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As a child, my father had Friday's off from work. In the morning, he would put on a big pot of pinto beans that we would eat together for lunch. I would sit at the table and play with my toy animals and use uncooked beans as ‘feed.’ We always had fresh tortillas for scooping and my dad would shred cheese for us to put on top. This is one of my favorite memories growing up! My mom would then turn the leftover beans into refried beans for other meals over the next few days.
In North America, beans have been an important pillar of food and agriculture for hundreds of generations. As part of "The Three Sisters," beans, squash and corn work together to create a circle of interdependence. Such a system is one based on giving and receiving, where each crop works to its fullest potential to provide for the others. The harvested result is a nutritiously complete meal with all necessary components for survival. I'm inspired by this hearty trio, and I hope you are too!
Adzuki bean in Japan and their Stories!
Nerikiri is an edible art. They are traditional Japanese sweets that are mochi on the outside, and adzuki bean paste on the inside. They are beautifully molded into flowers, fruits and birds of the season. It used to be a luxury confectionery for the Japanese Nobility in the Edo Era. Nowadays, they are often served together with green tea in Japanese tea ceremony.
Sekihan literary means “red rice” in Japanese because the rice is red from cooking with adzuki beans. It is a traditional dish served during New Years, birthdays, and weddings. The red color represents good luck, good health and happy life.
Oshiruko is a sweet adzuki paste soup with mochi. It is loved by many Japanese, especially during the winter. It is believed to have mysterious power to fight evil spirits!!
Taiyaki a fish-shaped pancake filled with sweet adzuki bean paste. Why Tai fish? The original taiyaki iron mold was round. Back in Meiji Era, Tai (sea bream) was considered a very expensive fish and only eaten for special celebrations. They decided to change the snack from its circular shape to the sea bream shape to make it more special, and became a huge hit!
I grew up eating beans as desserts, and they remain my favorite kind of sweets to this day. Adzuki and mung beans were always served as soups, or made into a sweet paste and stuffed into mochi (daifuku), pancake batter (taiyaki), or a flaky pastry (hopia). Soybeans were made into soy milk, and turned into a savory soybean soup (doujiang) or a sweet tofu pudding (douhua). One of my favorite desserts of all time is shaved ice (baobing) with as many toppings possible, including adzuki beans, mung beans, kidney beans, tofu pudding, boba, and a scoop of red bean ice cream, which are all then drizzled with condensed milk.
This is a simple but tasty recipe that goes back a few generations on my mom's side of the family. It's one of my favorites in wintertime. In honor of Dad, who liked the cornbread more than he did the beans, I added a bonus recipe for Tennessee Corn Pone, which you can make with the leftover beans when you're bored with eating them on their own! (The beans should be juicy.)