Red Beans and Rice Salad

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My mom is a pretty cool lady, and everyone who meets Mae Belle—that’s what we call her—falls in love with her. She’s kind, funny, sometimes a little cuckoo for cocoa puffs and the most generous person I know. She is also the unofficial ambassador to QVC. To say that Mae Belle likes to shop is like saying that Idris Elba looks decent. I wouldn’t be surprised if the woman had a secret hotline to David Venable’s house. For the longest time, I thought she was having a fling with some UPS man, because every time I passed by her house that big brown truck was parked out front.

I knew for certain that Mae Belle shopped a little too much when I ordered a laptop from QVC last year for Big Daddy for Father’s Day. I answered the door, and the UPS driver took one look at me and said, “Are you Miss Martha’s daughter? Miss Martha from around the corner?” The question freaked me out, because I didn’t know this man, but he knew my mother’s name.

A big smile broke out on his face. “You look just like your mama. She’s a trip! You know what we call her back at the warehouse?”

All I could do was shrug.

“QVC!” he said, then smacked his knee and laughed. “I’m Frank. I deliver to Miss Martha all the time. If it wasn’t for you mom, I wouldn’t have a job. You know… for somebody who shops a lot, her house isn’t messy. And I’ve seen some messy houses.”

“I’m sure you have,” I said, still shocked that Frank the UPS man picked me out as Mae Belle’s daughter. “Miss Martha keeps her inventory in the garage—shelved and catalogued.”

Two weeks later, I answered the door at Mae Belle’s, and it was Frank the UPS man. That really cracked him up. After he dropped off a ton of boxes, he stayed and chatted with my mom for a few minutes like they were old buddies. She even gave the man a bottle of water and a snack for the road.

The funny thing is, my mom doesn’t shop frivolously. She’s practical with her purchases. She has everything on hand from Egyptian cotton bed sheets to a car battery charger to 16,000 rolls of toilet paper. Before I buy anything, I check out Martha’s Emporium first. My latest acquisition was a beach umbrella I found while looking for batteries. She didn’t have any AAA batteries, but now I have a brand new umbrella for our last beach trip before school starts. No more umbrella rentals for this girl.

My mom is great, and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for her. But it’s hard to shop for someone who literally has everything, so I do what I do best. I cook for her whenever she wants me to. She cooked for me and my sisters for years, and the least I can do now is feed her. Lately, she’s been craving the red beans and rice salad I made recently on Charlotte Today. It’s one of her favorite dishes, and really easy to make. It’s a filling salad made with pantry staples. This salad has everything in it for a satisfying meal. I keep the ingredients on hand just in case Mae Belle gets a hankering for some red beans and rice salad.

Maybe I’ll whip up a batch to take to her when I stop by her house tomorrow in search of a couple of new tires for my SUV.

Let me know when you make this recipe. Take a picture and hashtag it #QUEENCITYKITCHEN. I can’t wait to see what you post!

Red Beans and Rice Salad
Makes 8 servings

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Salad
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups Jasmine rice
1 bay leaf
Creole Vinaigrette, recipe follows
1 (15-ounce) can dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can light kidney beans, drained and rinsed
8-ounce boneless ham, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 green onions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh celery leaves

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in the rice and bay leaf, cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the rice sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the rice and stir to combine.

Add the beans, ham, bell pepper, celery, tomatoes, onion, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano and celery leaves. Stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Creole Vinaigrette
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning

Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, thyme, oregano and Creole seasoning in a small bowl until combined.

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