Thursday, January 19, 2012

Make Do With What "You Got"

I am always unprepared.  Morning rolls into afternoon, afternoon into evening and dinner looms over me with its expectations.  I think of dishes to create, things to pull out of the freezer, ingredients that might be needed in the morning hours and yet, when the time comes to produce this wonderful dish, I find that I have totally forgotten to do all of the above.  I scramble by tossing meat in the microwave to thaw, sending my driving age kids out to the grocery store and scouring my cabinets for hidden items.  Basically, I punt.  I mix together what I have and hope for the best. 

This is also somewhat how I run my life.  I’m organized in my mind but when it comes to the physical, everyday production of life, I seem to scramble.  Our family has had a tough time of it through the years financially.  We’ve suffered through five job losses in less than 20 years and because of that, we’ve had to “punt” a lot.  This is a difficult subject for me to write about as it is such a deeply, personal issue and yet, I know that I am not alone…far, far from it.  Across this country and perhaps the globe, things are unbalanced and difficult.  People are losing their jobs and their homes.  Companies that were once thought to be untouchable are filing for bankruptcy protection, oil prices are sky high and banks are less inclined to offer decent interest rates or loans for fear of losing their own revenue.  I often say where did the money actually go?”  It’s quite a mystery to me.  

But I’m getting off course here. 

My point is, in times that prove monumentally dark and scary are the best times to make do with what “you got.”  There’s no sin in just simply treading water until such time things do improve. So back to my dinner scramble—it really ties in here, be patient with me.  In the same way that I’ve made do with what ingredients I have in the house to make a great dinner, I’ve made do with a lack of other things too.  I’ve improvised to help keep the balance in my family’s life and to hopefully instill a sense of normality and hope.  I think “hope” is generally what gives us the inner strength to “make do with what we got.”  Here’s hoping I’m right.

 I created this "make do" recipe from ingredients I found in my house, an online recipe for sauce (link provided) and one great teenager’s trip to the store for cheese and sour cream. Enjoy!


½ onion, chopped
1 pepper, chopped (red, green, yellow or orange)
1 small tomato, diced
1 T.  canola oil (or whatever you have!)
½ half bottle of Salsa Verde (green salsa)
1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed.
1 pkg. Purdue Chicken Shortcuts, Southwest style
½ cup cooked rice  (you can do this ahead)
1 teas. Salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar or Jack cheese
12 flour tortillas
Enchilada Sauce (recipe below)

Sour Cream, Cilantro or Chives for toppings (optional)

Make the Enchilada Sauce first and set aside.

Heat your oil in large skillet/pan over medium heat.  Saute the onion and peppers for about 3 minutes or till slightly tender.  Add the tomato and toss around.  Add the salsa, black beans, chicken, rice and salt and heat for about 5 mins.  Fold in ½ cup of the homemade Enchilada Sauce.

Spread out ½ cup of Enchilada Sauce in 13 x 9” pan.  Take filling and put down center of tortilla, rolling up and folding ends in.  Place in pan.  Do this for all the tortillas and line them up in the dish.  Pour the rest of the sauce over the filled tortillas  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes.  Take off foil, top with the cheese and continue to bake for about 5 more minutes to melt it.  Top with sour cream and desired toppings.  

The sauce is from Rockin Robin’s website and is amazing!  She has a video that explains its process.  It’s printed here with permission from Robin herself: 

Rockin Robin's Raving Enchilada Sauce
makes about 2 cups

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 Tbs. Gebhardt Chile Powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon (less than 1/16 tsp.)
  • a little less than 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons plus 1/4 tsp. white flour
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

First let's make a roux. In a 2 quart sauce pan add the oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, lower the heat to low and add the flour.
Mix with a wire whisk for about 1 to 2 minutes stirring constantly. You want to see a little bubble going on. Then add the chili powder and whisk in till fully mixed.
Slowly pour in the 2 cups chicken broth. Turn the heat up to medium again and stir till fully mixed.
Add the cumin, garlic powder, salt, cinnamon and sugar (the sugar is a little secret to eliminate any bitter taste from the chili powder) stirring after each addition. Bring to a boil as you continue to stir.
Once boiling, stir and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat, this enchilada sauce recipe is done.
As you can see, this enchilada sauce recipe is very quick to make.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Anti-New Year's Resolution

Another year wraps up, another Christmas whoosh’s by as quick as a middle school crush and a pall comes over the horizon as I wait for winter’s quiet hush.  The morning light is slanted and gray, the silence familiar.  I have a love/hate relationship with this time of the year.  As a church musician, I have unfortunately come to loathe the preparation time leading up to the holidays.  The endless rehearsals, the planning of music and performers, the expectation to produce something “fantastic” and uplifting year after year, always expected to outdo the year before.  After almost 20 years of this, it is somewhat of a downer.
I must admit, I’m writing as I think, not really allowing the words to fully form in my mind and yet, perhaps, they have been forming themselves for weeks now.  I set out to post in this blog every week or so, even thinking that I might actually find the time to post several times a week, but, no…it’s much more difficult than that.  Sure, I have pressures from being a busy mom of three, but it’s a much deeper, visceral thing – it’s that the words come to my brain at times I just can’t seem to get to a computer or pen and paper to put them down.  I’ll be driving or showering, doing schoolwork with my daughter or in a meeting and the thoughts come to me.  By the time I get to sit down in the evening they drain away from me like a cold November bone chilling rain.  There is no amount of hot tea or soup that can dredge the words from my mind… they float away.  How sad that is.  
So back to resolutions--I don’t make them.  I find them sort of silly and yet I suppose in my mind I make deals with myself.  I try not to make them formal because I really don’t want to be let down later but there is an unmistakable sense of new beginnings--a freshness with the turn of the calendar that makes us all hopeful again.  I suppose my “resolution” this year is to write more and be less afraid to put down the words of the experiences I’ve had and those that continue to pave my future.  I suppose that this is a round-about, non-committal way to have a New Year’s resolution; I can tell myself “you’re not really making a resolution” and yet as fast as waking up to newly fallen snow, I’ve done it.  May I continue to keep it going long after the “newness” fades.