stewed greens with tomato and chili

Part One: The Sunday Kitchen

On Sunday afternoon, I drug my husband into the kitchen and made him cook with me. I love to cook, but sometimes I just want another body in the kitchen. Someone who will do all the mindless jobs, like peeling apples, cubing bread, washing dishes, and scrubbing potatoes, so I can focus all my energy on being a kitchen goddess.

My husband wasn’t too thrilled with the wrench I threw into his relaxing Sunday afternoon. But I called him my hermoso moso (handsome grunt worker) (which sounds so much better in Spanish than in English) (though no one ever uses that term in Spanish that I know of) and alternated between sulking and sweet talking until he eventually found himself standing in the kitchen while I buzzed around him and muttered incantations to myself.

lost in a book, the hermoso moso

In the course of two hours we:

*scrubbed, boiled, and peeled the potatoes
*baked an apple pie, zucchini cake, and banana bread
*made a batch of chocolate cookies and baked one tray of them
*snapped and cooked the green beans
*made tuna salad
*cubed stale bread for a future baked French toast
*cut up peppers, cucumbers, and carrots for the supper’s veggie platter
*washed several mountains of dishes

wrong day (and minus the little boy), but similar mess 

I love being bossy and I love cooking and I love my husband. My Sunday afternoon could not have been any more perfect.

Except then I made everyone watch the first half of Napoleon Dynamite with me and I laughed like a hyena the whole way through. So I guess it did get better after all.

Part Two (which has nothing to do with part one): The Soup

I have a new favorite soup. It’s actually more just a mess of stewed greens than a soup, but I still call it a soup anyway.

I’m the only one in my family who eats it. Which is fine with me. I like to keep a container of it on hand for quick lunches or for my portion of a supper of leftovers—

Oh pooh, I’ll just go ahead and tell you the truth (not that any of the above wasn’t true).

You know how everyone goes on and on about traveling to another country and getting knocked flat with diarrhea?

Well, not me. I have the opposite problem. As in, diarrhea? Ha, I wish.

Why do I tell you this? Consider it a public service announcement. Y’all need to know the truth about travel: it’s not all skitters, folks.

So anyway, this soup (along with the prunes, bowls of fresh pineapple, mangoes, and plates of raw veggies—none of which actually work which leads me to believe that it’s my low-fat, low-dairy diet that’s the problem. Not only do I love and miss my butter and cheese, I neeeeeeeed my butter and cheese!) is one more method to combat my … problems.

(Is this foreshadowing? Am I going to be that wizened old lady who carries a jar of mucilage—silage, Metamucil, whatever—with her wherever she goes, including into restaurants and other people’s houses, and then spends the better part of dessert discussing her bowels? Oh dear.)

I have no idea if the soup is helping (nothing seems to), but it’s light, satisfying, nutritious, and knock-me-over delicious. So really, whether or not it is helpful doesn’t play into the picture any more. I eat it because it’s good, that’s all.

PS. I once had a friend point out that I have a knack for writing about topics that don’t mix well. For, example, mice and Christmas cookies. And here I am doing it again. I’ve decided that this is, um, a talent, and so I commit to henceforth and hereafter honoring and cultivating it for the benefit of my adored readers. You’re welcome.

PPS. Oh! I just remembered a picture I have of a friend of mine, who was visiting me in Nicaragua, eating pureed prunes straight from the baby food jar. See? It’s not just me!

Stewed Greens with Tomato and Chili

Here, I use squash leaves and stems, but any tough-ish sort of green will do. The chili sauce is an integral part of the soup. I made a homemade chili (still tweaking the recipe), but you can use sriracha or picámas or cayenne powder—whatever you have. In any case, your nose should tingle. And the soup really, really should be served with thick corn tortillas, too.

I’ve been using Sopa Maggi as my soup base. Sopa Maggi is pretty much just chicken bouillon with little noodles in it. Back home, I’d use chicken broth (and I prefer the soup without the noodles), so that’s what I’m noting in the recipe.

4-6 cups torn greens and chopped stems
3-4 Roma tomatoes (or the equivalent of another variety), chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 quart chicken broth (or water and some chicken bouillon)
Salt and pepper
chili sauce
fresh corn tortillas, to eat alongside

Toss the veggies into a soup pot and pour in the chicken broth or water and bouillon. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer, lidded, for 20-30 minutes. Taste to correct seasonings. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, top with chili sauce, and pass warm corn tortillas.


