Saturday, January 24, 2015

Life Lessons Learned - Integration Done Well

Life Lessons Learned - Integration Done Well
My Fifth Grade Class
I am in the center with the knee-high blue socks and I still remember that dress. It was Red, White, and Blue. Jeffery is sitting on stage right above me.

Miss Gladys Scott
I grew up in a small Texas town.  I went to an all white school until I was in 5th grade in 1971 when School Desegregation began in my school.  The first week of school in 5th grade out on the playground, a boy named Jeffery and I were talking in a group. Somehow during the conversation he called me a "Cracker."  I had no idea what a Cracker was, had never heard it before, but I didn't like the way he said it so I responded by calling him the "N" word. He puffed up and slapped me. I slapped him back and just when we were really about to get into it, Miss Scott, the Principal came out of nowhere, grabbed both of us by our arms and dragged us off the playground into our school and planted us side-by-side in her office!

Miss Scott had been my Principal since first grade. I feared her!  She was rare! She was a woman in a Man's world!  All of the other Principals in our town were male. She was the only female Principal I knew and I think even all of the other Principals in town feared her! She ruled through fear and was the keeper of Pandora's Box! If you did something really bad, you got your name put in Pandora's Box!  I knew that day that Jeffery and I had sealed our fate because on that day, two more names would go into the abyss of Pandora's Box!

We sat in her office while she explained our behavior would not be tolerated.  I remember being so confused.  I really wasn't mad a Jeffery and I don't think he was mad at me. I think we were both just curious and had been testing the waters of Integration.

Next, the worst thing that could possibly happen, happened! Miss Scott called our Mothers!  Our mothers arrived at school, and Miss Scott sent both of us home with them for the rest of the day!

You know, 5th grade was a long time ago. I am now 53 years old and I remember that day as if it were yesterday.  On that day, I learned how it felt to be judged and taunted by another person unjustly because of the color of one's skin.  Jeffery and I continued through school, graduated together and still, after all of these years, are friends.  We keep up with each other through Facebook and I regard him as one of my dearest friends.

I am thankful for Miss Scott and how she knew immediately how to handle us equally, let us know we were wrong and how our behavior was not acceptable. That is all it took because we both felt we were treated fairly. We learned a life lesson and were the ones that set the standard for how others were to be treated and how discipline would be enforced in our school from that day forward!

I think it was an advantage for us too that we grew up in a small town. We knew everyone in our grade as well as everyone in our entire school. High School housed everyone from 9-12th grade. We were all one group and because it was not such a large school, we interacted with everyone and and discord within the group was not ever really of a racial nature.  We all made the same mistakes one makes growing up, we all shared our triumphs when it came to school loyalty and pride, and rivalry between other schools, you could certainly count on all of us standing together as one! That bond remains with all of us today. Integration worked for our small town in Texas and for that, I am thankful.

A couple of years ago, one of my sons joined a prestigious country club.  He had worked there as a cart boy during college and then played professional golf for three years after graduation.  He was able to become a member of the country club and this was a milestone for him.  He invited my husband and me to dinner with him there one night.  We were so excited.  I told everyone where we were going!  We arrived, he gave us a tour, and then we started to the dining room.  There was a sign as the base of the stairway that said, "Men's Smoker Evening."  My son went upstairs and soon returned. He said it was a Men Only evening and the other dining facilities at the club were closed that night.  He immediately said he would take us somewhere else to eat.  I told he and my husband to go on upstairs, I would be fine and for them to enjoy themselves.  They both hesitated.  I understood.  If it had been a "Girls Night Out" party and the tables were turned I don't think they would have been offended so I wasn't really offended at all. I think different groups deserve to be unique and there are times when I prefer being with an all female group.  I sat downstairs and did some people watching which I love to do and my son and husband returned in about half an hour and all was well.

That evening, although I was fine with the circumstances, was the first time in my life I had ever known what it was like to be excluded because of one's gender.  I had been so excited about being there as my son's guest. He had no idea it was Men's night and he was so embarrassed for me. That made it worse for me because I felt singled out even more. Again, I have no problem with Men's Smoker Nights. I am glad this evening unfolded the way it did because it gave me the experience of exclusion in a way that would make me stronger, more compassionate and understanding. I had always been included. I had always been invited to parties, was elected as a cheerleader, was always elected as a class officer, was Most Beautiful of my class two years in a row, and inclusion was standard for me. It was good for me to get a dose of exclusion. Another life lesson learned.

