Beans and Rice: A Recipe and a History

The easiest, simplest, most long-standing meal tradition in the OP household is that of beans and rice. Beans and rice is a classic Cuban meal, originating in my family from my Cuban great-grandparents who moved to America just before they had my grandmother. At the time of their move, Cuba was in a great state of turmoil and change. A revolution in 1933 sought to overturn the current dictator, and the country cycled through several leaders and governmental systems in the span of a few years afterwards. Growing up in America with Cuban parents, my Cuban-American grandma has incorporated both cuisines into many delicious traditions in my family. Dessert-wise, she makes the most amazing flan, stunning pecan pie, unbelievable tres leches cake, and perfect chocolate fudge. And I have her to thank for the tradition of a main course I practically grew up on: good ol’ beans and rice.

tostones (fried plantains) and beans and rice at a cuban restaurant in alphabet city

Beans and rice is a meal that is cheap, quick, and full of protein and nutrition for hungry little ones. I remember asking my dad to serve me only beans (avoiding peppers and onions) when I was young with a picky palate. Then, as an adolescent learning to love veggies, I would ask my mom to chop the peppers and onions into smaller, less noticeable pieces. And then I remember buying ingredients alone at my local Soho grocery store to cook beans and rice in my first kitchen in my sophomore dorm, astonished at how unsure I was about a recipe I had watched being made (and helped make) hundreds of times.

beans with yellow rice

In college, I served beans and rice to friends because it was the only thing I knew how to make. I served beans and rice to my roommate when I studied abroad in London, and I served beans and rice to my boyfriend, Luke, when we moved in together. Beans and rice is a meal that is constantly in rotation. After all, we almost always have rice, onions, peppers, garlic, and a can of black beaks around. Naturally, Luke started taking over the beans and rice cooking task on occasion, and he had his own ideas about the flavors and spices that would be best to include. Imagine my surprise when I came home to the heresy of Luke adjusting my age-old beans and rice recipe with cumin (!) and cayenne pepper!

I’m not one to complain about coming home from work to a hot, lovingly-prepared meal, though. So I tried his seemingly heretical creation and was surprised once again to find that it was actually quite tasty. In fact, in some ways I have updated the way I make my own beans and rice. I guess that’s the best thing about this dish – you can make it just how you like it in regards to flavors, spices, and heat. And if you have a picky eater at your table, you can dice the veggies like I used to demand. Check out the very customizable recipe below!

Print Recipe
Beans and Rice
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Cuban
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
REQUIRED ITEMS:
  • 1 cup uncooked rice (white or yellow)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 bell pepper sliced
  • 1-2 clove(s) garlic minced
  • salt to taste
OPTIONAL FLAVORS:
  • lemon slices for serving
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbs jalapeño minced
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Cuban
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
REQUIRED ITEMS:
  • 1 cup uncooked rice (white or yellow)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 bell pepper sliced
  • 1-2 clove(s) garlic minced
  • salt to taste
OPTIONAL FLAVORS:
  • lemon slices for serving
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbs jalapeño minced
Instructions
  1. Prepare your rice according to the package directions. While the rice cooks, chop the vegetables.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, garlic, and spices, and sauté around 5 minutes or until they look like you want to eat them (e.g., slightly softened but not mushy).
  3. Add the full can of black beans (do not drain or rinse!) to the saucepan and stir. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture just starts to bubble.
  4. Serve the bean and veggie mixture over the cooked rice. Optionally squeeze the juice from a lemon slice over the top just before eating.
Recipe Notes

Can also be served with Spanish farro (see video above)!

Share this Recipe

WIP Wednesday [8-2-17]: Small Things Are Easier To Make Than Big Things

lost in time shawl work in progress with skein of yarn

It’s official. Small things are easier to make than big things.

I’ve been pretty productive crochet-wise lately. I made this adorable elephant for my friend’s birthday in just a few days. I don’t have much amigurumi experience so I get nervous about sewing all the pieces together properly, but this had minimal sewing steps and they all seemed straightforward and fool-proof (at least for the fool that I am).

English pattern from the awesome blog All About Ami here, Ravelry page for my project here.

I liked making it so much (and it got such a positive response from my friends) that I think i’ll have to make a few more before the year is up – already got another started on the hook (the WIP of this WIP post).

I’m also working on the Lost in Time shawl from Mijo Crochet using Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6 yarn in colorway “English Garden.” (Raverly project here.) This might be the thinnest yarn I’ve ever used since I have always felt too impatient to work with anything less than worsted before. But this yarn has changed me for the better – not only is the texture super soft and gorgeous, the colors in each skein are so amazing! Each color change is more exciting than the last. Five outta five stars for this yarn.

