Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

A couple of years ago I went through a crock pot phase. I got all excited about making freezer meals and cooking them in the crock pot while I was at work and thought I had solved all my weeknight cooking problems. It didn’t work out so well for me. First, I’m gone too long for most crock pot dishes and even on low with a timer (that turns it to warm), most of my meat was way over cooked. Second, the meat started to get a funny taste that I can’t really put my finger on, but I just didn’t like it. Seemed like everything I put in the crock pot had that same funny taste, and I so I retired it for a while.

I’ve been wanting to find a good red beans and rice recipe, and when I came across a slow cooker version, I figured I would give it a try. I’m happy to report that this dish turned out great – and no funny taste. Yay!

If you like some heat in your red beans and rice, you may want to add a little cayenne pepper at the beginning. My kiddos don’t love spicy foods yet, so I opted to stick with just paprika. I also didn’t presoak these beans… they spend so much time in the slow cooker that they are perfectly tender by the end. The whole family really liked this meal, and we benefited all day from the awesome smell coming from the crock pot. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

1 lb dried small red beans, sorted and rinsed
1 medium sweet onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
4 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
7 cups chicken stock
10-12 ozs. smoked pork chops, diced
12-14 ozs. kielbasa sausage, cut lengthwise then sliced
8 servings of cooked rice

1.) Place first 10 ingredients in a crock pot and stir to combine. Cook either on low for 9 hours, or on high for 7 hours.
2.) Half way through, add smoked pork chops and kielbasa sausage.
3.) Serve over rice.

Adapted from The Weary Chef’s Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice 

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This is how it looked half way through right after I added the meat:

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Finished product!

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Simple Sausage Marinara

This dish is a simple 30-minute homemade marinara that is a go-to for a weeknight meal.  Both of my boys love Italian sausage, so I’ve been using it in place of beef in a lot of my Italian dishes.  I used Publix’s Greenwise Italian Chicken Sausage and it was really good.  This dinner was a success –  I didn’t have to spend the whole evening in the kitchen and the boys cleaned their plates. The leftovers were great too.

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Simple Sausage Marinara

1 lb Italian sausage (I used chicken sausage)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomato
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1.) Brown the sausage in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté until onions and mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes.
2.) Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add parsley and simmer for 5 minutes longer.  Serve over pasta and top with parmesan cheese.

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Lasagna with Goat Cheese and Sausage

Lasagna is such a comfort food!  Whether it’s a tried and true recipe or something outside the box, lasagna rarely disappoints. So I decided to try a new twist on an old classic and add goat cheese to my lasagna. One of my co-workers does this and her lasagna is always great, but this was a first for me.  I also opted for chicken sausage versus ground beef, for no reason other than wanting a different taste than my traditional.  I made the sauce from scratch, which I’ve been doing a lot lately (finally weening myself from Prego!), and having the tomato pieces in there was really good.  I was a little nervous about how the boys would like this because I’ve fed them goat cheese before and I think the taste was too strong for them.  But in this recipe, it is very subtle and to me, adds just the right amount of tang to make it interesting.  Blake said he could barely taste the goat cheese, so if you’re after a stronger flavor, I would suggest you up the ounces on the GC.  Back to my little boys, they loved it!  Like, really loved it – I was thrilled!

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Lasagna with Goat Cheese and Sausage

Meat Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb sausage (I used mild chicken sausage, removed from casings)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
8 to 10 mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 cup red wine
3 14.5-oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 8-oz can of tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Goat Cheese / Ricotta Mixture
16 oz ricotta cheese
6 oz goat cheese, softened
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
2 eggs

12 Lasagna noodles (oven ready)
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1.) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sausage, break apart with spatula as it cooks and cook until it begins to brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.
2.) Add onions, garlic and mushrooms to the same skillet.  Cook for 3 to 5 minutes and deglaze pan with red wine.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add sausage back to sauce.
3.) In a bowl, mix together ricotta, goat cheese, parmesan and eggs.  Spoon cheese mixture into a gallon Ziploc bag and cut one of the corners (this will aide in evenly distributing the cheese mixture in the lasagna).
4.) In a 9″x13″ casserole dish, start with sauce on the bottom. Add 3 lasagna noodles and layer sauce first, then cheese mixture.  Repeat 2 more times.  On 4th layer, only top the lasagna noodles with sauce.  Tightly cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.  Remove from oven, remove aluminum foil and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top.  Place back in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until cheese browns.  If it is slow to brown, use the low broiler (but watch it closely!!)

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Sausage and Peppers Spaghetti

This is one of my favorite pasta dishes!  It’s not your typical spaghetti – it’s full of fresh veggies, made with sausage and I like mine with angel hair.  This recipe makes a pretty large pot; plenty to feed a family and have leftovers too (I love leftovers!).  It’s pretty easy to make and can be done in around 30 to 40 minutes.  Me and the boys had this for dinner tonight, and after Brogan was done, he asked, “Can we have this again tomorrow?”  Dinner win!

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Sausage and Peppers Spaghetti

1 lb angel hair pasta
1 lb Italian sausage (I use Publix Greenwise Sun-dried Tomato Chicken Sausage)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 bell peppers, cut into strips (I use three different colors)
1 red onion, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5-oz cans of Italian style diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (plus more for garnish)

1.) Cook pasta according to package, set aside.
2.) Remove sausage from links and brown in a large saute pan or dutch oven, breaking apart with spatula as it cooks.  Remove cooked sausage from pot and set aside.
3.) In the same pot sausage was cooked, add olive oil and then sauté peppers, onions and garlic. Cook until slightly tender, about 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes, basil and parsley. Cook for about 10 minutes.  Add sausage to veggies, mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.
4.) Add cooked pasta and Parmesan cheese to sauce, mix well (tongs work well here). Serve with Parmesan cheese on top.

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