Green Chile Corn Chowder with Ham

It’s rainy and cool in Seattle (big surprise!) and the days are getting shorter. Time for soup!

Made this tonight and it came out yuuummmy! I’ve made corn chowder a hundred times but never quite like this – Mexican style. You can make this a vegetarian dish, but I like the smoky ham flavor.

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

4 T butter

1 yellow onion, diced

2 celery stalks, cleaned, ends cut off, diced

1 t diced garlic (from a jar or fresh)

Optional: 1 c diced ham (I use the ham steak from Costco)

1/2 ground turmeric (optional)

1 t ground cumin

1 t mild chili powder

1-4 oz can mild diced green chiles (such as Ortega-brand)

1-16 oz bag frozen corn or 5 fresh ears of corn, corn kernels cut off

6 c chicken or vegetable stock

1/3 c flour

1 c shredded sharp cheddar (plus half a block of cream cheese – optional)

1 c whipping cream

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Melt butter in medium-large soup pot over medium-high heat

Stir in diced onion, garlic and celery and cook until translucent

Add diced ham and cook until ham begins to brown

Add turmeric (if using), cumin, chili powder, diced green chiles, and corn

Whisk flour into chicken/vegetable stock until well-combined and there are no lumps

Add to corn mixture and whisk until beginning to thicken

Turn heat down to medium-low/medium

Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally

Add cheddar and stir until melted (tip: add half a block of cream cheese, too for a more tangy flavor)

Gently fold in whipping cream (half-n-half okay) – do not boil soup or cream may curdle

Stir in salt & pepper to taste

Great served with any or all of the following: a wedge of lime, small dollop of sour cream, diced green onions or fried onions such as French’s

Posted in Recipes | Leave a comment

My Groundbreaking Publisher – Arte Público Press

Thought I’d share this terrific article from the Houstonian magazine about my groundbreaking publisher, Arte Público Press and its founder, Dr. Nicolás Kanellos.

“As a child, Nicolás Kanellos couldn’t find books that accurately portrayed his Hispanic heritage. As an adult, he sought out and published the ones that did.”

This embodies one of my favorite quotes, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

The Arte Público team is a passionate and talented group of folks, and I am beyond fortunate to be included in their family of authors.

And related news: I am completing the final revisions to my Evangelina Takes Flight sequel (publication date October 2021). Anxious to move forward with the remaining revisions and the fun stuff – the title and cover art! Stay tuned.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do You Want to Listen Or Do You Want to Be Right?

listen graphicYou may think you’re a good listener, but are you really? When someone is talking, are you listening to UNDERSTAND or to REPLY?

 

Think about it. If someone is talking to you about something emotional on a topic that you feel strongly about, are you trying to understand them or are you preparing your rebuttal?

“Listen or your tongue will make you deaf.” ~Cherokee proverb

Some time back on this blog I shared a few concepts from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I taught the material in corporate America for 20+ years, and it fundamentally changed how I think and behave for the better.

Now is the right time to share another habit–Habit 5, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.

People are passionate about politics, the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, amongst other things, and that’s good. Passion combined with persistent action drives change when change is needed.

However, constructive, fully-informed, and sustainable change will NOT occur, no matter how passionate you are, if you’re not truly listening to the other person’s position.

What do I mean by “truly listening?”

I mean setting aside your own beliefs and emotions long enough to hear and fully understand the other person. This requires you to leave your ego at the door.

It does not matter if you agree or disagree with the other person; what matters is that you understand their ideas, grievances, experiences and position on an issue.

To communicate effectively, we must first understand each other. This can create solutions to complex problems, clarity on the issues and effective problem-solving. Once you understand each other, move to a solution around your commonalities, your shared wants. The best change is rarely one person’s idea or the other’s.

Social Media Can Hurt in Times of Conflict

I see a lot of passionate Facebook posts on the important topics of the day. I also see a lot of counter-arguments. These posts can go on and on, often with no one changing their position or seeing things in a new way. That is because people do not want to change their opinion–they are set in their own. They don’t want to learn the other person’s position–because their position is the right one. PERIOD.

