Popeye’s Red Beans and Rice Knockoff Recipe

I am a true southern gal – I love comfort food, especially if it is fried, uses lots of butter, involves gravy, or is otherwise unhealthy in some way. So naturally I’m a big fan of Popeye’s fried chicken and biscuits. My favorite side has always been their red beans and rice, which is just the right mix of salty, savory, spicy and wonderful. But come on, it’s just beans and rice, right? Surely I could make something at home that is just as good.

WELL, I have finally sorted out just how to do that! It may not be exactly the same in terms of taste, but gosh darn it, these beans were SO good that I almost couldn’t stop eating them. And that is the true test of deliciousness, in my opinion. For anyone else who would like to try making Popeye’s-style red beans* and rice at home, here’s how I did it:

*IMPORTANT – for the love of all that is holy and good, do NOT USE KIDNEY BEANS! They taste entirely different! Red Beans are RED BEANS. I get so pissed when I see a recipe for red beans and rice that uses kidney beans. It’s not called kidney beans and rice! DO NOT USE KIDNEY BEANS! If you cannot find red beans for whatever reason, the closest substitute would be pinto beans.

For the Red Beans:

2 cans of red beans, drained

1c water

1 tsp of Better Than Bullion ham base

1/4tsp liquid smoke

1/2tsp onion powder

1/2tsp garlic salt

1/4tsp white pepper

Mix the water and Better Than Bullion in a 2qt pot and let it boil so that it gets incorporated, then added the seasonings and stir it around to get everything evenly combined. Add the two cans of beans, then lower the temp and let everything simmer for about 40min. Turn off the burner, mash the beans with a potato masher, then use an immersion hand blender to give the beans more of a refried consistency (obviously you don’t have to do this if you want the beans to be chunkier; the Popeye’s version is more like refried beans). Put the burner back on low to cook off a bit more of the remaining liquid so that the beans will thicken up some more, about 15min.

For the Rice:

I ate mine with brown rice, specifically Texmati brown rice cooked in my rice cooker. For those who use a rice cooker, you can certainly use the cheaper models to cook brown rice even though it cooks differently than white rice – the trick is to use the PORRIDGE setting. Just put the recommended amount of rice and water in the rice cooker according to the package instructions (2 1/4c water for each cup of rice for Texmati), select the porridge setting, and start the cooker.

I’d post a picture, but I already ate the evidence… 😉

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Creativity, Productivity, and Self-Sabotage

I’ve begun to suspect that the reason I spend so little of my available time working on my sewing, knitting, and crochet projects is because of the restrictions I’ve placed on myself. The irony is that I put those restrictions in place to make me MORE productive. And you know what they say: Repeating the same action and expecting different results is insanity. Thus, I’ve decided to revise my approach to creating in the hopes that I will, you know, actually create things.

The Current Rule: NO multiple WIPs!

I am a product maker, not a process maker. This gets discussed quite a bit among knitters, but I don’t see it brought up as much among seamstresses. As my goal is to actually finish projects that I start so that I can have a useful finished object, I’ve tried to limit the number of things I have in progress so that I will put all of my efforts into one project at a time: One knitting project, one crochet project, and one sewing project. That’s it. That’s all I’m allowed to have in the works at any given time.

The problem with this approach is that if I don’t feel like working on the one project that I have in progress, I don’t have any other projects to put my efforts into…so I end up procrastinating, usually by going online and looking at other people’s projects or ideas for future projects. The fallacy of my one-project-productivity-push mentality is that if I only have one project, that is what I will work on. However, there actually is another option: To not work on anything. And that seems to be the option I choose most often.

The opposite side of the fence, and the one I am desperately trying to avoid, is having eight thousand projects in various stages of completion and with little hope that any of them will ever be finished. In my early 20s, I would frequently start projects and not finish them; that is what I am desperately trying to avoid. HOWEVER, upon reflection, I have realized that there was something significant about the projects that I never finished – they were items that, once finished, I never would have actually worn. As a 20-something, I knew that I wouldn’t wear or use the finished object, which eliminated my desire to put any effort into the item. I didn’t know that at the time, but now I see the pattern.

