Pretty Close to Perfect!

Is there such a thing as a "perfect" food or recipe? Probably not, but for something that comes close, look to rice and beans! This delicious comfort dish, a cultural staple of Latino and Caribbean cooking, is probably one of the healthiest things, overall, that you can eat. Why is that?

Well, for starters, rice and beans together make what is called a "complete protein." This means that, together, they provide adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids. And what are essential amino acids, you ask? There are twenty different amino acids that are the building blocks of protein; you need all of them to live and to thrive. Eleven of these twenty can be manufactured by your body, so you don't have to eat them in your foods. The other nine, however, are called "essential amino acids" because your body can't produce them on its own. You have to eat them in your food or your body will be deficient. And a deficiency in essential amino acids is not good, because your body needs them to build muscle and to fuel organs.

Enter your favorite rice and beans dish! Separately, the two are incomplete proteins, which means that they each have some of the essential amino acids, but not all of them. But when eaten together, each provides what the other one lacks. So there you go - rice and beans are "complementary proteins" that can take the place of high quality animal protein. This is great news for people who prefer a vegetarian diet, or for anyone who just likes to eat a tasty, healthy meal.

We eat rice and beans at least weekly at my house, maybe even more often. Change around added spices, herbs, the type of beans, or other ingredients, and you can really vary the flavors. Also - canned beans are a great choice when you're in a hurry or didn't think about starting a dry bean soak in time to get your meal together! Just be sure to rinse the canned beans well.

Here is my adaptation of one of many Beans and Rice recipes offered by Goya:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons sazon, sofrito or other red seasoning

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 can Goya red kidney or pink pinto beans, washed

2 cups cooked rice

In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, warm oil. Add spices and seasonings and stir. Add water, tomato sauce and beans; bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Stir into cooked rice and serve.

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