Ok, so the post title, Work With What You’ve Got, really is a recipe for good food and a joyful life, I’m convinced. Where cooking is concerned, I do sometimes follow recipes; I just don’t always plan ahead (oops) and I really, really, really, don’t like spontaneous trips to the store when I’m ready to cook. I think you got the idea of how much I hate spontaneous trips to the store.
I had a hankering for vegetable soup and hoecake. My friend, Anne, served this hoecake with soup when I visited her and I fell in love with it. Anne is a hostess that makes you instantly feel at home. She always makes it seem that whatever looks and smells delicious is just one of those things she makes all the time. Like, it really was no trouble at all to have company. Can that ever be true? 🙂 The food is always good, but the warmth of her home makes any food taste even better. This hoecake really is an easy recipe and has become my family’s favorite pairing with vegetable soup. This day, the adventure began because I had not preplanned what we would eat, and I wanted to make something using whatever we already had on hand. This is house payment week. I didn’t want to change out of my comfy house clothes to go to the store and I didn’t want to spend any money. Soup was what I had a taste for, so I hoped I had enough ingredients on hand to make something good.
Most often, I start vegetable soup with some type of meat or meat based broth. One of my favorite ways to start soup is with a ham bone, with bits of ham still on it. Whenever I make a ham I always put the bone in the freezer, just for such a soup day. I didn’t have one. I sometimes use ground beef. I didn’t have any. What I did have is some vegetable broth in the freezer. I had never saved any vegetable broth before, but one time when I cooked lima beans, I thought the “juice” in them was so good and flavorful it was a shame to throw it away. So I froze it thinking I would use it in soup. This became my first soup ingredient. I also had some homemade chicken broth. Yummy, yummy stuff. I added to that the canned and frozen vegetables I already had: big can of petite diced tomatoes, half bag of frozen lima beans, 1 can of corn and 3 cups of frozen “white acre peas” They’re very small and green. Everyone here in the deep south calls them something different. You can’t buy these canned or frozen at the grocery store, so if you want them in the winter you have to freeze them yourself when they’re in season. And they are oh, so, worth it. To this mixture I added without measuring: oregano, basil, minced onion, small amount of garlic powder, a bay leaf, salt and pepper. I added a tiny couple quick shakes of cayenne pepper and a tiny pinch of sugar. As it cooked, in order to get the tomatoes cooked the way I like them, too much of my liquid evaporated so I added more homemade broth. Before I added more broth, a taste test had confirmed deliciousness. After I added the additional broth, my son, Evan (soup lover and official taste tester), said then that it wasn’t flavorful enough. So I added more of all the same seasonings I had started with. It was SO good.
Ok, the hoecake, which makes the soup even better. Here’s the recipe from my sweet friend, Anne. I think of her and being at her house every time I make it.
I didn’t have self rising flour, so I googled how much and added salt and baking powder to my all purpose flour, to make it self rising.
I also make a baked cornbread in the iron skillet that you don’t spread in the pan, it spreads as it bakes. So, I couldn’t remember whether to spread this out or not. I didn’t. I should have 🙂 It tasted as delicious as always but didn’t spread to the edges of the pan. It has a slightly crispy bottom and the inside is very fluffy. Its the perfect combination. Just remember to spread yours out.
I started off winging it, and it turned into something delicious. It really isn’t just a catchy title. I have found that so often, in cooking, as in life, the best option is to work with what you’ve got and make adjustments as necessary. I wrote this post a week ago, and edited it today. I love soup, most any kind of soup, and talking about it has made me want some. When I got a phone call and took a break from writing I put some chicken on to boil to start soup. I wanted to start with a whole chicken, and thought I had one in the freezer. I didn’t, but I did find a package of leg quarters. Here we go again; I’m still in my pajamas. I will see what I can find in the cabinets!