Home ยป Money Matters: Foil-Baked Fish with Black Beans and Corn

Money Matters: Foil-Baked Fish with Black Beans and Corn

While I would love and adore to buy everything organic, local, and all that jazz…it is simply not feasible (for me) for a lot of reasons. Accessibility and cost being the main barriers. It’s also not feasible because I would have a husband ready to go ballistic over my spending and… well, I just don’t have $700 a month to spend on food…for 2. And if I did, I don’t know that spending all that money on food is how I would LIKE to spend such large amounts of money. I like vacations and shoes far too much for that… 😉

Now some of you are probably thinking, “But you’re a dietitian and you are what you eat.” And I agree with that statement entirely. However, I still think shopping smart is something I am not only learning how to do more effectively, but I feel it’s making me a better practitioner in the process. Generally speaking, people do not have unlimited, or even plentiful funds for which to buy groceries. As much as I like rare cheeses and to support organics, I have to prioritize where my money is spent. And I try to do my best with my garden and shopping locally and organic, when possible…especially when it comes to meat and dairy. Keeping my grocery costs within a budget (albeit pretty flexible) is important to me as a consumer, and as a practitioner.

Now might be a good time to mention the updated “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists. Here’s a great way to prioritize where to and where not to spend your money on organic produce:

  • Dirty Dozen: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, grapes, bell peppers, potatoes, blueberry, lettuce, kale/collard greens.
  • Clean 15: onions, corn, pineapple, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, mushrooms

Back to the recipe. Not only did it catch my eye because it contained some of my most favorite foods, but it struck me as a quick, easy, healthy, and cheap meal. And that…it was 🙂 I dare say this was one of the best meals we’ve had in awhile, and it really does accomplish so much with flavor, hands-on time, and cost. Oh, and one-bowl clean-up, too!


Foil-Baked Fish with Black Beans and Corn from America’s Test Kitchen, The Best Simple Recipes, as seen on Pink Parsley

4 4-ounce white fish fillets, such as tilapia
salt and pepper, to taste
4 Tbsp Smart Balance Light, softened
2 Tbsp chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups corn kernels
1/2 red onion, minced
2 scallions, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat to 450 degrees

Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Using a fork, mix together the butter, 1 teaspoon chipotle, orange zest, half the garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in a medium bowl until well-combined. Spread butter mixture over the fish.

Combine the beans, corn, onion, scallions, 2 tablespoons of cilantro, orange juice, remaining chipotle, remaining garlic, scallions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl.

Lay four 14-inch lengths of foil on the counter and divide the bean mixture evenly over the lower half of each piece of foil. Top with fish, and fold the foil over the fish, folding the edges to seal.

Arrange the packets in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the fish is just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully open the packets and sprinkle with remaining cilantro. Serve. Yield: 4 servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 327 calories; 8.3 g. fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 551 mg. sodium; 35.8 g. carbohydrate; 10.3 g. fiber; 32.5 g. protein

Result: So, I found the perfect meal…and this is it! Not only is it delicious (really, really, really, delicious)…but it’s also uber healthy — carb-controlled, low in sodium (for a meal), high in lean protein, and packed with fiber! It’s also cost effective…and creates just one dirty bowl leaving very little clean-up! 😀

Money Matters: The most expensive ingredient was the tilapia which was on sale for $3.99/lb. Navel oranges were $0.50 and the not-quite in-season corn was $0.98 for the 2 ears that I used. The can of beans was $1.19 and the rest accounted for small additions to the total. The meal total was $8.29 for 4 servings, equaling $2.07/serving!


Cost savings tip! I use a LOT of chipotles in adobo sauce in my cooking! While these flavor-packed peppers are commonly found in the ethnic aisle of any grocery store, you often use a very small portion of the can. Don’t throw out the leftovers — freeze a pepper or two (with sauce) in an individual ziplock and pull them out as you use them!

This is the first of several new recipes I am including in a second round of a “Money Matters” series. I hope you guys enjoy!