One study by Mehrabian and Albert says that:

  • 7% of our meaning is understood by the words we say.
  • 38% of our meaning is understood by our tone of voice and style.
  • 55% of our meaning is understood by our facial expressions and body language.

When you combine the commentary of a person who is not interested in learning anything new or understanding a different perspective with the statistics above, how effective is the social media exchange?

opinionated

Relationships can easily be damaged when these exchanges happen. If I have a serious disagreement with another person, I pick up the phone to talk it out or go see them in person. The first thing I do is try to understand their position, not to judge it. I find this much more effective, it preserves the relationship, and sometimes even improves it.

Bottom line: It’s great to feel passionate about a topic, but you must listen to understand the opposing view, not to refute it. Once the parties on each side of an issue understand it from the other’s perspective, and feel respected, constructive change can begin.

“It seems rather incongruent that in a society of super-sophisticated communication, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners.” ~Erma Bombeck

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Recipe – Zesty Chicken Soup

Hola from Houston, Texas!

I am in Houston visiting my folks and doing the cooking while I’m here, which is fine by me! I love cooking and baking as much as I do writing. (First draft done of my sequel to Evangelina Takes Flight — working on revisions!)

Today I made a zesty, Southwest chicken soup, and it came out TASTY! Some of you might enjoy trying the recipe.

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c roast chicken meat (store-bought works fine) – cut/torn into bite-sized chunks
  •  4 T butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced or 1 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1 jalapeno – de-veined, de-seeded and minced
  • 1 t ground cumin (optional)
  • 2 medium limes – zested & squeezed
  • 1/4 c mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c sour cream
  • 2 boxes chicken broth (approx 8 cups)
  • 1 10 oz. bag frozen corn
  • 3/4 c chopped cilantro — divided (okay to include the stems)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in large pot over medium-high heat
  2. Add chopped onion, jalapeno and garlic — cook until translucent
  3. Add cumin (optional), stir
  4. Mix lime zest, juice, mayonnaise and sour cream — set aside
  5. Add frozen corn and half of cilantro to broth mixture — stir until corn is incorporated
  6. Add chicken broth — bring to a boil on high heat then reduce heat to medium
  7. Fold in chopped/shredded chicken
  8. Remove pot from heat — let cool 5 minutes
  9. Stir in half of mayonnaise/sour cream mixture until soup looks creamy
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste

Add a dollop of sour cream/mayonnaise on top of each bowl of soup and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Excellent served with warmed tortillas or cornbread.

Posted in Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Grammarly, Copyediting Software/App

grammar

For those of you who need editing help—this is for you!

It’s been weeks since I’ve written something on this blog. Between being overwhelmed by what’s happening at home and abroad with the health and humanitarian crisis and focusing on my writing 4-6 hours a day, I haven’t had the energy to think of anything worth posting. Experts in marketing say you should frequently post—anything to keep your readers engaged. Nah. I promise never to post for the sake of posting.

Today I read an article in The New York Times titled, How to Edit Your Own Writing by Harry Guinness.  In it, he goes over fundamentals of editing in a similar way to the Grammar Guide I wrote about below—he touches on the essentials, nothing more.

He also recommends a few resources. I checked out “Grammarly.” My husband, the educator, tells me it’s frequently used in schools. You’d think I would have known about it as an author, but nope, never heard of it. That’s why I’m sharing it here.

I downloaded the free version for my Windows platform (to use with Word and Outlook emails), then I quickly upgraded to the premium version, which charges a fee (reasonable in my opinion). For anyone who takes their writing seriously, plans to submit to an agent or self-publish, this software is da bomb! It finds:

  • simple grammatical errors
  • passive verbs
  • sentences that run on too long (clunky)
  • unnecessary words that add no value
  • sentences that don’t make sense
  • clichés
  • over-used words
  • words that sound too “high-falutin'” when a more straightforward choice would do
  • missing articles of speech
  • and more!

It does not edit for story structure, character development, plot strength, etc., but it’s going to save me many hours of manual work. Plus, it’s pointing out errors I didn’t know were errors and would not have corrected on my own.