  • Jennifer Jo

    You guys! Okra, seriously?

    No okra here. However, persimmons have just made their market debut. Think they would suffice?

  • sk

    In When I Was Young in the Mountains the little girl gorges on the okra her grandma cooked and has to go out to the outhouse in the middle of the night.

  • Kate

    I have stomach problems, too. One thing that helps me a TON was eating lots of bread. (People always say, when I say I have stomach trouble, "Did you try going off bread? You're probably just allergic to gluten." Nope. I do better on a mostly-bread diet than anything else.) Also, it helps to take probiotics, which my chemist brother-in-law said to try. Apparently, it helps keep good bacteria alive in your gut or replaces them. But it doesn't help me much, but it might help you. (And I don't know if you can find them there.)

    • beckster

      Well, that might do it! My great Uncle Morphis refused to eat boiled okra. He said he wasn't eating anything that might be in the chair when he stood up! He was very old, so he was forgiven his crude remarks.

    • Jennifer Jo

      MAC, do you have a story you want to share, hmm? You seem to have some…strong feelings about this okra.

      Beckster, I think everyone needs a Great Uncle Morphis. What a riot!

    • Anonymous

      I don't have too many intestinal issues, but okra is something I have to eat in serious moderation because that stuff is Laxilla. When I was a child there was an unpleasant day lost in the bathroom after discovering a fig tree. No idea about persimmons.

      But it should go without saying that drinking lots of water is a good idea. Fiber doesn't help you a bit without the old H2O.

      Oh, hey, I remember that in the book "When I Was Young in the Mountains!" I read it to my kids and thought, yeah, sister, I've been there. MAC

  • Anonymous

    Don't know if you can get this, but try Magnesium supplements. (Think about Milk of Magnesia) I take 250 mg daily with my Vitamin D. Makes a difference! I, too, have your same tummy woes!

  • Anonymous

    Not only do you often pull at my heart strings, you can make me laugh-out-loud…..not that NOT having diarrhea is funny for you, but you can write about it in a most amusing way!…….I have a question: did you have to take kitchen tools from your Virginia home to Guatemala? It is amazing and wonderful the food you can turn out in that little kitchen! And thank you for sharing how you shop for food. Basically, it would seem, you have to be thinking about food all the time, or it just won't be there when you need it. However, that may not be much different than growing and preserving food all summer. ~Sherry

    • Jennifer Jo

      Hi Sherry,

      "Basically, it would seem, you have to be thinking about food all the time, or it just won't be there when you need it."

      That is it EXACTLY. At home in Virginia, I have the privilege of forgetting about food if I need to, because I know there is always some sort of food squirreled away in jars or freezer or the take-out pizza shop. Here, it all feels much more immediate. It goes back to that buffer post I wrote a while back—as in, there is none (no buffer, I mean).

      Re the question about kitchen tools: I brought my aeropress for coffee and a kitchen knife. My brother brought me some stuff when we came—more knives, measuring cups, etc—and some friends sent me other stuff—hot pads, a pepper mill, etc. So I didn't bring much. I miss my kitchen toys. (I am so NOT a minimalist.)

  • beckster

    I am much older than you, so I can relate to this post so much! As a nurse, I used to wonder why older people talked about their bowels so much, now I am them – YIKES! Try insoluble fiber vs. soluble fiber vs. grain fiber vs. vegetable fiber. There is a magic combo just for you! The Sunday kitchen accomplishments are quite impressive and doesn't it feel so good to have all that done for the week?

  • Margo

    you did a mountain of work that Sunday afternoon! I'm impressed. I recently informed my husband that I did the work of 3 Amish ladies one day when I was canning, and he looked suitably impressed. We do not, however, ever cook together. I might have to try that, seeing as we are planning to be companions in old age. When we can center whole conversations around bodily disfunctions. har.

  • Mama Pea

    By jove, you did cover a wide range of subjects in this post!

    Love the picture of your kitchen. Should have known you'd manage to make it look cozy, lived-in, and lovely even under the circumstances in which you are living.

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