Pseudo Posole

red chillis on brown wooden tray
Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

Tough times call for tough food.

Times are tough here in the soybean field, even though we know they will pass. We continue the process of unravelling the knots of grief around Hubby’s recently departed sister. His oldest brother in law waits in the celestial departure lounge for his flight to the great beyond to be called.

And while on his last visit to Michigan to see Eldest BIL,  Hubby found out that his second oldest sister has developed cancer as well. I’m not sure what her status is, but we will find out.

In the meantime, we get on with it as best we can, taking breaks to massage our faces so they don’t permanently freeze in the OMG position. We walk. We write. We do homework. We just go about our days trying to ignore the stalker ten steps behind us.

Times like these call for tough food. Preferably something laden with carbs and fat to boost the mood and give energy for daily activities. After a mid-September to mid-October like this one, we needed something that would stand up to the sorrow.

I tried making posole, a cross between a stew and a soup. Its roots run deep in Mexican history. The recipes I read called for the chicken (or pork) to be simmered in one pot, the beans in another, and the broth in a third. Everything would be combined in one pot at the end.

Truth be told, I’ve never had luck cooking beans. I also need to store up my patience for other things these days. I took a look in the freezer and pantry. Box o’chicken broth? Check. Red salsa? Check. Canned beans and hominy? Check. Great. Is there chicken in the freezer? Check.

Sometimes, I, too, can be organized.

I thawed four chicken quarters, then peeled off the skin. Into the slow cooker with them. Next came a jar of red roasted pepper salsa and half a box of chicken broth. If you want something closer to a soup, use the whole box. I wanted something more stew-like. I set the cooker on slow and let ‘er rip for about three hours until the chicken started parting company with the bones.  I removed it from the pot and shredded it before returning to the pot. Then I drained the beans (a 15-ounce can of cannellinis) and the hominy (I think it was 15 ounces as well–it was the smaller of the two cans offered) and let everything coexist peacefully until dinner.

Hubby ate two bowls and dozed off in his chair.

Maybe it wasn’t authentic, but it sure did its job.

 

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Soup Weather

 

 

Image courtesy Old Design Shop

 

We had the first snow this past Sunday. Huge half-formed flakes escorted by grey rain fell from the sky the better part of the morning.

Most Sundays or Saturdays, Oakley and I walk with a friend, but the cold damp weather vetoed it. I did a short yoga practice and made a pot of refrigerator soup.

No need to immerse appliances in boiling water to make stock. There is no real recipe for it. If you want to be fancy, call it soupe bonne femme, the good wife’s soup. Go through your fridge. The half serving of peas, celery that’s gone limp, half an onion from a salad made a few days ago can go in the pot. You found a couple of carrots that have seen better days? Peel, trim, chop, and introduce them to their colleagues in the pot. Cabbage? Chop it finally and add that. Of course you can add potatoes, pasta, rice, whatever suits your fancy.

For stock, I used a generous tablespoon of bouillon paste and water to cover. I also poured in a can of crushed tomatoes. Salt. Pepper. Garlic, either fresh or powdered.  If you want to make it a whole meal, canned white beans or chickpeas will round it out as will leftover bits of roast meat or chicken if you need to use those up.

Simmer until everything is done. The longer, the better in order to blend the flavors. Serve with some good bread or crackers, perhaps some cheese, and enjoy at a table with an outside view. Accompany with gratitude for being inside and having a full belly, and follow up with fruit for dessert.

Magically Mundane Monday

The good news is that it’s about 50F/10C out there. The bad news is that it’s pretty damp and chilly. I have a pot of lentils simmering with garlic and bay leaf. I’m not sure which culinary tradition they will represent on completion: Dorie Greenspan’s French soup with some tangerine peels for a citrusy note? Indian spices, perhaps with cauliflower? I have a half-hour or so before I have to add the final touches. I’m leaning towards the latter.

The aroma of garlic, bay, and lentils created a pleasant post-walk welcome. Oakley and I took a short one at the forest preserve with the paved trail. The low clouds and fog catch on the tree tops like sweaters on brambles, and muffle the sounds of the forest. We may have some rain coming in later today. After last winter’s endless train of storms, this is welcome change. Later this week, the skies will clear and we’ll be in a more typical high for this season of near 30.

It’s growing windy out there. Oakley dozes at my side. Think I’ll go with the Indian spice and cauliflower option. This winter is balancing last winter. The spices will counterbalance the damp.

Nothing Says Memorial Day Like a Bowl of Soup

We had a cold, damp Memorial Day yesterday. As in turn the heat on cold. Wrong on so many levels. 

I made soup for lunch. I found the recipe in More with Less, one of my go-to cookbooks. It’s a compilation of recipes published by the Mennonite Church along with some gently thought provoking reflections on the world’s food supply. The Vietnamese chicken soup sounds austere, but is oh-sooo-good on a grey damp day.

My spin on it: cook enough pasta in chicken broth laced with garlic and soy sauce. I used whole wheat spaghetti. I see no reason why you couldn’t use rice or spelt or some other kind. Cook until it’s kind of mushy and thick. Put in lots of black pepper and some shredded leftover chicken. You can garnish with a few sliced onion tops. I drizzled on a little sesame oil. It hit the spot as I watched the rain fall.

It was also a way to remember my dad. He had a gift for soup making, and I’m sure that my efforts pleased him almost as much as the chicken that I made on the rotisserie on Sunday. Indoors due to chilly dampness, but still delicious. 

My favorite station played Bach yesterday as I lunched. My mom was a classically trained pianist, and Bach ranked her top five favorite composers. I held pictures of her practicing at the organ at church where she filled in as organist, and images of Dad at the stove. Somehow, it seemed more appropriate and more of what they would have really wanted than making a five-hour drive to weep at their graves.