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.

NEXT DAY LUNCH UPDATE :

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.

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My Overblown Fears Regarding the Looming Specter of Prediabetes

Posted in anxiety, health by mylifesamess on 06/16/2011

I had my yearly Lexapro / Xanax med check up with my family doctor yesterday.  Overall, the results and conclusions were positive.  I am, however, due for a blood work check up.

When I first went to my doctor for anxiety, he put me on medication, but also had me get some bloodwork done to ensure that there wasn’t an underlying physical condition causing my anxiety.  My bad cholesterol was a little high, but otherwise, my blood was in good shape.  This round of blood work is more of a precautionary check up, but I am definitely nervous.

When I was first seeing my doctor for anxiety problems, I was 19 years old.  I’m about 5’7″ – 5’8″, and, at the time, weighed less than 140 pounds.  Today, I am 27, the same height, and a little under 210 pounds, which appears to be my “plateau” weight.  My doctor warned me that SSRIs caused weight gain, and while I don’t regret going on medication for my mental health, it really is a shocking amount.

It bothers me a lot, mostly for superficial reasons.  Having been on both sides of the spectrum, people in general treat you a lot nicer if you’re a thin, pretty girl than if you’re an overweight, ok looking girl.  I try not to complain about my weight to my friends, but sometimes my frustration comes through.  Some friends insist that I’ll always be beautiful, no matter what my weight.  Some are barely able to conceal their disgust.  One friend even insinuated that I’m too fat to wear a style of bridesmaid dress that I told her I liked for an upcoming wedding that I’m in.  (She was wrong, it looked very nice on me.  I got independent confirmation.)

The other part of my weight that bothers me, particularly today, is the health consequences.  I’m concerned about my heart health and about developing type two diabetes.  I’ve been doing better the last few weeks at eating well and getting some physical activity, but I definitely go through phases where I don’t get nearly enough exercise and eat a lot of junk.  Also, I love cookies.  All the time.

One of my co-workers developed prediabetes about a year ago.  I know this because I work the next desk over from her, and she told at least half a dozen people who passed by her desk about it.  Her doctor gave her three months to lower her blood sugar through diet and exercise, which she was unable to do.  The problem was that she kept focusing on what she wasn’t eating instead of what she was eating.  She’s now on medication to try and control her prediabetes.

Granted, she’s 20 years older than me, much less active, and a prohibitively picky eater, but hearing about her experience makes me worry that my weight gain is leading me down the same path.  Honestly, I would be ashamed if I received that diagnosis.  I don’t mean that to be a blanket for everyone who receives that diagnosis, I just mean for me, personally.  I would think that perhaps my friends were right to be disgusted by me, and that I really was just a gross, sloppy fat girl who now leads a sad, depressing life.

That’s a little much, time to pull back.  I know that it’s highly unlikely that I’m suffering from prediabetes.  I also find fear to be a poor and inconstant motivator.  I think that the desire to be healthy is a far better motivator than the fear of being unhealthy.  There have been a few different factors that have come together in the past few weeks that have helped me be better when it comes to food and exercise.  I hope that they can help me to stay motivated, or to at least keep trying.  Trying is something.