When I was a kid, my friends and I would sometimes ride our bikes to the neighborhood convenience store for a treat. They would grab slushy beverages and candy, but I’d always get a pack of corn chips and a can of bean dip. We’d then head over to the creek and sit on the bank eating our purchases. I’d take each corn chip and swirl it around the dip in the can, each bite salty, creamy, spicy, and a little tangy. It was Tex-Mex snack heaven for me.
Even as a young adult, whenever I was on road trips and would stop to get gas, if I was hungry and needed a quick snack, that bag of corn chips and can of bean dip was what I reached for first. To justify my indulgence, I’d tell myself that it was a whole food, as the chips and dip together formed a complete protein. Eating well never tasted so good, I’d think as I dragged my finger around the inside of the can savoring every last bit.
In those formative years, most of the bean dips I enjoyed were from the store and it wasn’t until I went to college that I realized how simple it was to make from scratch. At school, a friend shared with me her recipe and we’d always whip some up before parties. Not only is it a cinch to prepare but you can also make a large batch very easily. I soon learned that in terms of both flavor and volume, homemade bean dip is much better than what comes out of a tiny can.
That said, most homemade bean dips today are made with black beans, white beans, or chickpeas; it seems that pinto bean dip has gone out of style. I will confess it had been a while since I’d had pinto bean dip myself, but last week I had a milestone to celebrate and while some would have made a cake, I decided jalapeño bean dip was the best way to mark the occasion instead.
Thursday, October 01, 2015
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Everyone in my family has a special dish that we share whenever we visit each other. For instance, at Thanksgiving you’ll find my uncle Richard standing by the blender whirring up batches of his classic salsa. At Christmas, my Uncle Austin can be found handing out bags of his addictive granola. If you’re celebrating a birthday, then chances are my grandma is baking you a chocolate pie. And me? My specialty is biscuits.
While I’ve made biscuits since I was a teenager, it wasn’t until a visit to my grandparents almost 10 years ago that my grandma decided I would become chief biscuit maker of the family. I was there to help out with my grandpa, who had been ill. Because she’d been busy taking care of him, my grandma hadn’t had the time to devote to making biscuits from scratch and was using canned ones instead. On that trip, when I presented them with a skillet of warm homemade biscuits straight from the oven it was a most welcome gift. And I’ve been on biscuit duty ever since.
Biscuits are not hard to make, as it’s just stirring together a few ingredients and then rolling and cutting a dough. They take little time to assemble, and you can go from mixing dry ingredients to eating a hot biscuit in about half an hour or so. Even the most impatient can usually wait that long for something delicious and homemade.
The best thing about baking biscuits, however, is how meditative the process can be. Because they’re easy to make, you don’t have to think very hard as you stir the ingredients and manipulate the dough. The most difficult task is waiting 15 minutes for the biscuits to come out of the oven. No matter how I’m feeling, the simple yet satisfying act of making biscuits always brings me peace and joy.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
A year or so ago, everyone was talking about a pasta recipe in which you toss tomatoes, garlic, basil, and linguine into a pot, add some water, bring it to a boil and then after 10 minutes or so, you have dinner.
Now, I’m not much of a pasta person (unless it’s macaroni and cheese or chicken spaghetti, a dish I included in my second book), so whenever I heard people discussing this dish, I just ignored the chatter. That’s not for me, I would say to myself, since I believed I wasn’t a pasta person and all.
Recently, however, something changed my mind. Early September is strange and even though we are trained to think that it’s fall, technically it’s still summer. There are record heat waves happening across the country and in short, it’s hot. While the media may say it’s time for corduroy jackets and hot mugs of pumpkin-flavored something, this is not reality. Wispy clothing and iced beverages are still the order of the day.
That said, we have to eat. Likewise, tomatoes are still going strong at the farmers market, though by this point in the year I’m tired of making salads and salsa with my bounty. When I was looking at my haul a few days ago and trying to figure out what to do with them, I remembered that pasta recipe and decided perhaps it was time to give it a try.