Red Kidney Beans (Rajma)

3 tablespoons canola oil
5 whole cloves
10 black peppercorns
1 (1 inch) piece cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 whole cardamom pod (optional)
2 onion, chopped
6 Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon powdered red pepper or dried Cajun pepper (optional)
1 1/2 cups drained kidney beans (this is roughly the same as a drained can of beans)*
salt to taste
6 sprigs cilantro, minced


1 tsp whole cloves = 3/4 tsp ground cloves*
1/4 tsp ground cloves = 3 whole cloves*

1 tsp (5 mL) peppercorns = 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) ground pepper*
1 tsp whole peppercorns = 100 peppercorns

1″ stick cinnamon = 1 tsp ground*

1 cardamom pod = 1/6 tsp ground cardamom*

1 tbsp ground fresh ginger = 1 tsp ground ginger*

I often use two pounds of dry beans in a recipe to make a large amount of food to be eaten throughout the week. I also don’t really like randomly biting into whole cloves or whole peppercorns. Here is the recipe multiplied for 4 1/2 cups of cooked beans (2 lbs dried beans) and ground spices only:

0.5 cup canola oil (or 9 1/2 tbsp)
1.5 tsp ground clove
0.5 tsp ground black pepper
3.5 tsp cinnamon
3 bay leaves
0.5 tsp cardamom (optional)
6 onions, chopped
19 Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped (~57 oz of tomatoes)
13 cloves garlic, minced
6 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp powdered red pepper or dried Cajun pepper (optional)
4 1/2 cups drained kidney beans
salt to taste
3 tsp dried cilantro

Source: my own measurement and hand-counting of 100 peppercorns

1 bunch of cilantro = 93 sprigs of cilantro*
1 bunch fresh cilantro = 1 cup, chopped*
1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves, loose = 1 cilantro bunch*
1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped = 3g*
19 sprigs cilantro = 0.2 bunches fresh cilantro (using cross-multiplication)
0.2 bunches fresh cilantro = 0.2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped (using cross-multiplication)
0.2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped = 3.2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
3.2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped = 3.2 tsp dried ground cilantro

From Martha Stewart*:

When cooking with fresh and dry herbs, there is a general rule when it comes to the ratio of fresh to dry. Because dried herbs are generally more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, you’ll need less — typically three times the amount of fresh herbs as dry.

According to various sources on the Internet, a Roma tomato typically weighs ~3 oz. This would mean that one would need about 57 ounces of tomatoes altogether.

Voter ID

A new nationwide analysis of more than 2,000 cases of alleged election fraud over the past dozen years shows that in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which has prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tougher voter ID laws, was virtually nonexistent.


The court’s opinion said that among residents who lack other forms of acceptable identification, the burden of obtaining a state voter-ID certificate would weigh disproportionately on minorities living in poverty, with many having to travel as much as 200 to 250 miles round trip.

On Tuesday, a separate panel threw out Texas’s redistricting plans, saying the maps drawn by the legislature undermined the political rights of minorities who are responsible for the state’s population growth.


The Slow Cooker

In case I haven’t openly encouraged you to get a slow cooker, I would like to do so now. I want to cook for myself generally, but also don’t always want to spend an entire day in the kitchen. The slow cooker allows me to do some short preparation and then go do other things (condom snorting) while the food, in effect, prepares itself. Then, I have several days of meals that need only be reheated to be enjoyed.

Case in point, this soup:

Incidentally, I noticed that this recipe included NO SPINACH, so I opened a can of spinach (no added salt) and put it into the food processor with some tomatoes (I generally don’t like hot hunks of tomato). Well, it turned out just fine. And, aside from tasting great, this soup not only cured my impotence but also made my eyebrows grow back.

Mark  If you want to get the most out of your food, stay away from canned unless it’s the apocalypse.
Clifton  Mark, I’m glad you commented on that part of my post. A few months back, I read an article regarding BPA that I probably took more seriously than I should have. Looking into it again, I now find that scientists are much more divided than I thought.

There are BPA-free cans out there and canned food producers may eventually move to some other material (Eden Brands says they’ve been using a “vegetable resin enamel” since 1999). So, is there any other reason to eat canned stuff? Well, as far as I can tell, many canned vegetables are comparable to fresh and frozen counterparts.

I already do not eat a lot of canned stuff. The spinach is a rarity as, bizarrely enough, I can only find the sodium-free variety at Walmart and I don’t do a lot of shopping at Walmart.

I suppose the wisest thing is probably to grow your own stuff and, if that’s not possible, to buy fresh stuff. Which I generally do. That said, I’m not sure that all canned food is to be avoided. I generally prefer canned over frozen because cans are recyclable where plastic bags aren’t.

Mark  Honestly, I’m going to have to become a cyborg to connect with you. I’ve watched, read, and listened to many people on the subject. Now, a blog you probably didn’t even read that caters to your point of view is right? That’s weird. We can find anything to back up anything.

The sad truth is nobody is going to hold legislation over every discussion or even take the time to read more than five lines. You follow what you believe and I believe the studies that say no.

I just took 45 seconds to read that blog filler. You have to be careful with those — they aren’t always true. Continue reading The Slow Cooker

Use Your Birthday for Charity

A good friend came up with this idea recently that I thought was pretty brilliant: when your birthday comes around, rather than ask for a gift for yourself, encourage potential gift givers to donate to a charity. My thinking is that even if this idea caused only one person to donate where they wouldn’t have otherwise, then it was worthwhile.

Well, my birthday is coming up soon and so this seems like a good time to try to spread this fine idea. I considered recommending an environmental organization like Sierra Club, but I think that the folks at Against Malaria might be doing work that would benefit from more immediate attention. I also think that even small donations go far with them.

Putting Charities to the Test
According to Guide Dogs of America, the cost of training a dog is around $42,000. So if you had $42,000 to give, you could greatly improve the life of one blind person.
But what if instead, you spent that $42,000 on eye surgeries for people with trachoma in Africa? Helen Keller International, which works to prevent blindness, says trachoma surgery costs as little as $25 per person and is 80 percent effective. That same money, then, could restore the sight of 1,344 people.

Mark  Very good! Every little bit helps. I was just thinking about the unnecessary stuff we accumulate and how hard it is to get rid of.
John  I would give, but I heard that Africans are afraid of getting shots and all the money goes to warlords. Plus, even if you *did* save someone, think of the quality of life they’re likely to have after! And, how do you even know that it works? These things are so poorly tracked.
Clifton  Well, John, the money would not easily end up in warlord hands as it goes to purchasing nets. People generally aren’t that afraid of nets.

As for the quality of life, I think the going-in assumption is that people would rather live than die, regardless of the attendant hardships. Given that this is true for most people, we might go a step farther and assume that the average child doesn’t want to die from malaria.

This is from a section on the web site where efficacy is published for Ntcheu District, Malawi: “Malaria incidence, compared to the same month in the prior year, is 50% lower in Mar 2012, 50% lower in Apr 2012, 45% lower in May 2012, 45% lower in Jun 2012.”

John  Well, what about the Syrian refugee crisis? Isn’t that more important? I read somebody calling it the worst humanitarian crisis since Rwanda. And, why not donate within the USA? Continue reading Use Your Birthday for Charity