Cajun Jambalaya with Okra, Andouille and Shrimp

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The other day, I was thinking about the way I used to eat. Back when I was in college and shortly after I graduated. Let’s just say it wasn’t very healthy or very delicious. Looking back, I think there was a period of time where I just completely forgot that I knew how to cook a decent meal. Plus, I couldn’t really be bothered. Like a lot of people, I had the misconception that cooking a real dinner out of real ingredients would be too expensive and take too much time. So we’d boil a box of pasta and mix it with a jar of sauce and some sausage. Or we’d try to be “healthy” and make a chicken stir-fry, but we would totally ruin it by using store-bought marinades that were loaded with sugar. For a special treat, we’d buy a box of zatarain’s mix and make jambalaya.

I don’t miss the other stuff at all, but I do kind of miss the jambalaya. And with Foodbuzz pledging to donate $25 to the Greater New Orleans Foundation (helping fishermen who were effected by the oil spill and their families) for every Gulf-Inspired post this weekend, it seemed like the perfect excuse to make it. Of course, I wasn’t going to resort to using a box – I know better than that now! (And a quick look at the back of the box confirmed my suspicions — 21% of your RDA of sodium? MSG? Sodium dioxide?? No thanks!) No, this jambalaya is 100% real food and 100% real flavor. Sure you have to spend a few minutes chopping vegetables, but other than that it really isn’t any more difficult or time consuming than the boxed stuff. And the final product is so much healthier and so much more delicious that there really isn’t any excuse to take “shortcuts”!

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Question: Do/ have you ever relied on convenience foods? Do you think they’re worth it? I think they’re nice for those nights when I just don’t have the energy think about cooking at all, but now I try to make sure the ingredients are all real, recognizable foods. I don’t think they’re generally huge time-savers (there’s nothing they can do to make water boil any faster!) but I will admit that they do cut down on the energy you have to spend cooking and they require a lot less thought that starting with whole ingredients does.
Looking for more Gulf-inspired flavor? How about a nice, steamy bowl of gumbo? Gumbo is very similar to jambalaya, but it’s prepared as a soup enriched with a roux. In gumbo, the rice is cooked separately from the other ingredients and added in the final step instead of cooking along with everything else and absorbing all of the flavors.
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Cajun Jambalaya with Okra, Andouille and Shrimp

 

  • 1/2 lb. shrimp, cleaned with tails removed
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbs oregano (dried)
  • 1 tsp thyme (dried)
  • 1/4 lb. Andouille sausage, sliced into rounds (Chicken andouille works well if you can find it)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 cups fat-free chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 cup okra, sliced into rounds
  • 2 tsp fresh basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper

In a bowl, combine the shrimp, cayenne, oregano, and thyme. Toss to coat.

Set a heavy pot over high heat and add the andouille. Cook for several minutes, until the andouille begins to brown and crisp on the outside edges. Add the onion, pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook 3-4 minutes to allow the vegetables to soften. Add the tomatoes, stock, bay leaves and Tabasco. Slowly stir in the rice. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp (along with any remaining seasonings from the bowl) and okra. Cook another 5-10 minutes, until the shrimp is cooked through and the rice is tender. Stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional Tabasco so each diner can adjust the amount of spice to suit their taste.

Serves 6.
Approx. 285 calories, 7 grams fat, 4 grams fiber, 23 grams protein

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I’m linking this post to Real Food Tuesdays

Comments

  1. Unplanned Cooking says:

    I was the worst eater in college. I really didn’t clean up my act until I had kids.

  2. When I first starting cooking, I definitely relied on things like storebought marinades, dressings, and sauces FREQUENTLY. And to think I called myself a home cook! Now I actually can’t think of a single processed food that I own. If I can’t make it myself, I refuse to buy it.

    I love your homemade jambalaya! The sausage has me drooling….I’ve definitely been craving it lately.

  3. I remember some pretty spectacular kitchen disasters when I was younger. I am so glad I took the time to learn how to cook. It is really a passion now! Your jambalaya looks very tasty! Great pics, too!

  4. I love one pot meal, specially the ones like this, with lots and lots of ingredients…YUMMIE!

  5. cristie says:

    I remember a time when I was young that the “cake mix” was new! Yes, I have used convenience foods in the past, but so happy to report that I am a preservitive free cook now and ever so much better off because of it.

