Perhaps like many new ideas, this one was born in response to my failure.
I have tried for years to stay within our jointly-decided-upon grocery budget. And even as a somewhat conscious and frugal person, I've pretty much failed. There have been good months here and there. But overall, there's really no justification besides the fact that I love food and cooking.
So I press on and continue to cut where I can. A few changes are helping out. One newer addition to our weekly menu is Rice and Beans Monday.
While this helps with the budget, it has primarily served to give us a taste for how much of the world lives.
A few Monday nights ago as we ate our rice and beans we opened up a letter from our Compassion child, Anjana, in India. In it she mentioned eating rice and beans. The boys were fascinated and now ask us every Monday night if Anjana is having rice and beans like us. I love that.
Now let me be clear. Our boys don't look forward to Rice and Beans Monday. They moan and say "Aren't we having something else too?" And we say, "#firstworldproblems."
Just kidding. But we do ask them to be grateful and eat up. They survive and it gives us a great chance to talk about children all over the world who are sustained by a similar diet.
Now, considering last week I made a variation of The Pioneer Woman's "Best Baked Beans Ever" to go with the rice, it's safe to assume we're not always eating beans the way most of the world does, but you get the point.
I typically vary the beans week to week. Sometimes I open up a can of black beans, drain and stir in a few spoonfuls of BBQ sauce, then heat them in the microwave.
Other times I make lentil soup. Then there's kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo, great northern, and I'm sure the list goes on.
I've been making our rice the same way for about four years and my husband loves it. It's amazing how a small additional step can make such a difference, at least in our opinion. I prepare it based on Deliciously Organic's recipe. Her website and recipe book are packed full of delicious foods and health information.
adapted from the Deliciously Organic cookbook
2 Tbs Butter
2 TBS olive oil
2 cups long-grain brown rice (I've used several varieties of brown rice and all are great)
1 TBS salt
Let the butter and oil melt together in a medium or large pot over medium-high heat. Pour in the dry rice and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 4 cups of water and the salt. Boil for a few minutes uncovered. Reduce to low, cover and let it cook as long as it's package recommends, which is usually 40 mins to 1 hour.
This makes 6 to 8 servings and leaves plenty to for leftovers throughout the week.
Best Baked Beans
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman. I don't usually use precise measurements when I change up recipes so these are estimates.
Serves about 9-12
4 to 6 slices bacon, halved (Optional. The bacon is delicious in it and I used it for a Barbecue, but left it out for Rice and Beans night.)
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 medium green pepper, diced (optional)
3 (14oz) cans baked beans (I use Trader Joe's Organic baked beans)
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 TBS distilled or cider vinegar
1 TBS Dijon or regular mustard
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
If using bacon: Fry bacon in large, deep sauté pan skillet until bacon has partially cooked and released about 1/4 cup drippings. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels. Add onions and peppers to drippings in pan and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. If not using bacon: Simply saute onion and pepper in coconut oil or other oil of choice.
Add beans and remaining ingredients to the onions & peppers. Bring to a simmer.
Pour bean mix into a greased 8x8 ovenproof pan. (I have also used a cast iron skillet or an oval casserole dish.)
Top with bacon if using, then bake until beans are bubbly and sauce is the consistency of pancake syrup, about 1.5 hours. Let stand to thicken slightly and serve.
It's a small thing, but I believe that the tension our kids deal with over Rice and Beans night is healthy and will serve in the long run as a small contribution towards a more realistic world view. Though I suppose that's yet to be determined!