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Hunting for Beauty and A Mexican Feast in Australia

A few weeks ago I went hunting for beauty and found it among rusted and neglected items.

I loved it so much that I went out again this week, passing time on a cloudy afternoon peering into junk piles and old cars and abandoned bits of machinery in search of vignettes like this.

“Even in the familiar there can be surprise and wonder.”
Tierney Gearon

It’s becoming a highly anticipated ritual each week. Some days I wander around our farm, others through town, sometimes I just look around a familiar cafe or park and find the loveliest things I’ve never spotted before.

I’m discovering it’s a form of therapy too. A practice that takes my mind away from painful things that grow bigger than they are when I focus on them too much. Somehow taking time to look, really look and enjoy, calms my thoughts and puts things in a much healthier and manageable perspective.

“Our brightest blazes of gladness
are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.”
Samuel Johnson

As you know, I’ve been very sick for a long time. I’ve been going through heaps of tests, experimenting with different medications and therapies, trying to figure out something, anything that will help.

Finally, this week, we got some conclusive results and now we know exactly what to do to help me. HOORAY!

Finding out what is wrong is my “brightest blaze of gladness” this week. I still need to visit a surgeon to rule out some other things, but I’m so thankful for this huge dollop of hope.

Recovery is going to take several months or more, but they will be months of hope and understanding, not fear and uncertainty. I’m so grateful for that.

Before we got this great news, I decided to use the waiting time to plan a Mexican feast of beloved dishes.

Bear had never tasted Mexican food before, a tragedy that had to be rectified. So I filled my grocery cart with peppers and black beans and a gorgeous hunk of pork and couldn’t wait to get home to start cooking.

The first dish I made was pico de gallo – that luscious fresh salsa made glorious with lashings of lime juice and hearty sprinklings of sea salt.

Bear is of the opinion that cilantro (coriander to my Aussie folks) is of the devil, so I made his pico de gallo cilantro-free and happily loaded mine with the greeniliciousness.

Then I made queso fresco – a creamy yet crumbly fresh Mexican cheese that only takes 15 minutes to make.

I could not stop eating it and the first batch was nearly half gone by the time dinner arrived. I’m definitely going to stock up on milk this week to make heaps of this wonderful cheese.

Next up were frijoles negros – savory black beans (turtle beans in Oz) simmered for several hours with white onion, garlic, and a large jalapeno. Sea salt brings out the exquisite flavors and makes this one of my very favorite side dishes.

The first night we had all these good things piled in tortillas with carnitas – I’ll share that recipe with you next time – but the next day I turned it into picnic food.

I topped the frijoles negros with pico de gallo and sprinkled the lot with queso fresco and a few chunks of carnitas and had a wonderful picnic while I waited for my doctor visit. Fears about unknown test results are beautifully assuaged with Mexican food.

Do you have favorite comfort foods that ease difficult times in your life?

Pico de Gallo

Ingredients:

6-8 ripe Roma tomatoes, diced fine
1 white onion, diced fine
1 jalapeno, diced fine
juice from 1-2 limes
sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients and stir well.
  2. Let flavors meld for 30-60 minutes before serving.
  3. Will keep well sealed in fridge for several days.

Queso de Fresco

Ingredients:

8 cups whole milk
1 tsp salt
3-4 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar

Directions:

  1. Pour milk and salt into heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to boil, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in lemon juice or vinegar. Milk should immediately start to separate.
  3. Stir for one more minute then lower heat, stirring constantly until milk has completely separated into curds.
  4. Pour into cheesecloth-lined colander and drain well. Twist cheesecloth to drain completely.
  5. Use as is or keep cheese in cloth and press under a weight until cheese is firm to the touch.
  6. Use immediately or store in fridge, sealed, for several days.

Frijoles Negros

2 cups black beans
1 jalapeno, split and seeded
2 medium white onions, peeled
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp sea salt

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients except salt into heavy bottomed saucepan and fill with water until beans are covered by two inches.
  2. Bring to boil and cook over medium-high heat for one hour. Check liquid levels regularly and make sure beans are always covered.
  3. Add salt and continue to cook for 1-2 hours more, making sure beans are covered with liquid.
  4. When ready to serve, remove onions, garlic, and jalapeno, taste for seasoning, and serve.