I slept like a baby after a 9pm workout last night. I have been busy prepping for this weekend when we will be hosting about 18 guests. Until last night, I hadn’t worked out since the duathlon on Sunday and my body was feeling sore and achy from the lack of movement. I could tell my sleep patterns have been messed up, as well. Exercise…it does the body good!!

And hallelujah! It is FINALLY Friday! I’ve been thinking it was Friday since Wednesday morning and alas, it is here 😀

Question: What do you buy organic, if anything?

Happy weekend!

Share With Your Friends!


  1. Lena
    June 17, 2011 / 7:32 am

    18 Guests – good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚ What is going on??

    Let’s start the 2-week countdown ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Nicole
      June 17, 2011 / 6:27 pm

      WP folks…Mark’s idea, somehow!

  2. Lauren
    June 17, 2011 / 7:38 am

    Love this recipe, will try it out. And I love the chili tip. I spend a lot of $ on food, I think you’re really setting a good example not saying “no organics” but making the best choices you can etc.

  3. Lee
    June 17, 2011 / 8:04 am

    I always buy organic milk and eggs. I try to do it with the dirty dozen when I go to the farmer’s market (really it’s a grocery store, not a real farmer’s market) or Whole Foods, but when I go the regular grocery store, I end up buying conventional produce because the organic selection is awful.

    • Nicole
      June 17, 2011 / 6:27 pm

      Saaame here, exactly.

  4. Erin @ WholesomeRD
    June 17, 2011 / 8:51 am

    Another fantastic recipe to include on my to make list! Have a great weekend Nicole! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Josie
    June 17, 2011 / 9:07 am

    I’m so glad you liked this – it really is an awesome dinner!

    • Nicole
      June 17, 2011 / 6:30 pm

      Not liked…loved ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you!

  6. Liz
    June 17, 2011 / 9:16 am

    This is my kind of meal! I’ll have to leave out the onions for the hubby, but I can’t wait to try it out. I love the tip about the chipotle chiles.

    I buy a mix of organic and conventional produce depending on quality and price. I live near several different farms and I try to buy their produce (even if it isn’t organic) instead of purchasing it from the grocery store. I used a mix of organic and conventional seeds/plants in my garden. We were able to buy a few plants from a local farm.

  7. Katie @ Health for the Whole Self
    June 17, 2011 / 9:28 am

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m all about finding healthy but still inexpensive meals. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. renee@mykitchenadventures
    June 17, 2011 / 10:07 am

    you had me with chipotle peppers in adobo with this recipe…LOVE the stuff. last can I opened, I found ways to include it in all sorts of dishes! lol I think I would LOVE this recipe!

    I am wondering though, can tilapia be wild caught? I thought it was one of those fishes that was primarily farm raised…but I could be wrong?

    • Nicole
      June 17, 2011 / 6:31 pm

      I love the chipotles in adobo, too! I really don’t know what I did without them!

      P.S. You are so right and I need to make that change. I buy a certain brand of fish and all of them have been wild-caught…I stopped checking! Shame on me! Farm-raised, they are. I just hope they weren’t corn-fed! Guessing not…they were SKINNY fillets!

      Happy weekend, Renee!

  9. Mac
    June 17, 2011 / 10:47 am

    It’s good to hear someone like you say that you don’t and can’t always afford to purchase the organic version of food. Especially in the blog world, I sometimes feel like I’m one of the few that doesn’t buy organic and super healthy products all the time.

    • Nicole
      June 17, 2011 / 6:31 pm

      Me too, but we can only do what we can! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Roz
    June 17, 2011 / 10:51 am

    I would buy organic more if I could, but like you, it isn’t always in the budget. I DO buy organic strawberries though…it is the one fruit I’ll splurge for. 18 guests??? You’ll need alot of strawberries!!!! Have a good weekend Nicole!

    • Nicole
      June 17, 2011 / 6:32 pm

      I do, for the most part. If not for the organic part…they just taste WAY better!

