Black Beans and Brown Rice

I’m sure everyone has some version of a recipe for black beans and rice. It’s so easy to make, the ingredients are inexpensive, the dish is filling, healthy and, most importantly, delicious. This recipe is based off a dish my aunt made for a family reunion years ago, after some members of the family became vegetarian. My sister used to make this for me during the two years we spent attending the same college, and it has always been a food staple for me. I make sure to have the basic ingredients on hand all the time because this is such a quick, easy dinner. My boyfriend has never been a fan of this dish until last night. He declared it to be the best black beans and rice I have ever made; therefore, I had to record what I did so I will remember it in the future.

Cuban Black Beans and Brown Rice
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Serves 3-4

For the rice:
1 c brown rice (preferably soaked all day or overnight to boost nutritional value and cut down on cooking time)
2 c water
1 tsp chili powder (opt)

For the black beans:
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 bell pepper(s), diced
2 cans black beans, partially drained
4 Tbls apple cider vinegar
Italian seasonings, to taste
Cumin, to taste
Lime (opt)

Optional toppings:
Fresh cilantro or parsley
Diced raw onion
Sour cream

First get the rice cooking. Rinse the rice and put it in pot or rice cooker with water. The chili powder is optional, but seasoned rice is so good.

Add about a Tbl or two of olive oil to a pot over med-high heat and sauté onion and garlic until soft and translucent, a few minutes. Add the bell pepper and sauté a couple minutes more.

Add the black beans, apple cider vinegar, about 2 Tbl of Italian seasonings, about 2 tsp of cumin, reduce heat to med-low, cover and let simmer about 15 or 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If there isn’t enough liquid when you go to stir it and the beans are drying out just add some water to m0isten things up. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Before serving, I added some zest from small lime, squeezed out the juice and stirred in some chopped parsley. I wish that I had cilantro instead, but oh well.

To serve, just put some rice in your bowl, then top with beans. I prefer a little rice and lots of beans, about 1/4 c rice to about 1/2 c beans.

You can top with cheese, sour cream, raw onion, and/or salsa. I eat mine plain with a fork, but my boyfriend likes to add salsa and scoop his up with tortilla chips.

Spinach and Lentil Soup

Lately I’ve been making a lot of soups/stews because they’re quick, easy, and we can eat leftovers another night, thus saving me a day in the kitchen. I have been looking through a lot of cookbooks, magazines, blogs, etc looking for soup recipes that look interesting. I read good reviews about Jamie Oliver’s book Jamie’s Diet Revolutionand decided to buy it. It’s really good. He gives great tips and the recipes are basic enough that you can adapt them to your own personal tastes; I love recipes that are adaptable to what you have in your kitchen. I’ve only had time to try a few recipes and thus far they have been great. However, this one really stood out as being extra delicious. I saw that it served 6-8 and decided not to halve the recipe because I planned on freezing some of it to have on a night that I didn’t feel like cooking. But once I made it, Mr.Surly ate so much of it that there wasn’t enough left over to save. I added some of my favorite spices to the recipe to liven it up a bit. We really liked the cumin flavor. I can’t wait to try more of the recipes in this book.

Lentil and Spinach Soup
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Serves 6

2 carrots, sliced (I used about 1 c sliced baby carrots)
2 celery stalks, sliced (I used about 1 c )
2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 4 cloves because I love garlic)
1 ¾ quarts vegetable broth (I only had 1 qt veggie broth, so I used that plus 3 c water)
Thumb sized piece of ginger, thinly sliced (I grated mine with a microplane)
½ to 1 fresh red chile, sliced (I used a Serrano pepper)
10 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 c red lentils (I used green lentils)
7 c (7 oz) spinach (I used a 10 oz bag of fresh organic spinach)
cumin, to taste
curry, to taste
ancho chile powder, to taste
turmeric, to taste
Sea salt
Olive oil

Add about 2 Tbl olive oil to a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, and add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Sauté until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add broth and water cover and simmer while you chop up the ginger, chile, and tomatoes.

Add the ginger, chile, lentils, to pot. Cover and cook until lentils are soft. I was in no hurry to eat, so I simmered on med low heat for about an hour. If you crank the heat up, it could be done sooner.

Taste the soup and season with salt, pepper, and any spices of your choice. I felt it needed some flavor, so I added a couple palm-fulls of cumin, curry, a bit of cayenne, turmeric, and some ancho chili powder.

When ready to serve, if desired, add a dollop of yogurt (I used greek yogurt). I had some chives that needed to be used up, so I chopped those up and sprinkled them on top for garnish.

Source: Adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver