Making do with what y'all got 

Shelf life and spring life in these Covidian times

click to flip through (2) PHOTO BY ANNE TOWNLEY - HOT CROSS BREAD They're crossed, albeit not buns. As always, Max makes his own unique mark in life with his lovely homemade baguettes and whole-wheat loaves. You, too, can make your own Easter-ly bread, even without yeast. (Think Irish soda bread.)
  • Photo by Anne Townley
  • HOT CROSS BREAD They're crossed, albeit not buns. As always, Max makes his own unique mark in life with his lovely homemade baguettes and whole-wheat loaves. You, too, can make your own Easter-ly bread, even without yeast. (Think Irish soda bread.)
 

Besides enjoying virtual happy hours with pals and scanning the kitchen shelves to figure out what the heck to do with that flat of creamed corn she bought at Costco because it was such a great price, Cate Webster (who just missed her 40-years-of-service party at Whistler Blackcomb when the mountains went dark) has some pretty good ideas on how to use her yawningly empty dining room table.

It's been dedicated to a giant jigsaw puzzle of Machu Picchu, which she visited with her folks in the '70s.

"A thousand pieces take up a lot of room but as we won't be having a dinner party any time soon, it's space begging to be utilized," says Cate via email from the cozy Tapley's Farm home she shares with Y.P., another long-time Whistlerite who managed mountain events and terrain parks for years.

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Like Cate, we all so appreciate our grocery stores and the staff keeping them going right now. But with all the distancing and supply-chain disruptions (like Okanagan farmers desperate for seasonal labourers to pick their asparagus), it sure ain't business as usual.

Here we are, stuck at home, making do in more ways than one, with spring celebrations fast approaching. There's Easter, Passover, Vaisakhi and more, but resist, resist, resist your usual gatherings, folks, and take heart with these make-do strategies from your home-bound neighbours.

See those fabulous loaves of bread Pique's inimitable G.D. Maxwell whipped up with his own two hands? You'll find tons of easy bread recipes online, including ones that don't need yeast. Bonus: Nesters Market has lots of flour.

Another Max make-do, one shared by fellow stalwart Whistlerite, Pauline Wiebe: Save those meat bones in the freezer. Actually, Max freezes lots of stuff, like vegetable peelings and Parmesan cheese rinds (ask him about the mouse story!). But we're interested in bones here, the key to homemade stocks and the best soups and stews.

Stock is made by boiling meat bones. Period. (Broth uses veggies and seasonings more.) For his, Max uses the bones from meat he's cooked or roasted, then frozen, or raw bones, say from a chicken galantine or ballotine (a whole, de-boned chicken rolled in a bundle, or ballot in French.) Boil a bunch of bones with enough water to cover them, then simmer for three or four hours.

"You can't go wrong, basically. If you put in a whole lot of water, and find your stock is a little weak, you just let it simmer a couple more hours until it reduces and has the right zing for you. It's like whisky—you've got to do it to taste," says Max, another social animal staring down his empty dining table these days.

When your stock cools, strain it through layers of cheesecloth and a sieve or colander, or even a coffee filter will do. If you don't use it right away, like in Pauline's soup (see recipe), store it in that good ol' freezer. That's it!

Meanwhile, back at Cate's and Y.P.'s lonely dining table, the jigsaw is gone and it's now been converted into a sewing zone for masks she's making. And remember at Machu Picchu, 50 to 90 per cent of Incas were killed by diseases the Spaniards carried—smallpox, influenza and more.

As for making do this Easter, try making this lovely minestrone soup from Pauline. Share some, along with that bread you baked—safely, of course. Wash your hands carefully, fill a cheerful container, wash it, set it on your neighbour's doorstep and alert them with a call or text. Step back and yell, "Happy Easter!" from the driveway.

You can still dress up, and bake some of Renate's delicious pecan balls from my previous column (they almost look like Easter eggs), then hide them around the house.

Have a spring-y good time!

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who's inventing her own Easter eggs this year.

Eh, what’s-a matter you?

Hungry? Tired? You need some of Pauline's min-eh-stron-eh zuppa! Along with this recipe, which she's been making for years, she's included the etymology of minestrone: A thick vegetable soup, first referenced in English in 1871, from the Italian minestrone, from minestrare, meaning "to serve" or "administer," as in, to administer a remedy. Ahem. "No two batches are ever the same," she notes. "Keeps life interesting."

This can be vegetarian, chicken- or beef-based, depending on the broth or stock you use, whether it's homemade or not. You can add chicken or beef from those bones you boiled, or some bacon. It's also a great way to use dried beans, just cook them well before adding.

2 tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil

1 large onion, diced

2-3 carrots, diced

2-3 stalks celery, diced

3 tbsp. tomato paste

2-3 cups chopped vegetables: green beans, cabbage, potatoes (preferably Yukon gold), zucchini or any veggies except broccoli or beets

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

Sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary, parsley

Oregano or Italian herb mix, to taste

1/2 to 1 tsp. salt (to taste)

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 bay leaves

1 796-ml. tin diced tomatoes

4 cups broth

2 cups water

1/2 to 1 cup small-shell pasta (cook before adding)

1 398-ml. tin kidney or cannellini beans, drained

2 c. spinach leaves

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Heat oil in large soup pot. Add onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste and a pinch of salt. Sauté 7-10 minutes, till the onions are translucent. Add diced vegetables, minced garlic, fresh thyme, rosemary and parsley sprigs. Sauté 5 more minutes. If you use potatoes, cook veggies a bit longer before adding: diced tomatoes, broth, water, salt, bay leaves and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, partially cover and simmer 20-30 minutes. Add pre-cooked pasta, beans. Heat through. Add any leftover, cooked vegetables you want to use up; spinach; and salt, pepper and dried herbs to taste. Remove bay leaves and herb sprigs. Add lemon juice and serve garnished with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who just came in after sitting outside, and watching the trees grow. And, yes, she made up "Covidian."

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