WHIDBEY RECIPES | An unexpected gift from Uncle Sam, but now what?

There it was, $250 I never expected, didn’t earn, didn’t really think would ever actually show up in my bank account, but there it was.

I opened my latest bank statement and saw a deposit for $250 that I didn’t, at first, understand.

“A mistake,” I thought, “and now I’ll have to call the bank and find out what the problem is.”

Then it hit me; “Oh my gosh, it’s that stimulus check they’ve been talking about; the money the government is giving us to make us feel better about the economy and, hopefully, get us to go out and spend, thereby stimulating business throughout the country.”

OK, so that may not be an accurate quote of what I actually said, but let’s just leave it at that. I now have $250 I didn’t have yesterday, money I can use in any number of ways I didn’t plan on, because I didn’t expect to have it.

I don’t have a mortgage, so I don’t need to use it to forestall foreclosure. I don’t owe money on credit cards (see last week’s column), so I’m not going to have to use it as a bandage, to forestall debt collectors. What, then, shall I do with my largesse, my $250 governmental sop, designed to take my mind off the beyond all comprehension trillions of dollars of debt, under which we are currently being buried alive.

When I say “we,” I mean we, the taxpayers, who are now being given, by our generous government, an “OMG, look what I just got!” whopping $250 we haven’t done a thing to deserve, except, of course, for working our fannies off so we can send them the money in the first place. (We won’t even go into that other money they’re printing so fast it takes your breath away, to make up the difference between what we send and what they spend.)

So, here I am with the dilemma; how shall I run

out and spend my

$250 “windfall?” What can

I do to stimulate the economy with my tooth-fairy money?

Did you, by any chance, read last week’s column? If so, you know what I’m going to do with it, which makes it the exact opposite of a “stimulus” check. Sorry, dear old “government” of mine, but when you so ostentatiously give me $250, I’m going to sock it away, because I have learned, over many years, how quickly you’ll be wanting it back.

RECIPES

You can buy a lot of food for $250, and if you buy wisely and cook even more wisely, you could feed a lot of people for several weeks for that amount, as long as they don’t mind repeat meals and/or leftovers, and especially if they do like soup.

Yes, I’m still on a soup kick right now, because it’s one of the best methods

I know for stretching food dollars while creating a healthy, filling, delicious meal. First, however, let’s begin with a soup for adults only, something festive to celebrate your “windfall” money, if you got it. This is one very quick, easy, fun and tasty soup, hot or cold.

BLOODY MARY SOUP

1 can (14 oz.) chopped tomatoes

1 ½ cups chicken broth (homemade if possible)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ t. celery seeds

Small bunch of basil leaves

Worcestershire sauce, to taste

Tabasco sauce, to taste

4 T. vodka, or to taste

2 t. freshly squeezed lime juice (or to taste)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Fresh flat leaf parsley or cilantro (your preference), for garnish

Put tomatoes, chicken broth, garlic, celery seed and basil into a pot. Cook until simmering, 4-5 min.

Pour soup into a blender and process until smooth. Return to the same pot (rinse it out first, please). Season with salt, pepper, Worcestershire and Tabasco, to taste. Stir in vodka and lime juice and heat just to desired temperature, or serve at room temp., or chill and serve cold, garnished with parsley or cilantro. You can also use thinly sliced lime for garnish, floating on the soup. Serves 4; doubles easily.

It took me a long time to learn to love parsnips, a vegetable that gets little or no respect. If you’re uncertain about parsnips, try this delightful, homey, gingery soup and perhaps find new respect for the humble root.

GINGERY PARSNIP SOUP

2 T. olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 large leek, sliced

2 carrots, thinly sliced

1½ lbs. parsnips, sliced

4 T. finely grated fresh ginger root

1 t. ground turmeric

2-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I use 4; you use whatever pleases you)

Grated rind of ½ orange

6 cups water

1 cup orange juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Snipped fresh chives for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over med. heat. Add the onion and leek and cook for about 5 min., stirring occasionally, until softened.

Add carrots, parsnips, ginger, garlic, turmeric, grated orange rind, water and a large pinch of salt. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 40-45 min., stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft.

Allow soup to cool slightly, then strain, reserving cooking liquid, and add the vegetable solids to a food processor; process until smooth, working in batches if necessary, and adding a little of the cooking broth to moisten mixture as necessary. Return pureed vegetables to cooking broth and return soup to the pot (rinsed out first). Add the orange juice and, if you want a thinner soup, add more juice or water. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Simmer soup for about 10 min. to heat through. Serve in warmed bowls garnished with snipped chives. Serves 6.

Italians never waste good bread, even when it’s a few days old. This is a hearty, healthy basic soup to which you could add other vegetables or even leftover pork, chicken or ham, if desired.

RIBOLLITA

3 T. olive oil

2 red onions, coarsely chopped

3 carrots, sliced

3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

3-5 cloves garlic, chopped

1 T. chopped fresh thyme

2 t. chopped fresh oregano (or 1 t. dried)

1 can (14 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (14 oz.) chopped tomatoes

2½ cups vegetable broth (homemade, if possible)

2 T. chopped fresh parsley

1 lb. kale (or use savoy cabbage, mustard greens, spinach, bok choy, or any mix of greens you like), trimmed and sliced into wide ribbons

1 small day or two old ciabatta loaf (or any Italian style bread, or any good “old” bread), torn into pieces (not too large)

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

A bit of extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle over the soup when it’s served

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot and cook the onions, carrots and celery in the oil for 10-15 min., stirring frequently. Add the garlic, thyme, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook 1-2 more min. or until vegetables are golden and a bit caramelized.

Add the cannellini beans and tomatoes and pour in enough vegetable broth to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 min. Add the parsley, kale (or whatever greens you’re using) and cook an additional 5 min.

Stir in the bread and add vegetable broth to desired consistency (the soup should be thick). Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Ladle into warmed bowls and serve hot, drizzling a bit of e.v.o.o. on top. Serves 4.

Note: During a discussion about the surprise “gift” from the government, one friend said she figured she’d donate hers to Good Cheer, where it could buy a lot of food to be given to a lot of needy people. Something to consider.

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