Children teach you many things, and foster children in particular teach you lessons you might never have learned from your natural born. I'll never forget one of our little girls who was astonished to learn that the food hydrator section of the refrigerator was not a toolbox, or the other who found it almost impossible to beleive that she didn't have to steal food and hide it, because there would be more, really.
I quickly learned that what we smell is critical to how we feel. Can you imagine being sent to a new home to live - one in which you were not a part of the decision making? Each house has its own smells, and as its owners and tenants, we can no longer smell it, but a stranger can tell if you cooked cabbage last week, have two too many cats, or cook with garlic on a regular basis.
Yet these children came bravely to the front door. My kitchen, and more importantly, my oven is located directly next to my front door; and these children taught me the power of chocolate chip cookies slipped into the oven when the social worker was ten minutes out from arriving. It's a little more difficult to think about all the scary unknowns when a warm kitchen promises plates of security, comfort and love. And that is exactly what a warm chocolate chip cookie is. It mattered not if the cookies were cut from a store-bought log, or mixed in the bowl and scooped onto the cookie sheets. A warm chocolate chip cookie melting in your mouth is love.
In fact, food is love. When my teenaged daughter ran away for about the fifth time (I lost track after she ran away from the runway shelter), she landed with a family who apparently didn't share our particular love for all things culinary. Finally, she couldn't take it and asked if one day I would share my recipe for homemade albondigas soup so that she could make it for the "...family who treats me better than you ever did." Is it just me gagging on this memory, or are you finding it a little distatsteful too?
Nonetheless, I sat down to the computer and typed out the recipe, remembering all the times I made it and how that simple bowl of meatball soup could encourage conversations about her day at school, my husband's stressful day at work or my own interpretation of the events as mother and wife, caretaker, ... and, well, you get it. So, here's that recipe:
Turkey Meatballs: Mix in a bowl:
1 pound package of ground turkey (the pre-seasoned kind works great too,
1/4 cup long grain uncooked rice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp. Mrs. Dash (spicy)
1 beaten egg
1/2 tsp. dried oregano- crushed
1/8 tsp. pepper
The Other Good Stuff
1 fresh, medium onion chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs. cooking oil
4 cups water
2 10-1/2 ounce cans chicken broth
1 6 ounce can of tomate paste
2 medium potatoes cubed OR 2 zucchinis chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced (1 cup)
1 can refried beans (great thickener)
In a big saucepan, heat the oil and toss in the onion, garlic and carrots. Cook until the onion turns golden and add the zukes.
Cook for another five minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender.
Stir in the water, broth and tomato paste and bring to boil. (IF you're using the potatoes, add them now and simmer for five minutes.)
While this is happening, mix the meat ingredients all together. I use a small ice cream scoop to divide the meat and make the meatballs uniform in size. Roll them in your hand if necessary and drop them into the simmering soup. Return to boiling: reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes or until meatballs float to the top and potatoes are cooked through.
I like to add fresh lime for garnish, or squeezed individually into the bowls of soup. On the table I add red pepper flakes, dried oregano and a stack of hot corn tortillas with pats of butter available.
Makes 8-10 servings.
Well, there you have it. It's my recipe for a big ol' bowl of love. After you've made it once, you'll realize just how easy this is, and what a crowd pleaser it always turns out to be. And just so ya know, it's heart-healthy in all ways, shapes and forms.
Follow this later with a hot chocolate chip cookie and see if your family doesn't look like all the cares in the world have fallen away. That's what love does - heats you from the inside, brings a rosy glow to your face and makes you always remember it fondly. Ya gotta love LOVE.