You can think of Day 3 of the Fresh-Start Challenge as Hydration Day. This is where we enjoy food from the often-scorned center aisles: dried beans, rice, and optionally tea. Add local water to these thrifty, high-nutrient foods to stretch your budget and lower your environmental impact. You started the hydration yesterday, by soaking black beans. (If you didn't, don't worry. Either start soaking them now or just skip that step and cook them a little longer.) Two pounds of dried beans makes about 20 servings of cooked beans.
What to do today. Cook two and a half pounds of black beans. Save four servings (2 cups) for Bean and Green Salad on Day 5 and freeze another 2 cups for next week. Make eight servings of Cuban Black Beans and eight servings of Black Bean Chili. This sounds like a lot of work, but it's a matter of turning on a slow cooker, chopping up some veg, and then doing something else until it's time for dinner.
- Decide when to turn on your slow cooker by checking the Cuban Black Beans recipe. Cooking all the beans with bay leaves and salt will add flavor to the other recipes as well. Cook 8 servings of rice, either using a rice cooker with a timer or starting the rice an hour before you want to have dinner.
- When the beans are cooked but still firm, drain four cups and set aside to cool.
- Cook the vegetables for Black Bean Chili (a variation on Red Bean Chili) in a pot on the stove.
- Drain the bean broth from the slow cooker. (You could save this for bean-broth gravy or to cook with oatmeal, but that would run over our time budget.) Add the vegetables and spices for Cuban Black Beans to the slow cooker. Let them them simmer until tender, about an hour. Get the carrots ready to microwave.
- When the chili vegetables are cooked, move four cups of beans into that pot. Microwave the carrots.
- Enjoy Black Bean Chili on Rice with Glazed Carrots for dinner.
- When the Cuban Black Beans are cooked, remove them from the slow cooker to speed chilling, then refrigerate four servings to eat on day seven and freeze the rest to eat in week two.
- Sometimes I also brew a pitcher of iced tea on hydration day, but that's a bonus step. This would not have made sense to me when I was growing up in Michigan, but now I'm used to people drinking iced tea all year.
- Refrigerate extra beans, carrots, rice, and tea if you made it.
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