CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN — DECEMBER 12

This time of year, between all the holiday activities and end-of-year deadlines, it can be challenging to find time to prepare meals.  This is the time to make a big pot of something easy and hearty.

One of our favorite one-pot meals is Treebeards’ Red Beans.  Treebeards has been serving classic Cajun and Southern style dishes since 1978, and has five downtown locations.  The casual restaurant’s Red Beans served over white rice is a popular dish, and is easy to prepare at home.  The recipe comes from the Treebeards Cookbook (available on the their website), which is a great collection of no-fail recipes (including the restaurant’s mustard greens and baked chicken breast with fresh basil vinaigrette).  (They also offer a Red Beans & Rice Gift Basket, which comes with everything needed to make the recipe, including a bottle of Treebeards hot sauce, and at $13.95, makes a nice reasonably-priced gift).

TREEBEARDS' RED BEANS
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Recipe type: STEWS
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 pound dried light red kidney beans
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
  • ½ large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, cut into ½-inch slices
  • White rice, for serving
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving
  • Chopped green onions, for serving
Instructions
  1. Wash and drain red beans. Place beans in a large stockpot and add water. Soak overnight. (Alternatively, bring beans and water to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.) Do not drain beans.
  2. Add onions, celery, and bell pepper to red beans and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for approximately 1-1/2 hours until beans are soft and begin to thicken. Avoid stirring too much, or beans will get mushy.
  3. Stir in seasonings and sausage. Simmer for 30 minutes or until beans are tender. Season to taste with additional salt, if needed.
  4. Serve hot over white rice, and pass bowls of shredded cheddar cheese and chopped greens, for topping as desired. (Note -- some people like to add a dash or two of Tabasco to theirs as well.)

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Begin with light red kidney beans

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Relieve holiday stress with this easy and hearty dish

Another easy meal is chili.  There’s a million recipes out there, but if you really want to make life simple, I highly recommend Wick Fowler’s 2 Alarm Chili Kit.  (In 1967, Wick Fowler won the first world chili cook-off in Terlingua, Texas.)

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Inside, there’s individual packets of chili powder, paprika, cumin/oregano, onion/garlic, red pepper, salt, and masa.

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You decide how much red pepper you want to add, depending on how many alarms you’d like your chili to be.  I tend to cut back a little on the salt, and usually omit the masa (the chili thickens nicely without the masa),

We make our chili by browning 1 pound of lean ground beef in a dutch oven.  Next, we add a chopped onion and saute until translucent.  We follow the package directions and add an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce and 16 ounces of water, followed by the spices.  We also add 2 cans of rinsed and drained beans (pinto, kidney, or black beans, or a combination, depending on what we have on hand), and a can of petite diced tomatoes.  (I realize that chili diehards insist that chili should not have beans, but I think by now everyone knows the benefits of legumes.)  Let the chili simmer for about 30 minutes until the beef is tender, and dinner is ready.  For an extra-special treat, make chili dogs or Frito pie.

To make your chili Christmas-y, try garnishing it with grated white cheddar and chopped jalapenos and pimentos.

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What’s your favorite easy “pot of something” meal?