Grammarly: Recommended!

And now for something completely different. Stay healthy! I care about each of you.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

English Grammar & Punctuation Guide

Recommendation for Writers and Students

As a writer, I consider myself mostly proficient with grammar and punctuation, but I still question myself on occasion, or I just can’t remember–like a permanent brain blip, e.g. lie vs. lay.

I’ve used this guide repeatedly in the past few years. It’s got everything I need in a concise, tri-fold, laminated format. It’d be great for students and anyone else who’s required or likes to write. I give it 5-stars *****!

And a related update: I am about 4/5 done with the Evangelina Takes Flight sequel. It’s packed with plot twists and mystery, and I’m excited to see how it ends! (I mean, I know how it’s going to end, but I still have to write out the details and make it come to life!)

Quick Study Academic English Grammar & Punctuation by BarCharts,Inc.Grammar and Punctuation Guide

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is “Latina” Enough?

MexicanAmerican flags

I have been reading, with great interest, the heated controversy about Jeanine Cummins’ new book, American Dirt. While I have not read the book myself, I’ve read enough from proponents and critics of the book, that I believe I understand both perspectives. David Bowles, an author I met at a Texas book conference, wrote a rousing editorial on the subject for the NY Times which can be found here.

This conjures up a subject I’ve grappled with my whole life. Stick with me here; I’ll get to that, but first, a little background…

The criticism of American Dirt is that it perpetuates Mexican stereotypes and cultural inaccuracies, and in essence, the author is not Latina enough (doesn’t represent an under-represented or marginalized group) to accurately or sincerely write about the Latinx immigrant experience. She cites her relevant background as having an abuela from Puerto Rico and a husband who came to the US as an Irish immigrant. She did thorough research before writing the book, but still, the book’s 7-figure advance, selection as an Oprah book of the month choice and acclaim by other prominent authors has angered many, and in particular, talented Latinx authors who have more direct and continuous experience in the world American Dirt proports to represent and are all too often passed over in the publishing world. That part is not in question. Despite efforts in the publishing industry to diversity its staff, data proves it’s still inordinately homogeneous (white-Caucasian, heterosexual, non-disabled females).

I will reserve judgment on American Dirt until I have had a chance to read it for myself. Hoping to check it out of the library rather than buy a copy.

In the meantime, the issue I’ve been grappling with for a long time has percolated to “top of mind status” again. What qualifies as “Latina enough,” to others? I AM LATINA, and  am the only rightful authority on that, however, I sometimes find I have to “convince” people. In my work as an author, this matters given I write about the Mexican-American experience.

MY LATINA ROOTS IN QUESTION – “YOU’RE NOT REALLY LATINA, ARE YOU?”

First, my name is Diana Jacobs Noble. What’s Latina about that? Do I need to explain that my mother is Mexican, my father is half Mexican, a quarter English and a quarter Lebanese? And that, his grandfather came to the US from Lebanon and had his name changed by authorities to Salem Jacobs instead of allowing him to keep his own name, Salim Njaim? Plus, I married a “Noble,” and am proud of the name, but it doesn’t scream “Latina!” to the outside world.

Second, I “look white” to virtually everyone, making it difficult for people to believe I have Mexican roots. I find this interesting (disturbing?). Yes, I have a pale olive complexion, dark hair and stand 5′ 6″, but do all Latinx’ers have “dark” skin and dark hair? Are they all “short?” Of course that is total nonsense, but those stereotypes persist.

Third, I live in Washington State. Do I have to tell people that I was born in Laredo, Texas a 5-minute drive from Mexico? Do I have to divulge that both my parents were born and raised in South Texas? My father’s job took us to multiple states, and I only lived in Texas until I was 5 years old, but it’s still my home state and where almost my entire family lives. Does living in Washington reduce my Latina credibility?

Fourth, I do not speak Spanish fluently or have an accent. My parents spoke a mix of Spanish and English in the home, but my brothers and I answered back in English. It was just our pattern and completely normal to us. So, while I speak some Spanish, I can’t have extensive conversations without a lot of heart palpitations and perspiration, but I understand it very well! My accent is excellent, plus I sing in Spanish. Does that count?

