Hello again! It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on another dinner that will satisfy our love for cooking, creativity, and our family!

I guess I’ve had a craving for Latin-inspired food lately. So what follows is my newly-perfected rice and beans recipe, topped with a fresh pico de gallo. The recipe is potentially vegan-friendly (depending on what you top it with), and remains vegetarian friendly. I am not a vegan, but my sister is, and I always think of her when creating new recipes. I am also not vegetarian, but I do eat a lot of food that is vegetarian friendly, for the simple fact that meat is expensive. I also try to eat healthy and choose foods that are good for me (my enchiladas recipe I think falls kind of short of that!).

For the rice and beans, you will need:

1 can of black beans, with the juices

1 cup of dry white rice, cooked

2 tablespoons lime juice

3 tablespoons cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons Mexican hot chocolate mix

½ a white onion, chopped

Pour the contents of the black beans into a medium sized pot. Add in the chopped onions, lime juice, 2 ½ tbs of cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and hot chocolate mix. Mix well.

NOTE: I got the tip to use chocolate in the black beans from watching an episode of Rachael Ray. It really does make a difference.

Heat the beans slowly over medium heat, making sure to stir frequently.

Meanwhile, prepare the rice. I cook mine in a Pampered Chef microwave rice cooker (which I couldn’t live without!). I added 1 tbs lime juice and the remaining cayenne pepper to my rice before cooking.

Place cooked rice on a plate. Top with the black beans.

Blank canvas ready to be topped with whatever lovely toppings you choose!

For the pico de gallo you will need:

2 medium ripe tomatoes (garden fresh is preferred!)

½ white onion

¼ green bell pepper

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

2 heaping tablespoons chopped garlic

(If I had fresh cilantro, I would have added a generous handful to make this perfect)

Chop the tomatoes, onion, and bell pepper. Place in a medium sized bowl and mix. Add remaining ingredients and mix well, until evenly distributed.

Place pico de gallo on top of rice and beans. At this point, the dish is vegan.

However, I am a HUGE fan of sour cream and cheese. So I topped my mixture with a large dollop (or two…) of reduced fat sour cream and a generous handful of shredded cheddar cheese. Feel free to top yours with whatever ingredients you wish!

This can be eaten plain with a fork, placed in a burrito shell, or eaten with taco chips like a dip. Any way you eat it, it is soooo tasty.

TIP: The pico de gallo does not store well in the fridge (I learned this the hard way), so I would recommend eating it all the night you make it.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did. Stay tuned for more dinner ideas. Until next time, bon appétit!