Some like it hot!

by Don Bingham 

January is the perfect time to refocus on healthy dining, recuperate from the over-indulgences of the holidays and enjoy spicy foods! It’s a great time to explore all flavors from curry and Indian to Cajun and Tabasco!

We enjoy the black iron skillets and saucepots, the slow cooker process and all things simple in preparation. There are many varieties of spicy foods that do not contain meats — the options are many. The amount of seasonings may be altered in most recipes for those with more tender digestive systems, and much of the fat may be reduced, as well. The simplicity of the dishes makes the enjoyment all the more inviting!

Here are a few of our favorites for your consideration for the post-holiday need for spicy foods!

Jalapeño Bread

3 cups fine yellow cornmeal

2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup peanut oil

6 or 8 fresh jalapeño peppers

1 large onion

3 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

Grease a large, well-seasoned cast iron skillet and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the jalapeño peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Mince the peppers. Peel the onion and grate it. Mix the meal, buttermilk and oil. Whisk in the eggs and mix them into the batter, along with the peppers, onion and salt.

Pour mixture into the large cast-iron skillet. Pat the top with oil and bake for 40 minutes, until surface is lightly browned. Turn the skillet onto a plate for serving.


1 cup long grain rice, uncooked

1 pound smoke-cured ham

2 pounds chicken breasts

6 slices bacon

8 oz. fresh whole mushrooms

1 stalk celery, chopped with leaves

1 large onion, diced

1 large green pepper, diced

1 can tomatoes (16 oz.)

1 cup chicken broth, hot

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

Tabasco sauce to taste

Fry the bacon in a large skillet until crisp and set aside to drain. Cut the ham into chunks. Skin and bone the chicken breast; cut the meat into chunks. Brown the meat in the bacon drippings and set aside. Add the rice to the bacon drippings in the skillet and cook on low until it starts to brown. Add the onions, celery, mushrooms and green pepper. Sauté on low heat for 8 minutes. Chop the canned tomatoes and add them to the skillet, along with the juice. Add the chicken broth. Stir in the thyme, black pepper, salt and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to boil, cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add Tabasco sauce to taste. Sausage is a great substitute for the ham, as well.

Chicken Tacos

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

1 or 2 tomatoes, peeled, chopped (or homemade tomato/hot sauce)

1 or 2 chilies

Pinch of pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

3 1/2 to 4 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken

1 package taco seasoning to taste (optional)

12-15 homemade or packaged taco shells

1/2 small head lettuce, shredded

5 oz. Longhorn cheese, shredded (cheddar will do, also)

1 to 1 1/4 cups dairy sour cream

Mash garlic (liquid garlic may be substituted) with salt to make paste. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic paste. Cook until onion is tender. Add tomatoes, chilies, pepper and cumin. Stir in chicken. Cook and stir until mixture is fairly dry. Taste and add more salt and cumin. Fill taco shells with chicken mixture. Serve lettuce, cheese and sour cream in separate bowls to add to tacos as desired. Makes 12-15.

Texas-Style Barbecue Chicken

2 fryers

Juice of 1 lemon

4 cloves garlic, crushed



Cayenne pepper

Split the fryers in half. Rub both sides with lemon juice and garlic. Cover the surface with a generous coating of salt followed by a coating of paprika and cayenne.

Place the chickens on a wire rack, skin side up. Refrigerate uncovered for 8 hours or overnight to dry the skin, making it deliciously crisp when cooked.

To cook, ignite a bed of charcoal. When flames die and coals are smoldering, place chickens on grill about 12 inches above coals. Cover and cook slowly, for about 2 hours. Turn after an hour.

The skin will be very crisp and the meat will be juicy and tender. Serves 8.

Santa Fe Soup

2 1/2 pounds ground sirloin

1 medium onion, chopped

1 can Rotel tomatoes

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can black beans, drained

1 can pinto beans, drained

1 can kidney beans, drained

2 cans shoe peg corn

3 cups water

2 packages taco seasoning mix

2 packages Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix

Brown and drain meat and onion. Combine all ingredients. Simmer 2 hours or cook in crockpot on low all day.

Prune Chicken

4 chickens, 2 1/2 lbs. each, quartered

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/4 teaspoon oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup pitted prunes

1/2 cup Spanish green olives

1/2 cup capers with juices

6 bay leaves

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white wine

1 cup parsley

Mix and marinate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour; turn in juices.

sage Rice Bake

2 lbs. sausage (mild or hot)

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

5 cups boiling chicken broth

1 cup uncooked rice

1/2 cup almonds

1 onion, chopped

2 cups diced celery

Brown sausage, drain off grease. Add all ingredients with sausage. Bake 50 to 60 minutes at 375 degrees. Bake covered 45 minutes, remove lid to brown top of dish. Serves 6-8.

Spicy Beef Quiche

1 lb. cooked, drained hamburger meat

1 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon parsley

1 teaspoon garlic, granulated

1 cup Swiss cheese, grated

Layer meat and cheese, sprinkle seasonings over filling. Pour in custard dish, sprinkle parsley on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp, unpeeled

4 oz. bottled Italian dressing

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 stick butter or 1/2 stick butter and 1/4 cup olive oil

Wash shrimp and drain well. Melt butter in 1-quart casserole, add all ingredients except shrimp and stir. Add shrimp, stirring gently. Cover and bake in preheated 350-degree oven, stirring occasionally for 25 to 30 minutes or until shrimp are bright pink. Serve shrimp and sauce in large soup bowls with French bread for dunking. Serves 2.

Roast Pork with Sauerkraut

1 5 lb. boneless pork roast (ask your butcher to leave some of the fat on the top of the roast)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 2-lb. packages sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

4 tart green apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled, cored and cut into thick slices

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 to 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (depending on the sweetness of the apples)

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

3/4 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rub the pork roast with salt and pepper. Put it in a large roasting pan and put in the oven, turning it to brown on all sides, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the roast and lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees.

Scatter the sauerkraut all around the roast. In a bowl, mix together the apples, onion, sugar, mustard and caraway seeds.

Sprinkle this mixture over the sauerkraut and drizzle the wine over all. Cover and roast at 250 degrees for about 4 hours, or until the meat is well done, yet very tender. Do not let the roast dry out. (If there was not too much fat on the roast, you might want to moisten it with additional wine.)

Let the roast rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serves 4 to 6.

Navy Bean Soup

1 cup dried navy beans

5 cups water

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 chicken-flavored bouillon cube

1/2 cup diced lean cooked ham

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon catsup

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon dried whole basil

1/2 teaspoon dried whole oregano

Grated Romano cheese (optional)

Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water 2 inches above beans; let soak overnight. Drain beans; combine beans, water, celery, onion, carrots, parsley and bouillon cube; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes.

Add next six ingredients; cover and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf.  Sprinkle each serving with Romano cheese, if desired. Makes about 6 cups.


Recognized throughout the state as an accomplished chef, Don Bingham has authored cookbooks, presented television programs and previously served as the executive chef at the Governor’s Mansion. He is now the director of special events at the University of Central Arkansas.