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I cooked up a storm in Week 1 of sheltering in place in Dallas. Most of the time I was waking up every day deciding what to cook. When it was time to restock a week later, stay-at-home rules were in place and it was obvious things were going to get worse before they got better. I took inventory of food on hand, went through my sheet-pan cookbooks and planned dinner for the next seven days.

After a few days of using up leftovers, I went back to cooking more. This week I have felt it necessary to make a list of perishables, noting expiration dates when they exist. I’ve adjusted my meal plan based on what will spoil first, and I’m practicing the guidelines I learned as a young married, going to Mexican border towns on weekend getaways with friends, when I find myself with items one day past the expiration date. Don’t eat it unless it’s boiled, baked or peeled; use spices to disguise any off-flavors.

Spicy Black Bean Soup

Lunch Wednesday was a case in point. Facing leftover black beans and one sad roasted chicken thigh, I made soup:

¾ can black beans
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
½ cup chopped onions
1 cup chicken broth
diced cooked chicken thigh
cumin, salt and pepper to taste

Add everything to a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep beans from sticking, adding additional broth if needed. Serve in soup bowls topped with sour cream and grated Mexican cheese. Makes 4 servings. (3 in the freezer!)

Obviously, the variations are endless, depending on what you have on hand. I would have loved to have had some fresh cilantro to garnish the soup, and crisp tortilla chips would have been welcome. I heated stale saltines in my toaster oven to crisp them up. It’s called “making do.”

Barbecue beef dinner

Barbecue Beef Brisket

Yesterday was boiling leftovers; today was baking. With my store-bought pulled pork barbecue gone and only a sliver of tenderloin in the freezer, I needed a versatile beef recipe. Shades of the past, I opened Fiesta to Mary Hutchens’ Brisket on page 167. It’s not safe to cook meat at less than 175 degrees, so I altered the recipe years ago:

5- to 6-pound boneless beef brisket
Barbecue sauce

At least 9 hours before serving, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a medium sheet pan with several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Pat the brisket dry with paper towels, then cover all sides with a thick layer of your favorite barbecue sauce. Wrap the beef tightly in the foil to keep juices from spilling out. Place the pan on the middle shelf and immediately turn the oven down to 200 degrees. Eight hours later it is ready to eat. Slice then and serve with additional barbecue sauce. My 5-pound brisket yielded 6 medium servings, which I have refrigerated in separate storage bags. Tonight I enjoyed it with sheet-pan hash-brown potatoes and marinated vegetables with spinach and cherry tomatoes. I can visualize brisket tacos and hash and sloppy Joe’s (whole wheat buns in the freezer for moments like this), maybe even a stuffed baked potato. No need to eat stew 6 days in a row.

April 1, 2020

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Ella Wall Prichard, author of Reclaiming Joy: A Primer for Widowspublished by 1845 Books, an imprint of the Baylor University Press, in 2018, is under stay-at-home orders in a high-rise apartment building in Dallas, Texas. She posts frequently about her experiences on Facebook and Instagram.