Smokey Black Beans and Rice

Smokey Black Beans & Rice

Smokey Black Beans & Rice

A good friend living in Nicaragua (see footnote) asked if I could post a recipe or two that would work for her, given the lack of gourmet grocery stores in her part of the world. Having lived there myself, years ago, I knew gallo pinto, or rice and beans, was a staple, and she confirmed nothing had changed. So to help out – here is a great recipe to spice things up a bit!

This is best done with a crock pot / slow cooker; but you can also make this in a regular pot on the stove, cooking over low heat. You may need to stir at times to keep things from sticking and burning to the bottom of your pot.

Smokey Black Beans and Rice

Serves 8 – 10, depending on your serving size. I used one big ladle per serving.


4 Tablespoons of olive oil (you could use vegetable or peanut oil – whatever you have)

1 onion, chopped – any type will do. I used a Vidalia

1 red bell pepper, cored/seeded, and chopped

1 green bell pepper, cored/seeded, and chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

8 cups cooked (and drained) black beans

1 cup uncooked white rice

3 Tablespoons smoked paprika

2 Tablespoons black pepper

(I didn’t use any salt – personal choice.)

5 cups liquid – I used 3 cups of unsalted vegetable stock and 2 cups of water.


Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onion, bell peppers, carrot, and garlic for about 10 minutes. When the onions start to become translucent, you are ready to move on.

Sauteing the vegetables.

Sauteing the vegetables.

Put the black beans in the crock pot, stir in the sauteed vegetables.

Mix in the uncooked rice, smoked paprika, and black pepper.

Pour in the 5 cups of liquid. Gently stir into the mix. You want enough liquid to just cover the rice, beans, and vegetables.

Just before cooking started.

Just before cooking started.

Cover and simmer for 8 hours, or until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid.


Pairs well with fried plantain slices dusted with a bit of sugar and cinnamon.

This is perfect in any climate – from the wonderfully warm temperatures of Nicaragua, to the frozen tundra I currently find myself inhabiting in Virginia.

* If you want to help children in need, and can spare a few dollars a month – please consider sending a donation to Thanks!

Who ordered all this snow? Not me.

Who ordered all this snow? Not me.





Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Huzzah! I received a great cookbook from my Secret Santa (who was nice enough to sign the title page. Thanks, Temma!) Anyhow, I immediately did what one always does when receiving a new cookbook – I looked at all the photos! And it was clear I had a new mission:

The cookbook, easy vegan – simple recipes for healthy eating,  contains over 100 recipes so it will take a little over two years to fulfill this quest, recreating one recipe per week. I had thought about waiting until the New Year started, but in the category of what the heck – why wait, I have already started!

But first – a couple of caveats: (1) I reserve the right to change the recipe to fit what I have available and (2) I reserve the right to change the recipe to fit our personal taste. Number one is in response to not having enough vegetable stock to make a soup for this first recipe, and number two is in anticipation of the beet salad about a third of the way into the book.

And by the way – this is a one pan dinner. You can’t get any easier than that, can you?


Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: approximately 40 minutes

Serves: 8

Ingredients for Step One

3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon of sesame oil

4 scallion, chopped

1 cup carrots, julienned (thin little matchsticks)

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

1 cup frozen green peas

8 cloves garlic, chopped (not minced)

1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped – practically minced. Okay, go ahead. Mince away! Make the garlic jealous!

Ingredients for Step Two

3 cups uncooked rice (I used Jasmine-scented white rice)

4 cups of unsalted vegetable broth

1 cup of water

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

2 Tablespoons crushed red pepper (yep – two!)

Ingredients for Step Three

3 – 4 cups of hand-torn field greens

1 cup cashews or peanuts. Use more if you want. It’ll be okay.


Using a (very) large non-stick sauce pan, pre-heat the olive oil and sesame oil over medium-high heat. Test the temperature by carefully dropping a carrot stick into the pan. If you hear it start to sizzle, add the Step One Ingredients.

Stir until the ingredients are mixed, then reduce to medium heat and cover. You are sautéing the vegetables here so be aware of how heat applied to oil reacts with damp vegetables such as frozen peas. Stir occasionally, sautéing for 10 minutes.

Can you believe it? You are almost done!

