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Friday Finds: The Coronavirus Kitchen Edition

Seeing as we are all cooking in our kitchens more than we ever thought possible, thanks to our current stay home lives, I thought we could use a little cooking inspiration. Truth be told, even if you love to cook, you’re so over it. And if you hate to cook, you’re likely on the verge of rebellion.

Many of us have baked all of our feelings, opted for local curbside pick-up, and surrendered to tossing dry cereal on the kitchen counter and hiding in the closet until bedtime.

Therefore, I surveyed some girlfriends and have gathered a handful of best practices, beloved ingredients, and go to hacks for our weary culinary souls.

First things first!

Resetting our mental game

Sometimes more than a new recipe, we just need a new perspective. A greater purpose. A reset. Or a different approach.

When we are feeling less than motivated…

We can choose to see meal time as an avenue to create meaningful memories for our families around food and fellowship. Who knows, maybe through all of this at home-ness, we are curating new family traditions. Ones that our people will look back on with fondness and affection. And we can feel satisfied knowing we played a significant role in that by merely shifting our own perspective. Or trying a new approach.

Tips for when you just can’t with cooking right now…

  • Cook dinner at another time of day. My sister, who is a rockstar at running a household of ten children, admits she is a “cook out of duty instead of delight”. She often makes dinner earlier in the day when the dread of it is not so looming. If you have littles in the house this is also a great option! Having dinner already done earlier in the day, will free you up to be outside with the kids post nap time, instead of in the kitchen trying to keep the restless savages at bay. I learned this rhythm the hard way in my early days of motherhood!
  • Double up your meals. Make leftovers on purpose. For example: if you’re making spaghetti, brown an extra pound of ground beef and cook an extra bag of pasta. Then you’ve got your meat for taco night and noodles for a pasta salad dinner or easy pantry carbonara another night. I love doing this with my carnitas recipe! I make a double batch (which is just as easy and affordable) then I have two meals in one: traditional carnitas one night and then I use the other half for nachos, wraps, quesadillas, or burrito bowls another night. Bam!
  • Put the kids in the kitchen. Depending on the age of your children, this may be a great idea during our stay at home days or just more tedious than mama can handle at the moment. Trial and error is one hundred percent allowed by the way! I am working on a post of what this has looked like for our family and some great tips for you… coming soon!
  • Co-op with a neighbor or girlfriend. Even with social distancing ruling the day we can partner with one another. For example, one of you can make a double batch of chili and the other can pull together two of their favorite casseroles. Then you swap and drop (on the doorstep of course #coronavirus). You could even start this new kind of dinner club in your ‘hood. Be creative and share the load!
  • Repurpose those leftovers. Leftovers don’t have to look like they died a natural death. I’ve listed further down in this post some ways to bring new life to yesterday’s meal.

Charcuterie Days

This is one of the hardest working options going. I can literally clean out my fridge and feed folks throughout the day in one fell swoop. Salvaging remnants of cheese, lunch meat, that jar of pickle juice with just 3 sad pickles swimming around, and those fruit and veggies that need a new life stat. It’s a great option if you have snackers in the house or teenagers or a husband. Use a cutting board or large platter, set it on the kitchen counter, fill it with your own combination and let the hungry hungry hippos descend upon it. Let it linger on your counter and call it European Day! (You can keep it covered with plastic wrap to avoid the cheese from drying out).

Good news folks… there are no charcuterie rules! Use what you have and feel free to mix it up. I’ve given you some suggestions to try out…

  • cube or slice whatever cheese you have on hand
  • make rustic piles of crackers, pretzels or torn pieces of leftover bread (I keep remnants of leftover bread in my freezer for moments where I need to make croutons, crostini, breadcrumbs, or paninis… now is that time)
  • randomly arrange any pickle or olive stragglers floating around your fridge
  • if you are feeling rather fancy… add a tiny dish of honey or fig jam to the board
  • plop a hunk of mascarpone, cream cheese, or goat cheese down & bring it to life with a generous drizzle of balsamic & EVOO & S&P, favorite jelly, or honey respectively.
  • layer slices of ham, sausage, salami or whatever lunch meat you have on hand
  • add some cut up fresh fruit or veggies if you have those hanging out in your fridge waiting to be chosen. Little cuties and dried fruit are a great options here because they can sit out indefinitely.
  • sprinkle little piles of nuts around your board. Toast them first if you are feelin’ it. (Toss them in a pan on medium-low, with a tablespoon of butter and generous sprinkle of salt for about 5 minutes to bring out their nutty goodness)
  • arrange some apple wedges (with a fresh squeeze of citrus to prevent discoloring) next to a small dish of peanut butter
  • add chocolate! Cut up a bar of good chocolate, make a little mound of leftover easter or valentine candy, or use some chocolate chips from your baking shelf… no one will protest.

Wrap it or dish it

This is a place for your leftovers to find a new home. Such as: roasted veggies, taco meat, shredded pork carnitas, chopped up rotisserie chicken, or thinly sliced steak, sautéed onions, or mushrooms, tofu, grains, leftover rice, noodles, beens, salad, raw veggies, and so on and so on.

Bring out one of these groupings and let everyone build their own wrap, or assemble a bowl, or build a panini (this one needs an entire post to itself). Add a fried egg to any of them and you’ve immediately won over hearts everywhere!

  • Mexican: that extra taco meat you made on spaghetti night or leftover carnitas, or a pot of beans in need of resurrection, add shredded cheese (BTW: shredding cheese is a great task for the kids to help with), sour cream or you can dress up greek yogurt with some lime juice and salt and no one will know the difference, drain a can of black beans or add refried, canned or frozen roasted corn, salsa, cholula or chopped tomato, shredded lettuce and avocado.
  • Greek: chopped Rotisserie or any leftover chicken, crumbled feta or a dollop of that dressed up yogurt from above or both, sliced cucumbers or radishes or purple onion, or leftover roasted veggies, diced olives and a sprinkle of everything but the bagel seasoning. Wrap it all up in pita or naan or add it to a rice bowl.
  • Asian: leftover stir-fry, beef bugogi, or teriyaki salmon or shrimp, add some rice (we love coconut rice here), hoisin sauce, sliced cucumbers or julienned carrots, a drizzle of chili oil and sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.

Breakfast for Dinner

My family is all about this weeknight option! Our favorites include…

  • The Breakfast burrito: scramble eggs, shredded cheese, browned sausage or bacon, all snugly wrapped in a tortilla.
  • The basic: frozen biscuits (I use these and they are such a breeze and so very good, Dad’s scrambled eggs, and bacon.
  • The poach: poached eggs (check out my how to video for the 1 1/2 minute microwave method if the stove top feels too fussy), English muffins… toasted and buttered of course, bacon or ham or leftover thinly sliced steak. Layer muffins, meat or cheese, bacon, egg then favorite seasonings.
  • The carb load: French toast (remember those bread remnants in your freezer?), or piles of pancakes (here’s our favorite protein packed healthy version), or blender crepes – make ’em sweet or savory. The point of carb night is not to achieve a perfectly well balanced meal but to do something out of the box and fun! (You can make up the nutritional deficit at lunchtime, or tomorrow:).

Smoothies and Popcorn. AKA Movie Night Dinner!

When you want to please everyone and it require no plan and no amount of time… Throw together some smoothies add fun straws and disposable cups… duh. Pop some popcorn and toss it with coconut oil, sea salt and some grated parmesan. Snag a cozy blanket and soak in a family movie night. And offer a prayer of thanks that you live in the age of microwaves and blenders!


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