Celebrate Mardi Gras with Red Beans and Rice

Today may be known as Fat Tuesday throughout the world, but I’m here to tell you that you can have a healthy and tasty Mardi Gras meal that doesn’t weigh you down.  Enter vegetarian red beans and rice!

This is one of my favorite meals to make at home when I need a quick, delicious, and filling dinner.  While the traditional Creole dish is prepared using a ham hock to add flavor to the beans, I leave it out to make the dish lower in fat and veg-friendly (and I also don’t typically have ham hocks lying around to use!).  Though it’s not “traditional,” I know this meal will satisfy any craving you have for New Orleans-style food today.  Enjoy, and laissez les bon temps rouler!

Red Beans and Rice
Serves 2 to 3 as an entrée

1 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp. margarine
½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
½ cup finely chopped green pepper (typically bell, but you can use jalapeno for a little more heat and smokiness)
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
½ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. ground thyme
¼ to ½ tsp. ground red pepper
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. salt
1- 14.5oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
¾ cup water or low-sodium chicken broth
dash of Tabasco or other hot sauce, optional
1 cup instant brown rice
2 cups water

Bring 2 cups of water in a small pot to a boil.  Add 1 cup of instant brown rice to the pot, and cook according to package directions.

In a large pan, heat oil and margarine over medium-low to medium heat.  Add in the onions, peppers, and celery and stir to coat in oil.  cook for 2 minutes.

Add in garlic and all seasonings (oregano through salt) and cook for another minute.  Add beans to pan, and lightly smash some down using the back of a spoon.  Pour in the water or broth, and bring pan to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Let cook for 10 to 15 minutes.  When bean mixture is thickened but not try, taste and add hot sauce or a little more salt if needed.

Split the rice into two servings and top each with the red beans mixture.  Enjoy with a side salad.

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