I have something to admit. I don’t really like rice.
Despite my love for things cheap and healthy, and despite our entire series devoted to beans and rice recipes, my taste buds have remained adamant. Rice does not make them happy.
It’s not like I don’t give this grain a chance. I still eat it, and I can actually enjoy it – as long as it’s smothered in so many other flavors and textures it might as well not be there (except for the amount of money it saves by it’s presence).
However, this recipe has changed everything. I actually ate it without adding extra toppings. And I enjoyed it.
Several weeks ago, in a desperate attempt to dress up our pintos and rice, I searched Jessica’s recipe stash, knowing she is both a lover of good food and frequently feeds her family beans and rice. This little gem proved to be just the touch my dinner needed.
Since I make stock from our leftover chicken bones (and it’s actually much easier and time efficient than you would expect), and I can buy a can of tomato sauce for less than 25 cents, this flavorful dish is extremely cost efficient. Never mind the added health benefits that homemade stock provide.
Instead of white rice, I used our brown, whole grain variety, which added more substance to the entire dish without, in my health nut opinion, distracting too terribly from the taste. As another frugal twist, I replaced the oil in the recipe with the chicken fat that inevitably settles on the top stock after it cools.
I know that sounds gross, but hear me out. This is probably a more natural source of fat than any vegetable-derived oil I could buy at the store. And while I could use butter or olive oil instead, those options are significantly more expensive than the fat that comes for practically free from the chicken stock. So chicken fat it is. And my budget and husband can thank me for it, because now I can use that butter for dishes even more popular than Mexican rice… like peach cobbler.
Lately I’ve been using this rice in a variety of ways, but the most typical (and easiest) has been a taco salad variety that both serves as a frugal dinner and as Hero’s lunch the next day:
Mexican Rice & Pintos Taco Salad
In individual bowls, layer desired amounts of any combination of the following:
- Jessica’s Mexican Rice (with several cups of cooked pinto beans stirred in – add salt if desired)
- A little bit of seasoned shredded chicken, or ground beef, or sliced steak, etc. (apparently a little bit of meat helps your body digest the protein in the beans better)
- Lettuce, shredded
- Tomatoes, diced
- Peppers, diced
- Simple Homemade Guacamole (or sliced avocado)
- Black olives, chopped
- Sour cream
- Cheese, shredded (cheddar, Monterey jack, pepper jack, Mexican blend, etc.)
- Tortilla chips
Of course, these also make delicious options for tacos or burritos. For the burritos, simply wrap the beans, rice, meat, and cheese (and salsa, if desired) in large tortillas. Line up the burritos in a lightly greased glass baking dish and heat them in the oven until the cheese is melted. Top with diced veggies and sour cream as desired, and enjoy.
One of these days, I may share my tortilla recipe. I know making my own tortillas sounds like a lot of work, but when the budget is tight, the taco craving is calling, and I have flour, oil, and water, sometimes I break out my rolling pin and griddle.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Do you have a favorite frugal Mexican-inspired dish?
P.S. To get the scoop on many more delicious cheap eats, check out What’s on Your Plate!