Texas Caviar

Texas caviar OK.  So seriously: how beautiful is this salad!?

I LOVE this photo.  Texas caviar, as it is called, has been around for a while.  I’ve had it before .  Actually my friend Shandy makes a mean one and she sent me the recipe but I couldn’t find the dang thing so I got on line and found multiple methods of creating this delicious, nutritious, gorgeous–and VEGAN– salad.

I’ll get Shandy’s recipe one of these days but it actually helped to look around in blog-recipe-land because it quickly became clear to me that there are so many variations of this delight, I am pretty much always assured to have something on hand that will work.  Whew!  What a relief as I really liked it and look forward to making it again.  Rhea, my 9 year old gobbled her bowl of Texas Caviar right up.  Josie and Gray were not as excited but with the right motivation rose to the occasion.  (I served this with some tortilla chips on the side and let them scoop some of the salad up–I tell ya: we have so much fun at our house!)

Michelle’s Texas Caviar

Ingredients: 1 cup of shelled and cooked edamame, 1 cup cooked corn, 1 can black beans drained, one can pinto beans drained and rinsed, 1 diced bell pepper, 1/4 cup diced red onion (I soaked mine in ice water for 5 minutes to take the “bite” out), juice of one fresh lime (ream that little guy and get every last drop out!), 3 tbsp. olive oil, 1-2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp. cumin, dash of sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: mix it up and eat it!

Tips: The key to the flavor situation is the lime juice and cumin.  LOVE that combo.  Depending on how much juice you get from your lime–and then how much flavor that juice has–you may need more or less vinegar.

Other ingredients that I could have also added include, but are certainly not limited to: cucumber, jicama, tomatoes, diced carrots–heck the list goes on and one.  I will try to get some jicama in there next time as it seems like it’d soak up all those flavors real nice.

Acknowledgement: pretty much every recipe for Texas Caviar that I found that was actually made by what appeared to be a real Texan contained black eyed peas.  Being a Minnesota transplant currently residing in Pasadena, CA, I, uh, didn’t have those on hand… sorry!  Go Lone Star State!

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Kitty Purgason’s White Chicken Chili

Kitty Purgason's Chili

I met this chili, and Kitty Purgason, at the Pasadena Covenant Church meal contest last fall.  This church provides shelter and meals to homeless folks on cold, wet winter nights..  Roughly 12 members of the congregation volunteered to whip up their favorite home-cooked recipes, provide a “taste off,” and use a vote to choose the upcoming menu.

People, this is my kind of church experience–it’s got “Midwest” written all over it.

My Michigander transplant girlfriend, Lisa, is a Covenant Church member and she lets me tag along when I’m in the mood.  As a native Minnesotan raised in a Methodist home and church, from the first time I popped my eclectically-spiritual face onto the Covenant scene I felt right at home.   Throw in a pot-luck taste test with a recipe made by the you-can’t-get-more-Midwestern-than-this: Kitty Purgason… Girlfriend, that is a taste of Michelle’s heaven.

The Midwestern United States isn’t exactly known for its gourmet approach to food.  Common references to “casseroles” and questions regarding the usage of cream of mushroom soup have arisen.  And while, yes, casseroles (actually, the correct term is “hot-dish,”) and cream of mushroom soup are something with which we Mid-westerners are familiar, we offer much more to the culinary world.

The Midwestern philosophy to cooking is actually quite a hat-tip to the modern mama.  Savory.  Efficient.  Satisfying.  Wholesome.  These are words that, when used to describe dinner, are often met with smiles.  I said SMILES.  Who couldn’t use more of those at the table?

I love Kitty Purgason’s White Chicken Chili for three reasons.  First of all, it’s easy-tasty-healthy. Second, the ingredients can be kept on hand (most in the pantry) for easy whip-up’ed-ness. Also, you can totally fudge the quantities on pretty much everything (just throw in extra this if you are missing a can of that) and still present a delicious meal for your family.  Now you can smile too!

Finally, the name Kitty Purgason makes my heart smile.  Back in Rochester, Minnesota I had a classmate named Kitty who, in the third grade, helped me with fractions and taught me how to draw trees that didn’t resemble lollipops.  My childhood friend, Kitty, was friendly and generous, much like the Covenant-Church-Kitty I recently met.

Besides “Calva,” my elementary classroom rosters had a list of surnames including Torgrimson, Olson and Thompson.  So, when kind hand of someone named Kitty Purgason was extended to me over my chili sample that fall day, I just knew this recipe would join my life and table.

Now it can join yours too.

Kitty Purgason’s White Chicken Chili

Chili Ingredients: 1 chopped onion, 2 crushed garlic cloves, couple three cans chicken broth (0r approximate equivalent), leftover diced cooked chicken, 1 can drained white or pinto beans, 1 can corn (drain but save liquid in case you need it), 1 can chopped tomatoes with liquid, 1 (or 2) small can mild green chilis, optional: chopped fresh tomatillos if available.  See toppings ingredients below…

Definitely serve with: fresh lime, tortilla chip crumbles Optionally serve with (unless you’re at my house, then this is definite too!): sour cream, fresh chopped cilantro, diced green onion, hot sauce

Directions: Saute onion and garlic with a few splashes of olive oil.  Add everything else and bring to a simmer.  Um… you’re done and it likely took all of 12 minutes.

Notes: This is a very mild chili, which works great for my kids.  We all love the lime and chips on top and I put the rest of the accoutrements on the table and we sprinkle as desired.  Mike and I add hot sauce, but of course…  Doctoring your bowl of yum up with all the fixin’s is really half the fun.  Also, even though I live a stone’s throw from a Latino super market and could get tomatillos in a second, I have never gone to the trouble when making this recipe and and it still tastes stellar.

Final Note (still with me?): Feel free to use fresh corn, fresh tomatoes, etc… if you have them on hand, of course.  But isn’t it nice to know you don’t have to?

Adventures in Chili, Parte Dos!

chili on potato

OK.  So here’s a chili option for all you gluten free guys and gals (or not, whatever): Chili on a baked potato!  Yu-uhm.

I like my tater-chili topped with a dollop of Greek style yogurt and a dash of hot sauce.

Or… my versatile chili is so, uh, versatile that you can even slap it on a tortilla with some taco fixings (Yes!  It’s true!):

chili on tortilla

Here is my chili/bean burrito with some (you guessed it) hot sauce, fresh cabbage, little shredded cheese maybe (I can’t remember and it might be tucked inside.)

One recipe for easy-peasy Chili and look at all the fun you can have!  I know.  You’re welcome.

And, ladies and gentlemen, I’m still not done… but you’ll have to tune in Friday for my final cha-cha-chili post.

On a side note and because I’m not done with my coffee yet so I may as well keep typing… I was once informed by a Texan that real chili doesn’t even have beans in it.  Being of Latino-German heritage and growing up in Minnesota, I was unaware of this.  So, if you’re from Houston and you’re reading this entry, please reserve judgement.

I’m not Tex-Mex, I’m “Min-Mex.”   Forgive me.  I don’t mean to offend… 🙂

Coffee complete.  Have a great day everyone!

Michelle’s Easy-Peasy Chili

Ingredients: 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 med onion (diced), 1 clove crushed garlic, 2 med bell peppers (diced–approximately 1 1/2 cups), Two 15 oz. cans black beans (with liquid–don’t drain’em!), One 15 oz. can diced, stewed or crushed tomatoes, One 6 oz. can tomato paste, 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Simmer onion (any kind will do,) garlic and olive oil for a few minutes.  Add bell pepper and cook until peppers start to soften.  Add everything else, stir and bring to a boil/simmer until peppers are fully cooked.  You.  Are.  Done.

(OK.  Yes you can top off your creation with shredded cheese, diced onions, sour cream, what have you… Then.  You.  Are.  Done.)

Winter Salad

I know I use the word “love” excessively when I talk about food, but, well, I really do love a good salad!

In my humble opinion, a “good” salad should contain a variety of textures and colors and be filled with seasonal produce, when possible, that combine to make interesting and varied flavors.  If you are looking for the iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing, you can stop reading this post now.  If you’d like to tantalize your taste buds (oh my!) and whip up something delicious and nutritious, keep reading…

For a southern Californian, it is easy to make fresh salads year round.  But what’s a meal maker to do if it’s January and one happens to live in, for example, Otisville, MI?  Don’t despair, Michigander amigas!   It is still possible to make a decent winter salad, even if you live in the temporary tundra.  You likely won’t be hitting the farmers market this weekend like I will, but I think you’ll find most of my suggestions at super market near you.

If I use leafy greens, I always start with something dark.  For this salad I used spinach.  You know those fancy restaurants that serve salad sculptures precariously balanced on plates with artsy looking leaves and stalks so large that even a muppet could fit in his mouth?  I hate that.  I like my salad to be easily poppable into my mouth.  You can use a knife or, my fave time saver, poultry shears.  Snip, snip, done!

cutting greens

I chopped up some carrots, celery, cucumbers and then cabbage.  I especially like the striking contrast between the bright white-ish cabbage and the dark spinach.  I do say it is a quite a nice visual, don’t you agree, Dah-ling? (see photo below)

In the summer, there’s nothing (NOTHING) better than a ripe red tomato in a salad.  But in the winter there’s nothing (NOTHING) more disappointing than a white, cakey tomato in a salad.  Don’t do it!  Yes, you need something acidic to make your salad truly del-ish, but there are many better winter options than a lackluster tomato! Even with So-Cal’s year round produce scene, options are still seasonal.   Try a tart apple, fresh or canned sliced pears, or what I used in this bowl of yum: some fresh oranges.

Another winter salad secret of mine is craisins.  Yum!!!  These tart and tangy little garnet gems (they seriously do look like jewels, don’t they?) are the perfect complement to my almost-done masterpiece.

craisins

My kids are well-trained (hello–I hope so!) to eat a good salad, but prefer it without cheese or red onion.  So I usually toss theirs with a balsamic vinaigrette, serve them, and then add the rest for the grownups.  I adore thinly sliced red onion in pretty much any kind of salad, and I also like a dash of cheese.  In this salad I used a mild and salty crumbled feta.  Parmesan or goat cheese could also have worked.   If I use pears, I sometimes like a mild blue cheese.

People who enjoy my salads often get annoyed when they discover that I usually mix the dressing right on top as I go.  “How can I recreate that Michelle!?”  I like a few dashes of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic salt, pepper, sugar, sometimes mustard, sometimes honey, sometimes apple cider vinegar, sometimes celery salt…  (Sorry.  That’s not helpful; it’s annoying.  I think you get the picture…)

I promise to post some actual salad dressing recipes soon.  Honestly, though, when you’ve got so much good stuff in your bowl, a simple vinegar and oil (my general go-to) dressing from a bottle can do just fine too.

Drum roll please… Tah-dah!

salad

Some tips: Add the juice from oranges or pears to the dressing: yum!  This salad was served as part of a meal, but you can make your salad the main dish by adding some protein and maybe some bread or crackers on the side.  My preferred protein pals include chopped chicken, chickpeas, kidney beans or fresh nuts (walnuts, pecans=smile.)  Candied nuts taste marvy, but pack on the calories, so I usually just use plain.

Get creative with your salads.  My mom likes chopped cauliflower and broccoli in hers.  Sometimes we don’t even include lettuce or other leafy greens.  Gasp!  I know.  Shocking.