In an oven-safe sauté pan with deep sides and oven-safe lid, or a cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and sauté quickly, until fragrant. Add onions and cook until soft, about four minutes.
Add sweet potato, sugar, and spices and stir to coat. Add bay leaf, rice, beans, and water.
Remove from heat and cover with lid or tightly with aluminum foil. Place pan in the oven and cook for 45 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft and rice is cooked. Stir and add salt and pepper, to taste. Enjoy hot.