Easy Spicy Southwestern Rice & Beans (& A Hamilton Beach Giveaway!)

Easy Spicy Southwestern Rice 4

Hey, everyone! Tis me, your local loon. I have a delicious recipe for you (do I do ANY other kind? I mean…really? Pshaw! *looks totally fake humble* ๐Ÿ˜› ) as well as a Hamilton Beach giveaway. As you already know, I’ve been a proud ambassador for them for a couple of years now and I love their products. This is the final 2016 review and it’s one I personally love. I had a rice cooker I bought for $3.99 at Goodwill before this and sure, it worked; more or less. Problem was, all it did was rice and the way the inside lid was made, you couldn’t clean under it and there was nothing stopping condensation from getting up in there. So what did that lead to? The starches in the water from the rice would get in there and mold and every time I opened the lid, all that oh so nasty water would drip down the backside of the cooker. Not INTO the rice, but still…ร‚ย  I was soooo ready for a new rice cooker.
We’ve been using it literally since the day it came and I am in love with it. I am a total and complete failure at cooking rice on the stove. I even burn rice a roni. Guess what? I can make my rice a roni in this rice cooker and no longer have to scrape it off the bottom of a pan, lol. Plus, we eat a lot of brown rice and that can be difficult to get cooked all the way through. Another plus; this cooker has a steamer basket up top that can be used at the same time as when you have rice cooking or by itself. That comes in handy getting veggies steamed while the rice is cooking or can be used to, say, make some fish up top while the rice cooks below. Did I forget to mention that you can also cook oatmeal and other grains in this? Yup. You totally want to try to win the Hamilton Beach 4-20 Cup Rice And Hot Cereal Cooker or if you don’t win, go to their website to buy it. While you’re there, you can check out some of the other great appliances they have on their siteร‚ย  Here are the cool features of the cooker-
Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker
4-20 cup cooked rice capacity – 2-10 cup uncooked rice capacity
With rice rinser/steam basket
Great for oatmeal, grits, and cream of wheat
Delay start makes breakfast and meal planning easier
Use your own recipe or packaged pasta & rice mixes
Automatically shifts to warm after cooking
White rice: cooks all varieties of white rice, including short- and long-grain rice
Quick rice: great for preparing rice in a hurry
Whole grain: for brown rice, farro, quinoa, and other whole grains
Keep warm: illuminates when cooking is complete
Delay start: prepare for cooking up to 15 hours in advance
Heat/simmer: use this function for flavored pasta and rice mixes, beans, soups, and one-pot meals
Steam cook: vegetables, meats, fish, and more
Hot cereals: great for oatmeal, grits, and cream of wheat

cooking timer

The push button timer area of the cooker

So what did I make? Well, I have a confession to make. I adore pretty much any flavor of Rice A Roni with a definite weakness for both the Mexican and the Spanish ones. So, I wanted to make a rice similar to those, but without having to stand over the stove worrying that I was going to burn it. I have to say, I succeeded admirably *she again says humbly* I have one step in here outside of the rice cooker, but it can easily be considered optional. I saute the veggies for a couple of minutes with the rice, then dump it all in the rice cooker. I wanted to get rid of the raw taste of the veg, plus brown the rice a bit. But again, that step is totally up to you. I also added a can of pinto beans cause I adore rice and beans. No matter what though, get one of these Hamilton Beach rice cookers and make this rice!

Easy Spicy Southwestern Rice & Beans

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup minced green pepper
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup long grain white rice
  • 1 1/4 cups good quality chicken broth
  • 1/2 of a 15 ounce can of salsa style fire roasted diced tomatoes (you could sub whatever flavor you want, or plain. Just make sure it is a type that has a good amount of liquid.)
  • 1 well drained and rinsed can of pinto beans (again, make this how YOU like it. Prefer black beans? Use them, just make sure you rinse them well. Or maybe kidney beans. Or NO beans)
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup (no, it doesn’t make the rice taste ketchupy. It just cuts the acidity of the tomatoes some)
  • 1 tablespoon of either McCormick Mexican seasoning or McCormick Southwestern seasoning (they are quite similar in taste, so either would work)
  • a few dashes of liquid smoke
  • sliced green onions, cilantro, grape tomatoes and various cheese for garnish
  1. Pour the oil into a medium non stick pan (8 to 10 inch),ร‚ย  then add the veggies. Sautee over medium heat for maybe 3 minutes or, just enough to cook off some of the rawness. Add in the rice, crank the heat up to medium high and cook for about two minutes more, or until some of the rice is a light golden brown,
  2. Scoop all of this straight into the rice cooker. Pour the chicken broth and diced tomatoes with their liquid over the top of the rice.
  3. Add the ketchup, liquid smoke, can of drained beans, and seasoning. Give this all a few good stirs, then close the lid, set the cooker for white rice and go read a book, or do some housework (you know you prefer the book idea).
  4. When it’s done, stir it well, then spoon it into a serving dish. Garnish with sliced green onions, fresh cilantro, some chopped grape tomatoes and cheese. I used some cheddar and some queso fresco. This was so good!

