Monthly Archives: January 2015

Rutabaga Rice and Beans

Rutabaga rice and beans.

I could also call it onion, garlic, rutabaga, tomato, salt, chili powder, cumin, and hot pepper flakes rice and beans, but that doesn’t have quite the same alliterative and exotic ring to it.

TFD dot com tells me exotic (adj.) means:

  1. From another part of the world; foreign
  2. Intriguingly unusual or different; excitingly strange
  3. Of or involving striptease

Sounds like a good a good fit!

Rutabaga is believed to have originally come from lands afar (Scandinavia and Russia), the idea of adding it to rice and beans is novel (intriguing! and excitingly strange!), and unless you like your rice and beans extra crunchy, you’ll need to strip the rutabaga first along the way (that is, you’ll need to peel off its outer skin; if the Swedish turnip’s feeling bashful, feel free to give it a gentle tease).

There are a lot of ways to make rice and beans. This is one. With the tomato and spices, it has somewhat of a Spanish Rice feel to it. The hot pepper flakes then add a touch of temperature, and the rutabaga and rest combine to give it a satisfying heartiness. This recipe also helps answer the question, “What should I do with all the rutabaga left over from Thanksgiving?” ‘Helps’ is the right word because, well, in my case I still have some left from the original big one.


Now only a few pounds left after making this recipe. Props again to the Yuengling for the size comparison.

Rutabaga Rice and Beans


  • 1 cup dried black beans (about 2 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 1 cup brown rice (about 2 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 5 garlic coves, diced
  • 2 cups diced rutabaga
  • 3 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes


(Pre-step: Soak the dried beans overnight in a pot of water. Then, right before cooking them, drain the soaking water, rinse the beans, and refill the pot with fresh water.)

  1. Cook the beans until they’re generally soft (about an hour in simmering or lightly-boiling water, covered)
  2. Meanwhile, sauté the the onions, garlic, and rutabaga in olive oil until soft (medium heat)
  3. At the same time, also cook the rice (20-30 minutes using a rice cooker)
  4. Once the beans are done, drain the water
  5. Then add the beans and rest of the ingredients to the sauteed onion/garlic/rutabaga mixture. Altogether, add: the tomatoes and crushed tomatoes, the cooked rice and the drained cooked beans, and the spices and hot pepper flakes.
  6. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until it starts to stick to the bottom (10-15 minutes). Scrape up and mix back in the parts that stick.

With this dish, I like the slight crunch that comes from dried beans that have been cooked. If you want, you could also use canned beans as another option.


A cup of dried beans

Since the beans were cooking for an hour, I let the onions, garlic, and rutabaga sauté for the same amount of time. You could let these go for more or less time, but here’s how I did it this time.

  • I sauteed the onions and garlic for 20 minutes
  • Then I added the rutabaga and covered the pan for another 20 minutes
  • And then I did 20 minutes more uncovered


Then I put the tomatos, rice, and beans in.


And then I added the spices and mixed everything together and was done!


I told some friends at the potluck I made this for that it had rutabaga in it. For everyone else, surprise! 

I also made lentil soup with butternut squash for the potluck (when it’s at your place, it’s good to have a big pot of something; and, progress on the pumpkin front!)

But rutabaga rice and beans. What more can I say but, from another world, different, and good hot or cold. I just finished the leftovers and want some more.

Pumpkin Puree, and the Steps Along the Way







Yes, it’s true.



I have a hallway full of squash.

Look closely, and you’ll see:

  • 1 Light blue pumpkin
  • 1 Jack-o’-lantern pumpkin
  • 3 Acorn squash
  • 3 Butternut squash
  • 3 Munchkins
  • 3 Spaghetti squash
  • 3 Cheese pumpkins
  • 1 Light green pumpkin

Altogether, it was a $23.50 haul way back in mid-October. Yes, October! Can you believe that? It’s been three months, and each one of these pumpkins and squashies are still looking good, no soft spots or anything. In fact, the only thing that’s changed (for some of them) is the color.

The light blue pumpkin? From a cool blue to glow-in-the-dark orange.



The acorns? From a dark green to brilliant orange.



And the spaghettis and the light green pumpkin? Yes, them too! The spaghettis (now with orange stripes on their yellow skin) and the light green pumpkin (with slowly-spreading splotches of orange) also got in the game. The other guys, meanwhile, the jack-o’-lantern, munchkins, butternuts, and cheese pumpkins (orange, orange, beige, and beige), decided they were fine the way they were.

