Friday, September 12, 2014

Frijoles, Take 1: Basic Beans

I'm dating a Mexican, as I have mentioned before. We've been together for 2.5 ish years and some of the perks of being with a Mexican are the access to the amazing culinary world that is traditional Mexican cooking. Like the pure bliss that is a homemade corn tortilla or tortilla hecho de mano. His family are brilliant cooks and naturally the matriarch's want that quality in the woman he is with.

Enter me.

Chef. Check. Baker. Check. Ability to cook Mexican dishes. Not so much. Practice makes perfect as they say, so I bought a couple cookbooks for Mexican food from authors that were hailed as being truly auténicos. My first attempt at something beyond the realm of a tortilla--which was a challenge, by the way, and is also supposedly the most simple--is pinto beans. So I bring you, my attempt and subsequential failure at making frijoles. Oh, and because a sad story isn't what you came here for, my knight in shining armor rescues me at the end. Don't worry. (I know you were worried.)

I made myself some Agua de Sandia and consulted the lovely ladies from Muy Bueno for a simple way to make pinto beans. There are thousands of ways to make pinto beans. Each family from each region does it differently. I always forget to take that into account. So while the lovely ladies from Muy Bueno are from Northern Mexico and Texas, my man is from Jalisco and that's a whole lot of space and recipes between those two areas. To me, beans are beans, but to mi Mexicano, it is a way of life and heritage. Someday I hope to understand that difference.


I gathered my ingredients: a bag of dried pinto beans, a white onion, and salt. I happened to have some salt from Colima that we bought while visiting his family in Jalisco. It packs a punch.

I poured out my beans onto a cutting board to pull out any that were shriveled, broken, or discolored; as well as any pebbles, if there had been any--there wasn't.

Then, the directions said to rinse off the beans for about 3 minutes under cold water.

Finally, to soak the beans for 2-4 hours. I was doing this later at night on a Friday, so I figured leaving them to soak overnight would be no big deal.

Friday night pre-soak.
Saturday morning, after soaking for 12 ish hours.
Saturday morning, I woke up, poured out the soaking water, added some new water and put them back on the stove. Turned the heat onto medium-high to get the water to boil and then reduce it down to a simmer temperature. Difficulties ensued. I may or may not definitely added too much water; so getting the whole pot hot enough for a boil was a challenge to say the least. Once it did boil, I then had trouble finding the appropriate simmering heat. C'est la vie! Eventually, they got cookin' real good and I added in my onion and salt. Just in time for the boyfriend to appear and try them out. He said not bad, they were almost done, just needed a bit more salt. They tasted a little salty to me, but he's the expert, so I added more salt and kept on cooking. Fast forward, they are done, and now they are too salty, he says. Damage was done. I attempted to salvage, but ultimately we just had to cut our losses and try again.

My beans after cooking...yeah, they even look like there is something left to be desired.

Enter white knight and his abuelita albeit unknowingly.

Since it was my first time, he cut me some major slack and helped rescue me by showing me how his family makes beans.

Their way:

Javi started by putting the beans in the pot (after washing it) and half filling the pot with cold water. He explained to me that when you do this, rather than laying them out on the cutting board, you will find all the "bad" beans because they will float. Interesting and cool. Next, we dumped out that water and added enough water to fully cover the beans and about 1-2 inches above them. Then, we started straight away to boil them and kept them at the medium high heat for the entirety of cooking. We continually added more water as the level got low enough to expose the beans. 2ish hours later...we got frijoles y'all.

Now these are frijoles de pinto.
I am very thankful for this man, words cannot even express. So all in all the recipe didn't quite work for me but maybe if I'd followed it more exactly (and added less water initially) it would have. Luckily my man saved the day. If you made it this far, I question the amount of time you have on your hands, I thank you for reading and say until next time my friends. Next up: Frijoles, Take 2: Frijoles Refritos.

Love Always,

Joanna Rose

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ok, here we go...

It appears I left you all hanging on a precipice in my personal life. I am very sad to say that my dear friend/mentor passed away in August 2013. I still think of her often and the light that she brought towards life and love and work. She will always be a voice in my head.

RIP Shelli.

On a different note, I've got some fun things planned for you all, including a few delicious cocktails. (Don't lie, you were hoping I'd say that too.) So stay tuned!

Love Always,

Joanna Rose

Monday, June 17, 2013

Feeling Stronger

Just an update on my friend. (Follow up post to Fragile, please read that first to get more background.) A little over a month ago (has it really been that long/short?) she was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer. They hadn't decided any treatment or no treatment at that point, it was all just rushing quickly in to overwhelm us all.

