Italian Sausage and Peppers

Sausage and Peppers, one of the top game-day or large gathering meals, combines all aspects of what many of us Americans crave. Being from a family that is part Sicilian, Italian food was what we ate on a regular basis. So, I undoubtedly love Italian or Italian-American food. If you aren't like me than you still probably love this style of cooking as many Americans do. Sausage and peppers is like a deconstructed pizza, and anything that tastes like or reminds me of pizza is going to be good. Intense tomato flavor, rich and spicy Italian sausage and tangy, sweet peppers comes together in this crowd-pleasing staple of the home-cook.

Being a budget-friendly meal with minimum labor required, makes sausage and peppers a simple go-to meal for a casual gathering giving you, the host, plenty of time to be with your friends and family not fussing over a stove. Bang this dish together in the crock pot in 30 minutes in the mid-morning and by afternoon you will have yourself a winning dish. When guests arrive, put out a simple spread of cheese, crackers, veggies and dip. Buy the vegetables pre-cut and a pre-made dip to make things even easier on yourself. Sometimes, you just want to kick back with your friends and not be stuck in the kitchen all night. Check out this solution for a delicious, stress-free meal.

Lizzy M.'s Sausage and Peppers

1/2 lb Mild Italian sausage, cut into large pieces
1/2 lb Hot Italian sausage
4 Bell peppers, largely diced (red, yellow, orange or green or any combination)

Lizzy M.'s Tomato Sauce

Drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil for sauteing
Dash Crushed red pepper
1/2 Large yellow onion diced
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 Tsp Thyme
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2 Garlic cloves grated or minced
1/2 Cup Dry red wine
1 Tbsp sugar
1-16 oz can crushed red tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to taste


Start by preparing the tomato sauce. In a large pot over medium to high heat add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of crushed red pepper. Add the chopped onions and all chopped peppers to the heated pot and stir to coat thoroughly in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon of both oregano and Italian seasoning as well as 1 teaspoon of thyme. Stir well and saute the mixture for 5 minutes. With a microplane grate 2 garlic cloves over the saucepan or just mince the garlic and transfer to the pot. Mix well and let the garlic cook for just a minute before adding the tomato paste. Again mix the paste well into the pan and cook for a minute. Add the dry red wine and sugar at this point. Stir as ingredients incorporate and lastly add the crushed tomatoes.

Once the sauce is heated throu
gh add the sausage. Cover and simmer on low heat for at least an hour. This dish can sit on low heat on the stove for a few hours or as long as your party or dinner lasts. You can also prepare this dish in a crock pot and let sit on low for many hours. You and your guests can indulge in this meal by itself or piled onto a club roll with yummy provolone or mozzarella cheese.

Entertaining your friends and family does not have to be difficult. Plan a simple main dish like this one and you will have all day or night to spend quality time with your guests.


Get Back Into Your Roots.

Get back into your roots-root vegetables that is
. With the fall season into full swing heading rapidly into winter, I have cravings for those all-American, slow-cooked cooked meals filled with simple, classic root vegetables. Some of my favorite root vegetables include turnips, rutabaga, and carrots. Turnips, a bittersweet vegetable high in Vitamin C and K, are similar to rutabaga, a vegetable that began as a cross between turnips and cabbage. A sweeter flavor comes from the rutabaga with an almost identical texture to the turnip but it is slightly more colorful than the almost white turnip. My most favorite of root vegetables is the carrot. Carrots, filled with Vitamin A and beta carotene, are sweet enough to be a treat and get richer and sweeter the longer they are cooked.

In this dish, I also add Bruss
els sprouts, which are not a root vegetable, but I like the bright green color in the mix with the orange and yellow colors, as well as the flavor and texture of the sprout along with the sweetness of the root vegetables. Brussels sprouts, a member of the cabbage family, are densely packed with vitamins, especially Vitamin C. These flavorful vegetables get a bad rap but I encourage you to forget all that you have heard and just give the Brussels sprouts a chance. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

This perfect fall weeknight meal is simple, comforting and nutritious, and all cooked in just one pot. After finding that I still had a gift card to Williams-Sonoma, I picked out a 2-1/2 quart red Le Creuset cast iron enameled pot. I christened this pot with this meal. This kind of pot or dutch oven is the ideal vessel for this dinner but if you don't have that then any kind of covered baking dish will work as well.

