A Kinder New Year & Spicy Shrimp Chowder

New_Years_EveMost pundits agree that 2016 was not a great year. Some would go so far as to call it a horrible, no good, very bad year. Who can blame them? After all, it was the year when a national debate deteriorated into a discussion on the size of a candidate’s hands. It was the year a foreign power hacked the electoral process and the price of an Epipen increased by 500 percent. From terrorist attacks in Brussels, Orlando, Nice and Berlin to the civil war in Syria, the horrors seemed endless.

Now, many of those same pundits are forecasting continued calamity in 2017. Unfortunately, they could be right. Faced with certain ugliness, is there something, anything you or I can do?

I suppose we could all shrug, claim impotence in a harsh world and go about our business. Instead of sitting back, I’d like to take a page or two from my mother’s playbook. I’d like to resolve to make 2017 a kinder year and invite you to join me.

It’s possible that all mothers have super powers. I don’t know. I can only speak for mine and her super power was her kindness. Mom died in early December after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t know if I will succeed in emulating her kind spirit, but it seems fitting to try. Here’s how we can all help create a kinder 2017:

Choose optimism. My mother had a beautiful smile and she wore it often. It’s hard to feel angry or pessimistic when you’re smiling. Unless you are some kind of narcissist or psychopath, it’s even harder to be mean or selfish when you’re smiling.

Be thankful. In an age of unmitigated materialism, it is easy to fall prey to envy. It didn’t matter if her glass was half-empty or half-full; Mom didn’t compare her lot with anyone else’s. She embraced her life and enjoyed it to the fullest.

Connect with people. My mother was a wonderful audience. She listened and laughed with you, cried with you, applauded your victories and commiserated over any setback. Instead of telling you what to do, Mom helped you discover your next, best steps.

Avoid judgments. Mom was full of opinions but was rarely judgmental. When it came to the people she loved, her opinions were overwhelmingly positive. As for strangers, young or old, from near or far, she approached them with an open mind and a warm heart.

Be yourself. Never domineering or condescending, Mom exuded strength and confidence. She encouraged her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to be exactly who they were. She marveled and took pride in the fact that each of us was so different; each our own person. She gave each of us unconditional love and inspired us to be our own best self.

Maya Angelou could have been speaking about Mom when she said,

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Through her kindness, my mother made people feel wonderful. Family, friends and even perfect strangers, she listened to our stories and laughed at our jokes. She encouraged and praised. She filled us with optimism and made our lives better.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and kinder new year. Bon appétit!

Spicy Shrimp Chowder
Although Mom was an unenthusiastic cook, she loved a good meal and an evening around the table with family and friends. Enjoy!
Serves 6

Olive oil
About 8 ounces sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1-2 carrots, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon (or to taste) chipotle chilies in adobo, mashed to a paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry sherry
5-6 cups broth – preferably a 50/50 mix of shrimp and vegetable or shrimp and chicken
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
About 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and halved
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
Grate zest and juice of 1 lime
Garnish: fresh chopped cilantro or chives

Heat a little olive oil in a soup kettle over medium heat. Add the sweet potato, onion, celery and carrot and sauté until the onion starts to become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chipotle, season with cumin, salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes more.

Raise the heat to medium-high, stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently until the sherry has reduced by about two-thirds. Stir in the broth and coconut milk, add the herbs and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove the chowder from the heat and cool to room temperature. Being careful to avoid the bay leaf and thyme twigs, remove about 2 cups of vegetables with a little broth and puree in a blender or food processor. Stir the puree back into the chowder and refrigerate for several hours or overnight to mix and meld the flavors.

To serve: bring the chowder to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, add the shrimp, corn and bell pepper and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Stir in the lime zest and juice, ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro or chives.

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One Year Ago – Dhal (Lentils) with Roasted Cauliflower
Two Years Ago – Spiced Chai
Three Years Ago – Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad
Four Years Ago – Old Fashioned Pot Roast
Five Years Ago – Pasta from the Pantry
Six Years Ago – Tartiflette – An Alpine Casserole with Cheese & Potatoes
Seven Years Ago – Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
Eight Years Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? What are your New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

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