Wednesday, November 26, 2014

{Holiday Grub} Texas Caviar

This original Texas Caviar recipe creates a colorful, cold and crunchy side with zesty, fresh flavor. Black-eyed peas, mushrooms, celery, tomato and onion marinate in flavorful Italian dressing, making an easy and popular dish that is sure to become a family favorite.

Ok everyone. I should have gotten this up on the blog, like, a week ago, but in order to provide delicious, scrumptious pictures I would have had to make it, and then of course eat it, and that would have (selfishly) ruined it for me for Thanksgiving because I wouldn't be craving it anymore. YES. I seriously plan out my craving vs. eating schedule and weigh it's importance higher than my editorial schedule. I am pregnant, ok?

So, there are a lot of impostor Texas Caviar recipes online and on Pinterest that add silly things like mayonnaise, peppers or corn. While all of that is good and well, it needs to stay the HELL out of my Texas Caviar. This recipe is an original, from my wonderful grandmother Maxine, and there are simply no substitutes that will be tolerated by my palate - ever. (I am so dramatic.) Unlike the other Texas Caviar recipes that call it a dip (as in with a chip), this dish is meant to be served as a cold and crunchy side, along side other holiday favorites such as dressing, green bean casserole, etc. OMG, my mouth is seriously watering while I am typing; I have a problem.

First, the ingredients:

- 2 cans of plain black-eyed peas DRAINED AND RINSED * (don't get adventurous and cook your own. The canned ones are just fine for this dish. Just make sure you don't get any with other stuff in it, like jalapenos, etc.)

- 1 can of mushrooms DRAINED (pieces and stems are fine, I prefer the ones that are salted, but if you get the ones with no salt added, you can season with salt to your liking at the end.)

- 1 large tomato diced (or the equivalent. My mom swears by the Campari tomatoes in the plastic packages because they are always good and fresh tasting. I used Campari tomatoes and used 3 of them because they were a little on the small side.)

- 1 cup of diced celery (I honestly added more than that, I did 5 stalks because the celery is where you get the addictive crunch in this dish, plus the color is lovely.)

- white/yellow onion diced to taste (This also provides the crunch, but a little goes a long way, so I cut only about 1/4 of an onion)

- 8 oz bottle of Italian dressing *

- Coarse sea salt as needed


The most important things I put an asterisk by in the ingredients. One sad year I did not drain my black-eyed peas and this dish was ruined. I dump those bad boys in a colander and let them rinse very well in the sink under running water.

After you drain and rinse the peas, you can be as neat about chopping up the vegetables as you would like. I tend to like everything relatively the same size in a dish like this, so I used the pea as a size comparison and split the celery stalks length-wise before chopping them up. I also chopped the drained mushrooms up roughly because some of them were really big.

Everything goes into a medium sized bowl. Give it a stir.

Add the Italian dressing, an entire 8 oz bottle, and stir it up. This is another thing I am particular about. Don't get too fancy with the Italian dressing y'all. This kind is the go-to kind. I'm sure there are better ones for your salad-eating purposes, but for your Texas Caviar purposes, go Wish Bone or go home.

At this time you can give it a little taste test, and if you wish you can add some coarse sea salt if you feel it necessary. I added just a couple pinches, as my canned mushrooms didn't have salt added to them (rude). 

Your Texas Caviar yummy deliciousness looks like this: 

Isn't it pretty? It's perfect.... almost. Another INTEGRAL step is that this dish tastes 1,000 times better if you let it set and marinate (covered of course) in the refrigerator for at least a couple hours. I'm letting mine set for 24 hours... While I go in and "taste test" it every couple hours just to make sure the flavors are marinating well. Wink, wink. 

Flavor close up:

Maybe I have a problem. I'm just in love with this dish. I hope that you like it too. 


Monday, November 10, 2014

An Open Letter To Parents of Small Children

I'm not really quite sure what I want to accomplish by this "open letter," other than to blow off some steam and possibly (read: highly unlikely) change a few people's minds (probably after pissing them off), but let me preface it with the following statement: My blog posts are, in general, not bitchy, judgmental or negative in nature, nor do I like to have those aforementioned adjectives be a part of my life either, so this topic has been brewing for quite some time. And I'm usually quite a nice and polite person.

Here's the topic: PARENTS: Stop knowingly bringing your sick and contagious child around mine!!!!! 

Now, I'm writing this from the standpoint of a parent of a youngin' but also as a provider (speech therapist) to many MANY young children. I'm also writing this with full acknowledgment that it may be misconstrued as rude, unthoughtful, snotty, and cocky. For that, I will only say that is not my intention, but DAMN. 

I feel like I can't so much as take my kid to daycare/nursery at church/birthday parties/WHATEVER without having hell to pay for anywhere from 24 hours to 2 weeks in the form of a resulting illness. Yes, I know. I KNOW. Kids get sick. Kids are, by definition, little germ collectors. Seriously, I looked "kid" up in the dictionary and that is what it said... (I kid).

So, I know that we sometimes don't know our little angels are shedding an "Exorcist"- style puking virus until it's too late and the whole daycare goes down with them. I myself have unknowingly taken my daughter to daycare when she was in the early stages of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease and all but two kids from the daycare got it. So, I understand accidents happen, and I'm not talking about you guys!!!

