It's all about the food in south Louisiana, and maybe even more so when the temperature drops. On the cold days, you can almost hear the gumbo pots clanging as the mercury plummets. It may start with a roux, but the list of delicious entrees to keep your belly warm certainly doesn't end there.

Make sure to let us know what keeps your belly warm! Here are five of my favorite foods to keep you warm on those chilly, by south Louisiana standards, nights:

 

1. Gumbo-- Of course, it has to be number one! At my house, we eat the roux-based pot of deliciousness year round. But my husband knows that the first time the nightly low dips under 60 degrees, he's getting chicken and sausage gumbo. For those of you who aren't from around here, there are no tomatoes in a Cajun gumbo. At my house, I don't add okra. My husband's a fan. I don't touch the stuff. Serve it with potato salad, and step out of the way. The only thing we argue about is who makes it better.

 

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2. Chili-- Brown four or five pound of ground meat, add some Rotel tomatoes, a little tomato sauce, and some chili seasoning. I like kidney beans, too. When it comes to what kind of meat to use, I've used ground beef, pork, turkey, chicken, deer, or a combination of two of any of these. Let that simmer for a good hour, then throw some shredded sharp cheddar on top. I like mine with either crackers or Fritos. Heck! I'm hungry just writing about it. A delicious bowl of chili warms a body up just right.

 

3. Vegetable Soup-- The best thing about vegetable soup is that you can really make it the way you want. Essentially, you start by browning your beef stew meat and then adding whatever veggies you choose! I, personally, add stewed tomatoes, green beans, corn, and carrots. Of course, it includes the "Cajun Trinity" of onions, bell peppers, and celery. However, you can leave any of those out and add peas or other vegetables. Sometimes, I add cabbage, too. The end result is delicious and always warm. Isn't that the point?

 

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4. Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup-- I owe this idea to a dear family friend. I must admit that I only knew chicken noodle soup from a can until a few years ago. He treated us to his version once when I was sick, and I'll never go back to canned again. And it's so easy! All it takes is cubed chicken (white or dark meat or both), chicken stock, wide egg noodles, onions, and carrots. If you don't like the carrots, you can certainly leave them out. Season to taste and voila! It's simply amazing.

 

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5. Sausage and Potato Gravy-- Some of you may argue that this is a year round meal. My family does enjoy it in other seasons, as well. But I find myself cooking it more in the colder months because it's more of a stick-to-your-ribs meal that leaves you feeling very warm and cozy. It's a dish my very Cajun grandmother cooked often, although mine never tastes as good as hers ever did. You simply brown the sausage with the onions, then throw in cubed potatoes and cover with water. Let it all simmer together. Season to taste, of course. Allow those potatoes to get nice and soft, almost to the point where you could mash them. Make sure the "gravy" isn't too thick. You may need to add some water. You can ladle it into a bowl like a soup or serve it over rice. Either way, it is delicious!

 

I'd love for you to share with us some of your favorite cold weather dishes. There's nothing quite as satisfying on a cold evening as a fantastic Cajun dish. And when we share, we continue the tradition that we love and are so incredibly proud of. Bon appetit!