a black-eyed pea, black bean and 3 pebbles…

alien objects
alien objects

I know, I know ~ it sounds like a really bad joke… but this is the list of the “alien” objects in my bag of pintos this morning!  Thank goodness my Momma taught me to separate and rinse! Have you checked what’s in your beans lately?  =}

From baked beans (ok, so not the healthiest option) to hummus (YUM!), black bean burgers to pan seared chickpeas ~ say it with me: I LOVE BEANS! Louder!! I LOVE BEANS!  I do not eat a lot of meat, so I really do look for other protein options.  Before quinoa, edemame and chia seeds (or at least, before I knew about them), I got my protein from the usual suspects: eggs, nuts and beans. Back then, it was scrambled or over medium, peanuts or pinion, pinto or (gag) black-eyed peas from a CAN! Thank goodness my tastes and abilities have evolved ~ enjoy! Oh, one more thing: for those of you (DAD) who suffer the unfortunate bloat or flatulence that sometimes accompanies the consumption of beans, epazote may be the answer…

Nature also forges man, now a gold man, now a silver man, now a fig man, now a bean man.


  • Epazote is an herb well-known to Mexican and Caribbean cooking. The name comes from the Aztec (Nahuatl) epazotl. It is also known as pigweed or Mexican tea and is frequently regarded as a garden pest. It is most commonly used in black bean recipes to ward off some of the “negative” side affects of eating beans. Much like cilantro, it is referred to as an “acquired taste”. The herb is quite pungent and some say it smells like gasoline or kerosene.
  • Epazote (chenopodium ambrosioides) was brought to Europe in the 17th century from Mexico and used in various traditional medicines. The herb was used by the Aztecs as a medicine as well as a culinary herb.
  • Epazote can normally be found fresh in Mexican grocery stores or is available air-dried. One teaspoon of dried epazote leaves is equivalent to about one branch, or 7 fresh leaves. Fresh epazote leaves can be placed in a plastic bag and stored for up to 1 week. You can air-dry the fresh leaves and store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Buy Online
Purchase dried epazote online at GourmetSleuth.com.

New Mexican Refried Beans

1 to 2 lbs. dried pinto beans
8 cloves of garlic or more (or more to taste)
Large pot of water (Keep the kettle full of water and ready to boil, as the beans cook the water level will diminish and need to be replenished with boiling water. Adding cold water to the cooking beans will turn the water black and the beans dark.)
1 Smoked ham hock (if desired)
1 tsp. salt or to taste.
Carefully clean the beans, removing rocks and soil, etc. Rinse the beans. Add them to the pot with the garlic cloves and salt. Bring to a boil. If adding ham hocks do it when the water is boiling.
Reduce heat to simmer and let the beans cook. Depending on how many pounds of beans you are cooking it can take several hours for them to cook. Be sure to add boiling water when and if needed. Beans are done when they are soft.
Fried Beans (Frijoles Fritos)
Now, you have your cooked pinto beans. Here’s how to fry:
You’ll need:
1/4 cup Oil, lard or bacon grease/drippings
Large skillet
Cooked pinto beans
1/4 cup longhorn cheese

Add your choice of oil, lard or bacon drippings to the skillet and heat to medium heat or till a bean dropped in begins to sizzle. Add about two cups of beans, drained, keeping the bean liquid in a cup for later. (If you have garlic bits or ham hock bits mixed in with the beans that even better, but you can remove these if you like.)
Let the beans fry until heated through. Then take a potato masher and mash the beans right there in the skillet. Add the bean liquid to the beans until they are smooth and easy to stir and spoon. How much liquid you add depends on how thick you like your beans. Beans for burritos need to be thicker, served on a plate are usually more moist. When beans are ready add the cheese and stir till cheese melts. Serve hot.

Refried Beans (Frijoles Refritos)

Fried Beans (Whatever you have left-over from your Fried Beans)
1/4 Longhorn cheese (if desired)
oil, lard or bacon drippings (to re-fry the beans in a skillet)

Heat the oil, lard or drippings on medium heat. Carefully put Fried Beans into the skillet. Watch out for oil spatters. I suggest using a large spoon to spoon the beans in rather than trying to pour or dump them in. Stir until the beans are heated through. Add cheese if desired. Note: when re-frying beans they will tend to get a ‘crispy’ appearance around the edges. This is good and makes the beans tastier. This is part of the re-frying process and gives the beans added flavor. Part of the charm of re-frying!

The difference between Cooked, Fried Beans and Refried Beans is this:
First off, cooked beans are dried beans that have been boiled until tender and soft, but you already know that. I just thought I’d throw that in for first time bean cooks! Fried beans are beans that have been fried once or cooked and then fried for the first time, one time.
Refried beans are Fried Beans that are left-over from the first fry and then fried again in more oil, lard or bacon drippings. If you want real Refried Beans you need to fry enough the first time to have left-over fried beans. Make sure you store the fried beans properly and also the subsequent refried beans to make sure they don’t spoil. Abuelita’s method was to make enough fried beans to have refried beans, once.

