'Tis the season to be...busy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How on EARTH is it already mid-November?! And how did my first day of work suddenly turn into a month later?! I so wish I could just stop time for a bit, take a deep breath and reflect on what is now my reality. I see pictures of my new nephew that I still have yet to meet and can't believe he's already transformed from being a pink, wrinkly newborn to a completely cognizant infant. Not to mention that my other nephews are growing at lightning-speed like weeds in the summer without regard for their aging Auntie who's scared they won't recognize her soon.

And now Thanksgiving is upon us - less than a week away - and my built-in nostalgia-sensors are at full-strength. Since I can't make it home again this year for the family feast fest, we decided to host it chez nous once again to keep the tradition alive (at least one more year - I'm swearing that I'll be celebrating in the motherland next year). We've ordered the 17-pound turkey (fingers crossed it actually arrives), stocked up on the essentials for cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole and mashed potatoes, and we're planning to clear out the living room this week to make space for all the food and friends we're anticipating.

To help with the organization, we took a trip to Ikea this weekend and came home with more than we set out to get, including a poinsettia and some red garland. The holidays are already upon us and it's freaking me out! I've never felt so unprepared for the season before - it's like my brain is busting at the seams with thoughts of turkeys, Christmas gifts, new year's eve celebrations, knitting projects, grocery lists, and what I'm going to wear to work tomorrow. When did I become an adult? And when can I go back to letting someone else take care of all that stuff again?

I know what my mom will be saying right about now - something about how great it is to be an adult, to grow a family and continue the traditions. She'd also probably mention that I should just take it one day at a time, or in this case at least, one holiday at a time. I guess I just tend to get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the to-do, it's hard to stop and check-in to reality for a second and cherish what it's really about.

One thing's for sure, when the temps drop and the holidays start rolling through, my stomach starts craving all things wintry and warm. On those rare evenings when I've found myself with some spare energy, I've taken to the kitchen to feed my cravings. And usually, that means something that I've been missing from my mom or Aunt Janie's kitchen - like soups and stews and Spanish rice. My most recent craving-killer was something my mom used to cook for us that I know her mom cooked for her when the air was extra chilly and squash season was in full swing. It's a simply soupy dish called calabaza con pollo, and it's all I could think about eating for more than a week straight. But, no recipe I found was exactly what I was looking for, so I noted the spices and concocted my own recipe along with my mom's recipe for Spanish rice and came up with one of the best dishes I've ever made. One thing I'm very thankful for is having a mom who's always known how to balance her time between work and family, and who, growing up, always managed to put a hot meal in front of us despite her hectic life. It's always difficult to be away from my family during the holidays, but I'm happy for the simple memories of family meals that I'm able to recreate from so far away.

Calabaza con pollo

2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 zucchini, sliced or diced
1 onion
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste/concentrate
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Season chicken with salt and pepper and saute in a deep skillet with the olive oil until cooked through.

Add onion and saute for 2 minutes, until translucent. Add zucchini and saute for another minute or 2. Add remaining ingredients, cover the pan and leave it to simmer on the stove (mid-low heat) for about 15 minutes.

Serve over Spanish rice and eat with tortillas (we had some corn tortillas that I brought back from Texas and could only have been happier if they'd been my mom's homemade flour tortillas).

* Also, I remember this dish being served with corn from time to time, but we didn't have a can lying around so I left it out.

TEXAS SARAH. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.