Right now, my reason for not working on a project usually involves whatever stage of production I am at – the shirt I am sewing needs the collar attached, and I don’t feel like doing anything fiddly, or the sweater I’m knitting is at the “yards of stockinette” stage and I don’t want to do something mindless. Eventually I will work on these projects because I do want the finished object. But I *do* consider sewing, knitting, and crochet to be my hobbies (i.e., things I do for enjoyment) rather than work, so if they feel like work, I won’t want to do them. My “One WIP only” rule has turned my hobbies into work. So, what is the solution?

The New Rule: Multiple WIPs Allowed*

Obviously there must be some caveats. All good rules have fine print, right?

– There must be variety in the types of WIPs

I’m not a good assembly line sewer. I’ve tried, and it basically exacerbates the issues I have with avoidance and procrastination. If I am going to have multiple projects in progress, they must be varied in terms of techniques and difficulty.

– If I realize that I am avoiding a project because I have decided that I don’t want the finished product, I will get rid of the project.

There is no joy in finishing something that I am just going to get rid of. It is wasted effort, and no wonder I don’t want to work on a project if I know the effort is going to waste. Better to just pitch the whole thing and get on with another project that I do want to finish.

I occasionally read articles and blog posts about lost knitting mojo or “sewjo” and how to get it back. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen an article about what to do if you have the mojo but cannot seem to get yourself to actually work on your projects. Hopefully this nitpicky analysis of my approach to productivity will help some other makers realize that they have self-sabotaged in a similar way, so that we can all get back to enjoying our hobbies instead of accidentally turning them into work that we avoid.

The Concept of Fit – Part 2

Gawd, where did August go? I hope I’m not the only one who blinked and missed it. In fact, this entire year has been sailing by at light speed. My sewing (and knitting, reading, gaming…basically anything that takes time) goals are also speeding by, unmet. Probably because I spend way too much time online, looking at other patterns and fabric and blog posts rather than working with what is actually in my stash. And I KNOW I’m not the only one guilty of that, either. 😉

But one of the things that I’ve noticed from all of my studying of other seamstresses’ completed projects, as well as looking through RTW websites for ideas, is that there are certain aspects of fit that are non-negotiable. Essentially, regardless of a person’s style and fit preferences, there are a few key areas of garment fitting that will automatically make a person look as if they are wearing the wrong size, period. So, in order to avoid looking like your clothes shrank, or that you are in denial about your true body shape/size, here are what I consider to be the non-negotiable aspects of fit:

1. Sleeve length on jackets, blazers, and coats

This is something that I deal with frequently as a petite woman, and I know that tall ladies with long arms have it even worse than I do. The full-length sleeve on a tailored outer garment (i.e., NOT hoodies, slouchy sweaters, sweatshirts, etc.) should always end somewhere between the first and last joints of the wearer’s thumb. This allows for the sleeve to rise with the bending of the elbows without flashing shirtsleeves or forearm. Anything longer than this and you look like you borrowed your dad’s suit jacket (ask me how I know!), while any shorter and it appears as if your blazer shrunk in the dryer and you haven’t yet bought a replacement.

A perfect example of the sleeve-too-short problem can be seen in the model photo for this suede jacket for sale on the White House Black Market website:

The end of the sleeve does not even cover the model’s entire wrist, which means that when she bends her elbow or does anything besides letting her arms hang straight down, the cuff is going to expose a large portion of her forearm. Aside from it not looking correct, it is also impractical for cold weather wear. Wrist drafts suck, right?

NOTE: Obviously this aspect of fit only applies to full-length sleeves and not 3/4 or half-sleeve lengths. So if you find a jacket that you adore, but the sleeves are wrist-length, consider cutting them to 3/4 or half length so that it looks intentional.

2. Puckers around button plackets over the bust

I see this so often lately, particularly from seamstresses who prefer vintage styles and like to eliminate all of the ease from the patterns before even making a muslin. I enjoy showing off my figure, but I also like to look as if my clothes fit properly. We can display our figures just fine without also blinding people when our buttons give up and bail out due to lack of ease.

This picture from a She Finds article about fixing button gaps shows what I mean:

While there are certainly quick, temporary fixes for button gaps, the correct way to fix the issue is to avoid it entirely. Including enough ease in the construction of shirts with button plackets is a requirement for proper fit. If you are looking for something more fitted, try patterns with princess seams and bust darts to add shaping around the bust and waist curves. Do not rely on removing ease to “fit” a shirt to your figure, unless the shirt is made from knit fabric and does not involve a button placket.

