Being a food blogger, it’s embarrassing to admit we eat dinner out so often. We’re usually both home from work late and nothing in the fridge can be made fast. It’s easier to pop out to a restaurant and get a good meal. Many couples our age and older are at the restaurants and I told my P.S. we need a name for our group.
I assume the couples, like us, were too busy to make a good meal, or have nothing in the fridge that would combine to make a meal.. Nothing that doesn’t have fuzz on it or is past code date, anyway. After the kids leave home food just doesn’t move as fast through our fridges. I suggested to P.S. that we be called “Fuzzy Fridgers”, since anything coming out of our fridges is more likely to be fuzzy and heading for the trash than edible and heading for the dinner table. He politely laughed and gave me his PHE (patented husband eyeroll).
But seriously, sometimes by the time we buy all the ingredients for a particular meal, we have enough for 6 or 8 and then we have to eat it a couple of times afterwards. Or freeze portions and eat it much later. Hence the full freezers of foods we really don’t want to eat again. They were good once, but we can’t get excited about reheated leftovers months later. Cooking for just two of us becomes a challenge.
During holidays when we’re both even busier than usual, we dine out a lot. After a long, stressful day at the office I’d rather not go back out into a very cold world (up North it is always cold) for dinner. I like to throw things in a crockpot in the morning rather than go out for dinner later. One morning I looked in the fridge and found a ridiculous combination of foods, but went ahead and threw them in my slow cooker anyway.
I started with the sausages we had in the meat drawer to use as my protein: chicken sausage with cheese and chipotle peppers. I’m not a Johnsonville spokesperson, we just like their flavored chicken sausages. My P.S. likes sausage in a multitude of forms, and I don’t mind it grilled. I’ve had to learn to use it in new ways during the winter when the grill is under 6′ of snow.
I sliced the sausages up and set them aside.
Next I pulled a yellow sweet bell pepper out of another drawer in the fridge. I diced it up and put it in a large nonstick skillet with a drizzle of oil over medium heat.
I diced up a small onion and added that to the skillet.
As the final third of the ‘holy trinity’ they use down south, I diced up a few stalks of celery and added them to the pan. I also added the leafy tops, just because I like how they look in a dish.
While the veggies sautéed I added 4 cups of water and 3 of my favorite bouillon cubes to the slow cooker pot and brought them to a boil. I sliced 8 carrots and added them to the broth along with the sliced sausages and let them cook for about 10 minutes.
When the veggies were translucent I added them to my slow cooker pot, along with tomatoes, tomato paste, frozen peas and some garlic powder. Wanting it to be a bit creamier and add a bit of a mushroom flavor, I also threw in a can of cream of mushroom soup.
I brought the pot to a boil again, then put it on the base and set the heat to high. My slow cooker runs very low so I usually have to set it to high to even simmer. It would simmer for about 6 hours before I got home.
Later I called my P.S. who is home before me and asked him to add the leftover rice to the pot. It was about 3 cups and would make a nice complete meal of my thrown together dish. By the time I got home, it was ready to taste for seasoning. I added a little salt and pepper, then a glug of red wine vinegar to add that touch of acid that makes the flavors pop.
I pulled a roll of refrigerator biscuits out of the fridge and prepared them in the oven, then served them with our bowls of food. My P.S. decided it should be called a gumbo, since it had all of the usual ingredients, but technically it wasn’t thickened with file powder as a traditional gumbo would be.
We called it Northern Gumbo anyway, and it had a nice touch of heat that did remind me of gumbo, and maybe even a little like Jambalaya, which I make for Mardi Gras every year. The chipotle heat from the sausages had spread through the dish and livened it up nicely, similar to the Andouille I use in jambalaya.
It was a hot, hearty meal and much better than going out again in way below zero weather for a meal. It was good reheated a few days later as well. My P.S. ate it for lunch a couple of times and it was finally gone before it went fuzzy.
Carrots were probably the dominant flavor of the gumbo, which would be a surprise if you were expecting a traditional tasting gumbo. If you aren’t a carrot fan, you might want to cut back on the amount added to the dish. We’re huge on carrots here and randomly throw them in a lot of dishes.
4 cups chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 package chicken gouda brats
8 carrots; sliced
2 stalks celery
1 sweet bell pepper (yellow)
1 medium onion
15 ounce can roasted diced tomatoes
2 small cans tomato paste
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 teaspoon garlic powder
5 cups cooked rice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Shredded Parmesan (optional)
Bring broth to boil in pot of slow cooker; add sliced brats and carrots. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes.
In a large nonstick skillet, add a drizzle of oil and saute the onions, peppers and celery until they begin to turn brown on the edges. Add to slow cooker pot.
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic powder, mushroom soup and frozen peas and stir well.
Put slow cooker pot on base and set on high. Cover and cook for 5 hours.
After 5 hours, stir in rice and red wine vinegar. Let cook another hour on high.
Add black pepper and taste for seasonings, adding salt if desired.
Serve hot with rolls or biscuits.
If you don’t have a slow cooker with a stovetop safe pot, you could prepare the broth, carrots and sausages in a large kettle. Stir it all together before pouring into a crockpot. and finishing from there.