I fell in love with New Orleans the moment I crossed into the city limits in July of 1997. If it wasn’t for the fact that I needed to return to my part-time summer job and to begin my senior year of high school, I might have decided to just stay in the bayou indefinitely. There was just something about New Orleans that struck me, that pulled me in and made me feel like I was leaving a piece of myself behind when I left. Steven and I keep saying that one of these days when we finally get to go on a honeymoon, New Orleans is at the very top of our list.

I have done my fair share of traveling, yet there are only a few places that I fallen so hopelessly in love with. New Orleans is one of those cities that has it’s own distinct rhythm, it’s own unique flavor and culture. From the deliciously spicy Cajun and Creole cuisine to the sultry Jazz music that spills onto the street from the open doors of the French Quarter clubs, New Orleans just seemed to fit me, like my favorite pair of well-worn shoes.

If I had to pinpoint a time and place where my culinary adventures really began, it would be that trip to New Orleans. My friends Scott and Tammy and I thought it would be a crime to choose a chain or fast food place over any of the dozens of small restaurants and Mom & Pop shops we passed as we strolled the streets near our hotel, so I ended up ordering something completely new and different for every meal. From Po’ Boys and beignets to jambalaya and deep fried alligator, I tried it all, and absolutely loved every bite.

Since Steven and I decided that it was finally time to head to the grocery store to restock our bare pantry and fridge, I spent a little time browsing through recipes for new things we might want to try. I came across a recipe for slow cooker Cajun chicken and shrimp creole and decided to give it a try. I scaled back a little on the pepper and spices so Cadence could try it without her mouth catching on fire. I also added some Italian sausage, since the recipe only called for chicken and shrimp, and I have to say, it was pretty darn close to some of the dishes I ate in Louisiana.

Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to one of my absolute favorite places in the world. I hope to be back to visit someday soon. Until then, I’m glad I found a way to enjoy a little taste of New Orleans right here at home.

And just in case you want to try this recipe for yourself…

Cajun Chicken & Shrimp Creole

2 lbs. skinless chicken thighs
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1 15oz. can stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. shelled shrimp, deveined and cleaned
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Louisiana hot sauce to taste
2 cups prepared rice
(I also added 6 Italian sausages, browned and sliced)

Place chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients except for the shrimp, lemon juice, hot sauce and rice. Cover. Cook on Low for 8-10 hours or on High for 4-5 hours.

In the last hour of cooking, add the shrimp, lemon juice and hot sauce.

Serve over the hot rice.

Makes 6 servings.

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