During the month of March each year our family usually joins with Lahash and participate in Rice and Beans month. The three foundational principles of the month are solidarity, simplicity and sharing. We eat meals mainly composed of rice and beans in solidarity with those in this world that eat this way always because that is what is available and affordable to them. We simplify our diet in an attempt to focus on what is important (at least that is the idea, not sure I always accomplish it, but it is something that fits in well with Lent I think). And at the end of the month we share our grocery savings for the month with Lahash, which uses the funds to provide for at risk children in Africa.
Responding to a question on facebook about recipes for the month got me thinking about documenting my meal plan each year. I cook with a lot of variety all the time. It’s how I like to do things. The majority of my meals are from new to me recipes because I always like to try something new. The downside to this is that some day when my children are all grown up and have households of their own they’ll probably come asking for a particular recipe and I’ll have no clue what they’re talking about. Or even worse they’ll never ask me for any food advice because nothing will stand out in the constant stream of variety I offer them. Of course on the positive side, I hope they’ll be people who welcome variety in all areas of their life, aren’t afraid to try new things, and confidently attempt to make whatever they feel like because they’ll believe it is possible.
I approach Rice and Beans Month with pretty much the same attitude I have towards all my meal planning. Which means there’s a lot of variety and I can’t tell you exactly how I did it year to year. Each one’s been a little different. So this record will hopefully help me know what did or didn’t work each year. Perhaps it will spark some ideas for some others also who don’t think they could stand rice and beans for one whole month and are looking for a little variety.
Just remember there are different ways to go about this, this is just mine for this year. If you want to go much simpler you can cook a large recipe that you use for multiple meals. I rely on that method for a lot of lunches, but you can also do it for supper. Or you could make one week meal plan and repeat it each week. And you don’t have to go all in either. Some people just do one rice and beans meal a day, or once a week or several times a month. Any little bit still allows you to take part in the experience.
I make a meal plan for each week that is different, but when it actually comes down to it, I don’t always follow my meal plan exactly because sometimes I forget to prep my meals or I wake up late or something comes up in our schedule. So the plan is a loose framework that I work with as fits us best day to day. Here, instead of recording what I planned to do and didn’t do, I’ll just post at the end of the week what we actually ate. This year I am using a new slow cooker book I got for Christmas that has recipes from around the world. Almost every country has a bean recipe, so I’m picking those out to do throughout the month. If you want the recipe, you may be able to find a similar recipe online or you can come look at my book. Recipes I did take from online I will link here.
My basic framework for this year is to do four full weeks of mainly rice and beans meals, starting Feb 29, which means we will finish Holy Week in time for Easter. Sundays are feast days in Lent, so this year I promised the kids bean and rice free meals on Sundays and a dessert. You will also notice that I include a lot of simple hot cereals for breakfast and some other meals that are simple and based on cheap ingredients like potatoes, since those seem to fit the idea even if they aren’t rice and beans. I have one kid who cannot stand beans, so you will notice he is often eating something else. I started allowing him some alternatives for some meals last year because it was so hard on him to eat beans all month. So, especially for lunches I usually provide him something that I think he’ll actually eat to give him a break and because I know that when he’s eating at school there is little chance that he’ll actually eat something he doesn’t like.
Also halfway through the week I removed a list of items from my diet that I seem to have developed sensitivities to. I’ve been working on figuring this out for awhile now, and now have a list to try. The main two things are dairy and gluten, so there were some changes I made to recipes after that point.
Breakfast: Oatmeal. This is pretty much every Monday’s breakfast for us, so not much different here. We top it with brown sugar, cinnamon and milk.
Lunch: Hamburger Stew. I didn’t prep what I had meant to beforehand, so I ended up making a very quick hamburger stew by throwing some leftover taco bean/meat mixture in with some broth and veggies. I cooked some rice to go along with it and sent this with the big kids to school. Dietrich and I ate leftover red beans and rice from last week.
Supper: Chickpea Vegetable Stew with Rice. This recipe was in the rice and beans mailer for this year. I thought this recipe was delicious, but it was not popular with anyone else in this house (mainly because it had raisins in it), except maybe Dietrich.
Breakfast: Coconut Rice. I used more sugar than that recipe calls for and no salt, but otherwise it was pretty much as written. The kids added milk to theirs since it was a little dry, I ate mine as is.
Lunch: Red Beans and Rice. To be honest, I can’t quite remember what I sent the kids for school lunches. I think it was leftover red beans and rice for Will and Elise and leftover chicken breast with vegetables for Seth. I ate a rice, salmon, greens stir fry because we had leftover fish that was cooked up last week and needed to be finished.
Supper: Bean and Rice Burritos. I made refried beans in my dutch oven from my new The Gourmet Slow Cooker. Then we made burritos by mixing the beans with rice, cheese, salsa and sour cream and wrapping it all up in tortillas. Seth, who will not eat refried beans had burritos with just cheese and rice. Not the best thing, but you do what you have to do.
Breakfast: Coconut Rice. We had leftover coconut rice for breakfast from yesterday. Elise warmed it up for everyone with almond coconut milk added for better consistency.
