Cactus casserole with rice, ancho chiles and cheese

June 1, 2014 – 01:33 pm

cactus casseroleEvery year at this time, I face the same problem. See, I’m a bit lackadaisical when it comes to buying my plane ticket home for Thanksgiving. And now that it’s so close to the date, prices have risen to insane heights. Oh, you’d think that I’d get wise and start buying my ticket early, but much to the consternation of my family I do this to myself every year.

Of course, I tell myself that if it’s meant to happen I will be with my family. I am patient and calm. But one person who I know for certain won’t be at the farm for Thanksgiving this year is my cousin Andrew, who will be with his girlfriend’s family instead. And since Andrew is always in charge of green-bean casserole, I just don’t know if we’ll be serving it this year or not.

Well, this got me thinking.

cactus nopalHave you ever eaten cactus? Edible cactus, which in Spanish is known as nopal, comes from the prickly pear cactus, a beautiful plant that dots the landscape of West Texas. The plant has wide paddles that resemble a beaver’s tail and with a little care (yes, you remove the thorns) the paddles make for a delicious vegetable. It’s also extremely nutritious, as some studies have noted that eating cactus helps treat diabetes and lower cholesterol levels. Though health benefits aside, I simply like to eat it because it tastes so darn good.

Eating cactus is pretty common in Texas, especially in San Antonio and along the border. The most frequent application is cactus scrambled with eggs, which makes for a fine breakfast taco filling. But you can also make cactus salad, cactus soup, cactus relleno or simply grill it and serve it with roasted meat.

When people ask, “What does cactus taste like, ” the best answer is that it’s similar to green beans. And so with this in mind, I decided to make a cactus casserole to replace the green-bean casserole we won’t be eating this year.

Another popular way to serve cactus is to cook it in a chile cream sauce, which is what I used as the base for my casserole. But taking a nod from that other popular Southern holiday staple, broccoli and rice casserole, I decided to add some rice and cheese to my cactus casserole as well.

I have to admit, when I made this I had no idea how it would taste as I was just acting on a whim. But it’s hard to go wrong with a combination of cheese, rice, sour cream and chiles, and even if you think you don’t like cactus, this is an excellent way to try it for the first time.


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Sounds like you will be traveling...

I suggest you have a live flower sent to their home to arrive just before you get there... something like an azalea or a Thanksgiving cactus plant, or a Christmas Cactus plant.
While there, I recommend you be very active in helping prepare meals, serve and clean up after the meals.
Offer to do things like peeling the potatoes, set the table, etc.
Since you are going to be there for 4 days, offer to run the vacuum before guests arrive, etc.
Offer to make quick trips to the grocery store as you see the need.
If there are children in the family, help entertain the children to give their parents a break

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  2. Thanksgiving Cactuses
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