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Salsa is a food-party; eat with gusto

Aug. 29, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

I love the combination of salty and crunchy foods. As a young child, I loved the saltines my family ate with chili and spaghetti. I enjoyed all sandwiches my mom made for me with a side of Snyder's potato chips. When I was a preteen, our family discovered Fritos -- perfect with hamburgers and hotdogs. Later, in high school, I tasted Doritos and Pringles for the first time, and found another food love.

Even as a teenager though, I was never blessed with wonderful metabolism many youngsters experience at that age; therefore, I had to limit the amount I consumed as I jealously watched my skinny friends knock off an entire bag in one sitting.

It was at some point in time during my college years that a restaurant called Fiesta Bravo came to the Huntington Mall area, forever impacting my food preferences. It was at this eatery that I discovered chips and salsa -- my taste buds have never been the same.

I still love chips and salsa, although, I do still have to watch how much I consume as it is quite easy to eat large quantities without realizing it.

Chips and salsa are therapy. Think about it. Eating those crunchy chips with as little or as much salsa as you prefer allows you to crunch away a day full of stress. Chips and salsa feel and taste like a party -- even if it's a gathering of your family around the dinner table. Let's face it: Chips and salsa can go with almost any meal -- not just a Mexican-style dish. Plus, chips and salsa are a great "go-to" when you remember at the last minute, "There's a staff luncheon tomorrow, I have to bring something" -- take chips and salsa and no one will complain.

I enjoy making my own salsa when my time allows. If you have never considered making your own salsa, think about this: It is much cheaper by the ounce to make your own. You control the spice level -- as hot or as mild as you like. Making your own salsa allows you to choose the ingredients that go into it. This is especially important if you have a friend or family member with food allergies. Additionally, trying different salsa recipes allows you to find a variety of salsas that go with different meals; thus, giving you a reason to serve chips and salsa more frequently!

Recently, I've been creating a salsa that my family and I discovered is quite versatile. It is chunky enough that it could be served as a side salad if desired. It tastes great served within a taco-style salad. This same recipe works well topped with cheese and shredded lettuce and wrapped up in a tortilla. Finally, it works well as a salsa with traditional chips, pita chips, or even Fritos.

One point I've learned when making salsas is that it often tastes better the second and third time it is served. There is something almost magical that happens during refrigeration that seems to enhance the flavors. I suppose it has to do with allowing more time for the ingredients to mix together and perhaps even "marinate." Whatever "it" is, that refrigerator does the trick!

An additional point I will make, before I share this recipe with you, is that I have played around with the ingredients -- especially the spices, until I found the right mix for my family. I encourage you, therefore, to play around too. If my combination of spices, or ingredients for that matter, is not exactly your taste preference then eliminate, replace, and add any ingredients your prefer to create your signature-style salsa. Remember, salsa is a food-party and must be eaten with great gusto!

From my home to yours, I wish you happy, healthy, homemade meals!

BLACK BEAN AND CORN SALSA/SALAD

2 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed well

1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 cups frozen corn

1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts (My husband likes these chopped.)

1 (4 ounce) can chilies, drained

1 cup chopped onion

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile

1/4 teaspoon red pepper

1/4 cup lime juice

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Put beans, tomatoes, corn, water chestnuts, chilies, and onions in bowl and mix. Stir in rest of ingredients and mix well. It is best if this has time to refrigerate first for several hours, or even overnight, if time allows. Serve with your favorite chips, as a side salad, or even within a wrap.

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net.

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