A looooooong time ago, way before I became a pro runner but after I’d gone on hiatus from practicing law, when I had new babies at home and was finding myself cooking ALL THE TIME, I hosted a cooking segment on the local news. Part of my job was to come up with a theme, and then cook dishes that went with it. Living on the border, themes that incorporated fun and creative spins on the Mexican dishes we all grew up with proved to be the most popular. And one of the absolute, hands down, favorite dishes was Mango Salad. I know, snooze, right? Frankly, I don’t even like mango. But something about this “salad” (Jello is magically transformed from “dessert” to “salad” in the South simply by adding fruit – life lesson for the day) just worked for people. It came from the incredibly popular Seasoned With Sun, published by the Junior League of El Paso, a cookbook that has stayed in circulation for decades. Even now, recipes from this book will show up at potlucks, picnics, fancy dinners, and intimate brunches on the regular. And this salad continues to make the rounds.

As I said, one of the weirdest (and there are maaaannnny) southern culinary traditions is serving jello + fruit and calling it a salad. Sometimes, as a nod to real salad, people will put one leaf of iceberg lettuce underneath each serving, but that is really the extent of anything vegetal in this recipe. I guess the large can of mango that is in it counts for something, but please know this leans more towards a fresh, sweet accompaniment to a meal rather than an opportunity to get one of your daily servings of vegetables.

And at the time in my life when I made this recipe on television, that was a-okay with me. When you are breastfeeding twins, all food, and I mean ALL food, is wanted, needed, and devoured. Especially appreciated, though, were recipes that were easy, delicious, and satisfied multiple levels of taste – sweet, tangy, substantive, and easy to eat while you were imprisoned on the couch for hours while two miniature milk vampires drained you dry. I honestly believe that on more than one occasion I ate this entire salad by myself – and it comes in full-size bundt pan.

Woman eats world, y’all!

 

Mango Salad

adapted only slightly from Seasoned With Sun, Junior League of El Paso

 

3   3-oz. packages of lemon Jello

1 26-29 oz. can of mangoes, in syrup

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese

juice of 1 lime

boiling water

shredded/grated coconut for toping, optional

 

Drain syrup from can of mangoes into a measuring cup. Add boiling water to equal 3 cups of liquid. Stir in lemon Jello and allow to dissolve. Set aside.

In a blender, combine mangoes and cream cheese. Blend until completely smooth. Add in gelatin mixture and the juice of the lime. Blend again.

Pour mixture into a well-oiled (easiest is to use unflavored baking spray) bundt pan, individual custard dishes, or a 13 x 9 pan. Chill for at least 4 hours up to overnight. Flip onto a decorative plate. Delicious with grated/shredded coconut.

 

 

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(Warning: This is a total bait-and-switch post. If you are squeamish, turn back now.)

Getting back to “normal” has been harder than I thought. I guess I believed that once we were vaccinated, the world would just go back to the way it was before. But so much has happened in the last year, and now, whether I want it to be or not, everything is different. Or I’m different. I really can’t tell.

I tried to race last weekend for the first time in over a year. Unlike so many, I avoided virtual races and FKT attempts, mostly because I was lazy and unmotivated. I kept training, but the thought of having to race (which I don’t much like under the best of circumstances) just seemed unbearably unpleasant without at least the fun of being around other sweaty, panting, snotty humans. I like company when I’m suffering. So, when I found out a race I love, Jackpot Ultra, was going to be held, albeit two and a half months later than normal, I jumped at the chance to fly to Vegas. Because it hosts the 100 mile national championships in addition to the the fixed-time races, it is always a great place to see longtime racing friends. I was psyched. I was ready. I was trained.

But apparently not trained in the one way that actually mattered – heat trained. End of April in Nevada equals pizza oven heat with haboob level wind/dust action. Day 1 wasn’t problematic, or so I thought. After a few hours of direct, unrelenting sun, I started to notice that people were staring at my legs. I wrote it off to the fact that we were passing each other over and over and over again all day, and people just start looking at each other weirdly. But when I stopped to eat the dinner Tim had brought me, he greeted me with, “Holy shit. What is wrong with your legs?” I looked down and saw this:

After much consulting with Dr. Google, I came to the self-diagnosis of a “sun rash” (yes, there is a bigger sciencey name for it, but you get the drift). I decided Day 2 would definitely necessitate tights. Ugh.

At the end of Day 1, I was two hours ahead of my goal. I was happy, energized, and ready to kill it. Until I wasn’t. Around hour 30, my feet had become unbearably painful. I figured it was just because I had a lot of gravel in my shoes. I hadn’t worn gaiters the year before, and had zero problems, so I couldn’t understand why my feet hurt so badly. I was wearing the exact same shoes, the exact same socks (new, but the same brands, you know). When it was time to eat, I sat down and took off my shoes, and saw blood. A lot of blood. This is never a good sign unless you are watching Hannibal on Netflix. And I couldn’t get my socks off. They were stuck to my bloody stumps. WTH? When I was finally able to muster up enough courage to peel my socks off (taking a nice chunk of flesh with them), I saw this (plus a lot of blood and ooze – I know you wanted to know that. You’re welcome.):

And once I got my shoes and socks off, I just couldn’t get them back on. The blisters extended all around my heel on onto the bottoms of my feet. I was in agony. I decided to go to the hotel, clean them up, and then reassess. And my assessment was that I could not walk for another 42 hours on these feet. This picture is from two days later, but even now, I can’t wear shoes – which is genuinely unfortunate for the world because I have some major monkey-toe feet that aren’t particularly glamorous under the best of circumstances.

So, bottom line, my first race back was a total bust. And we all know the only way to get over bloody stumps is with chocolate chip cookies. (You didn’t think I could bring that around full circle, did you?) I feel like they are a good consolation prize, and a necessary accompaniment to the time I plan to spend sitting on my couch watching Hannibal.

I guess things haven’t changed that much after all.

 

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