Coping through Cooking
COVID-19: Day ??. Here we are at home, and I am cooking.
I definitely cope with adversity through cooking. Saturday I started off my anxiety cooking fiesta by slow-cooking enough chicken to make 3 quarts of chicken broth and 3-4 meals worth of shredded chicken. I made chicken pot pie and chicken tikka masala with that chicken, and I will yet make enchiladas and tortilla soup with it. Who knows how many things I will add the broth to.
Did I mention I’m saving vegetable scraps for vegetable broth, too? That’s gonna happen this weekend. Pressure cookers are excellent for making broth.
No food waste! Long ago I learned about making the most of what you have (at least as far as food and sewing) from my grandmother, who grew up during and was a young bride right after the Depression. If you’ve ever seen me scrape a pot within an inch of its life, now you know why. She’d whack my knuckles if I didn’t. And here I am in a different type of national emergency and still thinking about food.
Good Food & A Lot of It
I thought I’d share our meal preparation plan that we came up with Friday and Saturday. I realized my shopping and my “building blocks” style of food prep has effectively stocked us up for four weeks of three meals a day. Our food costs are approximately $35/day for the four of us.
Our tactic is to make basic “food building blocks” in bulk that can be used in multiple meals. I’ve posted before about this (another blog). We are experts at this, having first gotten the idea for this type of meal six years ago from the inimitable Laughing Planet in Portland. We still eat like this regularly.
Step 1: Building Blocks
As the days go by, we pick items to make in bulk that we later reuse in recipes for lunches and dinners. Here they are:
- Slow-cooked shredded chicken (2 meals), also makes 3 qts chicken broth (several meals)
- Pinto beans – half charro beans, half refried beans (4 meals)
- Apple-onion barbeque pork ribs (turned into shredded pork) – slow cooked then grilled (3 meals)
- Rice (Alton Brown’s baked rown rice) – we make 2-4 servings at a time
- Black beans (3 meals)
- Enchilada sauce (2 meals) made with dried chiles & tomatoes
- Baked butternut squash*
- Italian pizza-pasta marinara sauce (3 meals)
- Blanched and frozen veg – jalapenos, sweet peppers, kale, corn
- Garlicky cannelini (2 meals)
- Maple-baked sweet potatoes (2 meals)
Step 2: Put it together
Below is the 4 weeks of meals from our on-hand items and the “building blocks” above. These meals make both lunches and dinners in various configurations. We are super over-prepared, but that’s kind of where my partner and I live in general. A * it indicates one of the items cooked or prepared in bulk above.
Note: I’m picky about food, and I’m from Tejas. As a result, many of my recipes are Southernish or Tex-Mex. I also don’t eat meat from the grocery store, so it’s all vegetarian OR it’s from a quarter-pork and chicken I purchased from local farmers. With the exception of linked recipes, all the recipes are mine, because my style is make it up as you go.
- Chicken* pot pies (filling with biscuits for leftovers)
- Tempeh enchiladas with charro* beans
- Chicken* tikka masala (Trader Joe’s masala simmer sauce) with rice*
- Slow cooked barbeque pork ribs* with corn and coleslaw*
- Red beans* and rice* (with Cajun spiced ground pork)
- Bbq shredded pork tacos* with coleslaw*, refried beans*
- Bowls = black beans*, rice*, bbq pork*
- Tortilla soup = charro beans*, chicken broth*, corn*, kale*
- Vegetarian chili and cornbread (black beans* and kidney beans*)
- Mexican casserole (tortilla chips, refried beans*, tomatoes, cheese, enchilada sauce – kind of like 9-layer dip but baked)
- Frito pie (leftover chili*) and for the kids, refried beans* & rice*
- Black bean* & butternut squash* enchiladas with sauce*
- Lo mein (lo mein noodles and various frozen veg)
- Black beans, sundried tomato + marinara sauce, polenta
- Veggie meatballs with spaghetti and marinara sauce*
- Pizzas with marinara sauce* with various toppings
- Butternut squash* risotto and steamed veggies
- White bean*, sausage and kale* soup with bread
- White bean* bowls with quinoa, maple sweet potatoes* and kale
Step 3: Morale-Boosters
We also included some one-offs for special morale-booster meals.
- Emeril’s buttermilk fried chicken with rosemary baked potatoes. It’s a special Southern treat. We ate the leftovers as waffles and chicken 😀
- Greek grilled chicken with orzo/feta/olives and wilted spinach
- Porkchops with spicy apricot preserves & maple sweet potatoes*
- Tomato-basil chicken with parmesan polenta
- Trader Joe’s frozen fake orange chicken + rice with various other Trader Joe’s frozen things.
- Trader Joe’s black bean soup and Cuban black beans
- Breakfast for dinner (probably pancakes or waffles and eggs)
- Snack Night – crackers, cheese, frozen snack foods, fruit
- Pizza Night – we got =a frozen pizza from a local joint so we can emulate going out to dinner
Step 4: What do we lack?
I didn’t forget the first meal of the day, which is COFFEE. For breakfast we have bulk-made oatmeal, cereal, various types of breads. We’re going easy on eggs and dairy but we can make yogurt and got long-lasting egg whites. We are gonna run out of fresh fruit, but have dried fruit andplan on making things like granola and granola bars and maybe even some breakfast cookies. My partner made some kick-ass scones that are carrying us through three breakfasts.
We normally eat a lot of low-fat dairy, fruit and fresh vegetables, and have had to figure out how to eat without using a lot of those, or what can be frozen. I predict we will run low on milk and eggs, so we are going light on those items. It’s one reason I’m relying on Southern and TexMex recipes, because a lot of the culinary know-how of the area stems from the knowledge that fresh food and dairy are expensive, and out of reach for many. Luckily, one can make a lot of really tasty food out of basic canned items, and dried staples that have long been considered peasant food.
Step 5: Go to sleep
Time to digest all that.
Right now I’ve got dried chiles and tomatoes simmering on the stove for more enchilada sauce, and pork marinating in the fridge. In the last four days I’ve made chicken/broth, pinto beans, fried chicken and potatoes, enchiladas and pot pie.
So if you want to know if cooking is stress relief for me, I guess you have your answer.