Foodie Fix: Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad

You may already know that I’m a huge fan of salads.  But I’m not talking about wimpy salads with chopped greens, a smattering of grated carrot, a couple of tomato wedges and a bit of bland dressing on top.


When I say I love salads, I mean huge salads that spill out of their plates.  I like loud, brash, badass salad parties with beans and peppers and every other vegetable I can find and homemade dressing all trying (though not trying too hard) to keep the party indoors but inevitably spilling out onto the lawn, at which point the police gets called and everyone’s got some serious explaining to do.

I like my salads THAT good.

So, when I want to eat a salad that could get the police called on it for making too much of a scene, this is the first one that comes to mind.  I started making it last year as a way of using up the humongous avocados that fall from the tree in the yard.  It won’t use up an entire bowling-ball-sized avocado (the kind I’m so lucky to get!),  but it’s a pretty snazzy way of using up more normally-sized, run-of-the-mill avocados (like Hass and such) that you can get in supermarkets in North America and elsewhere.

The whole thing is filling and cheap and, apart from the avocado and cilantro,  uses ingredients that are easy to find or easy to keep around the house.  You do, however, need a halfway decent zester–that one is non-negotiable.  Just watch your manicure.

You can also add green peppers and jicama to this.  I’d add the jicama to the mix of black beans and corn, and I’d top the finished plated salad with the green pepper, but you can do whatever your hungry little heart desires.

As usual, quantities are completely flexible and negotiable; just use what you have and what you think tastes good.  This makes enough salad for me and the man to eat twice as a big side for dinner (with a soup or something like that) or for me to eat twice as a main-dish lunch.

Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad

Invite these guys to the party:

  • 1 ripe avocado (2 if they’re tiny)
  • 1 can corn, drained and well-rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and well-rinsed
  • 1-2 tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped (I use culantro or shadon beni, cilantro’s stinkier and more potent cousin, because that’s what I find here in Trinidad)
  • Zest of half a large lime (or zest of a whole small lime)
  • Juice of 2-3 limes
  • Small glug (1-2 tablespoons, just eyeball it) of olive oil
  • Couple of scallions, chopped
  • Lettuce (as much as you want to cover your bowl)
  • Tomato (optional, but I like it here)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Then, tell them to please mind the neighbors while they party and keep the kegstands inside, please:

  • Mix the oil, lime juice, lime zest, salt, pepper, and cilantro together.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add corn and black beans, and mix well.  This can chill in the fridge until you’re ready to eat (it gets better as it sits, so it’s worth making it ahead of time if you can).
  • When you’re good and hungry, plate up your lettuce, top with as much of this mix as you want, sprinkle with scallions, and then top with cubes of avocado (and the optional tomato, if you’re using it).
  • Eat and try to keep your enthusiasm at an acceptable decibel level.

Foodie Fix: A Slice of South America In Trinidad

In a total Homer Simpson “D’oh!” moment, I realized that posting a Foodie Friday post at 10 pm on a Friday night kind of defeated the purpose of calling it Foodie Friday since, well, it would get read on the weekend.  Silly, silly me.  So from now on, you’ll be seeing Foodie Fix (and Trini Tales, too) appearing at their usual times, sans the day of the week added in.  It makes very little difference in the grand scheme of things, I know–but at least I feel like I got one over the tyranny of the days of the week. Tyrants…


Anyway, to the matter at hand…

Which is the eating of Venezuelan food in Trinidad:

A few months ago, Mr. L suggested a surprise lunch to a restaurant he’d recently heard of.  Our gluttony pushed us to brave torrential rains and, ever since, we’ve had to impose a limit on how many times a month we get to go to Taryn’s for lunch.   I swear I have an internal GPS and it only ever wants to take me there (23 Mucurapo Road, St. James, Port of Spain, in case you’re in the area and want to set your real GPS or map-skillz to it, too).

