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I am not from the South. I did not grow up with collard greens, or grits, or jambalaya, or crawfish (all of which are actually delicious). I am very clearly from the Midwest. I call carbonated beverages “Soda” – not “pop” or “Coke”, I say “Chicaaaaaaahgo”, and will only drink UN-sweetened iced tea. Also, I somehow picked up “wicked” from my time in Baaaahston Boston, so I guess now I’m also a Yankee of sorts. A Midwestern Yankee.

Now that I live in (or near) the deep South, I am learning so much about the amazing food from this area (mostly courtesy of Paula Deen and Jenee), and am really loving it. My taste buds are exploding with all sorts of new flavors and foods that I never even knew existed until the past year. I’m even starting to say “Y’all” and “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am”… which, by the time I leave here, will make me a… Southern MidWestern Yankee?

I digress.

Here are a couple of things I have learned so far. I like to call them Southern Cooking Basics:

1. Everything is better if it’s cooked with ham hocks.

2. Everything is better with bacon. Especially green beans. No, really.

3. Everything is better cooked in butter, or bacon grease. Not oil.

These are probably things you could have figured out yourself, but hey – up North, the health obsessed crazy train to organic, grass-fed, Whole paycheck Foods is in full swing (I have been on this train many times, as I am generally health-obsessed). However, that train isn’t in service down here. Actually, the closest Whole Foods is a solid three hour drive from me (and my wallet is very, very thankful).

Anywhoo. For some reason, I really wanted red beans and rice a few nights ago – which happens to be a staple Southern dish. Did I know how to make it? No.

I mean, really. I didn’t. I asked Jenee what “red beans” meant… I thought they were special.

Turns out they’re literally just red beans. Usually, kidney beans. I guess you learn something new every day, huh? (Yes, I’m serious, this actually happened).

So, with the help of about fifty billion googled recipes, I figured out the basic ingredients, and went to work throwing together my own version of red beans and rice. Here it is for you.

Red Beans and Rice

This makes about six servings and stays well in the fridge for up to five days.


3-4 Bacon Strips, Chopped
1 Small Yellow Onion, Chopped
1 lb Cajun (or andouille/smoked/spicy/whatever) Sausage, in case, sliced
1, 14.5oz Can Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes
2 C Cooked Brown Rice
2, 14.5oz Cans Kidney Beans
1 Tb Crystal Hot Sauce
1 Tb Cajun Seasoning
2 Tb Oregano
2 Tb House Seasoning (or a mixture of salt, pepper, and garlic)

First, cook your diced bacon until mostly done. Add your onion to the pan with all of the bacon grease, and sauté until translucent and soft. Add your sausage and cook until heated and cooked most of the way.  Next, add your beans, rice, tomatoes, hot sauce and seasonings. Mix well, and serve immediately when everything is heated all the way through.

I was surprised at how much flavor was packed into this dish, since I pretty much just threw it together on a whim. It diverts a bit from original red beans and rice recipes by using brown rice (instead of white), fire roasted tomatoes, not adding in extra veggies like green bell peppers and celery, and not using ham hocks. Still, it was delicious, and faster to make than the usual style, since there is no way I’m rinsing and soaking red beans overnight (canned it is!).

Next time, I will definitely add chopped green bell peppers. I love those things, and there’s no reason not to add extra veggies to a dish.

Also, I’m pretty sure all red beans and rice recipes are gluten free – but I know that this one definitely is. 🙂