Normally when I have a higher-than-typical quantity of local produce, like when I have lots of pick-your-own plum tomatoes from the farm, I’ll arrange them on the table in nice rows so they’re pleasing to look at as well as right there when I need them. I don’t recall exactly how the pumpkins found their hallway home, but I remember that once they were there, the picture looked right. Every day, walking to kitchen, walking to the bathroom, and walking from the kitchen and from the bathroom, there they were, reminding me of how I knew it would be a good idea to empty my wallet that one day at the self-serve farm stand and bring home more squash (if I’m being technically honest) than I needed. I would have started cooking with them sooner if had they started going bad, but in the absence of rot and the presence of beauty, there was nothing to do but to let them sit where they were and feel myself smile as I passed.

This is also a way of saying that the first step to making fresh pumpkin puree is to buy a good-looking pumpkin and think about cooking it one day. For me, the first one up from the October batch would be one of the cheese pumpkins. It was starting to get a few dark spots on its skin, and though they weren’t soft yet, I decided it was time.


Overall, the process is fairly simple: cut the pumpkin into pieces, remove the seeds, bake the pumpkin, let it cool, peel the skin, and process the flesh.

From my own experience and reading what others do, it seems the details that go with these steps depend largely on your preferences. Some people cut the pumpkin in half or into quarters, while others cut the pumpkin into eighths (or more). Generally, the smaller the pieces are, the faster they will cook. Most people remove the seeds and strings before baking, but not everyone does. The baking temperatures seem to range from 350-400 degrees, the baking times from 30-90 minutes, and the pumpkin-in-baking-dish arrangements from face-down to face-up (and for some people, also with 1/4 cup water in the dish along with the dish covered by foil). A sufficient cooling time seems to be 10 minutes (or whenever it’s cool enough to touch). And the options for processing the baked pumpkin into pumpkin puree range from cranking a good ol’ Foley Mill to plugging in a food processor and letting electricity do the work. I’ve also seen a few suggestions for using a potato masher.

For me and my pumpkin, here’s what I did.

First I cut the pumpkin in half.


Then, after pausing to enjoy the fresh pumpkin smell that comes with the initial cut (it almost smells like a cantaloupe, but distinctively pumpkin), I scooped out the seeds and strings.

Then I cut the halves in half, cut the resulting pieces in half again, and ended up with eight pieces.


The next step was to bake the pumpkin pieces. The face-down arrangement is the easiest, so that’s what I went with. To do a comparison, I put two of the pieces in a separate dish with the 1/4 cup of water and covered it with foil. Then I put them all in the oven for 1 hour at 375 degrees.


1 hour at 375 degrees turned out to be just right for this pumpkin. When I poked the pieces at that point with a knife and the knife went through easily, I knew they were done. The two baking dish arrangements also worked out well, with similar results.


Two of the face-down pieces after baking

After letting the pumpkin pieces cool for 10 minutes, I peeled the skins.


And then I got out the Foley Mill.


This is one of my favorite steps of the process, as there’s a certain mechanical pleasure that comes with turning the mill. The ability to transform pumpkin flesh into pumpkin puree, using only your own power, is also one of those fun forms of culinary magic. If you’re ever at a rummage sale and see one, it could very well be one of the best $1-2 investments you make all day.

Once you have the mill, the only other thing you need is a pot to put underneath it, to collect the puree.


On this day, the one cheese pumpkin produced close to a full pot of puree.



I’ll estimate the it’s about 4/5 full, and given the size of the pot (2 1/2 quarts), that means I made 64 oz of fresh pumpkin puree, or the equivalent of more than four 15-oz cans!

Now all that’s left to do is make some pumpkin pie! And pumpkin soup, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and pumpkin recipe yet to found or suggested. If you know of a good one, let me know! There is a good chance I’ll have enough pumpkin to make it 🙂

Three to get ready

Happy New Year!


It’s going to be the best year yet!

I honestly believe each of those statements. I also believe in pausing from time to time to reflect on where you’re at and what you might do differently to keep moving forward along the path of progress. What better time to do that than at the turning of the year?

Yes, there are naysayers who may naysay that it’s an arbitrary point in time, or that few people keep the resolutions they make, or that the resolutions made are not specific enough, or something else. I think that any resolution you make is a good resolution, and if it is not completed or is partially completed come the end of the year, that’s okay. We do what we can and are ready for, and then we can reflect and make goals anew.

I’ll probably write some resolutions or goals for myself in the coming weeks, around the general categories of work, blog, personal, and fitness, and I know many of them will sound similar to ones I’ve written in the past. That’s okay. In the meantime, and in the longtime, I actually already have three that I made on New Year’s Eve to keep in mind.

