I’m very happy to say that there are several good cooks in my family and I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to share a meal in the comfort of their homes once in a while. Sometimes I even invite myself over and it’s always okay.

While I entertain the grandchildren and help fold the laundry, a meal magically appears on the table. The clock is ticking towards basketball practice and music lessons, but we manage to all sit down together and be nourished with five minutes to spare. I am left in charge of the youngest who happily helps clear the table and pack the next day’s lunches because I’ve bribed him with the chocolate oatmeal cookies I brought along.

We all know how busy life can get, but I really do believe a family should sit down to supper together whenever possible. This “fast-food” Creole jambalaya, also known as red jambalaya, is a perfect dish that goes together quickly. Flavorful and simple, it can be varied to your taste by using different varieties of smoked sausages. This is a shrimp-less jambalaya since my granddaughter has made it very clear that she doesn’t like them.

You may not know this factoid, but the combination of onion, celery, and green pepper is known in Creole and Cajun cooking as “the holy trinity.” The addition of the other vegetables adds not only more flavor, but more texture to this dish. You may want to open that second can of tomatoes, depending on how saucy you want the jambalaya to be. A great one-pot meal to make ahead, the longer the ingredients have to meld, the better it tastes.

If you like to your jambalaya on the spicy side or over-do with the hot sauce, you may want to have cooling Louisiana Salad standing by. It really complements the flavor of Creole dishes including gumbo or red beans and rice. It’s also an excellent accompaniment to Mediterranean entrées.

And for dessert and lunch-boxes, try these chocolate oatmeal cookies. Especially if you have children in your life, you want to keep the cookie jar filled at all times. I’ve been making these cookies for many years and like to think they are a bit healthier because they have some extra fiber. After all, who wouldn’t like chocolate-covered oatmeal?

Week-night Jambalaya

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/4 lb. pork breakfast sausage, removed from casings
  • 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1/2 cup green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup red pepper, diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 to 2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • Scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • Tabasco or other hot sauce for serving

Heat a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven. Add oil, sausages, and chicken and cook over medium heat until everything is browned, about 8 minutes.

Add onion. Cook and stir until softened, about 5 minutes. Add red and green pepper, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until tender for another 5 minutes. Stir in rice, bay leaf and thyme, season with salt and pepper and cook and stir for 3 minutes.

Add stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is done, about 15-20 minutes. Garnish with scallions and serve with hot sauce. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Louisiana Tossed Salad

  • 2 cups each romaine, Boston, and green leaf lettuce, chopped
  • 1/2 cup each endive and Napa cabbage, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine all the greens. In a small bowl, whisk together all the other ingredients and pour over the greens. Toss and serve. Yield: 4-6 servings

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar, butter, egg, water and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until almost firm, about 10-12 minutes. Yield: 5 dozen.