Desperation Beans and Rice

Desperation Beans and Rice appeared one snowy Sunday afternoon at the cabin when I forgot that the local supermarket closed at noon.  We had planned to drive back to New Richmond but decided to enjoy a cozy evening in front of the wood stove rather than risk the snow-covered highway.  

We did have a little bacon and some canned vegetables, a stalk of celery, some onions and a green pepper.  The improvised dish turned out to be a tasty and easy variation on our recipe for Red Beans and Rice.  It did not require soaking dried beans overnight and then cooking them with a smoked pork hock for two hours.  I did have to clean and chop the vegetables, but I just hummed “the weather outside is frightful” while working at the counter.

Although this dish has very little meat in it, even a carnivore like me finds it perfectly satisfying for a meal.  This recipe makes enough to serve four hungry diners.  If there are only two of you, you’re in luck.  Refrigerating the dish for a day or two improves the flavor, so you can enjoy a second dinner without having to cook it.


2 – 4 strips thick cut bacon (1/2 cup chopped)

1 medium onion (about 3 inches in diameter)

1 medium green bell pepper

2 large ribs celery

1 beef bouillon cube

1-1/2 cups water

2 bay leaves

1/8 tsp. thyme

1/4 tsp. oregano

1 15 oz. can kidney beans or small red beans

1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes

1/16 to 1/8 tsp. hot sauce 

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 or 3 green onions

3/4 cup white rice

1-1/2 cups water

1/2 tsp. salt


Chop the bacon into half-inch pieces and put them into a heavy-bottomed three or four quart saucepan over low heat.  While the bacon begins to cook, remove the dry outer layers from the onion and chop it into a quarter-inch dice.  Stir the onion into the bacon and continue cooking until the onion is translucent.

Wash the bell pepper and celery.  Cut the pepper into quarters and remove the seeds and white membrane.  Chop the pepper and celery into a half-inch dice and mix them with the bacon and onion.  Add the water, bouillon cube, bay leaves, thyme and oregano and bring the mixture up to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer the vegetables for ten minutes.  

Stir the beans and tomatoes with their juices into the vegetables and continue simmering the mixture while you cook the rice.  When the beans and vegetables start to simmer, stir in the hot sauce and green onions and taste the beans and vegetables.  Adjust the seasoning to suit your taste.

Rinse the rice in a one-quart saucepan, add the water and salt and bring the rice to a boil, stirring a couple of times.  When the rice comes to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and cook the rice until all the water has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat.

Remove the pan from the heat, fluff the rice and spoon the beans over the rice in bowls.  Serve with salad (if you have some) and bread.

NOTES:   Feel free to use a third rib of celery or a really large green pepper and to add water if the mixture seems too thick.

I have not tried it, but I think that you you could substitute a can of black beans for the red.

Kathy’s Kidney Bean Salad

Before we were married, some of Jerri’s friends gave her a Recipe Shower. Everyone brought some of their favorite recipes written or typed on recipe cards, and the hostess furnished a recipe card box.

Many of the cards are like word portraits of the cooks who wrote them. For instance, on the back of Kathy’s Kidney Bean salad card is a handwritten note in green ink that says, “This basic recipe stretches beautifully if needed by just adding more lettuce (or more of anything) to the one can of beans–just add and taste until satisfied.”

As you will see in the recipe below, Kathy was a creative and brave cook with a good sense of taste. She created a recipe that people liked but was willing to keep trying variations on the theme. She was a teacher at Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Illinois a northwest suburb of Chicago where Jerri also taught.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of the school’s most famous alumni. She graduated the year before Jerri began teaching at the school, but Jerri might have inspired Dave Butz, who was elected to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team who graduated 4 years later.

Jerri still treasures the memory of that party and makes many of the recipes from time to time. Kathy’s Kidney Bean Salad is one of our favorites.


1 can kidney beans (soup can size)
1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup celery
1 cup lettuce
1/4 cup relish (sourish)
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup mayonnaise


Kathy’s instructions are simply “Mix all ingredients together and chill.” Here is what we do.

Cover one or two eggs with cold water in a small pan and bring to a boil. Boil four minutes, turn off the heat and let the eggs continue cooking for about eight minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

Drain the can of kidney beans and dump them in a large bowl. Wash a rib of celery and chop it into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces. Wash and shred several leaves of lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Mince the onion. Add the vegetables and the relish to the beans. Cool, peel and chop the egg or eggs and add them in the bowl.

Add a quarter cup of whipped salad dressing or mayonnaise and mix well. If it seems too dry, add a little more dressing. Taste and add a little salt if you think it needs it.

Chill and serve.

NOTES: Here are Kathy’s notes for this recipe: “This is my own concoction, so the amounts are only approximate–I just throw. I often do not use celery; sometimes leave out the egg; sometimes add other things like red cabbage, carrots, green pepper, etc. Just whatever you have. It’s the basic mixture of beans and relish and mayonnaise and lettuce that counts, really. All else simply adds to these.”

Jerri often replaces the lettuce with more celery and usually uses two eggs. We normally have sweet pickle relish in the fridge, so that is what goes in. It’s good with green or red cabbage too. Once you have made it according to Kathy’s recipe a couple of times, just use your imagination.

This salad is so good that I have been known to finish off the leftovers as a snack before going to bed.

NOTE: The Recipe Shower was also the source of the recipe for Carole’s Tuna Casserole. It makes a delicious tuna casserole that has no noodles and no cream of mushroom soup. You will find the recipe here.