Southwestern Black Bean and Corn “Salad”

Grab your cowboy boots and hat, and sidle up to this nummy salad! Trust me, you’ll be looking for a steel guitar and pining for the smell of horses and leather to accompany this scrumptious and versatile salad.

I put ‘salad’ in quotation marks because leftovers are absolutely delicious over the top of grilled french bread -‘Hello Paris!’ , as a ‘Bruschetta’ topping – or is it ‘Ciao Italy’?, or as a chunky dip with sturdy tortilla chips -‘Hola Mexico!’. I’ve served this in organic romaine lettuce or butter lettuce leaves, which is like a vegetarian version of a the Asian lettuce wrap, and it would be a nice punch of flavor in a breakfast tortilla wrap with scrambled eggs. It is so versatile for leftovers, but so delicious, you may not have any ‘left over’!!!

(As always, my recipes are fluid and something you adjust to taste. I will give approximate amounts, but adjust to your own taste. You can double this recipe, but it will make a generous amount for a large group!)

((Try to let the salad rest at least an hour to absorb all the great flavors from the dressing.))

Southwestern Black Bean & Corn Salad

1 can (approx 2 cup if you make your own) Black Beans, rinsed.

2 cups corn. I used leftover corn cut from the cob, from a previous nights dinner, but you can use defrosted frozen.

Cilantro: A nice big handful, chopped. We love cilantro, so add a bit more, and I will add some fresh to leftovers.

Avocado: I slice this over the top of the salad. You can rough chop it and toss in to what you are going to eat, but it gets mushy if kept too long. Better to add it fresh to the portion you are eating.

Dressing: (For 1 cup of dressing which is more than enough to dress the salad.)

1/3 Grapeseed Oil (you can use corn, I don’t because of the GMO’s)
1/3 cup Lime Juice
Approx 2-3 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
1 tsp Cumin
1-2 tsp Ancho Chili Powder (you can use reg chili powder, I prefer the pure chili, but if you don’t have on hand, use high quality chili powder)
1 clove Garlic, minced or put through a press
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/4 cup diced Red Onion
pinch of Sugar
1/2 tsp dijon or stone ground Mustard
salt and pepper
Optional: Smoked Paprika or Chipotle Chili Powder

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together and adjust spices to taste. (It might need more sugar, more cumin, more garlic, ect)

Toss the beans, corn and cilantro with the dressing.

Top with fresh ripened avocados.

While I seem to have covered the globe in serving options, I will personally start with what is closest to my heart. Cowboy country flavored good eats!! Yee Haw!

It’s Dandelion Jelly and so much more…

Well, I think the last attempt for Mr Winter to stick around has been rebuffed. Spring is here, if you can call it spring. It’s been wet, gloomy, dreary, cold, then steamy, and did I mention gloomy?

So, when a bit of sun peaked out from hiding among the clouds, my oldest daughter (who came home from college between terms) and I went for a walk to collect dandelions for Dandelion Jelly. I’ve never made dandelion jelly before. I’m made lots of other jellies, peach, tart cherry, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry but never dandelions.

The best part of making dandelion jelly? Time with my daughter, in a field, picking dandelions. It’s an odd quirk of human nature, but I find some of the best conversations one can have with their child is while hands are busy. Busy in the kitchen sharing cooking tasks, busy folding laundry, washing the car, gardening, or just walking the dog. Driving never does it for us, but I’ve lots of friends who say that is their best conversation time. But for us, it’s that bonding over ‘doing’. 

With the weather as near perfect as we get here, I leashed up the dog and off we walked in search of ‘gold’. Not far away, we found a field full of dandelions and starting picking, and picking, and picking. Miss Mia was also busy keeping the bees at bay. Even though the sun was fully shining, with a touch of coolness to the air it was perfect for ‘doing’ outside. 

Once our shopping bag was full of dandelion heads and loads of dandelions with stems for my daughter to make chains with, back home we strolled. Then started the process of plucking the leaves, no green parts, just those yellow leaves and the whitish inner part. 






Did I mention the dandelion chains?????




And then there is my Miss Mia, never one to be left out of the beauty contest. 




Yes, we all need to take a break from our ‘work’ to enjoy the gifts of life. Warm sun, gentle breeze, freshly brewed Iced Sun Tea, and a tray full of dandelions, as radiant as the sun itself. 

Pick enough petals to fill a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup. You don’t to pack it, but pat it down a bit, to ensure you get a full 4 cups. 


Gorgeous, eh? A bowl of sunshine!

Bring to a boil enough water for the ‘tea’ require in the recipes below , PLUS one added cup. (If it calls for 3.5 cups, use 4.5 cups) Pour over the petals and let steep overnight. Strain through a cheese cloth or fine mesh strainer and set aside. This is your dandelion ‘tea’. If you find after straining you are short a bit of liquid, just add water to make up the difference.

