I’m channeling my inner Kitchen Witch today. A story and a recipe. I can’t promise the degree of snark that my dear friend often serves up so please click over to her site for that!
I received a text message from my BIL earlier this evening:
having fajitas and margaritas tonight! always reminds me of old times
My BIL first met my family when Eli was about a month old. He traveled with my sister to Ohio for our Welcome Eli party. Jason is a pretty quiet guy ordinarily and he was thrust into my extended family during a party of people who are far from quiet. It was sink or swim time.
I don’t know how he felt inside at that event but in my eyes he did a swan dive off the high board and came up with the utmost of grace. The man rocked it out and was instantly loved by my family.
Less than a year later he would become a daddy to my amazing nephew. Because of the specific predicaments of my nephew’s birth, Jason and I bonded. It was amazing for me to see him care about and worry about his very small baby boy. Only hours after the birth of his son he was dad of the year in my eyes.
We started a tradition while my nephew slept in a plastic crib with his bright purple mask under the bilirubin lights. We went out for dinner and had Mexican food.
Every visit since the birth of my nephew – almost 6 years worth of visits now – we have included Mexican food. Since we all love to cook so much it quickly transition to a tradition of homemade Mexican food.
The host of the get together is responsible for marinating and grilling the chicken – always chicken. The rest of the fixin’s are a joint effort that consist of sautéed vegetables, homemade salsa, *refried beans and, of course, margaritas.
Always there were laughs, which were certainly more vigorous as the bottle of margarita mix was drained to the bottom. Stories of childhood were told and retold. The time I threw a dart at Heidi’s back, how we used to dance on the hay trailers and perform plays, the torture we put our brother through – so very many childhood memories. All the while building all new memories to have and hold.
Little did we know how precious those memories would be. Just 3-1/2 years after this tradition began my sister would cease to be a part of the party, but only in person. We hold her here strongly in spirit.
While Heidi was in the hospital my mom, aunt and I fought an extreme March snowstorm to find a secluded Mexican restaurant that was said to serve the best margaritas in the area. We drank those margaritas and toasted them to Heidi. The evening after Heidi’s funeral Jason, his mom, my nephew and I went out to a local restaurant to toast a margarita to Heidi. On the first anniversary of her death my family, including my mom and my brother, toasted Heidi with a margarita.
What we remember are all of those laughs we felt in the deepest of our guts – laughs so hard they hurt. We remember the stories – specifically the “Heidi” stories. We cry a few tears because we miss her but smile at the time we had with her.
Now whenever we get together with my BIL there are fajitas and margaritas involved. We continue the tradition of everyone being a part of the meal preparation. We laugh about the past and share all the old times we’ve had. We tell all the Heidi stories, even the ones she’d kick our asses for telling. And we feel her all around us.
She never really left the party. She just changed the way she attends it.
Ellie Krieger’s Refried Beans
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder, or other chili powder
- 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed
- 2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the beans and chicken broth and cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Mash the beans coarsely with the back of a wooden spoon, adding more chicken broth to moisten, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the cilantro.
* Heidi found this refried beans recipe – I certainly cannot take credit. The first time she made it I thought it was from a restaurant. The taste is all there baby, but there is a definite lack of fat headed toward your derriere!