I LOVE Mexican food (who doesn't?!), and it's such a great cuisine for showcasing how delicious and versatile legumes can be.
Nutritionally, legumes are packed with protein, iron, zinc and folate. Just 1 cup of cooked black beans packs a whopping 3mg of iron, which is on par with 100g of grilled lean beef (3.3mg), yet they are free from cholesterol and contain virtually no saturated fat. The addition of vitamin C-rich foods to a meal containing legumes significantly boosts the absorption of the iron they contain, so I always include lots of vitamin C-rich vegetables (such as tomato, capsicum, broccoli and cauliflower) to my main meals.
Legumes also contain a unique form of dietary fibre known as resistant starch, which feeds the good bacteria in the large intestine. Keeping these guys happy is a win-win situation for us humans, as they produce compounds known as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which reduce the pH of the bowel (a good thing) and nourish the epithelial cells lining the large bowel, both of which are associated with a reduced risk of bowel cancer. These SCFAs also end up in the bloodstream and also help us to maintain good control of our blood glucose levels after carbohydrate-rich meals, which reduces the risk of developing insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes.
I've chosen to use black beans for this recipe, as they are commonly used in Mexican cooking and just so happen to be one of my absolute favourite legumes. They're packed with phytonutrients known as anthocyanins which are not only responsible for the beautiful black colour (and the brilliant blue of blueberries), but have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in the body.
So, here is the basic Mexi-Bean Mix recipe which you can do just about anything with, but I've chosen to feature my top 3 favourite meals - a stuffed sweet potato, tacos, and a rice bowl.
Makes 4 serves
- 2x tins of black beans (drained and rinsed), or 500g black beans cooked from scratch. You could also use red kidney beans if you prefer
- 2 cups frozen corn kernels (300g), cooked according to the package directions (you're welcome to use 1-2 large fresh corn on the cob if you'd prefer - just cook it through and remove the kernels using a sharp knife)
- 2x large tomatoes, cut into a small dice
- 1x avocado, diced
- 2 cups shredded red cabbage
- 1x red capsicum, diced
- 1x lime, juiced (approx. 30mL)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp onion flakes (you could also use 1x small red onion, diced)
- 1 tbsp sweet paprika
- To serve: fresh coriander leaves (discard the stems - it's time-consuming but worth it!), a sprinkle of cayenne pepper (if you dare), and some hot sauce (or mild taco sauce, if you're not a spicy food fan)
- Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, stir to combine, and you're done!
Now, here's when you choose your own adventure:
For the stuffed sweet potato (pictured at the top) - for one serve, scrub a small sweet potato (300g or so) and place on a baking tray (no need to peel it). Bake at 200 degrees for 75-90 minutes or until very soft. (I know it sounds time-consuming, but if you pop it in the oven when you get home from work at 6pm*, you'll be eating your delicious dinner by 7:30pm, which isn't too bad). While the oven is on you may as well do a few at a time, so you'll have plenty leftover for easy lunch and dinner meals. To serve, slice open your steaming hot spud and stuff with the Mexi-Bean Mix. Garnish with coriander and a drizzle of hot sauce.
*in an ideal world. I can can hear my corporate lawyer friends laughing at that one.
For the rice bowl - this one couldn't get any easier - just add some brown rice to a serve of your Mexi-Bean Mix and you're good to go. I would suggest 1/2-1 cup cooked whole grains for a woman, but I don't really like to be too prescriptive in terms of serving sizes of whole foods, as your appetite is a much better gauge of how much food you need. Garnish with coriander and a drizzle of hot sauce. Midweek lunches can't get any easier!
For the tacos - now it's definitely worth grabbing some good quality white corn tortillas (made using the traditional Mexican method) such as those by La Tortilleria, because they're seriously delicious, and aren't too hard to find (my local independent supermarket and nearest health food store stock them). Heat them according to the package directions (I always cop out and go with the 'if you're absolutely desperate and must use a microwave' instructions, because my kitchen laziness level is an 11 out of 10). When they're heated through, serve up on a plate, top with your Mexi-Bean Mix and garnish with coriander and a drizzle of hot sauce.
Any questions or comments? Feel free to leave them below.