cooks at home

GETTING SCHOOLED

Angie Taylor’s humble beginnings taught her to love cooking.

WRITTEN BY JEANNE LAUF WALPOLE
PHOTOS SHAUN HUNTER

Angie Taylor cooks 4621
Angie Taylor can whip up her sister Sil’s Chinese Chicken Salad quickly in the kitchen of her West Reno home

Although she insists she’s not a foodie, Angie Taylor admits that food plays a big part in her life. Far from being raised on haute cuisine, Taylor grew up poor in San Francisco, with a mother who made the best of it.

“My mom was a great cook and she did a lot with a little,” she says. “She was very creative, and we had Spam a lot.”

Taylor says her mother pulled out all the stops for special occasions such as Christmas, however, by splurging on ingredients for her own gumbo, which was fairly bursting with shrimp and crab.

“Shrimp is my favorite food,” she says.

Busy life

Taylor’s schedule doesn’t always make cooking easy, though. Her packed docket includes serving as a Washoe County School District board trustee; the administrative pastor at Greater Light Christian Center in Reno; and the president and chief executive officer of Guardian Quest, Inc., a leadership development training organization. Despite her fast-paced lifestyle, however, she manages to add food to both the professional and social components of her day.

“I love food,” she says. “It’s a good accompaniment to almost anything — going to a movie, to a game, or to a meeting. People will show up for food.”

With a whirlwind agenda taking up most of the week, Taylor doesn’t always have the luxury of spending a lot of time in the kitchen preparing food.

“I want the food to be healthy, good tasting, and quick,” she says.

Overcoming cancer

Taylor also has become more careful with what she eats after being diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer last year.

“My eating habits were always pretty good anyway, but now I’m very conscious about eating more vegetables, which I’ve always loved,” she says. “I cheat less and fall off the wagon less because I know what we put into our bodies can contribute to cancer. I have to be more vigilant.”

And as a single woman, she doesn’t mind eating the same dish several times in a row.

“If I cook, I want to have leftovers,” she says.

There also isn’t much she doesn’t like to eat, although she confesses she has an issue with bananas.

“I’m a banana snob,” she says. “A banana can’t have any blemishes at all, and it must have just a little bit of green at the top of the stem.”

Her favorite cooking tool is her George Foreman grill because it’s quick and produces food with a great grilled taste.

Casual entertaining

When Taylor has time to catch her breath and hang out with friends, she enjoys casual entertaining at her home. These get-togethers are special to her and involve more preparation than her quick, day-to-day cooking.

“When I have my staff over, I do jambalaya, which is my go-to dish,” she says. “I like to celebrate.”

Another favorite is Chinese chicken salad, made according to her sister Sil’s recipe.

“My sister is very creative and has the chef gene,” she says.

A typical evening at Taylor’s home in Reno begins with good conversation shared over drinks and appetizers.

“I have something out for people to nibble on and always have music on,” she says.

She says her guests also eagerly look forward to playing games, including Pictionary. Occasionally, Taylor will host a potluck meal or have her sister cater the meal.

Taylor truly cherishes these times with the people in her life. As she connects with friends to catch up, food always plays an integral part in the event, however elaborate or casual it might be.

“In the black culture, food is really important,” she says.

Freelance writer Jeanne Lauf Walpole always is looking for new salad recipes and is eager to try Taylor’s.

Recipe

Sil’s Chinese Chicken Salad
(courtesy of Angie Taylor, trustee, Washoe County School District board; administrative pastor, Greater Light Christian Center in Reno; and president and CEO, Guardian Quest Inc. in Reno. Makes 2 to 3 entrée-sized servings)

1, 12-ounce package fancy coleslaw with red cabbage and carrots
1 bunch green onions
½ cup wonton strips
½ cup caramelized French’s Crispy Fried Onions
1, 15-ounce can mandarin oranges
Soy Vay Toasted Sesame Dressing
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
Seasonings of your choice

Split the chicken breast in half to flatten it and season both sides with your preferred seasonings. Grill chicken (preferably on George Foreman grill, but not required). Cut cooked chicken into long strips and then cut strips in half. Chop green onions, then drain mandarin oranges. Mix coleslaw, chicken strips, oranges, green onions, wonton strips, and caramelized fried onions in large salad bowl. Add salad dressing to taste, and toss until glistening but not soggy. If desired, garnish with extra wonton strips and fried onions on top.

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