Slow-cooker Mardi Gras-inspired recipes

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

New Orleans red beans and rice

Makes 6-8 servings

If you need a stick-to-your-ribs, one-dish dinner, get a fill of this protein-packed Creole classic, featured originally in “The Crockin’ Girls Slow Cookin’ Companion.”

1 pound dried red beans

7 cups water

1 small onion, chopped

Ham bone or ham hocks

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 pound hot smoked sausage, sliced

1 tablespoon Creole seasoning

1. Rinse beans.

2. Place all ingredients in the slow cooker.

3. Cook on low for 7 hours or until the beans are tender. Tip: If you want less juice, just mash the beans while it cooks.

4. Serve over cooked rice.

Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx



— Nicole Sparks and Jenna Marwitz

Shrimp Creole

Makes 6-8 servings

Don’t skimp on the shrimp, says Sparks, who can’t get enough of this low-calorie, high-protein food. Shrimp Creole has become a family favorite in her household, but son Gage, 7, and daughter Grace, 4, like it best when Mom leaves the Tabasco out.

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 green onion, diced

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

2 14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes

1-1 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon parsley

2 heaping teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon sugar

2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp (fresh or thawed frozen)

Cooked rice

1. Combine all ingredients (except shrimp and rice) in a 6-quart slow cooker.

2. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

3. Add shrimp last hour of cooking.

4. Serve over cooked rice.

Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx



— Nicole Sparks and Jenna Marwitz

Slow-cooked jambalaya

Makes 6-8 servings

Jambalaya traditionally is prepared in three separate stages, but this slow-cooker recipe requires only four quick steps to serve up portion sizes big enough to satisfy the hungriest of families. Marwitz’s husband, Stanton, loves this jambalaya because it has okra to boot, and she loves that it has plenty of deliciously seasoned veggies the kids will eat.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 green pepper, diced

1 medium onion, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

2 tablespoons Cajun or Creole seasoning

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon thyme

Hot sauce to taste

1 cup chicken stock

1 small bag frozen okra (optional)

1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (fresh or thawed frozen)

Cooked rice

1. Add all ingredients except shrimp and rice in a 6-quart slow cooker.

2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours.

3. Add shrimp about 20-30 minutes before serving to cook or heat through.

4. Remove bay leaves before serving over rice.

Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx



— Jenna Marwitz and Nicole Sparks

Sausage-, potato- and onion-stuffed peppers

Makes 6-8 servings

This recipe adds Cajun spice to make otherwise bland peppers pop with color and taste, making this dish an attractive and tasty crowd pleaser.

• 1 can crushed tomatoes

• 1 teaspoon dried oregano

• 1/4 teaspoon each black pepper and kosher salt

• 1 small onion, chopped

• 1 to 2 small potatoes (golden or red), diced

• 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional

• 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed

• 4 large bell peppers

1. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except bell peppers. Mix well.

2. Cut the stems off the peppers and discard the seeds.

3. Spoon the sausage mixture (about 1 cup each) into the peppers. Arrange the peppers upright in a 6-quart (or larger) slow cooker and place the tops over the filling.

4. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, or until the sausage is fully cooked through and the peppers are tender.

5. Using 2 large spoons, transfer the peppers to plates, letting any excess liquid drain into the sauce. Stir the sauce and serve with the peppers.

Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx



— Jenna Marwitz and Nicole Sparks

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Say “Mardi Gras,” and you probably conjure images of bead throwing, parade watching and general wild-and-crazy revelry on the streets of New Orleans.

Though it’s celebrated other places, the Big Easy is the Mardi Gras capital of the world. And when you think New Orleans, you can’t help but think of its distinctive cuisine — jambalaya, red beans and rice, shrimp Creole — all of which pairs (a little too) easily with those famous sazeracs and hurricanes.

Whether you’re past your partying days or just can’t make it to New Orleans for Fat Tuesday next week, bring the tastes of the city home to your family with these easy slow-cooker meals.

Slow-cooker recipes are busy parents’ and bad cooks’ best bets for delicious weeknight meals, said Nicole Sparks, 34. Sparks, one part of the two-mama duo known as The Crockin’ Girls (, simmered her way to cookbook fame with her best friend and co-author, Jenna Marwitz, 28.

Since publishing their 2012 cookbook, The Crockin’ Girls Slow Cookin’ Companion (Five Star Institute, $32.95), Sparks and Marwitz — who live in Paradise, in Wise County — have added more than a few new recipes to their collection thanks to fan suggestions, and they’ve gotten a little healthier, too.

“Bell peppers, onions, and celery is the holy trinity of Cajun food,” said Sparks, who added that a lot of staple Cajun ingredients are healthful in the raw. Throw those healthy veggies in a slow cooker with some lean protein, such as chicken, shrimp or beans, add some spice, and set it to cook.

In a few hours, your family will sit down to a filling Mardi Gras meal. Bead throwing optional.

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