Cooking is a creative outlet for Claudia True. She and her husband of 33 years, Mike Driggs, moved to Overland Park 10 years ago and visit their three children and four grandchildren living in Colorado.
After putting her energy into working in the oil and gas industry for years, True began to pursue her childhood passion of painting as a second career. True now teaches painting classes out of her basement studio and believes home is where the art is.
Q: Is the use of color important in both your art and cookery?
A: They say you eat with your eyes first, and so I think that whatever I make in the kitchen should also look beautiful on the table. I spent the first 14 years of my life in southern Texas, in a town named Bishop, near Corpus Christi. It was there I was first exposed to many Mexican traditions, and that influence of color and spice is evident in both my paintings and my cooking.
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Q: It takes courage to follow your painting passion. How did you transition from being a geologist to a full-time artist?
A: Ever since I was a little girl, I painted. At some point in my career, it became clear that I just had to paint.
I started with landscapes and florals, but now, my paintings often are inspired by food. Whether I showcase individual ingredients, entire dishes or the stories behind the recipes, food inspires me. I am drawn to color and texture, and my goal is to create art that makes you smile.
In addition to holding painting classes in my studio, in which people can gather doing two of my favorite things — eating and painting — I also put out an annual calendar called Cooking With Friends. 2017 marks my ninth year of printing these calendars, which feature my friends’ recipes, their stories behind the recipes and my paintings, which illustrate each recipe. With recipes from New York-style Cheesecake to Mexican Slaw, the recipes and images with them are meant to inspire you to get in the kitchen, pick up a paintbrush or both.
Q: What is your story behind this Pork Green Chili?
A: I am sharing my most requested recipe. The first time I had this chili many years ago, I was around a drilling rig, working as a geologist. It was the Fourth of July, and I was working on a coal exploration program near Buffalo, Wyo.
We had a potluck among the many workers on the job site, and a driller’s girlfriend from New Mexico brought this Pork Green Chili. For me, it was love at first bite. It was unlike any chili I had ever tasted, so I got her recipe and have tweaked it over the years to make it my own.
Q: How is this different from a traditional Texas chili?
A: Some say Texas chili does not have beans, but what it does have is beef. That is why this Pork Green Chili made such an impact on me, and I now make my own version of this chili.
While we always enjoy this every Christmas Eve, this is a great dish you can make anytime and allow it to simmer, so you can enjoy the company of family and friends. Like my paintings, this chili is bold. Don’t be afraid to add hot sauce for a spicier version or less chili powder for a milder version.
The beauty of cooking, just like painting, is that you can make it your own. I believe in the art of cooking.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
An artist’s life
For more information on Claudia True’s art, visit ClaudiaTrue.com.
Pork Green Chili
Makes 12 servings
3 tablespoons peanut oil
3 (1-pound) pork center cut loin fillets, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 large onions, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
6 (4-ounce) cans diced green chilies, mild
1 (15-ounce) can golden hominy, drained
2 (10-ounce) cans diced tomatoes and green chilies, original
6 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried ground thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Warm oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat on stovetop. Working in batches, brown pork on all sides and remove to a platter lined with paper toweling.
When finished with pork, add onion to pan and sauté until soft and translucent. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, but do not burn.
Drain and discard oil from pan and return pork to pan. Stir in chilies, hominy, tomatoes and chicken stock. Season with bay leaf, chili powder, cumin, thyme, cinnamon, salt and pepper and stir until well combined. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 1 hour or more.
Before serving, skim excess oil off top and remove bay leaf. Ladle chili into bowls and garnish with optional chopped onion, cilantro, lime wedges, grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese and tortilla chips.
Note: True uses Rotel brand tomatoes with chilies and Gebhardt’s chili powder.
Per serving: 271 calories (50 percent from fat), 16 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 56 milligrams cholesterol, 13 grams carbohydrates, 23 grams protein, 406 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.