Before I tell you about this week's recipe and featured Washington Humane Society pets, I wanted to share the story of one of my foster dogs, Nike.
A purebred Bichon Frise with the impossibly elegant name of Sir Nike II, this little guy was 8 years old when we found him, and a master at worming his way into people's hearts. Desi and I were at the shelter back in 2005 to pick up another foster, Freddie, when Nike rolled over to ask Desi for a tummy rub.
That was it. Nike came home along with Freddie, also as a foster. Immediately, he appointed himself king of our household. A tiny bundle with character written all over his face, he would bully my German Shepherd Lucy and demand treats with angry barks. But then you'd be sitting down and Nike would find your lap and bury his head inside it, happy to have a home and people to call his own.
He was disarmingly affectionate and loved every person he ever met, but he loved old ladies in particular: maybe they reminded him of the old woman who had been his mom before she realized she couldn't care for him any longer and brought him to the shelter.
Within a week of bringing Nike home, I took him to the vet because his tummy was unusually swollen. They found out he had Cushing's Disease, an endocrine disorder. They told us he might live two years which was heartbreaking because small dogs like Bichons usually live well past their 15th birthdays.
Nike was with us a whole year, without a single soul dropping by to see him. When folks would come by to check out our other foster, Freddie, Freddie would simply ignore them but Nike would be all over each person, happy to see new faces he could kiss. But no luck.
We had almost given up hope of adopting him out when someone finally asked for Nike: it was an older lady, Carleen, who lived with her elderly aunt. She had seen him on the WHS web site and even after we explained his health problems, she seemed willing and eager to adopt him.
We visited Carleen and Nike, who she renamed JR, a couple of times. He couldn't have been more at home. You could tell they were made for each other.
Last week, after two happy years with Carleen, Nike passed away. He had lived three years after being given up at the shelter. As someone who spends a lot of time around dogs, this is not the first time I've had to deal with the death of a beloved animal. It is always impossibly hard. Yet, I was also happy that he had died somewhere he was loved and cared for: in the arms of his mom, Carleen, instead of the impersonal coldness of a shelter where many, many pets meet their end. And where Nike might have too, had he had not rolled over that day for Desi to give him a tummy rub.
These Pinto-Bean-and-Brown-Rice Cakelets are a spiffy way to jazz up some everyday flavors into something extraordinarily special. What's more, these small packages pack a huge health wallop.
If you already have some cooked brown rice and canned beans sitting around, it will take very little time to put these together. But even if you don't, these are certainly worth the effort. Plus, you can be experimental and play around with new herbs and spices, if you like.
So here's my recipe for these little treats. Serve them up with some pita pockets or wrapped in some rotis, or just by themselves, with an avocado salsa or guacamole, perhaps. They are pretty yummy any time of the day.
1 cup dried pinto beans, soaked and then cooked until tender (substitute with 2 cups canned, but remember to rinse the beans thoroughly)
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 tsp red chili powder
1/2 medium red onion, minced
1 tbsp ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 tbsp chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
Salt to taste.
2 tbsp canola oil
Mash the beans and rice slightly, then mix them together along with all the other ingredients except the oil.
Heat the oil in a cast-iron or non-stick skillet.
Take small lumps of the pinto-bean-rice mixture and shape into patties. I make mine pretty tiny (hence cakelets), just about an-inch-and-a-half across, but feel free to make them a little bigger, even burger-size, if you prefer.
Place them in the hot oil and cook each side for about 2 minutes or until nicely golden-brown and crusty.
Drain on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil and serve hot!