Make a Masked Meal that Sucks

This recipe collection is a thought experiment.

What would a Thanksgiving meal look like if you never took off your mask?

There is “no more important time than now for each and every American to redouble our efforts to watch our distance, wash our hands and, most importantly, wear a mask.” Dr. Henry Walke, CDC COVID-19 Incident Manager

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.

Photo Credit: Peggy Greene


Photo Credit: Peggy Greene

Beverages

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)

Optional

1 tsp. white sugar, if you wish to rim your edible straw with it. (Dip straw tip into water, then into sugar.)


Hot Apple Cider Punch


Vegetables

Edible Straw Pairing Recommendation: Cookie, without the sugar or vanilla

Baked Sweet Potato with Lemon Roux

Carrot Soup

Cucumbers and Cream

Leek and Potato Soup

Tangy Rosemary Butternut Squash Soup


Main Course – Meat & Veg Options

Edible Straw Pairing Recommendation: Cookie, without the sugar or vanilla or Beacon

Any Culture Shredded Chicken Soup

Black Bean & Tomato Sauce – Rewilding Chili

Luscious Liquified Ham & Bean Soup. Photo Credit: Peggy Greene

Raw Asparagus Salad with Goat Cheese

Sauteed Onions and Chia Seeds over Butternut Squash

Three-Meat Giant Meatball Soup


Desserts

Edible Straw Pairing Recommendation: Cookie, Candy, or Chocolate with sprinkles

Kiwi Fruit Pie Modify this recipe by leaving out corn starch, cooked kiwis, and pie shell.

Pumpkin Pudding (don’t refrigerate, so it is straw suck-upable)

Rose Peach Soup or Pudding (don’t refrigerate so it stays liquid)

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.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” – Philip Dick, from Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire

References & Resources:

This is A Year to Do a Zoom Thanksgiving – Possible Medical System Overwhelm

NBC – Crowds Seen at O’Hare as Travelers Depart Chicago Ahead of Thanksgiving Holiday

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is social-distance-podcast-the-atlantic.png

Social Distance Podcast – Katherine Wells podcaster for The Atlantic & James Hamblin Preventative Medicine Physician and journalist – How to Cancel Thanksgiving (Because You Should)

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.)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is risk-assessment-tool.jpg
https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu/

Bubble & Virus Exposure Visualization

Overlap sections show were exposure can occur that infect everyone in the large bubble.

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 an easy, guilt-free out if someone becomes uncomfortable or feels unsafe.

SARS-CoV-2 Gathering Plan Outline PDF

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.

Rose Peach Pudding

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.

Background:

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).

Fifteen-Minute Blender Bean Soup

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)

Garlic powder

Directions

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.

Bean Soup Reference Video

Rewilding Chili

A quick-to-prepare hearty winter meal contributing to ecosystem sustainability.

1 medium / small butternut squash, deseeded, peeled with a potato peeler, and coarse grated.

¼ stick butter

1 large onion

6 cloves crushed and chopped garlic

Olive oil

1 can 16 oz. tomato sauce

1 can black beans, drained

Spices

Chicken (or vegetable) bullion

Oregano 

Chili Powder

Cumin Powder

In a soup pot, butter sauté squash, onion, and garlic until onion is clear. Add olive oil if more moisture is needed. 

Add bullion, tomato sauce, beans, and spices. Add water if it’s too thick. 

Heat till the desired temperature is reached. Top with grated cheese. Enjoy!

This one-dish meal is part of a more vigorous family food consumption commitment. It acknowledges the value of protecting wildlife diversity on planet Earth.

 

Environmentally Thoughtful Eating

 
 

 

No-Bake Pumpkin Pudding

*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.

Refrigerate over night.

Chinese White Porridge – Congee

When I saw this recipe in a New York Times article, I was editing my Chinese railroad worker novel. Congee, also known as báizhōu, or white porridge is a daily staple in China.

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.

Basic Recipe

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

You Might Also Try;

Sweet – raisins, nuts, and brown sugar
Savory – beef or chicken broth, meatballs, pork, shredded chicken, salmon patties, scrambled eggs, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, onions, chives,

 

Wikipedia Congee

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.

 

Kiwi Pie

Photo Credit: Shirley Dickard

Kiwifruit Pie

Begin with a pie shell.

Filling:
1 pkg. 8 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
2 tblsp. orange juice
2 tblsp. cream
3 cups kiwifruit (sliced thin)
Layer this, a little difficult, but works out okay
Put in refrigerator to cool.
Glaze – add green coloring (optional)
3 cups sliced kiwis, mash.
2 tblsp. cornstarch in a little cool water
1 cup sugar
Mash kiwis, put in kettle to heat, it will make own juice.
After cooked a little, add sugar, cook a little more, add cornstarch
mix quickly
It will thicken.
Cool
Put over pie.
Cool
Serve with whipped cream

Guest Post by Shirley Dickard, Author of Heart Wood
“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

Photo Credit: Shirley Dickard

 

Any Culture Shredded Chicken Soup

Prepare this meal in a crockpot.

*The meat will be most tender if ingredients are placed in the pot in the order listed below.

1 medium onion –  chopped

2 bundles fresh asparagus – chopped fine

4 chicken thighs

3 long sprigs rosemary

2 fresh bay leaves

4 cups chicken broth

1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 16 oz can beans -drained (Choose any kind that fits with the flavor profile you are creating. (This recipe was made with cannellini beans.)

1 jar marinated artichoke hearts – chopped OR 2 tablespoons artichoke bruschetta


Cook between 4-5 hours on ‘low’ setting.

When cooking is complete, remove chicken & shred. Return meat to crockpot.

Remove herb sprigs and bay leaves.

Toppings

Top this soup with two or three ingredients from any world flavor profile. Click on the ‘Toppings’ link for more ideas

Samples:

Chinese: Hot Pepper sauce & tofu

Greek: Chopped kalamata olives & crumbled feta cheese.

Italian: Pesto & parmesan cheese

Mexican: Crushed tortilla chips, chopped fresh cilantro & sharp cheddar cheese

 

Nineteenth-Century Creole Snacks & Jennie Carter

The first public screening of a local historical short documentary was an occasion to serve Creole finger foods from a cookbook published in 1885.

Actress Katrina Thompson who portrays Jennie in the film read a book excerpt and spoke about the timeliness of the reappearance of Carters’work.

Jennie Carter was a free black woman who moved to Nevada County, California from New Orleans at the outbreak of the American Civil War.  Her essays, published in the book Jennie Carter: A Black Journalist of the Early West, edited by Eric Gardner, were the basis for a seventeen-minute video shown to Nevada County neighbors.

To add to the learning experience, recipes were chosen from a cookbook that originated in New Orleans, La Cuisine Creole. It was food Jennie Carter may have prepared or eaten. While some of the recipes (squirrel or pigeon pie, or suet pudding) were not ones we were willing to attempt, many sound delicious!

For this setting, we chose simple, finger fare and modified ingredients as necessary. (See notes below.)

pickled scallops

*Frozen scallops were substituted for oysters. Ground mace was used instead of ‘blades.’ Scallops were sliced thin and placed on slices of buttered baguette, topped with a very small amount of ground mace.

*To French’s mustard, salt, garlic granules, tarragon leaves, and white wine vinegar were added – to taste.

*A specialty squash from one of the neighborhood gardens was substituted for pumpkin. Stop cooking soon after a fork or knife is easily inserted. Let cool overnight. Eat at room temperature.

Resources:

Published in 1885. Click on the book cover for a PDF of the entire cookbook. Courtesy of Michigan State University | Feeding America: Historic American cookbook collection

Click here to watch the video and read related articles.

Additional Jennie Carter Articles

Jennie Carter’s Nevada County Setting 1860s, 2nd Marriage & Obituary
Jennie Carter’s Pre-Civil War, Civil War & Reconstruction-era 1846-1870
Jennie Carter Book Review
Jennie Carter – Filming Behind-the-Scenes & Creative Partners