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Cooking Hacks for Quarantine

eat elite May 07, 2020

While the novel pandemic has shaken up our lives, perhaps there is a silver lining. On a grander scale, our environment is getting a well-deserved break from the overwhelming amount of pollution. On a smaller scale, we’re cooking more from home. 

This is not to ignore the amount of stress we’ve all been under as we’re attempting to navigate a new normal, but instead, to provide some guidance in the kitchen and perhaps the adoption of some new healthy habits to nurture after the stay-at-home orders have been lifted. 

Today I’m going to share with you the concept of cooking with flexibility. What does this mean? 

Use What You Have

Well, it can mean a few things: using what you can easily source or what you already have, cooking for more than one meal, or cooking one aspect of a meal to be used throughout the week. In this article, I’ll cover the overall concept of cooking with flexibility and provide some recipes so you can get started right away!

Supermarkets and grocers throughout the United States are having trouble keeping up with the demand of their customers. What this means for many is that chicken, beef, and other protein staples are not regularly available, and if they are, there is likely a limit on how much you can purchase. 

Be Flexible!

The first aspect of cooking with flexibility is choosing a protein that you haven’t used before or that is readily available. Let’s take ground lamb for example! It’s extremely versatile in its use, incredibly delicious and nutrient-dense. Two of my favorite ways to use lamb is either as a burger or atop veggies in a rice bowl. Don’t like lamb? No worries, this concept extends to any other protein, including beans and legumes! 

Choose Different Protein Sources

Beans and legumes are inexpensive, easy to cook in bulk, and truly an all-purpose protein. They can be used as the main star in a dish (just like you would use the chicken, beef, or lamb), as a side, as a dip, or even incorporated as they are into a soup, salad, or omelet. 

There are mainly two ways to purchase beans and legumes, canned or dried. Canned is already cooked, is a bit more expensive, and likely has lost some nutrients from the canning process (or even exposure to chemicals from the can itself). 

Dried is less expensive and carries greater nutrient-density, but requires pre-soaking and cooking. From a health perspective, dried is the superior choice. If you own an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, you can make a week's worth of beans in about 30 minutes. If you don’t own a pressure cooker, they’re just as easy to make stovetop but will take a bit longer. Regardless of how you cook them, I suggest you purchase some beans and legumes in bulk (maybe a few pounds), soak them overnight, cook, and freeze in mason jars. 

How To Stay Out Of The Kitchen

Now that we’ve covered utilizing what you can easily source or what you already have, let’s discuss how to cook for more than one meal. To demonstrate, here are two recipes you can use as a loose guide for one meal or a few different meals throughout the week! Lamb burgers with a side of pesto and a Greek-inspired spinach and rice mixture:

Lamb Burgers  by Savory Lotus

Spinach and Rice by The Greek Vegan

For starters, this is an incredibly delicious dinner as it stands. But you can most definitely substitute anything you don’t have, can’t source, or don’t like. You’ll also find that each recipe recommends a variety of ways in which it can be used! Here are some examples of how to cook with flexibility: 

- You can sub the lamb burger for any type of burger: bean, lentil, chicken, beef, turkey, etc. 

- You can sub the pesto for a yogurt sauce (tzatziki), hummus or guacamole.

- You can sub the spinach-rice mix for a salad, quinoa, or any other vegetable.

Want to know how to use these recipes throughout the week?

- Make extra burgers for lunch the next day or to freeze for later use

- Use the pesto as a base in a chicken salad or as a stand-alone dressing  

- Use the spinach-rice mixture as a side or base for an entirely different dinner with ground meat, beans, or legumes

As you can see with this example, one kitchen session inspired a few different meals! I encourage you to see what you already have in your house and use the concept of cooking with flexibility to cook smarter, not harder. If you’re new to the kitchen or simply looking for a recipe to spark inspiration, you can find many healthy options online or on Pinterest. 

Stay safe and happy cooking!

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