April Foolery, Octoberish Surprises

April 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm Leave a comment

My daughter-in-law, Esther, grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – a preserved 16th century colonial hill town and World Heritage Site.  She and my stepson have lived part of their married life in that quaint city, with its large population of American retirees and its international arts community.  The town’s “foreign settlers” are lured by an enriched yet small town atmosphere, the reduced cost of living, and a temperateness of climate that is almost impossible for this northern girl to wrap her head around.

To convince my brain, I checked out a Weather Channel chart which shows a gentle arch of evening-low to daytime-high temperatures spanning the year.  Temperatures range from 44 to 78 in January, February, and March; from 53 to 85 in April, May, and June; from 56 to 79 in July, August, and September; and from 46 to 76 in October, November, and December.  That confirmation brings the  place dangerously close to a fantasy ideal that has been brewing in the imagination of the two Minnesota-weary Baby Boomers who live in my household.

But back to the Real World that comprises our Midwestern existence: It was a mere three weeks ago in mid-March that our bullishly high temperatures of 80-something were breaking old records like so many china shop tea cups.  People were wearing shorts and pulling out the flip flops.  Ahem; did somebody mention “flip-flops”?  Here we are in the second week of April, and it dips to 27 degrees overnight. I had to dig the pup’s fake shearling jacket out of mothballs and zip the liner back into my two-season coat.

Things are warming up a bit as the week progresses, but last night I heard a sheepish weather guy whispering the word “snow” in conjunction with next Monday’s forecast.  I feel bad for the farmers and those people who have plants in their tender care, but I have to put sympathies aside and try to make cider of this shriveled apple we’ve been handed.  Time to haul out the soup kettle and bake up some bread, as my husband settles in front of the computer to lose himself in a virtual tour of real estate offerings in ol’ San Miguel.

The soup is a cinch.  With inspiration from over a hundred recipes in my nifty little all-color, all-soup cookbook, I settle on Corn, Chili, and Chorizo Soup and a stew-like Turkey and Lentil concoction, then set about adapting them to my own self-imposed nutritional mandates.  Now for some hearty bread.  If I had it to do over, I would opt for the Walnut and Seed Bread recipe tucked in at the end of the Love Food Soup collection, but I had a few ingredients I wanted to use up and a different recipe I’d been wanting to fiddle with, so I whipped up my version of Prune and Walnut Bread – and then managed to over-bake it to just a few strides short of burnt offering territory.  So much for fiddling.

There is a story passed down about my husband’s grandmother, as a 22-year-old newlywed, baking a cake that didn’t meet her standards for serving to others.  Embarrassed over the mishap, she stashed it in her hope chest and ate away at it, one slice a day for as long as it took to consume the entire thing on her own.  Family lore has it that she was reluctant to throw it on the trash heap out of fear that her failure would become public knowledge.  I prefer to think that, like me, she couldn’t stand the idea of wasting all those good ingredients.

Whatever the case, having trimmed the darkened top off of my own imperfect creation, I have now been eating away at a slightly dry White Wheat, Prune, Walnut, Applesauce yeast bread for five days running.  And the recipe made two 9” round pans-full, so there is one in the freezer that I’ll have to deal with.  Later.  Meanwhile, for the non-martyrs among us, whole grain tortilla quesadillas made with Monterey Jack cheese go beautifully with either of these chill-chasing soups.

 For the corn, chili, and sausage soup, light version:

pure canola oil cooking spray                                         1 large onion, chopped

3-4 oz turkey and/or chicken chorizo (or andouille) sausages

2 C corn                                                                                1 C black beans, cooked

4 C chicken broth                                                               ¼ C evaporated skim milk

¼ C chipotle chili sauce                                                    ½ tsp garlic powder

salt to taste                                                                           Beano tablets – optional

Coat a heavy kettle with canola oil and saute onion over medium heat, four-to-five minutes or until soft and translucent.  Add thinly sliced sausage and cook another three minutes, stirring often.  Stir in corn and black beans, cook another two minutes, then add chicken broth, milk, chili sauce, garlic powder, and salt.  Stir well to combine, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer on low for 30 minutes.

If serving with quesadillas, this will satisfy four people.

For the hearty turkey and lentil soup, I used a rich, gelatinous turkey stock made from the carcass and leg bones of a recently roasted turkey – the entree that keeps on giving, especially when your dinner guests are a no-show (due to flu) and you realize how much white meat an eleven-pounder actually provides.  You could use four cups canned chicken broth – less, because it’s thinner – but I recommend the homemade version if at all possible:

pure canola oil cooking spray                                         1 lge onion, chopped

1 lge clove garlic, chopped                                               8 oz thin-sliced mushrooms

1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes                                         6 C turkey stock

2 peeled carrots, sliced thin                                             1 C lentils

salt and lemon pepper to taste                                        3 C cubed, cooked turkey breast

Coat a large, heavy kettle with canola oil and cook onion over medium heat, four-to-five minutes or until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and mushrooms and cook an additional three or four minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add tomatoes, stock, carrots, lentils, salt, and lemon pepper, bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer over med-low heat for 30 minutes.  Stir in turkey breast until soup is heated through.  Serves six, easily.

If you’re north of the Mason-Dixon line, you know the old saying:  feed a cold (snap).  For my southern readers, maybe turn on the air conditioning and put on the soup pot, anyway?  As for me, I’ll be scrounging up my ear-warmers, then praying that I won’t be needing them.


Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , .

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