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From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa has been awarded the honor of "WINNER" in the "Cookbooks: International" category of the 2014 International Book Awards!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Home made (NOT canned) beans

Happy New Year to everyone out there! I hope this year brings
everything your little hearts desire – and more. If you have made a resolution to eat healthier than last year, why not start with some great tasting food that is high in protein and complex carbohydrates. Yep, I mean dried beans.

Sure you can go to the store and pluck a can of prepared beans off the shelf, but have you ever compared their taste and texture to freshly cooked (by you) beans? They are flavorless and in the bottom of the can is this sludge stuff that you have to rinse away. Who in the heck knows what that is???

There are so many different types of dried beans that it boggles the mind. From garbanzo, to fava, lima, navy, cannellini beans, kidney, pinto and many others I don't even know about. In Mexico, we are very limited in the types of beans we have, so we use either pinto or Peruano beans.

I prefer the Peruano bean, a plain looking yellow bean. They taste almost the same as a pinto but they produce almost no gas – a definite benefit if you have a hot date! They cook in a little less time too.

You are probably thinking, yeah, she has all the time in the world to make homemade beans, but I work all day long. Surprise, surprise, so do I. There are many days I don't even get to sit down to write until later in the evening when my brain cells are on break. So, no excuses will be accepted..... If you have a slow cooker or pressure cooker, cooking dried beans is even more effortless.

Here is an excerpt for some homecooked beans from my cookbook. If you do not want refried beans, then stop before mashing and use whole. They are wonderful in salads, in soup or in any other recipe you usually add beans. Please give them a try and if you have any questions or comments, just contact me.

From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa, page 19

     …......The first thing I do with dried beans of any kind is sort them on a white plate, so that I can easily see the tiny stones or shriveled beans at a glance. Discard anything that looks foreign or discolored.

To soak or not to soak—in Mexico, it is not necessary to soak beans because they are not old beans. In other parts of the world, the turnover in dried bean supplies may not be as active, so if the beans are old, soaking is the way to go. If you choose to soak, then you will need to plan ahead, as they will need to soak overnight. Rinse the beans in a colander and then put them in a large pot. Cover them with cold water to about 7.62 cm/3 inches above the beans. Let sit until tomorrow. In the morning, drain and rinse again. They are now ready to be cooked.

Or ... 

Rinse the beans in a colander and then put them in a large pot with a well-fitting lid. Cover them with cold water to about 7.62 cm/3 inches above the beans. Heat the beans over medium heat until they have come to a rolling boil. Keep the lid on—no peeking. Turn the heat off, and let them sit undisturbed for one hour. After one hour, drain the beans and rinse again. They are now ready to be cooked.

Now, what you have been waiting for ... (drum roll) ...

Refried Beans ... THE RECIPE
Frijoles Refritos

2½ cups dried beans
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
½ onion, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon dried epazote (optional)
3 Tablespoons real pork lard (fresh, if possible; not that white canned stuff) or oil
(both are commonly used) - omit this if you are NOT making refried beans

After you have either soaked the beans overnight or hydrated them by cooking for an hour, you are now ready to really cook them.

In your pot, put the newly rinsed beans, the onion, and garlic and add enough water to cover by 5 cm/2 inches. You will salt them a bit later.

Over medium heat, cook the beans 1 hour. Add the salt and epazote. Cook for another hour. Test for doneness at this point. Taste one to see if it is totally soft. If it is, they are done. If it still has a bit of chew to it, keep cooking. Check them at 30 minute intervals.

NOTE: The times may differ, depending on the age of the dried beans. The older the bean, the longer the cooking time.

(continue with this step if you are making refried beans)

When the beans are done, drain them, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking broth. Now is the time to mash the beans, onion, and garlic. The way to mash them offers another choice: you can mash them with a potato masher and have some lovely little chunks of beans mixed with the bean purée, or you can use the back of a large wooden spoon to mash them for a smoother texture. I like them really smooth, so I use an immersion blender. If your beans are too stiff, add some of the broth you kept—not all of it, just a little at a time to thin them out.

When you have the consistency you like, heat the lard or oil in a large frying pan. When it is hot, add the beans and let them fry, stirring occasionally until they are heated thoroughly and all the lard/oil has been absorbed. Adjust your salt, if necessary. Serve.


If you are cooking with a slow cooker: Add the rinsed beans, and other ingredients. Cook per your manufacurers instructions.

If you are cooking with a pressure cooker: Place the rinsed beans and other ingredients except salt in the pressure cooker. Add enough water to fill just up to but not more than 2/3 full. Place the cover on and begin to simmer until it begins to 'fritz'. Allow to 'fritz' for 5 minutes then turn off the heat. Allow to sit until the pressure comes down and it is safe to open. Do NOT run the cooker under cold water to release the pressure. The beans will be cooking while they are sitting under pressure. After the pressure has released itself, open the lid and tastte one of the beans. Is it tender or could it use just a bit more cooking? If it needs more cooking, repeat the above process. Older beans will take longer so not to worry, your beans will get done but it might take 2 or 3 'fritzing' cycles.

Share with us your results and what you think of the difference between homemade and canned. We are all dying to know!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pumpkin Pie using - - it's a surprise........keep reading

UPDATE:  I told you I would let you know how Christmas dessert of carrot 'pumpkin cheesecake' was received at dinner.  Well, Mr. I-Hate-Carrots devoured the cheesecake saying it was the best one he had ever eaten!!!!  I opted not to tell him about the bad....

In a land where pumpkins are seldom seen and canned pumpkin
is never seen, I was grousing to a Mexican friend that I really wanted a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.  The dinner was roasted chicken breasts, some homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.  Sort of Thanksgiving-ish.  But the dessert.......I REALLY wanted some pumpkin pie. 

After listening to me whine, my friend Carmen said 'why don't you make something that 'tastes' like pumpkin?  You know me, I am always up for a challenge.  Ok, so what tastes like pumpkin but isn't?  Are you ready????  Roasted carrots!  Yeah, I couldn't believe that one either. 

As a foodie, I had to give it a try.  I peeled a carrot, cut it in quarters (lengthwise) and put it on a dish.  I drizzled a bit of olive oil (not extra virgin) on it and roasted it in the toaster oven for about 30 minutes.  I took it out, mashed it up and gave it a taste.  Darn if it didn't taste like pumpkin! 

I wasn't sure how many roasted carrots it would take to equal a 16 oz can of pumpkin puree, so I started with 1 pound of raw carrots.  I roasted them, then put them on the scale.  Only about 8 oz after roasting.   I needed more, so I put another pound plus one extra carrot into the oven to roast.  The total weight of the roasted carrots was just a tad over 16 oz.  Perfect.  (note:  I weighed the raw carrots after I had peeled them and cut off the stem ends)

I put them in a colander over a bowl to cool, just in case there was any residual liquid.  I did not want to have 'liquidy' pumpkin – I mean carrots. 

While they were cooling, I prepared my crust and the rest of the filling.  I used the recipe from the Libby pumpkin website –I got off the internet. 

When the pie was served, we had guests but I had told no one including Pete. my secret, they were raving about the pie!  Where did I find the pumpkin?  Did I have someone bring it down for me?  After we had all finished our pie, I let them in on the secret. 

I have to admit that I would never have guessed carrots would taste so much like pumpkin, but the roasting is the trick.  My next dessert using carrots?  Pumpkin cheesecake for Christmas dinner AND one of the male guests hates carrots but loves pumpkin......... bet I can fool him!  I will keep you posted..

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