Lizzy M.'s Chicken with Roots and Sprouts

Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
Dash of crushed red pepper
1 cup turnips, largely dic
1 cup rutabaga, largely dic
1 cup carrots, largely diced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp Thyme

2 dried bay leaves
1/4 tsp grated nutm
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 cup Brussels sprouts, each cut in half (remove stem from the bottom)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock or broth
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (For a generous portion use 1 chicken breast per person, and for smaller portions use 1 chicken breast for 2 people.)
2-3 green onions, diced for garnish


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large dutch oven pot, heat a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil with a dash of crushed red pepper on medium to high heat. Once heated, add the chopped onions, turnips, rutabaga, and carrots. Stir well to coat in the olive oil. Season the vegetables while sauteing with salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves and nutmeg. Stir well, cover and cook for 7-10 minutes. Next, add the grated garlic and Brussels sprouts. Cook for 2 minutes before adding the Dijon mustard, white wine and chicken broth. Let the mixture cook for another 2 minutes. Finally, salt and pepper the chicken breasts and rest them on top of the vegetable mixture. Push the chicken down a bit, so some vegetables and liquid are covering the chicken.

Cover the oven-safe pot and transfer to the oven. Bake the chicken and vegetables for 20-30 minutes. You may need more cooking time depending upon how many chicken breasts you are cooking. For one or two, 20 minutes should be plenty of time. When ready spoon out a portion of vegetables and chicken into a bowl and garnish with green onion. Serve this healthy chicken dish with rice or orzo pasta.

Don't be afraid to try vegetables that you don't normally use. Exposing yourself and your families to all different kinds of vegetables is the best way to have a family of vegetable-eaters. If you start trying different foods at a young age, you are more likely to be more of an adventurous eater and cook. And if you are a parent, don't limit your kids to only the things you like. Give them the opportunity to try everything, and let them decide for themselves.


New Ideas for Holiday Vegetable Dishes

At Thanksgiving, we tend to stick to the classics for our side dishes like green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. These side dishes are expected at the table for a Thanksgiving dinner but it doesn't hurt to excite your guests with a new, unexpected side dish, especially a healthy vegetable option. Most holiday vegetables are drenched in butter, cheese, or cream of mushroom soup, so how about offering something a bit cleaner and healthier to offset those rich, calorie-overloaded dishes. Try any of these vegetable recipes to give your guest something out of the ordinary.

1. Parmesan Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

1 bunch of broccoli, separated into bite sized spears

1 head of cauliflower, separated into bite sized spears

3 garlic cloves, sliced

Extra virgin olive oil (ap

proximately 1/4 cup)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs-larger than traditional bread crumbs)

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Toss the broccoli and cauliflower spears in a virgin olive oil, sea salt, freshly gro

und black pepper, sliced garlic, 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs, and a 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Roast in the oven for 30 m

inutes at 350 degrees on a large baking sheet.

2. Acorn Squash with Orange Marmalade (This recipe is a spin on my mother's acorn squash.)

2-3 acorn squash, each squash cut into 4 pieces with the seeds removed (Portion 1-2 servings for each guest)

3 tbsp salted butter

1/3 cup Orange Marmalade

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg, fresh grated

1/8 tsp allspice

Fresh Orange Zest

Carefully cut each acorn squash into four equal segments. Remove the seeds from the center. In a bowl, combine the butter, marmalade and spices. Place the squash on a large baking sheet or glass casserole pan and spray with cooking spray. Spoon the marmalade mixture on top of each squash segment. With a zester, micro-plane, or grater, zest a small amount of fresh orange peel. Use only the dark orange-colored skin from a cleaned orange. Don't zest so hard that you get down to the white part of the orange just the very outer skin.

Bake the acorn squash at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, until the squash is tender all the way through.

3. Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic with Torn Basil

1 lb cherry tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, slices

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh torn basil

Place the cherry tomatoes and garlic on a large baking sheet. Toss the tomatoes and garlic in olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve in a large bowl topped with fresh torn basil.