Bring your canner to a boil, sterilize your jars (see the instructions in a canning book for details) and utensils. Remember, cleanliness is next to Godliness! I always do my lids and rings in a separate pot, so they don’t get so hot that the gasket gets gooey. 

In a large stock pot I always use an 8 quart for my jams and jellies, because when it comes to that ‘boil you can’t stir down’ it rises precariously close to the top at times, (Best to have too big a pan than too small!!) is where you are going to make your jelly. Most jellies have the option of liquid pectin or dry, I will post the detailed recipes below for each. After making the jelly, I found mine to be runny immediately upon removing from the canner. I was certain I was going to have to re-can them. But by the next morning they had set perfectly. Jellies, I have discovered, can sometimes take up to 2 weeks to set, so handle them carefully and let them store. If after 2 weeks they are runny, redo and re-can, or use as a sauce for ice creams or milk shakes. 

The taste of dandelion jelly is quite unique. I was recently out to dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant and had a Grappa that was distilled from chamomile leaves, and this tasted similar. It’s a nice sweetly tart, fresh, light, delicate, beautifully golden, and utterly unique jelly. This will be stored on my jelly shelf, waiting for the occasion to bring as a hostess gifts in the dead of winter, when a breath of sunshine and warmth will be much appreciated! Enjoy!

Dandelion Jelly w/ powdered pectin

3 cups dandelion tea (that means 4 cups boiling water)

4.5 cups sugar

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 box Powdered Pectin

*Whisk dandelion tea, lemon juice, 1 box of powdered pectin and sugar into your large pot. Bring to a boil and continue to boil 1-2 minutes. (A boil that cannot be stirred down) Remove from heat. Fill 1/2 pint jars to 1/4inch headspace, and process for 10 minutes. 

Dandelion Jelly w/ liquid pectin (this is the one I used)

3.5 cups dandelion tea (so 4.5cups boiling water)

7 cups sugar

4 tbsp lemon juice

2 pouches Liquid Pectin. 

*Combine the ‘tea’, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a full rolling boil. Add the liquid pectin and stirring constantly bring back to a FULL BOIL. Then allow to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat.  Fill 1/2 pint jars, 1/4 in headspace, and process 10 minutes. 

**above 6,000 ft process 15 minutes. 



Spring Showers Bring….

May flowers? 

Well it is May, and it is showering so I guess that is true, but about the only thing ‘flowering’ are those hardy tulips and daffodils. After an afternoon of garden cleanup on a record setting hot day for May, those were the only flashes of color I saw. Still, the ground has finally thawed and the perennials are struggling to catch up. 

I can’t say there is much I’m a fan of with respect to living here in the frozen hinterlands, however, an exception are the storms that roll in across the plains bringing thunder and lightening. 

Having grown up in the Pacific NW, We lack that broad open sky that the great plains affords. As such, lightening was not nearly as spectacular. Oh, as Oregonians we were ‘blessed’ with rain alright, lots and lots of rain. We natives jokingly teased newbies we were born with webbed feet. Lightening, however, was not nearly as associated with storms as it is here.

Here, the lightening can be seen for miles and what a spectacular show it is! There are three types of lightening that come to my mind. First are the traditional cloud to ground. The type I grew up with. Gigantic bolts followed by the ‘CRACK’, and sonic booms so loud the windows on my house shake and you can feel the concussion. I’ve had them so close to the house I feared we’d be struck. In fact, my neighbor was struck and it took out her power. We’ve had houses burn down with lightening strikes. With that type of lightening, we nearly always hear the sirens, warning people to get off the golf course and under cover. 

Second is the lightening that ‘crawls’ across the sky. It looks like a spider-web canopy of light filaments shooting across the sky. The clouds are high above with lightening underneath, a perfect backdrop to showcase its beauty. It’s breath-taking, and many times I stand at the window of my bedroom on the second floor so I can see the entire skyline and just take it all in. The thunder associated with this lightening is rolling, like the swells on the ocean. It’s more rhythmic and sounds almost like a tympani drum. This lightening is my favorite.

The last is what I’ll describe as flashlight tag by the angels. The clouds are like a blanket cover overhead and the flashes of lightening are high above them. All I see from my vantage point are pulses of light. It’s as if the angles themselves are playing flashlight tag high above our heads. Sometimes I can hear the distant rumbling of their feet, sometimes not. Sometimes I picture them tip toeing above the clouds, waiting to silently sneak up on their opponent. 

And so I sit here at my kitchen table sipping a steaming cup of coffee and watch the gentle rain, listening to the gentle rumble of thunder after a flash of light, I wonder what this spring season holds for us. Will we be the northern tip of tornado alley, bringing it’s thunder, lightening, wind and hail? Or will the good Lord give us a reprieve after a brutal winter. All I know is that winter has finally released it’s grip and summer is soon to follow. Halleluja.