My son was over here for Supper (as opposed to Dinner) last night. Yes, there is a distinction, at least in a southerners mind. He commented upon the number of critters that I keep in my household, but hey, its cheaper to feed them than pay a psychiatrist. And as y’all know I love to feed. I have 3 cats and a dog, I really want a puppy as a companion to my Beloved Beagle, Schoochie, but I am not ready to house train again. We have a kind of part time dog who comes to my house when she runs away from home. Her name is Maggie, and she is a scamp, she is a huge boxer mix so big that when she stands on her hind legs her paws are on my shoulders, and she generally shows up outside my bay window in the kitchen, early in the morning, because she knows I am sitting here drinking coffee and writing. I swear she comes around the corner looking for me. And yes I feed her, that’s why she comes here first, but it keeps her off the streets. She’s here now. I let her in, she eats, then goes in the back yard to run and play and jump over Schooch. Schooch puts up with this behavior for a bit then she starts to get insecure that maybe I love Maggie more than her, but that is not possible, although I suspect Schooch loves my husband Keith more than she loves me, even though I am the one who rescued her skinny little self from the wilds of Gatlinburg. But the person Schooch loves most is my son, Nathaniel. He has a way with all animals. He actually gave her her real name, Shelby Lou, a true southern beagle moniker if I ever heard one. Schoochie is her nick name , yes we all have nick names here, south of the Mason Dixon. My other critters are Joe Elvis(Joejoe), a black cat who is the color of a faded black velvet painting of the King. Stoney (Stoneman, he looks stoned, like Dude, most of the time) my huge gray fluff ball of a cat, that my niece Kayleigh scared to death when he was a kitten and she was still crawling, he’s still scared, she’s thirteen. And lastly my solid black cat, a fierce little female, named Lily Pearl White, she is Schoochies best friend. She takes after me in her attitude and follows Schooch around like her shadow. They give me someone to talk to, besides myself. Oh I almost forgot, there is the mob of wild birds that throng my tall oak tree in the back, and the holly tree/bush that is right outside my kitchen window. At last count we were at about 50 to 100 birds that hang around and sing to me, the cowbirds that sound just like water gurgling, so much that I though I had a water main that was leaking, the Gackles, tall aristocratic black birds that shimmer blue and purple in the sunlight, Blue jays, Robins, Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, Sparrows, Titmouses (would that be titmice?), black headed finches, sometimes gold finches, a particular Mocking Bird who is almost my pet, I think he is the one I saved one time when he flew in my house, he seems to know me. Lastly my covey of Mourning Doves, sweet and gentle, they mate for life, and I love their soulful song. Sometimes I get ring necked Doves that are almost white, but they act regal and hold themselves apart from the other birds. And there is the red-tailed hawk, he visits my aviary for lunch sometimes, but has never been successful as far as I know. I am a critter person, my Granny was a critter person, she had a really soft heart where birds and animals were concerned, my son is a critter person, he can’t stand for a lost animal to go hungry or unloved. I don’t know how people live without animals in their lives. My best friend Shelly lives without animals, but she still talks about her sweet Basset Hound, Linus, although he’s been gone for years. I never met him and I have known her longer than I haven’t. I forgive her this tiny flaw, otherwise she is perfect and a perfect friend, she forgives me my considerable flaws…daily. People always think we are related, possibly because we are both cushy southern women that give you something to hug yourself into. Or it could be our green eyes…nah, its the cushy thing. We of course, got that way because we love good food, but really who wants to hug a skinny, bony woman? NONE of the men in my life.
As for the food part, Shelly and I are always discussing what we ate where, or cooked, or discovered that made something taste even better. Most of my friends are foodies, I love them for that reason alone. I feed them whenever I get the chance. I have a special cake I am going to bake for a friends birthday in April, yes you will get the recipe, it is my 7 hour coconut cake, and my friend Dr. Greg who tries really hard to eat sensible, had I believe, 3 pieces of it one night at another friends birthday party. Its so full of fat and calories and so damn yummy its a good thing it takes 7 hours to make, I would weigh 300 pounds.
It was actually spitting snow this morning as the sun lightened up the sky behind the grey clouds. Snow in March, soup weather! Several years ago, I had a chicken tortilla soup at a fancy restaurant that wasn’t bad but I just knew it could be much better. It was basically just cheese and chicken with skinny fried tortillas on top. I was thinking more of a soup that could be a total meal, with veggies and chicken. This is what I came up with, it is my husbands favorite, especially when he has a cold, it’ll clear you right up, cause its spicy. I always make a bunch and have leftovers, which yes, gets hotter as it sits. This makes a VERY large pot of soup, but really is there any other kind? A small bowl of soup just pisses me off.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 or 2 large bags of white corn tortilla chips to eat with the soup
1 bunch of fresh cilantro to serve on top to add that freshness
3 pounds of chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise so they cook faster
4 large boxes of low sodium chicken stock, I like my soup soupy, you can use water and bouillon cubes, I just can’t find any without sugar
1 large onion chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
1/4 of a jalapeno or 1/4 poblano pepper seeded and chopped (if you don’t like spicy use the poblano or just leave these peppers out)
salt and red pepper flakes
2 cans Ro*tel tomatoes (I get the chunky style, original spice lever, I have made it with the medium level but to each his own )
1 15 oz can Hunts fire roasted chopped tomatoes
2 cans Bush’s seasoned black beans rinsed and drained (please rinse well otherwise it turns out an ugly color, my husband like lots of black beans so sometimes I use 3 cans)
3 cans Niblets yellow corn or frozen corn (3 to 4 cups)
16 to 24 oz shredded sharp cheddar if you like it cheesey do the 24 oz
12 oz (1 1/2 cups of sour creme)
1/2 cup of flour
saute the onion and the red pepper with a bit of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes in the bottom of a large stock pot until tender, dump in the chicken stock, the Ro*tel tomatoes, the fire roasted tomatoes, bring to a boil, drop in the chicken pieces and lower the temp some, simmer until chicken is done, stirring occasionally, usually about 20 minutes. take the chicken out and put on a plate to cool down some. While the pot is still simmering put in the shredded cheese and let it melt in the stock. Put the sour creme in a medium bowl, Blend the flour THOROUGHLY into the sour creme, add about a 1/2 cup of simmering stock to the bowl, blend that in thoroughly then add another 1/2 cup and blend that thoroughly (this is the hardest part, I swear and yes we are tempering the sour creme mixture), SLOWLY add the now warmed sour creme mixture into the simmering stock, stirring well to blend it in, if you have done this correctly you will have no little floating balls of dough on top of the stock, if you haven’t… get out the immersion blender and blend those little suckers in trying not to blend all the tomatoes into pulp, or just act like the little floating balls of dough are supposed to be there. I have done it both ways. Keep the soup at a simmer but stir it often at this stage as it thickens up to a creamy consistency, it also tends to stick so watch it. Once that is blended add the cans of corn, the rinsed and drained black beans, shred the cooled chicken and add that back in, let it simmer another 5 minutes or so, check for seasoning, get a LARGE bowl for each person and serve it up with white corn tortilla chips instead of crackers, extra sour creme dolloped on top and fresh cilantro chopped on top. I might have to make some tonight, yum.
Ok, time to take Maggie home, she’s asleep on the rug, Schooch however, kinda has a pissed off look, up on the couch. The cats? No where to be found.