Allison told me that she cooks with a lot of beans at her house. Smart girl. Not only are they nutrient-dense, meaning they have much nutrition for few calories, but they are also a very economical way to cook. Try including a few vegetarian meals each week and watch your grocery bill start to lighten up (pun intended there folks).
Everyone ... meet Allison!
In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t feel remotely qualified to talk about food and/or nutrition. Yesterday was not one of my better days in terms of making good food choices. Both my husband and I are from South Louisiana, and our beloved Saints were in the Super Bowl. I spent most of the day in the kitchen making some of our favorite Louisiana dishes, none of which were particularly healthy.
The following recipes are two that I make frequently. I am trying to move my family’s diet towards one that is more plant-based, primarily because I believe it is better for us and more affordable. We do still eat meat, but only a few times a week. Luckily, everyone (including my two children, ages 4 and 2) likes beans, so we have them at least once a week. We tend to eat relatively healthy meals -- lots of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes, and I try not to buy much processed food. I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle several years ago, and, based on those books, I have been working at changing how my family eats.
However, I still struggle with my weight. I weigh about 30 pounds more now than I did before I got pregnant the first time just over five years ago. I exercise regularly and try to make good food choices, but I have two major food issues: (1) portion control and (2) emotional eating. I’m working on making better choices, both in what I eat and how much I eat, but it’s not easy. I know what I need to do, I just haven’t been able to make myself do it.
Red Beans and Rice
1 pound dark red kidney beans
6 cups water (or 4 cups of water and 2 cups of stock)
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups finely chopped bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 cups of steamed rice
Rinse the beans and place them in a large saucepan. Add the water, bring the pot to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover it and let the beans soak while preparing the other ingredients. Place the onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, black and cayenne pepper in slow cooker. Add the soaked beans and stir to mix. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours or on high for 3 1/2 hours, or until beans are tender. Remove about 1/4 cup of beans from slow cooker to a small blow. Mash to a smooth paste with back of spoon and stir them back in. Cook on low for about 30 more minutes or on high for 15 minutes. Serve over steamed rice.
Black-Eyed Peas and Rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 cups steamed rice
Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice.
Note: I have made it before with one can of black-eyed peas. To do that, reduce the amount of stock by half, and let the peas cook for about 20 minutes, instead of 40.