3. Pants hem length

Another area that I am more than familiar with, although my legs are somewhat long for my height. This can be more tricky for those who like to alternate between heels and flats, but it really does make a difference in whether your pants look correctly fitted or not.

According to the United States Navy uniform regulations, our dress pants should be long enough to just touch the tops of the soles of our shoes. There should be a slight break (aka, wrinkle) in the front of the leg, as it will need to extend past the instep in order to be the correct length in the back.

I like to use this standard as the best practice for my professional wear, as well. Ideally, my hems end about 1/2″ – 1″ above the floor, which keeps my legs from drowning in a floor-length pant leg. Taller ladies frequently have the opposite issue, or what I would call “unintentional floods”. Do y’all remember the floods trend from back in the 90s/early 2000s? Do people still do that on purpose?

Oh, apparently they do:

My grandfather (God rest his soul) used to wear this exact combination of pants, socks, and shoes. While I loved him dearly, I did not use him as a personal style guide. Go for a midi-length skirt or some capri pants if you want to show off your socks and shoes – much like the issue with jacket sleeve lengths, what matters is that the length looks intentional rather than accidental.

4. Misplaced shoulder seams

I love a good dolman sleeve. Raglans are awesome, too. As a wide/square-shouldered petite gal, it is hard to find a jacket that fits my arm length (see issue 1) and is not also too narrow across the shoulders. And this is an issue that not only affects the appearance of the garment, but also the practicality – if the shoulders of a jacket or shirt are too narrow, it will not allow for full range of arm motion.

Conversely, a jacket with shoulder seams that are too wide will end up making the wearer look like an inverted triangle – this is especially bad for those who are naturally inverted triangles, who will thus look like a pair of shoulders mounted on top of a broomstick.

Something like this poor model on the Zara website:

In theory, the fit-and-flare princess seams at the waist of the jacket would balance out the shoulders (which they refer to as “dropped” – no, that’s not what a proper dropped shoulder looks like, Zara. This is just piss-poor fit). But this model has a long torso, so the faux hips fall about a foot above where her actual hips are. And her shoulders are about 3″ narrower than the shoulders of the jacket would lead you to believe.

Ideal shoulder seam fit places the seams just above the outer edge of the shoulder. This allows for full range of motion and shows the actual shape of the shoulders beneath the jacket. If you have sloping shoulders and would like to look more square, small shoulder pads under a correctly aligned shoulder seam will do the trick. If you have narrow shoulders and would like more width at the shoulder line to balance out wide hips, go for a jacket with a shoulder detail like a ruffle or a puffed/gathered sleeve cap like Vogue 9016 View D (OoP):

In summary – choose style elements to correct or accentuate aspects of your figure without compromising on fit. Style is a matter of choice and what works for your taste and your shape. Fit is about looking like your clothes were made for your body rather than someone else’s.

Honestly, one of the main reasons why I make my own clothes is because my figure is difficult to fit in RTW. I am 4’11”, with a short torso and a big difference between my bust, waist, and hip measurements. And I know from reading many, many sewing blogs that there are others among us who sew for the same reasons. Since we have the power to fix these fit issues, they should not be in our finished handmade garments; that is the type of poor fitting that we should expect in clothes made for other people’s bodies.

There are many resources both in print and online that teach alteration methods to allow seamstresses to attain the ever-elusive perfect fit for our own figures. A lot of them are free, too! Huzzah!

 

The Concept of Fit – Part 1

After reading Allie Jackson’s comparison of the Colette Sorbetto top’s original draft and the newer version, along with most of the comments, I found myself again thinking about the idea of fit. Those of us who sew clothes are obviously interested in sewing clothes that fit, but what does that even mean? Clearly just being able to fit INTO them is not the idea; there’s definitely more to it than that.

Fit is about measurements: the garments’ and our own. Whether the item fits well is based on how the garments’ measurements match up to our own. That much seems to be a “truth universally acknowledged,” as Jane Austen would say. HOWEVER…the part that is also true but is much less talked about in the sewing community is the amount of ease that the wearer wants and is comfortable with in contrast to what is required for the pattern to hang/drape on the body and maintain the integrity of the original design.

To further illustrate the point that I’m trying to make, I will use the example of Hey June’s Biscayne Blouse:

Biscayne

Looking at the style of the sample that is shown, some adjectives that describe the fit would be loose, flowy, drapey (ok, why does spell check say that isn’t a word?! It’s totally a word), particularly through the waist. The bust is a bit more fitted, but still loose, and the hemline falls moderately close around the hips. Bottom line: this design is not meant to be form-fitting, curve-hugging, or tight in any way. Ideally, if you were to find your measurements on the size chart and then grade between sizes where necessary, you would end up with a top that is drapey in the bust, loose in the waist, and moderately fitted through the hip. That is what I will refer to as the DESIGNER’S INTENDED FIT.

Now, if I want to make adjustments to the Designer’s Intended Fit to make it more closely match up with my own preferred fit, that’s fine. Hell, that’s the whole point of sewing for yourself – to have the ability to make those kinds of changes to a garment. BUT – and here’s the major point that I’m trying to make – if I, as the seamstress, end up making so many changes to the Designer’s Intended Fit that my finished garment’s fit doesn’t correspond to the Designer’s Intended Fit in any way…**I really should have just picked a different pattern to start with.**

In practice, this would look like a finished Biscayne blouse that is form-fitting through the bust and waist. Or, really, the Biscayne that I made out of mauve satin a few months ago
Mauve Biscayne

If you read my project notes, you’ll see that I spewed quite a bit about making modifications to the pattern to “suit my preferred silhouette.” The problem (and the reason why I really don’t like this top and don’t ever wear it) is that the hourglass fit I *thought* I preferred is completely different than the Designer’s Intended Fit for this top. When I think about why I bought this pattern in the first place, I can admit that I was drawn to the loose style and the collar/placket detailing. So why the eff did I alter it to take away one of the main parts of the Designer’s Intended Fit? Well, that’s another post entirely. More to come on that topic. =)

I Heard You Like [Sewing] Blogs

It is definitely true that I prefer sewing and reading other people’s sewing blogs to writing blog entries about my own sewing and taking pictures of my projects. Even though I do occasionally like to talk about what I’m doing, photography is borderline torture for me and I know that one of the keys to a good blog is good photography. HOWEVER… I’ve also found that the personality of the blog writer is another key component of any blog and directly influences the success of their writing.

Over the years, I’ve followed many different blogs across a variety of subjects and have found that I’m drawn to those that are detail-oriented, snarky, and honest (Lladybird is a long-time favorite). With the nature of the internet in general and blogs in particular, it is not surprising that blogs come and go on a fairly regular basis. But even more aggravating to me than the stagnation of a favorite blog (The Selfish Seamstress, Brightest Bulb in the Box, Hyperbole and a Half, etc.) is the individual-to-group transition that sometimes happens when a sewing blogger decides to open a pattern company.

I do NOT LIKE blogs that are written by multiple people. I like knowing whose voice I’m going to be getting as soon as I click on a particular feed, and I appreciate consistency way more than I appreciate frequency of updates. Because of this, I cringe whenever a favorite blogger announces that she is going to open an indie pattern company; that usually means that her website and blog are about to be taken over by a group of strangers. Sewaholic was the first blog I followed where this happened. Caroline is a wonderful person, but she is not Tasia and Sewaholic was Tasia’s voice on the internet. Likewise, Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons now only occasionally pops into her blog to make announcements about classes and leaves the day-to-day posting to her faceless Buttons. I do like that her blog frequently features technique tutorials, but I miss seeing her opinions on other company’s patterns and reading about her personal projects that are not company-related.

On the upside, there are many indie pattern designers who do maintain sole ownership of their blogs. I am a huge fan of Hey June Patterns and Adrianna posts regularly while also releasing a steady stream of excellent wardrobe building patterns. Norma at Orange Lingerie also maintains a wonderful blog that features her own patterns and a plethora of useful bra-making techniques.

I certainly don’t consider any of the ladies to be “sell-outs” – I’m a big believer in making a living doing what you love if the opportunity to do so presents itself. But if their unique personality and their writing style are what got them enough of a following to make sewing a career, then maybe it’s worth maintaining that individual presence on the web instead of outsourcing it to an intern or co-worker.

