cloth napkins vs. paper (plus rice and beans)

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Wednesday night, 10:05 p.m.: I’m in bed about to slip across the border to sleep when I remember nobody’s made a plan. There’s a group of couples from our church we meet with every Thursday for a meal, to talk, and to pray for one another. Usually by Monday, someone’s sent around an email volunteering to host. But this week, nothing.

Thursday morning, 6:35 a.m.: Brad and I are on the couch while he gets his IV and I check my email. No plan yet. So I say, our house is clean (it’s always this, isn’t it?), why don’t we host? Ah! I feel brave!

Thursday morning, 8:14 a.m.: Brad’s on board with what feels like wildness but is actually just having people over, so I email the group, plan an easy make-it-yourself rice and beans meal, write a grocery list for Brad (who is wonderful), and eat breakfast.

Thursday night, 5:58 p.m.: The food is almost all ready, everyone will show up in 30 minutes, so I start laying out dishes for the meal. I grab a stack of paper napkins and I realize I want to serve my friends and serve this food with cloth because the more I get to know these people, the better I want to treat them. This group–who would totally not blink at paper napkins, just like they don’t blink at my dying Fern of Shame and IV poles–are exactly the ones I want to cherish, to nourish, to honor by treating well. I don’t have enough cloth napkins right now (oh! the glory of having so many people at my house that I don’t have enough!) but I’ll get some. They won’t know it, but it will be my way of saying, “I love you guys! I love that you welcomed us into your group, that you pray for my husband, that you let me hold your babies, that you bring me dinners because you want to serve us while we do the IV (!), and that you let us feed you rice and beans!”

rice and beans
scales to as little or as much as you want

This is not really a recipe. It’s a reminder that this meal exists and you should make it more often because it’s easy and tasty. It’s our lazy meal when we can’t think of another meal idea, want something cheap, and oh! just invited eight people over last-minute. This Mexican version is the most common, but we also make an onion and lentil version, sometimes a sauteed chickpea and greens version, and were just talking the other night about subbing lentils for the chicken in our new favorite meal for yet ANOTHER version of rice and beans. You should play just as fast and loose with the ingredients.

black beans, cooked (and drained and rinsed if using canned)
salt
pepper
cumin
oregano
cayenne or chipotle powder
garlic clove, minced

Stir the black beans with all the spices in a skillet on medium heat. Remember this is the spicy topping for the bland rice, so don’t wimp out on the spices. Add a little bit of water (1/4 cup or so) to create a sauce. Once the sauce is bubbling, use the back of your spoon to smash the beans a little. I like a 50-50 ratio of smashed to whole. It absorbs the spices well and somehow feels more authentic even though, what? This is probably as authentic as Taco Bell’s Doritos taco or some such abomination. Heat through, spoon over rice and top with any or all of the following:

salsa
red onions, thinly sliced and soaked in raw apple cider vinegar for 30 minutes or so
cilantro, chopped
avocado, diced
greens
red cabbage, thinly sliced
raw cheese

p.s. I had grand intentions of taking a picture of all our toppings set out tonight, but completely missed the chance. Probably because I was writing this post. Expert blogger here, folks.

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1 Comment

  1. shanna mallon

    I like you so much.

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