact, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

The serving size is 1 cup. I ate 1.5, and a small salad, and I was stuffed.

ENJOY!!!

3 comments

  1. So another place I love. Also, around December is also a great time to go apparently, as there are free concerts almost every night. I don’t want to do one of the crazy festivals there (ie. Mardi Gras) but if you ever wanted to meet up another time, I bet I could talk Dave into it. We went for our 20th anniversary and are dying to go back. 😉

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