Semi-Cajun ~ Sausage, Beans, & Rice

I spent one very long, hot summer in New Orleans when I was in college. The highlight was staying in the home of a sweet woman who introduced me to Cajun cooking. Sally was an expert in making a roux and sauces, with her specialty being jambalaya.

I wish I had stolen asked for her recipes, but I didn’t realize at the time how much I’d want them. I blame the heat.

With a little help from Zatarain’s anyone can make a Cajun dish.cajun 2

Sandra Lee has Semi-Homemade and this is what I call Semi-Cajun.

Sausage, Beans, & Rice

1 box of Zatarain’s Black Beans and Rice

2 cups water

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup uncooked rice

1 cup diced Cajun trinity – green or yellow bell pepper,  onion, and celery (Sometimes I don’t have celery and I substitute minced garlic.  I’m sorry, Sally!)

2 T oil

1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced (Kielbasa, Andouille, or any other type)

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a pan and sauté the sliced sausage. Remove the sausage from the pan Cajun 1and sauté diced bell pepper, onion, and celery (or garlic) in the rendered fat.

In another pot, put the contents of the Zatarain’s box, water, 1 cup of chicken broth, and extra cup of rice and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sausage, vegetables, and remaining chicken broth and simmer for 15-20 more minutes or until the rice is tender.

No one will know you didn’t make it from scratch. I gar-ron-tee!

cajun 3


Simple Chicken Chili to Warm You Up!

Okay, it’s FREEZING everywhere!

Here’s a simple chili that will warm your family. Enjoy and Happy New Year!!

Chicken Chili

1/3 cup diced onionChicken chili

1/3 cup diced green pepper

2 tablespoons oil

1 package chicken chili seasoning

2 cups diced rotisserie chicken

1 can diced tomatoes (for extra kick, use fire roasted style; chop fine if you have folks who don’t like tomatoes)

1 can white navy beans, drained

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 can corn, drained

1 cup water

1 -2 cups chicken stock (depending on how thick you like it)

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and green pepper in 2 tablespoons of oil. Whisk together the chicken chili package and water in a large pot and heat on medium high. Add all other ingredients and simmer on the stove for at least 30 minutes or cook in a Crock Pot on low for 2-3 hours or high for 1 hour.

If you make it hotter than some diners like, spoon a dollop of sour cream on top.


Perfect Sandwiches for College Football and World Series

Do you remember the movie, Mermaids? Every meal was just a bunch of appetizers. That’s not a half bad idea.

sandwiches 2These sandwiches are super easy and perfect for watching college football.

I’m more of a baseball fan, although I have taken a liking to watching a certain college team from Texas get beat (even though it doesn’t happen very often.) Let’s just say their quarterback’s head is a little too big for his helmet. Or his belt buckle is a little too big for his britches. And I’m from Texas!

Anywho, these sandwiches are super easy and de-lish!


1 stick of butter, softened

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worchester sauce

1/2 onion, grated

couple of dashes of salt

package of dinner rolls or Hawaiian rolls

package of ham lunch meat or Sunday ham leftovers

package of Swiss cheese slices (about 12 slices)

Mix the first six ingredients together in a small bowl. Slice the rolls horizontally sandwichesand spread the mustard mixture on both sides (tops and bottoms) of the rolls. Place 3-4 ham and cheese slices on the bottoms and put the tops of the rolls back on.

Wrap the sandwiches securely in foil and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Enjoy! What’s your favorite appetizer?

Quick and Easy Taco Salad

In honor of Labor Day, here’s a recipe idea for dinner that requires very little labor.

Taco Salad taco salad


chopped lettuce  (I like Romaine best.)

1 diced tomato

1 can of light red kidney beans, drained

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

½ cup diced red onion

1 lb. ground beef, cooked, drained, and seasoned with packet of Taco seasoning according to directions on packet

½ bag of Fritos

Mix the first 5 ingredients for the salad and the Fritos together.  Place in individual bowls. Spoon taco meat on top of each.


Salsa – pour a heaping helping of salsa on top.

Thousand Island dressing – pour a heaping helping of the salad dressing on top.

Catalina dressing – pour a heaping helping of Catalina dressing on top.

Guacamole – I think you know where I’m going with this.

Happy Labor Day!

Next up: Hummingbird cake – Labor of love or torture?


