Cowboy Beans

Big Spoon Full of BeansThere is a long tradition of cowboy beans in Texas. Pinto beans hold a special place in Texas history and culture. The word “pinto” translates in Spanish to painted and describes the lovely mottled skin of the bean. Look closely at them the next time you see them. They really are quite lovely.

Dried beans originated, as I understand it, in South America and Africa and slowly moved northward. The Spanish and Mexicans were introduced to them from the indigenous South Americans, Mexicans and Native Americans. Their hardiness, shelf stability, portability as a dried commodity, low cost, and nutritional profile made them critical and indispensable in the region.

And anyone who has been here long enough has either grown up on them or grown to love them. They cannot be overlooked as one of the oldest known foods to be consumed in the region and still, they are one of the least expensive things you can put on the table. Some that grow up with the staples of frugality run from them in later life. Some derive immense comfort from them for a lifetime. Some of us learn about our parents’ world through these foods for the first time as adults and they become a window to another time. I can’t state it any more eloquently than Patricia Sharpe did in this recent Texas Monthly piece. This is a great bit of writing that expresses how a meal this simple really can be a touchstone.

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Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa

Plate of Roasted Vegetables on QuinoaMy version of healthy eating is a bit twisted. Moderation and I are not the best of friends. So, when I need a spell of healthy eating, there have to be a few treasures in the mix, like goat cheese and dried cherries. They make almost anything tasty. These roasted vegetables do not really need to be gilded in that fashion, but it is always a nice little contrast addition…cold and creamy meet warm vegetables. I have been in healthy mode for the most part this month, with the notable exception of my time in South Carolina. I’m staying away from my beloved bread for a bit. I’m drinking giant green smoothies. No desserts for a while. Thanks heavens the kids’ birthdays are coming up so I will “have to” make a cake. I do so love my sugar and white flour. But, let’s just say I’m benefiting from a spell of greens and beans.

I never get tired of roasted vegetables, though. Here, I have taken roasted vegetables and tossed them with a lightly sweetened vinaigrette. Then I make it a meal by serving it on top of a mound of quinoa. Actually, the dish shown above is a mix I found of quinoa, buckwheat and millet. There are some wonderful quinoa pilaf recipes out there which have additions like mint and nuts, but I’ve kept this simple because it is essentially a quick little meal. Brown rice or any other grain would work fine, too. The final joyful turn is throwing a little handful of goat cheese and dried cherries on top.

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Zipper Cream Peas and Wilted Kale

Zipper Peas on a Spoon These are Zipper Cream Peas, a variety of field pea or cowpeas, so called because they were traditionally fed only to the cows. But the cows were laughing all the way to the bank, I suspect. Because they are wonderful. Black-eyed peas have their place in the world, but there are many wonderful varieties of field peas to try and I aim to try as many as I can…for several reasons.

First, beans and peas are neat. They come in an abundant variety of colors and shapes and flavors. They are also one of the last remaining foodstuffs where you can search about for exotics and heirloom varieties and not get poor in the search. We love beans. Dry, canned, presoaked…whatever…we like them. I have favorites and I have not-so-favorites. But, our family is on a minor bean binge right now. Keep the jokes to yourself, thank you.

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Traditional Pot Roast

Pot Roast LeadI could write an Ode to Pot Roast. I could tell you every good and bad one that I have made. I could tell you the restaurants and diners that have perfected the art.

Pot Roast is how you feed a crowd something comforting and succulent without spending a fortune. Cooked slowly, ignored really, an inexpensive and tough cut of meat is transformed into a silky mess in a pot of gravy. And that is really the key, time. There is no trick, really, just some basic preparation. It is the time that turns the sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Somewhere along the line I realized that the only long term value of a recipe blog is to make darned sure that I posted every recipe that I thought I or my son or daughter, or my grandchildren, or my great grandchildren might need someday. When I stop this one day, I want to take a day to actually write the recipes down on index cards so they can wear with time and get dripped on and obtain the status of a dog eared, messy, timeless favorite…for someone. A real recipe…not a cyber-flash-dinner-in-a-minute-grab-the-iPad-and-find-something-emergency-idea.  I want to leave something that actually connects me to my descendants. Funny, there is nothing permanent about a web presence unless you have posted inappropriate content that will come back to haunt you. This is why I hold tight to my hand written index card recipes from mom, and aunts and great aunts. And this is why I still buy piles of cookbooks. They are real in a way that web recipes cannot be. It is strange to think that if I pushed the wrong button…all of these recipes would be gone in a flash. But if I wrote them with my hand, turned them from bits and bytes into something tangible…bites that could last.

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Roasted Fall Tomatoes and Chicken

a photograph of a roast chickenSo, it should be some indication of how scatterbrained I am these days (read: genuinely busy being a mom and a regular person) that I somehow didn’t post about this recipe. And, holy cow, what could be nicer? I had a recipe in the Dallas Morning News on September 11th. Now, there were other things going on that day. It was one of those rare nights when Pitts and I indulge in getting a sitter and going out to play. My gal Lori Whitlow was having a wee little birthday dinner at the new Andre Natera eatery, Village Kitchen. We gorged on appetizers, including a fantastic fresh avocado flat-bread and by the time I ordered dinner I was approaching full. Wait, that isn’t quite right. We gorged on cheeses and grilled Italian artichokes packed in olive oil from Molto Formaggio at Lori’s, then we pigged out on appetizers, and then I had to make choices from Natera’s very entertaining menu. I say entertaining because I wanted to try pretty much everything. I don’t like being confused. So I punted. If you ever want people at a nice restaurant to look at you like you have flipped your lid completely, order this for your entree:

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