Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wild rice & bean casserole with guacamole

Me and carbohydrates, we're tight.  Not only do they fuel me for a busy day ahead or a long run, but they also just taste so gosh darn good!  While I've had the misfortune of eating a dry cake or a flavorless cookie, I've yet to encounter a grain I didn't love.

For instance, bread.  Wheat, preferably, but I'll take whole grain, Italian, French, brioche, sandwich thins, even white if I must.  And that's just the "healthy" stuff.  Don't even get me started on the sweet dessert breads like banana, pumpkin, cornbread, soda bread, zucchini bread, and cinnamon bread.  I'm overwhelmed just thinking about it!

Or pasta.  Sweet mother of all things good and true in the universe.  I'm still convinced there's Italian somewhere in my heritage, despite my parents' very pale English and German roots.  Big pasta, little pasta, white pasta, whole wheat pasta, or even vegetable pasta.  Pasta with red sauce, pasta with white sauce, or pasta with oil and no sauce at all.  I heart pasta!

The most recent grain to come into my life and diet is quinoa, not technically a grain at all, but rather a protein-rich seed that's cooked just like rice.  I've used it in salads, soups, even in place of macaroni noodles to make quinoa mac & cheese.  It's so trendy and healthy to love quinoa!

Speaking of rice, you might have noticed I haven't professed my love for it just yet.  Because, well, I didn't really love rice.  I barely liked it.  Up until making this dish, I'd simply been indifferent toward rice.  It's bland and totally unoffensive and didn't conjure up any feelings in me whatsoever.  If rice were on my plate, I'd eat it, but I'd never once pined for the stuff.

Never say never, right?  

But, plump wild rice cooked slowly with beans, tomatoes, and an array of spices and broth, and topped with creamy fresh guacamole, now that's something I've most certainly developed feelings for.  Wild, passionate, must-make-this-dish-again-next-week kind of feelings!

This is the ultimate stick-to-your-ribs hearty and healthy dinner, and it tastes even better the next day.  I'd guess it would taste even better two days after making it, but there's no way there'd be any left by then!

One year ago: Sausage with tomatoes and goat cheese
Two years ago: Tuscan vegetable soup
Three years ago: White cake with strawberry buttercream

Wild Rice & Bean Casserole with Guacamole
(with some changes from Eat, Live, Run
-serves 4

A quick note: I love the varying colors and textures of wild rice, but feel free to use brown or even white rice instead.

1 cup dry wild rice
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 ripe avocados
Garlic salt
1 Tablespoon lime juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a glass 9x13-inch dish, combine rice, broth, beans, sauce and tomatoes, and seasonings.  Stir well and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake in oven for 90 minutes.  (Do NOT lift foil to peek before time is up!)  Remove from oven and remove foil.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes to cool and let remaining liquid be absorbed.

Near end of cooking time for casserole, prepare guacamole.  (Here's my method for halving and de-pitting avocados.)   Mash with 1 tablespoon lime juice and season to taste with garlic salt and black pepper.

Serve rice and beans and top with fresh guacamole and enjoy!  Any leftover rice and beans can be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.  To keep guacamole as fresh as possible, cover with plastic wrap and press wrap to surface of guacamole for up to 2 days in refrigerator.

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