Review – Yellow Eye Beans from Rancho Gordo

Yellow Eye Beans from Rancho Gordo.

A medium-sized bean, very firm. Mild tasting, mild pot liquor.

Cooked in an InstantPot, I used:

  • 1 lb Rancho Gordo Yellow Eye beans, dry, not soaked
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 bunch celery, sliced
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3-5 Tablespoons dried parsley
  • 2-4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • Enough water to cover all ingredients, but not above the 2/3 fill line

I set the InstantPot for the highest multigrain setting. It will warm the ingredients for 45 minutes, then cook them as a pressure cooker for 60 minutes, then it will spend 20-40 minutes cooling down to the point the pressure will reduce and the lid will open up.

Even with all that, the Yellow Eye beans still turn out with quite a bit of structure (Alubia Blanca beans, by comparison, are almost meltingly tender). They tasted very good, but very mild in a way that’s hard to describe. I don’t remember ever using the phrase “cries out for” when describing an ingredient, but what I really felt when first trying these beans is that they cry out for some savory ingredients as a contrast. Either savory and sweet and sour, like a salad with a balsamic vinegar dressing, or savory and salty like salt pork.

A very good bean — as all Rancho Gordo beans are — but until I figure out a good ham hock recipe or a good bean salad recipe, I’ll probably work my way through some other Rancho Gordo beans before I come back to this one.

Recipe: Rustic Strata

This is a modified version of the “Rustic Strata” recipe from pages 32 and 33 of the Great American Beer Cookbook by Candy Schermerhorn, ISBN 0-937381-38-1.(1)

I’ve made this recipe two or three times now, it turns out very well. I tend to like stronger but lighter flavors than my parents, and I’m not a big fan of spinach, but I like this recipe and my parents love it, so there’s a good chance this is something many people in your life will like.

Rustic Strata with beer, spinach and cheese

  • 1 loaf soft soft Italian or French bread (preferably pre-sliced into approximately 1/4 inch slices)
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, softened (3/4 cup, or 12 tablespoons)
  • 8 oz Swiss, Gruyere, Fontina, Jarlsberg, or similar cheese, grated or sliced into small pieces
  • 2 small bunches fresh spinach, or 1 large bunch, stemmed and chopped fine
  • 3 large shallots, chopped
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or Creme Fraiche
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup light lager (not light beer)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 oz shredded Parmesan Reggiano
  • 1 onion, sliced thin, lightly sauteed in 1 tablespoon butter, cooled so no longer hot
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Take a 9”x13” or similar sized pan. Lightly butter the pan. Then take the remaining butter, butter slices of bread, and line the pan with them, trying to overlap the slices and covering the bottom and sides.
  3. Take a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the wetter ingredients: eggs, sour cream or Creme Fraiche, ricotta cheese, light lager, and heavy cream.
  4. Then mix in the following ingredients: dried basil, dried thyme, ground black pepper, sliced shallots, sliced or grated Swiss, Gruyere, Fontina, Jarlsberg or similar cheese.
  5. Lastly, fold in the largest ingredients, trying to still keep ingredients thoroughly mixed: sliced spinach, sliced sauteed onion, shredded Parmesan Reggiano.
  6. By this time, it should be a fairly bulky mixture. Carefully spoon and pour into the bread-lined pan. It may be a little bit higher than the edges, that is okay as long as liquid or cheese is not going to run over the top of the bread or the sides of the pan.
  7. Cooking time can vary from 30-50 minutes depending on the shape of your pan. Start checking it after 30 minutes. The top will be lightly browned and the center will be set when shaken lightly. (A knife inserted into the center will not come out clean.)
  8. Take out of oven, let sit 15-20 minutes before slicing. This recipe will smell fantastic as it gets close to finishing cooking but it is a fairly rich recipe, so don’t dish yourself a huge piece to eat the first time you try making it.

(1)Side note: if you ever get a chance to pick up a copy, this is an excellent cookbook. Although I wasn’t familiar with the term before making this recipe, a “strata” in general seems to mean a quiche with a bread crust.

