Refried Beans: Easier Than You Think!

I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile, but I can’t ever seem to remember to take a picture.  Which is why I have no picture accompaniment – but I’ll add one next time I make this.  After all, Sarah asked for the recipe.


Let’s start by saying that I love beans in just about any form.  I’ve eaten beans nearly every day of my life, which is probably why many of my recipes involve them.  I used canned refried beans when cooking them until this last year, though, because it seemed easier.  Not tastier, though, if you’re used to the real thing – and when you’re buying the Amy’s brand, they can be pricey.


As with many things I post, this hardly seems post-worthy – but it’s easy, frugal, nourishing, and most of all, flavorful.  The spices really should be added to taste, so please adjust as needed or start with smaller amounts and taste as you go.  This is really just a guideline as to what flavors should be present.


Refried Beans


1 pound dried pinto or black beans (or mix of both – but the black dominates)

Pinch of asafoetida or epazote

¼ cup olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander seed

Salt and pepper to taste (I use a lot)


1. Soak beans for 24 hours (or overnight if that’s all the time you have).  The next morning, drain soak water, add new water and a pinch of asafoetida or epazote, and cook on low in a crock pot all day until dinner time.  Don’t add any of the other seasonings yet – the salt, especially, will slow down cooking time.  (You could also cook the beans in a pot on the stove; adjust cook time accordingly.)


2. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven, adding the onions when hot.  After onions have softened, add garlic, cumin, and coriander and sauté about two more minutes. 


3. Add cooked beans, salt, and pepper.  Mash the beans (still in the pot) with a potato masher until they look the way you like them – Husband prefers not to see a lot of whole bean, so we mash quite a bit – and taste for seasoning.  I’m always needing to add more salt here.




– Chicken broth could be substituted for the water during the bean cooking step.

– If you opt to cook the beans on the stove instead of the crockpot, just sauté the onions and garlic in a small saucepan then add them in with all the seasonings to the cooked beans.  I’ve done this before and it works fine.

– I’ve tried to make this entirely a crockpot thing, but it never seemed to taste as good.


So what’s next?


Well, following my obsession with sprouting, I’d love to come up with a sprouted and refried bean recipe.  I don’t imagine it would change much except in the cooking time.  So expect that to come soon.


Also, I would like to try making them with lard – the most traditional preparation.  I don’t, however, have access to high quality lard (just the hydrogenated stuff at the store – yuck!), and I haven’t yet tried to render it myself. 


How do you make refried beans?

Part of the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.


Butter, At Last!

Every now and then I skim the cream off my raw milk to make butter.  But something always seems to go wrong, and I give up for a month or so.  The first time I made it was the best – I put all the cream into my Bosch mixer, ran it on speed 2 (out of 4), and after an hour (of mixer noise!) finally got butter.  The lesson I should’ve taken away from that was next time, run it on a higher speed.


I tend toward airheadedness, though, so I decided that next time I would use a blender or food processor since it might work better in a smaller space.  Well, I tried both of those with no success – just a splitting headache and an irritable husband afterward.


Last week I decided to save the cream from two weeks’ worth of milk and try again in the mixer at a higher speed.  I used to get a gallon per week, now I just get half a gallon, so there’s really not enough cream in a half gallon to make it work.  And all of those things together were magic – after half an hour I had butter!




(Ignore the indentation from my fingers – I was too excited about this to smooth it out before I took a picture.)


I’m not going to give a tutorial here about how to do this, since I’m definitely not an expert.  But if you Google “how to make raw milk butter,” you’ll find plenty of resources.  I let mine sit at room temperature on the counter for 12 hours (which is supposed to improve the flavor), but other than that, I followed the general instructions.  Now I need to figure out what to do with the leftover buttermilk, since I can’t cook with it (on account of D’s allergy).  Anyone want some buttermilk?

Menu Plan: Week of April 13, 2009

In that particular is contained the universal. – James Joyce, on writing about Dublin.


I’m beginning to wonder why I post my menu plans every week – they’re an important part of my home management, but I’m not so sure they make great reading.  Most of what we eat isn’t terribly exciting, unless (like me) you find beauty in things simple and quotidian.  Too much of the same is boring, though, and it keeps me accountable to tell the internet this bit of business.  So for now, the menu plans continue.  This week is full of chicken…


Roast chicken, baked sweet potatoes, green beans

Sesame Ginger Chicken, rice

Turkey pumpkin chili (yes, I still have pumpkin!!)

Beef or bean tacos, refried pinto beans, Mexi-millet (or quinoa)

Sausage and bean soup, cornbread

Mediterranean chicken, salad or wilted greens

Hamburgers with sweet potato fries


Really, I’m not trying to compare myself to Joyce – my menu plans are not the Rosetta stone to unlocking all of humanity’s secrets.  What we are eating does, however, make a statement about who we are and what we value.  Which means I’m probably going to turn into a hamburger or sweet potato fry anytime now…





Citrusy Rhubarb Sauce for Breakfast, Dessert

Is rhubarb showing up in your gardens, CSA boxes, or farmers’ markets yet?  Truly, rhubarb is the bellwether of spring.  Asparagus, too, but ruddy rhubarb makes a more striking contrast with the drabness of winter. 


