Crock pot black beans and rice

25 Apr

One of the things that makes my crock pot one of the most useful appliances in my kitchen is its ability to take dried beans and turn them into a delicious, healthy meal in just a couple hours.

Dried beans last for ages in your pantry when you store them properly in an airtight container. Even better, they’re available everywhere for stupid cheap. They’re a great source of dietary fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins, and when you pair them with rice, they’re also a complete protein. Hell with acai berries, beans are a superfood.

Tonight, I made black beans with rice and salsa. It’s dead simple to make, but the key is the preparation of the beans.


  • 1 lb dried black beans
  • 2.5 cups brown rice
  • 1 18 oz bottle of salsa
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • tamari
  • dijon mustard
  • boullion cubes

Total cost of ingredients: $9

Cost per serving: $1.80

Put the beans in the crock pot with a boullion cube, onion powder, and garlic powder along with enough water to cover the beans by a couple inches. Set on high and cook for 3-4 hours, or as long as it takes for the beans to be completely rehydrated and not al dente. When they’re done, add tamari to taste and a large dollop of dijon mustard and mix with a wooden spoon.

Cook the rice in a large (non-crock) pot with five cups of water and a boullion cube. When the rice is done, add the jar of salsa and mix thoroughly.

I set out five plastic containers to bring to the office each day for lunch and layer the beans in each first, then add the rice and salsa mix on top.

This week: roast chicken, kale, scalloped dijon sweet potatoes, and a broken crock pot

18 Jan

I’m a big fan of my cats Basil Hayden and Bootsie Collins…most of the time. This is them.

Don't be fooled. They are plotting destruction.

I named  my cats after Kentucky bourbon and a bass player as famous for his tokes as his riffs. And for that, I got cats that take after their namesakes. Last Monday night while I was having a totally awesome fight with my boyfriend via Skype, the cats managed to knock the lid off my crock pot from where it sat on the counter, where it shattered. I can get a replacement from, but my model number’s lid is currently sold out. Thus, I decided to make something casserole-oriented for lunches this week.

Beer can roast chicken with steamed kale and scalloped dijon sweet potatoes

  • Ingredients and recipes after the jump

Total cost of ingredients: $16.30

Cost per serving: $2.33

Continue reading 

This week: Asian-inspired chicken with baby ‘bellas, quinoa, & barley

10 Jan

Sorry for the posting lapse…took a week off for the holidays, then the recipe I made to take to lunch with me for my first week at my new job just wasn’t any good. It was supposed to be a takeoff on chicken cacciatore with a rice and barley pilaf with mushrooms and kale, but the tomato sauce reduced down too much, revealing how much I overseasoned the chicken. (I ate it anyway!)

This week, I get back on track. Man this is so good!

Asian-inspired chicken with quinoa & barley mushroom pilaf

Cooking time: 8 hours on low / 5 hours on high

  • 4 lbs chicken thighs (bone-in with skin)
  • 1 cup teriyaki sauce (I used Soy Vey’s Veri Veri Teriyaki. I like its ginger & sesame flavors with the teriyaki)
  • Tamari to taste (I used about 1/4 cup)
  • Half a large onion
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 1 cup barley
  • 1 package baby portabella (crimini) mushrooms (I bought mine pre-sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons flour (optional)

Total cost of ingredients: $12

Cost per serving: $1.50-$2.00

Continue reading 

This week: Pork rib tips, adzuki beans & rice, roasted beets, and sautéed beet greens

13 Dec

I woke up this morning thinking about beets.

I wish I could tell you why. The best thing I can come up with is that it’s cold, rainy, and grey in NYC. So I figured something must be telling me to go to the store, pick up a ton of beets, then juice and roast them. I might as well listen.

A friend on Twitter recommended I make pinto beans and rice to go with the beets. “It’s healthy comfort food!” I had aduki beans instead of pinto beans in the cupboard, so I figured I’d make those instead. The crock pot rules for cooking beans from dried to perfection in four or so hours. On my way to the store, though, I realized that the week ahead is going to be completely insane. Two work-related holiday parties, two community choir rehearsals + choir performance, and another work-related event…if I don’t make something a little heartier today, I’m going to be cranky and angry by Friday.

