Home-cooked Pinto Beans, Refried Beans, and Cardinals To Boot

Less than 1/10 of an inch (near 529 and Huffmeister), but the new rain gauge is ready to take on more.

Friday has brought another tranquil morning, and as I’m on vacation I’m going to enjoy it to the fullest.

This morning when I got up to take Annie out, there was a light rain coming down, so I was more ready to go out that she was.  Yesterday, I had put up a rain gauge.  The farm kid in me wanted a rain gauge to go along with my new garden.  There’s a perfect post right at the garden gate that’s right out in the open away from the influence of the surrounding trees.  Because it was still almost dark at that time, I couldn’t see how much precipitation–if any–had collected in the gauge.

I went back inside, but soon was ready for something to eat.  I don’t know what it is–on a work day morning, I’m not hungry when I get up, but when I have a day off, I feel like eating and usually make a substantial breakfast.

Yesterday I had made chile colorado and cooked some pinto beans.  (I’ll post the recipe for chile colorado later.)   I had wanted to make frijoles a la charra (ranch-style beans), but I didn’t have all the ingredients.  Anyway, when it comes to cooking, sometimes simple is better.  Here is what I did:

Home-cooked Pinto Beans

2 cups dry pinto beans  (Wash the beans in a colander, place in a large bowl, and add at least twice as much water as beans.  Let the beans soak for at least 4 hours, but overnight is even better.

When the beans are soaked and ready to cook:

1 medium onion chopped

1 cloves garlic (smash the garlic with the side of a big knife and then finely mince

2 tablespoons olive oil.

Heat the olive oil in a 2-quart pot and add the chopped onions.  Sauté the onions until they begin to change color, and then add the garlic.  (Garlic tends to burn if you cook for the same time as the onion.)

Once the vegetables are sautéd, dump the beans and water into the pot.  Add more water for a total of 1 1/2 quarts.  The water should be an inch or two below the rim of the pot.

At this point add a bit of ham, bacon, or salt port.  I had some thin deli ham, so I put in a couple slices, not very much at all.

Turn up the heat to medium-high, put the lid on the pot, and bring the water to a boil.  After the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat and partially cover the pot with the lid.  Cook the beans at a very low simmer for at least an hour and then check on them.  When the skins start to split, strain one or two beans out of the liquid and check them for doneness.  If they are still grainy, they’ll need at least an hour more.

In the food processor, pulse together: 1 can of stewed tomatoes, 2 tablespoons grape jelly, and 1/3 cup ketchup.

Add this mixture to the beans before they are completely cooked and let everything finish cooking together.  When the beans are completely cooked, salt and pepper to taste.

The broth is very tasty, so you could serve this as a soup, or strain the beans and serve them just as a vegetable.

Quick, easy, and yummy!For my breakfast this morning, I decided to take advantage of what I had cooked yesterday, so I strained out about a cup of the beans and pulsed them in the food processor.  Don’t overdo it, you want to keep some bean texture and not have a dip!

So in my non-stick frying pan, I cooked two eggs and added the beans for refried beans.  Why do they call them “refried” beans?  They’ve already been cooked, but “fried”?  Only once.  Maybe the refrying is in the method.  To get the beans nice and crispy on the outside, keep turning and turning them, something like you might do with a potato pancake.  Never made them?  Well, keep turning the beans until they look tasty.

Breakfast is ready!The light rain let up and I went out to eat my breakfast on the patio.  Once again, I feel like I’m truly on vacation.  My back yard is such as pleasant place.

Just to add to the peaceful environment, a pair of cardinals came to scratch in the grass and have a bit of breakfast while I was enjoying mine.

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The Plot Thickens, or Why Do My Fingernails Have This Much Dirt Under Them?

Rough little garden plot and tools--a guy can never have too many tools!

I have nothing but good things to say about Daylight Savings Time.  Getting home from work with still more than a good hour of useable light makes the entire evening seem longer.  Having a yard and being able to plant what I wanted was one of the big reasons that getting a home of my own was important to me.

The plants in all the pots that suffered from the move and then the colder than usual winter are now beginning to look like they are enjoying their new place, quickly putting out new shoots and bright blossoms.  I’ve also added  bedding plants in the neglected bed on the sunny side of the house.  It’s amazing after throwing quite a bit of money at Lowe’s for some great looking plants, how sparse the bed still looks, but I’m hoping they’ll grow and spread.

Far in advance, I’d picked up a variety of flower bulbs,  gladiolus and irises, and they are now shooting up green spikes from the pots.  I still haven’t conquered the moles.  So far I’ve gone the repellent route, trying to avoid sinking spikes filled with poison down into the yard where Annie plays and sometimes nibbles at the tender green grass.

Along with the flower bulbs, I found that I had purchased (maybe even back in December or January) some onion sets.  The smallest amount I could get was a plastic bag of 80 of the small starter onions.  I finally decided that maybe I could make a try at a small vegetable plot behind my garage.  There’s a space of about 12 feet by 20 feet that with care and a lot of mulch might finally work.  But I was determined to get the onions put into the ground.  Even though there were roots from a tree that the back neighbor had cut down, digging up the soil wasn’t all that hard.  It’s very sandy, and like much of the Houston area, it’s not very far down until you start hitting clay, about 10 inches down, where I was digging.  I mixed in some rotting leaves and raked over the soil, dug a small trench, and dropped in the onions.  For good measure, I covered most of it up with some more leaves.  Only a few days after I had put in the onions, my co-worker kindly gave me a couple of squash plants.  I’ve put them into the ground too but dug a hole and put in some good shovelsful of potting soil.

Will the trellis be an incentive for this little squash plant?

The little squash plants are growing new leaves, and today when I went out for the obligatory inspection–lo and behold–there were two onions sending up little slivers of green, seeming to say, “Hey, this may not be the best soil, but we’re going to try out best.”  In answer, over to the spigot I went, ready to give these new little green guys and all of their plant amigos a drink.