A staple dish in South Louisiana is red beans and rice. This consists of traditional red, or kidney, beans cooked into a soft stew, seasoned with spices and usually some kind of smoked meat, served over rice. It’s a cheap and easy dish to make, and it’s delicious.
Red beans are already high in protein and other nutrients, and according to some nutritionists, adding rice makes it a “complete protein.” However, for those who are carb conscious, even brown rice adds a lot of calories and too much starch for their diets.
There is no reason why any traditional dish cannot be made with healthy alternatives. Particularly for the gluten intolerant of this world, one of those celebrated grain alternatives is quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH). A sacred ancient staple of pre-Colonial America, Quinoa is a small grain that cooks and puffs up just like rice. By comparison, quinoa has twice the protein, higher fiber and less carbohydrate content than brown rice. Quinoa is an awesome way to powerfully increase the nutrition in this popular standard.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database:
Brown Rice Quinoa
Protein 4.52 g 8.14 g
Carbohydrate 45.84 g 39.41 g
Fiber, total dietary 3.5 g 5.2 g
Vitamin A 0 IU 9 IU
Vitamin E NA 1.17 mg
1 Bag dry red beans (Prep: soaking overnight in water reduces cooking time, and therefore, heat and energy use).
1 large onion, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
Optional: extra shakes of granulated garlic
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp salt
Sausage, turkey sausage or tasso meat for seasoning.
*1 cup quinoa, 2 cups water
Rinse and cover pre-soaked beans with twice as much water as beans in a large soup pot. Add chopped onions, garlic, cayenne and meat. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and let simmer. Stir occasionally, adding water if beans get too thick. Should take 1-2 hours for beans to become soft. Taste test after 1 hour, and add salt. Once beans are soft and not chewy, they are done. For creamier beans, allow to cook longer. Serve in a bowl over a scoop of quinoa (or rice).
*While the beans are cooking, start the quinoa:
In a rice cooker, combine 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water. Cover. Plug in cooker and push the button. After the cooker’s bell rings, or the button pops up, unplug and let stand covered for at least another 10 minutes before opening. Caution: Steam will be very hot.
Serves: 4-6 people, depending on appetite and desire for seconds.