Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crockpot Cajun Red Beans with Andouille Sausage

 I have to admit that I have a love affair with New Orleans and the great state of Louisiana. I love all that the city and the state has to offer from the sights and music to the fantastic cuisine. Lately I've been on a Cajun kick, as you can probably tell from some of my recent recipes. 

Here is one based on a "Big Easy" favorite, red beans and rice. After weightloss surgery, I've learned to adapt recipes to fit my new lifestyle and I've done the same with this one. You can always use things like white rice, which is more traditional for this recipe. It's up to you. But here's my own updated version...


2 cups of dried pinto beans (the small package of beans)
1 ham hock
1 package of andouille sausage (sliced into bite-size pieces)
1 medium onion (diced)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
7 cups water
1 teaspoon black pepper 
2 cans chicken broth (I used Swanson unsalted)
Brown rice for serving (I used boil-in-bag)
Red pepper to taste (optional) 

The first thing you want to do is soak your beans overnight. I find this helps with the gas in them and also brings out the flavor more when cooking.  The night before, open and sift through dried beans for rocks and misshapened beans. Rinse and put in crockpot, pour on cold water covering the beans and two more inches above. Put on the lid and let them soak overnight. The next morning, pour the beans back into a colander and rerinse. Make sure to pour out and rinse the insert of your crockpot. You do not want to use the same water you used for soaking the beans. 

Place beans back in the crockpot after rinsing. Add in the ham hock, sausage, onion, garlic, bay leaves, Cajun seasoning and black pepper. Add 7 cups of hot water and broth. Do not overfill the crockpot with liquid. Cover with lid and cook 6-8 hours. I set mine on 8 so they would cook nice and slow throughout the day.

                 (Everything in the crockpot ready to go before putting the lid on.)

                                        (After 7 hours of cooking)

As the beans are finishing up, prepare rice. Spoon hot rice into bottom of bowl (as much or as little as you want) and ladle beans and sausage on top. Enjoy!

                                (Ready to be served up with rice!)
                          (Beans and rice with a dash of red pepper)

This recipe is great with rice, but also served up with fresh, hot buttery cornbread. I have to warn you though, once it starts cooking and between the garlic and Cajun spices, the smell is so heavenly that it will make your mouth water and belly growl in anticipation for just one bite. But believe me when I tell, you won't be able to stop at one bite, I guarantee you that. This ain't just any crockpot full of's one of the best you'll ever eat. 

If you get the opportunity to make this recipe, I'd love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment and don't forget to subscribe! Hope you enjoy this variation of a Louisiana fave! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Louisiana Cajun Dirty Rice Egg Muffins

Add a little bit of "The Big Easy" to your breakfast...

Looking for a gluten-free, protein filled breakfast you can grab on the go? Make these tasty muffins fresh and eat on the spot or make the night before, take to work and reheat. The dirty rice gives it a nice, slightly spicy flavor. You can make these with as little or as much heat (crushed red pepper) as you want. Super easy and mighty delicious! 

Try out this recipe, let me know your thoughts in the comments and don't forget to subscribe.


1 lb ground meat of choice (pork sausage, chicken, beef or turkey)
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups water
Zatarain's Dirty Rice 
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper 
1 diced onion
1 dozen eggs 
1/2 cup milk 
1 teaspoon dried basil (optional)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Preset oven to 350 F. 

Brown meat and 1/2 of the onion. Add in garlic, cook for 1 minute until garlic becomes fragrant and then drain meat, onion and garlic. I used turkey, but you can use any ground meat, particularly pork sausage for breakfast muffins. If you really love spicy foods, you could even use hot ground pork sausage. Add in oil, water, Zatarain's Dirty Rice mix, bell pepper and the rest of the onion and follow instructions. Set aside. I made the dirty rice the night before and refrigerated it and had it ready the next morning for the egg muffins. 

In a bowl, add in eggs, milk, basil and red pepper. Use more or less crushed red pepper depending on how spicy you want your muffins. Use a whisk to mix well. 

Spray non-stick cooking spray generously into 2 muffin tins. Fill each muffin cup about half way with rice mixture. Pour egg mixture evenly into each cup, covering the rice mixture completely. Do not over fill. 

Bake 20-25 minutes or until eggs set. Remove from oven and use a small spatula or knife to loosen the sides of the egg muffins from the tin. Let set for 5 minutes then serve.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sweet and Spicy Pickled Eggs

Looking for that extra bit of protein in your diet? Pickled eggs are delicious and perfect added to a salad or a quick snack full of protein.


1 dozen eggs
2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup of white sugar (I subbed organic blue agave 1/3 c)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pickling spice
1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2 fresh jalapeño peppers (sliced)
1 small onion (sliced into rings)

Hard boil the eggs. While the eggs are boiling, combine the ingredients except for the onions in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and then allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally. Peel the outer shell from eggs. In a large mason jar, add four eggs. Add some slices of onion. Then ladle some of pepper/spices concoction on top of the eggs and onions. Add four more eggs, more onions, more pepper/spices concoction and repeat once more covering with the rest of the concoction, filling to the neck of the jar. Tighten the lid and ring on the jar and let it cool. Place in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. Then eat and enjoy!