Recipe: White Alubia Blanca beans with chicken and vegetables

I came up with this recipe late last week, made a large batch (it’s a big recipe) and it was all gone by Monday. And this is in a house that doesn’t typically eat a lot of beans.

So I thought I’d write it down. There’s a little bit of prep work with the chicken and beans, but once that’s done the rest of dish comes together and can sit on the stove by itself until the vegetable are cooked through. It reheats very well.

A new idea I tried with this recipe was adding mustard seeds. Often I’ll use a bit of lemon juice to add a bit of brightness to a chicken dish (or a little bit of Worceistershire sauce and Tobasco sauce for a pork or beef dish), but this is the first time I skipped the lemon juice and used mustard seeds. They were invisible once added, but added a little indefinable something that made the dish brighter. Continue reading

Personal Recommendation – Berti’s Gloves

The company is Berti’s Gloves in Harrison, ID. I’ve seen this company’s booth at local shows for a few years and I finally spoiled myself and bought a pair of their deerskin gloves. They are fantastic which is why I’m posting their information here. The gloves aren’t cheap (standard deer skin gloves are $62), but their standard size 8 fits me great and feels fantastic.

I’ll add more information after the jump, but right now their website doesn’t seem to be working and in general, from talking to them I don’t think they’re focused on the internet. They always have a well-stocked booth at the shows they’re at and when I’ve talked to them they seem to be very nice. Continue reading

Pork roast spice rub recipe

I looked through some online recipes and a cookbook to find a dry rub recipe for country style ribs.

I wound up not using much rub, and I didn’t really like how much fat there is on country style pork ribs so I probably won’t get them again.

BUT I was told by a couple people that the pork turned out very well and one of the pickiest eaters I feed said it was some of the best pork I’d ever cooked. Continue reading

Some statistics about Montana grain farming, July 2017

From the July 2017 issue of Montana Grain News (1)

  • The last five years, Montana has exported 73% of our wheat crop. The main destinations during those five years are Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, and Guatemala/El Salvador.
  • The top importer of U.S. wheat overall is Mexico.
  • Mexico is also the top importer of Montana barley.
  • The Pacific Rim is the top destination for Montana wheat.

Continue reading

Chocolate drink and some notes about food podcasts

Bittersweet Chocolate Drink:

This is a drink I came up with recently for times when I am craving chocolate but trying to stay away from candy. Add 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder and 1 packed Tablespoon dark brown sugar to a large coffee mug. Add 10-12 ounces boiling water. Stir thoroughly. Add in 2 Tablespoons dairy with some fat (milk, table cream, whipping cream, whatever). Stir, let cool.

So far, it’s been very filling and has helped keep me away from my dad’s stash of candy bars when I get chocolate cravings.

Food podcasts:

I’m still listening to podcasts. Here are a couple about food that I really enjoy. Continue reading

Great Courses, Great Sentences 06 of 24

Notes on Lesson 6 from the course Great Sentences by Professor Brooks Landon (from The Great Courses):

This lecture is titled “The Rhythm of Cumulative Syntax”:

Main thing from this lecture is the focus on sentence and sentence structure owes a lot to the works of Francis Christensen* who in the early 1960s decided to quit focusing on formal theories and to look at how writing was done by professional writers.

Christensen had four principles for sentences. Continue reading

When To Keep Your Mouth Shut

I got hooked on podcasts over a year ago. There’s almost twenty on my subscription list right now. Even though I sew but don’t do any woodworking, I don’t subscribe to any sewing podcasts but I do subscribe to three podcasts that are largely about woodworking.*

Making It with Jimmy Diresta, Bob Clagett and David Picciuto is one of those podcasts. I ran across some notes to myself from a few months ago about Episode 105, “What if everything goes right?”

