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A Satisfying Meal—and Convenience—in One Pot

Welcome to a new weekly column where home cooks can connect and share their experiences with cooking without a net. That means taking a not-so-serious approach to making great food with what's in season plus whatever you have on hand.

I'm all about convenience.

Especially with the jobs I've had over the last decade—erratic hours, hard-to-schedule meals and lack of sleep—I really look for ways to have good food at the ready when I'm ready.

And that means taking short cuts and having some staples in the pantry, so I can throw together a quick meal or make something that will last through the week for lunches, dinners or the occasional late-night snack.

One of many joys of living in New Rochelle—I'm quite smitten with the place—is being equidistant from Fairway in Pelham Manor and in Larchmont. And Stew Leonard's over in Yonkers is not too far away either.

The stores each have their own advantages, and I could easily spend all my food dollars at any of them. I'm talking to you, Fairway sushi bar. I'm also talking to you, Trader Joe's Chocolate Covered Carmel Popcorn.

When Katie O'Connor first told me about this column, I eagerly volunteered to contribute a recipe—one that I was making that very evening—two of the main ingredients of which come from Trader Joe's.

Actually, it's Trader Jose's.

You see, I hail from Texas, the land of the jalapeno.

I like things on the spicy side, and nothing makes me happier than a dish that has a kick.

Now don't go all burning mouth on me. It's totally up to you how hot you want something, and the dish I am writing about has a great degree of flexibility heatwise. Heck, it can even quite easily be a vegetarian main course.

Again, convenience is important to me, and what is more convenient than a one-pot meal.

So I offer you Spanish Rice with Carnitas, made with staples I try to keep in my pantry: long-grain rice, canned black beans, canned diced tomatoes and frozen corn.

This dish can be made with those basic ingredients if you already have them stocked. But I would urge you to consider an "upgrade" on a couple of them.

I am wild about Ro-Tel tomatoes. They seem to be in a lot of the major chain stores in the area in three varieties: mild, original and Mexican, which is made with lime juice and cilantro. I prefer the original version, which is spicy, but, to my palate, not too hot.

Also, my friend Gretchen clued me in about Trader Jose's Roasted Corn. Oh my, what a wonderful product. To me, there's nothing better than corn roasted on a grill outside, and this product comes close to that. It would be a wonderful addition to soup, salsa or any dish where corn is appropriate.

Trader Jose's Traditional Carnitas is fully cooked, oven-roasted pork. The package instructions say you can microwave it and then shred it. The first time I bought it, the woman at the checkout commented how good a product she thought it was.

Then she suggested that I steam it instead of microwaving, that it makes it more moist and easier to shred. I agree. And it's very difficult to refrain from sampling the carnitas as it's being shredded.

Please bear in mind that you can change the ingredients to make this easy on yourself. If you don't have the carnitas, use a couple cups of shredded roast chicken, turkey or another protein you like. And this dish can become suitable for vegetarians by using a vegetable broth and skipping the carnitas.

Note that I purposefully did not add any salt during the cooking process. Feel free to, but I prefer to add a couple of grinds from a salt grinder to my serving at the table.

So let's start cooking.

Spanish Rice with Carnitas

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup raw long-grain rice
1 15-1/2 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 16-ounce bag frozen corn, preferably Trader Jose's Roasted Corn
1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably Ro-Tel
3-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 12-ounce package Trader Jose's Traditional Carnitas

  1. Prepare the carnitas according to package instructions or steam over boiling water until heated through, about 7-10 minutes. Shred the carnitas using two forks.
  2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Heat a 5-quart ovenproof pot to medium high and add the oil.
  4. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the drained and rinsed black beans and frozen corn. Heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.
  6. Add the diced tomatoes and stir to combine.
  7. Add 3 cups broth, and bring to a boil.
  8. Cover the pot with a lid and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  9. Stir in the shredded carnitas, then cover and bake for another 5 minutes. Add the additional broth—heated—if necessary.

I did a calorie analysis of this and came up with 1 calorie per gram. A 10-ounce serving would be about 283 calories. This reheats nicely in the microwave.

What is your go-to, no-recipe, no-big-shopping-list dish? 

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