Believe me when I tell you 2-3 weeks is a long time to wait, but the benefits of these deliciously sweet and spicy eggs are definitely worth the wait. 

                      (Smaller batch)

Hope you enjoy this recipe. I'd love to know how yours turn out and feedback in the comments. Don't forget to subscribe! 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Chicken Broccoli and Wild Rice Casserole

This is an easy casserole for dinner or your next potluck meal with very few ingredients you can easily already have on hand in your kitchen. 


1 Box Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice (fast recipe)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can broccoli cheese soup
1 cup shredded cheese (I used Mexican blend)
2 cups cooked chicken (cubed or shredded)
2 lbs frozen broccoli (steamer kind)
1 can french fried onions (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare wild rice according to the instructions on the box. Steam broccoli in the microwave according to instructions on bag. In a bowl, mix together the soups and shredded cheese. Layering in a casserole dish (I used my round deep Corningware casserole dish), start with 1/3 of soup/cheese mixture, then half the broccoli, half the chicken and repeat the layering ending with the soup/cheese mixture last on top. Bake uncovered in the oven for 1 hour. In the last 5 minutes, sprinkle french fried onions on top and continue to cook for the remaining time or until the onions brown. 

My husband liked the recipe, but said he would have liked more rice in it. So consider adding two boxes of rice instead of one. Better yet, add in on package of boil-in-bag brown rice. Hope you try out and enjoy the recipe. Let me know how it turns out for you!

Eat Your Protein After Weight Loss Surgery

After losing over 120 lbs so far following gastric bypass surgery and with a little (or a lot of) trial and error, I'm learning the tricks of the trade of what foods work for me to not only lose weight, but also maintain that weight loss. I've also learned what certainly doesn't work as well.  Keep in mind though, everyone's different. What works for me may not work for everyone and vice versa. 

Anyhoo...let's begin with protein.

Protein is the key to a successful, healthy diet. The more protein the better for losing weight and maintaining. I do my best 60-80 grams of protein in my diet every single day. This means including protein into every single meal and all snacks. Throughout the day, I eat breakfast, a mid morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, and dinner. After surgery, you eat much less, so I look at it as five mini-meals throughout the day. I eat something every 2-3 hours. And as I said, I include protein every single time I eat. Protein helps keep you full longer. If you include protein when you eat and eat every few hours, you won't feel hungry like with normal diets. Pack ahead healthy snacks that include protein. You don't have to have surgery for this to benefit you.

Sample protein rich breakfast items I eat:

Ham and egg on whole wheat toast (many times I don't eat the entire piece of toast) or whole grain English muffin- This is, of course, three months or more after surgery. Watch the amount of bread you eat as sometimes even wheat or whole grain doesn't sit well with me after surgery. It actually depends on the day for me and my body. Once again, trial and error. If you find that your having a hard time getting the bread down, I suggest cutting it out, especially at the beginning of the day when those who've had this surgery have the most difficult time.

Boiled Egg and Greek Yogurt (fresh fruit like blueberries mixed in) 

Veggie and Egg Scramble (with vegetables like onion, mushrooms, bell pepper, etc.) with a piece of ham or bacon as a side 

Proteins that are denser like different types of meats including steak and chicken can be a problem for some people after surgery. Sometimes it just feels as though you can get it down no matter how much you chew. Fortunately, protein doesn't include just these basics. I eat ground turkey (healthier substitute for beef) and pork as well. Also, I eat quite a bit of beans including garbanzo, black and kidney beans. I put black beans in just about everything. I even have included recipes on here in other posts with protein rich recipes with black beans particularly.

                              (Pictured above Creamy Chicken Chili) 

            (Picture above Cuban Black Beans and Brown Rice)

Going back to eggs, here's one of my go tos...pickled eggs. Now not everyone is a fan of pickled eggs, vegetables, etc.  I have my own recipe I make and stay stocked up so they are always ready to go, to take with me for lunch at work, random snack or even sliced up to add to a salad or meal for an extra pop of protein. Every little bit I can get. Pickled eggs are an acquired taste item. Most either love them or hate them. Suggestion though: don't just assume you don't like them...give them a try. 

Grains that include protein and other beneficial nutrients I eat include quinoa and wild rice. 

I love rice. I can't help it. I could eat rice constantly. I don't, of course, but when I do, I eat brown rice, wild rice and quinoa. 

Let's begin with wild rice. Wild rice has the most protein and lowest calories of all the rices. It's gluten-free which is fantastic. It does not have sodium which benefits both the heart and blood pressure. It's rich in antioxidants (30 times more than white rice), high in fiber, helps lower cholesterol, and contains phosphorous, zinc and folate which give you energy and nurture your bones, Vitamin A, C and E which are essential for overall wellness and immunity. 

Wild rice takes longer to cook and, because of that, retains a rich nutty flavor. I include wild rice in many of my recipes. And sometimes I even mix wild and brown rice as well. 