4. Simple Swiss chard

1-2 large bunches of Swiss chard (Rainbow variety for the most colorful), washed and largely chopped

1 large red onion, cut in half and make long slices

2 garlic cloves, grated or minced

Extra virgin olive oil

Dash of crushed red pepper

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large sauté pan, heat a liberal drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of crushed red pepper. Add the sliced red onion, salt and pepper to the hot pan. Sauté until slightly caramelized (when the onions get a slight caramel color and have cooked down). Next add in half of the Swiss chard and season with a dash of salt and pepper. Using tongs, move the chard around and incorporate with the onions and olive oil. Once cooked down a bit about 2-3 minutes, then add the remaining Swiss chard and the garlic. Sauté the chard for another 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

5. Root Vegetable Roast

2 cups turnips, peeled and largely diced into cubes (about 2-3 turnips)

2 cups rutabaga, peeled and largely diced into cubes (about 3-4 rutabaga)

2 cups carrots, cut into large slices

1 large Vidalia or yellow onion, largely diced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Extra virgin olive oil (approximately a 1/4 cup)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sprig of thyme

2 dried bay leaves

In a large roasting or casserole dish, combine all ingredients with the olive oil. Place the thyme sprig on the top of the dish. Push the bay leaves down into the vegetables. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove the thyme sprig and the bay leaves. Serve hot.

6. Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

16 oz. Brussels sprouts, each cut in half (trim off the bottom of the sprout and any dirty outer leaves)

1/4-1/3 lb of pancetta, diced

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

On a large baking sheet, toss all ingredients well. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes.

7. Gorgonzola Cauliflower Mash

1 large cauliflower head, cored

3 cups chicken stock or broth

1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese

1/4 cup light sour cream or plain yogurt

1 tbsp granulated garlic

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, add the chicken stock and the head of cauliflower, core side down. Cover and bring to a boil, boil until the cauliflower is fork tender, approximately 15-20 minutes. Drain the stock from the pot into a colander that is placed inside of a large bowl. This way you can save the stock to add back to the cauliflower but you have control over how much.

Place the cauliflower back into the large pot, ladle in the desired amount of chicken stock (usually about 1-1 1/2 cups). Mash the cauliflower until the cauliflower almost looked like mashed potatoes. Add the Gorgonzola cheese, sour cream, garlic, salt and pepper.

8. Roasted Beets with Feta and Pine Nuts

1 lb beets, cleaned with stems removed

Extra virgin olive oil

1 cup feta cheese

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (toast stove top in a dry pan for about 6-8 minutes)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 green onions, diced

On a large baking sheet, toss the beets (skin-on) with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Roast the beets in the oven at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the beets are tender. Remove from oven and let the beets cool down. Rub each beet gently with a kitchen towel to remove the skins. Once all skins are removed, slice the beets in half and then cut large slices. Toss the beet slices with feta cheese, toasted pine nuts, and green onion. Also, add more olive oil, salt and pepper if needed. Serve at room temperature.

9. Fennel with Baby Spinach and Romano Cheese

3-4 large fennel bulbs, cut each bulb in half and thinly slice each half (Remove the long stalks and feathery green ends. When each bulb is cut in half, remove the tough core.)

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups baby spinach

1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated

On a large baking sheet, toss the sliced fennel well with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. After 15 minutes in the oven, toss the fennel around with tongs. After 30 minutes, the fennel should be tender and caramelized.

Transfer the roasted fennel into a large bowl adding the spinach and Pecorino Romano cheese. Toss well and serve.

10. Sautéed Seasonal Mushrooms with Herbs

1 lb seasonal mushrooms (Wipe off any dirt with a dry kitchen towel. Cut only the larger mushrooms in half.)

Extra virgin olive oil

Splash of dry white wine

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp Sage, chopped

2 tbsp Parsley, chopped

2 tbsp Chives, chopped

In a large sauté pan, add a liberal drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on medium to high heat. Add all of the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Next, add the white wine, salt and pepper. Sauté for another 5-7 minutes. In a bowl, add the mushrooms and herbs, and toss well.

Offer any of these simple and delicious side dishes for any holiday meal to bring something new to your guests' plates.


Eggplant Chips and Pepper Strips

After another shopping trip to my local produce market, I find myself wondering what to do with all of this produce in the fridge before it goes to waste. Instead of the usual movie night snack of popcorn or my favorite appetizer, toasted chickpeas, I tried something new with the abundance of eggplant and red peppers I had in my kitchen. With the idea of making a snack-friendly finger food, I decided to lightly bread thin slices of eggplant and long strips of red pepper. Trying to keep this appetizer on the healthier side, I dunked the vegetables in egg whites before dredging them in a mixture of Panko bread crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs-what Tempura is made from), Italian bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese. Of course deep-frying or pan frying seems like the obvious choice for the best tasting outcome, however my decision to bake the vegetables turned out to be light, crispy and flavorful.