I grew up with equal parts Mexican and American cultures and traditions. I am prouder of my Mexican-American identity than can be put into words, but still, it can be disheartening to have to explain how and why I identify as Latinx.

ADDENDUM:

I just read another review on this subject in Texas Monthly and greatly enjoyed the author’s insight.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Historic Period of Racial Injustice and Terror Provide Backdrop to Evangelina Takes Flight Sequel

Texas Rangers with Corpses

The excerpt below from the Refusing to Forget non-profit organization highlights a little known period of racial terror in US history perpetrated by ordinary citizens and law enforcement against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. Their revealing, award-winning work provides the historical backdrop for the Evangelina Takes Flight sequel I am currently writing.

Follow Refusing to Forget on Facebook.

Sequel Book Blurb:

In 1915 southeast Texas, 17-year old Evangelina de León is falsely accused of murder and awaits trial in a court known for racial injustice. A Mexican-American civil rights organization joins Evangelina in pursuit of the truth in a high stakes battle between an acquittal or the gallows.

Some of the worst racial violence in United States history took place along the Mexico-Texas border from 1910 to 1920

The dead included women and men, the aged and the young, long-time residents and recent arrivals. They were killed by strangers, by neighbors, by vigilantes and at the hands of local law enforcement officers and the Texas Rangers. Some were summarily executed after being taken captive, or shot under the flimsy pretext of trying to escape. Some were left in the open to rot, others desecrated by being burnt, decapitated, or tortured by means such as having beer bottles rammed into their mouths. Extralegal executions became so common that a San Antonio reporter observed that “finding of dead bodies of Mexicans, suspected for various reasons of being connected with the troubles, has reached a point where it creates little or no interest. It is only when a raid is reported or an American is killed that the ire of the people is aroused.”

Terror spread far beyond the ranks of those killed. “One or more of us may have incurred the displeasure of some one, and it seems only necessary for that some one to whisper our names to an officer, to have us imprisoned and killed without an opportunity to prove in a fair trial, the falsity of the charges against us,” pleaded residents of Kingsville in a telegram to President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. “[S]ome of us who sign this petition, may be killed without even knowing the name of him who accuses. Our privileged denunciators may continue their infamous proceedings — answerable to no one.”

Far from being surreptitious, the violence was welcomed, celebrated, and even instigated at the highest levels of society and government. As thousands fled to Mexico and decapitated bodies floated down the Rio Grande, one Texas paper spoke of “a serious surplus population that needs eliminating.” Prominent politicians proposed putting all those of Mexican descent into “concentration camps” – and killing any who refused. For a decade, people would come across skeletons in the south Texas brush, marked with execution-style bullet holes in the backs of their skulls.

If you’d like to learn more, the Refusing to Forget founders’ own work can be found here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Recipe – Vegetarian Burrito Bowl

Of all the recipes I’ve posted here, the recipe for Mexican fideo gets the most views. Chile verde with pork and authentic Mexican tacos are the runners up. Fideo is a dish I grew up eating and frequently make for my own family (with tortillas, frijoles and guacamole). Oh, how I love authentic Mexican food – the stuff of my childhood.

My husband, Russ, and I recently started making something new for dinner: layered dinner bowls with healthy, whole ingredients. The possibilities are endless – Asian-inspired, Pacific Northwest-inspired and Mediterranean-inspired are a few examples.

I found this recipe for a burrito bowl in America’s Test Kitchen “Just Add Sauce” cookbook which I highly recommend. Of course, Russ and I tweaked the recipe quite a bit, as we always do. The finished product is filling and filled with nutritious ingredients.