Add the Step Two ingredients, stirring until mixed. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let cook until the liquid has been absorbed into the rice. This might take 30 to 40 minutes.

In this step, you are allowing the liquid to cook the rice, and you are giving the spices and aromatics a chance to meld into the other ingredients. Plus you are giving yourself an opportunity to pour the glass of wine that has been calling your name since this morning. I know. I have the same thing happen to me all the time!

Just before serving, gently stir in the Step Three Ingredients. There you go – you have just created a wonderful one-dish meal full of substance and flavor. This works both as a main dish and as a side.

Optional: Add two more cups of hot vegetable broth after the rice has been cooked and you will have yourself a nice spicy soup, too.

Chef’s tip: Try to use fresh ginger whenever possible. Candied ginger is right out. All you need to do is peel the root a bit, chop what you need, then wrap the remainder in foil, place in a freezer bag (squeeze as much air out as possible) and keep in the freezer until you need more. The next time it may be a slight bit soggy, but the fresh flavor will still be there. And now you know!


P.S. If you don’t use the V-word (you know – vegan) people will never know. It’s just a great tasting bowl of food!

A Quick Chicken Dinner for One


And I’m the sole carnivore in the house right now, so I know. Here’s the gouge: It was time to eat some dinner and I had one baked chicken breast left over from yesterdays salsa-nated chicken dinner, some leftover rice, and no desire to play like I was on Food Network’s “Chopped.” What to do? We have no chain restaurants in our area, save the Mickey D on the highway. The local places had all closed for the night. Then it hit me.

Here’s what you need:

You know that jar of Mandarin oranges that has been sitting in the back of your refrigerator for a while? Yeah, that one. Take that, and the canned pineapple slices next to it, too. Now, while no one is looking, nick the bowl of leftover rice on the bottom shelf. Before you close the door, pull the low-salt soy sauce bottle out from behind the old Worcestershire sauce. On the way back to your work area, stop by the pantry spice rack and find the cayenne pepper. Really. Do it.

Here’s what you do:

Chop the backed chicken breast into bite sized portions. Add to the bowl of cooked rice and dab in a few shakes of the soy sauce, to taste. Now add the cayenne pepper to give the dinner a little zing. Want more zing? Add more pepper!

Cover the bowl with some cling wrap and reheat in the microwave oven for a minute or two. The exact time will depend on the strength of your microwave.

Once heated to your specification, remove from the microwave and discard the cling wrap. Be careful, there will be steam – AND STEAM IS HOT – IT CAN BURN YOU. (There, the lawyers should be happy now.)

Mix in a few spoonfuls of Mandarin oranges and top with a slice or two of the pineapple.

Not something you will find at a five-star, Zagat-rated restaurant, but it beats the heck out of plain old baked chicken. Try it!

Happy eating from the Eastern Shore of Virginia and have a happy, prosperous New Year!

Heart Healthy and Tasty, too!


Emma Pearl Merlot, 2009

The problem with cooking good-tasting food is that it gets eaten before anyone can get a decent photo! Fortunately, my intrepid (and future Pulitzer winning) pho-tog, Emma, had already taken a photo of the wine – an integral part of this heart-healthy dinner.

Easy to cook, not too time intensive, and definitely tasty – try this sometime!

1 cup long grained rice
2 cups water

3 – 4 serving sized fresh salmon fillets (wild caught preferred)
4 dashes of lemon juice
2 ounces of light brown sugar
2-3 ounces of lite soy sauce, just enough to dissolve the brown sugar

3-4 head of fresh broccoli
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic


Steamed Rice
– Okay, this is easy if you use a rice cooker. Just follow the directions. If you don’t have a rice cooker, then go get one! I use a Black & Decker model (see disclaimer post) that costs $11. That’s two trips to Starbucks. Just do it!

When the rice has about 15 minutes to go…

Grilled Salmon
– Dribble the lemon juice on the salmon fillets
– In a bowl, mix brown sugar with soy sauce. Dribble some on the fish.
– Spray some non-stick cooking spray into a skillet, then begin to heat skillet on the stovetop, set to medium high.
– Carefully place the salmon in a the heated skillet, skin side down. Cook for about 8 minutes or so.