Here's a super simple chicken and wild rice recipe I make a lot that my hubby loves:

I use the Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice (fast recipe) and prepare it on the stovetop according to the directions, which takes about 5 minutes once it begins boiling. Once it's done, I add a big can of drained chicken (shredded) and mix it in with the rice and heat through, then I add about 1/2 cup of shredded cheese (Mexican or even mild cheddar). Serve and enjoy! 

Now onto quinoa. 

Did you know that quinoa (pronounce KEEN-WAH) dates four thousand years with the Incans who first used it to help increase the stamina of their warriors. Nowadays quinoa is known as the "Supergrain of the Future" and is now considered a superfood. Why is it called a superfood? Well first of all, it is one of the most protein rich foods we can eat, period. It's a complete protein with 9 essential amino acids. It also contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. It also contains iron (keeps red blood cells healthy, basis for hemoglobin formation, increases brain function, etc.) lysine (for tissue growth and repair), magnesium (which helps alleviate migraines and promotes healthy blood sugar), Riboflavin (B2) (which improves energy metabolism with the brain and muscle cells and ALS known to help create proper energy production on cells), and manganese (which is an antioxidant and helps prevent damage of the mitochrondria during energy production and protects red blood cells and other cells as well).

Quinoa is easy to cook and takes on the flavor of what you put into it. Like rice, it's bland alone but with spices and flavors can enhance a meal. 

                         (Pictured above Quinoa Vegetable Fried "Rice")

Don't expect it to taste just like rice. The texture is quite a bit different and takes some getting used to. Once you do, there are so many recipes you can make subbing quinoa for the rice you'd normally use. 

As far as snacking, here are some items I keep on hand at work:

- Greek yogurt
- nuts and seeds including unsalted almonds, pistachios and sunflower seeds
-  with vegetables like carrot and celery sticks
- string cheese
- fruits such as apples, cuties and grapes
-turkey or ostrich jerky
-pickled eggs 

Remember, eat when you're hungry. That's a pretty simple concept, isn't it? If you're eating the right kinds of foods which are full of protein and cutting out the items you're not supposed to have, you should be hungry every few hours.

And the cool thing is...healthy can still taste good. 

Here's to your health...and mine. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

2 Recipes in 1 -- Crockpot Pork Roast and Leftover Shredded Pork Roast Chili

Last night I put a pork roast in my crockpot and cooked it for over 10 hours. The result: a deliciously, tender (falls apart when you touch it) pork roast. After lunch, when I was putting everything away and bagging up the roast, I realized just how much of it was actually left over. 

My family and I are notorious for not eating much of our leftovers, with the exception of soups and chili. It always sounds good when you finish at a restaurant and ask for a box to take the rest home, but in the end, it usually goes in the trash rather than eaten. 

What to do...what to do with all this pork roast...

In the end, with hopefully the last cold blast, snowy day of the season, I decided to make my own version of chili using my shredded pork as the meat in it. Even with the pork, I wanted to boost protein, so I added two different kinds beans to the chili. You can do the same and add as much or as little as you wish. Heck add black, pinto, kidney and even navy beans. The more the merrier! Great boost of protein, which is always a good thing. 

And boy oh boy was this chili is great choice! It's a step away for the traditional chili I know, but if you are looking for something a little different, but delicious nonetheless, this is the recipe for you! Try it out! I doubt you'll be disappointed!

I decided to add my simple recipe for the pork roast first, followed by my chili recipe. 

Crockpot Pork Roast Ingredients:

1 pork shoulder roast 
1 onion (sliced into rings)
4 cloves cloves garlic (chopped)
1 can chicken broth or 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper 
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic salt

Combine spices to make a rub for the roast. Rub and work the spices into the roast. Add the onion slices to the bottom of the crockpot. Place the seasoned roast on top of the onion. Pour in the chicken stock. Add the garlic to the roast, working the pieces into the creases of the roast and down into the stock. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. 

In the last couple of hours, every 20 minutes or so, using a ladle, dip and pour the juice with onions and garlic over the roast. It's not necessary, but I do it to keep the top nice and moist as it finishes up cooking. The liquid in and around the roast will increase as it cooks, so don't worry if, when you put the stock in, it only comes up half way or less. If you want to shred the pork when it's done, simply do so using two forks. 

Chili Ingredients:

2 lbs leftover pork shoulder roast
1 onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can pinto or kidney beans (drained and rinsed--I used pinto in this batch)
2 cans tomato sauce
2 cans Rotel (diced tomatoes with green chiles)
1 can of water (used one of the tomato sauce cans)
1 can sweet corn (drained)
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

In a big pot, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat. Shred the leftover pork roast. Chop up the large pieces and then add to the onion and garlic. Add and stir in the beans, tomato sauce, Rotel, corn, water and spices. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer (stirring occasionally) for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Top with shredded cheese (optional) and serve with cornbread. 

If you happen to make this wonderfully flavorful chili, let me know how it turns out. Be sure and leave a comment with any additions you add to the recipe. I'd love to hear from you! Bon appetite!