  6. That looks really great. I’ve always shied away from jambalaya because it has so many ingredients I don’t stock, but I have pretty much all of these, which makes it better.

    As for convenience foods, it depends. I don’t eat frozen meals or those out of a box (unless it’s Mac n’ Cheese, but that is rare and a guilty pleasure). I’ll buy pasta sauce, but also make my own, including pesto. Of course I buy condiments–but I don’t consider those convenience foods. I’ve been making my own dressing lately, though. As for marinades, I make all of my own from spices, herbs, soy sauce, juice, etc. I also make a lot. And I buy snacks like crackers and corn chips. There are some things it makes no sense to make at home if you can find them without the chemicals & salt.

    But, aside from mac n cheese when I CRAVE it, I definitely do not replace my meals with other things. This has a lot to do with the fact that I think frozen vegetables are gross. But when it comes down to it, I could probably make a decent meal in 15 minutes out of the stuff I have on hand. Shrimp defrosts and cooks in the time it takes to make pasta. Throw in those florets of broccoli into the water about a minute before your pasta is done. Drain. Toss with some cheese. Real food.

  7. Found your site via the 2-4-2sDay postings. I love Cajun food, your photo is up there with any… almost food porn!

    Love how you have bites of meat edge to edge. Magazine quality for sure!

  8. Wow! Beautiful jambalaya…and WAAAAAAY better than the convenience stuff in a box. The sausage, the shrimp, the okra…oh man, I could go for a bowl right now! I used to eat the same way back in college…isn’t it funny how we thought it was “healthy”!? Live and learn, huh? Good thing we know a little better now ;) Thanks for sharing with Two for Tuesdays!!

  9. butterpoweredbike says:

    Eggs are my convenience food – they cook up in a flash, and pair with everything.

    Those okra bits look so tempting. Thanks for bringing your recipe to Two for Tuesday.

  10. The cajun jambalya looks wonderful- all kinds of wonderful flavors and colors in this one!

    I have small children and find that I still get roped into buying packaged foods. I try to eliminate them, but it doesn’t always work.

  11. Looks healthy and delicious

  12. Hi Lauren, I am so laughing at the beginning of your post because I too vaguely remember eating “convenience” foods and tonight it came up because both my kids were out for dinner and I needed something quick. My husband said, lets get a frozen pizza and I said, No lets make a pastured egg omlette instead! The former made me feel yucky, the latter made me feel divine! :) This jambalaya looks like it would also make me feel divine! Thanks so much for sharing the real food love on the two for tuesday recipe blog hop! alex@amoderatelife

  13. fabulous recipe – i love the authentic ingredients and the thickness of the jambalaya. i also wish sometimes i didn’t have to worry about budget before health, but i’ll get there one day!

  14. I love jambalaya. I first made it 20 years ago when my brother was living in New Orleans. So many possibilities for protein variations. It is the ultimate comfort food. Yours looks wonderful.

  15. This looks REALLY good – I love all the fresh ingredients! Yum!

  16. Wow that looks so good – it is amazing the difference between fresh and boxed – how did we ever get hoodwinked into thinking the boxed is better??? Thanks for linking to Two for Tuesday!

  17. Made this for dinner last week. SO good!

    Thanks for the tip on chicken andouille. Turns out my supermarket makes a great one. It may be my new favorite thing :-)

  18. Joe Wojtuniak says:

    I love the recipe…..but it looks a little dry…any recommendations to have it more like a stew with liquids?
    Thanks

  19. The thing I love about foods like these is that many of them can be frozen and reheated. I’ll make a big batch and portion it out into microwavable sandwich containers. It’s so nice to have a healthy, hot lunch. And it’s usually cheaper and always better than most prepackaged frozen lunches.

  20. Huh, where did I go wrong. I added the rice brought to a simmer then simmered the rice for ten minutes, then 10 minutes more, then 10 minutes more, it was still a tad crunchy. Great flavor though

  21. I made this exactly as the recipe says and it was soooo SPICY it automatically caught my throat on fire. I had to add 3 cups of water and a lot of instant brown rice so my kids were able to eat it. Will make this again but not so spicy lol :)

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