Best Red Beans and Rice

It’s January and the “tions” are upon us: resolution, moderation, and precipitation.

The holidays in our house were cheery indeed. Family, food, and more than a few days spent on the couch watching movies in our pajamas. And while I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions in general, everyone in our family could benefit from some lightened-up meals and a little more activity.

That activity may come sooner than expected, with a snowstorm predicted to dump half-a-foot of snow on New Jersey tonight. I foresee some shoveling in our future, and two little girls anxious to head out to the community sledding hill.

Whether or not you’re snowbound, this is a great recipe for a chilly winter evening. It is one of the most comforting meals you’ll ever whip up and the fiber-rich kidney beans and other veggies definitely help meet any goals of moderation.

Red beans and rice - great winter dish

Red beans and rice – great winter dish

The last time I made this dish I started out with the intention of making a ham and white bean soup, but Daughter 1 quickly vetoed that idea. She wanted chili, which in and of itself surprised me because she NEVER wants chili. Further, she did not want white beans. But kidney beans got the thumbs up.

By the time this dish made it to the table it didn’t quite qualify as a chili, but, like a chili, it is packed with carrots, onions, celery, bell peppers and tomatoes. Served over rice, both our girls polished off huge bowls. So did my husband and I. And it smelled absolutely fantastic bubbling away…just the kind of meal to warm you inside and out after some serious time outdoors. 

Extra bonus, in addition to how many veggies ultimately ended up in this soup: it comes together in under an hour, which is not something you can say of a regular chili. We used our pressure cooker to develop a slightly richer-tasting stock but cooking it on the stove top over a medium heat works nearly as well, and I’ve modified the recipe below to reflect that.

With the holidays now behind us you may even have some leftover ham that is just begging to be used in a soup like this one. Do yourself a favor and make a batch of this as soon as the flurries start to fall. You’ll be glad you did!

Best Red Beans and Rice

2 teaspoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 carrots, diced
1/2 yellow or red bell pepper, diced (about half a cup)
1 large tomato, diced
1 teaspoon tomato paste (optional – but will amp up the tomato flavor if your tomato is under-ripe)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (homemade if you have it)
1/4 lb ham steak, diced (or equal amount leftover ham, cubed or shredded)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Approximately 2 cups cooked Basmati rice for serving
Serve with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream, passed separately

Begin by heating oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots and bell pepper and sauté until the vegetables soften — about five minutes. Add the diced tomato and sauté one minute longer (if your tomato is under-ripe, supplement by adding the optional teaspoon of tomato paste too). Add the bay leaves and chili powder and stir to combine. Add the kidney beans and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Add the ham and simmer for another 15 minutes to blend flavors, adding more chicken stock or water if the dish begins to dry out (check frequently to make sure the liquid hasn’t fully evaporated). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Finished beans should be moist but not watery.

Remove the bay leaves and serve the beans over hot cooked rice with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream (but in moderation…it is January after all!)

Though optional, the cheese and sour cream are great with this dish

Though optional, the cheese and sour cream are great with this dish

Serves: 4 – 6

Kid rating: four stars. This definitely satisfied Daughter 1’s request for chili even though it wasn’t a real chili…and it was served over rice. Daughter 2 polished off her bowl too.
Parent rating: four-and-a-half stars. I wish I adequately tell you just how good this smells as it cooks. The combination of all the veggies with the beans — with just a little bit of ham — makes this a great January dish to ward off the chills and get you back in fighting shape…especially if you’re fighting snow drifts and sub-zero temperatures. Best just to stay warm and help yourself to another bowl!

Her eyes are nearly bigger than her stomach

Her eyes are nearly bigger than her stomach


4 thoughts on “Best Red Beans and Rice

  1. Pingback: A (Financially) Peaceful New Year | A Mom's Life

    • When we started to make this I thought we were going to be having a soup too! But as it simmered I got the idea to serve it over rice since a lot of the liquid evaporated as it cooked. But I bet if you added another cup or two of stock, like you mentioned, or if you used a small can of crushed tomatoes instead of the fresh tomato it would be a very nice soup as well. Very easy to make. I hope you enjoy it!

  2. Pingback: Tamale Rice Dish

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