Welcome to the new, slightly scary, topsy-turvy world of COVID19.
It’s definitely a challenging time for most of us where our world has been flipped 180 degrees.
Many of us are working from home and many of us, not working at all. Our kids and partners are at home due to school and office closures and we’ve had to adjust to a changed household dynamic and new forced lifestyle.
With all that, it’s only understandable that there’s a lot of negative emotions that have surfaced – anxiety, anger, and low morale in general. Personally, I’m definitely starting to feel the effects of social isolation as my usual day job involves lots of interactions either in one-to-one meetings or as a group fitness instructor.
While it’s easy to list negatives at this point, there have been some positives that have resulted – a slower pace of life, reconnecting with loved ones, and cooking more than normal! In fact, my kids are asking to be involved more than ever in the kitchen and it reminds me of my childhood where I loved every moment I got to be involved in the cooking process. I’m enjoying the time being together in the kitchen where my kids get to experiment, ask questions, and even make a mess – doing what kids are meant to do!
At the same time, we all know that when kids are at home… food seems to vanish at a quicker than normal pace out of the pantry.
This week, I’ve put together a list of really useful and versatile pantry items to have at home (to minimise the number of trips you take to the shops) and a whole bunch of ideas on how to incorporate them into recipes!
Eggs: Use them as the binding agent for home-made veggie or meat patties. In addition to the usual breakfast-style eggs, try your hand at fritttas or Spanish tortillas (made with potatoes and onions, two of our star pantry items below!). You can even leave a few hard boiled eggs in your fridge for easy salad additions!
Rice: Use it as a side dish to stir fries. Try a Paella or a Risotto. Add it to soups to bulk them up. Add it to meat and veggie scraps to make a stuffing. Use day-old rice to make fried rice (and maybe even add in a scrambled egg and some fried onions, to make use of two more star pantry items!). Use it to make a yummy rice pudding with milk and spices!
Potatoes (and Sweet Potatoes!): Think fries, soups and stews, Shepherd’s Pie, hash browns or mashed potato for that delicious piece of meat that you’ve bought. We also love using sweet potatoes as a base for our veggie patties. Grate into a bowl, add some chopped onion and any other grated veggie you fancy, use an egg or two to bind, a teaspoon of flour, seasoning and then shallow fry on medium heat for a couple of minutes on each side!
Legumes: A vegetarian’s best friend! Canned beans are easy in a salad and if you’re cooking dried beans, I would recommend soaking them overnight prior to cooking. This will ensure that they cook faster and they are also digested better. Think veggie burgers, warm and cold salads, dips and spreads (like hummus, which uses chickpeas). I have also successfully used chickpeas and adzuki beans in brownies!
Flour: Homemade bread definitely sounds appealing right now, especially since the weather is cooling down and soups might be appearing on your table. Your kids will also love homemade pizza, dinner and hamburger rolls, pastas, muffins, and various other cookies, cakes, pies, and other treats you can bake up – home economics anyone?
Pasta: My family loves lasagne, and we can’t look past the simplicity of a good Spagbol. I encourage you to try something different with the kids, like a homemade Mac and Cheese. You could even stuff some seashell pasta with ricotta and minced meat, tie it together with a simple marinara sauce and grated cheese and pop in the oven for a quick, tasty meal.
Passata (Pureed Tomatoes): Passata makes a beautiful base for a pasta sauce. It also makes a tasty base for a meat accompaniment (lamb shanks maybe?). My kids also could not imagine life without meatballs and home-made pizza, which both require passata! Personally though, I am dreaming of delicious minestrone soup!
Chicken Stock: Homemade chicken stock is the best, but if you prefer to keep packaged chicken stock, or chicken stock cubes in your pantry, they will work just as well. Chicken stock can provide a different dimension of flavour when used to cook grains such as rice, cous cous or polenta. It can also bring a different zing to your usual stir fry. It forms the base of many soups and sauces, so it’s always handy to have around.
Onions/Garlic: Flavour is always key – it entices your tastebuds and also ensures a happy audience. A few garlic bulbs and onions in your kitchen at all times means that pretty much every savoury recipe you’ll ever cook up will be tasty! Both of these are staple ingredients in our family’s soups, stir-fries, stews and roasted veggies. My husband and I also love raw garlic in our salads, which is a perfect immune booster!
Greek Yogurt: My kids love using Greek Yogurt as a pancake topper, drizzled with honey and fresh berries. I love using a dollop of Greek Yogurt to stir into soups or curries to give the dishes more of a creamy texture. It’s also a great substitute in making low-calorie ranch dressing, a creamy carbonara sauce or mayo. My husband also has a few heaped tablespoons in his smoothie each day to give it some extra body.
Happy experimenting guys!! I’ll try my best to keep posting recipes for you to experiment with during this time. Keep healthy, and stay positive!