30-Days of Clean Eating—W2: The Staples

30-Days of Clean Eating W2: The Staples. Basic recipes for brown rice and beans. www.fernsandpeonies.com

I have a first week confession to make. I cheated. A few times. They were little cheats, but cheats all the same. What were my cheats? I had a birthday dinner to go to and I munched on some delicious gluten-free roasted red pepper crackers that the hostess picked up especially for me. And then the next night—which was my planned cheat meal—I had a bowl of french fries. Oh, and then there was the sugary peanut butter crackers and two Gu packs on my twenty mile run yesterday. I think that's it. I was really jonesing for a latte, but that one I resisted. Cheats are inevitable. My advice; recognize them and then move on.

You have made it to week 2! I hope you are finding that this is not as restrictive as you thought it would be. Make sure you aren't just eating carrot sticks and celery. This isn't a diet. Remember, you aren't eating anything processed and those processed items are usually heavy in carbs. Undoubtedly, if you aren't used to eating this way, you will lose weight. However, you will also be hungry all the time. Your body needs carbs—they give you energy. Make sure you are getting enough to give you the energy you need to exercise regularly.

So what did I eat this week? Well for breakfast I ate either steel-cut oatmeal or sprouted flax seed toast with almond butter. I often make a pot of steel-cut oats on Sunday and it lasts me about 4 mornings. I promise, we will talk oatmeal in week 3.

I ate a lot of salads, which is typical for me. I load them up with dried fruit, nuts, veggies, avocados and just do a basic olive oil, lemon and vinegar for the dressing. Nothing too fancy. Adding nuts to your salad is a good way to get your protein and does the trick to fill you up. Go with raw nuts and then just toast or dry roast them for a few minutes to give them a nice crunch. We aren't trying to skimp on fat during these 30 days. Why? Because most of the fat you normally get is probably coming from those processed foods you aren't eating this month. Just as you need carbs, you also need fat. A big salad like this will give you some great, heart-healthy fats in one bowl; nuts, avocados and olive oil.

Fact. I can eat rice and beans every day. And rice bowls are one of my favorite meals. Brown rice, beans, diced tomatoes, black olives, guacamole and if I'm not doing a clean eating month then a dollop of tofu sour cream. It's quick, filling, and healthy. So you might be wondering how I consider this "quick". It's quick because on Sundays I make a big pot of brown rice. If I'm really good, I'll also cook a bag of dried beans. Both last us the week and I often freeze half the beans for another week. Neither really take all that much time or attention and I can also get the house cleaned at the same time. Now you have a few quick staples to make dinners or lunches much easier to prepare during the week.

30-Days of Clean Eating W2: The Staples. Basic recipes for brown rice and beans. www.fernsandpeonies.com

The Staple: Brown Rice

30-Days of Clean Eating W2: The Staples. Basic recipes for brown rice and beans. www.fernsandpeonies.com

I prefer brown rice to white rice. Brown rice is essentially unprocessed white rice. It is full of vitamins and fiber and is a far healthier option. It also has a nutty flavor which I love. Since it is unprocessed, it takes longer to cook than white rice.

I bring 4 1/4 cups of water to a boil, add 2 cups of brown rice (a little more than a 2:1 ratio) and then reduce to a simmer. Unlike white rice, I don't cover the pot completely with the lid, but leave it cracked.

30-Days of Clean Eating W2: The Staples. Basic recipes for brown rice and beans. www.fernsandpeonies.com

Let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until most of the water has evaporated. It's ok to get in there, stir, and check on the water level with brown rice.

30-Days of Clean Eating W2: The Staples. Basic recipes for brown rice and beans. www.fernsandpeonies.com

There's still too much water in the picture above, which was around 30 minutes, so in this case I let it simmer for another 10 minutes, which was perfect. Keep in mind, we all have different stoves and fuel types, so times will vary. Once it looks like the water is just finished evaporating, turn the stove off and cover completely for 15 minutes. Then take a fork and fluff the rice. It's ready to serve or store.

30-Days of Clean Eating W2: The Staples. Basic recipes for brown rice and beans. www.fernsandpeonies.com

Meal ideas: Roast some vegetables to have with your brown rice for dinner during the week. Another great idea would be to make a bowl of vegetable soup mid-week. In your individual bowl, ladle the soup over a half cup of cooked brown rice. You can do both for leftover lunches all week.

The Staple: Beans from a Bag

Par-cooked black beans

Par-cooked black beans

I know you do it. Walk right past the $1.25 bag of beans at the grocery store and buy the $1.25 can of beans instead. You do know you can get 4 or 5 times the amount of beans from a bag of dried beans compared to a can, right? I know, it's the convenience factor. Have you ever even made dried beans before? You probably remember your mother or grandmother making them, but I would bet it's been a long, long time (if ever) since you have. They are so easy to make. I'll show you how to do the quick method of cooking dried black or small red beans.

Big-ass pot

Big-ass pot

First things first, always wash your dried beans thoroughly. Yes, you may find pebbles in there. Pick through your beans as you rinse them to remove any. Next place the strained beans in a big-ass pot and fill will water about 2-3 inches above the top of the beans. Cover and bring to a hard boil for just a few minutes. Turn the heat off, cover completely and let sit for an hour.

Unstrained par-cooked black beans

Unstrained par-cooked black beans

Rinsed par-cooked red beans

Rinsed par-cooked red beans

Strain, thoroughly rinse and restrain the par-cooked beans. Rinse your big-ass pot and return the restrained beans to the pot. Add 7-8 cups of water and return to the stove, covered. Bring to a boil, crack the cover and then reduce to a slight boil/simmer for an hour, stirring 2-3 times during the hour. Test that they are done. How do you do this? You can scoop some up and blow on them. If the skins easily blow off, that is usually a good indicator that they are done. But the best way to tell is much simpler. Eat one. You will know right away.

Cooked black beans

Cooked black beans

Once you have determined they are done, strain, rinse thoroughly, and restrain again. Much easier than you thought, right?

Meal ideas: Of course, rice bowls are a must. I also like to bake a few sweet potatoes with their peels on. Once done, stuff them full of the beans and some cooked greens or roasted brussel sprouts. Or better yet, make a batch of chili with those freshly cooked beans!

Week 2 should be a bit easier than the first week. You are probably getting the hang of reading labels and figuring out what is overly processed and what is clean. There is a lot of information out there on the internet to help you out. Just don't over-complicate it. Simply prepared foods—which let the ingredient's natural flavor shine through—are delicious. Season with sea salt and crushed black pepper to help bring out the flavors and take yourself back to the basics of unprocessed, unrefined simple food.

Let me know how it goes! Xoxo