Chicken and Smoked Sausage Jambalaya

I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans. I’m intrigued by the cuisine, and a little afraid of it.

At the aromatic root of savory Cajun and Creole cooking is the holy trinity: a sauté of chopped onion, celery, and green pepper. You can find the trinity in gumbo, maque choux, étouffée, dirty rice, jambalaya, and I totally forgot what I was talking about.

But I’m on the holy trinity do-not-call list because I’m allergic to bell peppers.

Since I’m pretty sure omitting the green peppers from jambalaya will get me kicked out of the foodies club anyway, I decided to further bastardize the original recipe and make it a tad bit healthier. In the interest of my cholesterol level (and throwing convention and authenticity out the window), I used turkey kielbasa in place of the pork sausage.

And did I miss the green peppers? Um, no. Why would I miss food that makes me feel like crap? The turkey kielbasa was just as juicy and lush as smoked sausage should be. Really, it was a delicious dish – rich and flavorful, filling, and just spicy enough without blowing your head off.

I took it for lunch for a week and it reheated just right in the microwave. There was some serious lunch envy in the cafeteria that week.

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Banana Walnut Muffins

I despise banana-flavored candy. Laffy Taffy, Runts, popsicles, Lifesavers, Now and Laters, jelly beans, Dum Dums, Pez, Dubble Bubble, Starburst – I will ALWAYS toss out the banana flavored ones.

When I was a kid, my banana-flavor loathing prejudiced me to all things banana. I thought I hated bananas, and by extension, any foods baked with bananas. And so I turned up my nose at banana bread, banana cream pie, banana pudding, and sadly, banana muffins.

Thankfully, I came around to baked banana goodness on a family vacation to Toledo when my great grandma tricked me into eating zucchini bread. “Here, have a piece,” she said, with a sly smile. Wildly suspicious, my sister and I asked what was in it. “Oh, just try it. I promise you’ll like it.” And she was right – it was delicious.

Banana Muffin Batter in Tin

That zucchini was my gateway bread. The next morning when she offered me a piece of her freshly baked banana bread, I tried it without first scrutinizing the list of ingredients, and I finally realized what I’d been missing.

While I can’t imagine duplicating my great grandma’s magical banana bread, I think I’ve found a pretty darn good banana muffin recipe. I tried to make them a little more heart-healthy than your average muffin, subbing a bit of wheat flour for some of the AP, and a bit of heart-healthy spread for some of the butter. They came out delicious – sweet and moist and buttery – and they didn’t taste like health food at all.

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Chicken Campanelle with Asparagus in Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Hey, remember back when I had a job? No?

Well, once upon a time, I had a job. Every day at noon, I would walk down to the lunch room, heat up my leftovers, and tell the story of my lunch to my co-workers. And on days I brought in superstar leftovers like this velvety and rich, blue-cheesy casserole, my colleagues in the lunch room came down with a strong case of lunch envy.

I miss those days.

But good news, friends! After nearly three months of unemployment, I am thrilled to enter the field of catering. On a really, really, really small scale.

This is the dawning of the Age of Asparagus

Starting this week, I’ll be making lunches for Handsome Greg to take to work. See, Handsome Greg isn’t much of a cook, and he isn’t a planner, and he’s really not a morning person, so he buys his lunch out pretty much every day. The food isn’t particularly healthy and it costs a fortune.

So I spent yesterday afternoon preparing two different lunch menus and packing them up neat in plastic containers to send off with Greg after our date Saturday night. In the interest of Greg’s cholesterol level, the dishes I made this week are not quite as luxurious as the chicken campanelle with asparagus in gorgonzola cream sauce, but I think they may inspire lunch envy with the guys at the office nonetheless.

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