Lizzy M.'s Eggplant Chips and Pepper Strips

1 large eggplant, skin on, thinly sliced into half moons
2-3 large red bell peppers (any color bell pepper will work)
1 cup egg whites
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp granulated garlic
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Prep the eggplant by trimming off the stem, and cutting the eggplant in half lengthwise. Next, slice each half into thin half moons. For the red peppers, remove the stem and seeds. With a vegetable peeler or microplane, peel or grate off a few areas on the slick outer part of the pepper. This will help the egg whites and breading to stick better onto the pepper's surface. Then cut the red peppers into long strips. In a medium sized bowl, add the egg white and in another bowl add the Panko, bread crumbs, Parmesan and seasonings. Mix the bread crumbs, cheese, and seasonings well.

Coat each eggplant "chip" and red pepper strip in the egg whites and dredge in the bread crumb mixture. It is easiest, to coat one vegetable at a time. Once each is done, place on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Before placing in the oven, spray the top of the vegetables with cooking spray. Doing this will help in crisping up the top of the eggplant and peppers. Bake for 15 minutes. Flip each vegetable over, spray again with cooking spray and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes or until desired crispness is achieved.

Serve this yummy dish as a snack with Marinara sauce for a game day party, a holiday gathering or movie night. In the place of a fat-filled eggplant parmiggiano, serve these lightly breaded vegetables as the main course alongside pasta with sauce. The name alone, Eggplant Chips and Pepper Strips, seems pretty kid-friendly. Kids can pick these up easily with their hands, dip them in something (kids love to dip), and get some nutritious vegetables in their diets all at the same time.

Enjoy eating more vegetables!

The French Market: America's Oldest City Market

During my last trip back home to New Orleans, I spent the day shopping and walking through the French Market. Since I had last visited the market, major renovations have been completed. Growing up in New Orleans, I have such fond memories of the French Market. As
a child, I recall many

impromptu trips across the Crescent City Connection (Mississippi River Bridge) when relatives were in town. It was always later in the evening when my parents, aunts and uncles were ready for a change o
f scenery after much laughter and conversation. My sister, cousins, and I would be busy giggling and playing board games when one of the adults announced that we would be going to Cafe du Monde. This occasion was such an exciting adventure and treat for us kids, going out later than usual and getting to eat sugary-sweet, hot beignets! When I was in high school, going to the French Market was a cool place to go shopping for sunglasses, jewelry or purses with friends. The morning after my wedding, many of my family members and friends met at Cafe du Monde for coffee and beignets, sharing stories from the beautiful French Quarter wedding the previous evening. And now, being at the French Market, I appreciate it more than ever, as it is filled happy memories but also because this market has been through quite a lot in its 200 years of existence from wars and fires to hurricanes and floods.

ing in the same location since 1791, The New Orleans French Market originally began as a Native American Trading Post. The market was and is conveniently located just steps from the mighty Mississippi River making it an ideal site to trade and sell goods. Following the Louisiana Purchase, the port and market boomed as it was opened to traders worldwide. A melting pot of cultures and ethnicities poured into the city and the market alike. French, Spanish, Italian, Sicilian, African, Dutch, German, Irish, Cajun, and Creole are just a few examples of the variety of vendors that came to sell their goods in the French Market settling in this port city to feed their families fresh off the boat. You can imagine why New Orleans boasts a culture unlike any other American city with its influences from all over the world. You can see this not only in the architecture, music and cuisine but most importantly in the people. People of New Orleans are proud, loud, and light-hearted. Mostly proud of their roots, their New Orleans roots and the roots of their ancestors, New Orleanians are truly in touch with their heritage celebrating the culture of their ancestors through stories, recipes, and photographs. My roots in New Orleans come from my Sicilian ancestors, without their brave journey to the port of New Orleans, the Macaluso Family would never have evolved into what it is now.

Going to the French Market is an event filled with lively characters, musicians, artists and culinary delights. As you walk along the open-air colonnade past the French Market's oldest tenant, Cafe du Monde, you will find a series of stalls selling food, spices, and produce. Racks of Cajun spices and hot sauces fill the shops within the market. Zapp's chips, Louisiana-made chips kettle-cooked in peanut oil, line the shelves here with flavors like Cajun Crawtators and Cajun Dill Gatortators. Sweet treats are readily available such as Aunt Sally's delicious pralines, a French confection made from sugar and pecans.