I'm talking about the parents who ignore their better conscience for WHATEVER reason (job responsibilities, selfishness, ignorance) and take their fever-ridden, rash-covered, diarrhea-having little angel around other kiddos so they can all share germs. And, yes, if you can't tell, that makes me ANGRY! 

I have heard all the excuses in the world: 

"Well, he was up all night puking, but this morning he seems to be acting just fine." 
(My response: if it hasn't been 24 hours AT LEAST symptom-free, I care not.) 

"I can't miss any more days at work, or I will get fired." 
(My response: Oh, well it's certainly ok for you to get my kid sick so I have to miss work then though, right?)

and, one of my personal favorites: 
"Well he's ok if I give him tylenol." 

.....or maybe you just don't want to deal with your snotty, poopy, crabby kid while they are sick. (Yea.... I said it.)

Side note: To those parents who think "Well kids get sick, and that's what happens when they go to daycare/the park/school/McDonald's, so it's going to happen anyways, therefore we aren't going to change our plans because Little Johnny is sick." Please don't make decisions for me. PLEASE. 

See, the problem with kids who are sick (and their healthy counterparts) is this: they don't really understand "universal precautions." They don't see any problem at all with sticking their fingers in other kid's orifices. Snot on a ball? No problem! Half-eaten goldfish on the ground? MINE! Sippy cup of unknown origin on floor? I'm THIRSTY! 

And, therefore, little Tommy who puked 13 times last night, but sure as hell is running around like a monster right now, has contaminated everyone in Sunday school class.

We can't expect our children to tell us as parents that maybe they shouldn't go to school today since they aren't feeling well. It is up to us as parents to use our noggins and rub some brain cells together. Now, contagious periods for some typical children's illnesses are super vague. I read that the Hand Foot and Mouth virus can stay in poop for MONTHS. So, sometimes that isn't very helpful. 

But there are some general precautions you can take as a parent if you care about not getting a bunch of other children sick.

- Get a doctor's note. Most pediatricians will be pretty straight up about how long your kid is contagious. 
- 24 HOURS SYMPTOM FREE- as a GENERAL rule, as in a MINIMUM. If Little Sarah had fever (not talking low-grade but over like 100-101 degrees) at 3pm today, she should probably stay home tomorrow. If Little Ashley woke up in a bunch of her own puke this morning, she should probably sit daycare out today. My personal opinion on this is that runny nose and/or mild cough need not apply to this rule. Everyone has a cold from November-March in Chicago, and virtually every little kid I come into contact with has a snotty nose at least 80% of the time. I'm talking vomit, diarrhea, fever, pink eye, etc. 
- Do look up the contagious periods for common diagnosis. I wrote up a handy blog post on this topic last time I felt the need to express myself about this, which can be found here. But if you found this blog, you can find your way to Google and find out information for yourself on whatever specific ailment. Just make sure you are going to a reliable source, like the CDC. 
- Do err on the side of caution. Please. Some of these "contagious periods" are about as clear as mud, and if the parameters are like 2-14 days or something crazy, maybe you could at least limit exposure to other kids for 7-10 days, instead of trucking the kid to so-and-so's birthday party after it's been 48 hours on the dot. 
- Wash hands frequently. Soap and water, people. The antibacterial stuff is good too if you can't access soap and water, but wash their little hands (and yours too) frequently. 

Although this letter is addressed to parents of these little cherubs, I'm also extending this notice out to volunteers, daycare providers, teachers, babysitters, WHOEVER is in the business or position to take care of several kids at once. Have an illness policy. Stick to it. More than just a sign on the Sunday school door that says "Don't drop your kid off if they are sick." Have an illness policy that everyone has to sign that clearly states what your expectation is of them when it comes to children attending. Now, more informally, say for a play date or a birthday party, be that Nazi parent. Include a statement that says please be 24-hour illness free. Confront a parent who has their rash-covered angel in the bounce house with all the other kids. I think some people think that "Oh surely parents know that." But I'm here to tell you, as a speech therapist of many children who see many many parents, they surely do NOT. 

There are many, many things that I am a pretty laid-back parent about. But when we can't even go to church without my kid getting Hand Foot and Mouth disease or a 2-week long stomach virus from HELL, it starts to rub me the wrong way. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Concerned About Your Kiddo's Speech Development - What You Should (And Shouldn't) Do About It

Exciting news, y'all!! I've been asked to contribute to CupcakeMag on my totally "expert opinion" of children, being a mom, and speech therapy things. Of course, I am honored and completely stoked to have this opportunity, because as you may well know, I do like to write about these things! (I'm joking about being an expert - half the time I wonder if I truly know what the heck I'm doing regarding parenting and children at least!) Click here to read my FIRST blog post about this over at CupcakeMag. 

Today marks my first post, about what to do if you are concerned about your child's speech development. Time and time again I have had family members, friends, colleagues, and strangers ask me my opinion on if they should be worried about their kiddo's speech. So, naturally, I wrote a blog post about what to do (and what to refrain from doing) if you are the slightest bit concerned about how your little cherub is progressing in the area of speech!