wooden spoon

May marks another month of practicing social distancing and self-imposed isolation.

We’re all getting bored, antsy and frustrated. However, there are some surprisingly creative things going on.

In some cases we’re rediscovering our families and realizing how much they mean to us. There’s a lot of comfort in knowing we can reach out to them when needed.

Take my grandson Toby. He’s a great hugger and I tell him so, mostly because that triggers another one and they are getting more bear-like every year.

I miss that. I hug my granddaughter Tabby and she’s good at it too, but being a teenager she’s more ladylike, leaves the gusto to her brother.

After a brief visit last week, I told my family I loved them so much I wouldn’t hug them. Can’t wait for that situation to change.

Daughter Tina pointed out that her colleagues have adopted the practice of making phone calls instead of emailing and texting, a change they are enjoying.

I don’t think I’ll ever replace personal calls with emails and texts. They are great for instant communicating, quickie questions, reminders, etc., but there’s no humanity in electronic messages.

I like the sound, I’m happy to hear a familiar voice and love being able to sense the expression behind the words. Meanings aren’t lost in translation, attitude isn’t misinterpreted and emotions are clear. Yep, give me a call any time.

Right now we’re working from home, cooking more, eating out less and learning that cupboards and pantries are our best friend. I’m cooking even more than usual, and without the numerous trips up and down The Book Loft’s stairs I’m sure I’m putting on weight.

All my cooking and using what’s on hand has led me to one of my all-time favorites, what’s known in my family as “must go soup.” Basically it’s a clean-out-the-refrigerator dish. Go through and salvage rather than toss. Hence the name.

This is an easy-to-make vegetable soup with a base of cupboard staples, a recipe my mother came up with years ago. It’s delicious and if any chilies fall into the must-go category, it comes amazingly close to sopa de albóndigas.

Quantities for this is measured by what’s on hand.

MUST-GO SOUP

bacon fat (or cooking oil)

celery with tops, chopped

onions, chopped

garlic, minced

canned diced or recipe ready tomatoes

chicken bouillon cubes

water*

carrots, sliced

shredded cabbage

fresh parsley, chopped

dried oregano

dried basil

salt and pepper to taste

* * *

lean ground meat

dried oregano

salt and coarse ground pepper to taste

dried shell macaroni

Heat fat or oil in large soup kettle, add celery and onions and fry briefly, add minced garlic and turn heat down. Add canned tomatoes, bouillon cubes — plus one cup water for each cube — carrots, cabbage, parsley, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Add additional water to cover, turn up heat and bring to a full rolling boil. Make golf-ball-size meatballs with ground meat, basil, salt and pepper. Drop into boiling soup. Meatballs dropped into soup at a full boil will not break up. Turn heat down and cook just below boiling point for half an hour. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Add shell macaroni during last eight to 10 minutes. Serve with a big green salad and crusty loaf of French bread with plenty of butter.

*Remember to decrease the water if using stock or broth.

NOTES: Substitute leftover meat, beef, chicken or pork instead of making meatballs. Also, this makes a lot of soup and it gets better when reheated and, since I don't like mushy macaroni, I leave it out, then each time I take out a portion to reheat, I add a handful, one or two more bouillon cubes and some water. Finally, to all my vegetarian friends, you can make this meatless. Use vegetable broth and forget bacon fat and meatballs and, if you must, toss in some tofu.

Editor's Note: The following recipe is being republished in it's entirety due to a production error.

HONEY AND SOY-GLAZED CHICKEN THIGHS

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon grated ginger

6 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon vinegar

5 tablespoons mild honey*

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

kosher salt and black pepper

8 bone in, skin on chicken thighs (about three pounds)

1/2 cup green onions, chopped

lemon wedges

sesame seeds

cilantro, chopped

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Heat a tablespoon oil in a small saucepan, add garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add vinegar, soy sauce and honey and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and whisk in butter. Season thighs with salt and pepper, toss with half of the glaze and remaining oil. Place skin side up in an even layer on an aluminum foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet and roast until browned, 15 minutes. Turn thighs and brush with two tablespoons glaze. Roast until golden and cooked through, about 10 more minutes. Drizzle with remaining glaze and serve with steamed rice, lemon wedges, chopped green onions sesame seeds, cilantro as desired.

*Agave syrup, corn syrup or even brown sugar may be substituted for honey. If using brown sugar add four tablespoons water or chicken broth.

As always in a storm there is a silver lining, the incredible deals wineries are offering for online sales. Most include shipping within the U.S., most offer discounts to everyone, which may be deeper (but not always) for their wine club members. Fortunately, I receive press releases and I stay informed of these sales through social media. I do it to share the news with my readers, who much like me, always appreciate a good deal when we find them.

Long-time Valley resident Elaine Revelle can be reached at thewoodenspoon@juno.com

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