Chicken Bacon Quesadillas

It’s hot out! And I’ll do just about anything to avoid turning on the oven in the summer.<!–
This recipe is great for a quick dinner and you won’t sweat making it.

Chicken Bacon Quesadillas


2 cups rotisserie chicken, diced in small pieces

½ red onion, diced

½ red pepper, diced

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1 cup grated Monterey jack cheese

8 strips of bacon, cooked and diced

Brown bacon then set aside to drain on a paper towel. Use some of the bacon grease and sauté the diced red onion and red pepper.

Spray top and bottom of the quesadilla/grill. Place one flour tortilla on it. quesadillaSprinkle cheeses, chicken, bacon, onion and red pepper on the tortilla. Top with another flour tortilla and press until lightly browned. Cut into 6-8 triangles and serve with sour cream, tomatoes and lettuce, and black beans*.

*Sauté some garlic, red onion, and red pepper in the leftover bacon grease and add to canned black beans. Salt and pepper to taste. So good!

Note: If you don’t have a quesadilla maker, you can use a Panini press/grill. You can also use a non-stick pan on the stove, but remember to flip it to brown both sides.



Easy Peasy Summer Strawberry Shortcake

Berries are in season and they make a quick and tasty addition to any dessert.

This is possibly the simplest dessert you’ll ever make. It’s like a strawberry shortcake, minus the shortcake. I use Pillsbury Flaky Grands Biscuits instead.


Slice 2 cups of strawberries. Add 1 cup of blueberries and stir in  1/4 cup of sugar.

Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with a non-stick spray. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a microwave. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the butter and sprinkle granulated sugar on top of each biscuit. Bake at 350 degrees until golden.

Cut each cooled biscuit in half. Place a dollop of *heavy whipping cream on one of the halves and spoon a generous helping of strawberries and blueberries on top. Place the other biscuit half on top or to the side.

*Note:  I use the type of whipping cream that comes in a can to make this recipe even easier. (And then the family proceeds to spray a large helping directly into their mouths. Okay, sometimes I do too.)

Middle School Mishaps, Parenting Pearl, Recipes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie & Laundry Challenges

There’s nothing like baseball season to showcase my shortcomings as a mother.

Each game, I’m reminded that I don’t put in the same amount of effort into cleaning baseball pants as the other moms do. My son’s once white pants now have permanent Texas Longhorn brown stains thanks to our Georgia clay.

Luckily, he doesn’t seem to mind. I thought maybe nobody would notice, but when one of the boys came home with us after a game, his mother asked me not to wash his uniform. I didn’t take it personally.

He has another pair, but that’s another story. And I blame his father.

This year my #15 needed a blue batting helmet so his dad thought he’d save some money and spray paint his nice green helmet navy blue.

I said it was a bad idea. A very bad idea. But when it comes to saving money, I have no credibility. My husband is the King of Coupons, the Sultan of Save. Unfortunately, he’s not the Michelangelo of spray paint. Picasso? Maybe.

One Saturday the boys were waiting for the game ahead of theirs to finish. They were sitting on the hill and comparing batting averages, making bets, stuffing sunflower seeds in their mouths, doing whatever they do before a game.

Oh, and sitting on their helmets. Yes, that’s right. When my kid got up, he had nice blue streaks on his cheeks.

We got some good news this week. Before the big tournament in July, the team is buying new pants. I’m really going to try this time. Pre-treat. Soak in hot water. Add an oxy booster.

Or I could just spend my energy on pie.

peanut butter pie

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie


  • 2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream (this will make about 5-6 cups.) Whip in a chilled bowl until thick, then beat in ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar to sweeten it.
  • 1 can of Hershey’s chocolate syrup to drizzle on top (but not the entire can!)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make chocolate crust:

In a food processor, grind enough chocolate graham crackers (about 2 sleeves) until fine. Add 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, ¼ cup melted butter, and a pinch of salt and pulse a few times.

Press the graham cracker mixture into a 9-inch spring-form pan. Bake until golden and crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Add 1 cup peanut butter and beat until smooth. Add the milk and  ½ teaspoon of vanilla and beat well. Fold 5 cups of the sweetened whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture and spoon into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2-3 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and garnish with chopped peanuts and chocolate syrup. If there is any remaining whipped cream, place a dollop on or beside the piece of pie. You can also put a strawberry or two on the plate for dipping (or just to pretend you’re healthy).

