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

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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.)

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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.

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

 
 

 

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.

 

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

 

Three-Meat Giant Meatball Soup

from above

STEP ONE: Make Meatballs

Three packs of ground meat

Turkey, beef, and Italian sausage were used in this batch, but it also works well with pork, elk & buffalo. (In the comments, send combinations you discover and love!)

Bread crumbs

I make mine from scratch. 

Cut bread in small squares, place flat on cooking in sheet in 200° oven till crisped to desired amount.  For his recipe, I used Kalamata Olive Sourdough bread.

Once you have tiny toast squares, blend them in the blender till they look like…bread crumbs.

Additional Items

Salt, pepper and any other spices you like.

½ bunch fresh Italian parsley, chopped

2-3 eggs

Mix ingredients to the consistency of meatloaf

Prepare Meatball Stuffing

Peel and chop fresh garlic cloves

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and hunks of parmesan cheese

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Roll ground meat mixture into palm-sized balls, pressing garlic cloves and cheese into the center, making sure they are completely covered.

Bake covered in a 350° oven for 50 minutes, uncover and bake for 10 more minutes.

 

STEP TWO: Cook pasta in chicken broth

Use any kind of pasta you have on hand.
Drain when cooked.

STEP THREE: Make Green Soup

Finely chop spinach, chard, and onions

Saute in olive oil till tender, add chicken broth to cover

 

*If a smooth soup is desired, let cool completely then blend in a blender.

Assemble Soup

Steam meatballs to reheat if you made them ahead.

assembled

Combine all. Enjoy!

 

This is one of those meals that tastes better after a day in the refrigerator.

Cutting Winter Squash like Butter

Love squash, but challenged by peeling and chopping?

cut out squash cutting

Eliminate the ‘hard’ part by cooking squash first.

In a 350º oven, cook whole raw squash (stickers removed).

Depending on squash size, cook for 1 to 1.5 hours.

When it starts to smell …like squash, check for doneness.

Let cooked squash cool to room temperature before handling.

NOW it’s easy to cut and seed!

 

Greek Style Shepherd’s Pie – Lactose & Wheat Free

Meat:

Ground meat – beef & pork
1 – 2 onions, chopped
Salt & pepper
Oregano, rosemary, cinnamon, garlic powder, dash of red wine vinegar, several dashes liquid aminos (soy sauce), and 2-3 tblsp. sugar.
1 can tomato sauce
1-2 cans tomato paste
Olive oil

Over medium heat, add several tablespoons of olive to a pan. Add onions & meat, saute until done. Add spices & tomato ingredients until flavored and thickened to your taste.

Veg:

Steam at least two bunches asparagus. Remove from heat as soon as it turns bright green.

*Better next time note: cut asparagus into 1 1/2 inch sections before beginning to layer your dish.

Boil 2  – 3 lbs. of potatoes till tender. (Peel before boiling, or squeeze skin off after they are cooked and cooled). Slice, lengthwise, 1/2 of the cooked potatoes.
For the other half, use 1/4 cup chicken broth and nutmilk to mash to the desired consistency.
Add salt, garlic powder and nutmeg to taste.

Zucchini:

Slice thin, lengthwise. No precooking required.
*Note: while baking the zucchini will create a liquid. This can be soaked up, like gravy, with the mashed potatoes while eating, OR potatoes can line the bottom of the pan in order to soak up the liquid.

Pan Layering:

Coat bottom of oven safe baking dish with olive oil. Add the juice of one fresh lemon and 2-3 drops of liquid smoke. Use a fork to mix and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.

Add asparagus (or potatoes as noted above), then a layer of zucchini slices, meat mixture, another layer of potatoes, and zucchini slices. Top with mashed potatoes.

*Note: Dollop mashed potatoes across the surface, use moistened fingers to spread.

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove covering for last 15 minutes.

 

Twirled Asparagus – Meat, Veg & Bread

 

Bacon lovers beware!

The bread strips on these twisty morsels soak up the fat making them filling and

2 bunches fresh asparagus, tough ends cut off

3 full packs of bacon (12 oz ea) – sliced lengthwise, cutting off the fatty side

1 pkg puff pastry (14 oz) – cut into 1/4 inch strips (use a floured pizza wheel)

 

 

 

 

 

Preparation:

Slice bacon.
Slice pastry.
Holding bacon & pastry strips together, twirl around asparagus.

Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Festive looking, these meat, veg & bread twirls are good warm or at room temperature.

They can be served as appetizers or as part of a meal.

 

Here’s another way to prepare and cook them.

One Step Tamale Pie – Casserole

Casserole comfort food.

1 pound ground meat (beef)
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Saute in skillet until onions are clear and meat is thoroughly cooked.

2 – 8 oz cans seasoned tomato sauce
-12 oz can corn, drained skillet
1/2 cup pitted olives, sliced
Few dashes hot pepper sauce
2 – 2 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt


Add above to skillet.

1 cup chicken broth
2 eggs slightly beaten
3/4 cup cornmeal

Blend in a bowl until smooth then add to skillet & cook for a few minutes.

Cook in a baking dish in 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Add cheese, if desired, in the last ten minutes.

Lisa’s Adaptations:

Same way of prepping and cooking – slightly different ingredients

1 pound ground elk meat
1 chipotle pepper
1 – 12 bag frozen peas, corn & green beans, thawed
1 large onion, chopped
1 entire bulb of garlic, chopped
two pinches salt
6 shakes chili powder
1- jar sundried tomatoes, blended

Saute in skillet until onion and meat are cooked.

To pan, add

1 cup polenta
1 – 6 oz can green olives with juice ( I like them whole)
1 – 7 0z can Embasa Salsa Casera
1 – 6 oz can tomato paste
2 tblsp. oregano
1 tsp. Better than Boullion Chicken Base (water from olives adds more salt and dilutes chicken base)
3 eggs, slightly beaten

Mix thoroughly & cook for a few minutes.

Cook in a baking dish in 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Add 1 lb of shredded cheddar cheese, if desired, in the last ten minutes.