Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Green Chile Stew

Little Lucia has grown into such a doll. She is in one of my favorite stages right now; still a baby, but very self-sufficient, confident, and with relatively no attitude, unlike her older sister who has been giving me all the attitude lately. She brings everyone so much joy with her infectious laughter and fantastic sense of humor. I have always said that all babies are natural comedians and Lucy is certainly proving that to be true. For example, we have this little game that she invented where she will request a song ("Little Star?") and I will begin to sign the first few lines of the song and then Lucy will hold one finger up and indicate for me to stop singing by saying with conviction: "NO!" Then, she will request another song and I'll sing the first line or two and she will stop me again: "NO!" It might sound silly, but it puts all of us - Matthew, Emma, Paul, Myself, and Lucy herself - in stitches every single time.

The other game Lucy likes to play involves us taking turns asking her to say different words. At first, Lucy plays along and obediently repeats the requested word but then eventually begins to deliberately respond with the wrong word and then laughing hysterically afterwards. It usually goes something like this:

"Lucy, can you say Puppy?"
"Can you say Kitty?"
"Can you say Mommy?"
"Can you say Emma?"
"Hot Dog!" *Hysterical Laughter*
"Can you say Matthew?"
"Chicken!" *More Hysterical Laughter*

Maybe it's not all that amusing to you all, but this silliness certainly keeps all of us in stitches!

Lucy also has developed an obsession with all things Frozen. She loves the music and often requests for me to play it on my phone so she can dance about and sing. Yes, she knows most of the words, or at the very least she imitates the sounds that the words make even if she is not enunciating properly. Lucy also loves giraffes, kitty cats, dogs (although she does not like it when they lick her), and birds. She loves to read books, either by herself or with me. When she wants me to read her a story, she will come up waving her book of choice while asking: "Lap? Lap?" Then, she will back up into my lap and snuggle in as I read to her. She always has such a serious expression on her face as I read as if she is studying every word I say along with every picture on the pages, earnestly committing them to memory. She also loves to help me unload the dishwasher. I usually put her in charge of the utensils and baby cups because she can reach those drawers and actually does a decent job putting them in the right place. However, she doesn't understand that the dishwasher isn't always clean and more than once I have had to stop her from unloading and putting away dirty dishes! She also adores the outdoors and long walks. One of my favorite things to do with her is go for a slow walk around the neighborhood, with one of my long strides matching up with six or seven of her little quicksteps, and listen to her point out things she sees along the way - the leaves, the trees, the animals, and people. She loves it all. My heart breaks for her as I think of the long winter months ahead where it will be much too cold to go outside.

Lucy also adores her siblings, but in different ways. She looks upon Emma has more of an equal and thus tends to fight and compete with her a bit more. Whenever Emma tries to patronize her, she passionately protests because why the heck would she take direction from someone who is basically on the same rung of the social ladder as herself? However, Lucy looks up to Matthew with adoration. She loves it when he assists her and if she had her choice Matthew would be her playmate every single time. Matthew is incredibly sweet to her, reading her stories, building block towers with her, fetching her food and drink, and even helping her brush her teeth at night. Speaking of brushing teeth, that is also Lucy's current favorite activity. No matter what she may be doing - be it playing, eating, or dancing about - as soon as she hears that it is tooth-brushing time, she drops everything and makes a beeline for the upstairs bathroom as fast as her short, stubby legs can take her while chanting over and over: "Teeth! Teeth!! TEEEEEETTTHH!" The girl is obsessed.

But back to Matthew and Lucy, I have really noticed a huge maturation in Matthew due to how seriously he takes his role as Lucy's big brother and protector. He is very careful with her and is always keeping an eye out to make sure she is not getting into any dangerous mischief. It certainly helps me to have a second set of eyes around! He also is excellent at keeping her entertained for me when I need to cook, clean, or just get some other task done. At the same time, I love just watching them play that I end up not getting much accomplished anyway! For example, yesterday afternoon after Matthew came home from school, he took Lucy outside to play baseball with him. It was the cutest thing I have ever seen. They took turns playing the role of the batter and the pitcher. Lucy actually was pretty good at swinging the bat, albeit a bit late, as the ball zoomed past her. When it was Lucy's turn to pitch, Matthew would laugh hysterically because she would throw it maybe two feet, certainly not far enough for him to have a decent chance of whacking it with his bat. I loved seeing how much they were enjoying one another's company. In case you were wondering, Emma was inside passed out on the couch. She doesn't nap often, but when she does she is out for the long count.

A swing and a miss!

Lucy takes her pitching duties very seriously...

But the ball never seems to travel too far!

The recipe I want to share with you today is one of the best things I have eaten this Fall! As I mentioned a while ago, Paul and I bought about 30 pounds of Hatch chilies from our grocer when they rolled in at the beginning of the season. In addition, Paul's younger brother who lives in Albuquerque also sent us some bottled peppers after hearing that we love them so much. With so many peppers on our hands, I was in need of new ways to incorporate them into my dinner plans. My dear friend Shelley, the busy mother of three adorable kids of her own - who get along fantastically with my own children, is also from New Mexico. She instructed me on how to make the delicious New Mexico Stew and when I heard that it called for a large portion of Hatch chilies, I was sold. Of course, I couldn't help add a few vegetables to the mix along with some fresh cilantro and hominy. When I confessed to Shelley that I added more vegetables to it, she jokingly called me a "heathen." Mea Culpa. I know that you really shouldn't mess with traditional, regional recipes.

So, the recipe below might not be the most authentic version of New Mexico Green Chile Stew, but I promise you that it is certainly tasty. We loved this so much topped with freshly shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and more cilantro, because I'm one of those people who can never get enough cilantro. It is a bit on the spicy side, but you can use different pepper and omit the seeds and membranes to majorly tone down the heat. While I used chopped pork loin as my protein, Shelley told me that anything from ground beef, ground turkey, or pork shoulder can be used. Just be sure to drain the fat after browning. This is one of those perfect, comforting meals for the cold winter months ahead. Make it and enjoy it!

Green Chile Stew
adapted from my friend Shelley

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 pounds pork loin, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 large white onion, diced
1 1/2 cups diced Hatch chile peppers (may substitute anaheims or poblanos if necessary)
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 15-ounce cans white hominy, drained and rinsed
1 large bunch cilantro, leaves chopped

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the pork with 1 teaspoon salt. Working in batches, cook the pork, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and discard the fat from the pot.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in the pot. Add the onion, chile peppers, bell peppers and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Return the pork to the pot along with the chicken broth; cover and bring to a boil. Stir the stew and reduce the heat to medium low; simmer, covered, until the pork is tender, about 30 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium high and bring the stew to a low boil. Add the potatoes, hominy and enough water to cover the pork and potatoes. Add half of the cilantro and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender and the stew is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

Serve topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, more cilantro, and a side of warm flour tortillas for dipping.

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