Lessons Learned, Recipes

I’m Just a Wannabe

I posted this last Easter. I’m still just a wannabe, but this Easter I made easy peasy Banana Pudding. Happy Easter!

I’m a Cake Baker Wannabe. My problem is I lack two qualities necessary to bake a beautiful and delicious cake—infinite patience and laser focus.

I saw this beautiful Strawberry Mousse Cake in Southern Living and decided to give it a try. It was a bit complicated with three separate lists of ingredients and directions for: 1) cake, 2) mousse filling, and 3) frosting. Usually this is the sort of thing that sends me running back to something simple like triple chocolate cupcakes, but for some reason I was up for a challenge.

And to look at it, you’d think it was a huge success.

But looks can be deceiving.

Oddly, you can learn a thing or two while baking.

And not just that when faced with the choice to: a) follow the directions and chill the mousse for at least 30 minutes before spreading it on each cake layer and b) putting the mousse in the freezer for only 10 minutes, you should choose a.

Because underneath this pretty cake, was this

What a mess!

It’s amazing what a little (make that a lot) of frosting can do. It can cover a multitude of mistakes.

And so I am reminded this Easter that my Savior looks at me with all of my cracks, lack of patience, and poor focus and HE loves me anyway.

Happy Easter!

And another lesson I learned was it really only matters how it tastes, and that was great! Three sticks of butter and heavy whipping cream have a way of doing that!


Easiest, Best Tasting Mac & Cheese Ever!

Mac and Cheese is one of the best comfort foods and there are as many recipes as there are cooks.

photo (3)

Most recipes use essentially the same ingredients—cheese, macaroni, whole milk, etc.  But the technique below is the simplest I’ve ever found. Thanks, Jennifer H. for the tip!


16 oz. box of elbow macaroni (cooked according to box directions)

2 cups grated sharp cheese

2 cups grated any other cheese (I usually use cheddar or Colby)

4 tablespoons of flour

2 ½ – 3 cups of whole milkphoto (5)

½ – ¾ stick of butter

¾ cup Panko crumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a layer of cooked macaroni in the bottom of an oven safe dish. Sprinkle a layer of the cheeses, mixed together. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour and salt and pepper. Top with 4-5 pats of butter. Repeat.  (I use a large dutch oven, so I only have 2 layers. If you use a smaller container, you’ll have 3-4 layers.) Pour enough milk that it comes to the top of the mac and cheese mixture. Mix ¾ cup of Panko crumbs and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle the Panko crumbs on top. Optional: put 3-4 tomato slices on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Note: You can use any combination of cheese, as long as one is sharp.  If you have meat lovers in your house, add sliced sauteed smoked sausage.

Parenting Pearl, Recipes

Daughter, “All my boyfriends were afraid of you!” Me, “Good, that’s what I was going for.”

I took that as a compliment. Scaring my daughter’s boyfriends is quite an accomplishment considering her dad is rather physically intimidating.

He came in third once in a state body-building contest. And sadly, with time things have sort of settled on both of us, but he’s still over 200 pounds and he can beat just about anyone at arm wrestling.

But they’re afraid of me. I’m okay with that. I like them thinking that I’m just unstable enough to come after them with a machete should they do something I don’t like. Fear is good.

Of course, the downside is she might be 30, single, and still living in our house.

I guess I could be a little nicer.

Fall is here and that means I’m breaking out the dutch oven and crock pot. I jazzed up a box of Zatarain’s Red Beans and Rice and it was awesome!


1 box of Red Beans and Rice

1/4  cup green pepper, diced

1/4 cup red pepper, diced

1/4 cup yellow pepper, diced

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 lb turkey Kielbasa sausage (pork would be really good too), sliced

2 cups of white rice, cooked

1/2-1 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Saute the sausage in the olive oil in the dutch oven over medium heat. Remove the sausage and saute all the peppers and onion. Remove the cooked peppers and onion. Prepare the red beans and rice according to the box instructions in the dutch oven. With 5 minutes to spare in cooking time, add the sausage, peppers, onion, extra rice, and chicken broth. Cover the pot and continue cooking until the mixture is bubbling.

This is really easy and there’s only one pot to clean up.  It’s so delicious, you’d think it came straight from the bayou. Next week, beignets. Or maybe just gumbo.

I meant to take a picture but we were starving and there weren’t any leftovers. Next time!