By Wendy Monro
My stepchildren, Archie and Ella, are here visiting. They are both in college now. How did that happen? I know I am not getting any older.
Nothing makes fall happier than having all four of our children living under the same roof with us. Having us all together makes any season, any day, any moment more contented for me. Claud is always a bit livelier and smiley. Daphne and Jack get along better with each other and joke around more. I am amazed at how well the four children get along together. They always have. Daphne and Jack love having Archie and Ella with us. Our house feels so much more alive. I wish it could always be like this. There is a sense of peace and enthusiasm that envelope the entire place.
Enchiladas with spanish rice and guacamole.
Making vegetable stock
Mixing in the Stock
Mixing in the rice
After the rice simmers (35 minutes) and absorbs the liquid, fluff it and serve.
Our ultimate goal is to be together at least once a season. It is difficult to have Archie and Ella living so far away. We miss them all of the time. We spent spring break in England, Claud flew out to England for a summer visit, and now Archie and Ella flew out here for fall. I am crossing my fingers that we will make it out to England for Christmas. Christmas in England is amazing, not because it is rainy, windy and cold. Who would like that? It is incredible because we have such a big family out there with tons of cousins. Christmas is much better with a house full of children.
Right now, I have to live in the moment and enjoy each precious second I have with Archie and Ella. This time, they could only stay for one week. At this very second, they are all cuddled up on the couch together watching a scary movie with Claud.
Obviously, I have been cooking. As soon as they arrived, we went to the store to stock up on some food they can only get here. They bought Red Vines, root beer, Lucky Charms, and Cocoa Pebbles. Hmmm it seems like the only things they can't get in England is seriously unhealthy. Oh well, they are on vacation. So, I buy this junk for them while they are here. I have to. It makes me happy to make them happy.
Time: one hour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, crushed
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tomatoes, diced
2 cups long grain white rice
6 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
Saut onion, bell peppers, celery and garlic in olive oil for about ten minutes over medium heat. Add cumin and oregano. Add tomato paste and fresh tomatoes and mix well. Add rice and stock. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes.
Archie and Ella had a lay over in Chicago on their way here and they told me that they went to the first Mexican restaurant they could. Then, they had to go to another store to find root beer. Root beer is really hard to find in England. So, when they are here, that's all they drink. They love root beer. When we are in Minnesota, we buy a couple of huge jugs of 1919 whenever Archie and Ella are in town. 1919 root beer is by far their favorite brand.
Good Mexican food is also difficult to find in England. Even if you find a decent Mexican restaurant, it just isn't the same as the food we get here in the United States. I remember that missing Mexican food was something I suffered with when I lived in England. The tortillas are never quite right. They don't make refried beans the way we get them here.
So, when we were at the store, I also bought all of the fixings to make some good Mexican food since they gave me that hint. First I made them fajitas. I sauted peppers and onions, cooked chicken, heated up some refried beans and flour tortillas. I filled bowls with cheese, olives, sour cream, avocadoes, tomatoes, cilantro and lemon. This way, everyone could make their fajitas however they wished. Ella, Jack and Daphne are all vegetarians. Archie and Claud love to add meat to everything. I made sure to please everyone. I succeeded. Everyone loved the fajitas.
Tonight, I made enchiladas with Spanish rice and guacamole. I made cheese enchiladas for the vegetarians and chicken enchiladas for everyone else. I made some of the cheese enchiladas with sauce and some without sauce. Ella cannot tolerate any kind of spice. I gave her a tiny taste of mild enchilada sauce on the side to try. She said it was pretty spicy. Huh? She used the homemade guacamole as a sauce instead.
The one part of the meal that everyone enjoyed and could eat was my Spanish rice. I have talked about Spanish rice as a complement to several meals I have written about in this column. This time, I want to explain how to make it. It really enhances any Mexican dish. It also adds lots of vegetables and nutrients to what could otherwise be a very cheesy and fattening meal. First I make homemade vegetable stock to cook the rice in. I like to saut onions, celery, red bell peppers, and green bell peppers first. Then I add the seasonings: oregano and cumin. Next, I add tomato paste and fresh tomatoes. Finally, I pour in the rice and the stock. When it is all finished simmering and absorbing the stock, I fluff it up and add salt and pepper. It's so easy. I make this whenever I cook tacos, enchiladas, burritos, or fajitas.
Tomorrow night, I am making vegetable tamales. I hope I am not overdoing the Mexican theme. Once thing I know for certain, nobody has complained yet. I thought I made enough for leftovers and it was all gone.