Due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the distribution bottleneck we’re witnessing in our food system, I thought it might be helpful to outline some simple recipes to help keep everyone staying home safe, healthy, and satisfied — on a budget.
I’ve designed this to be a comprehensive resource for you in how to survive the current apocalypse without eating the same thing every day. Many of you may not be comfortable with basic cooking techniques, so I’ve done my best to make this as foolproof as I can.
1. Basic Shopping List:
- Veggies, fresh or frozen, such as carrots, celery, onion, garlic, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, spinach, bok choy, potatoes, squash, mushrooms, etc.
- Fruit, fresh or frozen, such as apples, pears, bananas, cherries, berries, lemons, oranges, etc.
- Protein, fresh, canned, dried, or frozen, such as beans, tofu, stew meat, ground meat, or a whole chicken.
- Grains, dried or frozen, such as rice, oats, quinoa, wheat berries, farro, etc.
2. Oatmeal & Grain Bowls
Oatmeal is a wonderful thing because it can be sweet or savory, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Here are a basic sweet recipe and a basic savory recipe that you can tweak and work with at your own pleasure.
Sweet Oatmeal (1 Serving):
1/3 cup oats (old fashioned whole rolled oats work best, but you can work with instant oatmeal as well! Just follow the instructions on the plain instant oatmeal packet, and put your energy into your toppings)
2/3 cup milk or water — just make sure whatever liquid you’re using is unsweetened, as we’ll add sweetness with fruit and toppings.
1/2 chopped apple, pear, banana, etc.
nuts, seeds, maple syrup, berries, yogurt, etc. to top your bowl off.
Combine oats, milk, and cookable fruit in a small saucepan over low heat. Cover, and cook for about 5–10 minutes until the oats have absorbed all the liquid and the fruit is soft when you pierce with a fork. Remove from heat and transfer to your fave bowl. Top with any combination of toasted nuts, seeds, maple syrup, brown sugar, chocolate chips, yogurt, berries, nut butter, frozen fruit, and spices like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, or anything else your heart desires!
Some great combos from my personal experience:
1. Pear, ginger, pecan.
2. Apple, raisin, cinnamon, walnut.
3. Banana, chocolate, berries or almonds.
Savory Oatmeal or “Grain Bowls”(1 Serving):
Savory oats require the same ratios as sweet (1:2), for water, unsweetened milk, or even broth, we just get to switch up the toppings. You can also substitute any other grain for the oats, per the suggested shopping list at the top. Pay attention to cooking instructions depending on the type of grain you’re using, but a 1:2 ratio of grain to liquid is usually a good place to start. Pro tip: cook your oats before you add your toppings, instead of the other way around. You don’t want that egg to get cold!
Some great topping suggestions:
1. Sauteéd mushrooms & onions — heat 1 tbsp. of fat in a small fry pan, add sliced mushrooms, cook over low to medium heat until the water has completely drained out of your mushrooms, then add chopped onion. Cook for an additional 3–5 minutes until everything begins to brown. Add salt & pepper to taste, or other dried or fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, parsley, or sage.
2. Sauteéd greens — spinach, chard, and kale work best for cooked greens. Try adding some chopped garlic or vinegar to your pan for a little more flavor. You can sauteé your greens in fat over medium to high heat or steam them in a covered frypan over low to medium heat.
3. Fried egg or tofu — heat about a tsp. of fat in a small frypan over medium heat. Crack 1 egg over the pan once the fat has begun to bubble or shimmer. You can cover the egg for a faster cook, or leave it uncovered for a bit longer. A good way to test if your egg is done is to gently shake the pan. If the white closest to your yoke is still jiggling, it needs a little more time. For a runny yolk, make sure to remove your egg from the pan before the yolk glazes over with white. It should be bright yellow or orange when you take it off the heat.
4. Flavor profiles:
Asian-inspired: Sliced scallions, cilantro, kimchi, sesame seeds, sesame oil, pickled burdock, sweet potato, soy sauce, chili oil, rice vinegar, mirin, gochujang, sliced Fresno or jalapeño peppers, coriander, cumin, curry powder, and a protein of your choosing.