  11. Joanne
    June 17, 2011 / 1:20 pm

    I buy almost everything organic but, to be fair, I’m cooking for one and I eat beans on most days so buying organic veggies kind of balances that out. For some things I don’t bother, such as avocadoes and mangoes but I definitely always buy an organic dirty dozen!

    I love this recipe! Simple and yet totally delicious!

  12. Kristen (swanky dietitian)
    June 17, 2011 / 1:20 pm

    I think it’s great that you mentioned the whole organic debate. I would love to buy all organic all the time but I have to agree with you. My budget just doesn’t allow it. I do try to buy organic off the dirty dozen list as much as possible.
    Have a great weekend, Nicole!

  13. Samantha Angela
    June 17, 2011 / 2:11 pm

    I don’t know what the actual shelf life is for chipotles in adobo, but I always transfer mine into a jar and keep them in the fridge usually for several weeks.

    • Nicole
      June 17, 2011 / 6:33 pm

      *I* do that too. But Princess Husband thinks that’s gross. Whatever. I haven’t given him food poisoning yet! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Jenny (Fit Girl Foodie)
    June 17, 2011 / 5:59 pm

    I use to foil bake fish all the time and then I just stopped. This looks incredible. Black beans and corn are my favs ๐Ÿ˜€

  15. Heather @ Get Healthy with Heather
    June 17, 2011 / 6:40 pm

    Wow 18 people?! I’m having 4 over and I feel like I have a lot of planning to do. You rock girl! And so does this recipe. I love simple meals like this. Totally something I’ll try out. The 1 bowl clean up makes me the most happy.

  16. Sophia
    June 17, 2011 / 10:48 pm

    I don’t buy organic usually…I went to the farmers market the other day and got 3 organic peaches for $3. It was ridic! I can’t afford that. I do love organic chicken though, because you can truly taste and feel the difference.

    Love the summery light flavors in this recipe! ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Gina (The Candid RD)
    June 18, 2011 / 7:13 am

    I saw that article the other day, and I printed it to give to customers. BUt then I thought, “will they not buy any of these dirty foods, now??”. So that was a dumb idea. I actually tell people about the fruit and veggie wash you posted once. I try to buy organic, but when I don’t, I clean the produce well!!

    Great recipe here, and I appreciate your cost analysis. Tilapia is on sale at MD today, by the way ๐Ÿ™‚

    Regarding Wednesday. I don’t get off of work until 7pm. The line at Thurmans is always VERY long, so if you and Mark want to get there early, you can, but Nick and I will get there around 7:30pm or 7:45. Is that ok? You don’t have to get there early, we’ll still get a table relatively soon, they are pretty quick.

  18. Jan
    June 18, 2011 / 8:21 am

    ANOTHER Chipotle Tip : Put the entire contents of the can in the food processer and give it a whirl or two. Meaure out 1 tablespoon of mixture on plastic wrap spaced far enough apart to cut and wrap plastic around it . Place all the packets in a freezer bag and you are ready to pullout 1 tablespoon at a time as you need it and it is ready to go straight into your recipe!

    • Sara
      March 25, 2012 / 2:51 pm

      This is brilliant! Thanks for the tip! I had just dumped the whole can in a container and put the in freezer but this would be so much easier!

  19. Cara
    June 18, 2011 / 3:23 pm

    This sounds wonderful! But I’m wondering how the sodium can be so low when using canned beans? Do you not count the sodium after rinsing the beans? I always rinse my beans but I’ve actually been wondering lately how much sodium this “removes” and I’ve been trying to switch to dry bean for both cost and health benefits.

    • Nicole
      June 18, 2011 / 5:54 pm

      Yep! After draining and rinsing studies say 60% of the sodium is removed, so these calculations reflect that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Pingback: Peach-Tilapia Packets | Prevention RD
  21. Sara
    March 25, 2012 / 7:53 pm

    Made this tonight and it was fantastic! It was a bit spicy for us – do you usually take the seeds out of your peppers for this? I was really surprised out well the orange flavor came through. The fish was the best tilapia I’ve had in a long time! Will definitely make this again!

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