Home Cooking: Quarantined? Here’s a week’s worth of pantry dinners and my favorite cookies
In mid-March, I made a grocery run with Pat. We arrived shortly after 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday, hoping the early hour would find the grocery store relatively empty. It was, but so were the shelves. I was perversely happy to see that people had cleared out meats, vegetables and beans — in other words, whole foods rather than processed foods — which tells me you’re ready to start cooking!
And please get outside and take a walk each day if you can. We need to keep our spirits up and our bodies healthy right now. Healthy comfort food is essential, but so is connecting with the natural beauty of our surroundings. Keep in touch with friends, especially those living alone, through email, social media and phone. Let’s take good care of ourselves.
I’ll begin with a list of pantry staples, then provide recipes using these ingredients. If you want recipes to use a particular ingredient in your pantry, email me at email@example.com
- Oils and fats: Extra virgin olive oil, butter
- Seasonings: Salt, pepper, my homemade Southwest seasoning (recipe below), curry powder, nutmeg, soy sauce, lemons (or lemon juice in a pinch) garlic cloves, fresh rosemary, turmeric, smoked paprika
- Root vegetables, hearty greens and fruit: potatoes, onions, red bell pepper, whole carrots, beets, kale, roasting vegetables (broccoli florets, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, baby arugula or spinach, red apples)
- Canned food: beans (chickpeas, white beans), full fat coconut milk, whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes
- Proteins and dairy: eggs, cheddar cheese, plain Greek yogurt, half-and-half or whole milk, skinless/boneless chicken breasts or thighs, whole roasting chicken, frozen salmon filets
- Pasta and grains: hearty bread, rice, lentils, quinoa
- Baking: all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, chocolate chips
Southwestern sheet pan salmon and roast vegetables
Preheat the oven to 400. On a sheet pan, place salmon filets (or chicken) fresh or frozen. I tried both, and it didn’t make a difference in taste.
Toss the vegetables you want to enjoy with your fish (Brussels sprouts, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, slices of acorn squash) and sprinkle extra-virgin olive oil over the fish and vegetables.
Then sprinkle with Southwestern seasoning (or try maple syrup, lemon pepper, soy sauce or your favorite seasoning mix). Roast for 15-20 minutes until the fish and vegetables are cooked through but not overdone.
Suzanne’s Southwest salt-free seasoning mix
I use this seasoning mix on everything! It’s smoky, savory, and a little spicy. I don’t include salt in my seasoning mixes because I want to have control over how much salt goes into a dish.
In a small jar combine:
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
One-skillet lemon rosemary roast chicken with roasted potatoes and vegetables
- 1 roasting chicken
- 4 sprigs of rosemary
- 1 lemon
- 1 stick of butter
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2-3 potatoes (your choice of color) cut into large, skin-on chunks
- Roasting vegetables of your choice, corn on the cob cut into 3-inch pieces or acorn squash cut into half-moons
Preheat the oven to 375. I like to spatchcock the chicken, which means I cut alongside the backbone so that the chicken is now lying flat, breast-side up. I believe you get a more even roast this way. Toss your potatoes and vegetables into the bottom of the skillet. Then rest the spatchcocked chicken on top of the potatoes and vegetables.
Into my food processor goes a stick of butter, two sprigs of rosemary, the juice of half a lemon, two cloves of garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Process ingredients until the butter forms a soft ball. (You can also combine the ingredients by hand with a fork, room temperature butter and minced garlic, in a small bowl.)
Then gently lift the skin between the breast and add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of this flavorful butter into the pocket between skin and meat on each breast. Spread another 1-2 tablespoons all over the chicken. Use remaining butter to place dabs on the potatoes and vegetables. Slice the remaining half lemon and put the slices on the chicken. Place remaining rosemary sprigs around the chicken.
Roast the chicken for one hour to one hour and 15 minutes. If the skin does not reach the golden brown you want, turn on the broiler for 1-2 minutes, and that will do a nice job of crisping the skin. Remove from the oven and allow the bird to rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
Slow-cooker butternut squash and kale curry stew
- 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 14 ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- 2-3 cups butternut squash cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 14 ounce can full-fat coconut milk
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 bunch kale, remove stems and tear into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- Salt and pepper to taste
Add all the ingredients to the slow cooker and turn on high for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or low for 4 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit your palate. A pinch of red pepper flakes will add a nice touch of heat.
Smoky tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich
In my mind, nothing caps a cold day better than curling up in front of the fire with a good book, a cup of tea and this wonderful soup and sandwich combo.
Once you taste the depth that smoked paprika and alder wood smoked salt add to this super easy tomato soup and the richness of the butter — for less cost than buying a can of soup — you’ll never visit the soup aisle of the grocery store again. I promise.
- 1 32 ounce can whole fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 medium onion, cut into large chunks
- 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon Alder wood smoked salt (optional)
- pinch red pepper (optional)
- Splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Add onions, canned tomatoes and butter to saucepan and cook on medium-low heat. Allow to cook for 20-30 minutes
Add in seasonings. Stir. Then using an immersion blender, blend until the tomato soup reaches the chunky or smooth consistency that you desire, add a splash of vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings.
If you’re feeling so inclined, finish with a dollop of pesto, plain Greek yogurt or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich and apple slices.
Arugula (or spinach), quinoa, white bean, beet and carrot salad
- 4 cups of baby arugula or spinach
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 3 cooked beets, chopped into matchsticks
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1 14-ounce can of white (Canellini) beans drained and rinsed
Toss ingredients together in a bowl and top with a simple vinaigrette dressing (2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and salt pepper to taste).
To make it a meal: Top with pan-grilled chicken breast, salmon filet or tempeh.
Zucchini (or broccoli) rice and cheddar casserole
- 1 1/2 pounds of zucchini, grated (or broccoli florets, chopped)
- 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar
- 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup milk or half-and-half
- Salt, pepper and paprika to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Put the shredded zucchini into a strainer, sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 15-20 minutes. Wrap zucchini in a dish towel and squeeze to remove more liquid. If using broccoli, steam the broccoli until just tender, drain and rinse with cold water, lightly pat dry.
Meanwhile, mix together the eggs, yogurt, milk and seasonings. Into a lightly greased 9-by-9-inch baking dish toss together the zucchini, cheese and cooked rice. Pour over the egg custard mixture. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 40-50 minutes until cooked through.
Serve with a small side salad. Great cold then next day.
Suzanne’s Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies
Self-imposed quarantine calls for cookies!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 11 ounces semi-sweet (or dark) chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Slowly add the dry ingredients. Fold in the chocolate chips (and walnuts if using).
Form the dough into balls and place on a sheet pan, cover with plastic. Allow the cookie dough to rest int the fridge for 2 hours up to overnight. (You can also freeze the cookie balls in a freezer container and take out a few at a time to bake.)
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. (These cookies will not get dark brown like traditional chocolate chip cookies.)
Allow to cool and then enjoy with a glass of milk or cup of tea!
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Home Cooking” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson taught herself to cook after college when she discovered dinner parties were a cure for loneliness. Her latest cookbook is “A Year in the Mountains Cookbook.” She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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