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Confetti Bean Salad can feed a crowd

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As I used a wooden spoon to mix up a big bowl full of bright-colored ingredients for bean salad, I thought of what my mom would say if she was with me. "This is the cat's meow." She would say that when something impressed her with its ease and convenience.

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When I attended a meeting hosted by my friend, Pat, a couple of weeks ago, she served a bean salad which was inspired by something similar she'd eaten at The Village Fish Market in Punta Gorda, Fla.

She emailed a list of the ingredients she had tossed together. No measurements were included. That's part of the appeal of Confetti Bean Salad. You can do your own thing, adding more or less of any of the beans or vegetables.

If you haven't tried edamame (eh-dah-MAH-may) yet, you will enjoy the buttery, nutty flavor and crisp texture of this soy bean that looks like a little lima bean. Edamame contains all of the amino acids essential for human health, making it a complete protein and a good meat alternative. Most grocery stores carry shelled edamame in their freezer cases. Purchasing edamame in the pod will add a lot of prep time to this bean salad. Edamame must always be cooked for a few minutes before it can be eaten.

The beans and vegetables can be mixed up a few days before you plan to serve the salad and stored in the refrigerator. Early in the day you plan to eat Confetti Bean Salad, toss it all up with some Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette and put it back in the refrigerator so the salad ingredients can soak up the Asian flavors. Pat uses a purchased bottle of sesame soy ginger dressing. It takes just minutes to mix up your own Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette. You'll know exactly what's in it and if you have any left over, it makes a tasty marinade for chicken, pork or tofu.

Grape tomatoes and dried cranberries get mixed into the salad just before serving.

If my dad was around to see the huge bowl of Confetti Bean Salad, I know what he would say. "Whoa, that's enough to feed an army." He said that often. My mom's motto in the kitchen was "Better to make too much than not enough."

The healthful salad won't feed an army, but it will feed a crowd at summer picnics, family reunions and wedding showers.

Pull out the biggest bowl you can find and make space in your refrigerator. Pour yourself a glass of iced tea or lemonade and sip as you chop vegetables and drain a few cans of beans and corn. Shake up a jar of homemade Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette. You'll wind up with a meal of protein, fiber, antioxidants and lots of vitamins with plenty to share. Easy.

Confetti Bean Salad really is the cat's meow.

Confetti Bean Salad

1 (12-ounce) bag frozen, shelled edamame

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel corn, rinsed and drained

1/2 of a red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 of a yellow bell pepper, chopped

1/2 of an orange bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 rib of celery, chopped

1 cup chopped jicama

1 cup chopped zucchini

1 cup chopped sugar snap peas

1 cup chopped seedless (English) cucumber

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered

Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Cook shelled edamame according to directions on package. Place in large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients, except for dried cranberries, tomatoes and Vinaigrette. Cover bowl and refrigerate. Four to eight hours before serving, add enough Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette to lightly coat salad ingredients, tossing gently. Return covered salad to refrigerator. Just before serving, add tomatoes and dried cranberries. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Makes enough to feed a crowd.

Recipe adapted from Pat Sanford's original concoction.

Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

5 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons honey

Put all ingredients into a large jar and shake until honey dissolves and ingredients are well blended. Store in refrigerator. Shake before using. Makes about 1 cup.

Tips from the cook

--If you don't have room for a large mixing bowl in your refrigerator, the undressed salad can be stored in a 1 gallon zip-top plastic bag.

--You decide whether or not to include the jalapeno seeds in the salad. I taste a bit of jalapeno to see how much heat it has and then decide whether or not to use the seeds.

--The original ingredient list included chopped apple. I used sweet, juicy and crunchy chopped jicama instead.

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