Friday, May 30, 2008

Sidebar #1 Orange Bundt Cake

OK, this has nothing to do with beans or jazz, but is by special request. My awesome nephew, Brian, is having a birthday party this Sunday and I'm bringing the cake. So I tried this Orange Bundt Cake recipe (excellent pan here) to make sure it was okay. My daughter Hannah took some to school and I hear it was well received.

I found the recipe HERE

and tweaked it (below)


  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 (3 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter


  1. Grease a 10 inch Bundt pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and pudding mix. Make a well in the center and pour in 3/4 cup orange juice, oil, eggs and orange extract. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl, and beat 4 minutes on medium speed. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
  4. As soon as you put the cake in the oven, cook 1/4 cup orange juice, sugar and butter for two minutes in a saucepan over medium heat. Let it cool while the cake bakes.
  5. Drizzle the lukewarm glaze over the cake in several layers so it can soak in.
No beans. No jazz. Just good cake.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bean Jazz #2, A Love Affair with Lentils

If I had to pick one bean as "my bean" it would be without a doubt or a moment's hesitation, the lentil. A timeline of my love affair...

1975: I first eat lentil soup at the age of 14. My parents drove my brother and me to the "World Vegetarian Congress" in Orono, Maine. They were not vegetarians but I had become a vegetarian on my 13th birthday and wanted to go. I didn't realize until years later just how cool my parents were. Anyway, I still remember the lentil soup at the Vegetarian Congress. It had a strange taste, not as in good strange, but as in strange strange. My mother wouldn't eat lentils for years after that and referred to "that bad lentil soup" in Orono many times over the next decade.

1979: College. Freshman fall. A beautiful late September Tuesday. The vegetarian entre for lunch that day in the cafeteria was lentil stew. I was a little dubious, but as that was the option, I gave it a try. I added some salt. I went back for seconds. And thirds. "Can you make it a little bigger this time?" The woman behind the lunch line thought I was nuts. Every other Tuesday lunch it was me and three heaping plates of scrumptious lentil stew.

1983: I'm doing and internship in Washington, D.C. and living the life of an unpaid intern. I start to experiment with cooking lentils myself.

1984: I'm living in Philadelphia, scraping by on two part-time jobs. More experimentation with lentils.

1985: I move to Kalamazoo, live in an attic and have not even one part time job. I eat lentils every day. Around this time I settle on my first generation lentils and rice recipe which is basically garlic added to the lentil cooking water and margarine and salt on top of the finished lentils. If I was lucky enough to scrounge up a tomato, I would dice it up and put that on the very top. It was tasty but not so healthy with the margarine.

Later 80's: I get a regular job and can afford to add a diced tomato every time I eat lentils.

Early 90's: I decide to cut the fat from the recipe. However, without the margarine, the lentils are a bit dry. More experimentation.

Mid 90's: By trial and error I come up with a fairly stable second generation lentil and rice recipe that is really more of a stew. I've been eating it and serving it to my family regularly since then. It's the one thing everyone likes. And here is the recipe, as it has developed over the years.

Bean Jazz #2: Veggie Lentil Stew
About 50 minutes, start to finish

Equipment: Rice pan, Large stock pot (at least 5 quarts/litres), large frying pan

1 lb. dried lentils (2.5 cups, 450 g)
1 lb. dry brown rice (2.5 cups, 450 g)
1 tbsp. corriander
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
1 tbsp. rosemary (in a bag or cheesecloth, I use "fill-yourself" tea bags)
3 bay leaves (also in the bag)
Your favorite bouillon to taste, (1-3 cubes)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 medium to large onions, chopped
1/2 lb. (225 g) mushrooms, chopped
5 medium to large carrots, chopped
4-5 stalks of celery, chopped
2 cans of 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes

Start the rice cooking, when it boils, turn it down to a simmer and set the timer for 40 minutes.
Rinse the lentils twice and cover them with 2" of cold water in the stock pot. Put them on the stove on high heat. Bag the bay leaves and rosemary and add the to the pot. Add the corriander, cayenne pepper and bouillon. When the lentils boil, turn them down to a simmer.

While the lentils and rice are cooking, heat the oil in the frying pan on high heat. Chop the onions and add them to the oil, stirring every couple minutes. While they're cooking, chop the mushrooms. When the onions are very soft and some are just starting to get brown around the edges (about 5 minutes), add the mushrooms, leave the heat high and continue to stir every couple minutes until the onion/mushroom mix is really cooked and getting brown in parts (about another 5 minutes). While the onions and mushrooms are cooking, chop the carrots and celery. Add them and the diced tomatoes to the frying pan, stir it all up and cover. Stir it every five minutes or so until your timer for the rice goes off. Drain the lentils, remove the rosemary and bay leaves, and put the drained lentils back in the stock pot. Add the vegetable mixture to the lentils and stir it up. Serve the lentil stew over the brown rice and salt to taste.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bean Jazz #1 Slow Cooker "Free-Fried Beans"

The basis for these beans can be found here. Fat-free, easy to make and super-tasty. Recipe adjustments: I added the soaking, decreased the salt to 3 tsp., increased the cumin to 1/2 tsp and heaped on the garlic.

It was fun making a movie. This is my first time. I used a little Flip camera and iMovie to edit. Easier than I thought it would be. Note the dog walking by. Also, I forgot the fresh ground black pepper when I was shooting the video but thought the beans tasted even better without it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

10 Reasons Why Beans Rule

1. Beans are cheap. (Some people say I'm cheap, but I consider myself "froo-gull").
2. Beans are delicious.
3. Beans are easy to cook. (just follow the Bean Jazz videos)
4. Beans are eco-friendly. The humble bean plant turns sunshine into delicious protein with grace and style. Ditch that Prius, eat more beans!
5. Beans are fun. "The more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel!"
6. Beans make you more attractive. (OK, maybe not directly, but it you eat beans you'll have more money in your pocket and that WILL make you more attractive).
7. Beans are soooooo good for you. Protein, fiber and mysterious phyto-chemicals that do all kinds of good deeds inside your body.
8. Beans are good for people around the world. I won't bore you with the economics, but trust me, when you eat beans, everybody wins.
9. Beans keep (almost) forever. You won't have to throw them out because they're putrid or moldy. They'll wait patiently for you to enjoy them.
10. Beans are good luck. Here is a true story. When I moved out of an attic and into a very humble apartment in the 1980's in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I had almost no money. Nobody in Kalamazoo had any money in the early 80's. My friend Jay gave me a house-warming present of a plastic sherbet container filled with dried kidney beans. He said, "you'll never go hungry as long as you have these beans." He was right, I have always had enough to eat. And I still have those kidney beans.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Bean Jazz Manifesto, Part 1

1. Beans rule. See 10 Reasons why Beans Rule.
2. Cooking is fun. If it's not fun, I'm not doing it right.
3. Slow cookers rule almost as much as beans. Throw everything in the pot in the morning and come home to a tasty dinner, ready when you walk in the door.
4. Improvise when you cook! (see #2)