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Joni Woolf: More recipes for robust winter eating

Earlier I wrote about Healthy Crockpot White Chicken Chili and One-Pot Cabbage Casserole, both dishes with a reasonably low calorie count and good to the palate. After a morning at exercise, I decided to go to the store and buy the ingredients to make the White Chicken Chili. Unfortunately, I did not bring a grocery list with me. But, I had read and studied the recipe several times, had written the article, proofed it — had looked at all the ingredients many times. So, I was reasonably sure that I could get all the ingredients I needed without a list and have a nice crockpot dinner on hand that evening to share with the family up the hill. It wasn’t until I poured diced tomatoes over the white beans and chicken breasts that I realized I had gotten the recipes confused: I had bought tomatoes for the One-Pot Cabbage Casserole and had failed to get the canned sweet corn and chicken broth for the White Chili. Preparation was underway, so there was no turning back. I suppose I could call the results “Not-so-white Chili” or “Pink Chili.” In fact, it was quite tasty, and with a pan of cornbread it made a perfect meal. It included the standard soup vegetables — onions, carrots and celery — as well as the Great Northern Beans, boneless chicken breasts — and seasonings. So, it was a complete meal. But next time I’ll take a grocery list.
There is something about winter that makes us seek out more robust, filling meals. This week I had a pound of turkey sausage in the refrigerator and that put me in the mood for Red Beans and Rice. I have several cookbooks that feature New Orleans or Savannah-style dishes, so I went through several of them: one of Emeril’s, two from Baton Rouge, a couple from Savannah. None sounded like what I had in mind, and I couldn’t remember where I had earlier found a recipe that I liked. So, using parts of the recipes I found, I developed my own and was happy with the outcome. It comes close to a recipe I found years ago in a cookbook called “Worth Savoring,” published by the Union County Historical Society of New Albany, Mississippi. But that’s another story.
Here’s a good Red Beans and Rice recipe. Most cookbooks call for buying dry red beans and soaking them overnight. I took the easy route and used two cans of red beans that I had in the pantry. There is no doubt a difference, but I find it negligible, and certainly the canned ones are efficient.

Red Beans and Rice, with Smoked Sausage
2 cans red kidney beans
2 or 3 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 celery stalks, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
1 16-oz. package smoked sausage, sliced in ¼ inch pieces
1 rounded teaspoon Emeril’s Essence or the equivalent Louisiana-type seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot cooked rice
In a Dutch oven, saute celery, bell pepper and onion in olive oil until tender. Add garlic and cook about one minute. Add the water, kidney beans, seasonings and smoked sausage and cook on low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, adding more water if needed. In the meantime, cook 1 cup rice in two cups water (or according to package directions), with ½ teaspoon salt, 18 to 20 minutes on very low heat. Set aside. When the bean and sausage dish is ready, serve it over a generous serving of rice, and top with a sprinkling of chopped parsley. This is a reasonably easy, inexpensive one-dish meal that is satisfying and filling. And if you have a little left over, put some rice in a microwave-safe dish, top with the beans mixture and save for tomorrow. After all, tomorrow … you know the rest.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net