This week, due to a lack of inspiration on my part, Iíll be writing a slightly less involved article than what I usually put out. That said, this may just be the article that has the biggest influence on your life.
Picture this: youíre a young, upcoming athlete. You recently moved away from home to train full time. But, surprise! Things are expensive. You spend all your time trying to find sponsors, or a part time job, to offset the costs, but letís face it: skiing is expensive, and so is living by yourself. You donít know how to make ends meet, and youíre beginning to get desperate. One of your major expenses is food. You justify the cost by telling yourself that without proper nutrition, your training will all be for naught. But deep down you know there must be a better way. A way to eat well, without bleeding money on expensive or pre-made meals.
Let me tell you something: your intuition was correct. These meals do exist. Today Iíll be talking about my particular favourite: a dish eaten by cultures across the world, inexpensive yet gourmet all the same. Rice and beans.
ďGrossĒ, you say! Rice and beans! Well be quiet, because this time, youíre wrong. There are actually other ingredients than just rice and beans, and together, theyíre delicious and inexpensive. Hereís how itís done.
Preface: I donít say the quantities here because itís not important. Just put things in in a ratio you think will taste good. If you mess up, you can do it right the next time.
- Rice (pretty much free itís so cheap Ė you can buy a yearís supply for like 20$).
- Canned black beans (1$/can). If youíre feeling adventurous, you can other types of beans too Ė black eyed peas, cannellini, kidney, pinto beans Ė even chick peas if you want. If you're really cheap, you can hydrate dried beans yourself, but I'm way too lazy for that.
- Onions (they cost like 2.50$ for 10)
- Garlic (its pretty much free). If you put in garlic powder I will judge you.
Mix-and-match awesome flavor variations
- Tomatoes (get the nice and meaty roma tomatoes, theyíre usually cheapest. If youíre really on a budget, get a can of diced tomatoes for like 1$/can). Fresh is much tastier though.
- Portobello Mushrooms. These are basically my favourite vegetable to add any meal. So much flavour! So delicious. Slightly more expensive though, they usually cost about 1$/cap.
- Spinach: Also a bit more expensive, but has a delicious flavour and when wilted, blends nicely in with any meal. Also has lots of iron, so it makes you fast and strong.
- Meat of some kind (optional). If the protein from the beans isnít enough for you, you can add chicken, beef or pork. My personal favourite is pork. Dirt cheap. Buy a pork shoulder (like 2 kg of meat for 10$), toss it in the slow cooker/oven with a bit of sugary water for a few hours, then take it out and pull the strands apart with two forks. Boom! Youíve got all the meat youíll need for the week. Side note: add BBQ sauce to this, and wow. You just made the most delicious pulled pork ever.
Note that while meat is good, itís really not necessary. This meal has tons of flavour without meat.
- Spice: Spicy food is awesome. Add chili peppers or fresh jalapenos.
- The other kind of spice (that isnít spicy): Not necessary, but some fresh herbs can taste really good in this. Like rosemary. Side note: Fresh rosemary goes well with pretty much anything.
- Anything else that you think would go well. As a rule of thumb, if you think it will go well in a burrito, it will probably be awesome in rice and beans.
How itís done
- Ok hereís how the magic happens. First, start cooking the rice. If you donít know how to cook rice, wow. Weird. But you can click here for a how-to video.
- Next, dice the onions. This can be a very emotional experience, but donít let it deter you. Youíll want about 1 onion per serving Ė but less if you donít like onions much. I love onions. Chances are you also arenít dicing your onions properly, so hereís a video on how to do that as well. Put them in a big frying pan with a generous splash of olive oil on medium heat and cook them for a bit (like 5 minutes if you canít tell when onions are cooked).
- Smash and mince the garlic while the onions sizzle, and then add that to the pan as well. Put in an amount you think will taste good. If you canít figure that out, give up and cook a frozen pizza instead.
- Rinse the black beans from the cans. I put in about 1 can per serving, but then again my servings are pretty big. Once the beans are rinsed, add them to the pan, then add some water (about enough to almost cover the beans). Wait for the water to start boiling, then cover the pot and let íem simmer for 20 mins or so. If you donít have a lid, just cook them uncovered but replace the water as it boils off. If you want some extra flavour, you can add broth instead of water in this step Ė but itís not necessary.
- While the beans are doiní their thing, you can prep the other veggies and stuff you have planned. Tomatoes should be diced, and you can add them as soon as theyíre ready Ė the longer you cook them the more their flavour will blend in. Wow, wait a second Ė did you just pull your tomatoes out of your fridge?! Never refrigerate tomatoes. Store them at room temperature; otherwise they get all grainy, mushy, and flavourless.
Mushrooms should be diced too, but doesnít matter how long theyíre in the pan for as long as itís more than 3-4 minutes Ė just enough to soften them.
Spinach should be cut into smaller pieces Ė just put a bunch on your cutting board and cut at it for a bit and you should be good, and should be put in right at the end, then cooked just long enough for it to wilt.
- Once the beans have been cooking for a good 20 minutes (or 30 minutes, or whatever), pull out your trusted potato masher and mash them for a bit. If they donít mash well, let them simmer longer. Then add some water to make the whole mixture the consistency you want. I usually go for something smoothie-like. I usually add things like mushrooms and spinach after this step because I donít want to mash them along with the beans Ė but really, who cares.
- Add salt and pepper. No, a bit more than that. Salt is tasty. Pepper is too.
- If youíre adding meat, cook it separately (Iím not going to explain how to cook meat here), then add it in with the beans right at the end.
- Serve the meal by putting a big portion of rice on your plate, and covering it with the delicious bean mixture. Then top the whole thing with grated cheese. Eat it. Enjoy life. Impress your friends. Make new friends as word of your cooking prowess spreads. Realize all youíve been missing out on in life. Succeed and be happy. All because of rice and beans.
So give it a try! If you do try it, and donít like it, feel free to send me an email and let me know Ė Iíll either tell you what you did wrong, or judge you as a person. Iíve included some pictures of the process below.