New Orleans Dirty Rice…Quick Version

 

I confess to a love of Cajun food, not too spicy though, for my tummy’s sake! I love gumbo and jambalaya and try to make them each at least once or twice a year. But sometimes, you get too busy for the time and effort of a big scratch meal production. Like during the holidays. For a quick change up in the meal routine I made some New Orleans style dirty rice using a Zatarain’s mix.

Before you freak out about salt or gf issues in processed foods, I did use their reduced sodium version and it is clearly labeled gluten free. It still has quite a bit of sodium so I wouldn’t make this every week but in a pinch; darn sure I will use it again. The box says it is 6 servings but I think it is more like 4-5 as a main course. dirty rice

Do like I did: jazz it up. I used a package of ¾ Italian sausage and ¼ hot sausage instead of the ground beef the recipe calls for. I added green pepper and onion too. Mission accomplished! Easy, tasty and gluten free. The meal trifecta at my house! But this recipe came with one added request: not too spicy. To tone down the hot I added an extra ¼ cup of brown rice and more water. Don’t get me wrong, it was a bit spicy but not really hot. You can leave out the extra rice and water if you want to breath a little fire. It is purely a matter of personal taste.

This is not one of those showstopper looking entrees but it has lots of flavor considering it is based on a box mix. Great weeknight supper choice; quick, easy and very tasty.

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Angie’s Dirty Rice

1 box Zatarain’s Dirty Rice Mix, reduced sodium
1 pound mixed sausage; mostly Italian links and a couple hot ones, casing removed (could use loose sausage)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup quick cooking brown rice; Uncle Ben’s has some that cooks in 20 minutes

Directions: Heat half the oil in a ten inch deep fry pan, I used a cast iron one and add the sausage. I used a wooden spatula and chopped the meat up as it cooked. Once it is getting browned on both sides add the pepper and onion. Keep stirring so nothing burns and all cooks. Add the other tbsp. of oil, the rice and the rice packet from the box. Stir, add 3 cups hot water, cover. Heat to a boil, turn down to simmer and let cook on low for 25 minutes. Turn off and let stand 5 minutes before eating.

Notes: I think a red pepper might be nice variation in this recipe. I bet you could add another ¼ cup brown rice and another 1/3 cup water if you want it even milder and you will have more of the dish to enjoy. If you dislike brown rice, just use white rice but not instant rice; cooks too fast for this recipe.

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Italian Sausage and Pepper Spaghetti: Perfetto!

Sometimes necessity is the mother of tasty invention in my kitchen! This is a “what’s in the fridge” post.  I had some nice looking organic Italian pork sausage in long sandwich links.  I had a red pepper and some onions and a can of crushed tomatoes.  I wanted to make a pasta dish but was craving sausage with peppers and onions.  This is my invention: sausage and pepper spaghetti.  Sounds basic but I never thought of combining the concepts of that old favorite: sausage with onions and peppers with a fairly traditional red spaghetti sauce.  This recipe marriage turned out just delicious. Plus it was relatively quick and easy too. My kind of recipe…

I made sure to not overcook the sauce so it was rather fresh flavored and I cooked the pasta for a couple minutes in the sauce and sausage mixture.  I cut my onions and peppers into two sizes to give variety in the chunky sauce.

Of course, if you would like to use another protein like chicken sausage, go for it. This is not one of those recipes where you have to follow the instructions and ingredient list perfectly.  Be creative and use what you have on hand. Go with the freshest and best quality ingredients available, don’t stray too far from the concept and it will be hard to go wrong with this entrée.

I honestly don’t think gluten free spaghetti could have been any better than this tasted. To put it another way, I didn’t miss wheat based pasta when I chowed down on this homey meal.  I would serve it without hesitation to my wheat loving family knowing they would enjoy every bite just like me.

Here are all my cooking pictures; sometimes it is annoying when they are all spaced out in the recipe; clumping them together for your convenience!

 

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Angie’s Spaghetti with Sausage and Peppers

Ingredients

1 lb fresh Italian sausage

1-2 tbsp. of EVOL

1 large yellow onion, sliced in long strips, half diced

1 large red pepper, sliced into long strips and half diced

2 garlic cloves, one minced and one sliced

1 tsp. dried basil

½ tsp. dried oregano

1 bay leaf

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp. white wine

Directions

I used a large cast iron frying pan; I know what you are thinking! Cast iron and tomatoes…not a great choice….well it fries stuff so well and I didn’t cook the sauce really long – so I think it was okay to use cast iron. But, in any case, use a large pan; 12 to 14 inch with at least three inch sides to hold all that sauce.  Heat the pan; add the olive oil, when it is hot put in the sausage links.  Brown on two opposite sides; about 4 minutes a side.  Add the onions, stir it up and put the links on top of the onions.  Cook 3 minutes, add the sliced/chopped pepper and stir well.  Cook a minute or two, add the garlic, cook one minute, stir it up and add the canned crushed tomato and the herbs and stir again. I rinsed the tomato can out with the white wine and poured it in.  Cook on low heat for 20 minutes.

