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The Not-So-Musical Fruit

So we had an interesting dinner experience the other night.

In an effort to save a little moolah and live more like the locals, we attempted to make rice and beans.

Well.  I’m sure this is something that turns out absolutely delicious for those who eat it regularly and have actual… you know… seasonings in their kitchens.  But I’ll spoil the ending to this little story by telling you that ours ended up tasting a little more like… um… how should I put this?  Paper.

Our very first problem was that I felt it was imperative that I took a nap immediately when we got home.  The “nap” turned into 3 hours, and I woke up at 5:00.  So what?  Even if it takes a couple of hours to cook, no big deal, right?


I first consulted Judy, our gracious host and excellent cook about how we should get started.  She explained how she puts the whole onion inside the rice cooker (it actually roasts while the rice cooks so you can just squeeze the onion out of its outer layers of skin when it’s done), along with some diced pepper, garlic, and “other things” – other things we most certainly did not have.  She was generous enough to give us several cloves of garlic and some celery leaves to throw on in, and luckily we already had an onion and red pepper.

She showed me how to sort through the beans and pick out anything that had split or any pieces of rock or cement that might have found its way into the bag during processing.  (Which I’m told is pretty standard.  You know, like bugs in your pasta.  Oh we haven’t told you about that?  It’s dee-lish.)  Luckily, we had a pretty good bag.  She then explained that they needed to sit in a pot of water for 2-3 hours to soften up prior to cooking.


That’s right, she informed my dumbfounded expression.  2-3 hours should do the trick. Ok, so that’s still not terrible – then maybe 20 minutes to cook and we can eat around 8:30, right?

Wrong again.

When I googled “how to cook dry black beans,” I learned that not only do you need to soak them for 2-3 hours, but the best way to cook them is at a low simmer for another 2 hours!

WTF.  It’s beans.  And rice.  But apparently it takes longer than Coq au Vin to make without the delicious indulgence of all the fat and calories.

So I went back to Judy, tail between my legs.  Um… may I please borrow your pressure cooker?

Sigh.  She had to come back over and show us how to use it without burning our faces off, but this drastically reduced the cooking time and eliminated the need for soaking them.  Just throw all our stuff in the pot, and a little while later, poof! Beans are cooked.

Meanwhile, the rice concoction smelled delicious.

By this point we were starving, so we threw it all into a bowl and hoped for the best.

And it actually looked halfway decent…

Rice 'n Beans

But the taste… Oh, the taste.  How do I say this?

There wasn’t one.

In a true moment of ingenuity, Erin suggested we sprinkle it with our salty plantain chips, which proved to be a VAST improvement.


Next time (har-har) we will be investing in some seasonings.  And I don’t think I ever want to try Judy’s rice and beans.  I would probably cry.

I spent the next morning walking around the yard reassessing this whole “budget” situation and trying to figure out whether we could afford to live off of boxes of macaroni and cheese for the next two months.

When I realized there’s no possible way, I felt frustrated for a second.

But only a second.

Because it’s really difficult to stay frustrated on a morning when – even with bland beans still percolating in my stomach – the world outside my bedroom looks like this:

Costa Rica Sunrise

And this.

Rice and beans?  What rice and beans?


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This story could totally be an Amelia Bedelia book. Because I am pretty sure she did not say to put a WHOLE onion in there, with skin…oh my you guys are killing me!!


She DID! And actually that really worked – We peeled the super papery outside stuff off and it cooked perfectly – just popped right out of the tough outer skin. The PROBLEM is that Judy knows how to season. I do not. AND we didn’t have any hot sauce. ;)


Hey! Don’t give up!! Try it again and put in the seasonings you like! Or…..maybe you just don’t like rice and beans? :) Or…..maybe you want to expand your budget meals…say, a microwaved potato and some microwaved broccoli topped with chopped tomatoe mixed with redwine vinegar and a little olive oil, some garlic, and a little cilantro! Fast, nutritious, and yummy (Erin can leaveoff the tomatoes!)! KISS….Keep It Simple, Sweethearts!


Oh, and buy a bottle of Lizano Sauce to try with your rice and beans!


Thanks for all of the tips, Judy! We’ve already got another grocery list started. ;) Oh, and we just realized we have some sour cream – maybe we can dress our rice ‘n beans up a bit more tonight. :)

the other Mrs. Barstow

Hang in there, girlfriends. It’s never easy to try new foods and new recipes. Especially with limited funds & supplies. You girls have guts, I’ll say!! I bet your next effort will be delish.


Mrs. Barstow knows what’s up–the only flavoring ingredient you need is Lazano sauce (brown bottle w/gree top found in every supermarket down there). But don’t get just one bottle–get twenty. Then pour it over everything you eat (don’t be scared of it’s green color–it’s green goodness). My favorite is lazano over scrambled eggs and rice for breakfast!


Thanks, Jameson! That’s definitely on our next grocery list – as long as it falls within the realm of affordability. Judy, our “host mom,” is the one who recommended it – and we’ve already learned our lesson about listening to her cooking advice – she definitely knows what she’s talking about.

Want to come visit and make us some eggs??


Sure, i’d love to. But i can’t guarantee that the eggs will make it there intact. :)

On a side note, if finances are tight, you could always re-sell any leftover bottles of Lizano back in the states. I know some people who would pay good $$ for a bottle of that stuff. Me included. Maybe there’s money to be made in the hotsauce import business?…

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