It has been quite the roller coaster ride of emotion while doctors decided whether she was able to handle treatment, not knowing whether her body will respond to it or not. At one point, a couple weeks ago, they told her that she would not live more than four days. So we waited and said our goodbyes just in case. Me over in the corner holding out for some sort of miracle, begging God that this couldn't be it. And she's still alive. They changed their minds and started treatment; radiation then chemo. She is currently still undergoing radiation and has been responding beautifully to the treatment. I can only thank God for giving her this time and for giving me a new attitude.

She was released from the hospital Saturday. However, she is back in because some blood clots have formed in her lungs, so they want to monitor those as they progress with treatment. After visiting her last week, I am strongly encouraged because she was talking more like her normal self.

Two prayer requests: that her short term memory returns unscathed, that the blood clots smooth themselves out, and that radiation continues to show great signs of improvement. Ok, I guess that was actually three. I lied. Oh well.

Last time I talked about cherishing and appreciating the ones you are with. I admitted and still am admitting that I am not always 100% appreciative of the time my man gives to me (since time is the greatest gift of all). And I have been working on changing my attitude, because who wants to hang with an ungrateful nag anyways? Not me. I really feel that, while I am not perfect, I have been making great strides in the right direction. I am holding on just a little bit tighter to all the loves in my life because if I died tomorrow, I want them to remember how much I loved them. I am working on cherishing my cutie, because he deserves to be cherished by the woman he loves.

Hang on tight to all your loved ones, remember that every day is such a blessing. And if you need someone to talk to, there is always one God who is listening in eager anticipation.

As for me, God is granting me my miracle, one day at a time.

Love Always,

Joanna Rose

Monday, June 3, 2013

No Sew Bench/Chair Re-Upholstery

First things first: It's the weekend, so it should be cocktail time. I know you were all wondering when I'd bring in my love of cocktails and share my cocktail secrets with you. Just kidding, there are no secrets, just lots of cocktails.

Cocktail for this project:
Since this is an all day extravaganza (in between paint dry times and etc.) I will be drinking a cocktail that tastes just as delicious when not freezing cold and still holds up after the ice melts a bit.

Rosemary Lemonade (serves 4) (recipe courtesy of Laguna Beach Culinary Arts):
6 sprigs rosemary
1 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice
8 oz. Vodka (or more, depending on taste)
1 liter Club Soda

In a 1-quart saucepan, combine sugar, 2 rosemary sprigs, and lemon juice. Let it simmer on low for roughly 5 minutes until lemon stirring every 30 seconds until all the sugar is dissolved in the lemon juice. Be careful to not over cook it as the rosemary will start to make it a little bitter.

To serve, fill a 16 oz glass with ice and put one rosemary sprig in each glass. Add 3 tablespoons of rosemary lemon syrup to each glass (you will have extra, so no need to be precise). Next, add your roughly 2 oz of vodka and stir well. Final touch, fill the rest of your glass with club soda, give it one last quick swirl, and ENJOY!

Now onto the project!

I orginally bought this bench as my first piece of furniture when I moved into my apartment with the intention of recovering it and perhaps adding a bit more fluff to it's kind of lifeless seat. I have lived here for over a year and I am finally getting around to it. Some projects With pretty much all projects, I struggle to find that initial "heave-to" to actually start-or, like in this case, and complete-them.

What I love about this project is that it is so simple and easy to do. No sewing is necessary, just a staple gun and a hammer (for those pesky staples that just won't go in all the way). I chose to repaint the wood as well, because it was painted brown...yes that is right, painted brown. I know, I still can't understand why someone would paint the wood brown either. Mind-boggling.

What You Will Need:
  • Staple Gun and 3/8" staples
  • Small light-duty hammer (a tack hammer or mallet would work best)
  • 1/2 to 1 yard of upholstery fabric (depending on size of seat)
  • 2" Foam 1/3 yard, optional (depending on size of seat & desired height of cushion)
  • 1/2 yard to 1 yard of batting, nothing too thick, this is just gives a smoother look after all fabric is on
  • Spray Paint and Spray Primer
Ok, so first things first. flip your bench or chair over and locate the screws that attach the seat to the legs. Unscrew so you can take the seat with you when you go fabric shopping. This helps when you are visually challenged like me.

Lay fabric out on a flat surface and place batting on fabric; cut off any excess. Cut foam with a serrated blade to seat size and then place it centered in your batting. Lastly, place seat on foam upside down. When securing fabric to the seat, corners are last! Starting with the two shorter edges, pull fabric taut and staple outside edges first, then in the middle. Repeat on the long edges, stapling from the outsides towards the center. It is important to keep your stapling consistent on opposing sides. For the corners, for a nicely upholstered look, fold them like you would a present and align them either on the long side of your bench or right along the corner. (If you have more rounded corners then follow the rounded edge and do not fold into a triangle like shape.)