In today's society I am bothered with tension of racial and social unrest.  I long for people like Miss Scott. I feel we need people like Miss Scott to grab us, pull us out of the group on the playground and plant us in a Principal's office to think about how our words and actions affect others. I also think we need more people to be acceptable of people groups. It is alright to have seperate groups as long as they are not practicing exclusion with malice. There is right and there is wrong.  To be discrimated against because of one's color, gender or in any other way that makes that person feel segregated is unacceptable.

I feel that all boils down to what lies within each one of us. We all know how it feels to be singled out as being different and we all know the hurt that comes when one feels excluded.  Now, more than ever we need to be mindful of that and consider others in a way so that every one of us will feel validated.  We need to be more consious about this when raising our young so that the cycle will halt. There are plenty of other things we are facing in our communities, our nation, and in our world to let this undermine us when during these times of unrest it is more important than ever to be standing together as "We the People" - united as one.   

The years passed in my small Texas town and Miss Scott continued to be in my life. She was a member of my church.  As a grown woman I began to realize how she really was someone that broke through glass ceilings. She was an administrator when most women in education at that time were teachers.  Through my church I developed a relationship with her as a friend. I was able to tell her how she had influenced my life and I even wrote a letter to her sharing about how I admired her. I thanked her for teaching me life lessons. She died only a couple of years ago after living a long full life. I will forever be thankful for having Gladys Scott in my life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beef Avocado Cream Tacos - My El Chico Recipe Contest Winner!

Beef Avocado Cream Tacos

1 pound ground beef
1 ounce taco seasoning mix
12 soft flour tortillas or crispy corn taco shells
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded lettuce
½ cup diced tomatoes

Brown ground beef in skillet and drain off excess liquid. Add one ounce of desired taco seasoning mix and ½ cup water. Stir and simmer until water has evaporated.

Avocado Cream:
1 jalapeno  pepper
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 of fresh lime - juice only
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
4 ounces cream cheese
1 ripe Avocado

Cut jalapeno in half, seed and trim.  Place in mini food processor along with cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice. Pulse until finely chopped. Add cream cheese and pulse again until smooth. Add flesh of avocado and pulse until creamy.

Build tacos as desired with beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato and top with Avocado Cream.  For hard taco shells, the avocado cream is best when added on top of meat before lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. For soft tacos, the avocado cream is best spread on tortilla first before adding meat and other ingredients. It is also great on chicken or fish tacos or dolloped on as a topping for a taco salad.

I entered an El Chico Recipe Contest....and won!

El Chico sponsored a contest asking for Taco recipes.  I nearly didn't enter because I was about to leave town and had a lot of things to do but decided to take the time to enter and submitted my recipe. A few weeks after the contest ended I received the following message: 

I couldn't believe it! I was told that my recipe was the winner and that my Beef Avocado Cream Tacos would be served in all El Chico Restaurants! 
El Chico designed these cool announcements that looked like flour tortillas and placed them on every table in their restaurants. They folded in two so that they looked like a taco shell! 
Here is a picture of the announcements at the El Chico Cafe in Waco, Texas!  I thought that was such a cute and fun way to market and promote my dish! 
The first time I went to El Chico to try my tacos the local newspaper came and interviewed me and the restaurant manager. I took my family with me and it was a night I will never forget as we enjoyed our meal and I posed for photos! I really felt honored.

I was out of town on business a few days later and my phone started buzzing early one morning.  Everyone was texting and posting photos on my social media pages letting me know my article had made the front page of the Waco Tribune Herald newspaper! I was in Austin by myself and couldn't get a hard copy of the newspaper and there was no one around to hear my good news. That was a very strange feeling! It was my big day and I was by myself.
Soon after my newspaper article I received a call and was asked by Emily Iazzetti to make my Beef Avocado Cream Tacos live on the Moms Everyday KWTX-TV show.  It was so much fun! I wasn't anxious or nervous at all. I just embraced the moment and really enjoyed myself!

