Home sweet home

What better way to begin spring semester than with a three day weekend? It seems like everyone is already up to their necks in work as we trudge towards that faint gleam of hope called “summer vacation”. While I, too, have had a fair share of work to tackle for this upcoming week (four days or not, it’s still hectic), I had creativity nagging me to explore something besides programming R for computational biology. It was simple for me to decide where I’d set my hands to work. When I moved into my new apartment the first thing I noticed was the vast, empty wall that my bed is against. Tsk tsk, that void was not going to last long otherwise I might have lost my mind. Cape Town is still fresh in my thoughts, both in memory and for the future. I’ll admit that I’m stubborn and refuse to let things go (especially when they are a source of major inspiration and joy), so I have directed much of my attention to finding an internship in South Africa this summer -cross your fingers for me :)-. Staring at that wall and daydreaming of South Africa made everything click, I’d paint SA! I knew from the beginning that I wanted Table Mountain and its smaller siblings outlined across the wall, but what to put inside was a bit more difficult. I wanted something meaningful, which is a bit more challenging to put a finger on when all five months that I spent in South Africa were unforgettable. At last I came upon a photo that I was given of daisies in bloom on the West Coast. Although I spent my final month in SA right next to the location where the photo was taken, I never saw those daisies for myself. Having them on my wall has become a representative for return, of a new adventure. The most important part of my painting, however, is the quote that I chose to include by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Not all those that wander are lost”. That sentence is a comfort for me, it helps me remember that we’re not always expected to know where it is we’re going; the journey is all a part of the final destination.

As part of an exhausted, happy ending to my weekend, it was time for comfort food. Soup is the epitome of comfort food; it’s easy and quick to make and is ridiculously satisfying. Scouring through my cabinets and cookbooks, I decided on making “Spicy Chicken and Tortilla Soup” from the Whole Foods Market Cookbook. I made a few substitutions based on the ingredients that I had, but I think it turned out just as delicious as the original recipe would have.

Spicy Chicken and Tortilla Soup (adapted from the Whole Foods Market Cookbook)

1/8 cup olive oil; 1 medium red pepper (seeded and chopped); 1 medium yellow pepper (seeded and chopped); 1 medium onion (chopped); 2 cloves garlic (minced); 2 teaspoons dried oregano; 1 teaspoon paprika; 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder; 1 tablespoon chopped canned green chilies; 1 cup canned whole tomatoes (hand crushed); 4 cups chicken stock; 1 pound chicken breasts; 1 can cooked black beans (drained and rinsed); 2 cups frozen corn kernels; 1/4 cup cilantro (chopped); salt to taste; blue corn tortilla chips; avocado; cheddar cheese

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pot over medium high heat. Saute the peppers, onion, garlic, oregano, paprika and chili powder for 3 minutes, until onion is translucent, stirring often. Add the canned chilies and hand crushed tomatoes (with some juice from can); continue stirring for 1 minute. Add the stock and whole chicken breasts. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts to cool and cut them into bite sized pieces. Return the chicken to the soup, add the black beans and corn, and then return the soup to a boil. Remove the soup from the heat, stir in the cilantro and season with salt.

To serve, slightly crunch a handful of blue tortilla chips on the bottom of each bowl, top with diced avocado and cheese. Pour soup over garnish and enjoy!

Advice: The original recipe calls for canned diced tomatoes, but hand crushing whole tomatoes creates a much more appealing texture (and it’s more fun!).

may we never forget how one person has the power to change it all:

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity” – Martin Luther King, Jr.