Beans and Rice

Look no further for a tasty, inexpensive, nutritious, easy-to-make meal than Beans and Rice.

beans and riceSo — does this qualify as a recipe?  Sort of.  Think of it as an outline for the ultimate frugal meal – a delicious time-tested combo of creamy pinto beans with nutty brown rice, with a few toppings for flavor and color.  There are few foods as nutrition-packed as beans, and they are really inexpensive.  Beans and Rice is dedicated to my son, who is cooking for himself with a limited budget and doing a great job.

Beans and Rice
(note: beans take a couple hours to simmer.  Can easily be made a day or two in advance)

dried pinto beans
short grain brown rice
Optional Toppings: sour cream, fresh tomato, avocado, chipotle powder, fresh cilantro, lime wedges, cheese, corn kernels, sauteed summer squash

Pinto beans are a forgiving bean to cook.  I have found that presoaking these beans is not necessary.  Place the rinsed dried pinto beans in a pot, and cover with water by at least 1 inch.  The idea is to always have water covering the beans, knowing that these are dry beans and will double in volume as they absorb the water.

Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on very low for about 2 hours, or until the beans are tender. Check them after an hour to be sure there is still water covering them.  Add more if needed.   At least 10 minutes before serving, add some salt to taste.  How much salt?  It really depends on how much beans and water you have.  As a bench mark, add 1/2 to 1 tsp salt for every quart of water used.   Remember that you can always add more salt, but you can’t take it out.

Prepare your rice according to directions for the variety you use.  Because I have access to good, local short grain brown rice, this is my preferred variety.  Combine 2 cups brown rice with 3 cups water in pan.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for about 35 minutes.

Serve rice and beans side by side in a bowl.  Top with whatever fresh toppings you choose and enjoy!

Barbie Cake: Project Runway

This year’s birthday cake of choice for my daughter was another Barbie Cake.  She’s going off to Parsons in the Fall, so I was challenged to make a Project Runway cake.

Barbie rose cake frontI didn’t feel like I had what it took to do that, so delayed my start – procrastination coupled with fear.   The cake was not quite cool enough to decorate when I had all of 15 minutes to get it ready before guests arrived.  With four capable young adults as helpers, we decided to forgo detailed frosting decoration and instead use the last of some beautiful roses in my garden.  They helped pull it off, and the cake was lovely.  Made from scratch, with simple vanilla frosting, covered in luscious hot pink rose petals and a few pale pink sugar pearls – a surprisingly simple and lovely cake for a beautiful daughter.

barbie rose cake back

Below is the larger batch of of my own Chocolate Cake batter needed to make this cake.  For more complete directions, click Barbie Cake.

Barbie Cake Sized Chocolate Cake Recipe
Serves 12 – 16

4.5 oz bittersweet chocolate
12 oz boiling water
12.75 oz (2 2/3 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
10.5 oz (1 1/2 cup) white sugar
12 oz (1 1/2 cup packed) light brown sugar
3.75 oz (1 1/4 cup) natural cocoa powder
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp vanilla extract
4 extra large eggs (or 4 large eggs and 1 egg white)
12 oz (1 1/2 cup) buttermilk
5 1/4 oz (3/4 cup) vegetable oil

Prepare your two pans — one Wondermold pan and one 8 inch round by spraying with baking spray with flour.

In a small heatproof bowl mix chocolate and boiling water.  Blend until chocolate is melted.  It may look a little clumpy – don’t worry.  Set this aside while you mix the rest of the batter.

Mix all the rest of the ingredients on low for 20 seconds or so just to combine.  Scrape down the side of the bowl, then mix on medium for 2 minutes.  Add the water/chocolate mixture to batter.  It’s OK if the water/chocolate mixture is still warm.  Mix on low to combine.  Batter will be thin.

Pour batter into prepared pans.

barbie cake chocolatePut both pans in the oven and bake at 325 until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean.  For the 8-inch layer, test after 30 minutes.  The Wondermold cake will take about an hour to bake.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto parchment lined plates to cool completely.

Plunge in the Barbie of choice, frost the “dress” area with Vanilla Frosting, then cover with rose petals.  Make sure rose petals were grown without any pesticides.  You will need the petals of 6 – 7 full, fluffy roses.

Mermaid Popcorn

This is a riff on a familiar treat – popcorn.  It’s a crunchy, umami-laced snack that any mermaid would love.

Mermaid PopcornThe addition of the common Japanese seasoning furikake makes gives it a great taste.  I find that grinding the furikake using a mortar and pestle helps to evenly distribute the flavor onto the popcorn.  You can also put the unground furikake on your popped popcorn — it’s a matter of preference.

Here’s the furikake, unground:

Mermaid Furikake

And here it is, after a few grinds with the mortar and pestle:
Mermaid furikake ground

Mermaid Popcorn – aka, Furikake Popcorn

1/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup furikake
sea salt, to taste

Grind furikake in a mortar and pestle until it breaks up and begins to get powdery.  Set aside.

Heat a large, covered heavy-bottomed stock pot on high heat.  Add the oil and then the popcorn kernels to the pan before it gets too hot.  Cover pan and listen for the sound of popping corn.  Leave the pot covered and the popcorn will pop vigorously, then slow down.  Give the covered pan a shake or two mid-pop.  When the pops have slowed down considerably, take pan off heat and immediately pour popcorn into a large bowl.  All in, the timing is pretty fast, just a minute from unpopped to almost all done.  (Be careful, as the pan will be hot.)  Season hot popcorn with ground furikake, adding extra sea salt to taste if needed.


Hot Milk Sponge Cake

Here’s a  light, tasty, easy-to-make sponge cake.  It stays moist and fluffy for a couple days, and the texture is perfect.  Top it with some vanilla frosting or whipped cream and strawberries & bananas and you have a solid gold dessert.

Hot Milk Sponge cakeThe 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book is my go-to recipe source for basic home baking.  It was produced back in the day when home cooks baked and cooked daily.  I will just reprint the original  recipe straight from the book.  No tweaks or improvements needed.  Why mess with perfection?  Enjoy.

Hot Milk Sponge Cake RecipeBetty Crocker Cook Book