BROWN RICE

  • 1 1/2 long grain brown rice, water as directed on package
  • 6 T olive oil
  • 3 T lime juice,
  • 2 t ground cumin,
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1/2 t salt, pepper to taste

BLACK BEANS

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow/sweet onion, diced1 t diced garlic2 cans black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1/2 C chicken broth
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1/2 t ground cumin

ROASTED CORN AND POBLANO PEPPERS

  • 3 ears fresh corn
  • 1 large can diced mild green chilis

AVOCADO DRESSING

  • 1 C sour cream
  • 1 fresh avocado
  • 1 T crushed garlic or 1/2 t garlic powder
  • juice of 3 limes
  • 1 c thoroughly rinsed/cleaned, chopped fresh cilantro (leave it out if you don’t like the taste)
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • salt, pepper to taste

CONDIMENTS – CHOOSE ANY OR ALL THAT YOU LIKE

  • prepared red or green Mexican salsa
  • halved cherry tomatoes
  • shredded Mexican cheese
  • diced green onions
  • wedges of fresh lime
  • chopped cilantro (thoroughly washed to remove dirt)

INSTRUCTIONS:

RICE:

  • Cook the brown rice as instructed on the package.
  • While the rice is cooking, whisk oil, lime juice and spices together.
  • Drizzle liquid ingredients over cooked rice, fluff with a fork to mix in; set aside. Do not put a lid on the rice at this stage or it will continue to cook and get mushy.

BEANS:

  • Coat the bottom of a medium-sized skillet or pot with olive oil and heat on medium-high heat.
  • Add diced onion and garlic and stir until translucent.
  • Add beans, chicken broth and spices. Stir to combine.
  • Cover and turn off.

CORN & GREEN CHILI:

  • Put oven rack on 2nd shelf from the top. Set oven to broil setting.
  • Remove husk and strings, wash, dry, set side by side on cookie sheet.
  • Put cookie sheet under broiler and watch carefully.
  • When corn kernels turn golden/brown/blackish, rotate corn using long tongs. Continue until all sides of the corn are roasted.
  • Set aside until cooled.
  • When cooled, use sharp paring knife to cut kernels off each cob. (short video included with tips for doing this)
  • Stir corn and green chilis together in bowl.

DRESSING:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth adding salt & pepper to taste. (If you dislike cilantro, you can leave it out.)

ASSEMBLE THE BOWLS TO YOUR LIKING & EAT!

  1. brown rice
  2. black beans
  3. corn/chilis
  4. avocado dressing
  5. optional condiments as desired

 

 

Posted in Recipes, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What’s El Día de los Muertos? It’s Not Scary, and It’s Not Halloween

Dia de los Muertos Dancer

A dancer performs at the Calpulli Mexican Dance Company’s annual “Dia de los Muertos” production. Photo by Kristin Slaby

Ran into this article by Kristina Puga on the CBS News Latino website. For those who aren’t familiar with Día de los Muertos or who think it’s Mexican Halloween, you might want to read it.

There seems to be a growing interest in Día de los Muertos, maybe because of the Disney movie Coco? Or my personal favorite animated feature on the subject, The Book of Life? The somewhat predictable American result? A retail bonanza: sugar skull cupcakes, framed prints, greeting cards, temporary tattoos, decorative socks, knit caps, Halloween death mask makeup kits – you name it, it’s out there.

I am American-born of Mexican, Lebanese and English descent, but in my heart, I am equal parts American and Mexican. While Mexican culture was a strong influence in my life, my family only celebrated American holidays. We did not celebrate Día de los Muertos, but I like the idea of it. I think of my loved ones who’ve passed often, but it seems like a good idea to slow down and really HONOR them and the memories they left us. What lessons did they teach us? What legacy did they leave that touches us today? What stories about them do we want to share with the next generation?

In presentations about Evangelina Takes Flight, I speak about the 3 deaths in Mexican folklore – the 1st of which is when your heart stops beating and your body ceases to function, the 2nd of which is when your body is consigned to the grave, and the 3rd and final death is when people no longer remember you – when they stop saying your name.

Día de los Muertos means your loved ones will never suffer the cruel fate of that 3rd death. It’s not a scary holiday. It’s a celebration of those we’ve loved and lost. Isn’t that beautiful?

PS: The Book of Life is a little wonky/different, but it’s shockingly creative, funny and the animation is fantastic!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment