The Good Life – Black Beans & Brown Rice
I am the oldest of eight siblings and as a teen, I used to wonder why my parents had so many kids. Some of my friends only had to deal with one sibling, and here I was stuck with seven sisters… and a brother. I always thought they were kind of bratty, but, of course, my mother didn’t seem to think any of us were. I don’t know where she got her patience or her energy from to keep up with all of us. She cleaned, cooked, helped us with homework, and spent time talking to us when we needed her. It never occurred to us that she needed time to herself. She was a stay-at-home mom until my youngest sister entered high school. Only then did she return to work.
Every evening when my dad came home, we all had to go wash up for dinner and sit at the kitchen table. We felt so abused when we found out that other kids in the neighborhood got to eat at Burger King, the home of the whopper that was actually whoppers back then. I used to think they were as big as a small skillet. I remember my mom craving one when she was pregnant with my little sister and my uncle Bob, her brother, brought her one. It was huge! All I wanted was to share just one bite but Uncle Bob said it was a treat just for her.
Sometimes we saw our neighbors with the big red and white buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. We were stuck with the chicken that my mom had cooked. It was delicious, I must admit, but we wanted to experience some of that KFC too. Sometimes she would bake it, and sometimes she would boil it. The fried version was the best. We liked it even if it was cold. But whatever she cooked, it was certainly not KFC.
Now mind you, we always had a balanced meal and most of the time there were lots of vegetables. On many occasions, the meal was meatless but still delicious. However, as an ungrateful child, no matter what she cooked, I seemed always to want something else. However, the rule in our house was that you ate what was cooked or you went to bed hungry. Beans and rice and salads were a staple and always served with hot buttery cornbread which we loved, but, again, no matter what she cooked, I always wanted something else.
After school, we could never watch TV. We had to do homework. Actually, for a long time, we didn’t even own a TV or a phone. I think I was about fourteen before we even got a phone, but I can’t remember when we got the TV. After homework, then dinner, we had chores before baths and bedtime. That meant that IF we had the opportunity to go outside to play with friends, we only had a very short time before Pops came home. Most of the time, we didn’t get to go out to play until those long summer days and sometimes over the weekend. We felt so deprived of the finer things in life….we thought.
I now look back at that time in my life and just how wonderful my childhood really was. I have learned to appreciate the love, the time, and the sacrifices our parents made for us. We didn’t know then just how blessed we were.
I wish I had been able to give my children the time and care that my mom was able to give to us. As a working mom and business owner, I could not always be there to help with homework after school. I would take them to the learning center for help with that. I made sure, however, that they always had a hot meal after school and sometimes that meal was provided by Burger King, KFC, or even McDonald’s. Back then, I actually trusted fast food. I loved the convenience of them and my kids loved the food.
There were times, however, on a few occasions, when I found time to break away early from my clients, I would take them to a sit-down restaurant for a family-style meal at places like Ponderosa, Sizzler, or Ryan’s. Although I loved to cook and still do, I rarely found the time to cook because I was so busy working to provide for them.
The year that I was eighteen, with a job, I gave my mom a gift of appreciation for mother’s day. It was a wooden plaque declaring my appreciation for all that she had done for us, although she really deserved a gold medal. She was so appreciative of that little plaque.
She and my dad took care of the eight of us together. It took me a while to learn how to really appreciate them for the love and care that they gave us. Sure, they fussed a lot, especially our dad. We used to call him ‘fuss bucket’. The funny thing is when I finally stopped to think about how things had changed over the years and how I came to appreciate those very things that I once saw as a burden.
We grow and we learn that all the things that we took for granted were indeed the good life and we had them all along.
In memory of those good times, I am sharing a simple recipe for black beans and rice that my mom always made. Back then it was long-grain white rice, however, in my quest to eat healthier, I now use brown rice. This meal is delicious and filling and full of proteins. No meat is necessary. I serve with corn muffins sweetened with honey and I substitute coconut oil for butter. Back then my mom cooked the beans with smoked turkey butts because we don’t eat pork. However, we have become more health-conscious and eat very little meat, if any at all. To get that smoked flavor, I now substitute Smoked Torula Yeast. It adds a wonderful smoky flavor and a creamy texture. Try it! I think you will like it.
Beebe Love’s Black Bean’s & Brown Rice
· 1 pound dried black beans (about 2 cups), rinsed, soaked in 4 quarts of water overnight or 6 hours, drained
·2 Tbls or more to taste of Smoked Torula Yeast or liquid smoke
· 2 bay leaves
· 5 cups of water
· 1 Tbls chicken seasoning
· 4 Tbls olive oil
· 1 large yellow or Vidalia onion, chopped fine
· 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
· 1 Tbls ground cumin
· 1 tsp of chili powder
· 2 T maple syrup
· 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
· Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
1 Place soaked and rinsed beans in a 4-quart pot. Add 5 cups of water, onions, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, until beans are tender (add chicken seasoning last 15 minutes, not the beginning. I find that salt will not allow the beans to be as tender). Remove bay leaves.
2 Heat olive oil in a large 8-quart pot on medium-high until the oil is hot, but not smoking. Add the onions and garlic and sauté, stirring until lightly browned. Reduce heat to medium, add the cumin, and chili powder, and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
3 Add the beans to this mixture bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes, then add red peppers. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes and serve with steamed brown rice and some hot honey muffins.
Makes 8 cups. Serves 6-8