One of the frequent questions I hear from people trying to eat a healthier diet is how to make good, but easy, dinners they can eat on weeknights without spending all evening in the kitchen. You know the drill, you work all day, you get home late, you’re tired and hungry and not in the mood to start whipping up a master gourmet meal…but, you’ve got to eat. So instead of reaching for the phone (to dial your favorite local pizza place), try this weeknight quick and easy dish, and save the pizza for another night when you are getting together with friends.
The trick to making this meal quickly on a weeknight, is a little advance planning and preparation a few days before. The main thing you need to do is make the black beans in advance. Say, on a weekend afternoon while you are home doing some holiday preparations?
You will also want to bake the chicken in advance – buy some chicken breasts (boneless and skinless for the lowest calorie option), sprinkle with a few herbs/spices such as garlic powder, oregano, cumin, black pepper and onion powder, and bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until done. Boneless skinless chicken breasts take less time than chicken breasts with bones still in – watch them carefully or they may dry out. Store the chicken well wrapped in the refrigerator.
Need to find time to bake the chicken? If you are good at multi-tasking, try baking the chicken first thing in the morning while you are getting ready for the day … or bake it on the weekend… or, on a weekday evening while you are cooking dinner another night.
The brown rice and salad are made fresh the night they are served. Put the brown rice on to cook as soon as you get home; use salad greens that you have already washed and prepped a day or two in advance to make weeknight salad a quick and easy part of your meal. Salad dressing (oil and vinegar and a few spices) can be made in advance and kept on hand for easy use.
Now, for the black beans recipe…
Black Beans (8-10 servings)
- 1 lb. black beans, dry
- water to cover
- canola spray
- 1 ½ medium onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced fine
- 3 medium stalks celery, chopped
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- 1 serrano pepper, minced *
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground thyme
- 10-15 cups water
- 1 tsp. salt (if following low salt diet, omit)
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
*Wear gloves, remove the seeds before mincing
1. The day before you plan to make the black beans, place the dry beans in a large bowl or pot. Remove any stones or other debris. Cover with cold water and allow to sit overnight, covered loosely with lid or clean kitchen towel. If you are in a hurry, you can boil the beans for 3-5 minutes in water and then allow them to sit for 3-4 hours before using. (If you want to skip this step entirely, use “no salt added” canned black beans.)
2. Drain the beans. (If using canned beans, rinse thoroughly and drain.)
3. Spray a large pot with canola oil. Cook onions and garlic over low heat for 3-5 minutes. Add celery, carrots, serrano pepper and spices and continue to cook.
4. Add black beans and enough water to cover them with an extra inch or so of water.
5. Add salt (if using). Stir and cover, cook on low to medium heat for 2-3 hours until beans are soft. Set a time for every 20-30 minutes to remind you to stir the beans and add more water as needed while the beans cook.
6. Once the beans are soft and have a smooth texture, stir in the balsamic vinegar.
7. Store refrigerated and reheat to boiling before serving. Cooked beans will generally keep 3-5 days when properly refrigerated.
Approximate nutrition information per serving of black beans: 193 calories; 1 gram fat; 0.2 grams saturated fat; 0 grams transfat; 35 mg cholesterol; 326 mg sodium; 36 grams carbohydrate; 12 grams dietary fiber; 11 grams protein.
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