Make the pasta, I used GF Barilla, salt the water well and stir it almost constantly while it boils. I undercooked it a minute.  Drain quickly, return to the pasta pot, pour in the sauce and sausage and cook 2 minutes.  Be sure to stir it several times as the sauce blends into the pasta so it doesn’t stick on the bottom.  Taste to be sure the pasta is done and adjust the seasoning; salt and pepper to your liking.

Serve with some freshly shredded real parmesan cheese on top; much better than that canned pre-grated cheese. Perfection!

Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Squash for Supper

Chilly days and long dark nights demand warm, hearty suppers.  But your main dish does not have to be expensive or fattening, it can be gluten free and still tasty.  This recipe is naturally gluten free. No flour in it or bread products needed.

I had some hot Italian sausage left over from the package I bought to make my turkey stuffing.  I had a sweet dumpling winter squash and a big red bell pepper.  Some quinoa grain and an onion and I was in business to throw together a homey flavorful main dish.  Add a salad on the side and it is a well balanced supper that can be baked and then seconds enjoyed for lunch.  This makes 3 servings, can double the recipe easily, just bake it in a bigger pan.

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a plate of stuffed dumpling squash. Not that pretty to look at but the sausage makes it very flavorful.

I had the sweet dumpling on hand but I have made this same recipe with an acorn squash and with a delicata squash.  A delicate is a small oblong squash with orange and green stripes on yellow skin.  All three are great vessels for this riff on stuffed peppers.  I happened to have a big red pepper and stuffed it as well.

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delicata squash; can be pale cream with green stripes too.

sweet dumpling squash

sweet dumpling squash

Ingredients:

1 sweet dumpling winter squash

1 large red pepper

2/3 cup plain quinoa, rinsed well

1 medium onion, diced

2 hot Italian sausage links (gluten free of course!)

1 tbsp EVOL (extra virgin olive oil)

1 garlic clove, minced

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash from the tip to the blossom end. You probably should cut off that stem bit first; makes the cut easier.  Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff.  Spray a small rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and place the cut squash halves cut side down.  Roast 30-45 minutes; check by piercing with a fork; remove when tender enough to stick the fork in but don’t cook it so far that it collapses.  After the squash has been in 15 minutes add the red pepper squash which you have cut the lid off, emptied the seeds out and cut up the top third into small dice.  Reserve the dice for later. The lower two thirds is a tasty vessel to hold more quinoa sausage filling.

Meanwhile, as the squash and pepper bake…. Heat 1 and a 1/3 cup of water, ½ tsp. salt and then add the quinoa, cover and cook 14-15 minutes.

While that cooks….put the EVOL in a frying pan, add the links which you have liberated from their skins.  Cook 4-5 minutes, chopping them up as they cook.  An alternative is loose sausage meat; 1/3 to a half pound should do it.  Stir them up, flip to cook all sides.  Should be browned but not burnt.  After you flip them over add the chopped onion, cook about 3-5 minutes stirring often.  Add the minced garlic and the top 1/3 of that red pepper cut into small cubes.  Keep stirring and when the onions and red pepper bits are softening add the quinoa. Leave any liquid in the pan.

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Stir the quinoa/sausage/veggie mixture.  Heap it into the squash halves and the pepper half.  Mound half the extra filling into a small 1.5 quart round baking dish.  Place the three stuffed veggies on top and pour over the rest of the filling as well as any quinoa liquid in the pot.  Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes. The veggie filling should be bubbling when it is done and the squash is tender to a fork.

Enjoy with a side salad.  I reheated some of the leftovers for lunch the next day.  It gives you something much better than something cold for your mid day meal.

If you don’t like red pepper; make it with 2 small winter squash and just leave the chopped pepper totally out.   You could sub in half a chipped carrot for the red pepper bits.  Use a mild Italian sausage if you prefer it less spicy or leave the sausage out to make the dish vegetarian. I am guessing you could try to bake it in your crock pot; maybe like 2 hours on high. If you try that let me know how it turns out. It is a versatile recipe for sure!

I saved my seeds, rinsed and dried them to toast for snacking: waste not want not!