By Crystal Grobe

Recently I spent some time in Negril, Jamaica for a friend’s wedding. This was my first time at an all-inclusive vacation spot and my first time doing a beachy resort vacation as we typically go for city explorations. Being a food lover, I wasn’t looking forward to endless mediocre buffets and generic alcohol but turns out, I found a few favorites that got me through the trip.

I ate cantaloupe and honeydew melon at every meal. It was appropriately ripe, kept me hydrated and helped keep me full, avoiding the urge to keep eating random buffet food.

I ate nachos for lunch every day. Yes, every single day. Here’s the key to avoiding flavorless nacho cheese: combine the cheese sauce with chili and jalapeños in a soup bowl. It’s more filling and certainly a lot more flavorful. By the end of the trip our whole group was doing it.

Finally, the biggest save was the jerk chicken at the jerk shack on the beach. The chicken was fresh, juicy and best of all, it was served with rice and beans, one of my regular meals back home. Of course, it wasn’t as good as what I make but it hit the spot.

After I returned to Minneapolis, I had to make a big pot of red beans to truly feel fulfilled. It’s from a blog I found years ago and I’ve been making it ever since. It goes perfectly with a batch of brown rice and sliced avocado. Green Tabasco sauce doesn’t hurt either.

Red Beans
(serves 8)

1 lb. small red beans (or light red kidney beans)
10 cups of water (for cooking)
2 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp smoked salt

Rinse and pick through the beans, tossing any rocks or debris. Place in a large bowl and cover with plenty of water and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Once soaked, drain the beans. Fill a large pot with the water and bring to a boil. Add beans and reduce heat to a simmer. Add onion, celery, chili powder and parsley, stir, and simmer over medium-low for 3-5 hours, stirring occasionally. Once beans are soft and have developed a thick gravy, add liquid smoke. Using the back of a spoon, smash a few beans against the side of the pot to help thicken the gravy. Season with salt and serve on top of rice.


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