Mylifesamess's Blog

Spicy Pinto Beans Revisited

Posted in cooking, health by mylifesamess on 06/20/2011

A couple months ago, after eating at Q’Doba or whatever, I began to desire a spicy pinto bean recipe that I could make at home.  Some Google searching led me to this recipe :

Spicy Pinto Bean Recipe

It sounded delicious, but I’ve just never gotten along with dry beans in the kitchen.  Or tofu.  Which, as a vegetarian, makes me feel like a hack.  Nonetheless, I decided to use canned beans instead, and drastically reduced the amount of cooking liquid.

I was unhappy with the end result.  Perhaps it was because of the canned versus dry beans, but my tongue told me that it was the vegetable broth.  The small amount I had used to cook the onions before adding in the beans completely overtook the strong flavors of the onions, garlic, and pepper.  The end result was unpleasant.

I wasn’t quite ready to give up on the recipe, though.  Tonight, I remade the dish with some major modifications.

Instead of using water and broth, I sauteed the yellow onion, green onions, poblano chili, garlic, cumin, and pepper flakes in some olive oil for a few minutes in hopes of retaining more of the flavors of the ingredients.  I rinsed off the contents of two cans of pinto beans in a colander to clean them off, and then added them to the pan, reducing the heat and cooking them all together for another few minutes.  Two cans of beans is about half of what the recipe originally calls for in dry beans.  I decided to use less beans because sauteeing changed the consistency, and also because I wanted plenty of onions to go with the beans.  Then, I just added the pepper, cilantro, and lime juice as the original recipe instructed.

Here’s a crappy cell phone picture of the end result in an attractive plastic container :

The end result was, for me, a significant improvement.  Not only could I still taste the onion and garlic, but there was a very pleasant, satisfying spiciness to the beans that I had been looking for.  I think this may be a recipe I’ll add to my regular repertoire, which is in dire need of expansion.  Maybe I’ll try a different kind of oil next time.  I’m also not completely sold on the cilantro, especially considering how difficult and expensive it can be to obtain fresh cilantro in grocery stores around here.  And, yes, I’ve tried to grow a porch herb garden.  It got scorched to hell within a week, but that’s a topic for a different post.


I had the spicy pinto beans I made last night for lunch today.  While the modifications were, for me, a step in the right direction, there’s a flavor missing from the mix that it needs to push it from sort of good to great.  Allow me to preface my thoughts by saying that I’m not a terribly experienced cook or foodie, so my knowledge base is fairly limited.

I dislike salt, and for that reason, I omitted the salt the recipe called for, which may have been part of it.  Then I wondered if I needed a more flavorful onion.  The beans were hearty and a bit sweet, but I need more of the hearty / sweet flavor that I’m having trouble identifying.  Maybe it’s tangy that I’m looking for?  I’ve never used tomato paste, but I wondered if that might help.  Maybe a more flavorful sautee medium?

Anyway, I’ll keep thinking about it and keep experimenting.  Also, note to myself, chili flakes can be omitted next time.  The poblano pepper has more than enough heat for my taste.

Tagged with: , , ,

Buttercream Icing

Posted in baking, cooking, motivation, Organization by mylifesamess on 06/07/2011

I went to my mom’s after work today and baked a cake.  It turned out ok.  Tasty, but not very pretty.

Luckily, during my afternoon break at work, I took a moment to study my recipes a bit and discovered a difference that I hadn’t noticed when I first compared the Julia Child buttercream recipe to the one accompanying the Martha Stewart recipe.  The Martha Stewart recipe creates the syrup for the icing using egg whites and sugar.  Julia Child creates the syrup using sugar and water, then calls for it to be whisked in with egg yolks.  I’ve made the mistake before of using the wrong part of the egg because I didn’t read the recipe close enough, so I’m very glad I caught it.

The Julia Child recipe was much tastier, but it was quite a bit thinner and difficult to spread, even after whipping in additional butter.  Part of the problem could have been that the egg yolk / syrup mixture didn’t form properly while I had it sitting over the pan of simmering water.  I don’t believe I got the “ribbon” effect that Child describes.  I’ll also try to remember next time to make the icing ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge for a while to see if that might help with the firmness.

The cake portion turned out fantastically, as it did last time.  It turns out a beautifully moist cake with the perfect blend of raspberries.  I made two tiers and frosted it, then decorated the top with fresh raspberries.

I thought about posting the Julia Child recipe, but I hesitated as it may constitute copyright infringement.  The recipe I used was called “Creme au Beurre, au Sucre Cuit (French Butter Cream Made with Sugar Syrup)” from her book “The French Chef Cookbook.”

I don’t know if it’s true, but I often feel like being organized and prepared is still new to my life.  Today was a hectic day, but I enjoyed it because I had my shit together and was ready to go.  I was able to attack the daunting tasks I faced today with order and precision, and it was totally satisfying.  I’m wondering if my motivation for an organized life waxes and wanes depending on whether I feel challenged in my life.