Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cheap Eats (with no meat)

My last two posts have been about sustainable chicken and fish, but there are other foods that offer eco-friendly and animal-friendly deliciousness. One such meal that I love to make is beans and rice.

Beans and rice make a great meal because together they make complete proteins, but also have lots of fiber and no saturated fat (if you don't add fats to the beans). Best of all, it is a very cheap meal! I use dried beans to save money (and I don't want to lug the weight of cans since I don't have a car).

Dried beans are easy to make as long as you remember to pre-soak them. I usually get a mixture of different dried beans and lentils. Soak them overnight or for a day. I usually put 1 to 1.5 cups of dried beans in a pot and cover them with a good amount of water, about 3 cups of water to 1 cup of dried beans. (Too bad I didn't think of taking step by step photos so you could see the dried beans soaking.)

I start soaking the beans in the morning before I leave for work (around 8 a.m.) and then start cooking them once I get home (around 6 p.m.). Strain and rinse the beans and then put them back in the pot, covered in water. Once the water comes to a complete boil, I take the pot off the stove, strain the beans again, and put them back in the pot with fresh water for a second boil. Doing this makes the beans softer and more digestible (ahem, less of a "magical fruit"). Use about 3 cups of water to 1 cup of beans, so that 1 cup of dried beans will become about 3 cups of cooked beans. This is one reason why it's so cheap!

From there, the beans will take about 1-2 hours to cook. I like to add different herbs and seasonings to the beans. Tonight I added chopped celery, rosemary, onion, garlic, chili flakes and black pepper. After the beans soak up most of the water, I add in a can of chopped tomatoes and some olive oil. Note, do not add salt to the beans until the very end of their cooking.

And then viola! You're done. Cooking beans from scratch is time consuming, but it isn't labor consuming. You really just put everything in a pot and check on it now and then.

I had these beans with white rice (brown rice is good too) and sauteed orange peppers. Tasty, healthy and easy on the wallet.

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