The first time we went, I had the pabellon lunch, which had stewed beef, fried plantains, black beans and rice.  It was delicious and I had to be wheeled to the car because it was so filling:

The second time, I went for something a bit lighter and, in the process, ignited a torrid love affair with the Venezuelan arepa:

I had it with the stewed beef filling and rice and beans on the side and was so appreciative of how tasty it was that I almost asked the lovely owner if I could work there full-time just so I could be paid in arepas.  Thank goodness I have a bit of shame.

This time, I figured that nothing in this world can’t be improved with the addition of a fried plantain or three, so I ordered the arepa with stewed beef and fried plantain (with the customary black beans and rice on the side):

At least this time I knew the dangers of its deliciousness and only vaguely considered making rash offerings of services in exchange for arepas.

It’s not just the delicious food that keeps me coming back.  The ambiance is homey and familiar with its low bar and woodwork and sweet table decor; it’s very much like the kind of Old San Juan lunch spots that I love so much when I go to Puerto Rico:

Please pardon the arm--there are only so many times a man will kindly move his arm before you risk losing your camera--and your plate.

The service is extremely friendly, the cast of regulars is reassuring to see, and the prices are really, really good considering that you are paying for a crispy-exterior, soft-and-meaty interior slice of heaven on a plate.  Oh yeah, and I get to hear and speak Spanish, which always does my little scrawny heart great good.

Someday, I’ll manage to resist the arepas and order some of their other Venezuelan specialties, like the shepherd’s pie-type dishes with plantain and fish or plantain and stewed meat (which are much more familiar to my Rican-girl palate).  Someday, pigs might fly straight into my mouth, ready-roasted, too.

Until then, I’ll be trying all of the arepas on the menu.  I’ve tasted the cheese ones (which are made with a salty white cheese and which would totally rock my dairy-free world, if they could):

I’ve yet to try the ones stuffed with pork, chicken, fish, or shrimp.  I’m afraid of what would happen if I did, because then I’d be ordering several arepas per sitting and that would just not do.

Oh Venezuelan food, where have you been all my life?  (Oh yeah, you’ve been seven miles from Trinidad and quietly chillin’ in the Trinidad Northern Range where the Spanish in Trinidad lived–and in St. James, too, apparently.)

If you are tempted to have an arepa adventure this weekend (as I may well be), check out the recipe on Food Wishes (you can use any brand of masarepa cornmeal–note, it’s not the same as masa harina!) or the recipe on Venezuelan Food and Drinks.

Buen provecho!

Classic Behavior: In Which Your Girl Returns to Her Roots

Lest my Green Monster-havin’, 4-mile running give you the wrong idea of me, I committed a total Laura Retro Move today.  It took me back to 1999, or 1990, or 1985, or…. I’ll stop right there because the point is not to age myself–we all know I am 25, I have been so for some years, and I will be so for a few more.

So what did I do?  I returned to my roots–and fell smack on my ass.

Now, I am beyond clumsy.  I’d like to say that I’ve gotten better with age, but I’m not so sure.  I was such a clumsy little girl that Mamalicious enrolled me in kiddie gymnastics and ballet, just so she could have two guaranteed hours of snort-inducing laughter each week.  I’m so clumsy I’ve chipped a tooth to show for it.  I’m so clumsy that the Husband gets extremely nervous when I get up on chairs to reach things (hence the rule that, if I can’t knock it down with a spoon, he is to be summoned to reach things).

This has translated into a tendency to trip and fall monumentally at work and school.  First grade, third grade, fifth grade, seventh/ninth/tenth grades, freshman/sophomore/senior year, plus twice in grad school and at least once at EVERY workplace I’ve ever graced.

Though I can trip on anything, my absolute best tripping is accomplished over my own two feet–I can elevate that to an art.

The most epic?  Falling while running after a morning bus in heels.  It takes a special kind of denial (or stupid) to run in heels when you know you’re as gummy-footed as me.

The most common?  Tripping on stairs–stumbling while going up or splatting on the way down, preferably with plenty of bystanders, is my most common m.o.

While in Trinidad, I’ve had a few slips here and there, but no epic trips.  Until this morning.  Well, hello, slippery rain gutter!