I was hanging out with my brother and his family, and we went across the street to his neighbors’, where they were having some neighborhood families over. The scene was this: a gang of kids, mostly 3-6 years-old but some younger; a group of adults, mostly parents but some who were not; an impressive array of food and alcohol; and toys and confetti everywhere. The kids ran around taking part in mostly self-directed and periodically structured-fun (self-directed: collecting confetti into hats, counting down from ten, and screaming Happy New Year! and tossing the confetti in the air, and then repeating many times; structured: gathering as a group every so often so a few kids could stand under a balloon (and so the other kids could watch) as the host mom did a countdown and then popped the balloon, unleashing a shower of confetti and commensurate kid-delight). The adults, meanwhile, mostly took part in self-directed fun, also known as eating, drinking, talking, and making comments on things like the presence of Pitbull, the absence of Dick Clark, and what Taylor Swift was thinking or not thinking when she decided to wear or not wear what she did and didn’t.

It wasn’t structured-fun in the same manner as the kiddie-confetti-balloons, but the adults also had the opportunity and periodic peer-encouragement to write answers to the following four statements and to then clothespin the separate cards to the line:

  • The skill I want to learn this year is _________.
  • The good deed I want to do this year is ________.
  • The person I want to be more like this year is _______.
  • The bad habit I want to kick this year is _______.

A sample of some the early responses

By the time the encouragement made it to me, there were about 30 minutes left in the year. It seemed like the options for answering the cards were to think of something funny or honest. Not yet in the mindset of wanting to go real, I tried thinking of funny. The led to my first response:

  • The skill I want to learn this year is resolution-keeping.

Okay, so not really that funny, but more like a meta-jab at myself and the game. I wasn’t going to give up and not fill the cards out, though. I was going to do all three (I didn’t realize until yesterday that there was a fourth), and I was going to do them before 2014 was over. Five minutes later, after continuing to make little progress on funny, I filled in the second one:

  • The good deed I want to do this year is donating blood.

I’ve given blood three, maybe four times in my life. The first one or two times were fine, as was the most recent time. But the second to last time, a few years ago… It took me 15-20 minutes to give the pint (twice as long as usual), and it involved, part of the way through, me starting to feel really hot and then light-headed. This was remedied in the moment by being laid back and something cool being placed on my head, and then me finishing the giving that way. But the memory stuck with me and planted a seed of fear that it could happen again. Yes, it probably didn’t help that I had ridden my bike to work that morning and that it was 30 degrees outside, and that I was still feeling somewhat cold when I walked downstairs two hours later to give 🙂  Such are the learning experiences of life. In any case. Donating blood. 2015. I could do that. Actionable and accomplishable. Card number two: done. And then the last card – what should I put? “The person I want to be more like this year is _______.” Pitbull was already taken. So were some other celebrities, including some with additions, like, “A less slutty version of Taylor Swift.” I had the card in my hand for ten minutes, at first still trying to think funny, and then trying to think anyone, when I found the most honest answer:

  • The person I want to be more like this year is myself.

My brother looked at it and said, “Philosophical.” I said something like, “It’s the answer that makes the most sense.” This one also doesn’t come with lots of ready benchmarks, but it captures a lot. I’ve gotten better at being myself, but I also know I can do more. It all boils down to fear and courage, and listening, knowing, and sticking with it. Being afraid, not being confident, being worried about what other people think, not listening to myself and what I really want to do and what makes me happy in terms of work, play, relationships, goals – all of that is not being myself. The person I want to be more like this year is myself. And that’s to say: not being afraid, being confident, not worrying about what others think, listening to myself and what I want and what makes me happy – in work, play, relationships, goals, and everything. 2015 is going to be the best year yet, and part of the reason is because I’m going to be like myself even more.

On Saturday morning I was walking around town and saw a flier that said, “Blood Drive: Sunday January 4, 2015 – 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.” By the time I saw the flier again later in the day, at another spot, I already knew I was going to do it. I felt a small current of memory fear, both then and the next day, but that was to be expected. When the appointed time came around on Sunday, mostly the good history repeated itself. It took me 10 minutes to give, and I felt good (I only got just a little warm right at end when the machine beeped, saying I was done). So, I may have gone running three hours earlier in the day before giving. But – I did have a lot to eat and drink right after running, and I also got more ready this time. And it worked out.


The forearm selfie: harder than you’d think

Happy New Year!  Thumbs up to 2015.