We thought we’d never escape Newark

An Uber, a plane, a time zone, an air train, a missed train, a later train, a cab and a traffic jam. I just want to be home already! No one talks about that part of travel on social media. Among the sunsets, cat photos and Greek islands, you never see the ridiculous route from the gate to ground transportation or the signs that suddenly end, leaving you stranded and no closer to your get-away vehicle. I mean ground transportation! We thought we’d never escape Newark.

Hours later we were back in New York and still traveling. By the time our cabbie drove uptown to avoid traffic, so we could finally head downtown, I was done (stick a fork in me kind of done). Dinner on the other hand was not. The fridge was bare, and our options were slim. But after two weeks of conference food and heavy southern fare, it was going to be our home cooking or starvation.

New York City is only convenient if you actually place the order

I had reached my limit. I kicked into survival mode. I dropped my bags and started for the kitchen. We were supposed to place a food order the previous day, so that groceries would be waiting for us upon our return. New York City is only convenient if you actually place the order. We didn’t. I was tired and hungry and lamenting our rooky mistake. Then out of the corner of my eye, I see Mike calmly, diligently unpacking his suitcase and putting things away. I had to remind myself not to be annoyed with him. Deep breath. He’s right. First things first.

Amazingly, after a hot shower and an emptied suitcase, dinner was a breeze. I had forgotten how easy it is to make dinner out of nothing with a proper pantry and well stocked freezer. It’s a good thing too because well into our first week back home we still hadn’t done grocery shopping. I know. We’re exhausting. If my mom read the blog, she would be shaking her head and calling me right now. Until I have a cable show though, my secrets are safe from her here.

It was the perfect fall meal and just what we needed

Even without groceries, we came up with several good ‘pantry meal’ ideas, but the one I want to share with you today is this amazing Spinach and White Bean Soup – From the Freezer. It was the perfect fall meal and just what we needed. After two weeks in warm southern climates (in the middles of October no less), I was dying not just for my tiny kitchen, but NYC fall weather. I love eating even more than usual when it’s crisp and cool outside. This is my time of year; my month and I hate missing out on it! With only a few days left, I have a lot of catching up to do. I know it’s Halloween, but I’m just not there yet so don’t expect any tricks.

The homecoming soup starts with a quart of my homemade chicken broth, waiting patiently in a won ton soup container among the ice cubes in our freezer. The solid block of chicken-broth-ice, pops right out of its plastic shell and into a soup pot with no problem. As it melts to a delicious liquid, we forage in the freezer for more goodies. Before we left, we stashed away anything we felt bad to throw out. Celery, carrots, onions and a half a bag of frozen spinach were completely transformed in a matter of minutes. Then we added a can of white kidney beans from the pantry and a generous bunch of our apartment-garden parsley that was finally lush enough to use (thanks to our good friend Kirk who watered the plants while we were away).

It’s a great hack for when you’ve been traveling

It might sound contrary to the fresh approach to cooking we encourage, but I highly recommend freezing carrots, onions and celery if you know you won’t be able to use them before they go bad. I wouldn’t serve them on their own or as a side dish, but swimming in hot chicken broth, they’re perfect! It’s a win-win situation. You don’t waste, AND you have options for those times when you’re working with an empty fridge. It’s a great hack for when you’ve been traveling, and it works with just about any vegetable.

Some years I manage to squeeze every drop of fall fun and cooking out of my October, but this year was not one of those years. I’m probably the only one you know that complains about bypassing 40 degree weather for 80 degree days in the sunshine, but fall is sacred to me and October is my Mardi Gras. I’ll have to make up for it next month with some hearty recipes and Thanksgiving ideas. Stay tuned for that and try the soup! In the meantime, have a spooky Halloween.

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