Down I went, right in front of the office window, splat onto my left  hip.  My skirt went up a bit and my hand was scraped (as was my hip) but, shocked as I was, I had to scramble up to avoid being hit by an oncoming car.

After collecting myself, I realized it could have been a lot worse. Somehow, I’ve managed to build a body of experience and knowledge about landing on my ass.

I think (gasp!) I have finally mastered the art of tripping and falling gracefully.

So, for those of you with two left feet/snow on the ground/invisible rocks to stumble on at every turn, I have some advice on how to proceed downwards less mortifyingly and more like a lady–a guide, if you will, on How To Trip and Fall With Dignity and Style:

  • If you start to fall, don’t try to catch yourself.  You’ll do more harm than good and, most importantly, you’ll look stupid.  Just… drop.
  • A scrape is temporary.  The shame of flashing your Victoria’s Secret (literal and figurative) is forever.  Risk bone and skin but for goodnesss sake, hold onto your skirt.  Which brings us to….
  • Landing:  There are infinite ways to land, and most can be adapted to crossed legs. Your assignment:  ten different falls from object-caused tripping, five different falls from nothing-but-your-own-stupid-feet-caused tripping.  Please practice on a soft surface (grass or sand).
  • Develop and practice your charming, insouciant post-fall routine. Trust me, your gut reaction may be to act like nothing happened.  Um, IT DID, and everyone is going to be talking about it for the next five minutes (or week, if you landed badly and flashed).  So take that into account and have a calculated plan, which means….
  • Get up quickly–but gracefully.  Unless a car is coming, don’t scramble up.  You’ve suffered one indignity already and don’t want to look like a gangly-limbed mess getting up. Do it fast and carefully, and look surprised. Make sure bystanders see you examining the surface around you.
  • Smile and shake your head.  Practice having a great post-fall quip repertory.
  • Do not rub your  rear end and do not check for fatal injury in front of others.  Get thee to a bathroom and examine the damage in the privacy of your own shame.
  • NEVER blame your shoes. Even if you were walking on 6-inch spindles.  It’s always the ROAD, not your ladywalkin’ abilities, that are at fault.
  • If it happens on the way to a bus–change your bus route.  If that’s not possible, avoid the driver who saw you fall flat on your face.  Being seen by said driver every day and being thought of as “the girl who went splat” is just one shame too great to bear.
  • If it happened at work–change your job.  NOW.  Before your boss gets a chance to tell your next future employer about your clumsy ways.  (This is reason number one for my own job-hopping.  Just so you know.)

The shame, indignity and scrape did not stop me from having a great swim, but we’ll see how I feel about running tomorrow.  If I can’t run, then at least thinking of the fall will be good cardio as I blush and de-blush about it all.


Oh, and what was I wearing for my little Spill Of Shame?

Skirt by moi, top from Forever 21, necklace gifted by Baby Bel, Target shoes, mango tree from my backyard

Oh yes.  At least linen stands up to the vicissitudes of ragged asphalt–and my lunch of Cuban black beans and rice with tomato, carrot and cucumber vinaigrette salad consoled me from my scratched hand:

Now let’s see if I can wheedle my way into an episode of Dexter… you know, to make my rear end hurt a bit less….

On Any Given Saturday…

… I would hope to have as nice a day as I’m having today.

Alarm:  not set.

Reading:  early in the morning, in bed.


Old Navy owl tank (same as Baby Bel's!), Marks and Sparks skinnified jeans, graffiti Converse from Kohl's ($10 star find), wire fox terrier from Montreal (priceless), dangling coconut from my backyard

Eating for breakfast:

Banana oatmeal blinged with coconut, grapefruit, coffee in tacky beloved Lady Di cup, placemats unironed (if I don't iron shirts, I'm not about to care about the wrinkliness of tableware)

Things bought from man in a truck:  2 pounds of shrimp, 1 pound of salmon.  He was using his megaphone to announce his catch in a particularly melodious way today, what can I say?

