Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen... or Not?

 

​From the time of they were four and nine, both of my daughters were climbing onto wobbly barstools, scrambling eggs or flattening cookie dough. It’s a miracle my washing machine didn’t become permanently clogged due to the tons of flour washed from t-shirts and pajamas. I miss those days.

​From trying their hand at old-fashioned chicken and dumplings to taking on the challenge of baking French macaroons, my two daring little females were not strangers to a variety of recipes. The older they became, the more complicated the recipe and the stickier the floors. Have mercy, the kitchen stayed a total mess, complete with new gadgets on countertops, crumbs on the floor, and a never-ending supply of dirty pots and pans.

And although I definitely failed at it on numerous occasions. I tried to sit on my hands, zip my mouth, and tell myself, “Angie, someday you’ll give anything to have them home and scrape their cookie dough concoctions off the countertops.”

But our kitchen was also a room filled with beautiful memories: holidays spent with family from afar, stirring up bake sale goodies, late nights working on science projects, and quick bites before going to school. It was also a place where tears were dried, frustrations were vented, and prayers were said.

That sacred room in our home was filled with a whole lot of love.

After unpacking the countless boxes and finally settling in to the house in Taos, I quickly realized that our kitchen was painfully quiet. I hated it.

And so I avoided it…For weeks and weeks…Steve wasn’t happy about it. Bless his heart, the man lived on peanut butter sandwiches and sampled every item in the deli section from the grocery down the street. But something had to give.

I came from a long line of southern cooks, after all, that can whip up a casserole quicker than anyone. My mother and her sisters stay in the kitchen because they want to, not because their husbands expect it. (Let’s throw out the Wilma Flintstone mentality right now:) And if it was edible, my grandmother was sure to preserve it in a jar.

My problem was that every old pan reminded me of birthday cakes, casseroles for school functions, or brownies for bake sales. I had to snap out of it.

And I have salsa to thank for it.

The more I grew comfortable in Taos, the more I began to explore the many stores that proclaimed to have “the best salsa in town.” I’d sample them at every grocery display and purchased jar after jar out of sheer curiosity of the flavors, of which many were foreign to an ole southern gal. I should point out that I have a husband who says ketchup is as spicy as he likes his food. Therefore chips and salsa were a no go. Guacamole, yes. Salsa, not so much.

How he was going to survive in New Mexico if he couldn’t handle spicy?

I was determined to find a salsa recipe that he might actually like. It was a gentle means of budging him along the path towards tamales and tacos. And it nudged me back into the kitchen. It looks nothing like the one I had back in Kentucky, but I love the uniqueness of it and the meshing of other cultures on display. Like this new phase in my life, it’s now ready to be filled with wonderful memories. Some on my own, some spent talking over dinner with new friends, and many when my children visit and create new messes. We’ve even taken a few New Mexican cooking classes and can make a mean assortment of tamales. And believe it or not, my husband ate them and didn’t have a meltdown.

​Below is one of my favorite recipes for Mango Lime Salsa from cookieandkate.com. It’s sweet, salty, tropical and with a little kick! I pair it with blue corn tortilla chips and then yeehaw! It rocks.

INGREDIENTS • 3 ripe mangos, diced (see photos) • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped • 1/2 cup chopped red onion • 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (I only use one half) • 1 large lime, juiced (about 1/4 cup lime juice) • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS 1. In a serving bowl, combine the prepared mango, bell pepper, onion, cilantro and jalapeno. Drizzle with the juice of one lime and mix well. Season to taste with salt. For best flavor, let the salsa rest for 10 minutes or longer. Yields three cups.

I always make extra, covering the screw top jar lids with southwestern fabric, and topped off with a yellow bow tied around the top. My neighbors are always thrilled to receive a jar.