Inexpensive, easy, delicious, & healthy? Yes, please!

I'm excited to share with you one of my favorite healthy recipes. It's so simple, so easy, and so good!

I have been making this for nearly twenty years (which makes me feel pretty old right now). In college a group of my friends went on a mission trip to South America, and this was a staple they ate during their trip. I was introduced to the meal when they returned. I don't recall the formal name for it. I just refer to it as black beans and rice (with fresh veggies in vinegar)

I was on a a tight budget in college, and the food I consumed was typically far from healthy. To give you some perspective, a "fancy" dinner was Taco Bell, where my friends and I would periodically treat ourselves, after gathering up all the loose change we could find. :) 

This meal was a refreshing change from the junk I would normally eat in those days. It was actually healthy! (Watch out Ramen noodles and boxed macaroni and cheese -- I'm venturing into whole food territory!) Seriously, healthy college food on a budget? Who knew this was possible?!

Yes, I made a lot of poor dietary decisions in college... I later spent a semester in France and learned (the hard way) an important lesson in portion control

But enough about my foolish youth... And more about wiser decisions moving forward!

Easy Black Beans & Rice with Fresh Veggies in Vinegar

I love this recipe because it is:

  • Simple. It's made from 5 common, whole food ingredients.
  • Healthy. This meal is packed with health-promoting super foods. It is a great source of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients.
  • Cheap. It doesn't get much more budget-friendly than rice and beans! 
  • Convenient. The veggies are mixed with vinegar, which not only enhances the flavor of the dish, but also helps the vegetables stay fresh longer. This meal is a great option for easy, healthy lunches during the week. 
  • Delicious. This meal tastes great on it's own, or combined with other foods, such as chicken, corn, or avocado.

    Ingredients:

    The vegetables

    The vegetables

    • 1 bag of dried black beans. I use a 2 lb. bag.
    • 4 cups of brown rice. I use brown Basmati. 
    • Some fresh tomatoes, green peppers, and onions. Honestly, I just grab an amount that "looks about right." For this particular batch, I ended up using 12 (smaller-sized) tomatoes, 4 green peppers, and 2 small onions. (See picture.) You can change the ratio of these ingredients, depending on your taste preference.
    • White vinegar
    • Salt. I typically use Kosher salt for this.

    Optional ingredients (for those who want to get fancy):

    • Avocado
    • Fresh cilantro
    • Fresh lime zest

    Directions:

    Chopped vegetables in vinegar. This picture is a bit blurry, but you get the idea.

    Chopped vegetables in vinegar. This picture is a bit blurry, but you get the idea.

    1. Cook black beans. I rinse the dry beans then place them in the crock pot, covered in water (no salt), on high for about 4 hours. If I take 5 minutes to do this around noon, the beans are cooked and ready to go by dinner time. Canned black beans (drained and rinsed) are another option, if you don't want to cook dried beans. 
    2. Cook the brown rice according to package instructions. I don't add salt in this step. 
    3. Chop up the veggies and place them in a large bowl (see picture).
    4. Add white vinegar until the veggies are nearly covered.
    5. Add salt to the vegetable mixture, to taste. Since the beans and rice are unsalted, this mixture will season the dish when poured on top.
    6. Scoop rice and beans onto plate. Top with the fresh vegetable mixture.
    7. If you want to get fancy (and the budget permits), garnish with avocado, fresh cilantro, and/or fresh lime zest. The creaminess of the avocado and the fresh taste of the cilantro and lime take this dish to the next level! (If you're not ready for the next level, don't worry about it. It took me a while to get there. :)
    8. Enjoy, and feel good about the great decision you've made, to fuel yourself with delicious and nutritious whole foods!
    You know you're on the right track when your plate is full of rich, beautiful colors.

    You know you're on the right track when your plate is full of rich, beautiful colors.

    But wait, there's more! This recipe makes a lot of food. And I think the real beauty of this dish comes in the convenience of leftovers. While picking up the dinner mess, I'll prepare some single-serving bowls of rice and beans (without the veggies added) and put them in the fridge. In separate small containers, I store individual portions of the vegetable mixture in the fridge also.

    Before heading to work, I'll grab a rice/beans bowl and a veggie container. I put the rice and beans in the fridge at work, and leave the vegetable/vinegar mixture out at room temperature. When it's lunch time, I simply warm up the rice and beans in the microwave, then scoop the fresh (room temperature) veggie mixture over the top. By not cooking the vegetables (and letting them rest at room temperature for a while), the fresh taste is maintained, and the veggies don't completely cool the dish.

    I hope you enjoy this meal as much as I do!

    This post was originally published on March 10, 2017.

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