29 January 2013

Southwestern saffron rice and beans (the perfect lunch!)

I don’t know about anyone else, but lunch during the week is always a bit of a conundrum for me. We have a canteen at work that serves good, cheap Thai food. You can get things like fried rice, chili noodles, omelets and tom yum noodle soup made to order or choose from whatever selections they have that day…for vegetarians that includes things like stir-fried pumpkin with egg, steamed vegetables, phat makeua yao (Thai eggplant with basil) and on Thursdays, som tam (green papaya salad). So I’m quite lucky in that respect. But sometimes I get sick of the canteen, and it’s admittedly not the healthiest of eating options. There are tons of restaurants all around my office, but I’m usually quite pressed for time at work and thus not always in a position to go out, and nor do I want to spend the money. So recently, I’ve gotten back into the habit of regularly bringing my lunch to work, which I used to do all the time in other places I’ve lived. Though so simple to do, I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with making and bringing my lunch, especially when colleagues seem amazed that I am organized enough to do so!

Oftentimes, it’s leftovers from the night before’s dinner, but sometimes I like to make up a batch of something and take it for lunch for a couple of days. I’ve really been into grain salads recently, but last night I just remembered an old favorite of mine…this ridiculously simple mix of Mahatma brand saffron rice (I had a pack from my last trip to the States), canned beans, tomatoes and whatever else you fancy. This dish is super nostalgic for me, as the Mahatma saffron rice was a staple food for me back in college days. Of course it’s processed and high in sodium (as are all prepared rice mixes), so ideally you can and should cook up your own rice or other grain of choice. But when you’re pressed for time, this Southwestern-flavored dish will really hit the spot…especially as it can be reheated or eaten at room temperature. Add some carrot sticks and a fruit yogurt of your choice and you’ve got a perfectly balanced lunch, one that will banish any midday eating dilemmas that you might have! If you have any leftovers by the way, try it as a topping for nachos along with some grated cheese, sour cream and guacamole. It sounds weird but trust me it’s awesome!

I'll be sharing more lunchbox dishes such as these...and I'd love to hear your lunch ideas as well!

Serves 2 or makes 2 lunches

1 (10 ounces) packet of Mahatma brand saffron rice or other packaged rice of your choice (any kind)
1 (15 ounces or 400 grams) can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 of a (14 ounces or 400 grams) can of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons corn salsa (I prefer Trader Joe’s Corn and Chile Salsa) or corn kernels
2 tablespoons canned diced green chilies
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
2 tablespoons fresh chopped coriander

1. Cook the rice according to package directions (feel free to omit the fat).

2. Mix rice and everything else in a large bowl. Stir well and pack your lunches!


  1. It is always good idea to bring lunch from home, it's healthier and fresh. I like doing that myself:)
    And this rice recipe is so easy to make!

  2. I love my TJ corn salsa!! Always great to find another way to use it. If you do not have any on hand though and replace it with corn kernels, what other spices/seasonings would you recommend?

    1. No need for any other seasonings...just the sweetest corn kernels you can find should do!

  3. I often find myself wondering what to do with kidney beans - for some reason I buy them, yet rarely cook with them! This looks like a great use for them, though!

  4. Brilliant! I share the same sentiments about lunch too, get easily bored with canteen stuffs and needed some homemade dish that can make lunch more fun. Love to have this. Got my eye on your next posts.

  5. Good idea to add some beans to the rice. This way you get protein too!-Mom