Things bought from garden supply store:  some pots, a huge watering can to  lawfully comply with the hose ban (dry season water rationing is in force), and a couple of basil plants who did not run from me as they should have (I am a serial basil killer).  I saw plenty of pots and hope to own enough plants someday to fill them all up:

We then headed to Port of Spain for some homework-doings–I wanted to find some good shots for my submission to a Flickr group project called La Vuelta al Mundo (this month’s submission theme: red) and hit paydirt, I think:

I also had fun doing my own paparazzi ting:

After dragging my location scout and photo crew (OK, it’s all one and the same person) around half of Port of Spain and sniffing dramatically anywhere that might have been graced with our carnival presence, I had a hot lunch date with Pollo Tropical, that mecca of Cuban/Rican yumminess:

Cuban black beans, quarter chicken, white rice--no words...

I dismissed my photo crew for the day and returned him to his Saturday British football extravaganza while I went off and had a correspondingly gender-stereotypical extravaganza of my own at the fabric shop.  Fabric was salivated over and bought, shop ladies were duly amused that this girl sews (everyone here has a personal seamstress, so I’m a very declasse freak as far as they are concerned), and something may have already been made!  Make that almost made–a hemming and neck lining are in order, but nothing like a trip to Puerto Rico in two weeks to put the heat on my lazy seamstress ways.  One MUST always dress to impress (and I have a lot of VERY stylish female relatives to impress).

The dinner urge hasn’t yet hit, but I am unashamed to say that, when it does, the rest of that Pollo Tropical will be revisited because it was THAT good, I am THAT Puerto Rican, and I’m having THAT much wine tonight…

Ta, all!

Glue, Feather, Stitch, Repeat

I spent yesterday resting, shopping, and then in a frenzy of glue and glitter activity.  By the time I went to bed, I could see red when I closed my eyes and kept finding little globs of UHU glue all over me. For the sake of my keyboard and not getting glue and gunk in it, I stayed off the laptop.  I hope you understand…

All of the above can only mean one thing:  more carnival prep!

Sunday:  Lazy No More!

First things first, though, I’ll hit you up with some food pics lest you get the idea that carnival prep is so all-consuming I forget to eat–yeah right:

Since I decided to sleep in and forgo the market this week, I didn’t go grocery shopping in the morning either, so I had no eggs for breakfast pancakes, scrambles, French toast…  Oatmeal it was, spruced up by this sweet mango that the Eagle-Eyed Husband spotted waaaay up in our tree last week (it was so high up that I have to wonder:  does the man climb the tree to fetch them?)

Then I made like a Refrigerator Vacuum Cleaner and sucked up my leftovers in a most cross-cultural fashion:

Voila some West Indian red beans with Chinese pepper beef and vegetables, an unholy combination unless you’re in super-diverse Trinidad, where this combo actually could turn up on a table. (Donkey candlestick courtesy of my stylista grandmother, who gave it to my other/sweetie grandmother, who kindly bequeathed it to me.  It’s not political–it came from Spain.)

OK, back to the good feathery stuff….

I was my usual procrastinatin’ self and couldn’t bring myself to make a decision on my Monday wear bra for weeks, so I did up my boots first, by attaching the costume leg pieces and some purchased feathers to the gold-sprayed boots.  I then UHU’d the hell out of the entire nonsense and gloated at how cool it all looks:

Sorry so blurry--it's hard to hold them upright and snap at the same time

Then I tackled Monday sneakers.  I had planned on wearing my boots for both days, but idea of having the legpiece decorations fall off on Monday (or, conversely, of having to decorate worn, possibly drink-splashed boots in an intoxicated state on Monday night) was just way too much for me, so I got a pair of cheap tacky Converse fauxverse at Francis Fakes Francis Fashions and got down with the spray-paint again.  Note the endearingly horrid sneakers before The Spraying:

As you can see, I covered the rubber parts with masking tape to keep the stripes and white parts, then sprayed and sprayed some more with gold paint before leaving them to dry:

I then crossed my fingers and pulled back the tape, and wouldn’t you know?  They came out AWESOME–white parts preserved, skulls covered, only a teensy bit of unavoidable pink left!

