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Challenge 9 - Diabetes-Friendly Rice & Beans
Posted by Lori Ross - Viewed 22191 times

Dear Lori,

I would enjoy 5 rice and bean dishes that are diabetes friendly (which means they are low carb, low sugar, and low fat and low starch). I use brown and wild rices for my rice of course. Cooking can be an everyday challenge for those of us with diabetes.


Gerald Dix

Santa Fe, NM

Between boats but am looking at trimarans.

 Dear Gerald,

Thanks so much for your delicious challenge! I think every culture has a version of rice with beans and I have enjoyed experimenting with them, especially while I was losing weight following a vegetarian diet several years ago. I understand the challenges for people with diabetes because my mother-in-law was diagnosed several years ago and we have changed many family recipes for various holidays throughout the year.  I have broadly interpreted your request and included rice and bean recipes from all over the world!  Happily, most beans and legumes including peanuts have low glycemic load and low glycemic index and brown rice and wild rice are medium GL and GI.  I like to short-cut cooking on the boat so that I can enjoy our guests, so I used canned beans.  In any of these recipes, you are welcome to cook your own dried beans.  And, since brown and wild rice is now available (Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice), sometimes I use this rice aboard.  If you want to use ready rice in any of these recipes, simply reduce liquid (broth, water, wine) to 1 oz. per cup of rice and once liquid is hot, proceed with recipe as if rice is tender.

Enjoy in good health!

1.    NORTH AMERICAN:  Cuban Black Beans and Rice
2.    ITALIAN:  Risi E Bisi (Rice and Peas)
3.    SPANISH: Paella with Vegetables and Beans
4.    ASIA:  Asian Fried Rice with Beans and Vegetables
5.    MIDDLE EAST AND INDIA:  Levantine Mujaddara


Cuban Black Beans and Rice
1 cups brown rice
2 cups water or beef, chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium onion diced
2 scallions minced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 bell pepper seeded and diced
1 fresh jalapeno seeded and minced (any color or half red/half greed)
½ tsp liquid smoke or 1 cup diced lean cooked ham
1 tomato chopped or 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp each of dried oregano and ground cumin
3 tbsp of chopped cilantro or parsley
1 tbsp salt and 2 teaspoons pepper
4 cups cooked beans – black beans are traditional

To Make Rice: Combine first three ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover tightly, reduce heat to very low, and simmer for 45 minutes or until rice is tender.

Make the sofrito:
Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, scallions, garlic, peppers, liquid smoke or ham, and sauté for 7 minutes stirring often.  Stir in chopped tomato and vinegar with remaining spices and herbs.  Reduce to medium and cook 5 minutes more.   Add cooked beans to sofrito and simmer uncovered until the mixture becomes thick (20-30 minutes). Add cooked brown rice and remove from heat. Serve at once.

•    Jamaican: Replace black beans with kidney beans and add 1 tsp minced garlic and 3-4 slices of jalapeno peppers
•    Hopping John: Replace black beans with black-eyed peas and add a celery stalk to sofrito, plus 1 tsp each of dried thyme, ground coriander plus 2 whole cloves and 1 stick of cinnamon with a pinch of nutmeg at end of cooking.
•    Cajun: Replace black with red beans and add 1 stalk of celery to sofrito, plus 1 tsp each of cayenne pepper, white pepper, paprika; ½ tsp oregano, 2 bay leaves and 1 tsp dry mustard. Sprinkle dish with Tabasco sauce.
•    West Indian Coconut Rice and Peas: Replace half the water with lite coconut milk, add one whole scotch bonnet or jalapeno pepper (uncut), replace black beans with pigeon peas or chickpeas and add 1/4 tsp of allspice and dried thyme.


Risi E Bisi (Rice and Peas)
I love risotto and often make it with brown rice in the microwave when on the boat.  Microwave risotto turns out a bit less creamy than stove-top but it is wonderfully cooked with only one stir during the cooking process. This is appealing on the boat as it dirties fewer dishes and allows me to wander away from the galley to be with my guests. Serves 4 to 6.

2 tsp oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ¼ cup brown rice
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup white wine
1 bay leaf
1 cup green peas (fresh are best, but frozen are good too)
2 tbsp fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
¼ grated Parmesan cheese

In a large casserole, combine oil, onion, garlic.  Cover and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes until onion is soft. Stir in rice, stock, wine, bay leaf. (If using Ready Rice, microwave for 1 minute then proceed from “Stir in peas”). Cover and microwave on high about 4 minutes. Stir, then continue to microwave on medium power until stock is absorbed and rice is tender (about 10 minutes). Stir in peas and microwave for 3 minutes more.  Add basil, cheese then cover and let it sit for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper as desired and serve warm.

Stove top risotto: For traditional stove-top risotto, simply sauté onion in oil until tender.  Add rice and sauté for a couple minutes, and then add wine and bay leaf, stirring until liquid thickens.  Add stock, one cup at a time and stir continuously until stock evaporates and add another cup.  When you run out of stock, rice should be tender (if not, just add another cup of water and stir until tender).  Add peas and sauté a few minutes more, then take off heat, add basil and cheese, salt and pepper and let it sit covered 5 minutes before serving.