After the long stroll throug
h the food portion of the market, you come to the Flea market where merchant booths sell anything from jewelry and New Orleans knickknacks to voodoo dolls and bedazzled alligator heads. As I walked through, I came across a booth selling granite tile coasters with photos of well-known New Orleans restaurants, bars, and stores from Milk Studio (milkstudio.com). The artistic team Mindy Kleinke and her boyfriend utilize old photos, menus, and newspaper or magazine clippings to create their one-of-a-kind New Orleans coasters and magnets. I immediately knew that would be the perfect New Orleans item to bring back to my Philadelphia apartment. I bought four coasters, each boasting places that both my husband and I love and have frequented during our days in New Orleans, Camellia Grill, Franky and Johnny's, Maple Leaf Bar, and Tipitina's.

With souvenirs in hand, my
trip to the French Market was complete. Musicians and artists surrounded the market entertaining everyone that passed. An artist drawing a fleur-de-lys on a large pumpkin was working diligently. A random swing dance contest took place just outside the market with couples of every age showing off their talents. People were smiling, laughing and being friendly. I guess they were happy because they knew they were in the heart one of the greatest cities in the world, and certainly my favorite place.


Gorgonzola Cauliflower Mash

Carbohydrates can destroy any healthy diet. We think we are eating so healthily but are still consuming too many carbs. I have tried to find foods that are satisfying replacements for those carb dishes that I love so much. Spaghetti Squash is my favorite carb replacement and my other favorite is cauliflower. The biggest carb-heavy Thanksgiving dish, besides stuffing and bread itself, would have to be mashed potatoes. Now, most people allow themselves to have these dishes during the holidays, but if you are really trying not to spoil your healthy diet this year, then try out this carb-free indulgence.

Lizzy M.'s Gorgonzola Cauliflower Mash

1 large head of cauliflower, stem trimmed and cored
3 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup light sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tbsp granulated garlic
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper


Add 3 cups of chicken stock to a large pot as well as the entire head of cauliflower. Make sure to remove all of the stem from the cauliflower and carve out the bottom center, which is the core of the vegetable. Place the core side down into the pot, bring to a boil and cover. Steam the cauliflower until it falls a part with a touch. Once that happens, remove from the heat. Drain the cauliflower into a colander that is placed inside a large bowl. This way you can save the chicken stock to add back to the cauliflower but this way you have control over how much.

Place the drained cauliflower h
ead back into the pot and start mashing away. Add a couple of ladles of the chicken stock, the Gorgonzola cheese, sour cream, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Serve with roasted turkey at Thanksgiving or serve this creamy, satisfying side dish with meatloaf, chicken or any time you have the urge to make mashed potatoes. I served my cauliflower with mozzarella stuffed Italian meatloaf and steamed broccoli. You will love the strong rich flavor of the Gorgonzola mixed the mashed cauliflower. Another pro to this side dish is that is simple to make and takes much less time than peeling potatoes. It is amazing how similar the mashed cauliflower looks to the mashed potatoes. Enjoy this figure-friendly, tasty dish today.


Cooking with Beets

Want to try cooking with beets but you aren’t quite sure where to start? Fear not, cooking with beets is simple and easy with the only set back being that your hands or dishtowel might turn red. Beets are a bright, tasty vegetable to include in any healthy diet. Said to reduce blood pressure, beets provide high fiber and are a good source of Vitamin C, Magnesium, and Iron. Incorporating new vegetables in your home cooking can expose your family to something they may have never known they liked. This beautiful deep red, almost magenta, root vegetable is a vibrant alternative to the usual broccoli or carrot side dish.

The easiest way to prepare fresh beets is to roast them. After trimming off the greens and cleaning the beets well, toss the beets in a drizzle of Extra Virgin olive oil. Place the beets on a large pan, and roast in the oven at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the beets are fork tender. When the beets are ready, allow them to cool a bit before removing the skins. With a towel, rub the outside of the beets to peel off the skins, which should fall off quite easily. Your towel will turn a shade of red, so make sure it isn’t your best kitchen towel.

At this point, you can prepare the beets any way you like.
You can simply serve them with salt and pepper and call it a day. To turn the beets into something really special try adding a few or all of these elements. Cut the beets in half and then make fairly thin slices of the vegetable. Lightly toast a quarter cup of pine nuts in a pan. Toss the beets with the toasted pine nuts, a handful of crumbled feta cheese, baby spinach leaves, diced green onion, and torn basil leaves. Add a small drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve this nutritious, stunning side dish along side a sliced flank steak, grilled chicken or fish. Make a large batch, so you can have plenty of leftovers to serve with sandwiches or soups throughout the week. This will assure that your family is getting plenty of vegetables through the busy week. Try this recipe today, and bring something new to your dinner table.