I may or may not attach some feathers to the back.  Either way, I think the gold sneakers will be in rotation long after carnival is over (if they survive…)

After the sneakers, I realized I was ready as I would ever be to deal with the Monday bra issue.  I had bought a perfectly decent bra to cover up and decorate.  However, I was concerned about covering the back and the straps, which would need to stay elastic for it to fit properly and comfortably.  In the end, I decided to keep the bra for regular wear and covered up an older strapless bra; that way, I wouldn’t need to mess with decorated strap nonsense and could use clear straps if necessary. I also decided to leave the nude-tone back uncovered to prevent any shrinking/elastic issues.

Voila my handiwork:

I looove it.  It matches the Monday boy shorts perfectly and I’m digging its Indian maharani-dressed-as-Wonder-Woman vibe. (Also in the shot are some armpieces with feathers and gems and a feathery hair barrette for Monday, which I’ll wear in the back of my head in combination with the leftover bra trim as a headband.)

Whew.  And while that was all going on, I tested wearing a gem on my face, stuck on with eyelash glue, to see if it would hold up (it did–but I looked quite silly wearing it during dinner).

Now left to do:  the carnival bag.  I’m not so much concerned about construction as about size (and where I’m going to put/pin it, given that my costume has about fourteen inches squared of strong pinnable material–just sayin’).  The way to go will be to decide what I want to take, how much of it I can wheedle the husband into carrying in his pockets, and then making the bag to fit the rest.  Coming with me for sure are sunblock, tiny tube of eyelash glue, extra gems, lip balm, oil blotting sheets, perhaps a bit of glitter or mini eyeliner. The camera does not need space in the bag–it’ll be chained to my wrist ALL DAY LONG.



In non-Carnival related news, I finally wore pants to work (for the first time in almost a month):

See why I don’t wear my pants? I like these striped linen-blend pants, I truly do.  But I’d like them even better if they did not give me that sexy SpongeLaura SaggyPants look. They need a visit to a tailor.  They cost twenty pounds–in 2006.  Verdict: I think I’ll let them be and haven now retired them.  Sigh… At least I felt cute in the necklace.

I also ran my usual 5K loop in 30:15 this morning!  I can just about smell that under-30 minute 5K time–and I will soon, if I can pace myself better in the last 400 meters.  At the moment, when Nike+ says I have 400 meters I gun it for about 250 meters, then have to stop and breathe so as not to puke in neighborhood bushes, and then floor it for the final 150ish meters.  It’s not good for my stomach or my self-respect to be spotted running in such a psycho way, so I’m working on that.

As for food, I forgot to defrost both strawberries and pumpkin, so it was another bowl of banana oatmeal eaten at work (as a girl who ate apple oatmeal every day for about two years, you can imagine I’m not bored of it yet, but I can see how you may be) :

For lunch, I ate up the leftover African peanut stew.  I froze the last two portions and, upon defrosting, the veggies have all gone a bit fuzzy and indistinct (eggplant, sweet potato,onions,  green peppers, tomatoes, red beans), but I don’t mind and the salad of tomato, peppers, cucumbers with vinaigrette made up for any texture smooshiness issues:

For dinner, I decided to put the tortilla chip bag to good use (because eating them two or three at a time after climbing up on a chair and batting them down with a long spoon to get at the high shelf where I put them hardly qualifies as good use.)  Chilaquile (a Mexican lasagna-like casserole with tortillas, salsa, and any other tasty tidbits you can find to throw in) is the best use I know of for those demonically addictive chips:

I could say that the chips’ unhealthiness is redeemed by its fiber-rich (from black beans) and nutrient-rich (from tomatoes, corn, and spinach) content.  But I won’t because I am not apologetic about this dish.  The tortillas could be made of little nuggets of butterfat and I’d still slam two dishes of it–it’s that good.  (I know, yet another plug for the wondrous Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites cookbook, which recommends baked tortilla chips that I can’t ever find here).

I’m off–Mad Men Season 2 is calling my name and I’m answering, even though the ladies don’t wear feathery…