Not a WIP, but I also made a little crochet ball purely inspired by my stumbling across a pattern for a mathematically ideal crochet sphere. I whipped this bad boy up one morning when it seemed like more fun than getting out of bed to do real things. And the kitty loves it! Win win win.

herringbone scarf work in progress

This mini-herringbone scarf pattern from Purl Soho has been on my WIP-list for… many months now. If I don’t finish it by the time the weather is cold again, I will have failed everyone including myself. Knitting is much more unnatural to me than crocheting so it requires more dedicated effort and focus (notice the many lifelines I’ve included to ease my anxiety about losing tens of hours of work). This scarf is big. It’s too wide but it’s too late to stop. And I’m only halfway done. Sigh. So much wool to go!

So that’s the lesson today – small things are easier to make than big things. I have made countless small things in the time since starting this big thing. Similar to the way that I will watch hours of brief Youtube videos but not want to commit to watching a movie because it’s “too long,” I could have finished this scarf several times over by now. But as an impatient, instant-gratification-seeking millennial, I have left this thing sitting half finished since 2016. Summoning all crafty yarn inspiration to finish it before I turn into dust.

Wish me luck on my WIPs, and good luck to you and your WIPs!

In The Garden: 7-17-17

cilantro blooms

Let’s check out what’s going on in my garden this birthday week.

rooftop garden

This is my happy little garden!  On the bottom left you’ll see a little blue container of mint next to some lettuce plants which have gone to seed. Hiding behind the lettuce is my herb garden of cilantro, chives, and basil. And in the big containers I have four jalapeño plants and four tomato plants.

Clearly, it’s a busy time of year for pollinators. All sorts of flying critters love the cilantro flowers! I’m glad I let it bolt.

Also, my tomatoes are finally ripening! I’ve been enjoying plenty of fresh caprese salad this week with my tomatoes and fresh basil. I grew these tomatoes (along with everything else in the garden!) from seed, and it continues to be a fun labor of love.

And it’s been so much fun to watch these tomatoes ripen even before they were caprese worthy.

Finally, check out the the life cycle of a jalapeño from baby to harvest. We have an invasion of jalapeños. I already gave about 15 to my family (sent my dad up to the roof garden with the clippers and told him to go crazy).

So what do I do with all these jalapeños?? To date we have used them in chili, guacamole, quiche, fried rice… basically any dish into which you can throw some minced jalapeño. But the jalapeño growth rate is much faster than our jalapeño eating rate. Please share your jalapeño-heavy recipes with me!

Not pictured is the zombie cucumber plant which has seemingly been resurrected from what I thought was its deathbed. Some little bugs trampled over the whole plant right after it started producing fruit, and it slowly withered away. Naturally, given the plant’s grotesque appearance I had been avoiding pulling it out. But in the last week or so, I’ve seen some new leaf growth and even some male and female flowers! Still, the plant looks creepy as heck so it may have to bite the dust someday soon. We’ll see what happens with that weird thing.

 

The Best Number is 17 and Why

The best number is 17. The majority of you are probably thinking, “Yeah, duh!” For you outliers that disagree, I’m here to show you what’s up.

The (Birth)day Argument

Today, 7/17, is my birthday (cue cheers and applause). This year, the date is 7/17/17, or 17/7/17 if you live in one of those countries. What a pleasing thing to look at! And of course, pleasing because we can all happily celebrate Pam’s birthday.

But I’m not the only important thing that’s happened on a 17th. Have you heard of a little thing called St. Patrick’s Day? Yup, that’s on March 17th. Billie Joe Armstrong, frontman extraordinaire of Green Day and my childhood (and current, tbh) idol, celebrates a birthday on February 17th. And we all know that the 17th is the day of every month where one goes, “Is this month seriously almost over even though it just began like a second ago?” My friend’s mom also has the same birthday as me, so there you go.

The Numerical Appeal

Have you ever heard of a happy prime number? Check it out: if you can add the squares of all the digits in a positive integer and keep repeating this process until you get 1, your starting number is “happy.” If it doesn’t get to 1, following this process will have you repeating some loop of numbers but never reaching 1 which is clearly the definition of sad. Additionally, a happy prime is a number that is “happy” while being a prime number as well. And prime numbers are clearly super rad.

You’re probably thinking, “Wow, 17 is a happy prime? That IS cool.” But wait! While 17 is prime, it is not particularly happy on its own (boohoo!). The number 7 is, however, a happy prime (woohoo!). And here is where I’m going to blow your mind: 17 is a happy prime in base 7.

Yep.

17 in base 7 is 23, which is one of the relatively few happy primes that exist on happy planet Earth.

And let me blow your mind one last time with a fact I just now realized this very second (proving my case further).

This 7/17/17 is my 23rd birthday. Remember how I was saying 17 in base 7 is 23? Just a few sentences ago? Yes, this is real life, yes, this is the number 17 at work.

