My girl group is breaking up.
I have briefly mentioned the collective greatness of my college girlfriends before, but in case you missed that, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. Meg Starr, Lara, Daphne, and Annabel are my besties, and they are the tits. As Cher Horowitz once said, “We’re friends because we know what it’s like for people to be jealous of us.” Psych. (But seriously, we are the funniest, smartest, prettiest girls we know.)
By some act of the New York City housing gods, the five of us have spent the past two years living within a ten-block radius of each other, which is convenient for several reasons. Such proximity facilitates impromptu group dinners, outfit consultation, casual cocktails, and Sunday hugs. However, our idyllic communal life is about to be shattered. And it’s all Meg Starr and Annabel’s faults.
Let’s start with Meg Starr. She is moving to California just because she got into Stanford Business School. While I’m incredibly proud of her, and I’m sure she’s going to become a very busy and important mogul in the not-so-distant future, I find her decision to pick up and move to Palo Alto somewhat selfish. It would have been much easier for the group if she had just gotten her degree from a school in New York, or better yet, from the University of Phoenix. (I think the flexibility of an online program would have been good for all of us.) Starr will learn her lesson the hard way when she wakes up to 679 messages on the group text every morning because she’s three hours behind. She’s never had great foresight.
As if losing one group member wasn’t bad enough, Annabel decided to up and leave too. She is moving to Boston with her boyfriend, Matt, who is also starting business school this fall. I’m going to ignore the fact that Annabel got an awesome job opportunity and has family in Boston because I choose to blame Matt. If it weren’t for his selfish desire to be roommates with Annabel, we wouldn’t have to deal with this incredible inconvenience. All I have to say is, at least she’ll be in the same time zone.
This sudden splitting of the group has come as quite a shock. I mean, I guess I knew that we would all be separated at some point, but I thought the timeline would be similar to that of my becoming a celebrity. So, like, in the next couple of years, not immediately. That said, I’m pretty concerned about my future social life. And my phone bill.
However, in the spirit of looking on the bright side, Daphne, Lara and I will still be together, and realistically, a three person friend group is much more manageable. Planning things will be less complicated and it will be significantly easier to get dinner reservations. Plus, Lara is in nursing school and Daphne does something with computers (I still don’t understand her job description fully), so at least I will be healthy and tech savvy. I can’t say the same for Starr and Annabel.
Last week was particularly difficult, knowing that both Annabel and Starr’s departures were imminent. We decided that this past Sunday would be our very last Sex and the City Night, and everyone was to come to my apartment for dinner. Naturally, I planned to make something delicious and healthy that didn’t involve cheese. (Annabel doesn’t eat cheese, which, needless to say, has been a stumbling block in our relationship.) I wanted the recipe to be simple enough that I wouldn’t have to waste precious time in the kitchen once everyone arrived, or spend hours cleaning up after they tearfully departed, so I finally settled on Brown Rice Jambalaya with Shrimp, Chicken Sausage and Bell Peppers.
I was very excited to make this jambalaya for our last group meal, but then something unforgivable happened. Everyone bailed. The group text was alight with excuses and apologies on Sunday afternoon, which I grudgingly accepted, responding, “Don’t worry!! I’m just going to write about how terrible you all are on my blog since I had such a nice meal planned.” Clearly, that was not an empty threat.
So, instead of enjoying jambalaya with my girlz on Sunday night, I went to see Elysium and ate popcorn for dinner…both of which were poor decisions. However, when Monday afternoon rolled around, this jambalaya was still on my mind. While I didn’t have a group of girls coming to dinner, I did have a hungry Logan hanging around, so I decided to get busy. An hour later, my apartment smelled pretty boss, and I had a piping hot pot of jambalaya and a very excited roommate on my hands.
This brown rice jambalaya is bomb. It’s hearty, but not overly heavy, and it’s bursting with Creole flavors. Tender shrimp, andouille chicken sausage, fire roasted tomatoes and a mix of bell peppers and spices combine to create an incredibly satisfying pot of awesomeness that’s sweet and spicy with a hint of smokiness. The brown rice takes on a risotto-like texture, and the sliced scallions and chopped cilantro add crunch and a bright freshness to the dish. A splash of hot sauce just before serving will only add to the serious party in your mouth.