Mediterranean-inspired: Chopped parsley, basil, oregano, capers, pickled bell peppers, pickled hot peppers, canned artichokes, olives, sundried or fresh tomatoes, roasted or steamed squash or eggplant, balsamic vinegar, soft cheese, and a protein of your choosing.
3. Simple Meat
You may be under the impression that meat would be a too expensive indulgence while rationing food, but I am here to tell you differently. Buying a whole chicken that you can roast for dinner, save meat for soup or sandwiches throughout the week, and save the bones for broth gives you a major bang for your buck. In addition, less expensive cuts of meat from your local grocery store (or even butcher!) like stew meat, stir fry meat, bones, or other offcuts are great for slow-cooked stews and soups that will last you through the weekend.
Roasting A Whole Chicken:
Preheat your oven to 425 F. If you can find a whole chicken, remove the giblets (you’re going to use these for broth or soup later), rinse that bird in your (empty!) sink, and set it out to dry on paper towels while you prepare a roasting pan.
You don’t have to have a traditional roasting pan to roast a chicken. Your roasting vessel can be anything from an oven-safe large fry pan to a deep cast-iron skillet, dutch oven, or casserole dish. If you are using a traditional roasting pan, just cover the top grate with foil or baking parchment to keep the chicken skin from sticking. Otherwise — we are going to grease up that bird! So you don’t need to worry about it sticking.
Once your bird’s skin is good and dry, place it in your roasting vessel of choice and choose one of the following to generously coat it: olive oil, butter, lard, coconut oil. USE YOUR HANDS! The more fat, the better in terms of your bird browning and the skin becoming nice and crispy. Fat = flavor, and chickens don’t have a lot of it, naturally.
Once both sides of your bird are good and greased, place it breast side up in your pan and season with salt and pepper. You can leave it at that, or you can “stuff” your bird with half a lemon, some sprigs of rosemary, thyme, oregano, or whatever else your heart desires. If you want to get really creative, you can also add some roasting veggies: all potatoes, winter squash, onions, garlic, etc. inside your bird or in the bottom of your pan to roast while your chicken cooks. Two birds with one stone…if you’ll allow it :)
Once your oven is preheated, put your pan in! Let it roast at a higher temperature for 15–20 minutes depending on the size of your bird. Then, reduce the heat to 350 F and continue to roast for an additional 30–40 minutes. You’ll know your bird is done when it’s good and brown, and when a meat thermometer inserted into the breast reaches 165 F.
Take your bird out of the oven and allow it to cool for 10–15 minutes before transferring to a cutting board. Make sure the cutting board your using has a lip or edge to it to catch all the juices as you cut the chicken.
Along with some steamed veggies and rice, this is a perfect, inexpensive dinner for night 1. After you’ve finished eating and your bird is completely cool, take all the remaining meat off the bones using your hands. Put the leftover meat in your fridge to use for soup, stir-fries, scrambles, and sandwiches later in the week.
You can use leftover chicken bones for this broth, or purchase bones from a butcher — marrow bones and bone-in shanks work well here. Place your bones to a large slow-cooker or stockpot and cover with water. For every gallon of water, add at least 1 tbsp of salt, and 2 tbsp. of any vinegar but balsamic — apple cider vinegar is my go-to (the acidity of your liquid helps leech minerals from the bones). You can also add whole spices like peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, star anise, and cinnamon sticks for a more middle-eastern flavor profile (these spices work especially well with lamb bones).
This is optional, but you can also add any vegetable scraps you may have leftover from your oatmeal adventures — such as mushrooms stems, onion skins, carrot tops, celery leaves, garlic skins, etc. (When you’re cooking, make sure to keep a bag or Tupperware container in your freezer for these scraps!)
Cover your slow-cooker or stockpot and set it to low for at least 18 hours and up to 24. If you’re doing this on your stove, refrigerate the pot overnight and reheat it when you get up in the morning, cooking for at least 12 hours.
