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Just an Ordinary Week

Tomatillo Chili

It was an ordinary week. It started with a relaxing weekend in Maine. We got started on garden cleanup there. The weather was sunny, though crisp. We had a good day on Saturday and planned to spend most of Sunday there.

Unfortunately, Bella foiled those plans by rolling in something dead during her early morning walk with Howard. Howard woke me at ten minutes before 7 on Sunday morning, with a plea for help in cleaning her up. She reeked. I managed to clean her up enough that we could bear to spend 2 hours in the car with her on the ride home.

We drove straight to Laundromutt (my favorite pet-related business). It’s a self-serve dog wash. You bring the dog. They provide the tub, the shampoo, the hose that mixes the suds, the chamois and the towel. Most importantly, they clean up afterwards! They recommended a special citrus shampoo to help cut her odor. It worked, mostly.

The high point of the week was the kickoff of Boot Camp for the season. Last year, from April until November, I went to a local field twice a week at 6 am, rain or shine, where I exercised for an hour with 25 other women, led by a retired PE teacher. It was awesome.

It started again on Tuesday. We run, we skip, we jump rope, we do pushups, we lift weights, we move in many different ways for a solid hour. I love it just as much this year as last, despite some sore muscles this week.

The low point of the week was my mother’s birthday on Wednesday. It would have been her 71st birthday. I still miss her after the almost 3 years she has been gone. I know she lives on in my sisters and me. We still keep her close to our hearts. Plus, she would be happy that my sisters and I remain close, talking to each other often and seeing each other as often as geography allows.

Cooking this week had its ups and downs, more than its share of disappointing or run-of-the-mill recipes. The best was an impromptu chili. We had thawed ground beef from Codman Farm for hamburgers. At dinnertime, it was raining. There was no way that Howard was going to start the charcoal in the rain.

I took a container of my trusty tomatillo sauce from the freezer and a can of beans from the shelf, combined with the ground beef. I served it over quinoa. It was appropriately hearty for the chilly turn of weather we saw this week.

Spontaneous Tomatillo Chili
Serves 4 to 6

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp chili powder (I used hot New Mexican green chili)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano (preferably Mexican, which you can get at Penzey’s)
3 cups tomatillo sauce (see recipe in this post)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Chopped cilantro

In a large skillet, heat the oil Saute the onions until tender. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. When it is mostly browned, add spices and mix in well. (If the meat is fatty, drain off any excess fat after the meat has browned.)

In a large soup pot, combine the tomatillo sauce, the meat, and the beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for at least 10 minutes for flavors to combine. Stir in a handful of chopped cilantro.

Serve over cooked quinoa (or rice)


Turkey Leftovers (Round Two)

One of the things stashed in our freezer is an overabundance of tomatillo sauce. Years ago, I happened on an amazing recipe for roasted tomatillo sauce. We usually grow a six-pack of tomatillos each summer. One six-pack yields many pounds of tomatillos. The resulting sauce freezes indefinitely. Believe me, I’ve testing the timing. In fact, this past summer, we opted not to grow any tomatillos to try to get ahead of the freezer stash.

I’m always on the lookout for recipes that call for a Mexican salsa verde. Sometimes, I just make up combinations or substitute salsa verde for salsa roja.

This recipe for turkey enchiladas originally came from my friend April. Her recipe has a smooth smoky red sauce and is quite tasty. This week, trying to use more of my turkey leftovers, I went for this recipe. I changed the sauce, substituting my tomatillo sauce, creating a completely different dish. Ole!

Turkey Tomatillo Enchiladas
(Serves 4-6)

4-5 cups prepared tomatillo sauce (see below for my recipe)
4 cups diced, cooked turkey
1 bar Monterey Jack cheese (8 -10 oz), grated
1 cup sour cream
12-18 corn tortillas

Preheat the oven to 325F.

For the filling, combine the turkey, grated cheese, and sour cream in a large bowl.

Wrap the tortillas in a dish towel. Microwave for 30 seconds, or until the tortillas are soft and pliable, but don’t overdo it.

In a large baking pan (about 13×9), spread about 1 cup of tomatillo sauce to lightly cover the bottom of the pan.

Spoon two heaping tablespoons of filling in the center of a tortilla. Roll it up, and place in the baking pan, seam side down. Repeat until you use up all the filling. You will fill at least 12, but possibly more, tortillas, depending on how generous you are with the filling.

Pour the remaining tomatillo sauce over the enchiladas.

Bake for 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbly.

Garnish with cilantro.


  • As with many recipes, I typically use less meat and more vegetables. We had so much turkey left over that I did use the originally called for quantity of turkey this time. Usually, I use half the turkey and a can of sliced black olives.
  • You could use any kind of cooked salsa for infinite variety.

Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
Adapted from Rick Bayless
Makes about 4 cups or more

This recipe multiplies easily. In the summer, I make several batches with 10 pounds of tomatillos at a time. The following recipe is for a more manageable amount.

2 lbs tomatillos
1 jalapeno, halved and seeded
½ lb onion, sliced ¼ inch thin
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Water, as needed

Move the oven rack to the top shelf. Preheat the broiler.

Peel the tomatillos. If the skin is sticking, soak in warm water for a few minutes first. Rinse well with warm water to get rid of the soapy residue on the skin of the tomatillos. Place the tomatillos and jalapeno halves on a large baking sheet. Broil the tomatillos until the skin starts to blister, about 10 minutes. Turn everything over and broil the other side another 8-10 minutes. Set aside.

Place the onion slices in one layer on a baking sheet. Scatter the garlic cloves on the same pan. Broil until the edges of the onions start to blacken, about 5 minutes. Turn everything over. Broil the other side until the edges of the onions start to black, another 5 minutes or so. Set aside.

Place the onions, garlic, and jalapeno in the food processor. Pulse until everything is finely chopped. Place in a large bowl.

Now, coarsely chop the tomatillos (along with any juices in the pan) in the food processor. Do this in batches if necessary. Add the tomatillos to the bowl with the other mixture.

Stir the tomatillos and onion mixture together. If it seems too thick (which for me, it usually is not), add some water to get the consistency you think is right. Add chopped cilantro. Add sugar and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings.

As I said, this freezes well.