Easy Spicy Southwestern Rice 7

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Now for the giveaway!! Hamilton Beach is kindly allowing me to offer one lucky reader one of these lovely rice cookers all of their own. Just use the entry form below, doing as few or as many of the types of entries as you want. I will choose a random winner in a week and notify them by email. They will have 48 hours to get back to me. if they don’t, an alternate winner will be chosen. Good luck! [promosimple id=”a5d8″]

Hamilton Beach sent me a rice cooker for review, but all opinions in this post are 100% my own.


Soft, Fresh, Multi Grain Bread

Soft, Fresh Multi Grain Bread

Soft, Fresh Multi Grain Bread

I can just see many of you now. “Ewwwww, she said multi grain! That must mean its healthy and tastes like old cat litter!!” Fine, so maybe I’m transferring my own reaction to hearing the words multi grain. But I know SOME of you are like me. We hear those words and automatically close the page or go look for something made with heavy cream, tons of sugar and chocolate. Again, maybe that’s mainly me. No, no, nooooo, I KNOW others do it.

That said, I DO however like fresh breads. But even I know that ones made with all white flour have little to no nutritional value. They’re just empty (albeit extremely tasty) calories made up of carbs. But oh my, they are delicious. I have tried the store bought whole grain breads and it is nearly impossible t find one that doesn’t taste like cardboard. So I make my own. Until you try it, you can never know how tasty a FRESH loaf of whole grain bread is. Soft, fluffy (no, not as fluffy as white bread but nowhere near as dense as store bought cardboard multi grain bread. The only drawback with this bread is it doesn’t store well. It gets rather crumbly with age. But it rarely lasts long enough around here for that to be a problem. Sliced thin (if cutting for sandwiches, always wait until bread is totally cool before slicing), it makes great sandwiches. Sliced a bit thicker and slathered with butter and jam, this is a fantastic snack or side for a meal. We had it tonight with a yummy creamy turkey dumpling soup. Sooooo good together!

You know the drill… git to cookin’!

With this recipe, make sure to premeasure your grains and have them ready to go. It’s easy to get flustered and forget one or more when using this many different types of grain in one bread.

Multi Grain Bread

  • 3- 3 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour (you can buy rye flour in fairly small bags and once you try this recipe, believe me, it won’t go to waste)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds or pepitas, your choice
  • 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten (optional but I recommend it. It helps make a typically dense loaf like this much lighter plus helps it keep better. You can find it with the flours and yeasts at the grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ (if you want a touch more sweetness, feel free to use the honey wheat germ)
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine two cups of the bread flour, the salt and the yeast.
  2. Combine the rye flour, oats, cornmeal, sunflower seeds, vital wheat gluten if using and wheat germ in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large microwave safe measuring cup, heat the water, milk, oil and molasses to between 120 degrees and 130 degrees.
  4. Add the warmed liquid to the flour mixture in the stand mixer bowl. Beat 2 minutes at low speed.
  5. Add in the combined grain mixture you set aside along with an additional 3/4 cup bread flour. Let the mixer combine and then knead this for about 5 minutes.
  6. Turn the mixer off and feel the dough. It should be just VERY slightly tacky to the touch, but your finger shouldn’t stick to it at all.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for just a minute or so. Put into an oiled bowl and turn the dough to make sure all sides get oil on them.
  8. Cover with a clean towel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  9. When risen, punch down and shape into two loaves. Put them into 2 well greased 9 inch loaf pans and again, let rise until nearly doubled in bulk. While they rise, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  10. When risen, bake at 350 degrees until the loaves are golden brown and firm to the touch on top, about 20 to 25 minutes. Turn bread out onto a rack to cool for about one hour. I know, I know, you will end up slicing it while it’s still warm, but I have to at least try to pretend I don’t know this and that I think you’ll leave it to cool.

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Lemony Cheese Risotto

Lemony Cheese Risotto2

There are some foods that transcend space, time and all things earthly. Once upon a time, I would have put Twinkies and Ho Ho’s in that category. Yeah yeah, I know. Who the heck puts snack cakes in with transcendental foods? I also put Cheetos, a rare ribeye steak, roasted brussel sprouts and salted caramel gelato in there so am I forgiven? Anyway, Twinkies and Ho Hos lost their spot cause they bite donkey toes now that they have changed over. I was close to being institutionalized when I found this out, but I’ve since moved on. Brachs Gummi Candis and Whole Foods Salted Caramel Brownies have filled the Twinkies void. Sorry, pretend Hostess people.

But one food that always seem to fit the whole beyond earthly, etc etc, is a good risotto. I made sure to put the word good in there because I’ve had and made some pretty bad ones. At their worst, they can be gummy, mushy, hard, flavorless and a waste of good Arborio rice.

At it’s best however, it’s creamy (with no added cream) full of flavor, a dish that can make the meal shine. This version? it’s the kind that will make you take up meditation just so that you can think about this rice. It will make you see heaven. Honest. It will. Would I lie to you?!

Go. Cook. Be free. Make risotto. Thank me later. Cause you really WILL thank me. You can cut this recipe in half, but it reheats well and makes a great lunch with maybe a chicken breast and a salad.

Best. Risotto. Ever.

Lemony Cheese Risotto

  • 1 lb arborio rice
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 42 ounces chicken broth, heated to almost boiling and kept hot
  • 1/2 cup white wine (don’t use something you wouldn’t drink)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Mozzarella
  • zest of one lemon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, in chunks
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. In a large sauce pot, combine your olive oil, chopped onions and minced garlic.
  2. Cook over low heat until the onions are soft and tender, about ten minutes.
  3. Pour in the rice. Stir well and cook for about 2 minutes, until all the rice is well coated.
  4. Put the heat on medium and pour in the wine. Cook, stirring constantly, until all the wine is absorbed.
  5. Pour the lemon juice into the broth.Add in 1/2 cup of hot broth to the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until all the broth is absorbed. Add new broth, continuing to stir, 1/2 cup at a time, each time the previous amount is absorbed.
  6. When all the broth has been used, add in the Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, bleu cheese and mozzarella cheese.
  7. Stir in the butter and stir until it is melted. Use pepper as desired. You can also salt it but I have never seen the need as the Parmesan adds a sufficient salty flavor.
  8. Serve garnished with more cheese and lemon zest.
  9. Thank me. Preferably with big bills. ๐Ÿ˜›

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Sweet And Sour Pork

Sweet And Sour Pork-001

When I was young, my mom was a waitress. Heck, when I grew up, my mom was still a waitress. She was the typical divorced woman of her generation. She was undereducated yet street smart from years of living on the south side of Chicago. That in itself was rather a feat considering she was a child of the depression who grew up in very rural Alabama. She never had a “good” job but always managed to keep us fed. It may have been mayo sandwiches or ketchup sandwiches at times, but we ate. The restaurant she worked at for over 20 years was fairly popular and well known in the Chicago area. It was named the Tropical Hut and was known for it’s Polynesian food, which was a big thing back in the 60’s as people were expanding their foodie taste buds beyond burgers and baked potatoes. Thing is, other than a duck dish they had that I loved (we of course went there for every family event. Why do people do that anyway? Work someplace and then go back then when NOT working? :-P) the main food I recall from there was their club sandwich. Mom would bring it home cold at night to eat but half the time it ended up going to one or the other of us kids. I loved them.

Point being, when I was young, my main experience with food from other cultures was a club sandwich from a Polynesian restaurant in the Midwest. Go figure. While my taste buds have grown a bit more sophisticated as I’ve aged, I have to confess that I still love all the Americanized versions of Asian foods, from which some of the Polynesian foods can branch off. One that I love that you will never find on the menu of any authentic Chinese restaurant is Sweet & Sour Pork. Deep fried pork thrown together with an overly sweet yet tangy sauce with pineapple in it, then put on rice. Sounds rather gross, ehh? But in reality, it’s soooooo darn yummy. I mean, the words deep fried should tip you off right away. I’ve said before; you could probably deep fry a shoe and it would taste good.

This is the version I’ve been making for years. Authentic? Nope. Just mine. Though like I said, what is authentic with this dish ANYWAY? Back when I first started making it, I honestly didn’t even know there WAS such a thing as sweet and sour pork lol. I just took the sauce recipe from some meatballs I loved, chopped up some pork, battered it, fried it and thought it seemed Asian enough to deserve rice as the base. Isn’t it amazing what we come up with, thinking we are so original only to find out later (or sooner now that you can google a recipe in 3 seconds) that many others have been making it for years?

This is a good version, mine though it may be. Nothing weird, nothing unusual, fairly standard as it goes. But I wanted to post it for those who may be thinking that this is a hard dish to make. It’s not. If you can fry food and combine sauce ingredients, you can make Sweet And Sour Pork.

Sweet And Sour Pork

  • Batter-
  • 2 eggs 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 pounds boneless pork loin, cubed into about 1 inch pieces
  • about 4 cups canola or vegetable oil, heated to 355 degrees
  • Sauce-
  • 1 20 ounce can pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
  • 1 8 ounce can pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2/3 cup vinegar
  • 2/3 cup chopped green pepper
  • 2/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 cups cooked rice (I like this served with Jasmine or Basmati but use your favorite)
  1. Start your sauce first- In a large pot, combine the pineapple with it’s juice, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the green pepper and onions and simmer covered for another five minutes. Set aside and keep warm
  3. Start your oil heating while you prepare the batter, which is easy peasy.
  4. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk in the eggs, egg yolk, milk and soy sauce.
  5. While your oil heats (large pot), take about half the pork cubes and put them into the batter. Stir around to get them well coated.
  6. When the oil has reached 355 degrees, carefully toss in (make sure your hands are fairly close to the oil… tossing from far up because it seems safer actually isn’t. It will just make the oil splatter all over you.) pieces of the pork. Do about 12 pieces at a time. You don’t want to overcrowd or the oil temp drops and you end up with greasy pork.
  7. Cook for about 4 minutes or until a nice dark golden brown. You’ll probably have to stir them around to get both sides browned.
  8. Using a wide slotted spoon or even better, a metal skimmer, lift out your pork and lay in a paper towel lined bowl.
  9. Keep cooking until it’s all done then you can either toss it with the sauce or, as I prefer to do, serve all the components separately so everyone can fix it the way they like it. Like here, my daughter loves a lot of sauce, I prefer less.
  10. Garnish with sliced green onions and serve with soy sauce

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Caramelized Onion, Bacon & Mascarpone Risotto

Caramelized Onion, Bacon & Mascarpone Risotto

Caramelized Onion, Bacon & Mascarpone Risotto

Rice is one of my best friends. If this were 150 years ago, I would have been the wife of a rice planter in say, South Carolina. We would of course, be stone broke because I would eat all of our profits. Ok, so maybe not, but I remember reading once that it was common back in the day on the plantations for rice to be served with every meal, including breakfast. It was just a difference in HOW it was served.

I am pretty sure risotto was not on the menu back then though. It is, for Americans at least, a fairly recent dish. But I am willing to bet that if you could go back in time (wouldn’t that be a blast btw? I vacillate constantly over what time period I would go to first. Yes, that is how my mind works and these are the things that keep me awake at night.) and offer risotto to rice planters, they would love you. They would also realize what could be done with their crop, increase prices substantially and rice would now be right up there price wise with foie gras, caviar and Dom Perignon champagne… all things that do NOT fit into my budget, meaning that I would never be able to afford rice, would go through life depressed and probably would have been committed at a young age.

On that note, in case it wasn’t obvious, I made risotto tonight. But not plain old boring risotto. Me?? Make something normally??? Surely you jest? Nope. I put bacon, caramelized onions, mascarpone cheese and a butt ton of other assorted Italian cheeses in there. Creamy? definitely. Meaty? Check. Needing anything else with it to make it a meal. Oh heck no. This WAS the meal… and the dessert… and dinner for tomorrow. It makes a lot. I’d say that I’ll make less next time, but I’d be lying. I’m looking forward to leftovers.

Caramelized Onion, Bacon & Mascarpone Risotto

  • 1/2 pound bacon (preferably low sodium), cooked crisp and crumbled, then set aside (make extra because you KNOW you’ll pick at it)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 onions, cut in half lengthwise then thinly sliced into half moons
  • 5 to 6 cups of good quality chicken broth, heated to close to boiling (keep warm by either reheating in the microwave or keeping it simmering in a pot on the stove)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (plus more to smother the finished rice in)
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 4 to 8 ounces shredded Italian cheeses (Kraft makes it, plus most groceries have a store brand)
  1. In a large saucepot, over low heat, saute the onions in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, stirring constantly for the first three or 4 minutes. Cover the pan, keep the heat at low and cook the onions, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden brown and tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Put the onions in a bowl and clean the pot.
  2. In the same pot, put the rest of the olive oil. Add in the garlic and over medium heat, cook for about 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly for about 3 to 4 minutes. You want the rice to have a nice coating of garlicky oil on it.
  3. Pour about 1 1/2 cups of the hot broth into the rice. You want it to just barely cover the rice. Make sure you have a drink and something to do next to you, because you’re not leaving the stove for a while now ๐Ÿ˜› .
  4. Stirring constantly, continue to cook the rice until practically all of the broth is absorbed. Add in another 1/ 1/2 cups and do it all over again. Then do it one last time. The rice is done when it is tender and creamy.
  5. Take the pan off the heat and add in all the cheeses. Stir well to melt them, then add in the bacon and the caramelized onions.
  6. Place the rice in a large serving bowl to serve family style or individual bowls to make sure that no one eats your portion. Sprinkle each serving with a healthy portion of grated Parmesan.

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Have Rice Will… Kill All Nutritional Value In It

I have heard a lot of people decry pudding as a boring dessert alternative. I completely disagree. Pudding is awesome darn it! Smeared all over… ok, wait, let’s change the tangent I was about to go off on there. My bad. :-Pร‚ย  Where was I? Pudding is awesome. When I was a kid back in the 60’s and 70’s (yes, I’m older than most other bloggers. I like to think that makes me wiser and smarter and more experienced and a better cook… and far cuter. Or something like that.) when most women were entering the work force for the first time, pudding meant the dry powder in a box mixed with milk because none of our mothers had the time to actually MAKE pudding home made. I have to admit to still having a certain fondness for the Butterscotch flavor. I still buy it as well as the newer types of pudding that have come out. The Jello Temptations are pretty darn good and are low calorie and Jello brands sugar free Creme Brulee Rice Pudding is…wait for it… “to die for” *grins cause you all know what I think of that phrase ๐Ÿ˜› .

But rice pudding for me has always been a sort of comfort food and nothing beats home made. But… *sighs deeply*… being me, I am never content to leave well enough alone. Nooooooo… I have to mess with things I like to try and make more things I like. Like I did last night with rice pudding. Mind you, it worked. Quite nicely. But now I have a craving for regular warm rice pudding covered in a few pounds of Cinnamon (sorry Ann … I know you can’t do Cinnamon. But that’s why you should keep reading :-P). But until I decide to make that, this is a wonderful Summery alternative. If you like coconut (no coconut pieces in it cause I just don’t care for the texture as much as I love the flavor) and Pineapple, you should love this. Plus, if you want to lighten it, it can be done by using low fat coconut milk, lighter milk and light or fat free whipped topping instead of the heavy cream. The Greek yogurt in this adds a nice tang as well as some extra nutrition. All in all, while this isn’t exactly great for you (this IS me after all ๐Ÿ˜› ), it’s certainly not BAD for you either if you use lighter ingredients. I hope you like it! There was no way to really photograph rice pudding to make it look exciting lol, but it sure does taste good ๐Ÿ˜€ This makes a lot so it could be cut in half if needed.

ร‚ย Pina Colada Rice Pudding With A Greek Yogurt Twist

  • 4 cups cooked rice (I used leftover Basmati Coconut rice but any cooked rice would do. I actually think this would be better with plain white rice. )
  • 2 cans coconut milk (I used full fat cause the low fat tastes watery to me in all the brands I have tried but you could sub low fat)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 20 ounce can pineapple chunks, well drained
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped or 1 1/2 cups whipped topping
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used honey flavored because it was what I had on hand)
  1. In a medium heavy bottomed (preferably non stick) sauce pot, combine the cooked rice and the coconut milk. Stir well to mix. Over medium heat, bring the mix to a gentle boil stirring very often.
  2. Turn heat down to low (I had it on two) and cover. Cook the rice until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Mine took about 30 minutes.
  3. Pour mixture into a large bowl and cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.
  4. When rice is cold, mix the whipped cream (or whipped topping) with the Greek yogurt.
  5. Break up the rice pudding (it will be stiff) and fold the cream/yogurt mixture into it.
  6. Add the drained pineapple and mix well. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.