Cooking On a Budget: A Simple Summer Meal By Chef Stephen Wilson

Posted by on August 14th, 2014

For many of us, summer is associated with good and plentiful eating.  Whether it is meals cooked on the grill, picnics down the shore, or the bounty of fruits and vegetables at the neighborhood farmers market, summer is not a time most associate with going hungry.  The fact of the matter, however, is that nearly 300,000 kids in the Delaware valley run the risk of going hungry this summer because their free or reduced lunch from school is not available and their parents or guardians struggle to find the funds to put summers bounty on the table.

Being a chef, I am grateful that my kids won’t feel this particular hardship this summer, but that doesn’t mean I’m not teaching them the importance of cooking and eating frugally and healthily.  I’m still a parent with my own financial struggles, but my background in the culinary arts makes it a lot easier for me to feed my family on a budget.

One of my favorite foods to cook is rice and beans, the staple of so many regional diets throughout the world.  I love cooking rice and beans because it’s versatile, inexpensive, nutritious, and of course, delicious!

The versatility is evident in the fact that there are so many beans available at the market, and each provides different flavors and textures.  If you want to jazz up your rice and beans with some chicken or pork, both lend themselves well.  And if you want to wrap the rice and beans in a tortilla, just add some cheese and salsa and you’ve got burritos!

At home, I only use brown rice, as it’s better for you.  The combination of whole grains and legumes pack a powerful nutritive punch.  Onions and garlic (which I recommend using) not only create a foundation of good taste in the rice and beans, they’ve been shown to have beneficial effects on health.  And the best thing about all these ingredients is that although they’re very good at filling your belly and keeping you healthy, they don’t cost all that much!

And lastly, I love the taste, as does my whole family.  I’ll usually make a big batch of rice and beans on the weekend, and eat it throughout the week.  It keeps and reheats well, and like I mentioned before, has many different applications; on its own, in tacos or burritos, or as a stuffing for peppers, rice and beans is one way that my family stays happy and well fed during the summer.


Simple, inexpensive ingredients for a nutritious and filling meal.  Brown rice, pigeon peas, onions, garlic and Adobo seasoning.


Chopped onions and garlic sweated in a little oil or fat.  A sprinkling of red pepper flakes adds just a touch of spice.



2 ¼ cups of water to 1 cup of rice is a good ratio.  Once the onions and garlic become translucent, add the water and bring the water to a boil.  Then add the drained and rinsed beans and a little Adobo.  Cover and cook on low until the rice is done, usually about 30 minutes.


The beans and rice on a whole wheat tortilla is always nice.  I usually add shredded cheese, hot sauce, lettuce,  and plain yogurt that I make.


All wrapped up and ready to eat.  You can make the rice and beans ahead of time, then heat up again as needed.  This way, we can make a big batch of it and have rice and beans different ways throughout the week.

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