Starting at about 28:20, there’s a discussion about being around people who are very negative. Jimmy Diresta’s advice was “If there are people around you who are negative, don’t tell them anything, . . . Certain people in my life, I absolutely shield them from what I’m doing. And that is because I know they’ll always say something negative, impulsively, because of their own personal fear.” Continue reading

American Cake – A great baking book and a recipe for vanilla sauce

I’ve only cooked two recipes out of it and I love it, the book is American Cake by Anne Byrn (ISBN 978-1-62336-543-1).

It combines baking, history, and cooking science. Byrn follows the history of the United States in cake recipes, going back to 1600s.

The recipes are presented mostly chronologically, with notes about baking techniques and ingredients available at various times in U.S. history.

Which is why I also think of this book as yet another entry in the long list of reasons why the “good old days” weren’t as great as a lot of people like to think.

On page 7, Byrn describes what was needed to make light and fluffy cakes in colonial times. There was beating egg whites and egg yolks until they were fluffy enough to provide some leavening of the cake they would be put in. That was often an hour or more of whisking by hand, since even hand-powered gear-driven mixers would not be invented for quite some time. By the late 1700s, many cooks and bakers had started using potash, which was ash from burned hardwood trees which had been rinsed with water (the rinsing water was used for cleaning because of the lye in it). Pearlash was a purified form of potash, and the next time you open up your baking cabinet I invite you to marvel at the fact we don’t have to use woodash to make cakes anymore. Unsurprisingly, woodash (even rinsed) did not taste very good, so cakes that used it for leavening usually had a lot of strong spices or strong tasting ingredients like molasses. Which would still be nicer than having to whip eggs by hand for an hour every time someone wanted cake. It was not until the middle 1800s that baking soda or baking powder became available.

The recipe I’m including below is not even an actual cake recipe, it’s just a vanilla sauce recipe that’s an aside to one of Byrn’s cake recipes. Even so, it’s great, the book is great, and if you like cakes or history, I would definitely recommend getting American Cake.

Vanilla Sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
  1. Place the sugar and cornstarch in a small pan, mix thoroughly with the 2 cups boiling water, and simmer or lightly boil over low heat until thickened. Take off the heat, stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Spoon over cake or whatever else you are putting it on.

Whoa, little book! – some light humor

Whoa, that’s enough now, whoa, little book!
We’ve come now right to the end.
You’re keen to keep going on further,
And you can’t be held back on the last page,
As if you hadn’t finished the task
That was finished already on the first page.
Now your reader is grumbling and giving up,
Now even the scribe himself is saying
“Whoa, that’s enough now, whoa, little book!”

Martial (full name Gaius Valerius Martialis, c. 40-101 AD), Epigrams 4.89

From A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities, by J.S. McKeown, page 232.

This is hilarious. I am really tempted to find some translation that I know is past copyright and then make some bookmarks or something out of it.


On a side note, Latin text of the above as written in A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities (excellent book, really enjoyed it, but some truly crazy stuff in there as well):

Ohe, iam satis est, ohe, libelle!
iam pervenimus usque ad umbilicos.
Tu procedere adhuc it ire quaeris,
nec summa potes in schida teneri,
sic tamquam tibi res peracta non sit
quae prima quoque pagina peracta est.
iam lector queriturque deficitque,
iam librarius hoc et ipse dicit
“Ohe, iam satis est, ohe, libelle!”

Smart and IQ and Doing Things Which Create Real Change in Other People’s Lives; A Short Rant, Some Thoughts, Some Links

A short rant: For the person who thinks they have the solution to all the problems in the world, their solution will be for everyone to act the same as the person who thinks they have the solutions.

This person’s own strongest and best qualities, as determined from their own perspective, will be the qualities which they will insist should be strongest and best — and most celebrated and most sought after — in everyone else.

These people are more often wrong, and more often wrong in multiple ways, than they are right.

The other day a relative asked me if I’d read the same blog post they had read about IQ. Continue reading

A recipe for Pickled Mustard Seeds and also some comments on the new cooking magazine Milk Street

First the recipe (which I have made twice and still really like, and yes I’m using a lot of mustard seeds recently), and then some happy comments on the new cooking magazine Milk Street ( from Christopher Kimball.