Lunch: Hamburger Stew. I think I sent more of the taco vegetable soup with rice I had made on Monday with the kids. Some of them had complained about not having enough food, so I started adding apples or chips or whatever I had on hand to give them a bit more items to fill them up for lunch. Dietrich finished off the vegetable soup, and I ate another salmon and greens stir fry, this time without rice. John made himself some more bean burritos.
Supper: Sausage Black Bean Soup. Last minute I had volunteered to make supper for choir practice, so I made a huge pot of this for all of us plus the choir members. I didn’t use a recipe, but rather just threw some things together from what I had on hand. It was an amazing soup, probably due to the fact that I added several links of brats I had in the freezer. Other than that, it was black beans, beef broth, kale and cumin mostly. Even Seth ate this, beans included, and commented on how good it was.
Breakfast: Oatmeal. We had oatmeal again, but this time it was steel-cut oatmeal. I had removed dairy from my diet by this point, so I used almond coconut milk and honey to top my hot cereal, while the kids use milk and sugar. A couple of the kids also added raisins.
Lunch: Refried Beans and Rice. Will and Elise and Dietrich had refried beans over rice with cheese and sour cream (and salsa for Elise). Seth was sent leftover chicken and rice with soy sauce since he can’t stand refried beans. I had refried beans, wilted spinach and rice all together with a splash of vinegar.
Supper: Brazilian Black Beans and Rice. I made these beans in my dutch oven (which is really amazing for making beans, by the way). The older two boys and John weren’t here for supper, so Elise, Dietrich and I had black beans over rice. They topped theirs with cheese, sour cream and salsa. I had mine with wilted kale (made with olive oil and balsamic vinegar). Then since Elise and I have special treats on Thursdays for our girls’ movie night together, we had chips and hummus dip.
Breakfast: Oatmeal? I cannot remember what we had. It was supposed to be cornmeal porridge, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t make that, so I’m guessing I made plain oatmeal.
Lunch: Black Beans and Rice. It was just Elise, Dietrich and I again for lunch, but we had pretty much the same things we’d had for supper on Thursday except I topped mine with avocado and cilantro and we also had carrots.
Supper: Various things. Elise and I were in Springfield, MO for supper, so we ate out at a restaurant. Elise had a basil mozzarella sandwich which she said was amazing, and I had an asian salad because it was one of the few things on the menu that was gluten and dairy free. She had a lemon bar for dessert, but I had to skip dessert because even though they had a gluten free option, they did not have a dairy free one. The boys and John went bowling and I think they ate pizza or something similar at the bowling alley.
Breakfast: Hotel Breakfast. Elise and I ate at the hotel breakfast bar. I tried to get creative with the very few items that were available that were gluten and dairy free and made myself a parfait of applesauce, rice krispies (which I am told are not actually gluten free, oh well) and almonds and dried cranberries. I also ate a couple pieces of sausage, but not sure those were really safe either. Who knows what everyone else in my family ate.
Lunch: Rib Crib. Elise and I were invited to Rib Crib with family friends for lunch after her test in Springfield. She had ribs. I had brisket without bbq sauce, a salad without lettuce, tortilla strips or tomatoes, and fries. After eating several fries I realized that they were so yummy because they appeared to be batter fried, so those got handed off to someone else. I really don’t know what the boys ate. 🙂
Supper: Black Beans and Rice. I purposefully made a whole bunch of the black beans so that we could use them for lots of meals, since I have learned from years’ past that this is really everyone’s favorite way to eat beans. I was exhausted after the drive back from Springfield, so it was nice to be able to reheat those beans and top some freshly made rice that John did for me when he knew we were almost home. Similar toppings to what was mentioned before. Everyone except Seth seems to like this meal.
Breakfast: Waffles! Feast Day! I had some frozen toaster waffles leftover from last month’s meal plan, so Elise toasted them for everyone. We even had some vegan gluten free ones that we got at Whole Foods with a coupon they were handing out for the grand opening. So even I got waffles, and they were yummy.
Lunch: Pork Loin and sides. We ate lunch at my Mom’s house to celebrate a couple family birthdays, so we had smoked pork loin, green beans, mashed potatoes, and sweet potato fries. This was all fairly safe for me, there was tomato in the sauce on the meat, so I scraped that off, and there was parmesan cheese on the green beans, but I dug to the bottom to avoid most of it. There was chocolate pudding cake and ice cream for adults and tres leches cake for the kids. This was what I was most sad about since I knew I wouldn’t be able to have any dessert unless I brought my own, so John was kind enough to stop at Walmart on the way to Mom’s to let me run in and buy some dairy free coconut milk ice cream, which was amazing.
Supper: Various. Everyone got something, but it was really random since we were still just snacking and eating at Mom’s. I snacked on nuts and leftover sweet potato fries and really didn’t feel hungry for supper. I also was feeling a little nauseous by the end of the day, so I just skipped supper. Perhaps the tiny cheats in the lunch really were enough to affect me?
So that was week 1. We’ve already had an amazingly simple meal that almost everyone thought was delicious, so I’m looking forward to sharing this week’s meal plan with you in a few days too.