NOLA – Red Beans and Rice

Jackson Square

Happy New Year! Happy New Decade! Here’s to the 20’s! Sorry I could not help myself. I tell you what, the teen’s, is that what we are calling the last decade? Well my teen years were awesome – so much happened in just ten years. I truly feel like it was one of the best decades of my life, two kids, another dog, three moves, new careers, a doctorate and lots of travel and food. What more could you ask for? Well naturally, I want to keep on traveling, blogging, cooking, and enjoying this beautiful planet. I thought I would share one of my all time favorite food cities in the world. I have been to 5 of the 7 continents (Africa and Antartica – I am coming to you this decade) and of all the places I have traveled, New Orleans (NOLA) is one of my favorite places. I love the atmosphere, ambience, and the aroma of fabulous food.

If you are going to NOLA, first you must understand the history of the city and the state. It was claimed by the French in 1682 by LaSalle (not the guy from NCIS, New Orleans) and the city was founded in 1718. The center of the city was formed around the Vieux Carre (a square) which is where the French Quarter is currently located. This beautiful city that sat at a high point above the mighty Mississippi river was a hub for trade for France. The territory was given as a part of the Treaty of Paris to the Spaniards in 1763. This succession allowed for beautiful baroque architecture, iron work and arches throughout the city that enhanced the French influence but two great fires in the late 1700’s destroyed parts of the city and the architecture. Spain later ceded Louisiana back to the French and three years later, Napoleon sold the territory to the United States in 1803. The Brits wanted a piece of this precious real-estate as well, thus the War of 1812. Andrew Jackson played a tremendous role in this war and was the victor thus Jackson Square in his honor.

I tell you all this to give you what the city weathered and yet keep tradition and customs alive. Still in the city today you have French, Spanish, and Creole customs alive within the city. This city truly became the blend of a unique, rich culture. This heritage is what I think draws me to this city time and time again. This is also a town that has weathered wars, slavery, storms, and fires and yet has stood the test. When Katrina came, many believed New Orleans would not survive and yet it still stands and it celebrated its 300th anniversary, in style might I add, in 2018.

For my 35th birthday, my husband had a work trip in New Orleans. We both had never been to the city and instantly signed up! This was the absolute best birthday. I had so much fun! I celebrated my birthday at several of the restaurants in the quarter or right off of the quarter. Here are a few of my favorite NOLA things: If you are in NOLA, you must go to Mothers. It is the red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo and the famous po’ boy mecca. Do not be dissuaded my the menu on the wall and the walk up-order counter. Trust me you cannot go wrong with any of it. This restaurant was established in the late 30’s and during World War II, it was coined the “TUN Tavern New Orleans” because 5 of the 7 children of the owners joined the United States Marine Corps and became a local hangout for many Marines. As a wife of a Marine, this was a must and our first dining experience in the city!

We also had another wonderful dinner of prime ribeye, garlic shrimp, and asparagus at Brennans for my actual birthday. This restaurant has been around since the 40’s and the chandeliers and ambience of the place was the perfect setting to celebrate. To top off the evening, I had the traditional bananas foster for dessert. We dressed up and made reservations for the beautiful place and it did not disappoint.

The following evening, I was still celebrating. As you are aware, I like to celebrate this momentous event multiple times. We went to GW Finn’s. The amount of mounted fish on the walls and ceilings were quite unusual but intriguing. We started with oysters on the half shell, Swordfish, Red Snapper and to top off my fabulous birthday, cheesecake. Again, you will need to make reservations for GW Finn’s.

If you are going to take time and go to this iconic city, you need to go to Cafe Du Monde’s and get you a chicory coffee and a beignet. We went to the original location that year and the line to get a beignet was two blocks long. We went back to NOLA last year but, we went to River Marketplace and had zero line. I recommend seeing the original location in the quarter and if the line is too long visit the one just down the river. They not only have the traditional beignets but also beignet fries which was easier and a little less messy.

Now if you are in NOLA, you will see iconic places like Pat O’Briens and the Funky Pirate. Here you can get the traditional a Hurricane and a Grenade. It is a wonderful way to celebrate birthdays – trust me.

