Updated on 09.11.14

Dinner with My Family #17: “Magic” Jambalaya

Trent Hamm

Vegetarian Jambayala

Karen writes in:

I really like it when you show meals that you can use bits of leftovers in easy. Could you do some more of those?

Sure! We do meals like this all the time at our house. One of our favorites is what I like to call magic jambalaya. All you need is some rice, some cajun seasoning, some beans, and whatever leftovers you might have on hand.

What You Need

For my family, I usually use two cups of dried rice and a cup and a half of cooked beans, preferably kidney beans, but anything works. I also use a cajun spice mix, which is just equal amounts of cayenne pepper, paprika, black ground pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and basil, with just a hint of thyme, ground mustard, and cloves. I store this all in a jar in the cupboard and, when I need it, I add it by the teaspoon to whatever I’m cooking.

If it’s just for my kids and my wife and I, I don’t spice it real heavily – maybe just two teaspoons of the mix. If I know I’m the primary eater, I use five or six teaspoons.

If you have vegetable stock, use that for the liquid. You’ll need a total of about four and a half cups of liquid to leave the mix really juicy, and if you live in a dry area, you may need to add more along the way.

Aside from that, I use whatever I have left over from other meals. Below, I have some left over cherry tomatoes, a left over diced red bell pepper, some left over walnuts, and a bit of left over onion.

The Night Before (or Early That Day)

Make other meals. Save the spare ingredients that seem like they’d fit. Sausage, chicken, peppers, beef, pork, onions, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, nuts – it’s all good. Make sure the meat is cooked first, however. Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

Preparing the Meal

Essentially, all you have to do is cook the rice in the liquid to start with. Use four and a half cups of liquid for your two cups of rice and begin cooking according to the rice cooking directions.

Starting with stock

We make our own stock out of leftover vegetable scraps (skins, cores, unused bits, etc.). This makes the rice taste absolutely wonderful. In fact, it makes anything that you’d cook with water, like soups, taste tremendous.

Once the rice is in the liquid and you’re at a low boil, add the other ingredients – the cajun seasoning plus whatever items you happen to have. Beans. Sausage. Chicken. The list goes on and on.

As I mentioned above, we used a bit of onion, some red bell pepper, some cherry tomatoes, and some leftover walnuts for protein.


Cook it in an open pot at a simmer for however long the rice suggests it should be cooked (it varies depending on the rice). If you need to add more liquid, do so. You’re better off having it very wet and nearly soup-like than having it dried out.

When the rice is finished, the meal is finished. Serve and enjoy!


Optional Ingredients

Obviously, a meal like this is incredibly flexible. Many different kinds of vegetables will work (I really like okra in it, for example). Almost any kind of bean will work. Many kinds of rice will work. Different kinds of meats will work. My wife does things like tossing in squares of baker’s chocolate, even. Use what you have and don’t worry about making it “perfect” – each time you make it, it’ll be unique and delicious.

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  1. Allison says:

    I know this is going to be an obnoxious comment… but please please don’t call this jambalaya. Jambalaya is never wet or soup-like and it never has beans!

  2. Gretchen says:

    Obnoxious number 2:

    1. Again, “If it’s just for my kids and my wife and I, ” should be … and me.

    2. Take 2 seconds to wipe off the bowl in the last shot to just improve the quality of your picutres.

  3. asrai says:

    Whatever it looks like in the picture or is called, it looks like something I might like to eat, but my family wouldnt. *sigh* thanks for the share.

    Omitting critism of comments.

  4. Amy says:

    Sounds like a great way to use up all those little bits of leftovers without feeling like you are eating leftovers. I really enjoy this recipe series, but agree that a quick wipe off of the bowl would make for a much more appetizing presentation. For both the blog and your family!

  5. Lisa says:

    I agree with #2 Gretchen. If you made minor adjustments, like wiping off the drips or arranging the food slightly better, to your pictures your food would look more attractive. I know this isn’t a food blog, but I think it would help make the food look more appetizing :)

  6. Kate says:

    Sometimes I wonder if Trent intentionally leaves drips because it drives the critical people bonkers–it doesn’t seem to bother me so much because I know this isn’t a cooking blog and I remember how little time there is between serving and eating with hungry children.
    It is well-known that those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones: in this case…#2–those who critize should take time to spell check.
    I have taken to eating beans and rice almost every day–I neve thought about throwing a few nuts in with it. It’s worth a try.

  7. Evangeline says:

    I think we’re getting a little off-subject here. It’s a real world. There are going to be misspellings and improper use of the word ‘I’ (find me someone who doesn’t make that particular mistake) and photos are going to be imperfect. Just read the post and take away something valuable. The whole point is this is a quick, thrifty meal that is easily modified. That’s it. Grammar critics and photo experts should take it down a notch and just try the recipe!

  8. marta says:

    Evangeline: Trent earns his living through writing. People have already told him several times how to avoid the “me/I” mistake (it’s very easy, actually) but he makes this mistake consistently.

    Kate: “those who critize should take time to spell check.”


  9. Emma says:

    Lovely but my kids wouldn’t touch it. I am jelous that Trent’s children eat everything. That alone is a greatest money saver. I buy protein drinks and Pedia sure for 12 years olds chronic non eaters. $300 per week for a family of 4.

  10. Vickie says:

    Looks good to me. Thanks for the meal ideas. ☺

  11. Rachel says:

    Ditto @ #9. My family wouldn’t go for this either. I think Trent should write an article about how to make your kids eat anything. I am always trying to explain to my kids that you EAT to LIVE.

  12. Kai says:

    #6, #8.
    It’s called ‘muphry’s law’.
    Look it up. I’d link to wikipedia, but then I’d be sent to moderation hell.

  13. Brittany says:

    I enjoy that the pictures are “picture perfect”–they look liek food real people would eat, not fake food dressed up for a cover shoot. Looks delicious to me!

  14. Kate says:

    Thanks, Kai…I learned a new word. At first, I thought you misspelled it, meaning Murphy’s Law, and I was wondering how Murphy’s Law could apply to this scenario. :o)

  15. Brenna says:

    This broth powder recipe from Miserly Meals might come in handy for you.

    1 cup nutritional yeast
    3 T onion powder
    1 T garlic powder
    1 T salt
    1 tsp celery seed
    2 T Italian seasoning
    2 T dried parsley
    1/2 tsp. pepper
    1 tsp. marjoram
    1 tsp. tarragon
    1 tsp paprika

    The author recommends putting it in a blender or food processor for a few seconds.

    2 tsp of this plus 1/2 tsp salt equals the equivalent of 1 bouillon cube.

    I went to my local natural food store to get the spices I didn’t have on hand. they have them in bulk, so you can buy a tablespoon or two without having to get an entire container.

  16. Brenna says:

    Also, nutritional yeast is a good thing to have on hand anyways for vegan recipes, as it adds a cheesy flavor.

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