Okay, while the salmon is cooking for that 8 minutes…

Stir Fried Broccoli
– Heat up a sauce pan, add some Olive Oil once the pan is noticeably warm.
– Add some fresh broccoli, chopped to a size of your preference.
– Stir in a little minced garlic (you can never have too much garlic!)
– Stir.
– Don’t burn the broccoli, you may need to reduce heat.

By now, the salmon has cooked for those 8 minutes…

– Flip the salmon; cook for a minute – just enough to sear the top.
– Flip the salmon back onto the skin side. Add a little more of the brown sugar-soy sauce marinade.
– Cook until salmon is flaky. It probably won’t take too long.

If everything works out as planned…

– The salmon will be done when…
– The broccoli is hot, dark green, and still al dente, and…
– The rice cooker “dings!”

Pairs very well with a glass of red wine. I used a nice Merlot, shown above!

Great taste and great for Heart Health, too!


The Padre’s Pollo


In the early 1800s, when Methodist pastors were circuit riders covering vast territories on horseback, they would stop wherever a friendly (hopefully) household would take them. The compensation for a “meeting,” complete with sermon, was often not money, but rather food. I can imagine the German pastors who were among the first non-Catholics to preach in the Trans Pecos, traveling through the dusty, sparse reaches of Southwestern Texas, coming across this Mexican-influenced chicken dish, perhaps as payment for a wedding ceremony. The food would have been the best available, and this dish – aptly named The Padre’s Pollo, could have been just what the good book called for. Enjoy!

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup onions, chopped
4 button mushrooms, sliced
4 oz. green chilies, chopped
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 dash salt

At the very end, add…
1/2 cup chicken stock


In a bowl, mix the cinnamon, chili powder and black pepper. Dredge the chicken breasts through the mixture. Set aside momentarily.

Place the ingredients for the sauce in a large, deep skillet; now place the chicken on top of everything. Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Checking the temperature of the chicken with a thermometer, continue cooking until the bird reaches 185 degrees. By keeping the whole thing covered, the chicken stays nice and juicy.

If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, cook for ten more minutes, then stab the chicken with a knife. If the juices run clear, you should be good. After dinner, go get a thermometer. Really. They aren’t that expensive.

Once thoroughly cooked, set the chicken breasts aside, covered to help them stay warm. Use a handheld immersion blender and pulse the solids until they are like a finely ground salsa. Add the chicken stock and heat until boiling. Reduce heat and stir until it reduces to the consistency you desire.

Serving suggestion:

Put the chicken over a steaming hot bed of rice. Top everything with the savory gravy. Pour a glass of Merlot and enjoy the evening. If you get the urge to saddle up and head toward Mexico, bring a serape…and some of The Padre’s Pollo!

Puchero Hondureno


A while back, actually a long, long while back, I used to hang out on the northern coast of Honduras.  It’s an even longer story, but suffice to say if you want to taste (maybe experience is a better word) true Latin American food, go to the source.  Realize, however, if you enjoy our American Tex-Mex, that’s great.  I grew up on the stuff thanks to Mama Cuellar and her boys, so rest assured I am not disparaging the Lunch Special Number 7 or any of  its’ ilk.

With the first frost of the season last night, I decided that a good hot stew of some sort would be just the thing for dinner today. And after having two bowls, I think I was right.   This may not be exactly what my host family cooked up for my partners and me, but it is pretty close. Easy to make; great to eat on a cold day.

Puchero Hondureno:

8 oz. Chorizo, or any spicy sausage.

2 cans Goya black beans

1 can chopped tomatoes with green peppers and onion

1 can chopped green chiles

1/2 cup frozen corn

1 tspn minced garlic

1 Tblsp cumin

1 Tblsp apple cider vinegar

2 cups cooked rice


In a large pot, cook the sausage, shredding into small chunks.  Drain the fat when done.

Add everything except the rice. Simmer on medium heat, reducing the liquid, but not eliminating it.  Be sure to stir often with a wooden spoon  (after a while, the mixture can start to burn and no one wants “that” flavor…)

With the stew still a bit soupy, add the cooked rice.  stir.  The rice should absorb the rest of the liquid.

The next liquid you may need will be Flor de Cana, but that’s another post for another day!

Buen Provecho!