For Thanksgiving 2021, my family is going with the Zoom version. No masks are required with this plan!
A Masked Meal Would Look Like
Masks with flaps and liquified … everything. Below is a combination of suck-worthy recipes along with edible straw pairings.
Masks with Flaps
Eco-Friendly, Edible Straws
Make edible straws to match your meal course. Example: Beacon straw with soup, cookie straw for desserts or candy straw with Loaded Punch.
*Modification for the cookie straw (to serve with vegetable courses) – leave out sugar and vanilla.
Liquified Meal Recipes
Once your meal course is complete as the directions indicate, add the last step of throwing everything in a blender. Blend until it’s smooth enough to make it through a straw.
Edible Straw Pairing Recommendation: Candy or Cookie
Loaded Cranberry Citrus Punch
1/4 cup cranberry juice Juice & zest of one lime or lemon 4 oz lt. rum 2 oz. vodka 1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries 2 cups ice cubes (if using frozen cranberries) or 1 cup water (if using fresh cranberries)
1 tsp. white sugar, if you wish to rim your edible straw with it. (Dip straw tip into water, then into sugar.)
Get your blender motor running! If you have blender recipes you’d like to share, send it along with a creative straw photo (if you have one) and I’ll add them here (through November 30th, 2020).
Humor and Foreboding
A meal that sucks says it all. Twenty-twenty was a sucky year!
While it was entertaining to re-imagine how a traditional shared Thanksgiving meal might look during COVID times, I’m already cringing at the headlines that will begin around December 12th. For the COVID spread, the suffering caused by a medical system unable to care for the sick, and for the friends and family members who will be lost, my heart is constricting with sadness, and tissues are filling with tears.
Risk Assessment Map, updated regularly, calculates the odds of encountering infectious people. Enter your group size and location.
Example: In Nevada County today, for a group of 10 there’s a 1 in 7 chance of an infectious person being part of my group. If I lived in South Dakota, there’s a 7 out of 10 chance of an infectious person being part of my group. (The safest way to think about group interactions is to assume everyone is infected, including yourself, even though people aren’t acting sick.)
Bubble & Virus Exposure Visualization
Event Organizers have a Community Responsibility
Back in spring 2020, for a work function, I organized a gathering of ten people from four households. Once we’d gone beyond selecting the date and equipment needs, I realized COVID community responsibility was a factor that needed its own detailed plan.
As the hostess, it was my responsibility to keep everyone safe, informed, and ensure that we didn’t increase the community caseload.
Our activity was outside, with greater than six feet distance between families. Masks were on consistently, except for when we were drinking water, and we did not share food. Back then, active cases in my county were low. Hospital ICU bed capacity wasn’t a concern and we weren’t worried about sick people, exposed from our event, being unable to access emergency medical care three weeks in the future.
The following section and the PDF you can print-out and fill-in for your event are what I created to reduce gathering risks. It includes contact tracing elements that are part of the John Hopkins Contact Tracing online course.
Minimize Social Awkwardness with a COVID Behavior Plan
Before people come together, outline a detailed movement and behavior plan. Send it to each household. Request a response so you, and everyone else can verify universal understanding and agreement.
Include a contingency for the unknown. If there’s a major change, if an attendee isn’t behaving as agreed, or something unexpected happens, create a word or hand signal anyone can use to pause the action.
Assess what needs to happen next, ask attendees if they are comfortable with the change. Make aneasy, guilt-free out if someone becomes uncomfortable or feels unsafe.
The host or hostess should remain in contact with attendees, checking for symptoms for fourteen days after the gathering. If anyone becomes sick, the host or hostess should notify other bubble contacts of an exposure and make gathering information available to County Health Department contact tracers.
This is a Ch’ing Dynasty (1636 – 1912) court recipe.
3 tblsp. Sugar
2 tblsp corn starch
1 cup water
1 tblsp. Butter
10 oz. Bag of frozen peaches (thawed) or ½ lb.. fresh, peeled, seeded and mashed
½ to 1 tsp. Rose water
In a pot, combine dry ingredients and water. Whisk while stirring and bringing to a boil.
Remove from heat thoroughly blend peaches into thick mixture. Add ½ tsp. then taste. Stop there if you like the flavor. Incrementally add more until satisfied.
Serve warm or cold.
A Japanese Princess related by marriage to the imperial Chinese family compiled a collection of court recipes during a time of great sorrow and grief. (Death of a daughter and her husband and brother being held in China as political prisoners.) Peach Soup is one recipe from the collection in the book Court Dishes of China, Su Ching (Lucille Davis).
Unbelievably flavorful and satisfying for such a fast prep time!
⅛ the cube goat butter (or regular butter)
1 large onion, chopped
Fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, thyme)
Butter sauté onions and herbs till onion turns clear.
Add two cans of cooked beans including water.
Remove from heat. Remove herbs with stems. Blend till desired smoothness.
Add fish sauce until desired saltiness. (It doesn’t taste fishy.) Or just use regular salt.
Drizzle herb oil over top. (Chop two or more fresh, leafy herbs and cover them with your favorite olive oil. In this case, the olive oil was lemon flavored.)
*Watch the reference video below to learn about cooked capers.
