Strainer Things

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You know what's more bone-chilling than the upside down? The magical world of online dating. My partner and I met in the fall of 2015 when I was weirdly optimistic about signing up for bad dates again. I was in a...uh...transitional time in my life and dating apps were a distraction from the reconstruction of my life. I didn't think much when I swiped away, but Ryan was my very first match of my very first dating app, and the rest is pretty much history.

But this post isn't about the love that eventually blossomed from that day. It's about the people who have enriched my life by the way they surround themselves with love and authenticity. This post is about Ryan's parents, Pam and David Strain.

I remember the first night that Ryan told me his mother wanted to meet me. I nearly had a panic attack. I was rebuilding my life and felt mostly like a failure. I was fresh out of a horrific relationship and lacked confidence in general. My mental health was all over the place and I was not sure I'd be able to make a good impression. However, Pam and David were very welcoming and truly charming.

I could go on and on about Pam's boisterous laugh and the joy she gets when she is surrounded by family. She has the brightest smile, coolest glasses, and checks in with all of us to make sure we're staying politically aware. WOKE AF! She got us Beto for Texas signs for Christmas for crying out loud! YES! She is smart and opinionated and crafty. And she is an organizing badass. She makes sure every birthday dinner and family trip cultivates joy in everybody. Plus...she makes sure I have vegan dessert when we gather. VEGAN. DESSERT.

David is just as inspiring. He lives for authenticity. He wants to know the story behind everything. I could listen to him talk for hours about the origins of a certain wine or the way a spice is harvested. He loves his granddaughters so much and shows them how to be fearless, inquisitive, and self reliant. He raised his children to be accepting, genuine, independent, and imaginative. Plus, he truly gives the greatest hugs.

Tonight's dinner is all about them. Pam recently told us that her perfect meal was a bowl of pinto beans with fresh pico de gallo and a slice of cornbread. Well, if that simplicity isn't the most satisfying meal, I don't know what is. And, because, David expects nothing less than the ultimate flavor, I made sure to pack the spice. I used his three favorite peppers throughout the meal. Jalapenos, serranos, and habaneros. Let's go!

   Spicy pinto beans with avocado and pico de gallo; jalapeno cheddar cornbread

Spicy pinto beans with avocado and pico de gallo; jalapeno cheddar cornbread

I don't have a recipe for the pinto beans. They were pretty much borracho beans, though. I started with a large yellow onion sauteed in vegetable oil with garlic, 2 sliced serranos, and 2 habaneros that have been poked to let the spice seep through . Add salt to draw the water out of the onions. Cook until translucent and some bits are brown. Add rinsed and picked over pinto beans and 6ish cups of water. Add some oregano, cumin, and chili powder. Bring to a boil before lowering to a simmer. Simmer for about an hour or until the water is about 1/4 inch above the beans. Add a scoop of Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base, a tall can of beer (if ya like), and some salt. Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.

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I decided to add even more spice and did some jalapeno cheddar cornbread. It's just a modification of my own cornbread recipe. Fair warning: I prefer cakey, sweet cornbread. For the cheese, I went with So Delicious cheddar shreds.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

Serves 9

Prep Time: 5 minutes    Bake Time: 45-50 minutes

 

  • 1 ½ cups non-dairy milk
  • 1 Tbsp pickled jalapeno juice
  • ½ cup non-dairy yogurt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp chopped pickled jalapenos
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy cheddar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 9 pickled jalapeno slices

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x9 inch  cake pan with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl combine the milk and jalapeno juice.  Whisk in the yogurt, oil, and sugar until combined. Sift in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.  Stir until just combined. Fold in the chopped jalapeno and cheese. Pour the mixture into the cake pan. Sprinkle with more cheese and evenly place jalapeno slices on top of batter

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top looks dry and golden brown.

   Jalapeno cheddar cornbread

Jalapeno cheddar cornbread

This was seriously the best meal I've had all week. It was filling, non fussy, and warming to the belly. It made me feel satisfied. So good!

Finally, I just want to thank Pam and David for the family they have created. I've learned so much from everybody in the past 3 years. I'm thankful that David got me to be more mindful of living in experiences and seeking out knowledge. Whether it's unexpected shots of tequila w/ habanero juice on a chilly Colorado night or learning all the secrets of green lacewings being unleashed upon a garden. And I'm so thankful that Pam taught me that it's okay to break the rules every once in the while. It's okay to play in the dirt and laugh with your whole body and be unashamed.

Thank you for everything.

And, thank YOU for reading another inspiration week post. Stay tuned for tomorrow's culmination of the week of love. Happy blogging!