Monday, April 15, 2013

A Couple of Words to the Wise and the Weary: Mexican Inspired Chicken and Lime Soup

I caught The Today Show a couple of weeks ago when they had a mommy blogger on talking about her new book on the trials, tribulations and rewards of raising a young family.  She was very pretty, not yet afflicted with that famous deer in the headlights stare that we mothers of teenagers possess.  She had bright white teeth, long shiny hair, sparkling blue eyes and all this was tucked into a size 2 pencil skirt.  I would have loved to hate her, but I just couldn't.  She was adorable.

Even though our lives are very different, I can still totally relate to her, because I once was where she is now.  Not enough hands or hours in the day, at this point in a mother's life you often feel like you need to clone yourself to get everything done.  Then after a long day of cleaning, cooking, running back and forth, and the kids are finally in bed, you find you still have a full day's work to do.  And mothers only get celebrated one day out of the year?!  Doesn't hardly seem fair does it?   

As I watched and listened to her interview, I couldn't help but wish that I could give her the benefit of my hindsight.  If I could I would tell her to relax and enjoy every moment as best she can.  Try not to sweat it too much when the kids melt down in the grocery store, bite their neighbor in their preschool class, or say the "F" word in front of their grandma, because believe it or not, these are the good times.  I don't want to sound fatalistic, but in the not too distant future bigger challenges most certainly await.

In just a few short years her patience will likely be stretched beyond imagination. Adolescence and teenage years are a virtual minefield of alcohol, drugs, sex, bullying, bad attitudes, negative peer pressure, stupid parents, meat head coaches and the always impending fear of internet predators.  It can really get ugly out there.  I once saw a quote on Facebook that said something like, "If you enjoy watching people doing stupid sh*t, you're going to love being a parent."  Yep, that about sums it up.  Don't worry though, you'll probably survive.

So how does this relate to this food blog?  Well, if there is one piece of advice that I'd like to pass on to any parent, blogger or not, it is to make gathering the family together at suppertime a priority.  I know that it sounds pretty simple and oftentimes pretty hard to do, but it will really pay off in the long run.  Family meals are invaluable information gathering sessions that nourish not only the body, but the mind and family as well. All you really need to do is sit back and listen.

And while you're at the table, let the kids eat what they want from what's on the menu that night. Don't worry they'll live, just make them take a vitamin. I've never understood why in the world anyone would want to take a great family bonding opportunity like this and turn it into a "you can't leave the table until you eat your spinach" tug of war. Just bear in mind that no matter how picky they are they will most likely grow out of it before adulthood, and if they don't it will no longer be your problem anyway.

One of the weapons in my weeknight supper arsenal was a Mexican inspired chicken and lime soup.  Everyone loved the base of chicken and aromatic vegetables which was only made better by choosing their own toppings from the Lazy Susan spinning around in the middle of the table.  My son didn't like much of anything in his soup, but my daughter liked a little bit of everything in hers, and that was just fine with me. In the great power struggle between parents and kids, this is one I let them win.

Chicken and Lime Soup

There are a couple of ways to start this soup.  I often use leftover home roasted or store bought chicken carcass and just pour some water or chicken broth over it and either stick it in the slow cooker or on top of the stove, depending on how much time I have.  I'm starting from the very beginning here since I found a nice size organic chicken on sale today.  I cut it in half and will have two full meals here.  In my opinion, a bargain always tastes better than regular price.

The Basic Soup:
1/2 of a medium size chicken
5 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon cumin seed
1 medium size onion, chopped
3 large celery stalk, chopped in large pieces
2 medium size garlic cloves
2 medium size carrots, cut into 1/2" coins
Juice of 2 fresh limes (my juicy little limes produced 4 tablespoons of juice)

Place the chicken, broth, bay leaf, cumin seed, onion, and celery into the bowl of a slow cooker set on high.  Cook for approximately 3 hours.  At this point add the garlic and carrots.  Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender crisp.  Alternatively, place the ingredients into a stock pot, bring to a boil and cook on low and follow the same method as for the slow cooker.

Remove the chicken from the broth.  Shred the meat and discard the bones before returning it back to the broth. Add the lime juice; stir well and serve.

Serve with your desired toppings from the suggestions below.

Optional Extras:
Cooked rice or fideo (short thin noodles)
Tortilla strips or chips (I like to spray corn tortillas with cooking spray and bake on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees until they are brown and crispy)
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped ripe avocado
Chopped green onion tops
Grated cheese
Chopped cilantro
Slice Jalapenos
Sliced olives, black or green

Serves 6
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