Once your whole house smells like broth, turn off the heat and strain off all of your bones, veggies, and spices. You can drink the broth straight, or save it in your fridge for soups and stews (I find that drinking warm homemade broth is one of the most comforting and nourishing things I can do for myself — in fact, I’m doing it as I write this!).
Soups & Stews:
1. Leftover chicken meat, or other stew meat.
2. Homemade broth.
3. Vegetables: the core ones are onion, garlic, celery, carrot, potato, but you can also incorporate canned chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, greens, or other root vegetables.
4. Starch: Grains, beans, or pasta.
Take out a large stockpot or slow-cooker. Chop all of your veggies to bite-sized pieces or smaller. Cook your starch.
If your starting with raw meat, begin by browning your meat over medium-high heat in fat before you add it to your pot. This will drastically improve the depth of flavor of your soup or stew.
After you’ve browned the meat on both sides and set it aside, add your onion, carrot, and celery (this is called a mirepoix, and is the base of most French soups) to the same pan and cook until just beginning to brown.
Add everything except your starch to your cooking vessel. Add broth to the level of your ingredients for a stew, and at least 1 inch over your ingredients for soup. Cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once your concoction begins to bubble, cover it and reduce the heat to a simmer.
Cook for at least 20 minutes (if your meat is pre-cooked), and up to 5 hours (if your meat is raw). Add the vegetables and starch about half an hour before you’re going to take your pot off the heat. *If using greens such as kale, chard, or spinach, add them once everything else is cooked and you’ve taken your pot off the heat.
If you want to work with dry grains, you need to ensure that you have more than enough liquid in your pot to accommodate the grains and all of your other ingredients. A good rule of thumb is to double the amount of liquid called for in your grain’s cooking instructions, in addition to the broth required for your soup recipe. If you want to work with dry beans, you MUST soak them overnight, before adding them to your pot.
Top with cheese, olive or chili oil, and fresh herbs.
A good rule of thumb in telling the difference between soups and stews is that stews are thicker, they take a minimum of 3 hours to cook, and they usually start with getting a cheaper cut of meat as tender as possible, before incorporating starches or veggies. Soups can come together in as little as 20 minutes and usually involve more pre-cooked ingredients.
4. Stir-fry’s and Hash
The great thing about stir-fry’s and hash is that they’re both “kitchen sink” meals. You can make them with just about anything available in your pantry or fridge, and they’re inherently foolproof.
- Basic Stir Fry:
- A cooked grain of your choosing — rice is typical
- A protein of your choosing
- Veggies of your choosing
- Sauce: garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste, mirin, fish sauce.
- Basic Hash:
- A potato or starchy vegetable of your choosing
- The meat of your choosing — corned beef & sausage are my favorites
- Veggies of your choosing
- Fried egg
- Herbs: sage, parsley, thyme, oregano
- Cheese (optional)
- Sweet potato, sage, onion, and chorizo sausage with a fried egg on top has been my favorite combination thus far. *Pro-tip — steam or boil your potatoes before adding them to your skillet. That’s how you get that super crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside texture.
I have nothing against ramen. I LOVE ramen. But there are ways you can dress up ramen so that it doesn’t feel like a bland sodium overload every single afternoon and evening.
Much like with the savory grain bowls, you can add cooked or frozen veggies, pre-cooked meat, and condiments to your ramen to make it that much more delicious and nutritious.
My favorite combo: mushrooms, soft egg (boiled 7 minutes), sesame seeds, sesame oil, cilantro.
Any of the savory oat/grain bowl combos will work well depending on the base flavor of your ramen. Pickled veggies, fresh herbs, soft-boiled eggs, and cooked meat are all great additions to your bowl.
I hope this was helpful, and please let me know what you come up with during your at-home cooking adventures! In the meantime, I wish you all safety, health, and connection while you’re locked away all by your lonesome selves. I honestly believe the way we’re going to get through this pandemic is by being generous in our attitudes, our behavior, and our intentions. For now, this is my gift to you — let me know what you come up with!