Saturday, April 16, 2011

Beans and Rice!

Do you know what the fantastic thing about a beans and rice budget is? Beans and rice.

Although hardly poverty stricken, I have put some considerable thought into cutting down my expenses over the past year. Grocery costs have been my biggest success. I've already written about the many ways bread baking has benefited me, but discovering the awesome power of beans and rice has been even better.

Here's my confession: for a long time I thought beans and lentils were spicy. Except for baked beans, the only time I'd ever had bean dishes were either Indian or Tex-Mex places. I don't do spicy, so I wrote off beans.

I guess the turning point was when I started making my own chili and discovered I could dial down the heat to where I liked it. Then, I started extending a pot of chili by serving it over rice. Voila! I had a meal that was cheap, easy and healthy. My love affair with beans and rice had begun.

Talking with people about beans, as I am wont to do, I found that everyone, everywhere, wants more beans and rice recipes. So here are my favourites. Note: you won't find the hot and spicy here. These are simpler, more comfortable dishes that I really enjoy and hope you will too.

Lentils and Rice, with or without Pork
By Mark Bittman

When Bittman posted this on the New York Times website, he included about a million variations. I haven't tried any of them, because this one is so delicious, I didn't feel like reinventing the wheel. This quickly became one of Fiance's favourite dishes as well.

A few tablespoons of olive oil
4 slices of bacon (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup brown rice
2 cups green lentils
Bay leaf

Heat oil in a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients. Saute bacon, vegetables and oil for about 10 minutes, until vegetables start to brown. Add lentils, rice, bay leaf and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Chickpeas and Veggie Rice

by Me! (I rarely come up with recipes all by myself, so this is a big deal)

can chickpeas, drained (or 1 cup dried chickpeas, pre-cooked)
1 cup brown rice
2 cupa chopped vegetables (any kind, really. Frozen works well here)
1 can V8 juice.
1/2 cup water.

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot or rice cooker. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Chard and White Bean Stew
Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen (

1 pound chard (or kale, or spinach, or collard greens. Whatever)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 cans white beans (or 1.5 cups dried beans, pre-cooked)
1 large can pureed tomatoes
Bay leaf

Remove all stems and ribs from the greens. Boil for one minute then coarsely chop. Dry out the pot, heat the oil and saute the vegetables for 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, beans and seasonings and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chard and cook for 5 minutes more.

Black Beans and Tomato Rice with Caramelized Onions

I guess I came up with this one, too, but it was based off a comment I read on a food blog I forget, so not really mine

2-4 thinly sliced onions, depending on their size and how much you like onions
Olive oil
3 cups pre-cooked rice
1 can black beans, rinsed (or 1 cup dried black beans, cooked)
1 large can diced tomatoes

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Stir in the onions with a dash of sugar to help them brown. Cook, stirring occasionally, for half an hour, until the onions become dark brown. Add the rice, beans and tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Serve

Roasted Chickpeas and Sweet Potatoes

By Oh She Glows (

1 Can chickpeas (or 1 cup dried chickpeas, pre-cooked)
1 large sweet potato
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with tin foil. Toss all the ingredients together on the sheet and roast for 45 minutes, stirring midway through.

Besides the fact that all these recipes are really, really tasty, healthy and cheap (which is what I was looking for to begin with) they're also all simple, one-pot dishes and use many of the same ingredients (without getting repetitive) so you likely already have all your ingredients on hand. Anyone have any other suggestions?