No matter where you go in the city, the blend of cultures, religions, people, food, and drink create an amazing experience in this beautiful city. The traditional Red beans and rice always brings back these amazing experiences. So here is my recipe for red beans and rice – New Orleans style.

Red Beans and Rice

2 Smoked Sausage links cut into bite size pieces

1 can of Dark Kidney beans, drained

1 can of Light Red Kidney beans, drained

1 red onion diced

1 tbsp of minced garlic

1 can of rotell

2 tbsp of chili powder

1 tbsp of oregano

1 tbsp of olive oil

3 cups of chicken broth

2 cups of Jasmine Rice

1 Bay leaf

Green onions diced – optional

salt and pepper to taste

In a rice cooker, take two cups of Jasmine rice and three cups of chicken broth and set to cook. I have used a Hamilton Beach rice cooker for the last 10 years and it is a must in our house.

In a large stock pan, add the oil, cook the onions, garlic, sausage, and beans till the onion is translucent. Once the rice is cooked, add the rice to the pan, rotell, chili powder, oregano and bay leaf. Stir, cover, and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Once it is done, add sliced green onions for garnish – optional. If you wish to add more heat, you can add more chili powder, red pepper flakes, your favorite hot sauce, or an actual chili pepper in there. If you want to add a bit of extra flair, in the last 4-5 minutes add peeled, deveined, shrimp. Salt and pepper to taste.

This is a one pot meal. My kids love this and it brings me back to the French quarter each time. My husband and I will add a bit of red pepper flakes to our bowl for extra heat. I hope you have enjoyed NOLA and red beans and rice. If you haven’t been to New Orleans, do it! You will love the city as much as I do. If you haven’t subscribed yet to my blog, please do so to get the latest blogs.

Happy New Year, Happy New You, Happy New Decade, and may this be a year of good food, glorious travel and great friends! Saluer!

Duck Duck…Peking Duck

Flashback November 2003, my first taste of duck. I just said yes and I do to my best friend in front of friends and family in my beautiful hometown. We partied and danced the night away then quickly gathered our bags and headed to the airport in Nashville. We boarded the plane early for us newlyweds at 6am for our dream Hawaiian honeymoon. You see, travel and adventure were always at the forefront in our relationship. We had went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Boone, North Carolina, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and to Ecuador in our dating era. We were so determined to travel together; we would save change and use that money to help us travel. We had been dating 5 years when Jamie asked me to marry him and our deal was to have a Hawaiian honeymoon. We were budget conscious and ensured that the most important aspect of the event was our honeymoon. Jamie set up the entire arrangements for the honeymoon and I focused on the wedding. We went on a Norwegian Cruise Line, freestyle cruise to Hawaii. It was our first time on a cruise and definitely was not our last. We traveled around the islands and then onto an island in the Republic of Kiribati, Fanning Island. The most important part for you to know about that island is it is also known as Gilligan’s Island. We got to travel across the international date line and have 2 thanksgivings that year. On the first Thanksgiving in 2003, I got to taste duck for the very first time. I love being on cruises or places that you have a meal plan. You can be a bit adventurous in your meal choices and always have a back up plan that does not blow the bank. The duck was beautifully moist and had a sweet soy orange glaze that would make you want to smack your momma – it was that good. It was so memorable due to our honeymoon, two Thanksgivings, and the ambience of the beautiful Norwegian ship, the Sun.

Fast forward 2018, Beijing, China. I had the opportunity to speak at Beijing Normal University. My former graduate assistant was back in her homeland and living out her dream job. I was honored and so excited to be back in China and work with her on this project. I made sure I flew in early so that I could enjoy the city and see the sights with her and one of my students. Beijing is so vast and diverse. When we were there for our adoption, it was a quick two days. We hit the major highlights but missed a lot of what this city has to offer.