 




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bellini - I am so happy that they have discovered the health problem and there is warm, golden light at the end of the tunnel. You have the gift for seeing beauty in even the smallest things in life I know you will recover quickly. Living in Washington State you practically grew up on Mexican food. So glad Bear got to try it!!

Jackie Smith - As usual with your posts, you’ve brought inspiration and beauty to my somewhat drab gray Sunday morning in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. I’ll be looking more intently at things today thanks to your thoughtful prose. Good wishes for continuing improvements healthwise.

thefisherlady - I love your rusty photos! your discovery walk is so my idea as well of healing time… finding beauty in tucked away corners. the metal framed one has me looking in the atlas of the land and body of water it imitates~ 🙂

Rae - I love the optimistic branchlets you caught looking for the sunshine through their tiny window of opportunity. Survivors – just like you. 🙂

jacquei - you photos are words are beautiful as usual. thanks for the gentle reminder to really look and see the beauty that is around us everyday in the most an unassuming of places. I glad your “doctor” news was good and that is something to be done. while that may be a long and difficult journey at least it is a journey and someplace to move to more forward to rather than being in a place of deep unknowing and fear. xoxo to you and bear

Maureen | OrgasmicChef - Krista, I’m over the moon that you are on the (slowish but sureish) road to recovery. I’m sure Bear means well when he hates coriander but it only takes a few bites every now and then to love it. 🙂 I think I’ll make this exact menu this week. It makes me feel homesick.

budget jan - Glad to hear progress has been made with the diagnosis. Bring on the treatment!
My fav photo is the fourth last. That looks like an amazing painting.
I am interested in how you make the cheese 🙂

Amy @ Seven Grey Sweaters - Great news, so glad you are getting some answers! And isn’t it great to have the ability to find beauty and enjoyment in small things that others might overlook?

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of cheesemaking for some time, but just haven’t worked up the gumption to do it. Your queso fresco recipe seems so easy though! I’ll have to try it now!

Justine de Jonge - Yum yum yum! How amazing is Mexican food?! We’re lucky to have some fab Mexican restaurants here in Melbourne and I’ve just started making some things at home. Your recipes look very tempting 🙂

Kate Bailward - Oh, Krista, I’m so happy for you that you have a diagnosis at last! It makes it all so much easier to cope with when you at least know what it is that you’re dealing with and how to head forward. xx

Also? Love, love, LOVE that top photo of the blue and the rust. It’s such a classic combination, but I can never get enough of seeing those two colours juxtaposed against each other. Beautifully caught.

mlleparadis - wonderful post: wonderful pics, wonderful looking food! too bad about bear being one of those cilantro-phobics (i know a few – “arggh! that tastes like soap!”).

do hope you can finally get into a therapy regime on the meds side that makes life a little less bumpy. looks like you’re making progress on home therapies side! funny how when you’re making art, you can forget the pain for a little while.

have a great week!

http://mlleparadis.blogspot.com

katyabroad - I love, love, love Mexican food, but here it is too often thought of as supermarket-bought fajita packs. Yours is fresh and beautiful, like it should be! So glad you are getting some answers and are on the road to recovery XO

Lindsay Hogg - i’ll have to try it. thanks for posting!

Ordinary Traveler - Mexican is my comfort food too and your salsa looks delicious! I used to make salsa fresca all the time, but I grew tired of all that cutting. 🙂 I hope your doctor’s visit went well.

Joanne (eats well with others) - I love the idea of looking for beauty in the ordinary! It puts such a nice spin on things.

Bethany Bassett - Carnitas are my FAVORITE! Definitely celebration food. Or waiting food. Or any freaking day of the week food. 🙂 Thanks a billion for the queso recipe; I haven’t found a cheese here in Italy that I love with Mexican (Gouda works okay, but it’s not queso), so I can’t wait to make it.