‘Don’t Be Cranky, Sarah’ Pork, Beans & Rice with Roasted Beets and Sautéed Beet Greens

Crock pot cooking time: 8 hours on low / 4-5 hours on high

  • 1.5 cups dried adzuki beans (note: you can substitute any beans you like. Adzuki beans, while awesome, can get expensive. I get mine for stupid cheap at the Park Slope Food Co-op.)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cubes vegetable soup base
  • Canola oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2.5 lbs pork rib tips (on sale at the grocery store!)
  • half a large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • apple cider vinegar (to deglaze)
  • 2 bunches of beets (with greens)
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • salt & pepper

Total cost of ingredients: $14

Estimated cost per serving: $2.50

Continue reading 

Leftovers (and a well-stocked pantry) will make your life better

12 Dec

Part of the whole crock pot experiment for me is cooking as much as I can in one day with as little effort as possible so I can bring a good, hearty lunch to work with me and have good things to eat when I come home late at night so I don’t reach for my delivery menu binder. Leftovers are the entire point. As a kid who grew up despising ‘leftovers night’ for dinner, it’s a weird mental gap to bridge.

This weekend, though, leftovers made me super happy — or rather, repurposing them.

Last Sunday, I roasted a chicken (Beer Can Roast Chicken, recipe at the end), steamed some kale, and made a big casserole dish of scalloped potatoes (recipe also at the end). SO GOOD, YOU GUYS. Here is how these leftovers improved the quality of my life: Continue reading 

In which our narrator introduces herself

1 Dec

I bought this domain originally with the intent of publishing and developing my crock pot recipes, which I turned to as an easy way to feed myself good, wholesome, tasty meals with a minimum of effort and expense. I arrived at this due to these pressures on my budget:

  • The economy’s in the toilet (duh).
  • I work in an industry that’s hurting considerably (namely entertainment).
  • I racked up a mountain of debt during a four-month bout of unemployment (not to mention due to a bad case of moving to NYC when I was 22 and joining a rock band).
  • I racked up a lot of student loan debt going back to school to develop marketable skills in web design (marketable skills that my liberal arts English Literature degree enhanced but did not necessarily provide).
  • I live in NYC, where no matter how much money you have, there is something to spend it on.
  • I have two cats, whom I love dearly, and whom love me way more than any animal should. My first cat, Basil Hayden, is a nervous nellie with inflammatory bowel disease, determined after a very expensive year at the vet. I adopted the second, Bootsie Collins, to keep Hayden company and thus keep his stress level way down.
  • I live with chronic pain, most effectively managed with prescriptions (and you bet they’re expensive).
  • My boyfriend lives in California.

My crock pot experiment has been a rousing success. I even expanded the experiment to include baking my own bread and cooking cat food (the vet recommended it to help Hayden’s IBD). Not only did I feel better, but Hayden felt better. And my checking account felt better too.

But there was a problem. It wasn’t sustainable over time.

Working in the entertainment industry means long, erratic hours, and being frequently in pain, I didn’t realize how much cooking my cat’s food and baking my own bread would prevent me from lazy days on the couch in front of the TV. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss that. Once the weather became hot enough to prevent me from turning on the oven and stove, those experiments went right out the window.

The other thing not sustainable over time is my budget.

Ramit at I Will Teach You To Be Rich has been a regular in my Gmail inbox for awhile now, and I’ve taken some of his advice to heart. Specifically, his idea of automating your payments and savings to make your personal finances effortless to manage, maximizing savings and minimizing accidental overspending. Mint was a handy tool for monitoring expenses vs. income as well but after awhile it started to feel…judgmental. As judgmental as a web-based app can be.

Looking at I Will Teach You To Be Rich more tonight, I found one post in particular that seemed so insanely obvious but never really occurred to me. In this post, Ramit explains how to apply the 80/20 principle, which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. Work-smarter-not-harder is an adage I’m well aware of but never quite grasped how to do. In my line of work, you grind and grind to make your month, then you rise and grind again, until you’ve eventually ground yourself to a bloody stump. It got me thinking, how do I save my efforts and kick up my results?

I’ve been working some nights and weekends each week in two sister concert venues that I love dearly, but it takes its physical toll. I’ve started super early days at my full time job so I can leave early so I can go straight to the club and start selling tickets: 16 hours total, half of which dealing with the (frequently drunk) general public head on. I leave the club with a nice amount of cash, but it takes so much out of me physically that I wonder if that’s why I’ve been in so much pain this year.

Through this blog, I hope to chronicle my way to health — physical and financial — all the while using my crock pot as a means of grounding me to feeling better physically and mentally. It’s the very embodiment of the 80/20 principle, after all! Here’s hoping that I can help others in a similar situation to make things happen.