Many of us make a resolution around this time of the year to start eating healthier foods but I have an added incentive this year as I am five months pregnant and hoping to grow a healthy baby boy! In my various wanderings through pregnancy websites (I hope I am not the only pregnant woman addicted to them!), I have often come upon a list of pregnancy “Super Foods” which are supposed to be especially healthy during pregnancy. Most of these lists name similar foods but there are 10 foods that I find especially prevalent; this list on babycenter.com is a good summary. These 10 foods are: Â Beans, Eggs, Salmon, colorful fruits and veggies, lean meats, walnuts, yogurt, sweet potatoes, dark green vegetables and whole grains.Â Â I’ve challenged myself to include more of these foods in my everyday diet and, as part of that challenge, I am going to develop a series of recipes using the foods on this list. For those of my readers who are not pregnant, all of these foods have health benefits for everyone, not just pregnant women! So feel free to join in my healthy eating challenge and please let me know if you have any good recipes using the foods listed above.
I decided to ease into this series with a food that I already love: Â Beans! Not only are beans cheap, filling and delicious but they are also great sources of fiber, protein, iron, calcium and folate (a very important nutrient for preventing birth defects). My mom often made red beans and rice for us when I was growing up and it is still a very comforting food for me. Also, I thought it would be great to develop a recipe that used brown rice and beans, thus covering two of the pregnancy super foods in one dish! I decided to use black beans in place of red, both because I Â like them better, and because I have read that they are the most nutrient rich beans. The recipe ended up as a sort of hybrid between Cuban black beans and the Cajun red beans and rice that I grew up with. I used some traditional Cajun seasonings, but also added a squeeze of lime juice at the end, to brighten the flavor. This recipe would also be delicious with a pound of sliced smoked turkey sausage, added in with the beans, for extra flavor and protein.
Cajun Black Beans with Brown Rice
Makes 4 large servings
1 1/2 cups dry black beans, rinsed and sorted
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups water
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
a few grinds freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon smoked paprika or sweet paprika for a milder dish
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 1/2 cups brown rice, uncooked
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1. In a medium bowl or saucepan, cover the beans with about 2 inches of water and soak overnight. After soaking, drain and rinse the beans.
2. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Stir the beans into the vegetables then add the water, broth, salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, paprika and bay leaves. Give the pot a few good stirs to combine everything, then cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer.
4. Prepare the rice: After beans are simmering, stir the rice together with 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring rice to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes, or until rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed.
5. Once the beans are just beginning to soften, at about 1 1/2 hours, remove 1/2 cup of beans from the pot and mash well with a fork, return to pot. Continue to simmer beans for another 15 Â to 30 minutes, or until beans are very tender and liquid has thickened. Remove beans from heat and stir in the lime juice. Serve beans over brown rice and top with sliced green onions.