You can add (Hatch)green chiles, red chiles, or spices to give the beans your own personal touch.

Tuscan Beans

  • 2 1/2 cups dried white beans such as Great Northern or navy (1 lb), picked over and rinsed
  • 10 cups water
  • 2 fresh sage sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • freshly grated Parmegiano Reggiano
  • Accompaniment: fine-quality extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Tuscan)
  • Special equipment: a 5-quart terra-cotta bean pot or heavy saucepan

If using a terra-cotta pot for the first time, soak it in water to cover at least 6 hours, then drain.

Put beans, water, sage, bay leaf, and whole head of garlic in bean pot. Cover and slowly bring to a simmer over low heat; this can take 2 3/4 hours in bean pot or 1 hour in saucepan.

Simmer beans until tender and soft but not mushy, about 45 minutes in bean pot or 35 to 40 minutes in saucepan. Remove from heat and cool beans, covered, 15 minutes. Stir in sea salt.

Drain almost all cooking liquid from beans (reserve for making soup if desired) and season beans with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Dress beans with oil and cheese at the table.

Woo Hoo!  Bet you didn’t know you can get protein from chocolate! Unsweetened cocoa powder—the type used in baking or making hot chocolate from scratch—contains about 1 gram of protein per tablespoon. The powder is bitter all by itself, however, so most recipes call for lots of sugar and fat (usually butter or other dairy), as well. Stick with nonfat (or almond milk) and choose calorie-free sweeteners for a healthy, low-cal hot cocoa, or add it to air-popped popcorn (along with sugar, allspice, and cayenne pepper) for a sweet and spicy whole-grain treat.

cocoa-cayenne popcorn

  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 10 cup air-popped plain popcorn
  • Olive oil cooking spray 

Into a medium bowl, sift together the sugar, cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, and allspice.

Place the popcorn in a large, shallow bowl. Coat with a 10-second spray of olive oil while stirring. Sprinkle the cocoa and spice mixture evenly on top; toss until well-coated.

ps ~ Make this snack for your next date night to add a little “spice” to your relationship. Spicy ingredients, like cayenne pepper, help boost your metabolism and libido. 

Beans ~ how to grow them:


Most grains contain a small amount of protein, but quinoa—technically a seed—is unique in that it contains more than 8 grams per cup, including all nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair, but cannot produce on its own. (Because of that, it’s often referred to as a “perfect protein.”) Plus, it’s amazingly versatile: Quinoa can be added to soup or vegetarian chili during winter months, served with brown sugar and fruit as a hot breakfast cereal.

toasted quinoa with chiles and corn

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup canned no salt-added whole-kernel corn, drained
  • 1/3 cup jalapeño peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice


1. Add the quinoa to a 2-quart saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, and place the pan over high heat. Swirl the quinoa in the pan to toast it evenly. When the grains are fragrant and crackle, remove from heat. Add cumin, salt, and cocoa, then slowly add the broth (be careful; it might boil over). Put the pan over high heat, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

2. Stir in the corn and jalapeño peppers; cover and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in scallions and lime juice. Serve warm.

Foods made from soybeans are some of the highest vegetarian sources of protein: Tempeh and tofu, for example, contain about 15 and 20 grams per half cup, respectively.

miso-glazed tofu

  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 (14-ounce) block extra-firm tofu
  • 4 baby bok choy, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350°. In bowl, whisk together miso paste, 1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar, honey, and 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce until smooth. Slice tofu into 4 pieces. Dry with paper towels. Add to marinade; toss. Cover; refrigerate 30 minutes, turning once. Discard marinade; transfer tofu to baking dish. Bake until browned (30-35 minutes). Steam halved baby bok choy in saucepan of shallow simmering water, covered, until tender. In bowl, combine ginger, 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar, sesame oil, and crushed red pepper. Slice tofu; serve with bok choy. Drizzle with vinaigrette and sesame seeds.

These seeds—yes, from the same plant that’s used to make Chia Pet products—are an easy way to add protein (4.7 grams per ounce, about two tablespoons) and fiber to almost any recipe: Chia seeds can be sprinkled over salads, stirred into yogurt or oatmeal, blended into smoothies, or they can take center stage: They plump up and take on a gelatinous texture when soaked in a liquid, forming a rich and creamy pudding-like treat.  
Milk-soaked chia seeds turn into no-cook pudding. Nutmeg is a spice that may help with indigestion. Want to add something more? Sprinkle just 2 tablespoons of heart-healthy ground flaxseed on top to add 20% of the recommended daily fiber intake.
clementine chia pudding
  • 2 clementines
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Grate 1/2 tsp zest from clementines into airtight container. Add milk, chia, brown sugar, and nutmeg. Cover, shake, and refrigerate until thick (about 10 hours). Peel and segment clementines; refrigerate. Top pudding with clementines.

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