My husband’s family is from New Orleans so they get all the credit for introducing me to the unique and flavorful cuisine of The Big Easy. From jambalaya to crawfish etouffee to seafood gumbo…many new dishes have been added to my list of “favorites” since my first visit to New Orleans almost 15 years ago. And even though beignets are basically deep-fried white flour treats, they certainly make my list of favorites as well. :) Today I want to share a family recipe that came from my husband’s Aunt Vicki. It was introduced to us as a “seafood gumbo,” but what I’ve learned over the years is that this dish can easily be an “anything gumbo” instead. What that means is don’t go out and buy a bunch of new ingredients to make gumbo…instead try to use some of what you already have on hand. If you don’t have shrimp and crab well then throw in some leftover Thanksgiving turkey (if you still have some in the freezer like us). And if you don’t like bell peppers then just add more celery instead. My favorite dishes are the ones that are flexible so use this recipe as a guide and don’t be afraid to get creative. As long as you start with the suggested roux (butter and whole-wheat flour) it’s pretty hard to mess up.
I love soups because they’re an easy way to get in a lot of vegetables, and they are usually awesome leftover (whether they’ve been in the fridge or freezer). I am a big fan of serving easy dinners on busy weeknights and there is nothing easier than defrosting some soup out of your very own freezer. I especially love this soup because it comes with so many “accessories.” You could certainly eat it plain, but it is amazing how the flavor suddenly changes when you pile avocado, grated cheese, sour cream, and cilantro on top. We even sometimes toast tortillas (to make them crunchy like chips) and throw them in the mix as well. This is also a great dish to serve this week if you are participating in our third real food mini-pledge. Even though this dish is meatless it would still be great if you wanted to add a little raw chicken when you sauté the veggies (or even some leftover cooked meat at the end). Just like most of the recipes I post this one is super flexible. If you don’t have or like zucchini then use a different vegetable instead. If you randomly find a half container of mushrooms in your fridge…throw them in. Get creative and use what you have on hand to make this dish easy and budget-friendly!