Packed with vitamin K, vitamin C, and even some calcium, rhubarb belongs on any spring menu.  Its tart, celery-textured stalks play well with the sweetness of honey or fruit.  Try this sweet-tart sauce on baked oatmeal or with breakfast porridge, yogurt, or ice cream – including a full-fat dairy product will help the absorption of the vitamin K.




Citrusy Rhubarb Sauce


3 stalks of rhubarb, diced

½ cup raw honey

1 clementine (zest and juice)

A few dashes of cinnamon (1/4 tsp?)

3-4 whole cloves


Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat on the lowest heat possible to keep at a very low simmer until the rhubarb softens.  (You can test it by trying to cut it with a spatula – it should fall apart with no resistance.)  Serve warm or let it cool and refrigerate for later, and remove cloves before serving.



I will post a recipe for strawberry rhubarb vinaigrette as soon as local strawberries are available.  This farm, right around the corner from my house, runs a u-pick during strawberry season.


What do you like to do with rhubarb?

Part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays carnival.




Spanish moss and intricate wrought iron ornamentation – these things use to bring to mind the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.  How sad (for me) that my only understanding of such lovely things was a campy ride at a commercial theme park!




Needless to say, we had a great time and will definitely be visiting again.  We didn’t even scratch the surface exploring the city. 




We did a lot of walking around, though, admiring beautiful detail everywhere.




Husband enjoyed fresh shrimp and grits at Hyman’s – a restaurant at which we ate on the recommendation of friends.




My favorite food experience was Taco Boy in Folly Beach.  We ate there in spite of our fear of South Carolinean Mexican food, but we figured that since it was near the beach, that would somehow make it good.  Luckily, we were correct!  I had a baja-style fish taco (similar to Rubio’s or Wahoo’s, for you Californians) and a potato and chorizo taco. 




The fish taco was my favorite, even though the sauce was a little sweet.  The potato chorizo combination was a bit too sweet, as well, and didn’t taste like the chorizo I’m used to.  I would, however, still highly recommend Taco Boy if you’re ever in the area!


Husband loved his tacos, too – he got a grilled fish taco and a carnitas taco.




The kids ate rice and beans…




…and really enjoyed them.




It’s so nice to get away, even if it’s just for a weekend.

Menu Plan: Week of April 6, 2009

We just got back from a weekend in South Carolina – one night visiting friends in Columbia, the other night in Charleston enjoying the beach and the beautiful old city.  More on that later.


I planned this week’s dinners on the trip home, and they’re full of ingredients we have in our house – that way I don’t have to spend a bunch of money on food after we spent money on vacation.  It probably sounds like a boring week, but it’s all easy, which none of us mind.


Leftover carnitas burritos (from Friday)

Lubia polo (didn’t get to last week; mine will have substitutions)

Salmon, millet pilaf, plus whatever veg looks good

Mediterranean chicken

Lentil soup

Sausage and bean soup (using up leftover Andouille)


Now it’s off to bed to recover from our little trip!

What Exactly is “Natural Flavoring”?

I’ve heard many pastors and teachers talk about the insidiousness of Satan, and how he entangles us not by such obvious sins as murder and stealing, but rather subtly with things like pride and covetousness – problems that can be deeply rooted before we ever realize they are problems.  For some reason, this makes me think of the deception involved in nutritional labeling. 


Wait, am I really comparing the processed food industry to Satan?  Maybe – but really, my point is that we have to be perceptive to avoid deception.  I’m pretty sure most people can’t tell you what sodium benzoate, TBHQ, or hydrolyzed vegetable protein are, but they could easily do some research to find out.  But what about a meaningless phrase like natural flavors?


When a label has natural flavors listed in the ingredients, it means (as you would probably guess) that the flavors cannot come from synthetic (artificial) sources.  More specifically, they can be derived from


the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. (source)


Does this present a problem for anyone?  We have allergy issues in our family, so it is very important for us to know if something contains even a very small amount of dairy protein.  While my daughter is very sensitive, there are people who are even more sensitive – like people with peanut allergies who cannot tolerate 20 ppm of anything peanut-related before they go into anaphylactic shock.  Read this story about a wheat-allergic toddler’s reaction to a chicken nugget marketed as gluten-free.


And there’s also the issue of religious dietary restrictions.  Sure, there are kosher agencies that monitor larger food processing operations.  This article goes into detail about what they look for and how it’s done.  After reading that article, though, I was left with the impression that there are many possibilities for gaps – specifically when it comes to cross-consulting with other kosher authorities.  I’m sure the rabbis do their best, but they’re still human.  And of course, Judaism is not the only religion with dietary restrictions.


My vegetarian friends should also be concerned with ambiguous labeling.  I was vegetarian for many years, and during this period of my life, it would’ve bothered me to know that animal products could be concealed within my food.  I consumed more processed foods then, like soy milk and Boca burgers, so my diet wasn’t as whole foods-based as it is now.  But if you’re intentional about keeping animal products out of your food, then this is something to consider.



Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions with how evil this whole thing is, but I just don’t like not knowing what’s in my food.  The USDA has a list of food additives that are “generally recognized as safe” – but do you trust a government agency that has proven ties to the lobbying of Big Food?  The only way to avoid the conundrum of natural flavors is to avoid the processed food that contains them.  If a label indicates the presence of natural flavors, then it is obviously a highly-processed food and should be avoided.


How do you feel about buying a product with an ingredient called natural flavors?  Does this send up a red flag?