Pickled Mustard Seeds (this is slightly different than what’s in the Fall 2016 Milk Street magazine)
Continue reading

Great Courses, Great Sentences 04 of 24

Notes I made to myself after listening to Lesson 4 of Great Sentences by Professor Brooks Landon from The Great Courses:

Kernel sentences are the core of the sentence and should be about as short as can be.

Additional modifiers add information to either clarify or elaborate on the information in the kernel sentence.

No, that’s not many notes. Yes, it was an interesting lecture. I just didn’t take that many notes from it.

My attempts at writing exercises are below.

Continue reading

Recipe: Chow Chow with Green Tomatoes, Bitter and Spicy

Adapted from a recipe by Anne Wolf in Cook’s Country magazine in the October/November 2016 issue. This version I made doubles the spices she called for and adds some dill weed that she didn’t have, so if it’s the first time you’re making it you may want to cut down a bit.

This recipe has to rest a while, so it’s not something to whip up right before dinner.

Chow Chow with Green Tomatoes, Bitter and Spicy Continue reading

Great Courses, Great Sentences 03 of 24

Brief summary of lesson 3

  • Sentences are not “sequences of words” but propositions.
  • Modifying clauses will not be able to stand on their own.
  • The base clause can stand by itself.
  • Free modifiers, words or phrases, can be moved around the sentence and the same factual information will be there, but it likely will create a different impression.
  • The place in the sentence a writer will usually tend to make the most memorable is the end of the sentence.
  • A sentence can be a narrative with a story all contained within itself.
  • Reminding the reader of the mind behind the writing is part of the style.
  • The part of a sentence that is actually written is the much smaller part, the propositions and impacts unwritten but still contained within the sentence are the much larger part. Landon compares sentences to icebergs.

Continue reading

Recipe: Seasoned Ground Beef with Chilis and Tomatoes and Onions

Everyone in the family calls this type of stuff “Taco Meat” and considers it to be Mexican food, but I’ve heard multiple times that ground beef is not really Mexican.

This particular variation turned out good enough that I got lots of compliments from a number of people, so I thought I’d write it down.

Yes, it’s a big recipe, and while it goes together fast, it takes a long time to cook.

Seasoned Ground Beef

  • 4 lbs ground beef (we usually use lean ground beef, but this should work with regular too)
  • 4 medium to medium-large yellow onions, diced medium
  • 3-4 Pasilla or Poblano chili peppers, seed and ribs removed, diced small
  • 6-8 Anaheim chili peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced small
  • 4 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Lawry’s Salt-Free Mexican Seasoning (if you can’t get this, I think you could approximate it with 2 teaspoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon cumin seed and 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves; you can order this from and I absolutely love this seasoning mix, I put it on eggs, I mix it in with cream cheese, it’s fantastic)
  1. Brown the ground beef in a large heavy-bottomed pan.
  2. Once the ground beef is browned, add in the other ingredients. Mix well, let simmer for two hours or more. Most of that time is boiling off the excess liquid from the tomatoes and onions; if you need to cut down the time I think you could drain the diced tomatoes before adding them and then add an extra can of tomato paste.

Yogurt cornbread, simplified and improved

Very moist, very flavorful, not too sweet.

Yogurt cornbread (version 2)

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose white flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • (optional) 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3-4 Tablespoons shortening/oil/grease
  • (optional) 1-2 Tablespoons honey

Heat oven to 425 F. Put 1-2 Tablespoons shortening in 8- or 9-inch cast iron skillet and place in oven.

Mix dry ingredients in medium-sized bowl.

Add yogurt, buttermilk and eggs to bowl, mix thoroughly. Dough will be a little stiff at this point.

Melt remaining 2 Tablespoons shortening. Add to dough. Add honey if you are using it. Mix thoroughly. Pour into heated skillet, place back in oven. Cook about 15-20 minutes, or until golden-brown and a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.