Thursday, June 14, 2012

Texas Caviar

If you've read my About Me section then you know I wouldn't be discussing actual caviar here. Fish eggs and I don't mesh well. But when I was younger and my mom started making this awesome salsa called Texas Caviar with corn, black beans, green onions, tomato, avocado and a yummy red wine vinaigrette, I became a "caviar" convert. I promised you the recipe, and the recipe you shall have.

My mom has a God given talent for finding food that tastes good. She always orders the best entree at restaurants (and my dad inevitably steals from her plate) and she can pick a recipe out of a book with no pictures and know it will be fabulous based on the ingredients. I'm sure Texas Caviar came to my house either from an old-school cookbook or a neighbor's recipe, but from the first time my mom made it for a cookout, my family was hooked. Without fail, whenever this dip is set out on the table there is a crowd ten deep waiting with tortilla chip in hand.

Just the taste of it takes me back to Texas summers in high school, spent on Lake Travis swimming and boating all day and coming home exhausted and ravenous. While dinner was being prepared, there was always Texas Caviar to snack on. And after high school, when I brought my new college friends to Austin with me, they got hooked on Texas Caviar too.  Six years out of college, I still get emails a few times a year from friends asking for the recipe again. From now on, I can just point them here!

Texas Caviar

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp hot sauce (Tabasco optional)
(I like to add a dash of salt too)

2 cans black beans (drained)
2 cans yellow corn (drained)
2 avocados
1 large tomato
1/2 cup green onions

Mix wet ingredients together in small bowl and refrigerate. In a large bowl mix together corn, beans and green onions and refrigerate until ready to serve. Add tomato and avocado and olive oil mixture just before serving. 

I prefer to eat my Texas Caviar like salsa with "scoop" tortilla chips, but you could really serve it on top of most anything - Salad, chicken, burgers, fish (not for me), etc. With only a few easy but healthy ingredients, you really can't go wrong. If you want to find out why my best friend took the recipe all the way to New Zealand with her so she wouldn't be without it while she studied abroad, just make some yourself. Even the Kiwis are doing it now.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Camping Lake Cachuma

My friends and I have a fun little tradition of going camping for Memorial Day weekend. When I say tradition I mean that we've done it more than once. In fact, one of my first posts to this blog was about camping last Memorial Day weekend in Joshua Tree. Alas, a tradition was born!

This year we headed to Lake Cachuma, which we've spotted many times on our drives out to the wedding venue. Just off Highway 154, the massive lake seems to call to you as you drive through the wine country. "Come swim in my beautiful green waters. I am cool and refreshing." But as we discovered just after paying for our camping spot, swimming in Lake Cachuma is PROHIBITED! We read something about the lake being a domestic water supply, therefore no body contact with the water is allowed. What a tease! Is this some sort of experiment in self control? How can one stand at the shore of such a beautiful body of water on a hot, sunny day and NOT dip a toe in or be overcome with the desire to dive head first into sweet relief? I also ask that you explain to me why body contact with a water source is not permitted, while motorized boats dumping gasoline into the lake are a-ok for the water supply.

Funny story - We showed up to our site and immediately set up tents, air mattresses, placed folding chairs around the fire pit, started a fire, etc. We settled into our home for the next two nights and explored the immediate surroundings for a good three hours before anyone uttered the words, "What if we're in the wrong spot?" Well hmmmm, the site number was hard to read but until then it hadn't really occurred to me. Sure enough, about an hour passed when we started seeing a car drive back and forth, each time slowing in front of our spot and peeking around. Finally they got out of the car and inquired about our site number. We all agreed that it was hard to read, so we went exploring and there we found it - our correct site number on an empty spot. Ooops. Luckily (or not so luckily as the spot where we set-up was prime windy zone) the campers suggested we stay put and they would take our empty spot. So there we stayed as the wind picked up and the temperatures dropped to below 50 degrees that night.

Chula did not appreciate the Gale force winds and insisted on sleeping in the car.


Despite the cold, I was looking forward to the evening, where I would be testing out campfire burritos for the first time. Back at home I had pre-cooked ground turkey with taco seasoning and black beans and froze the mixture to serve as it's own ice in the cooler. I also prepared white rice with cilantro and lime and packed tortillas, shredded cheese, salsa and sour cream. All we had to do on-site was assemble the burritos and roll them in foil.

Once the burritos were prepped, we simply placed them in the fire pit on a grate above low flames and turned them over after five to eight minutes.

After ten to twelve minutes total, the burritos emerged golden brown on the outside and steamy on the inside.

Served with sour cream and salsa on the side, these burritos were SO filling! Definitely not the meal to have just before a hike, but the perfect meal for a cold and windy night spent relaxing by the fire. Always seeking to improve, I already plan to add some texture to those 'ritos next time I make them by throwing some corn salsa or a mixture of sauteed peppers and onions into the mix before they go on the fire. I served a family favorite, Texas Caviar, alongside the burritos to round out this Tex-Mex camping meal.

Speaking of... I can't believe I've never shared the Texas Caviar recipe with you! Texas Caviar is a salsa-like dip that my family enjoys throughout the summer. It's perfect for cook-outs, pool parties, camping trips, etc. Recipe coming up soon!

The rest of our camping trip was spent soaking up the sun by kayaking, fishing (no fish were caught), hiking, playing ball, etc.

While it was hot, hot, hot during the day, the evenings and early mornings were cool and peaceful. Due to the cold nights I didn't sleep much, but although sleep deprived, I was awake early enough to catch the fog lingering over the lake as the sun rose on our last day at Lake Cachuma.

I won't even tell you how many s'mores I ate on this trip. It's slightly embarrassing.

If you'd like to make campfire burritos yourself (trust me, you do), simply cook one pound of ground beef, turkey or chicken (we used turkey) with one packet of taco seasoning mix and add one can of black beans (drained). Freeze overnight or a few days before you depart for your camping trip. Separately, cook one cup of white rice and add a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro and the juice of half a lime. Stir to mix and refrigerate. Plan to make your burrito meal the second night of your trip to allow the meat to thaw. If you're only camping for one night, just refrigerate the meat instead of freezing.

On-site, fill each burrito-sized tortilla with 1/4 each of the meat and rice mixtures and top with shredded cheese. Roll into a burrito and wrap in foil.

Place the foil wrapped burritos over coals or atop a grate over the camp fire for about five minutes on each side. Remove from heat, allow to cool and top with salsa, sour cream, etc. Enjoy! Makes four filling burritos.