A Girl’s Gotta Eat (Rice & Beans)

I have a confession. I’m….a VEGETARIAN! (Insert Wilhelm Scream here.)

I do eat dairy and eggs. I don’t eat fish, poultry, or red meat. In short, I don’t eat things that have faces. (I do it mostly for environmental and humanitarian reasons, rather than for “animals are people too” reasons, but that’s a story for another post.)

When people find out I’m a vegetarian, I get a lot of questions, generally ranging from “oh, why?” to “WHYY?!??!” to “Bacon?” But the question I get most often is, “What do you do about protein?” My answer, I just try to eat lots of different things (and no, creamy vs. crunchy peanut butter is not enough variety). Usually it works out. But since I’m training for this half-marathon deal (click here to visit my fundraising page), I feel like I should try to be a little more nutritionally conscious.

So, here is a meal with a lot going for it.
1. It’s got protein. Complete protein.**
2. It doesn’t involve eating anything with a face.
3. It’s cheap. Super cheap.
4. It’s flexible. You can add in almost anything you have on hand.

**A “complete protein” refers to food that contains all essential amino acids (the ones your body can’t make on its own) in correct proportion. A food with “incomplete protein” still has all the amino acids, but has lower levels of some. For anyone who is or is thinking about becoming vegetarian/vegan, or who just wants to be nutritionally-informed, I highly recommend checking out this webpage.

Rice & Beans (adapted and combined primarily from this, this, & this)

For the rice:

1/2 c. brown rice
1 c. water

For the beans (& stuff):

1 tbsp. olive oil
about 1/2 of a small onion, chopped
1/2 c. cooked black beans
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
2-3 tbsp. tomato paste (I used about half of a 6 oz. can)
1/2 c. water
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. oregano, to taste
pinch cumin

Fill a pot with 1 c. water. Bring to boil. Stir in the 1/2 c. rice, reduce to a simmer. Simmer approx. 30 mins, until tender. If the rice is not yet tender, but most of the water has evaporated, add more water and continue checking the rice in 4-5 min. intervals until done. (You can also make more rice and freeze the extra.)

Put the olive oil in a small saucepan on medium heat. Once the pan and oil are heated, add the onion. Saute the onion until it’s translucent and tender. Add the black beans and crushed red pepper. Stir and allow the black beans to heat through, about 30 seconds.

Add in the tomato paste and 1/2 c. water. Stir to combine (it may take a good 30 seconds of stirring). Add in the paprika, oregano, and cumin. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, so that the flavors can combine.

Serves 2.

N.B. You can use almost any combination of spices you like here. The same with vegetables. Throw in whatever you have (zucchini, winter squash, eggplant, bell peppers, etc.). This makes a great base for culinary experimentation, so formulate those hypotheses and get to work!

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