Notes & Commentary
Blending time took longer than food prep time. I attempted to blend this soup as smooth as the soup in the reference video below. To do this, I used a hand blender in the pot and when that didn’t work, moved to a regular blender. Neither method – even with long blending times – accomplished my goal. Conclusion: A Vitamix might be the right tool for this blending job.
My household is more COVID-19 risk-averse than most. Since March 2020, we switched grocery shopping habits to online ordering with either home or curbside delivery. I never imagined I’d miss grocery shopping, but I do. I’ve come to understand how much of my new food exploration was driven by walking aisles and seeing something to try.
These days all food tastes better and is more appreciated. Because of when and how we are now living, the discovery of goatmilk butter was doubly exciting! Upon first opening the package, I tasted a slice. If you don’t mind the goaty undertaste that comes with all goat products, it’s GREAT, almost like eating a slice of cheese. The goatmilk butter in combination with the canned beans works well together.
Another appreciation is for all the wonderful things you can do with good olive oil. My local grocery store carries this brand in their deli area. Since they don’t offer curbside delivery, I’ve been buying it directly from the Modesto-based company. They’ve been easy to work with (we have rural delivery issues) and they’ve kept my kitchen stocked. My ‘go-to’ blend is the Mediterranean Medly, but I’ve tried most of the other flavors and you simply can’t go wrong with any of them.
If you don’t have fresh herbs on hand to add to your olive oil, you can use Le Grand Chimichurri sauce, a parsley, and cilantro pesto. It says it has jalapeno peppers in it, but it’s not hot. (I’ve bought it many times. It’s just fresh-tasting and good!)
With a recent renewed commitment to eating less meat and meat products, I was experimenting with this recipe to see if I could get away from using chicken broth….the reason for the fish sauce. (I know fish isn’t meatless. But it’s made with discarded fish parts.) Change is challenging. It’s a process.
While in bean soup zone, I came across the documentary, Kiss the Ground on Netflix.
Kiss the Ground & Regeneration Food Production
It’s the most uplifting and hopeful environmental film I’ve seen … maybe ever. I highly recommend watching and sharing it. With this regeneration model, farm animals are managed in a specific way to nourish the soil. It made me question if responsible (and limited) meat consumption might still be possible, as long as you buy it from farmers like those shown in the film.
*Before starting, taste test pumpkin pie filling. If spices are too strong, use plain canned pumpkin and add your own cinnamon, ginger, and cloves at the end.
1 pint half and half
1/2 cup water + unflavored gelatine
1 can pumpkin pie filling
1/4 cup (or to taste) maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla
In ½ cup, room temperature, water add 2 tbsp unflavored gelatine. Stir with fork to break up clumps. Let sit till firm. (If not firm after a few minutes, add more gelatine and stir again.) If it holds in place when held at a 90 degree angle, it’s firm enough.
In a pot, over medium heat, add half and half (whipping cream will also work). When it starts to bubble, add geletin, whisking constantly for about 1 minute.
Add pumpkin pie filling, continue whisking for another minute. Remove from heat, add vanilla and syrup. Pour through a strainer into small dessert cups.
When railroad workers came to California, in the mid-1860s, they would have eaten it in their camps. In China, it was consumed in times of famine and is still served during festivals and religious ceremonies. It is also given to infants and to those who are ill.
For research and realistic writing, I had to try it!
At its essence, congee is a small amount of grain cooked low and slow with a lot of water.
1/2 cup rice – thoroughly rinsed
6 cups water
Cook low on a stovetop or in a crockpot for approximately 6 hours, stirring occasionally.
I started out skeptical. I could not imagine how a half cup of rice could thicken six cups of water! Every time I stirred it, I shook my head because it looked like nothing had changed. Then toward the end – voila!
What Happens During the Cooking Process
The grains burst, releasing starch. What results is a lovely soft textured, thickened mush or soup.
What You Add Determines the Flavor
Congee is like a blank art canvas waiting for colorful paint.
Common Chinese Additions; tripe, intestine, crab, fish, bamboo shoots, pickled tofu, hundred-year-old eggs, lettuce, and/or soy sauce.
Other grain options; cornmeal, millet, barley, brown rice and sorghum
For additional variations, see Soothing Savory Porridge
This is a no shopping, no reading recipe. All it requires is rooting around on your shelves for items you already have – things that will thicken – and an approximation for the correct amount of water.
Examples of thickening grains; rice, quinoa, oats, bulger, and couscous
For the water to grain ratio, it’s about 2 to 1. Two cups of water for every cup of solids.
When I make this, I place the dry items in a pot, then eyeball the water to cover it.
Here’s what I included with this batch.
Quinoa blend. This thickening grain comprised the bulk of the mixture.
Since lentils are thicker than the quinoa, the cooking time was based on these.
If using a bouillon base, calculate the amount to coincide with the amount of water used.
Heat on medium, stirring occasionally.
Taste test for doneness.
*Tip: If the grains still need more cooking time as the water begins to evaportate – add more.
“We made the kiwi pie to celebrate our daughter’s January 1st birthday. It was yummy and such an unusual dessert. It wasn’t too sweet, which suited everyone after a long Christmas holiday. **I used a gram-cracker crust, which gave it sort of a key-lime pie taste.” – Shirley Dickard