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Start preparing the white rice according to the directions on the package. If the rice is ready before the beans, just turn the burner off and let the rice sit with the lid on until ready to use.
Chop the bacon into large chunks. Heat a large (12″) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally with a spatula or wooden spoon, until the bacon is browned and most of the fat has rendered out. This should take about 9 – 10 minutes. If the bacon is browning too quickly, turn the heat down.
While the bacon is cooking, dice the onion (and bell pepper, if using).
Once the bacon is cooked, drain most of the grease, leaving about 1 – 2 tbsp. in the pan (leaving some grease in the pan is optional but I recommend it!). Return the pan to the heat and add the chopped vegetables, plus the salt, pepper, and spices. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes or until the onion begins to soften.
Add the tomato paste and continue to cook for another minute, stirring the paste around so it is evenly incorporated with the other ingredients and no lumps of tomato paste remain.
Add the water and two cans of undrained kidney beans to the pan. Scrape up any brown bits stuck to the pan with your wooden spoon or spatula. Simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce is thickened to your liking. Turn down the heat if necessary to maintain the gentle simmer.
Taste the beans and add more salt and/or pepper if needed. Serve in bowls over the prepared white rice.