•    Chickpea Risotto:  Replace peas with chickpeas and add 2-3 tbsp lemon.
•    Risotto coi Fagioli: Replace white wine with red wine; replace chicken stock with beef stock and replace peas with cooked cranberry or black beans.
•    Green Risotto: Replace peas with fresh fava beans, fresh lima beans or fresh green beans (or frozen versions of these beans); replace basil with ¼ cup store-bought pesto once the risotto is cooked.


Paella with Vegetables and Beans
3 cups of very strong vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1/4 tsp each of saffron and paprika
1 small onion, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp chopped garlic
½ cup fresh or canned red peppers (mild) sliced
1 ½ cups brown rice
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or pinch of dried parsley
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup dry white wine
1-2 large fresh tomatoes chopped
4 artichoke hearts (canned or frozen), quartered
1 cup canned chickpeas
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
Lemon wedges for garnish
Parsley for garnish

Heat the broth with the saffron, paprika and the whole onion. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Keep broth warm and remove the onion saving it for another use.  In a large oven proof skillet (I use a 12” cast iron skillet), heat the oil. Add the chopped onion, garlic, and peppers and sauté until the onion is wilted. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat it well with the oil. Add chopped parsley and bay leaves. Stir in the hot broth, wine, tomatoes, and rice and salt to taste. (If using ready rice, bring to boil, and then proceed from “add Chickpeas”).  Bring to a boil and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, over medium high heat about 10 minutes, then cover and cook on medium-low for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and add chickpeas and green peas let sit on top of the stove, covered, for about 10 minutes. To serve, decorate with lemon wedges and chopped parsley.

Seafood and Beans: Add 1 lb. shrimp and clams in their shells during last 10 minutes of cooking
Sausage and Beans: Add 1 lb. low fat smoked sausage or kielbasa during last 10 minutes


Asian Fried Rice with Beans and Vegetables
2 tbsp peanut oil
4 cups cooked day-old brown rice
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp finely minced garlic
1 cup of your favorite vegetables diced (red bell pepper, chives, fresh mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, zucchini, onion, etc.)
1 cup green peas, edamame beans, lima beans or black beans
2 tsp soy sauce, tamari or light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the cooking oil on medium.  When oil is hot but not smoking, add ginger and garlic, stir fry for 15 seconds until fragrant.  Turn heat to high and add vegetables – one kind at a time – in order of what takes longest to cook. Fry until the vegetables are almost cooked through.  Add the rice and the soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Fry on high heat until the each rice grain is heated through. Taste. Add a touch more soy if needed. For non-vegetarian version, use about a cup of chicken, pork or shrimp in place of mixed vegetables.


Levantine Mujaddara
Mujaddara is the Arabic word for smallpox; the lentils among the rice resemble pockmarks.  The first recorded recipe for Mujaddara appears in a cookbook compiled in 1226.  Mujaddara is a popular dish throughout the Arab world, and is generally made using green lentils and rice, that can be seasoned with cumin, coriander, or mint. It is topped with fried onions and is generally served with yogurt, among other vegetables and side dishes, either hot or cold.

3/4 cups dried green lentils (dePuy French lentils are my favorite)
1 tsp salt
4 cups of water
1 cup brown rice
1 ½ cups water
4 tbsp olive oil
3 cups onions, halved and thinly sliced

For the yogurt:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, spicy paprika (or paprika with a pinch of cayenne or other hot red pepper)
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
Juice and zest of half a lemon
1/4 tsp salt

Put lentils, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 4 cups water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer lentils until soft but not mushy, 15-20 minutes (dePuy lentils take longer to cook than regular lentils). Drain lentils and set aside.

Cook rice by bringing pot with 1 cup rice and 1 ½ cup water to a boil, uncovered.  Then put the lid on the pot, and reduce the heat to low/simmer for about 20-25 minutes, turn off the heat, and let the rice sit in the covered pot for another 10 -15 minutes.

Sautee onions: In a deep sauté pan over medium-low heats add 3 tbsp olive oil. When warmed, add onions and toss to incorporate with oil. After 5 minutes, onions will have softened slightly and started to release their liquid. Raise heat to medium and cook 10 to 12 minutes more, until onions are very soft and browned. Add water by the tbsp if pan gets too dry or if onions start to stick. When onions are well browned, add last tbsp of olive oil and raise heat to high. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes, until bottom layer of onions has charred and crisped; try not to stir too much, or onions won't crisp up. Combine rice, lentils, and most of the onions in large serving bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes, to marry the flavors together.

Make yogurt: mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

To serve, plate a big scoop of Mujaddara and top with a dollop of yogurt.

•    Lebanese Mudardara: Use brown lentils and rice
•    Egyptian Kushari: Use equal parts lentils, rice and macaroni, and top with tomato sauce seasoned with ¼ teaspoon or more of crushed red pepper
•    India Chana Dal:  Replace de Puy lentils with yellow split peas, pinch of turmeric, cinnamon stick, ½ teaspoon cumin,1/4 cup raisins and 1-2 hot green chilies

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