I literally know exactly what is happening in your mind right now. “Wow, Pam,” your consciousness says, “That is such an amazing, non-arbitrary, solid proof of the importance of the number 17.” Right? If I didn’t just convince you that numerology is real, you must not be reading the same blog post I’m writing!

The Third Support Paragraph

I don’t really have another argument, except for the fact that I know I’ve already convinced you. But I was told by my middle school literature and composition teacher that a chair needs at least three legs to sit on, and I guess that means a third support for my proof is necessary. Unless she was just trying to get me to stop removing legs from all the chairs in the classroom.

Anyways, here’s one more argument. Would you believe that I used to think e (2.718…) was the best number? I know, it’s barely even a number! I was swayed by its natural appeal and romantic irrationality. But although e is perhaps the most important number to mathematicians, nothing holds up to the test of time like the number 17.

Share your experiences with the number 17 below and why it’s important to you, or how it feels to now know the truth about the best number. All those with arguments about \pi, please peddle your pedestrian views elsewhere. And feel free to wish me a happy birthday.

The Great Spider Stitch Consipiracy

spider stitch

 

Recently, I began a washcloth pattern that uses the crochet spider stitch. In the spider stitch, you repeat sc, ch1, sc shells into the ch-spaces of the row below. When I was about halfway through my first washcloth, I came to a terrifying realization.

Have I been working into the single crochets (rather than the chain spaces) this whole time?

I know, I know – fellow crocheters would also be horrified and aghast to realize such a thing 15 rows in to their project. The problem was that the fabric I was creating looked precisely how it should – or at least, it looked exactly like what the blogger whose pattern I was following had made. I watched a video she uploaded of how to do the stitch, and then I watched another video of how to do the stitch, and another, and it turns out there are two – TWO – versions of the spider stitch out there!

However, I will argue that one version is correct, and one version is a snake trying to marauder as the spider stitch with its presumed elegance and ease of creation.

Take a look at the difference between the two samples below.

fake spider stitch

On the right is what we shall refer to as the blessed, appropriate, rule-abiding version of the spider stitch; on the left, the disharmonious, egregiously aberrant version. Notice how the structure of the stitches on the right leads to clear columns, while the sample on the left reveals an asymmetry between right- and wrong-sides of the fabric. Additionally, the left sample is full of unpleasant holes, while the right sample is tighter and neater.

The difference between the two samples is simple; rather than following what the pattern says, the left sample thinks it is following the pattern when it is actually placing stitches into single crochets rather than chain spaces. On the right, we see the proper placement of stitches into the chain space between the two “V”s of the single crochets, meaning the pattern is symmetric and identical on the right-side and wrong-side.

Now, to be quite honest, I don’t think the strategy on the left (at least when it was halfway to being a washcloth) looks that bad. Sure, I’m not a fan of the uneven holes, but I do like the non-linearity of the pattern created and the texture of the resulting fabric. So perhaps we can call the stitch on the left something different, reminding us how the stitch resembles a spider stitch, but isn’t a true spider stitch. To find an appropriate name, I turned to my trusty friend, Google.

google search for bugs that look like spiders

Hahahaha. It was comforting to know I wasn’t the first person to research bugs that look spiders but aren’t. You’ll be pleased to know I learned of a critter called the spricket – a spider cricket! I will spare you a picture but you can read all about sprickets here. So let us now properly describe these two patterns: the spider stitch and, now, the spricket stitch.

Spider Stitch

  1. Chain an even number of stitches.
  2. In second ch from hook, [sc, ch1, sc]. {Skip one ch, [sc, ch1, sc] into next ch} until end of row. Turn.
  3. {[sc, ch1, sc] into ch space of shells in prev. row} across. Turn.
  4. Repeat row 3 until desired length is achieved.

Notes: To find the ch space from the previous row, look for the space between the two “V”s from the single crochet stitch shells. Your hook should go in between two “V”s and come out on the backside between two “V”s as well.

Spricket Stitch

  1. Chain an even number of stitches.
  2. In second ch from hook, [sc, ch1, sc]. {Skip one ch, [sc, ch1, sc] into next ch} until end of row. Turn.
  3. {[sc, ch1, sc] into first sc of shell in prev. row} across. Turn.
  4. Repeat row 3 until desired length is achieved.

Notes: The first sc will be the one closest to your hook (the rightmost sc of the sc, ch1, sc shell).

Which stitch do you think looks best? For my washcloths, I ended up using the proper spider stitch and finishing with single crochets evenly around (like the pattern here). Feel free to debate the pattern’s use of the Spider or Spricket stitch, and check out my Ravelry project page here.

For the samples in this post and my project itself, I used Lion Brand Kitchen Cotton yarn in Vanilla and a size H/8 5mm hook.