Bear’s Beans and Rice

By Craig Nelson

In this month’s article, I would like to take a minute to thank everyone who has been reading this column, and of course those who have submitted recipes too. This article is my 12th and marks one year! The response has been great, and it has been a lot of fun learning and trying recipes from firefighters all over the United States.    

I believe it is also appropriate to mention my rookie trip to FDIC, where I got the chance to meet many firefighters, some from other countries like Canada and others from as far away as Hawaii. I was given the opportunity to work the Fire Engineering booth from 1-3 Thursday through Saturday. It provided me with a chance to hand out recipe cards and meet a lot of great firefighters and their families, while they got the chance to try Ian’s Chili (which seemed to be a huge hit with the crowd; thanks, Ian).  

This month’s recipe comes from Craig Hebert (pronounced hey-bear), from Fergus Falls, MN. Craig was introduced to many great meals while working in California at the Vandenberg Air Force Base Fire Department. He talks of tri-tip beef cooked on a wood fire and fresh fish done over the grill. One of the side dishes to accompany these enticing meals was rice and beans. Sadly, Craig never wrote down the recipe but true to firefighter tenacity would not give up on trying to reproduce the original. Through much disheartening trial and error, Craig recently found a recipe that he is happy with. 

I find it very interesting how many of us have missed an opportunity to write down a recipe that we really enjoyed and then while trying to recreate it discover another recipe that is just as great. Luckily for us, we are a never-give-up kind of bunch. 

The Fargo Station 1 “B” shift crew prepared this meal (Dan, Mason, Logan, Jared, and Randy) and felt that it would make a great bed for your main course meat. 

Bear’s Beans and Rice


3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
. Substitute other types of sweet peppers if you have them
. If you like some heat, try a few jalapenos instead
1 cup rice, uncooked
. Basmati is good because it isn’t sticky
. Brown rice will require more liquid and a little more cooking time
2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
½ to 1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. salt
½ to 1 tsp. oregano
¼ to ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2½ cups water
. Substitute chicken broth for a richer taste
. Add more liquid as necessary

Heat oven to 350 degrees. To make cleanup a one-pot affair, use a Dutch oven
(like a 5½ quart Le Creuset) to sauté and bake the whole dish. Make sure to
grease the sides well. Otherwise, use a large sauté pan or skillet to sauté and a
large, well-greased casserole dish to bake.

Sauté onion, garlic, and peppers in oil until tender. Combine all remaining
ingredients in a large bowl. Add the onion mixture and stir well. If you are using
the Dutch oven, mix everything in there.

Cover and bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender – about one hour.

Serve as a side dish with roasted chicken or grilled pork chops. Or, put in a flour
tortilla with some shredded cheese for a great taco filling.

Ease: of preparation: Easy, especially with some crew help
Time:  About 1 hour once prepared
Cost:  Around $10.00 (depending on what you already have in the kitchen)
Feeds: Around 5 as a side dish

I am always looking for more recipes. You don’t need to be a professional chef to share one. If you and your crew enjoy it, then many others would, too. Please share your creations with other firefighters by sending in your favorite recipe. Each article contains a quick introduction to those submitting the recipe, their department, their recipe, and any stories that may surround the legendary dishes. Send recipes and a photo of the finished dish to Please also include your name and e-mail address.

Eat together when you are able, and stay safe out there.

Craig Nelson has been in the fire service for nine years, working as a volunteer, paid-on-call, and a full-time firefighter/EMT. He works for the Fargo (ND) Fire Department and works part-time at Minnesota State Community and Technical College–Moorhead as a fire instructor. He also works seasonally for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as a wildland firefighter in Northwest Minnesota. Previously, he was an airline pilot. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership.

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