If you go to China, get jade! Just do it, pay for it, and you will have no regrets. In Chinese culture, women will wear jade on their wedding day. We bought jade earrings for our daughter when we adopted her a few years ago. The intricate carvings and workmanship these Chinese artists do with jade is outstanding. If you get a chance to go to the Beihai Park on W. Dianmen Street, do it. It is a beautiful park and has a pretty cool boat ride through the park. I probably would not recommend renting a bike and traveling the five miles on the highway to go there, but hey, I survived. When you haven’t ridden a bike in like 5 years or more, why not rent one and ride down a 8 lane highway to get there because the taxi was taking too long? When in Rome, I mean Beijing… I digress. The Dashanzi Art district is worth the hour train ride in the city. This is so cool, the once manufacturing area of Beijing that caused quite a bit of smog in the city has been transformed into an artist village. The 3-D art work was amazing to see and play around with while we were there. Of course, I got my picture in front of a painted horse thinking of my Old Kentucky home.

So often, friends will ask me what I eat in another country and how brave I am for trying new foods. Seriously folks, there are some amazing foods out there to try from all over the world! Try it – get out of your comfort zone and try it. These are just a few of the highlights of the food I tried while in the city. When we were in Beijing with the adoption of our daughter, we had tried to eat duck however, we did not get the chance to try it. The wait at the restaurant was a bit too long and we were afraid we would miss our meeting. I knew this time around, I was going to eat duck in the city if I had to wait three hours – it was going to happen. Boy, it did not disappoint. They do a bit of a show and carve your duck right in front of you.

It was just as I had remembered it from our honeymoon cruise. DELICIOUS!!

Fast forward – Present day. Our local Kroger grocery store is getting geared up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday. They are feverishly stocking shelves and the coolers. I happened to walk by and I spotted DUCK!!!! In all the years since our honeymoon, I had never seen duck in our local grocery store. I literally squealed like a little girl on Christmas morning. A few folks turned to see if I was alright or just having an attack of some kind. I reassured them I was not insane but in fact thrilled to have duck. The confused glare from one older gentlemen made me want to tell him the whole story of my excitement but I figured I just needed to get the duck and get home.

Ahhhhhhh, sweet, sweet duck – where have you been? Leesburg, Indiana – I see, thank you Maple Leaf farms for making me a happy girl!

This beautiful farm raised duck out of Indiana helped me to celebrate our 16th anniversary in style. Maple Leaf farms out of Leesburg, Indiana has been raising ducks since 1958. The quality of the duck was outstanding.

Peking Roasted Duck

1- 4-5 lb Duck, innards removed, thawed (took two days in the refrigerator)

2 Halo oranges

1 tablespoon of fresh diced ginger

1 tbsp of minced garlic

1 tbsp House of Tsang Stir Fry oil

1 green onion diced

1 tsp of dried orange peel (I microwaved the fresh peel to dry it out since I did not have any dried and then diced it – it worked)

1/2 tbsp of sugar

1/2 tbsp of salt

2 tablespoons of light sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons of Shao Xing Cooking wine (This is my favorite brand but most rice wines will work)

1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice (or 13 spice – I have on hand) powder


1/4 cup of sorghum

1 tbsp of rice vinegar

1 cup of hot water

First, get your large plastic bag ready. I used ziplock 5 gallon zip and lock bag. Next, I made diagonal cuts just along the skin of the duck breast, then reversed it to create a diamond pattern. DO NOT cut deep, light cuts just through the skin of the duck will do. I dried the inside of the duck out prior to stuffing the duck with 2 of the halo oranges.

Combine the marinade ingredients, ginger, garlic, green onion, soy sauce, Shao Xing, salt, sugar, dried orange peel, and the 13 spice powder. Pour over the duck and let marinate for 24 hours.

Next day, preheat the oven to 425 degree. Make the glaze. Take the glaze ingredients(sorghum, water and rice vinegar), mix, and cook on medium heat till combined. Place the duck in a large roasting pan, be sure to spray with Pam cooking spray. Brush the duck with 1/4th of the glaze and place in the oven.

Cook on 425 degrees for 35 minutes. Then add another 1/4 glaze (half should be gone by this point) to the duck and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Roast for another 20 minutes. Pull duck out and use the remaining glaze (1/2) and roast for an additional 10 minutes till the internal temp is 170 degrees. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.

I made orange flavored, steamed broccoli (I used a bit of the duck sauce pack on the broccoli since I did not use it on the duck Рit was good). Jasmine rice and hoisin saut̩ed mushrooms. Not bad for 16 years of saying yes to all of our adventures.