Simple Black Bean and Rice Bowls with Cilantro Green Sauce

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Sometimes the simplest is the best. I threw together this easy black bean and rice plate a few days ago using leftovers already on hand, and it turns out I liked it better than any of the original meals. It was a reminder to keep things simple, but also, creamy black beans, well cooked rice, steamed cabbage, and a good sauce are probably one of the best combinations for a deliciously quick winter meal.

 

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One thing I do want to mention is that for optimal nutrient absorption, it is an incredibly good idea to soak your beans and grains prior to cooking.

Whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes contain antioxidants called phytic acids (or phytates) which are the plants’ primary form of stored phosphorus. Phytates tends to bind minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron, making them more difficult for us to absorb. Soaking these foods for several hours prior to cooking initiates the sprouting process, which makes many of the minerals more digestible.

There is some debate as to whether we should worry about phytates or bother taking the time to soak our whole grains and nuts, as many experts suggest we simply eat a balanced diet and we’ll get enough of these minerals anyway. However, based on my personal experience as well as many individuals I’ve worked with, those of us that tend to eat primarily vegan or plant-based meals comprised mostly of these phytate-rich plants also show routine need for the very minerals that are bound up by phytates.

This is also one of the reasons why beans cooked from dried are a little more nutritious (not to mention having better flavor and texture) over their speed-cooked canned counterparts. To soak grains like rice, quinoa, and others, simply take the amount you’ll prepare, soak for a few hours, rinse, drain, and then cook as normal in 3/4 the amount of water. So for 1 cup brown rice, cook in 1 1/2 cups water for 40 minutes instead of 2 cups water. I find the texture is improved by this method as well.

 

 

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To make this delicious plate, I made my go-to pot of creamy black beans which makes enough for several meals, soaked and then cooked brown rice, purple cabbage cut into large chunks and steamed for about 10 minutes, and this delicious cilantro green sauce. Enjoy!

Cashew Cilantro Green Sauce
40 g / 2 1/2 Tbs. cashew butter
45 g / 1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and slightly chopped
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp. sea salt
90 ml / 6 Tbs. orange juice
1 Tbs. white wine or apple cider vinegar
water to thin, if necessary

  • Combine all the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until combined. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired consistency, if you find it a little too thick.

 

References:
Frølich, W. (n.d.) Phytate–a natural component in plant food. Whole Grains Council. Retrieved from:  http://wholegrainscouncil.org/files/backup_migrate/PhytateProsCons_0910_DK-WGC.pdf.
Sparvoli, F. and Cominelli, E. (2015). Seed biofortication and phytic acid reduction: A conflict of interest for the plant? Plants. 4 (4): 728-755. doi:  10.3390/plants4040728.
Weil, A. (2010). Are phytates bad or good? Retrieved from: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400758/Are-Phytates-Bad-or-Good.html.

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Summer Slowness- and SimpleTaco Salad Bar

 

Growing up, I always thought of summer in terms of its slowness.  Sure there were the numerable fairs, 4-H meetings and camps, and horse shows.  But what I thought of summer were the long stretches of hours and days in between. These implied camping with the grandparents, playing barbie and build-a-fort with the neighbor children, having a chance to “catch up” with the television, and having hours to while away the time with a good book.  Summer implied stress-free, no obligations, fun.

For me, this is the first summer of having a “real-job” out of school. Disappointingly, despite the frequent Saturday trips to the beach or to visit home and old friends, or the impromptu beer and pizza nights or barbecue and backyard fire pit nights with friends, summer has lost its slowness.  Gone are the glory hours in between, where the ultimate result of deep thinking was to have intelligent conversations.

Now summer seems to want a juxtaposition with adult obligations–as all we truly desire is to have those lost hours back.  As I consider this; as I steal back a few lost hours of summer,  I’m left wondering if those times ever really left?  Or if those hours in between are still there, waiting to be used?

 
 

In my recent use of those lost summer hours, I theorized that the best taco salad needs the right dressing–a hint of spicy, infused with lime and a bit of sweet.  After experimenting a few times, I gained the perfect combination of cumin and paprika, honey, and lime, tamed with a small dab of cool yogurt.  Armed with this new dressing as the final accompaniment, this simple taco salad bar truly delivers.

 
 
Taco Salad
1 cup cheddar cheese, finely grated
3 Tbs. cilantro
3 scallion tops, thinly sliced
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
3/4 cup corn
4-5 cups spinach mixture
beef taco filling (see below)
dressing of honey, cumin, and lime (see below)
tortilla chips
lime wedges
  • Prepare beef taco filling and salad dressing.
  • Assemble each ingredient in individual jars and serve as a taco salad bar.
  • Enjoy summer.  And its slowness!
 
Dressing of Honey, Cumin, and Lime 
1 Tbs. honey
juice from half a lime
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp paprika
1 Tbs. plain yogurt
  • Whisk all ingredients together until smooth, and pour or spoon over prepared salad.
 
Beef taco filling, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
1 1/2 tsp. canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 Tbs. chili powder
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. coriander
1 Tbs. diced fresh oregano
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt
3/4 lb. lean ground beef
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. white vinegar
3 scallions, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until softened and golden.
  • Add spices and salt; cook, stirring constantly until fragrant.
  • Add ground beef and cook until brown, breaking up into small pieces.
  • Add chicken broth, tomato paste, and vinegar.  Bring to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid has been reduced, about 10 minutes.  About halfway through, add sliced scallions and stir in.