After that, I was featured in a few more newspapers with my recipe and one of my friends lovingly nicknamed me "The Taco Chick!"  
El Chico sent me a chef apron to wear when I was on television and I was proud to wear it.  For months, every time my friends or family visited El Chico, I received a text photo of my tacos or would be tagged on Facebook in a picture of them enjoying my tacos. It was such fun time.  My recipe was on their menu for the next six months.
Now you know my little story about my Beef Avocado Cream Tacos and how I became the Taco Chick! I thought I was too busy to enter the contest but decided to take just a few minutes to e-mail my recipe and that spur-of-the-moment decision changed my life! I am certainly not famous but it was the first time my passion for cooking was really rewarded and it refueled my desire to experiment with recipes and share them. To be recognized and acknowledged by a restaurant like El Chico, the most historically famous establishment for Tex-Mex food started by Mama Cuellar, made me very proud.  I have now been recognized a few times in places I never dreamed anyone knew me and it was all because of my little moment in time with my tacos.

I hope you try these tacos and enjoy them. The recipe is simple, just like most of the best things in life!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Jalapeño Cauliflower Soup

 Jalapeño Cauliflower Soup

1 large head Cauliflower
1/2 Cup chopped fresh Cilantro - reserve 2 Tablespoons
1/4 Cup diced pickled Jalapeño peppers - reserve 1 Tablespoon
2 Onions - peeled and quartered
2 medium Potatoes - peeled and quartered
32 oz Chicken Broth
1-1/2 Cups Water
1/2 Cup Butter
1/2 teaspoon Jalapeño Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 Cup grated Cheddar Cheese

Bring water to boil in soup pot. Add washed, rough-chopped Cauliflower, Onions and Potatoes.  Boil for 5-7 minutes and add Chicken Broth and Butter. Reduce to low heat, and add jalapeño salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir and add Jalapeño peppers. Cook another 10 minutes or until liquid reduces enough so that soup will have a thick consistency when blended.  Remove from heat and semi-puree with immersion blender.  Add cheese, and remainder of fresh cilantro and blend until desired consistency. Stir in remainder of diced jalapeño peppers and serve. 

I garnished mine with a few more jalapeño peppers, a leaf or two of fresh cilantro and a few diced bell peppers. 

You also might like more or less cheese in it or even add a little sour cream or milk. Experiment and see what tastes best to you! Enjoy! 

Fiesta Brand makes the Jalapeño Salt we like.  It is also a great steak seasoning!

The diced jalapeño peppers I like are made by Mt. Olive. 

My daughter-in-law makes a delicious cauliflower soup and that has ham in it and potato flakes.  I didn't have ham or potato flakes so I experimented this morning with the ingredients I had on hand and came up with this recipe.  I invited my Mom over for lunch after we went to church and the two of us really enjoyed this.  My youngest son stopped by today and had some with me for supper. He loved it too!  I think I have a new recipe for soup I will use again and again! I hope you enjoy it too! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Sic 'Em Bears" Claw Cookies and Dr. Pepper Hour

"Sic 'Em Bears" Claw Cookies
and Dr. Pepper Hour

One of the first things your learn at Baylor University is how to do a proper Sic 'em Bears! Grab your knee with your right hand,  then raise raise your hand into the air. Shake it with spirit and as you shake your Bear claw you yell, "Heyyy....Sic 'em!!!" and swipe your claw down and across and then yell "Bears!" as you draw your claw back up! 

I decided I must make some Sic 'Em Bear Claw Cookies for a tailgate party I was having at home.  

I was challenged by Southern Living and Blue Diamond Almonds to be creative with Blue Diamond Almonds, create Game Day Snacks, and serve the either at home on Game Day or at a Tailgating Event.  I also shared my photos on Social Media with the hashtag #gamedaysnack.  I enjoyed preparing for parties every week and tying them in with a Baylor University theme.

Since 1953 Dr. Pepper Hour has been a tradition at Baylor University. Each week students, faculty and staff gather to socialize while enjoying a Dr. Pepper Float. I have always enjoyed Dr. Pepper Hour at Baylor so I thought it would be fun to serve Dr. Pepper Floats with the "Sic 'Em Bear" Claw cookies at my party! I put a couple of scoops of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream into a glass, added Dr. Pepper and sprinkled some chopped Blue Diamond Almonds on top! The cookies and the floats were the perfect pair!  