Oh, and I’m so glad that you finally have some conclusive results to work from! The unknowing can be so very hard. Hoping for a smooth and peaceful recovery for you. xo

Shiv - Love your site. Love your photos. Love the way you live your life. Mostly, I think, love your blog name 🙂

Mist, Rest, and Homemade Carnitas » Rambling Tart - […] There are numerous ways to make this delicious meat dish, but it boils down to this: seared pork simmered for hours in a savory broth then crisped in the oven until the broth evaporates and all you’re left with is flavorful shredded pork begging to be folded in tortillas and topped with pico de gallo, frijoles negros, and queso fresco. […]

Krista - Thank you, @facebook-668730468:disqus ! 🙂 I’m so glad you stopped by. 🙂

Krista - Me too, @joanneeatswellwithothers:disqus , it makes even dark days much more bearable. 🙂

Krista - You are so welcome, @BethanyBassett:disqus !!! I hope you love it. 🙂 I want to make more this week because I’m missing it already. 🙂 When I don’t have queso, I crumble feta on everything, and it’s really good. 🙂

Krista - The cutting IS a pain in the neck, isn’t it, @christywoodrow:disqus ? 🙂 The doctor visit went very well, thank you. I’m so grateful. 🙂

Krista - Hope you like it, @twitter-82747769:disqus 🙂

Krista - Supermarket packets just don’t cut it, do they, @katyabroad:disqus ? 🙂 Can’t wait to hang out with you again and we shall make Mexican food all day long. 🙂

Krista - Bear is crazy to not like cilantro, @9d73767d10227efff04c7307e331304c:disqus , at least that’s what I tell him. 🙂 He thinks the same about my love for it. 🙂

Krista - It is MARVELOUS, @google-119c2cee80d4ff8a6f3916096ddfc8dd:disqus !!! So glad you have some great places near you. 🙂

Krista - Thank you so much, @Katja_dlam:disqus Hope is such a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It makes the pain bearable, that’s for sure. 🙂 So glad you like that picture. It’s one of my very favorites too. 🙂

Krista - It is huge to me, @SevenGreySweaters:disqus 🙂 It really makes the difference between sadness and happiness every day. 🙂 I do hope you try making queso. In my opinion, it is THE easiest cheese to make. 🙂

Krista - Thank you so much, @cf9509787f49c8b33d499022bd5145eb:disqus 🙂 I started treatment on Friday and although it’s going to make me worse before I get better, I’m closer to better than I was before. 🙂 I hope you can try the cheese one day. I absolutely love it. 🙂

Krista - Thank you so much, @646f90c10acac98f1769eec10536b975:disqus XOXO

Krista - Thank you so much, @a1d00aea3bb8ff7d8a85322c6ff171a6:disqus . I’m so grateful for good news too, and for hope that one day things will get better. 🙂 XO

Krista - I keep trying to sneak in cilantro for Bear, but he ALWAYS finds it! “Is that weird herb in here?” he’ll ask? 🙂 I hope you enjoy the Mexican food. It makes me homesick too. 🙂

Krista - Ahhh, you’re so right about that framed one looking like a page from an atlas, @62001814d9d7e41ffc94251e56fa448f:disqus 🙂 That makes me smile. 🙂

Krista - I’m so glad to hear that, @95ea44c9817c2c8c2a30b7104fdf81c1:disqus 🙂 I lived in Washington for many years so I know exactly the sort of drab weather you’re experiencing. 🙂 Wishing you sunshiny days soon. 🙂

Krista - I’m so glad he got to try it too, @disqus_2LQ5qLN5aY:disqus 🙂 Mexican food is in my blood and I love it. I’m delighted that Bear loves it too. 🙂

Krista - Wishing you summery days VERY soon, @71eb07213759ab4e5611e1dd9f1df8a7:disqus The winter has been so long for you. I hope you get clear skies and sunshine so you can head out with your camera and capture wonderful things. 🙂

Liz Posmyk - Hello Krista, found your blog via Plated Stories…. love your work! I do hope you are on the road to a full recovery from your illness! Love these images and this vignette.

Suzanne - What lovely photos you have taken here in the least likely of place. I do love taking photos like that too. I’m happy you have found some help for your illness and hope that it goes well. Your Mexican fare looks wonderful, I could eat this kind of food all the time, simple but so full of flavor.

Sitting in the Light » Rambling Tart - […] I made slow food. Mexican black beans simmered for hours with garlic, onion, and chilies, shredded pork cooked long and slow […]

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