Red Beans n' Rice: New Orleans' Monday Tradition

Monday is here and that means Red Beans and Rice! Well that's what Monday means for this New Orleans girl and many New Orleanians that carry on this tradition. Growing up, red bean
s, rice and sausage were a common Monday meal in my household. I recall getting home from a long day of school and dance team practice, taking a long nap and waking up to the aroma of red beans and rice. Also, in my elementary and high school cafeteria, red beans and rice were served on Mondays at least once a month if not more.

This tradition g
oes back to the days when women scheduled Mondays as their washday. Sunday dinner's ham would leave a ham hock perfect for seasoning the red beans for Monday's meal. This low maintenance meal could be started first in the morning, simmer on the stove all day with little fuss, while the ladies would get their wash and housework completed to start the week. Red beans and rice are an excellent bang for the buck and can feed a whole gathering of people. This affordable, protein-packed meal is a filling, simple dinner for the family. If you are cooking for one or two, then no worries because this meal freezes beautifully. Portion the leftovers into 3-4 servings, which will give you 3-4 dinners within the next couple of months. When you are ready for them, take the frozen beans out of the freezer in the morning allowing all day for the beans to thaw. Pop them in the microwave or simmer the beans stove top to reheat. Steam up some rice and dinner is served. Red beans and rice also makes for a great football party meal during the cool winter months. I always remember when my husband, his brother and friends went to an Eagles-Cardinals game on a freezing cold, rainy day. The guys came back chilled to the bone, exhilarated from the Eagles win, and starving. Luckily, I had been cozily tucked inside simmering my red beans all day, which were hot and ready for these hungry guys. The pot was clean in minutes! My red beans recipe is a bit simpler than recipes that call for ham hocks and soaking beans overnight. Feel free to do those things if you have the time and the hock, but for those who don't try it this way.

Lizzy M.'s Red Beans n' Rice and Sausage

1 package dry dark red k
idney beans, rinsed and sorted (pick out any bad beans in the bunch)
3 medium yellow onions, diced

2 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 beef bouillon cube
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 tbsp tomato paste

3 dried bay leaves
2 tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp crushed red pepper or 1/2 ts
p cayenne pepper
6 cups water
1 lb Andouille sausage, smoked sausage or Kielbasa sausage (whatever you like and have available at your local markets)
Extra virgin olive oil
Dash of Tabasco
Dash of Tony's Chachere's
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Green onion, diced

2 cups long grain white rice, uncooked


After rinsing and sorting the red beans, soak the dry beans with 3 bay leaves in 6 cups of water for one hour. (Canned dark red kidney beans are fine to work with as well. However the canned beans do lose much of the red color that the fresh beans offer. If using canned beans, drain out the liquid and rinse the beans well. Of course, the canned beans require no soaking and cut down the cooking time to about an hour.) While soaking the beans, dice the yellow onions and celery. Also slice the sausage into thin discs. To lighten this meal, use turkey sausage or a lower-fat sausage.

In a large saute pan, he
at up a small drizzle of olive oil. Once heated, add the onions, celery and sausage. Season while sauteing with salt, black pepper, a sprinkle of Tony's Chachere's and a few dashes of Tabasco. Saute for 10 minutes on medium to high heat. Then set aside.

After the hour of soaking is over, turn the heat on the pot of red beans to medium-high heat. Add the remaining spices of thyme, red pepper or cayenne, Tony's Chachere's, Tabasco, and a pinch of salt and black pepper.
When the beans come to a boil, add the beef and chicken bouillon cubes, the tomato paste, and the saute of sausage, onions and celery. With a hand grater or microplane, grate 3 garlic cloves directly into the pot.

The beans should boil rapidly for the first hour, stirring often. Bring the boil down to a simmer after the first hour and continue to cook and stir occasionally until the beans are tender.
When the beans are tender, smash some of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon against the sides of the pot. This will break down some of the beans giv
ing a creamy texture. Taste the beans and adjust the seasoning if need be. Continue cooking for 30 minutes after this point. While the beans finish, cook long grain white rice as directed to serve with the red beans.

Serve the beans piping ho
t over the freshly cooked white rice. Garnish with a spoonful of diced green onion. Hot, garlic French bread and a light green salad would be the perfect addition to round out this Monday night meal. If your a fan of beans, sausage and spice, then please give this comforting dish a try. Be a part of the New Orleans tradition by cooking red beans n' rice on a Monday to spice up the start of your week!

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