Joni Woolf: Cooking with what’s in the pantry (otherwise known as ‘making do’)

Published 12:28 pm Sunday, March 19, 2017

Last Sunday after church, I decided on the way home that I would like to make some vegetable soup. I knew I had a soup bone in the freezer, and a can of tomatoes, but I could not remember much else. I determined, though, that this was one day I was not going to the grocery story. I was going to “make do.”
I removed the ham bone from the freezer and found it was the remnants of a spiral cut ham, served over the holidays, with a lot of meat remaining. I knew I did not want that sweet flavor in vegetable soup, so I removed as much meat as possible, rinsed the bone thoroughly, and then proceeded as I do with many soups: saute’ chopped olive, carrots, and celery in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until tender and then add broth. In this instance, I added two quarts of water and the ham bone and cooked for about two hours. In the meantime, I began to assemble whatever vegetables I could find. There were some peas, frozen last summer and cooked by my daughter this week. I had eaten some, but the remainder I had thrown in a jar with some leftover butter beans. There were a few English peas, also left from earlier the week. I had a can of diced tomatoes, a box of barley (used ¼ cup), a package of basmati rice (used ¼ cup) and a lot of Idaho potatoes (used two, chopped). I had a small can of cream-style corn (one really should use niblets, but …) and it went in the pot. I flavored with bay leaf, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and a dash of dried thyme (the dried is so much stronger flavored than the fresh — one must be careful). I cooked the combined ingredients another 30 minutes and the result was a very nice vegetable soup that I’m taking to another Lenten supper at church.
In mid-week a friend came for lunch and though I had a pot of black bean soup, I had nothing for dessert. I looked around the kitchen and all I could find were four apples and a recipe for “Easy Apple Crisp.” It was easy: it only called for apples, oatmeal, flour, a little brown sugar and 2 tablespoons butter. It looked a little dull, so I added ¼ cup cranberries and a handful of broken pecans. I cooked it according to directions and when I removed it from the oven and tasted, it seemed a little dull. So, I poured maple syrup over the top, dotted the entire thing with more butter, cooked another 10 minutes, and it was a pretty good Apple Crisp. And pretty easy.
I had made my favorite sandwich spread in advance of the lunch-pimento cheese like Carey and I made when we had the little restaurant CJs in the Maze. I like my recipe better than most others, and keep these ingredients on hand — just in case. The store-bought variety is not on the same level as the kind made at home. So, make your own according to the following recipe. You will be glad you did.
Pimento Cheese
½ pound extra sharp cheese, grated
4 ounces pimento peppers, chopped and drained (I use the same amount of roasted red peppers chopped and drained, as an alternative occasionally — half an 8-ounce jar works)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 dashes Tabasco sauce
A minimum amount of mayonnaise, per following directions
Combine all ingredients by hand (rubber gloves help), mixing and mashing until the cheese and peppers are well blended. Then add mayonnaise sparingly — I begin with about 2 tablespoons, and add more as necessary. It is surprising how much less mayonnaise you will use if you follow this method. Good pimento cheese is hard to come by. Once your friends discover that you know how to make this, they will be dropping by for a sandwich or a snack, morning, noon, or night. Whether it’s made on white, whole wheat, or rye, there is no better sandwich. Anywhere.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at