Enjoy these photos of the before paint progress!

Now for the fun. I don't know why, but painting is always something I enjoy. A viable excuse to be messy? Maybe. Viable excuse to get paint on myself? More likely... Anyways, I love painting.

Steps for Re-surfacing.

Step 1: To prep your piece, get your lovely re-upholstered top as far away from your wood to be painted as possible. Nothing is going to ruin your work on that seat cushion. Well, at least not the paint.

Step 2: Lightly sand your surface all over. This will give something for the primer to adhere to.

Step 3: On a not windy day with lots of sun (yes those days do exist in Seattle, they are just a little rarer.) lay a plastic paint tarp from the Dollar Store down and place your seat bottom in the center upright.

Step 4: Spray your piece with Primer. I know you are all scoffing at the primer since so many paints come with it mixed in, but trust me, it helps big time. When spray painting, maintain about 8-9 inches of distance between spray can and piece of furniture, this helps with dripping; also keep the spray moving, too much paint in one area will make the paint drip. Let it dry completely. Estimate 45 min.

*Quick note about primer: the color of primer is very important. If you are painting over anything with red or black undertones or painting with any red or black undertones, use a gray primer. Gray is great for really covering over those strong colors and keeping the top color more true to its actual color.*

Step 5: Flip the seat over, lightly sand and then it's time for Primer round 2! Let dry completely.

Step 6: Bring on the color!! Flip seat to upright position once more, spray all over with color. Let it dry 45 min. Flip over and repeat. After it is dry, check for any missed spots and paint as needed.

Step 7: If desired, spray with a gloss or matte sealer. Let it dry for 24 hours.

Step 8: Re-assemble your seat by lining up screw holes and screw everything back together.

Congratulations! You have just successfully refinished a piece of upholstery! Check out my completed bench! Isn't she a beaut!

I was not expecting the color to be this vibrant, but I really love it! Such a beautiful shade of purple.

Love, love, love.

Now, go finish that lovely Rosemary Lemonade cocktail. You've earned it. As have I. Yummy.

Love Always,

Joanna Rose

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

An Exercise in Frugality

There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means. – Calvin Coolidge
Frugality. It means a lot of things to different people. It looks different for everyone. Some people just don't practice it.

I am a newcomer to this world. So please keep that in mind as I start to talk about my experience with saving money and living within a real budget. Not just the vague idea I had when I first started.

For me frugality means living well below my means. I have always lived within my means and I've always said that "I should not be able to afford the way I live." Basically, I should be saving more and be less spendy on every other aspect of my life. I am a young adult, I should not be able to spend money like I make big bucks.

I am viewing this process of becoming a more frugal woman as taking small steps of change in hopes that they will stick much better (and so far they have) than one grand change. It's like going on a diet. If I cut everything bad for me out all at once and started exercising like mad every day for a couple hours, I would get exhausted and would quickly run out of motivational steam.

Anyways, that's a lot of information me being the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons. On to the juicy stuff. I've been reading a hodge podge of various personal finance books. And they are challenging me to expand my thinking on the subject. For example, budgets can change monthly. Say what?!? And finding the right budget balance for you and your family, can take months, as I am not so quickly discovering...

Now, can I just put it out there that I don't like to (or very easily) admit when my dad is right on things. I want to do it my way. (Just busted out in the Frank Sinatra song; I will let you envision that for a minute.) So I am publicly admitting that my father convinced me to try out Quicken 2013. I love it!! I am by no means master at its use, but it does allow me to break all my costs down into the categories I want to track.

Now for the ultimate, the pièce de résistance! (I may need more sleep...) What's the big theme I've been finding among all these personal finance books? The concept of going cash-only.

Let me just say, I LOVE IT!! There are so many ways to go about this, I've been trying this out for a couple weeks and I need to work out a couple kinks, but for now, I get cash once a week, and that's it for everything all week: groceries, home improvement, you-name-it-I-buy-it. ;) I have a fabric cash envelope project in the works that I can't wait to share with you - this is exciting for me because it will be my first adventure into accessory making.

Going cash-only gives me better understanding of what categories I can change in my Quicken to be more general, since that's what I've noticed I care about more as opposed to being very specific about subcategories and the like. Now if only I could get better help with setting up things within Quicken...

What are some of your methods for frugal living, in particular, tracking spending?

Love Always,