Sic 'Em Bear Claw Cookies

1 package of Betty Crocker Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix

Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds

I cannot make Double Chocolate Chunk cookies better than Betty Crocker! I believe that if someone does something better than you can do it, make it their way and give them credit! Betty Crocker has this recipe down so go with her and use her Cookie Mix to make your cookies!

Prepare the cookie dough as per directions in a bowl and then put the dough into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven according to directions.  Remove dough from refrigerator and shape 2-3 tablespoons into a ball. Place on cookie sheet and slightly press down until the ball is flattened a bit.  Take 4 Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds and place slightly inside the edge like "claws" would be on a bear paw.  Bake according to instructions. Let cool and carefully remove from baking sheet.  

The salty, smoked almonds taste very good with the chocolatey sweetness of the cookies!

These would be perfect for any Baylor Tailgate Party or on a Camping Trip or  Zoo Visit! 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

"Kickers" Wasabi & Soy Sauce Blue Diamond Almond Deviled Eggs

Wasabi & Soy Sauce Blue Diamond Almond Deviled Eggs

6 - eggs
1 Tablespoon Mustard
4 Tablespoons chopped Blue Diamond Wasabi & Soy Sauce Almonds

Hard Boil eggs, peel and let cool. Slice eggs in half, remove yolks and place them in small bowl. Reserve whites of eggs as vessels for filling.

Chop 4 Tablespoons of Blue Diamond Wasabi & Soy Sauce Almonds until they are in small pieces. Pour pieces over yolks in bowl. Use fork to crumble yolks and mix with almonds.  Add mustard.  Add enough Mayonnaise to make a smooth desired consistency. Fill egg whites with mixture. Place a whole almond on top to look like a football ready to be kicked.  Place a tablespoon of mayonnaise in zippered sandwich bag.  Cut off a tiny corner so mayonnaise can be piped out onto almond to look like football lacing. Serve immediately or refrigerate before serving. 

I was challenged by Southern Living and Blue Diamond Almonds to be creative with Blue Diamond Almonds, create Game Day Snacks, and serve them either at home on Game Day or at a Tailgating Event. I also shared my photos on Social Media with the hashtag #gamedaysnack. I enjoyed preparing for parties every week and trying out my treats with friends and family each Game Day! When I tasted the Wasabi and Soy Sauce Almonds I immediately thought about how they might taste good in Deviled Eggs.  I was right! It is a different way to make deviled eggs and we love them! 

I met the "Game Day Snack" Challenge and Southern Living and Blue Diamond Almonds sent me the Ultimate Game Day Snack Prize Pack above! I love it!!! I also love challenges! I am already trying to think up new things to make this football season! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Thousand Island Dressing and a Taste of New Orleans

Thousand Island Dressing

1/2 Cup Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1/4 Cup Dill Relish
Ground Black Pepper
Cracked Black Pepper

In small bowl stir together Mayonnaise, Ketchup and Dill Relish. Add several pinches of Ground Pepper and a few grinds of Cracked Black Pepper.  Sample the dressing and adjust ingredients according to your taste. I usually just add Ketchup until I get the color I desire.

Some recipes call for minced onion, or garlic, or Worcestershire sauce but I keep it simple.

Today I made a different version of the salad.  I call it a Bird Nest Salad Bowl. All I did was cut a medium sized head of Iceberg lettuce in half and hollow out the middle. This works best when the lettuce is a less compact head.  I julienned a carrot and red cabbage, placed it in my "bowl" added the salad dressing and topped it with cherry tomatoes. This was such a fun way to change up a regular salad.
I have found it to be true that the most simple of foods are often the best. This is nothing more than Lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and homemade Thousand Island Dressing. Fresh ingredients and a nice presentation made such a difference!

We just returned from another vacation in New Orleans.  We made sure we were able to enjoy at least one meal at The Court of Two Sisters.  We love the ambience and the food and the evening we spent there did not disappoint us! 

Our table was in a perfect location. We sat back and enjoyed the view and took our time also enjoying each other's company.

