What to Cook When You’re “Social Distancing”

 

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Y’all, times are crazy. While toilet paper may be absent from stores, last I checked there are still some shelf-stable and frozen items available for plunder… I mean, purchase.

So I figured what better time to share ways to create nourishing and filling meals out of a stockpile… just in case.

Reminder – this isn’t about sticking to a diet or trying to “eat right.” This is about finding food that is going to be packed with nutrients to boost our immune systems by creating diversity in our gut microbiome. Vegetables always go together. I’ve never had a combination of veggies I didn’t like. Now, for picky eaters and super tasters that’s a different story. Hopefully, you will find a wide variety of options below to keep you happy, nourished, and full.

Also, even if it wasn’t for the “virus that shall not be named,” it’s always good to have new ideas when it comes to meals, right?

I only started cooking from scratch recently, so I can assure you – YOU can do this. Even if you’ve been living on Lean Cuisines your whole adult life (cough cough, me in 2010), you can SO do this. The following list is a picture of my fridge and pantry on a weekly basis, but we do have a little more than usual, because I plan on avoiding going to the grocery store as much as possible.

Here are the basics:

Veggies:

  • Frozen vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, riced cauliflower, brussels sprouts, peas and carrots, mixed combinations)
  • Canned vegetables (corn, green beans, diced tomatoes, etc.)
  • Jarred pasta sauce or cans of crushed tomatoes
  • Fresh veggies with long shelf lives – carrots (for fridge), onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes

Fruit:

  • Frozen berries for antioxidants, fresh apples and oranges (longer lasting), lemons and limes.

Protein:

  • Canned or dried beans (dried is more bang for your buck, but follow instructions and soak overnight before cooking) – don’t forget about options like chickpeas and lentils!
  • Frozen meat – beef, chicken, shrimp, salmon, bacon, sausages, etc – any meat will freeze (just pray against a power outage).
  • Canned sardines, wild salmon and tuna
  • Cartons of broth and bone broth

Grains:

  • Pasta, rice, quinoa, oats, grits, etc.
  • Bread can be frozen
  • Tortilla shells and corn tortillas have long shelf lives

Fats:

  • Nuts and seeds (we always have mixed nuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans, chia and flax)
  • Coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil
  • Peanut butter, almond butter, other various nut butters

Spices:

  • Dried herbs, pink Himalayan salt, sea salt, pepper, turmeric, ginger, garlic (the latter three very healing), paprika, chili powder, cayenne, cumin

Meal Option 1: Cook in bulk and freeze.

Spaghetti and meat sauce recipe, found here, can be doubled and the rest of it frozen.

Taco meat – cook ground beef in a skillet with onion and grated zucchini (if available). Use at least a teaspoon of garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, cumin, dashes of pepper and cayenne. Serve with tortillas, shells, or rice. Freeze to use later.

Chili – use cooked ground beef from above, dump a big can of crushed tomatoes, a few cans of drained beans, corn or chickpeas, frozen spinach in a pot. Season with all your favorite seasonings. Add some beer to really make it a party in your mouth. Simmer to let the flavors meld.

Ghoulash – my favorite ghoulash recipe is here. This can be frozen and re-heated. Egg noodles are cheap and a great type of pasta to have on hand for this.

Soups – any soup freezes well! You can blend canned and drained veggies in a high-powered blender for creamy soups, or throw some corn, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, broth and chicken into a pot with alll the anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, garlic, and ginger. With enough seasonings, it all tastes great.

Stew – find my recipe for stew here. It has some extra ingredients not in a typical stew but you can use the basics – carrots, potatoes, stew meat – and it will be great!

Meal Option 2: assemble the following in a pinch

Shrimp and grits – use frozen, de-veined shrimp that has been thawed and cook in a pan until no longer translucent. Add seasonings – garlic, salt, lemon pepper, cayenne and cumin for a spicy kick. As that cooks, get the grits going. Top with bacon and veggies of your choice. Sautéed mushrooms and onions are excellent with this.

Stir fry – best use of frozen veggies for sure. Throw your veggies in a pan and as they defrost and cook, get some rice going. When veggies are cooked, add seasonings. This is where you get to play. Perfection is not needed here. Throw it all in and see what happens. Take the veggies out and throw in meat of your choice, if you want. Then add it all back together with some oil – veggies, meat, and rice. Crack a couple eggs on top if you have them and stir it all around.

