Here in Canada it is Family Day, which is a holiday dedicated to spending time with your family, but half a continent away there is a major party in progress.  It’s time for Mardi Gras!

Matt and I lived in Baton Rouge for three years while he was in grad school at LSU, and  I loved the time we spent there.  It was before we had kids.  We were young and carefree. I miss a lot of things about living in Louisiana.  I made some great friends, ate some amazing food, and had some of the best times of my life.  Some of my favorite memories of our years in Louisiana are of Mardi Gras, and I look forward to the day when I can go back to take my kids there to some of the parades.  I know they will love catching beads and marveling at the floats first hand.

Matt and I in New Orleans

While I won’t be jetting off to New Orleans this week, I can still join in the spirit of the celebration by cooking some of my favorite Cajun dishes, with my own healthy twist of course!  Like my version of dirty rice that is actually really clean, with brown rice, lots of veggies, and sweet and spicy toasted pecans.  Even though it is healthy, it is full of flavor and spice, and still imparts the spirit of Cajun cuisine.  So for goodness sake, have a skinny Tuesday and make this clean dirty rice!

Clean Dirty Rice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cups diced purple cabbage

1 yellow bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 sweet yellow onion, diced

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1 ½ tablespoons paprika

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 dried bay leaf

2 cups parboiled brown rice (you will know it is parboiled because the package will say something like ready in 15/20 minutes)

4 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 cup Cajun Spiced Maple Pecans (recipe below)

In a large stock pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil.  Add the cabbage, bell peppers, onion, and celery to the pot and cook stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.  In the meantime, mix the spices together in a small bowl.  After the veggies have sautéed for 10 minutes, add the spices and rice to the pot and stir until the veggies and rice are coated in spices.  Pour in the broth and increase the heat to medium high.  Stir the pot frequently until it begin to boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until all of the stock has been absorbed.  Stir in the Cajun Spiced Maple Pecans and serve immediately. Serve with Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce if you like it extra spicy (I do!).

Spicy Maple Pecans- These babies make a highly addictive snack, so you might want to make a double batch!

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium sized bowl whisk together maple syrup, cayenne, and salt with a fork.  Add the pecans to the bowl and stir to coat with the syrup mixture.  Bake in the oven for 8 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving. 

Roasted Green and Wax Beans

½ pound green beans, ends trimmed

½ pound of wax beans, ends trimmed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the beans on the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the bean tips are beginning to turn golden brown.

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