What to Cook at the End of the World


Perhaps the title is a bit melodramatic, but Birmingham this last week resembled an apocalypse movie. Let me paint the picture.

On Tuesday morning, a predicted snow began to dust this Southern town. Unpredicted was that the roads (mountainous, steep roads) would grow a thick film of ice over them in just hours, resembling a cross between a ski resort and a hockey rink. Driving was impossible, at first for the 2-wheel drive cars, but eventually for everyone. Southern cities typically don’t have the equipment for these situations, so apart from throwing some ice on it (and outfitting emergency vehicles with chains), all there was to do was wait. Young children were stranded at schools overnight with their teachers. Professionals trapped in their offices. Families split for a few days. Anyone who attempted to drive was either caught in standstill traffic or found wrecks inevitable–both scenarios resulting in abandoned cars strewn throughout the city. At one point, a woman at the top of Richard Arrington (steep hill) lost control of her car and rolled backwards down the mountain like a bowling ball hitting cars on the way down. Near our house was a 13-car pileup. A brain surgeon walked six miles in the snow to perform surgery on a patient who would have died otherwise (check him out here). Stories like that, which seem to abound in these situations, make me proud to be here.

So after two accidents and a freezing walk home, Mr. P showed up at our front door. We were one of the lucky families that got to spend the storm together. Times like these merit a fantastic meal. Isn’t that what cooking is about? Celebrating, being together, warming cold hands? What I’m about to share with you is a well-loved family recipe: Juanita’s Texan White Chicken Chili. I’ve included a few of the changes we made to make it lactose-intolerant friendly and there’s even a note if you want to take it vegan. Yes, the words “Texas” and “vegan” just appeared in the same blog post. Be amazed.


1 lb boneless, skinless chicken cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 (15-oz) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-oz) can chicken broth
2 small cans chopped green chilies
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
*1 cup (8 0z) sour cream
*1/2 cup heavy cream

*I exchanged the sour cream and heavy cream for 1/2 cup cashews ground in 1 cup skim Lactaid. Fantastic substitution! If you’re looking to make a vegan version, make the cashew mixture with soy or almond milk and substitute the chicken with a cup of rice and an additional can of beans (I would do black or kidney).

In a saucepan, saute the chicken, onion, and garlic powder in the oil until the chicken is no longer pink.

Add beans, broth, chilies, and seasonings. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in sour cream and cream (or cashew/milk mixture).

Serve immediately. Now wasn’t that easy? Best enjoyed while watching snow fall from the window of your snugly home. For the lactose-tolerant, like myself, I love grating a sharp cheese on top of my bowl. Mmm. Pictured as a side is whole wheat toast with cilantro jalapeno hummus.

DSC_0250That is snow out that window, my friends. 🙂


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