Sewing it Slowly

Or perhaps I should say deliberately instead of slowly. Earlier this year, I took the time to work through the Colette Patterns Wardrobe Architect series, which helped me to narrow down what garment shapes/styles I prefer and what colors work best for my taste and skin tone. More recently, I went through “The Capsule Wardrobe” by Wendy Mak and put together a detailed plan of exactly which pieces I would need to make in order to assemble my ideal work wardrobe. As you can probably tell, I am the type of person who loves planning. The problem I have had in the past is that I plan and then purchase the materials for 5-10 garments at a time…and then get overwhelmed, or side-tracked, or revise my original plan. This is why I have such a huge stash of fabric; it’s a lot like planning for 10 banquets and buying all of the ingredients only to realize that you are a single adult who doesn’t throw parties and cannot possibly eat all of that food by yourself.

A large part of the problem is that, in committing myself to sewing 5-10 garments up front, I see the 5-10 garments being finished as the goal. It’s not about making each item to the best of my ability so that the details are perfect; it’s about having 5-10 finished items. I turn myself into a home sewing sweatshop and end up churning out my own personal version of fast fashion: Something that appealed to me initially, but ends up not being the right color, style, or quality for me to make it a permanent part of my wardrobe. That’s even worse than RTW fast fashion, since I’m wasting both time and money on these rushed projects.

SO! From now on (hopefully), I am going to revise my mentality – I will embrace deliberate sewing. Each garment I make will be planned individually; I will buy fabric by the individual cut (though I weep for the loss of free shipping, my stash will thank me) and for the specific garment I intend to make next. I will see each garment’s successful completion as a goal. And I will put as much time into getting the details absolutely perfect as is necessary.

What is the first item in my deliberate sewing plan? A turquoise silk/wool gabardine jacket, of course!

Book Review – “The Capsule Wardrobe” by Wendy Mak

Full Title: “The Capsule Wardrobe: 1,000 Outfits From 30 Pieces” by Wendy Mak

Bottom Line: The mathematical breakdown of how many outfits you can get from such-n-so pieces is clearly and thoroughly explained. Additionally, the specific type and number of pieces you should have are given. HOWEVER, her style advice is clearly for people who fit the “American Standard” figure – Apple and the occasional Pear, whose body issues are primarily self-esteem related rather than physical.

 

Review: When I checked this book out from the local library, my desire was to learn exactly what my wardrobe inventory should consist of; specifically, I wanted to know how many pairs of pants and tops I should have, minimum, in order to maintain a functional work wardrobe and outfit rotation. As a teacher (rather than a cubicle worker at a call center), I have the same people looking at me every day, so my clothes need to be different enough that they don’t think I’m wearing the exact same outfit repeatedly. But I also do not want to have a closet stuffed full of dresses, tops, and pants that I only wear once or twice a month, as that seems excessive.

This book met my needs in that regard. The chapter entitled “Planning: The Key to Wardrobe Happiness” gave me a solid knowledge base for choosing key colors that I will coordinate my wardrobe around, while “The Capsule Wardrobe Formula” told me what number of each type of piece (e.g., pants, tops, outer layers, etc.) my wardrobe should include. As far as the rest of the book, I had to recontextualize and revise a LOT of what was suggested. For example, her breakdown of what she calls the “Terrific Thirty” pieces in a capsule wardrobe should contain pencil skirts (which I do not wear), shorts (ditto), and other garments that I do not feel comfortable wearing. I swapped these out for longer A-line skirts and another pair of long pants, just as she suggests swapping coats for lighter jackets depending on the climate where you live.

Additionally, I am fortunate to be extremely comfortable with my body and proud of my shape and size. Her chapters and sections that deal with self-image or selecting clothes to disguise flaws were thus irrelevant to me. If that was something I needed help with, then the book would have been even more useful.

“The Capsule Wardrobe” definitely met my expectations and helped me to come up with an excellent plan for my work wardrobe. However, I’m glad my library had a copy since it is not a book that I feel the need to keep in my personal collection. The information was well-organized and easy to follow, though I wish that there had been an index in the back instead of tables and tables of outfit combinations that are (to my mind) only included to prove to the skeptical that you can, in fact, get 1000 outfits out of 30 pieces. This appendix of tables takes up, no kidding, HALF of the pages in the whole book.