Beans and rice: the quintessential "dinner on a budget" fare. Unfortunately, I think beans and rice have gotten a bad rap. Sure, it's easy to make a bland dinner with these staples, but with a little creativity, you can cook up a flavorful, budget-friendly meal that will have your entire family smiling.
Each month in 2014, I've been working to come up with delicious, low-cost meals using Grocery Outlet ingredients and this month? It's all about beans and rice.
One of the things that I love about Grocery Outlet is that I never know exactly what I'm going to find - it's truly like hunting for treasure! Today's recipes are very easy to adapt to whatever you happen to find at your store. Here are a few of the good deals that I spotted on my trip last week:
- Ethnic spices for as low as $0.79
- Ro-Tel Tomatoes for $0.99
- Organic canned beans for $0.99
- Chorizo for $3.39
My Grocery Outlet trip came to right around $20, and each of my dinners is hearty enough to feed a family of six. Not only that, I had lots of leftovers and items that didn't entirely get used (for instance, I barely put a dent in the HUGE bag of rice I bought at Grocery Outlet for $2.49!).
Night One: Stuffed Green Peppers with Spanish Rice
For this recipe, I combined several of my favorite foods - stuffed peppers, tacos, and Spanish-style rice - to create a delicious meal. While there are a few steps and ingredients involved, I can assure you, it's very simple to put together and the results are delicious!
Here's what you'll need:
- 6 green peppers, tops and seeds removed
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2 cups cooked rice (roughly 1/2 cup uncooked)
- 1 can black beans, drained
- 1 can corn, drained (or 1 1/2 cup frozen)
- 1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
- 2 tbsp taco seasoning
- 1 14-oz can tomato sauce
- 1 cup shredded cheese (I prefer sharp cheddar)
- Salt & pepper, to taste
Grocery Outlet consistently has amazing prices on peppers of all kinds! I found these for just $0.49 each - and red, orange, and yellow peppers for just $0.99 each. That makes a recipe like this very affordable! Keeping in mind you'll be stuffing these, look for nice-sized peppers that tend to have flatter bottoms.
Start by washing your peppers, cutting off the tops and removing the seeds.
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and plop your peppers in for 5 minutes. Remove them with tongs and place in a baking dish. Add a bit of salt and let them sit while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
Saute the onion until translucent (about a couple minutes), then brown the ground beef. Season with salt and pepper and drain off the excess fat. Next, mix in the 2 cups of cooked rice, the Ro-Tel tomatoes, the beans, corn, and taco seasoning.
I encourage you to taste your food at this point to make sure it's seasoned how you want. Once you stuff your peppers, this will be more difficult to do!
This next step is a fun one to involve your kids with! As you might have guessed, you're going to stuff those peppers with your rice and beans mixture. After every spoonful, I had her gently pat down the mixture with the back of her spoon so we could really pack in the goodness.
Next, you're going to dump that can of tomato sauce on top - this helps keep everything moist and delicious during the baking process - and top with the cheese. I prefer cheddar, but you could get creative with whatever cheese strikes your fancy at Grocery Outlet! Bake in a 325º oven for 25-30 minutes.
I found I had a good 2-3 cups of the rice and beans mixture leftover. I ended up freezing this portion for the next time I make this recipe.
These turned out just amazing! Full of flavor, and the beans and rice will really fill you up! My husband and I also found they were tasty reheated the next day for lunch. Enjoy!
Night Two: Southern Red Beans and Rice
It's night two, and while we'll still keep with the beans and rice theme, we're going to do something completely different and take inspiration from New Orleans and this Emeril Lagasse recipe.
While at Grocery Outlet, I noticed this chorizo for just $3.39. I've used this brand of sausage before (see my meatballs recipe from a few months back) and LOVED it. I understand chorizo might not exactly fit with the New Orleans theme, but I'm going with it anyways. (Hence the vague "Southern" in the recipe title!)
Here's what you'll need:
1 lb dry red beans
1 cup onions, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb chorizo (or sausage of your choice)
3 tbsp minced garlic
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 tsp dried thyme OR a couple sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
4-6 cups chicken broth or water
1 cup beer (optional)
cayenne or hot sauce (optional)
steamed rice, to serve
Cooking with dried beans versus canned can really save you money! If you've ever been intimidated by cooking them from their dried version, don't be. Simply rinse and sort them, and place them in a deep pot with 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then cover and remove the pot from the heat for an hour. After this, you can rinse and drain them and proceed with the recipe.
Saute the onion, bell pepper, and celery in a little bit of vegetable oil. Season with the thyme, salt, and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, until soft. Next, work in your chorizo and bay leaves and brown.
About this time, my son wandered into the kitchen inquiring about the delicious smell! I was pleased to tell him it was dinner!
I did not drain my chorizo, because I wanted the flavor to really infuse my beans, but you could drain it a bit if you wanted at this point. Add the beans and garlic. I then added 1 quart of chicken broth and 1 cup of beer. If you want to skip the beer, just use more chicken broth. You could also use water in place of all/part of the broth, too. The important thing is to make sure you add enough liquid to cover the beans.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Once the beans start to get tender (anywhere from 30-60 minutes) smash about half of them up against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon. Then, continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until you've reached a nice consistency and flavor. Ideally, you want some liquid - but not entirely soupy. If your beans start to get too mushy, you can always work in more liquid.
These beans came out very good! This also produced a HUGE pot - enough to easily serve 6, 8, or more. My version has quite a bit of flavor, but I went easy on the spice since I knew my kids would be eating it. If you like a bit of a kick, I'd add a pinch of cayenne or hot sauce. Serve over rice.
If you've grown tired of plain ol' rice and beans, I hope I've challenged your thinking with how delicious they really can be. Make sure to shop Grocery Outlet first for inspiration for your rice and beans dishes and see how much you can save.
Join me next month for another menu plan and shopping list!
Angela Russell blogs at The Coupon Project, a site that encourages families to live well for less. She lives in Tacoma, Washington with her firefighter husband and two small kids. In the rare event she finds spare time, she loves gardening, hanging out with her girlfriends, and watching old cheesy monster movies.