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5 Easy Ways to Spruce Up Classic Rice and Beans

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Rice and beans are kitchen staples. At an affordable price and cooked with ease, rice and beans is an extremely adaptable dish. Rice and beans are known for being nutrient superheroes, which explains why the two together is a global and timeless classic. Beans in combination with whole grain rice provide the body with high levels of protein, fiber, magnesium and iron. This combination can help keep blood sugar balanced, provide complex carbohydrates for clean energy and keep the body full and satisfied. Beyond being fiber-rich, beans have amazing components that help build your bones. There are also many types of beans which allow for a variety of dishes to be made. The trick to having rice and beans be an adaptable entree is to make sure your rice is cooked properly and to season correctly so your flavors are not overpowering nor boring. Although eating rice and beans alone is nutritionally beneficial and simple, here are some fun tips on sprucing up your typical rice and beans to create meals that will tantalize your taste buds.

1. Macro ‘Em

STEAMED-SWEET-POTATOES-with-WILD-RICE-BASIL-+-TOMATO-CHILI-SAUCE-1200x750 (1)

Macro bowls are most often seen as the epitome of health. Based on macrobiotics, a macro bowl is made to provide the body with nutrients of balance and nourishment. Using respect for the body and harmony with the planet as guidelines, a macrobiotic diet is a lifestyle change, but you don’t need to follow a macrobiotic diet to enjoy a wholesome macro bowl. Rice and beans are crucial ingredients to include in a macro bowl, with everything else added to compliment the two. To make things a little more interesting for your rice and beans, add pan-roasted root vegetables such as squash or sweet potatoes to your dish. Since dark greens are extremely rich with calcium and protein, add some kale or spinach or try using these 5 Flavorful Ways to Cook Collard Greens. To complete a hearty macro bowl, and to bring out the flavors of your ingredients, add a zesty dressing. These plant-based tahini sauces are a creamy and tasty addition.

 

2. Stuff Veggies With ‘Em

GreekInspiredStuffedPeppers

Rice and beans is a versatile dish, and are excellent to use in veggies as a stuffing. Using rice and beans as the base for a filling is a great way to gain healthy nutrients with fuller flavor. An easy classic is stuffed peppers. By simply adding beans to these Fat-Free Greek Rice Stuffed Peppers, you gain complete protein and fiber in an already generous meal. Another tasty stuffed vegetable is squash. Butternut and acorn squash are typically stuffed, but try this Stuffed Kabocha Squash for an unusual twist. Simply sub wild or brown rice for the quinoa for a more cost-effective and flavorful substitute. One of my favorite meals is the cabbage-wrapped, Polish Galumpki. My dad used to make these all the time, however he used ground beef. To make these plant-based use black beans instead of meat and layer with brown rice, onions and tomatoes. To give these cabbage-wrapped rice and beans moisture, opt for adding a homemade marinara sauce on top.

3. Bake ‘Em

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Everyone loves a warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven casserole. Like stuffing, rice and beans make a great base for casseroles. Use any kind of beans or rice you have on hand. I would suggest black beans, black eyes peas or white beans as their flavors pair well with grains and vegetables. I would also suggest brown or black rice over wild or white rice as it is heartier and glues ingredients together well. This Butternut Squash, Portobello and Spinach Casserole has bursting flavors and can easily have rice substituted for barley and beans added for an indulgent, yet healthy dish.  To upgrade your rice and bean casseroles even more, opt for adding a vegan cheese or plant-based cream sauce. Use this White Bean Wild Rice Hash as a casserole base to add vegetables and cheesy goodness to- turning this rice and bean side dish to be the star of your meal!

4. Stew ‘Em

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Nothing says home like a warm stew. Making a stew is similar to making a soup, but stews are often thicker, heartier and more robust with flavors. Like soups, plant-based stews are easy to make because you can add vegetables you already have and simply let them simmer until ready. Rice and beans are awesome stew-starters. One classic stew served with rice is a southern gumbo. Often loaded with chicken, sausage or seafood, it is so simple to veganize this traditional dish. Try this Vegan “Chicken” and “Sausage” Gumbo and add beans such as chickpeas or black beans for a protein boost. This will keep a Creole flavor while maintaining the positive health benefits of rice and beans. Another American classic is chili. A plant-based chili is a perfect stew to make for a party or during the colder months. Try adding brown rice to this Chili “No” Carne for a ultra hearty bowl. For a real flavor twist, this Raw Moroccan Vegetable Stew has got you covered. Using sprouted chickpeas and substituting rice for couscous, this stew uses sweet and savory tang to leave you satisfied.

5. Flavor ‘Em

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Everywhere in the world prepares rice and beans differently, making them exciting to eat and cook with. The trick to having rice and beans as a dynamic main dish is to flavor them right. It’s important to know how cook beans with global flavors so you can make authentic, gratifying tastes. For example, Mexican-style rice and beans is often cooked with pinto beans. Spices such as cumin, cayenne pepper and cilantro can be added to flavor the dish and give the rice fluffy texture. Since rice is naturally flavorless, try adding saffron, nutmeg or turmeric for some spice. This Cilantro, Lime and Black Bean Rice uses black beans and basmati rice, and is incredibly tasty on its own or as a base for a more complex meal. 

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Whether served alone, stuffed, baked or stewed, rice and beans are a powerhouse dish. Rich with dense nutrients and full of versatile flavors, use these fun tips to spruce up your typical, classic recipe!

Lead Image Source: Green Chickpea Pulao- Indian Style Rice



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