I was hungry for a salad and decided I would order the Lettuce Wedge with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, Sliced Red Onions and Tomato Wedges.  This is a photo of the salad I was served. The generous portion of dressing was just enough for the wedge and I don't know when I have enjoyed a salad so much. The recipe I have posted is not The Court of Two Sister's Recipe.  The salad I was served there inspired me to recreate this salad at home. I do not have their recipe for Thousand Island Dressing.
The bread at The Court of Two Sisters is always such a treat! It comes in a cute paper bag and their soft butter pats make the bread even more tasty! I enjoyed a piece of the buttered bread with my salad and I thought I was in Heaven! 

On this visit to New Orleans we stayed at the Bourbon Orleans. It is a French Quarter Luxury Hotel on Orleans Street and it known to be haunted! I didn't mind haunting this place at all! It was so beautiful and the staff made us really feel like welcomed guests. We spent a lot of our spare time sitting in this lobby just so we could enjoy the surroundings.  
This is the pool at the Bourbon Orleans. It was so inviting. We loved staying there!

We enjoyed a carriage ride one evening through all of the French Quarter. This is a great way to see sights you may miss otherwise. The tour guides give you such fascinating historical information as well as entertaining stories during your carriage excursion.

New Orleans is such unique city and I always find myself being amazed at the views and different sights to see. 
Jackson Square is the center of all activity and the Bourbon Orleans where we stayed is just on the other side of the square. 
We strolled down Bourbon Street and saw the sights to see. There is always a thing or two to raise an eyebrow on this street! 
"Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler" Let the Good Times Roll.  We just returned from our vacation to New Orleans and I am ready to go again!  The people, places, foods and history of this city all blend together in a way that good times can roll all year long!  I am already starting a list of things to see and do when I return!

I am so glad I ordered the salad I did at the Court of Two Sisters. Now I will be reminded of our evening there and our vacation every time I make Thousand Island Dressing! 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Turnip Greens, Pot Liquor, Pepper Juice and Cornbread

Turnip Greens, Pot Liquor, Pepper Juice and Cornbread 

I love Turnip and Mustard Greens

Each year we plant turnip and mustard greens in our garden. We plant them in both our spring and fall gardens.

These are some from our fall garden. Turnip and mustard greens seem to keep producing long after everything else in your yard stops at the end of the season.

When I pick turnip greens I pick a lot of them at once and prepare them all at the same time. 

It takes a LOT of hand washing cycles to get them clean.

Just when you think they are clean, you still find grit at the bottom of the sink! Time to wash again! 

When I finally get them clean I am ready to begin cooking! 

I add the greens to boiling water. They will cook down fast so keep adding them and you can cook a big batch at one time. I leave my greens whole. I also leave the stems on them if they are tender.

I always add and ounce or two of salt pork to boil with the greens. I also add just a little salt but not much. I prefer to add salt when I am eating them so that everyone can salt their own serving to taste. 

I usually add a little bacon grease too! My Grandmother used to really pour in the grease but now I usually just add about a tablespoon for flavoring. You do not have to do this step.

Keep boiling until the greens are tender. I always cook mine for at least an hour. Do NOT drain them when you are finished cooking. The juice is just as good as the greens! It is called Pot Liquor.  Pot liquor is the vitamin rich juice that is rendered into the water while the greens are cooking. I am convinced pot liquor is the reason cornbread was invented! Cornbread is used for "sopping up" the pot liquor! 

I have tried making my own cornbread but my favorite is Betty Crocker's Cornbread & Muffin Mix. Betty makes it better than I ever could so I applaud her and give her all of the credit for my cornbread! 

I have my Great-Grandmother's iron skillet! To make cornbread, pour a little vegetable oil or bacon grease in the bottom of the skillet and heat it in a 400 degree oven just until the skillet gets hot. 

Prepare cornbread mix according to instructions and pour it in the hot skillet. I use three packages of the cornbread mix to fill my pan! 

There is just something about a pan of cornbread that reminds me of homemade country style meals with family. Sometimes we even serve the cornbread in the skillet on the table. The skillet keeps it warm!  

Can you see the Pot Liquor and its rich shimmer? A bowl of greens, a chunk of buttered cornbread and you have a meal! 

To make your meal complete you need to shake some juice from peppers in vinegar over your greens. This will add another dimension to the meal! This is just another tradition of my family. My Grandmother used to make her own Pepper Juice but I buy mine. A few shakes and you are set! You have a complete country style "Greens and Cornbread" meal! 

What are you waitin' for? Supper is ready!