My boys have a new favorite low oxalate recipe–Jamaican Rice and Peas!  This is a staple from my vegetarian days that I haven’t made in years, but I had one of those crazy cravings and gave in.  It also seemed like a good learning opportunity for the boys.  What better way to introduce new cultures than through their food?

Low Oxalate Rice and Peas

Aidan loves his rice and peas (here made with kidney beans)

Rice and peas is an everyday staple in Jamaica.  Its subtle coconut flavor and creamy texture are a perfect complement to Jamaican Jerk Chicken and other spicy island treats, but it also makes a filling vegetarian main-dish.  It’s traditionally made with pigeon peas, but black-eyed peas or kidney beans are often substituted.  I make it with canned peas or beans because it’s so easy, but you can prepare  the raw peas yourself if you can’t find canned pigeon or black-eyed peas (use one cup raw peas with three cups water).  I sometimes use the  pepper and sometimes don’t.  Since you use a whole pepper and remove it before cooking, it doesn’t make the rice hot, but adds a nice, subtle pepper flavor.

The night I introduced Jamaican Rice and Peas to my boys, I talked with them about Jamaica and tropical islands.  They were fascinated and asked lots of questions and repeated the things I was telling them over and over.  I think it was the first time it started to make sense to them that people live in many different places, and that people in different places eat different foods than we do.  It was fun watching them learn, and  it was a very pleasant way to make dinner conversation with soon-t0-be-three-year-olds.  I plan to buy a good map to keep in the kitchen, so as we cook and learn together I can point out where the different foods we eat come from.  I hope this will also make cooking and eating together as a family more fun.  It sure was fun last week.  And it was even more fun when Aidan requested “Island rice and beans” again for dinner a few nights later (we ate it as our main meal the second night since I already knew they liked it).

Jamaican Rice and Peas

1 can black-eyed peas, pigeon peas* or kidney beans* (15 ounces) (see oxalate note)
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (13.5 ounces)
1 cup water
2 cups long or short grain white rice–not instant!
1 habanero pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2-4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt to taste (start with 1/4 teaspoon)

Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan, including the liquid from the beans.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender (about 30 minutes).  Remove the habanero pepper and serve.

Makes 4 main dish or 8 side dish servings.

Note:  Most Jamaican chefs start by cooking raw peas (which are soupy like non-drained canned beans) which is why I use the canned bean “juice” in my recipe. It keeps things easy and more authentic tasting.  You may like the texture of this dish better, however, if you drain and rinse the beans first, then add an extra 3/4 cup water.

*Oxalate Note:   Pigeon peas and kidney beans are medium oxalate ingredients.  All other ingredients are low or very low oxalate, so this is a low to “lower medium” oxalate dish depending on what type of pea/bean you use. Actual oxalate values are: black-eyed peas (3 mg. per 1/2 cup), pigeon peas*(7 mg. per 1/2 cup, canned), kidney beans* (11.7 mg./half cup, dried), coconut milk (0.0 mg. per 1/2 cup, Chaokoh brand), Uncle Ben’s long grain white rice (trace) OR “boiled” white rice (0.9 mg. per half cup), habanero pepper (0.4 mg. per sauteed pepper), thyme(2.5 mg. per teaspoon), garlic (0.3 mg. per clove), Hain table salt (0.0 mg.)

Picky Eater Pleaser:  Try leaving out the pepper, thyme, garlic and beans at first, so you just have coconut rice (you will have to add 1/2-3/4 cup water).  If your picky eater likes this, try adding back in the beans/peas first, then add each “spice” one at a time each time you make the dish.  Alternately, make “coconut rice” and let family members add their own beans at the table.  You can also use 2-3 fresh thyme sprigs instead of the dried thyme and remove them before serving.

Menu Planner:  Try Jamaican Rice and Peas as a side dish with baked chicken and pineapple, or as a main dish with a tropical fruit salad on the side (mango, banana and pineapple with coconut sprinkles-yum!).

Other Diets:  Jamaican Rice and Peas may also be suitable for gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian diets.