Not only is this jambalaya unbelievably dank, it’s also surprisingly healthy. The whole grain brown rice is high in fiber and anti-oxidants, and it’s rich in manganese, which helps the body synthesize fats and benefits your nervous system. The bell peppers in this recipe are full of Vitamin C, E, and B6, and contain several anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant rich phytochemicals, and the shrimp and chicken sausage pack a sizable protein punch with very little fat. Plus, cayenne pepper apparently speeds up your metabolism, so this jambalaya may actually make you thinner. (Magic!) And yes, it’s 100% Dude Diet approved.
I’m sure many of you are looking at this jambalaya and thinking, “Wow, that looks fancy, Serena. I’m not sure I can make that.” First of all, thank you. It is fancy. However, you can most definitely make this recipe, which is neither difficult nor time-consuming in the slightest. In fact, Brown Rice Jambalaya with Shrimp, Chicken Sausage and Bell Peppers is the ultimate one-pot wonder. Yes, you’ll have to spend 7-10 minutes dicing a few things, but after that (ridiculously easy) grunt work, the rest is gravy. You do a couple minutes of sautéing the sausage and vegetables before adding the spices, brown rice and stock, and then you just throw the lid on and let the jambalaya chillax on the stove for 50 minutes. Stir in the shrimp right at the end, and five minutes later you’re ready to serve your feast. Idiot-proof, right? Right.
Obviously, I want you to make all my recipes (because they’re awesome), but please bump this one to the top of the list. This jambalaya is one of those rare recipes that can be crushed year-round. It’s light enough for a cool summer night, yet it has enough depth to keep you warm in the middle of winter. The recipe can easily be doubled for a larger crowd, and you can always prepare the jambalaya in advance, re-heat it and add the shrimp just before serving, making it a fuss-free choice for entertaining. I will most likely make this for our next group reunion (which will hopefully be sooner rather than later), and I’m sure it will make the two deserters seriously regret their decisions to move…
Blogger’s Note: Please excuse the fact that all of the pictures in this post are mildly neon. I’m still learning how to speak DSLR.
Brown Rice Jambalaya with Shrimp, Chicken Sausage and Bell Peppers: (Serves 4-6)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces Andouille chicken sausage, diced
½ Spanish onion, diced
½ each green, yellow and red bell peppers, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
¾ teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more, depending on how hot much heat you can handle)
1¼ cup uncooked brown rice
3½ cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Preparing your Jambalaya:
-Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a dutch oven or large saucepan. When hot, add the diced chicken sausage and sauté for about 4 minutes until lightly browned.
-Mix in the brown rice and cook for 1 minute before adding the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook for 50 minutes until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
-Mix the shrimp into your jambalaya, cover and cook for 5 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through. (Cooked shrimp are bright pink and opaque, people.)
Ingredients Instructions Notes If you are preparing your jambalaya in advance, do not add and cook the shrimp until just before serving.
If you are preparing your jambalaya in advance, do not add and cook the shrimp until just before serving.
I’m thrilled to be a part of Food Network’s Summer Fest this week. For more awesome recipes featuring bell peppers, check out the badass blogs below.
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: How to Use Bell Peppers Six Ways
Feed Me Phoebe: Spanish-Style Shrimp and Squid Skewers with Red Pepper Sofrito
The Heritage Cook: Poblano Pepper, Corn and Potato “Chowder” Salad
Dishing: Bell Peppers Chutney/ Capsicum Chutney
The Lemon Bowl: Red Pepper Salsa
Weelicious: Bell Pepper Egg Flowers
Dishin & Dishes: Chicken, Poblano, Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas
Taste With The Eyes: Cheeseburger Bloody Mary with Cherry Peppers and Pickles
Blue Apron Blog: Roadside Noodles with Bell Peppers, Tomatoes and Broccoli Raab
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Italian Pork Chops with Peppers and Chiles on Buttered Egg Noodles
Red or Green: Green Chile Pork Stew
Devour: Stuffed Peppers 5 Ways
Chez Us: Grilled Eggplant and Carmen Pepper Pizza
Daily*Dishin: Marinated Peppers and Shrimp New Orleans Style
FN Dish: Sensational Stuffed Peppers