Sautéed veggies and a meat – Cook frozen veggies as explained above. Grill, bake, sauté or air fry your meat. Does cooking meat make you nervous that you won’t cook it long enough and get sick? That used to be me and I get it. But you won’t know until you put your brave chef pants on and start trying it out. Start with baking. Add all the seasonings you like. Chicken is good at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, fish for about 10. There’s nothing more disgusting than overcooked fish. Pair that meat with sautéed veggies, pasta, or rice. Just toss it all in a bowl. Think Chipotle at home.

Go Vegan – okay, typically I don’t recommend a vegan diet for everyone because quality meat is so bioavailable and contains nutrients we can’t get from plants, but if your gut can handle legumes or lentils, this is the time to go old school. I love red beans and rice. My favorite crock pot recipe is here. Another reminder – quinoa is considered a complete protein. So eat it with allll the sautéed veggies, add some chickpeas and seasonings. Cook it in bone broth for extra immune-boosting properties. Oh wait, that’s not vegan. See? I just can’t do it!

Salmon patties – oh this is a fun, old school recipe from my grandma. You mix canned salmon with an egg, some crushed crackers or bread crumbs if you have them but aren’t necessary. Add a teaspoon salt, lemon pepper, dill, maybe onion or garlic powder. Form into small patties and fry in avocado oil until crispy and brown. My friend Katharine shared this salmon/quinoa patty recipe with me when I asked her to edit this post. She’s a foodie so I trust her.

Black bean or chickpea pattiesthis is a super easy recipe that can be used with canned black beans or chickpeas.

Sausage and Rice Bowls – slice sausage into rounds and saute in avocado oil in a pan. Remove and add veggies and seasonings of your choice. Cook rice and serve layered together – or separate.

Burgers and fries – if you have frozen ground beef, bison, turkey, or chicken – make it into patties and you can grill or fry in a pan. Potatoes (white or sweet) can be sliced lengthwise or cubed, however you like your potatoes, sprinkled with a plethora of seasonings, and roasted in the oven at 400 for 25 minutes, then turn over and roast for another 20, or until crispy and golden brown.

Loaded Baked Potatoes – scrub your potatoes, rub with oil and season on all sides with salt and pepper. Prick all over with a fork and wrap in foil. Place in oven on a baking sheet. Bake for 50-60 minutes at 425. Load them up with any kind of protein, vegetables, seasonings and sauces.

Sardines – don’t knock em until you try em! Canned sardines are milder than tuna, in my opinion. So I drain, take out the little bones (you don’t have to), mash them and add seasonings and whatever I would to tuna salad. It’s a quick source of protein and anti-inflammatory omega 3s.

Oatmeal for breakfast, lunch or dinner – why not? Make on a stove top as directed on the package. I add protein powder to mine, flax and chia, raw honey and peanut butter. Add frozen blueberries when the water gets boiling and they’ll be perfect upon serving.

Smoothies – throw in water, milk or non-dairy milk if you have it, add berries and frozen spinach or frozen riced cauliflower, frozen avocado or banana, add protein powder if you have it, nut butter, chia or flax, and blend until smooth.

Popcorn – *optional snack idea – if you run out of snacks, have popping corn on hand to pop on the stovetop with coconut oil. It’s a great filling snack that keeps the kids happy! You can make your own mix with different seasonings, nuts and even chocolate chips if you have them.

Whew! I think I could add more, but I’ve already written a longer post than I ever have.

Before I hit publish and close this lengthy post out, let me remind you that your primary nourishment and overall health does NOT just come from the food you consume. So even if you do resort to packaged, processed meals here and there, you’re going to be okay. Your kids will, too.

What matters more than your physical nutrition, in my opinion, is how you are feeding your brain, your emotions, and your spirit. Take care to nurture yourself in those areas. Don’t get trapped by fear or anxiety. Engage in movement you enjoy to keep that brain derived neurotrophic factor going and your feel-good neurotransmitters firing. Spend some time outside. Place your feet in the grass. Take deep breaths, multiple times per day.

Use this time of slowdown to nourish yourself – body, mind and soul.

As always, feel free to reach out to me for questions or support. I’m here for you. We got this!

 

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