Refried Beans Jan 4, 2021

Back in late February, we bought some dry pinto beans, 50 pounds to be precise. Needless to say, we’ve been looking for ways to use them up.


Cook the bacon in the Instant Pot on sauté until it begins to brown, then throw in the onions and garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add a cup or so of the water and scrape the bottom of the pot to make sure nothing is stuck on.

Cooking Bacon and Onions

Add the rest of the water, the pinto beans, and the salt. Seal and cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. Once the cooking completes, let the Instant Pot sit for 25 minutes, then release the remaining pressure.

Working in two batches, heat half of the butter in a large skillet over high heat.

Melting Butter

Fry 6 cups beans and their liquid until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Smash beans in skillet with a potato masher until mixture is thick and almost no whole beans remain (it should still be pourable at this point, but will thicken a lot as it cools).

Frying Beans Start About to Blend Blending

Transfer to whatever storage or serving container you prefer. Repeat with remaining beans and the other half of the butter.

You can reheat in the microwave, but the outcome is much tastier if you reheat in a skillet similarly to how it was initially cooked.

It’s hard to take attractive pictures of refried beans, so here they are with a little cheese. They make an excellent filling for quesadillas or a dip for chips.

Served with Monterey Jack

This recipe was created because we were looking for something really delicious, but we didn’t want to spend hours watching over a pot on a low boil. We combined the basic ingredient set from Bon Appétit’s recipe with some specifics about cooking refried beans with an instant pot we found poking around other recipe sites covered in ads.

Editing Example Sep 30, 2020

I think I remember Trey Ratcliff writing that you should expect to spend more time on editing photos than on taking them. I can’t say I always spend that much time editing my photos, but every once in a while there’s a photo that has some clearly fixable problem that is otherwise awesome. Here are some examples. Hover or tap to see the originals

Before After

So, to begin with, the ‘original’ here is a single exposure, and the final is an HDR photo, a combination of three exposures, that handles the extreme difference in brightness between the sky and the park.

The more time consuming fix was the color of the water. When I was taking the photo, I didn’t really think about it, but the water was almost as green as the grass nearby, which wasn’t the look I was going for. I spent a while painstakingly selecting just the water, only to realize that I wasn’t sure what kind of color correction to apply once I’d got it.

After reaching a dead end with the color replacement tool, I found that a channel mixer adjustment layer got me what I was looking for.

Before After

In this second photo, I once again started by combining multiple exposures into a High Dynamic Range photo (I use Aurora HDR these days).

But I had a much bigger problem, the aspect ratio wasn’t wide enough for a widescreen TV, and cropping it would lose either the figure reading a book or the top of the tree. I ended up using multiple approaches to widen the photo without distorting it too much. I used a few rounds of content aware scaling, applied to both sides of the photo to widen it.

Finally, I just wasn’t happy with the original clouds, so I ended up rebuilding the clouds from scratch. I used instructions from this tutorial to do it, although I’ve softened it a bit to match the photo.

Stanford Photos 2020 Sep 23, 2020

I recently walked around the stanford campus to see if I could get some interesting photos. Classes are all going on online, so the campus was mostly deserted.

A Long Hallway

Maple Tree Contrast


Wooden Statue Squatting

Statue with tower

Wooden Totem

flickr album

Food Photography Jul 11, 2020

My recent post on pancakes made me think of some of the other food photography I’ve done.


Whiskey Goblet

Espresso Tonic

Fresh Bread

Aperol Spritz

From top to bottom: Hamburger from Gobble, Whiskey in Scotland, Espresso Tonic at Verve Coffee, Homemade Sourdough, Aperol Spritz in Amsterdam

If there’s one big thing I’ve noticed it’s that I end up with relatively few good photos of food compared to drinks. The simplicity of a cup or a glass filled with a uniform liquid seems to lend itself better to photography than the intricate details of a complex dish.

But that hamburger sure looks good, right?

flickr album

Pancake Recipe Jul 7, 2020

I don’t believe in making pancakes with a mix, and it seems like a good time to finally document my simple procedure. If you want to read background about this, that’ll be at the end, since I don’t have any ads to sell.


Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix them together. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Add the buttermilk, oil, and egg yolks to the dry ingredients. Stir the mixture together until just barely combined, some lumps of dry ingredients may remain.

Pancake Batter

Mix the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks, which means that when you lift the egg beater out of the bowl, the tips of the egg whites don’t fall over.

Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture, you are now ready to cook the batter!

Oil the cooking surface and heat it to about 300°f or 150°c as measured by an infrared thermometer. You could also just wait till it seems pretty hot. Put a dollop of batter for each pancake, ¼ cup for a medium sized pancake.

One dollop of batter Multiple Pancakes cooking Pancake almost finished cooking

Cook until you begin to be able to see that the side of the pancake looks dry and some bubbles begin to come to the surface. At this point, flip the pancake, and cook for a similar amount of time on the second side.

Serves 4.

Pancake with Butter and Syrup

I’ve always really liked pancakes, I remember writing an essay on proper pancake cooking in high school. For years it was probably the most complex recipe that I could make based on an ingredient list and no instructions. In fact, when looking to my notes to get exact measurements, I noticed that where instructions would go, it simply says “you already know how to make this, so I’m not including any instructions”.

There are lots of options for things to mix in for pancakes, but I think the key note is that if it’s something cold, you should heat it up on the griddle and then pour the batter over it, rather than mixing it directly in. Hot dog slices are the most obvious example of this, I recommend giving them 30 seconds on each side at least before pouring the batter over them. Mini chocolate chips or grated cheese can easily be mixed into the batter directly.

Technique-wise, the reason for all this ‘gentle’ mixing and folding is because you don’t want the gluten to develop, which happens the more you work the flour after adding the wet ingredients. When cooking the pancakes, it’s generally a good idea to re-oil the pan from time to time if the pancakes are sticking.

I mentioned in equipment that it’s ideal to use an electric skillet close to the table, and there are actually two reasons for this. While it is important to have them served as quickly as possible, it’s also nice for the person cooking the pancakes to be able to sit at the table with everyone else, because there’s really no way to have all the pancakes ready at once.