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Beans, beans, good for your heart

March 27, 2005

There’s nothing like coming home at the end of the day and smelling a pot of beans simmering in the kitchen. Beans are so simple, so yummy, so cheap. We prefer black beans, because they seem to have their own distinct flavor and don’t need much to make them delicious.

My basic black bean recipe is so easy, it’s embarrassing. I got the idea from a Rick Bayless cookbook, and we’ve been making these beans ever since.

Black Beans

  • 1 pound dry black beans
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cups water
  • Salt to taste

Clean and rinse the beans, making sure to remove any rocks or damaged beans. Add them to a 2 to 3 quart crockpot along with the onion, oil, and water. Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours, or on low for 7 to 8 hours, until beans are tender. Add salt during last hour of cooking (usually 1 to 2 teaspoons is plenty for us).

This amount of water makes brothy beans, which we happen to love. We like to serve the beans with their broth in a bowl, topped with chopped tomato, crumbled queso fresco, and avocado. We usually have tons of leftovers, so we’ll make black bean chalupas, flautas, or tacos the next day. To “refry” the beans the next day, I just plop them in a skillet and heat them up, mashing with a potato masher until they’re as mushed as we like them.

You can also soak the beans for a few hours or overnight, and discard the soaking water to get rid of some of the gas-causing compounds in the beans. If you don’t have a crockpot, you can simmer the beans on the stove for a couple of hours, checking them occasionally to make sure they haven’t dried out (if they have, you can add hot water as needed).

Basically, you can’t go wrong with beans. I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad pot of beans, whether they were pinto, black, or any other kind. We always make a big pot of them, since they can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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The boys

March 24, 2005

Allow me to introduce you to a few of the men in my life. Pictured above is Ernie. What can I say about Ernie? He’s sweet and loving, and he’ll just sit in front of you all day as long as you pet him. He’ll lay his head in your lap, or sometimes just offer you a paw to hold.

Below is Sebastian. Aaah…Sebastian. He is sometimes a little too full of life. He likes to jump, he likes to be really, really close to you, and he will plop down on your lap if you let him.

Not pictured is Bert. Bert is the quiet type; he still keeps his distance from me, occasionally stopping by for a quick rub behind the ears, but mostly he seems uninterested in hanging out on our little patio.

Thus passes another afternoon in my busy, busy life, hanging out with these guys and shootin’ the breeze with Todd downstairs. Oops…was I supposed to be looking for a job today?

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Just another day

March 23, 2005

So I guess Roux likes towels. First he christened our towel-rug, and now he’s taken over our towel basket. He curls up in it and sleeps there, and we end up having to wash the towels since they’re covered with Roux hair.

Today I took Justin to the orthopedist, who said he had chipped part of the joint in his thumb (proximal phalanx, Justin says), and that he didn’t think surgery was necessary. Which was good, because honestly I hadn’t even thought that surgery was a possibility–scary! He has a removable splint that he has to wear for three weeks, and then we go back to see if it has healed well. Poor guy. No biking, no X-box, no buttoning his pants alone.

After lunch, I took a walk downtown to the library. Man, I love Austin. On the way I passed by beautiful historic houses, city lofts, a BMX bike course, trendy hair salons, and plenty of squirrels and birds. It only took me about 25 minutes to get there, and I was just strolling. I spent the afternoon finding collections of food writing and flipping through back issues of Saveur magazine. I could seriously get used to not working.

One more random thought for the day: TV is an addictive drug. I am addicted. It’s calling my name. I used to watch an occasional PBS show, or maybe a cooking show or two. Now, I’m loving Everyday Italian and West Wing and Buffy and Project Greenlight and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and random movies on Showtime, Cinemax, HBO or Starz…how do people live their lives around the TV schedule? I guess that’s why they have Tivo. I draw the line at Tivo. We get cable for free (thanks Tim and Todd!), but I sometimes wonder whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s free entertainment, but it’s also like a vacuum, sucking you in, and filling your head with subliminal messages (“I need a new haircut like hers” or “oooh, that looks good, maybe we’ll go for an ice cream later” or “man, I need one of those revolving tupperware organizers”) that encourage you to spend, spend, spend. Then again, without TV, I would never know what people are talking about most of the time (“Hey, did you see that commercial…”).

Aside from TV, I’ve been reading a great book called The Tummy Trilogy by Calvin Trillin. It’s all about food and gluttony, my favorite topics. If it’s available at your library, I highly recommend checking it out (or, if you’re an Austinite, BookPeople currently has it on its bargain table for $6.99!!). It’s incredibly funny, and totally focused on the art of eating good food (not healthy food, just good food).

Okay, internet, enough rambling for tonight. Stay tuned…

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No more monkeys jumping on the bed.

March 22, 2005

Justin had never heard this little nursery rhyme:

Ten little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and broke his head
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
“No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”

He went mountain biking on Sunday on a pretty tough trail, and ended up with the above fractured thumb. (Don’t ask us where the fracture is; we just know it’s fractured.) So tomorrow, bright and early, we’re heading off to a bone and joint specialist to wrap it up. If he gets a cast, I’ll take a picture of it for you guys.

So he’s grounded from mountain biking, and what’s sad is that he can’t even play his X-box (since he can’t use his thumb), and he’s having a hard time doing little things like opening jars of pickles or putting toothpaste on his toothbrush. It’s cute.

For those of you still mountain biking, please remember, the nursery rhyme continues with “nine little monkeys jumping on the bed…” Please, don’t be the next monkey.

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Pasta Alla Norma

March 22, 2005

I made this for dinner last night, and it was so good! I substituted bowtie pasta for the penne, and tried to cut the amounts in half, but we still have tons of leftovers. I would also recommend peeling the eggplant…even though it looks prettier with the skin on, it seemed a bit too tough for my taste. The basil really added a fresh taste to the dish. I thought it tasted great with or without the ricotta cheese, so if you’re iffy about buying a container of ricotta for this, you could easily skip it. I’m left with a lotta ricotta now, although I did use a little for dessert. I adapted a recipe for cannoli cream from Giada’s new book. You basically whip up some fresh cream with a little powdered sugar and cinnamon, fold in some ricotta, and use it as a topping for macerated fruit. I used sliced strawberries tossed with a little sugar and balsamic vinegar…yum!

Pasta Alla Norma

  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup torn fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain pasta; return to pot.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add eggplant to skillet; season generously with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook until eggplant begins to release juices, about 5 minutes. Uncover; cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes (if bottom of pan browns too much, add a few tablespoons water, and scrape with a spoon).

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1/4 cup water to skillet; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Toss sauce and basil with pasta; gently reheat if necessary. Top each serving with a spoonful of ricotta, and garnish with more basil.

Makes 4 to 6 servings. (Ha! I made half the amount and it made 4 to 6 servings.)

Source: Everyday Food, September 2003

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