Creole Seafood Jambalaya
Alison Miksch
| Credit: Alison Miksch

While boxed mixes may have fallen out of fashion much like the pantyhose that was in vogue during their heydeys, there are certain situations even we, Southern Living, purveyor of homemade pie crust and barbecue sauce recipes, make exceptions for. Those situations include when you have come home from a parictularly exhausting, inbox disaster-filled day at work far later than you expected. Tempted to eat a salad plate of Oreos and call it a day, you still have a small flickering light of hope that you can do better for yourself.

And that is when box jambalaya is there for you. Just add sausage, chicken, shrimp, or heck, even tofu (We are not here to judge), and in less time than it will take you to finally decide which episode of Golden Girls you want to stream on Hulu, it all comes together.

In fact, we're such a fan of Zatarain's Jambalaya Mix, that we'll even make it on much less stressful nights. That's where we implement these five handy tricks to making it look and taste homemade.

1. Brown Your Sausage

Before you mix in your andouille or kilbasa into the pot, in a separate skillet, really brown up your sausage pieces until they get good and crispy on the outside. This will make sure they're less mushy and lend a more complex smoky flavor to the entire dish.

2. Add Your Shrimp Last

There's nothing worse than spending good hard-earned money on shrimp and then finding them to have the same texture as pencil erasers. Fight against your fears of undercooking, and add in your shrimp no more than five minutes before you plan on serving the jambalaya. They will continue to cook in the heat of the pot even after you turn off the heat so err on the side of less time than more.

3. Add Some Extra Veggies

From mushrooms to sliced squash, the addition of veggies not only helps your proteins go further if you don't have a lot on hand, but it also adds different textures and shapes that make it more visually interesting and flavorful.

4. Add Fresh Herbs

Adding a sprinkle of fresh chopped oregano, thyme, or parsley adds color and a bit of brightness that makes it less of a cozy winter time dish and more in keeping with spring and summer flavors.

5. Get Your Garnish On

A scattering of scallion slices does wonders for enchiladas or rice bowls. The same principal applies here even if you're not going to take an Instagram of it.