Taco bean dip

Here’s a popular party favorite I made so often I don’t even need to look at the recipe anymore. Try it out, and you will gain fans forever. Every time I serve this or take to a potluck, people can’t stop talking about how good it tastes. Even though it requires quite a number of ingredients, it is very easy to make.

1 can refried beans
1 cup sour cream
1 pk cream cheese, softened
½ pk taco seasoning
1 clove garlic
chopped green onions
½ cup chopped tomatoes
1 small can sliced or chopped black olives
½ cup shredded mexican (or cheddar) cheese

Preheat oven 375 degrees.
Spread beans on the bottom of the pan.
Blend softened cream cheese with sour cream, crushed garlic and taco seasoning.
Spread cream cheese mix on top of the beans.
Sprinkle olives, tomatoes, green onions and cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes (dip should bubble a little on the edges).
Serve hot with tortilla chips and enjoy!

Different types of rice

Do you know how many different types of rice there are?
I was amazed to find out that there are 40,000 varieties worldwide!

Photo courtesy of CalRice.org
Photo courtesy of CalRice.org

When I grew up I knew about white rice, sticky rice, black/purple rice, fried rice or mixed rice, and thought that was it! (Of course the last two are not a type of rice, but rather a type of rice dish!) This article covers some of the most commonly used and known varieties of rice in the U.S., that I have personally used all my life.

Even though Americans eat twice as much rice now than they did 10 years ago, the average consumption per person is 25 lbs per year compared to people in Myanmar who eat 500 lbs a year. Yet, the U.S. is the 12th largest producer and the 2nd largest exporter of rice in the world. Rice originated in Asia and Africa, and feeding 1/3 of the world population clearly makes it one of the most important staples around the world.

There are many advantages to using rice, some of which are: it’s nutritious, high in complex carbohydrates, almost no fat, cholesterol free, low in sodium (except when salt is added), gluten-free and it is low in calories. Depending on the variety, half a cup of cooked white rice contains about 80 calories.

A long-grain, aromatic but non-glutinous rice from India and Pakistan, swells only lengthwise when cooked, forms long slender grains that are very dry, light and separate—not sticky. In Hindi it means “queen of scents” or “pearl of scents.” This would have been excellent for my Chinese fried rice!

The black uncooked grains turn deep purple when cooked. Black rice has a nutty taste and is high in iron and fiber. It is steamed plain, used in pilaf, stir-fried or with a salad.
I have only had black rice as a chewy patty, sometimes stuffed with a sweet coconut or savory meat filling. Djenang Lot, Mendot or Lemper were the Javanese names for these treats I remember from my youth.

Brown rice is milled to remove only the hull from the kernel but the rice bran layer and the germ are retained. Brown rice has a lower glycemic index and is more nutritious because it does not loose the vitamins, minerals and fiber rich in minerals and vitamins, especially the B-complex. It takes twice as long to cook as white rice.

Or parboiled rice is pressure-steamed and dried before it is husked This causes the grains to absorb nutrients from the husk and is a good choice for people who want more nutritious rice, without having to eat brown rice. It almost has the same color and flavor as white rice, but can be a little bit drier. This is also used in fried or mixed rice (moksie alesie).

Better knows as sticky rice is short-grained rice that is especially glue-like when cooked. This can be used for desserts or savory dishes. I remember it as rice pudding or small rice balls sprinkled with sugar and freshly grated coconut (ketan klappa). When used in a savory dish, the cooked rice would be cut in cubes and served with fried tofu cubes, topped with fresh bean sprouts and a spicy sweet soy sauce (tahoe lontong). I also remember eating it in cubes with a Javanese curry-coconut beef stew (lonton with gule).

Instant rice is precooked white rice that has been dehydrated to enable faster cooking. It is more expensive due to the convenience, but less flavorful than regular rice.

This long-grain rice has a distinctive jasmine aroma during cooking. The cooked grains are soft, moist and cling together. (No wonder mine clumped!) Jasmine cooks in a similar way to basmati but has a rounder, starchier grain which makes it sticky, where basmati is not. Jasmine rice is a good source of B vitamins and complex carbohydrates.

Regular-milled white rice is the most common form of rice. Unfortunately, removing the bran and germ to make white rice more tender and delicate, also removes much of the nutrients.

Wild rice is a cousin to true rice and instead of being cultivated, it grows wild in small lakes and slow-flowing streams.

Source: The Nibble.com

Debbie’s Chinese fried rice

Ingredients for fried rice
Ingredients for fried rice

A few weeks ago I was in the mood for making Chinese fried rice, but it would be one of those what-you-have-in-the pantry dishes. Not the way to go when preparing a dish, but sometimes you have to adapt to the situation and I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store that day.

I had Jasmine rice and some of the other important ingredients for this dish, so it would work right? Wrong!! It doesn’t matter what you have, if you don’t have the right type of rice, or cook it the right way, forget it!

In spite of using my own rice cooking tip (less water for dryer rice), the rice appeared to be a little bit, um, on the soft side. So I thought I’d let it cool off a little then turn over to loosen up the kernels. To my horror the rice remained clumpy. What was I to do now? I couldn’t throw away all this good rice? (Mom’s voice in my head was reminding me to be respectful of food and not to let it go to waste.) So I took the courage to try cooking the fried rice with the lumpy bundles, which I would just pry loose in the wok.

Lumpy rice?
Lumpy rice?

I was shooting some pictures of the cooking process but how was I going to put this on the blog? I could pretend that this is how it was supposed to look. But I decided to be honest and let my readers know, that no matter what you prepare, it is important to use the right ingredients. I used what I had nearby, but as you can see in the pictures, Jasmine rice is not exactly the right variety for stir fry dishes. I love steamed Jasmine rice, served with meat and vegetables, but it is just too soft to be used for fried rice. Even though the dish tasted right, the texture was not and I was not a happy camper.

Lessons learned: don’t use Jasmine rice for fried rice. I should have taken a few extra steps and gotten either the basmati or parboiled rice from storage. Rice is not rice! Learn more about the different types of rice here.

I’m still posting this story and recipe with pictures, so you can learn from my “less successful” cooking experience.

4 cups cooked (long-grain) rice
1 sliced onion

Pork and shrimp with vegetables
Pork and shrimp with vegetables

2 stems green onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 slices fresh ginger, crushed
2 small boneless porkchops
1/2 lb peeled, raw shrimps
celery, sliced diagonally
black pepper
2-3 bouillon cubes
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp Chinese Five Spices
tomato & pickles
(optional: fried egg)

Pre-heat the wok or pan before adding oil and fry the onions, garlic and ginger for a few minutes until glazed. Add the bouillon cubes, five-spices, and pork, stir fry for 3 minutes, then add the celery. After 3 minutes, add the oyster sauce and toss the shrimp in while stirring for another minute. Gradually add the rice, turning over the mixture, pouring the soy sauce over the rice. Frequently turn over the mixture until the rice has an evenly brown color from the soy sauce. Finish off with black pepper or more bouillon/salt as desired.

My Fried Rice
My Fried Rice

Optional: whisk 2 eggs and fry in oil like an omelet. Roll up fried egg, cut in thin slices and serve over the rice with sliced tomatoes, pickles and hot sauce.