Deciding what to carry to a dinner at church is sometimes difficult. Should I just look into the kitchen pantry and use whatever I find, or maybe look through some files for something a little different?

Recently, my daughter Twila, who enjoys cooking, made a delicious jambalaya for a family meal. When she was trying to decide what to take to a church event, I suggested the jambalaya.

Knowing that it has shrimp in it, I reminded her to be sure to put a note on the dish stating that fact, because there are a lot of people who are allergic to shrimp. This jambalaya also has chicken and sausage in it, and is definitely a "meal in one dish."

The original recipe that Twila used called for a cut-up fryer, but she opted for unbreaded chicken tenders, which cook much faster. Another change she made was to use the "rice in a bag" instead of the original long grain rice. The bagged rice only takes 10 minutes to cook; the long grain takes about twice as long. The addition of Cajun seasoning also added a much needed flavor boost.

She made the jambalaya for the church meal but when her family tasted it, there seemed to be something missing. Her daughter, Christi, an 11th grade student at Pleasant Valley, took one taste and knew that it needed more Cajun seasoning. Christi is in her second year of culinary training at Career Tech in Jacksonville, and it is definitely training her palate to detect flavors as well as giving her the opportunity to acquire many culinary skills.

After checking the recipe, Twila noticed that she had not put any Cajun seasoning in the jambalaya because it was not listed in the original recipe. That was exactly what the dish needed.


  • 8 to 10 unbreaded chicken tenders
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pound Kielbasa sausage, cut crosswise in ¼-inch slices
  • 1 ½ cups chopped onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped bell pepper
  • 1 (29 ounce) can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 3 cups water
  • Cajun seasoning, to taste (start with 1 teaspoon and then taste to see if more is needed)
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2 bags Success Rice or other bagged rice
  • 1 pound frozen cooked shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ⅓ cup chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle each chicken tender with salt and black pepper and place on baking sheet. Bake until tender, which should not take more than 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

In large soup pot, heat oil and butter until butter melts. Stir in flour and continuously stir to make a light brown roux. Do not leave the pot unwatched because it will burn quickly.

Add chicken, sausage, onion, bell pepper and tomatoes. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring gently. Stir in water, Cajun seasoning, Tabasco and rice (removed from bags). Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and let simmer about 10 minutes. Stir in shrimp and simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt, if needed. Stir in parsley and green onions.

NOTE: If you decide to use the long grain rice, use 2 cups and cook the dish for about 20 minutes after rice is added.

Contact Prudence Hilburn at prudencehilburn@aol.com.