Want cheap nutritious food?
The solution lies in cooking
Discussions of the best options for cheap, tasty nutritious meals often boil down to three words: rice and beans. They can be downright delicious. (Brian Hagiwara/Getty Images)
Discussions of the best options for cheap, tasty nutritious meals often boil down to three words: rice and beans. Depending on how you prepare the combo, it can be dull and boring or downright delicious.
As a child I looked forward to my Puerto Rican grandmother's rice and beans as a Monday delicacy, and my kids love Nana's rice and beans, flavored with a sofrito (diced sauteed vegetables), just as much.
Heat 4 cups water to a boil in a kettle. Meanwhile, cook the 2 cups brown or white rice and 1/2 teaspoon salt with 1 tablespoon lard or olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to coat the rice with the fat. Pour the water over the rice. Let the water boil down until you can see the surface of the rice. Cover; turn to a very low flame. Simmer until the rice is tender.
Cover 3 cups dried beans with 2 inches water in a bowl or stockpot. Soak overnight. Drain the soaking water from the beans. Place the beans in a stockpot; fill with water to cover beans by 1 inch. Heat to a simmer; simmer until soft, 1 hour or more. Wait until beans are tender before adding 1 teaspoon salt. Taste for seasoning. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil or lard in a heavy-bottomed saucepan; add 1/2 green pepper, finely diced;
1/2 onion, finely diced; and 3 cloves garlic, minced. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook until fragrant and tender. Stir in 1/4 cup cilantro; cook until herb gives off its aroma. Add half a can (from an 8-ounce can) tomato sauce; cook to meld flavors. Drain the cooked beans, saving 1 cup cooking water; pour beans into the sofrito mixture. Add cooking water; heat to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Salt to taste. You also can add half packet of Sazon Goya seasoning blend and/or 1/4 cup chunks cooked winter squash for extra flavor and texture.
Serve over the rice with a nice green salad. Makes: 6 servings
Breakdown of cost
Rice 92 cents
Olive oil 60 cents
Green pepper 40 cents
Onion 50 cents
Garlic 20 cents
Cilantro 12 cents
Tomato sauce 45 cents
Per serving: 87 cents