It was a dark and stormy night

On Wednesday night my book club met at Leah’s new home.  The book was Undress me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Gilman.

 It was oh, so nice to come in out of the dark and wind and rain, to warmth and wine and good conversation. 

 It didn’t take long for us to move from greetings and chat to eagerly serving ourselves from the Dutch oven full of Pork and Spanish Rice that Leah pulled, steaming and fragrant, from the oven.  With a green salad on the side, this hearty dish was just right on a cold night.   

Over dinner, Leah mentioned that she uses ROTEL in her Pork and Spanish Rice.  An animated discussion ensued.  Cindy was new to the lore of ROTEL, so Mechele filled her in on the history, composition, and uses of this deceptively simple can of tomatoes, chiles, and spices.  Leah said she adds it to everything.  I mentioned that I have a ROTEL-based dip recipe.  Mechele told us she’s been to the ROTEL website, where there are apparently many, many recipes involving Velveeta.  I felt compelled to acknowledge, at this point, that my dip recipe does indeed use Velveeta (I can’t really defend that one, but it’s good). 

For dessert, Leah served homemade brownies.  Her transition to gluten-free cooking has clearly been successful, as the brownies were rich and chocolately, and not conspicuous for the absence of gluten. 

Often at book club, we barely discuss the book before moving on to dishing about our lives, work, significant others, and mutual friends.  However, this time we actually had an extensive discussion of the book, a memoir about two young women who set off to travel around the world. 

When the time came for choosing our next book, Mechele pitched Hotel On The Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford.   We select books by consensus, and while we never argue too vigorously, this discussion did seem to miss a certain zip…no doubt due to the fact that Diana wasn’t there this time.  Agreement was reached, coats were gathered, and we all headed off into the blustery night. 

Leah’s Pork and Spanish Rice

Adapted from Cathy’s Pork Chops & Spanish Rice (by Michelle Minicucci on

50 min | 20 min prep


  • 1 lb pork loin, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pink peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 stalk celery, small dice
  • 1 medium onion, small dice
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can corn, drained
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can ROTEL
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup rice, (not instant)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a gallon size plastic bag, add salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and olive oil. Add pork and massage to coat.
  3. Brown pork in olive oil in a 10-inch oven-proof pan with lid.  Remove from pan.
  4. Add onion and celery to pan, and brown in drippings for approximately 5 minutes. Add can of drained corn and 1 tsp of sugar. Stir frequently and brown to desired caramelization.  Return pork to pan.
  5. Add can of Rotel and 2 cups water. Stir in paprika and crumble oregano leaves over pot. Bring to a boil.
  6. Add 1 cup rice and stir thoroughly.
  7. Cover with lid and cook in preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes.

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