Red Beans & Rice…Without a Recipe

This is a short, and fun, story about cooking. For several years, I have had an increased interest in the culinary arts. It’s not that I can’t cook. I raised a family. I’ve been preparing meals for years. But for the most part, I have relied on recipes, carefully following each step precisely, or I fixed easily prepared fail proof meals like spaghetti.

Since changing my diet to plant based, I have discovered a new joy in preparing healthy, nutritious and tasty meals. There is a meditative quality to chopping vegetables and combining foods together, knowing I am caring for and nourishing my body at a deep level as it heals.

I follow friends and family on social media who inspire me with their pictures of beautifully prepared food. Most of them don’t follow a recipe, or they are creating one as they go. I have envied that ability. I don’t know if it’s my first born tendencies that have kept me recipe bound, or a fear of failure, or the concern that I will waste good food if my result is poor, but I have had a hard time with throwing a dish together with “a bit of this and a pinch of that”.

Recently though, I’ve been getting these mental downloads for meals, much as I do when I am creating a vignette. I can see the end result, the completed dish. Then I just have to figure out the process to get there. I was encouraged a couple of weeks ago when I created a four bean chili by adapting another recipe. Tonight, with fresh veggies in the fridge and some leftovers to use up, I had fun throwing caution aside and experiencing cooking as an adventure.

I began with a reliable base…diced onion, celery, carrots and minced garlic, sautéed in olive oil. I simply used what was on hand: half a yellow onion, half a bag of baby carrots, and a couple of stalks of celery. I keep minced garlic in a jar in the fridge. I added a small spoonful, and continued cooking until the veggies were tender.

Next I added brown rice left over from last night’s dinner, cooking and stirring until the rice was fragrant. I had a bowl in the fridge containing the remnants of a 15 bean cajun soup. You know how it is, at the bottom of the soup pot? What was left was mostly liquid. But that soup broth was wonderfully flavored with cajun seasonings, which is what inspired tonight’s red bean & rice meal. I added a can of organic red beans to the mixture, stirring until the beans and rice were heated through.

I enjoyed cooking tonight. This was not a difficult meal to prepare, however it was fun and very freeing to cook instinctively rather than following someone else’s recipe. And I feel good about using up leftovers that I would have eventually tossed into the trash otherwise.

Of course I will continue to use recipes. There are so many interesting ones available and I appreciate that. It was good for me though, to resist looking up recipes for red beans & rice and just go with what seemed right.

And you know what? My red beans & rice turned out great! What a homey, comforting and nutritious meal for a rainy evening. And, I made it myself.