Image courtesy of Not Worth Mentioning.com
Spring break is over and our college students have returned to their distant campuses, suitcases crammed with their sibling's pilfered clothes and pockets stuffed with our last twenty bucks.
Just between us, those weren't tears of sadness we were dabbing from our eyes as we waved goodbye.
It's not that we don't love them, or want to spend time with them; it is just that all the book learning seems to have pushed the common sense right out of their heads, and we are exhausted.
Try spending 10 days with a sophomore philosophy major having metaphysical arguments about what exists (beer cans under the pool table), and how to understand what exists (how the heck did college sophomores even get beer, and why aren't they smart enough to stuff them into the recycling bin before we find the little boys playing a game called Liquor Store and start yelling?).
You'd be weeping too.
August seems so very long ago. We dropped them off in their nice dorm rooms, so happy that they liked their roommates and their newly declared majors. We were so proud they were gaining knowledge (which is now used to condescend to us), learning new games (named for exotic locations like Beirut) and honing their time management skills (staying up all night writing papers because they spent the weekend long-boarding in traffic). We, and they, were in a very, very good place.
And then...college break, woo hoo! We know it is hard for them-they've been off on their own, managing pretty well, as they're quick to remind us, and now they've got to deal with our suburban reality. Since we are not vampires, we'd like it relatively quiet after midnight. Since our bathrooms do not have a big drain in the middle of the floor, we'd like most of the water to stay in the shower. Since we are not running a cafeteria, grill and/or a coffee shop, we are not interested in providing food and beverages whenever a hunger pang pops up. And since there is no soapy conveyer belt and Mom is the only underpaid food-service worker, please bus your own table.
You can try the "my house-my rules" thing and it might work out for you-we have found it to be a losing battle. They are pretty good kids, they've kept their grades up and their scholarship money intact, so what are we going to do, throw them out? Make them feel uncomfortable in their own homes? We'd prefer to save that for when they bring home a daughter-in-law we don't like.
When our darlings return for a little R and R they always request the same family favorites, and we are happy to oblige-at least the first night. At Suzanne's it is her One Hour Beef Stew, served the French way on top of garlic-rubbed baguette slices. And yes, it is ALWAYS made with organic, family-farm raised beef; this one was named Stanley, thanks for asking. At Robin's it is her Creamy Chicken Enchilada Nachos-a wacky crock pot recipe that uses both tortilla and tortilla chips and is positively addictive. It also keeps warm for hours, great for feeding the family at 6pm and then (bonus!) the college students with the 2am munchies.
Suzanne's One Hour Beef Stew
Makes 8 Servings
The key here is to cut the stew chunks in half or quarters so they cook quickly. If you'd prefer to keep the chunks larger, and have the time, toss the whole thing into a crock pot after browning and add the vegetables for the last hour of cooking.
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 ½ pounds chuck for stew (not lean)
4 tablespoons olive oil (approximate)
1 large onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, 4 roughly chopped, 1 cut in half for serving
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bottle dry red wine
6 carrots peeled and sliced on the diagonal into 1 inch pieces
1 pound package frozen pearl onions
¾ pound page frozen petite peas
Flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)
16 1 inch slices baguette for serving
Cut the stew meat into pieces no larger than 1 inch on any side. Sprinkle well with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
Heat half the olive oil in a large, covered Dutch oven or heavy stew pot over medium heat. When oil starts to shimmer, scatter some of the beef over the bottom of the pot. None of the pieces should be touching or they won't brown. Allow the beef to cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes to create a nice brown crust. Stir, cook for another 3 minutes, and remove with a slotted spoon. Continue browning all the beef in small batches. Add more oil as needed, and watch the heat so that the bottom of the pan doesn't blacken.
When all of the meat has been browned, add the onion and garlic and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes until the onion is fragrant. Reduce the heat as necessary to prevent the garlic from browning. Add the bottle of wine and stir with a wooden spoon to release all the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add back in the beef, along with the bay leaves and the thyme. Cover and bring to a simmer. After about 45 minutes the beef should be nearly tender. Add the carrots, stir and cover. Cook for another 7-8 minutes and then add the pearl onions and the peas. Let cook until the vegetables have warmed and the beef is tender-another 5-7 minutes.
To serve, rub each of the slices of bread with the cut side of a garlic clove. Lay two slices into the bottom of 8 shallow bowls and pour the stew over the bread. Garnish with the parsley.
Photo by Ken Williams for The Concord Monitor
Robin's Creamy Chicken Enchilada Nachos
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 large (26 ounce) can condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sour cream
1 7 ounce can diced green chili peppers
12-15 slices pickled jalapeno peppers
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
12 small flour tortillas
3 ½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Sliced green onions
1 large bag tortilla chips for serving
Place chicken thighs in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer and cook slowly until the thighs are firm and no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Drain, shred and place in a large mixing bowl.
Stir together the soup, garlic, sour cream, spices, green chilies and the jalapeno slices. Pour over the shredded chicken and mix well.
Lightly spritz a 5 quart crock pot with cooking spray. Layer 4 tortillas across the bottom of the pot, overlapping as necessary. Top with half the chicken mixture and one third of the cheese. Repeat another layer of tortillas, chicken and cheese. Top with the remaining tortillas, and then the remaining cheese. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.
Serve on top of tortilla chips, garnished with the green onions.