Well, I made it! Twelve difficult months, six-and-a-half of which I was unemployed or underemployed, most of them shrouded by the constant threat of eviction, and not one Three Day Notice or Unlawful Detainer received! WOO HOO!!! Thanks to friends, family, my own resourcefulness, and many of you incredibly generous readers, I made it through the toughest year of my adult life a little shaken, but in one piece. And though I’m still waiting for that first paycheck to see if I can spare a few bucks for some new food before it all goes to rent (though Santa was very generous and gave me some Grocery Outlet gift cards for Christmas, which will definitely help), I can’t help but feel lighter & brighter already. Next year is bound to be better than this one was, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunities it will bring.
But first things first. I had to figure out what to feed myself during these last paltry weeks, and with my bare bones staples dwindling, that task was more of a challenge than usual. I’ve done alright, though. I’ve enjoyed some old bare bones recipes like my Farro & Red Beans with Caramelized Onions, plenty of eggs, and even whipped up some Fiesta Corn & Potato Chowder to take away some of the chill in the air. And because it just keeps getting colder and I have the perfect excuse to enjoy soup, soup, and more soup, I decided I would make…. more soup. But exactly what the heck would I be able to make with so few supplies?
Here were the contents of my kitchen this morning: a quart of milk, half a stick of butter, mustard, a jar of olives, half a bag of baby spinach and some leftover quinoa in the fridge; a couple loaves of bread from the yard sale, frozen berries, homemade veggie stock and some frozen broccoli florets in the freezer; dried herbs, spices, flour, raw sugar, about five cans of sliced beets (what the…? I totally forgot I had these. Already brainstorming ideers for their use), canola oil, some dried black & navy beans, some rice pilaf mix that I’d forgotten about, and about a cup of honey in the cupboard; and two heads of garlic and one yellow onion, in Big Bowl. Not completely out of food, but not exactly the best mix of ingredients for a sensational soup, on first glance.
But that’s what food math is for, and once I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and thought about what I could make for a warm, filling work lunch, I honed in on the wild rice pilaf, the basics of flour, butter and milk, and the broccoli. They may seem like pretty mundane ingredients, but when all is said and done they make a fantastic winter soup. It can only get better with the addition of extra veggies like carrots or mushrooms, or perhaps some diced chicken or ham, but it’s quite satisfying as is. Some of the my absolute favorite PGEW dishes have come about in a very similar fashion to this one, and as one of the last recipes of 2010, this uber-bare bones recipe will definitely be part of my regular winter rotation from now on. It’s cheap, it’s filling, it’s tasty (with enough herbs & seasonings), and far better than some can of sodium-laden canned soup or pasta.
Just goes to show that a little effort and plenty of patience with one’s paltry kitchen contents can go a heck of a long way to make sure one eats as well as one deserves.
Creamy Wild Rice & Broccoli Soup (makes 3-4 servings; total cost per serving: $1.05)
3/4 c broccoli florets
3 c vegetable stock or broth
1 c milk
1/2 c chopped yellow onion
1/4 c flour (or corn starch)
1/4 c water
2 T butter
1/2 T sea salt
1/4 t ground pepper
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t garlic powder
Melt the butter in a large pot and add the onions. Sauté over medium heat until translucent, then add the salt, garlic powder, pepper and thyme, and stir together. Next, add the vegetable stock & milk, stir to combine, and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to incorporate.
Add the cooked rice and simmer for 2-3 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the flour slurry by whisking together the water & flour. Slowly add the slurry to the broth, whisking constantly to ensure there is no clumping while the broth thickens. Finally add the broccoli florets to the soup and allow to cook for another 2 minutes or so. Reduce heat to low, check for seasoning and adjust according to taste.
Add diced chicken or ham towards the end of the cooking process with the broccoli, if you like. Serve generous amounts in soup bowls or mugs, garnish with extra black pepper, and enjoy!