Red Beans & Rice (Slow Cooker)

I’m convinced that I was Cajun in a previous life. Maybe it’s just something about the land and the lifestyle that reminds me so much of my life here on the Eastern Shore – but I definitely feel a connection to those bayous in Louisiana. Even though I’ve never stepped foot in one…

I was shocked when I realized I’d never made red beans and rice. Sausage isn’t my favorite thing on the planet, but after feeding my three guys – who love it – for a couple of years, I’ve started to come around. The flavor that it gives to whatever it is you’re cooking it with can’t be attained by any other means, and it holds up well to cooking in a slow cooker. Yesterday I had a really busy day running errands and spent most of the afternoon in the dentist chair, so I threw this together in the morning before I left to head out the door. By 4:30 PM when I was finally heading home I was so thankful to know that dinner was ready and waiting for me when I returned.

I used andouille and kielbasa, for a double wallop of smokey porky flavor. Combined with tender and creamy red beans, onions, bell peppers, garlic, and a thick tomato sauce – it was the perfect meal at the end of a long day. I served it over rice to soak up all of those delicious juices, but served it with a salad and homemade cornbread for good measure. The boys both wanted seconds, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the rest for lunch this week. With Mardi Gras coming up next Tuesday, it would be a perfect meal to put together in the Crockpot while you’re at work.

Giving you more time to pour yourself a Hurricane, and laissez-les bon temps rouler when you get home! This one is definitely a keeper in my book, I hope you guys enjoy it too.

Source: adapted from My Biscuits are Burning

Short Rib Lasagne

A really delicious lasagna is one of the most comforting meals in my book. It’s tough to beat tender pasta, rich tomato sauce, and multiple kinds of Italian cheese all packed into a single casserole dish. But when two of my friends, both Josie and Katie were raving about this version that’s made with short ribs – I had to give it a try!

It doesn’t use any ricotta, which I was worried about. But, you really don’t miss it. The short ribs are braised in the tomato sauce all day long – creating more of a “Sunday Gravy” than a marinara. Then the dish is also layered with a creamy bechamel sauce, another Italian trick to a great pasta dish that many of us haven’t had the opportunity to try. So, that in itself adds a layer of creaminess and richness that replaces the layer of ricotta.

I did go ahead and add more mozzarella cheese than the recipe called for, just because I happened to have a surplus in the fridge. The recipe also called for the addition of porcini mushrooms – which, I didn’t have as many as I’d like. They’re one thing that I always try to have on hand, just because they add such a ton of flavor and keep well in the pantry. My stock has dwindled down, and I have a hard time finding them out here in the Boonies. So, I used what I had which was only about 1/2 cup – but it still turned out delicious. But you could double the quantity of mushrooms if you like.  I’ve got to order some more from the internet this week!

The short ribs are shredded down and layered with the pasta, tomato sauce, bechamel sauce, and cheese…then baked to a browned and bubbly perfection. I served with classic accompaniments to any Italian meal – a nice green salad and crusty garlic bread. It’s also a great place for a glass of nice red wine, where you have to open some for the sauce anyways!

Source: adapted from Fine Cooking via Pink Parsley and So Tasty, So Yummy

Short Ribs and Grits

We have been eating a lot of short ribs lately. They’re always a delicious comfort food that can be thrown together in the early afternoon, then braise away in the oven for a few hours while you go about doing other productive things in the house…or maybe, take a nap – then wake up to the smell of a delicious meal bubbling away.

This is another recipe I sent over to my friends at Avalon Winery, along with the red wine cupcakes. It was a spin off my first short rib recipe, but I chose to braise them in a delicious Cabernet and a bit of coffee too – for some added richness. The gravy that came out of the bottom of that pan was pure deliciousness. I served them over a bed of grits, as kind of a nod to our trip to Charleston. Grits are the perfect vessel to soak up delicious flavors from gravy, and it’s a nice change from the standard mashed potato that I usually find myself turning to in these kind of applications.

This would be a perfect meal for Valentine’s Day – especially where so many of you guys are buried under a bunch of snow. Just throw the meal together and let it do it’s thing, then go about your business preparing a beautiful table setting. I served with some roasted Brussels sprouts (I have a recipe for that coming soon!) and it really was a delicious and impressive meal that we all enjoyed. Plus, there’s plenty of wine left in the bottle to enjoy with that someone special. Win-win!

Source: short ribs adapted from Anne Burrell

Brazilian Black Bean & Pork Stew

We had a considerable amount of snow over the course of the past two weeks, probably the most that the Eastern Shore has seen in quite a few years. Both little ones were home with me, cooped up in the house, for a majority of those days.   Needless to say, comfort food was in order.

I’d had this recipe bookmarked to try since I bought my copy of Slow Cooker Revolution, and would add it to our weekly menu – but it just kept getting pushed back for one reason or another. I finally decided that it would make a great snow day meal, so it finally came together in my crockpot last week – and I’m kicking myself for not getting around to it sooner. I assumed that I wouldn’t really like it…I’m not the biggest kielbasa fan, and it seemed really meaty. Not that I dislike meat, quite the contrary. But, on initial inspection it just didn’t seem like my cup of tea. But, I knew all the little carnivores in this house would adore it. I was right on that count at least, but was wrong in assuming that I wouldn’t love it too!

The flavors were out of this world. Everything blended together perfectly when cooked, creating a symphony of meaty goodness in one pot. The pork and kielbasa were tender, but still retained their shape and texture. And the beans – oh my word, those beans! Absolutely perfectly cooked – nice and creamy, just the way I like them. I served over a bed of cilantro-lime rice, and topped with some sliced avocado and the Brazilian hot sauce they suggest in the book. It kind of reminded me of pico de gallo…but with the addition of green bell pepper, white wine vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil – it definitely added more layers of complexity.

It made a large batch, so we enjoyed it for dinner one night – and I stuck the other half in the freezer for a quick meal one night when I’m not feeling like cooking. Which, I must admit – is getting more and more often as the due date for baby boy #3 approaches. It’s good to know that such a hearty and comforting meal is just a thaw out and re-heat away!

Source: adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution