Thursday, October 13, 2011

Spanish Rice Casserole (or just Spanish Rice) (and maybe Epic Burritos too!)

Spanish Rice was one of the first things I learned to cook.  Back in my days of yore, circa 2007-ish.  I don't even remember where I got this recipe originally.  Like I said, yore.

I followed the recipe to the letter, it worked PERFECTLY.  I was very proud of myself, and very very surprised since most of the things I had tried to cook before turned out so horrible I'd take one bite, realize that it wasn't even good enough to even be considered mediocre, start sobbing (I'm not joking), throw the whole thing away, and give up cooking for 6 months or more. I took failure pretty hard back then.

Nowadays I still cry when something I make doesn't turn out well, but I recover more quickly, and I never give up cooking for more than 5 days...although 4 years later I remain so traumatized by my awful lasagna that I have yet to try making it a second time.

The basic recipe:
Spanish Rice
1 cup rice (this recipe called for white rice)
2 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp oil
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 bell pepper (chopped) 
3/4 tsp chili powder

1. Cook and stir rice in oil until golden brown.
2. Add bell pepper, tomato sauce and water.
3. Heat to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sounds easy, right?  IT IS!

And because I'm me, here's how I like to make it complicated and awesomer:

Spanish Rice Extended Version
Core Ingredients:
1 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cups water (although, I think this needs to be more like 3 because I always end up adding more)
Some oil (I use safflower)
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 bell pepper

Stuff I Add:
More bell pepper, up to 2 and 1/2.  I love to use red, orange and yellow. ("Eat a rainbow every day")
1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
Cumin seeds
Chili powder if you have it
~3/4 cup diced onion
1 or 2 stalks of celery (optional)
A little bit of diced jalepeno (optional)

1. Heat oil with cumin seeds and cumin in a large pan until warm.  Add dry rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. This makes your house smell wonderful, gives the rice more flavor, and gives you time to chop the veggies.

2. Add celery (if you choose), onion and jalepeno (if you choose).  Saute some more.  (Remember: jalepeno/jalepeno steam + eyes = pain.)

3. Add bell pepper, tomato sauce, tomatoes and water.  Bring to a boil.

4. Cover and simmer until it's done, stirring occasionally.  (At least 30 minutes....probably more.)

This is pretty darn good.  But then one day I needed to make One Big Inexpensive Nourishing Meal that Would Make Enough Leftovers to Last Until Payday.  That's when I invented...

Spanish Rice Casserole

Spanish Rice (as above - as simple or complicated as you want to make it)
Cans of beans (I usually use 3: 1 can kidney, 1 can pinto, and 1 can black)
A small mountain of shredded cheddar cheese
1 or 2 shredded carrots (optional) 
Corn (optional - after my experience this evening with canned corn, I am hereby going to be snobby about corn.  Canned corn is complete bullshit.  In the future, I'll stock my freezer with fresh corn from a local farm or friend's garden.  Repeat: canned corn is complete bullshit. It's just not worth it).

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  While the Spanish Rice is simmering, drain the beans, shred the cheese, then shred the carrots.  (Kitchen Sanity Tip #1: shredding the carrots after the cheese helps clean the cheese off the shredder.) (Kitchen Sanity Tip #2: shred a block of cheese randomly some day when you have time, then put it in a container in the fridge. Saves time in the future! I don't like to buy pre-shredded cheese because it's kind of a waste of money).

2. Lay out the beans in a large casserole dish.  Mix in carrots and corn, if you choose.  Mix in some of the cheese.

3. When Spanish Rice is done, mix well with the beans, cheese and carrots.  Put more cheese on top.  Put in the oven for a little while, until you think the beans are as warm as the rice and the cheese is melty.

You can stop here and eat it (I love it with sour cream!).  It's pretty much a complete meal - calcium, protein, fiber, iron, and more!

Or you could follow the Megan Path even further and make...

Epic Burritos

A few heaping scoops of piping hot Spanish Rice Casserole per tortilla
Sour cream
More shredded cheese
Sriracha (or your other favorite hot sauce)
Jalepenos (especially if you like spicy stuff and didn't add any to the rice originally)

Line the tortilla with sour cream. Chop avocado into little bits and smear onto tortilla.  Dot generously with Sriracha.  Add Spanish Rice.  Wrap.  ENJOY!

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