corona cooking diary – part 1

Summary: The best ingredients you can buy now you need to limit your supermarket visits are fresh veggies and fruits that you can eat raw. Let me explain why. Or scroll immediately to the end of this post to see some fun recipe ideas.

Last Thursday afternoon I shared my groceries on Instagram not knowing the California lock down was to be announced later that day. I got some questions and responses to these posts, so I decided to keep a corona (or covid-19) cooking diary.

Once or twice a month I visit my favorite Middle Eastern supermarket and stroll the aisles for my favorites and new discoveries. I hadn’t been in a while, so last Thursday I could stock up on my favorites: Spanish olives, dolmas (Greek filled grape leaves), a jar with roasted bell peppers, pita bread and European wheat cookies. Besides fresh veggies, I also got some rice as I was running out of it, and  a proper hoarding item: beans.

Right after the lock down was announced, the Mister and I went to our neighborhood supermarket for more fresh veggies that’ll keep us inside for at least a week. At home I realized I also bought quick oats. I almost never cook with oats, so not sure what I was thinking. Maybe the stocking up was getting the worst of me already. Time will tell.

Let’s start at the beginning:

What do you need to buy if you have to limit your visits to the grocery store?

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you why to limit your visits to the grocery store, preferably to once a week  max. Social distancing = less people getting sick = less people ending up in the hospitals = fewer doctors having to decide who’s gonna live or die = fewer deaths.

So far the preaching, now over to the fun part: the food.

My short answer:

Buy vegetables that you can eat raw.

Lots of fresh fruits too.

The longer answer:

Start small

On the socials I see a lot of people getting their hopes up to eating more healthy and cooking more home made meals. I only can get behind and encourage that (and will do in future posts). But also want to warn you. Changing habits is hard. Remember your new year’s resolutions?

So the best thing If you want to change your eating and cooking habits: start small.

Buy what you usually buy

First of all – and you might roll your eyes – don’t go overboard and hoard items you usually don’t cook or eat. When everybody is stocking up on pasta but you don’t like it, just don’t buy it. For now, the grocery stores are not in danger of getting shortages, so there’s no need to panic buy foods you usually don’t eat.

Also, these times ask for food that makes you smile. And dishes that you know how to cook.

So buy the things you usually buy. Although it is tempting to think of this period of quarantine as a great moment to overthrow your regular habits and start eating (more) healthy, I’m not sure how long you can keep up. My advise would be to eat like you’d do most of the time and follow the tip below.

How about the extra meals you now have to make yourself?

I do realize most people, especially here in the USA, normally eat one or more meals a day outside of their house. Your morning coffee on the way to work, the quick pick-me up salads from the supermarket to eat at your desk or the sit-down meal you get at a spot close to work for lunch. And then dinners too.

This is part of the reason why supermarkets seem so empty: on average people are buying more now they have to take care of more meals for themselves.

Plan to eat in a similar way. You can stock up on a few ready made foods to replace the food you usually eat outside of your house. Try to find out if your favorite spots are still open and cooking food for you to pick up. To help your community best, check in on the local mum and pop places that don’t have a big social media presence or no time to update their website. 

If you do want to eat healthier: start snacking veggies

One of the easiest ways to eat more vegetables (as that is eating healthy to me) is eating them as a snack. So stock up on veggies and fruits that you can eat raw. I got Persian cucumbers, carrots and jicama. I also bought orange sweet potato (yes, you can eat this raw) and celery. Other suggestions are radishes, zucchini, kohlrabi, cauliflower, (mini) tomatoes and bell peppers; you can all cut them in slices or sticks and put them on your desk and mindlessly snack away while you work. Of watch Netflix.

Fruits work too. I bought 2 large melons, bananas and apples that will keep me out of my chips and cookies cabinet. I hope. But any fruits will do.

If possible, have your new snacks pre-chopped at the ready in your fridge to minimize the effort when you feel like snacking and diving heads first into your unhealthy stock instead.

And add them to your meals

The great thing about these vegetables that you can add them to your meals too. Upgrade your sandwiches. Add them thinly sliced to your side salad.

What if I forget about them and they get bad?

Submerge them in a bowl of cold water and keep in the fridge for a few hours. That’ll revive most vegetables. This also works for fresh herbs, lettuces and other greens.

If that doesn’t work, you can juice them or blitz up in a smoothie. And of course you can cook them! If they were wrinkled or dried out a bit before you cooked them, no one will know. In a way that happens to them when roasting in a hot oven as well. Boil them in water and puree into a soup. Ferment them (here my recipe for fermented carrots, a great snack by themselves).

A few more tips

Pick 1 or 2 of these tips to try out and see what works for you. Don’t think I religiously follow my own advise every day!

  • Pre-chop your snack veggies as much as possible and save them in your fridge. Most chopped vegetables stay good in your fridge in a closed container at least 2-3 days. Most even longer.
  • Play with and combine different flavors, colors, textures and ways of cutting the vegetables. Slices do taste differently than sticks for instance.
  • I saw this on Instagram aimed to kids but it’ll work for us adults too: each morning, make a snack box for the day. For me it works to pre-chop some veggies and fruits and have them ready to snack on the counter. Yes, you can save them outside of the fridge for a few hours if you’re a healthy person.
  • Do the same for your drinks: fill a nice jar with water. Flavor it with a few twigs of mint, some slices of lemon or other citrus, celery and/or cucumber.
  • Brush your teeth. It makes me not want to eat anything for at least an hour not to loose that fresh taste in my mouth.
  • Don’t feel bad about eating so called unhealthy foods. You’re craving it,  that’s okay. Giving in to it, is okay too.
  • Serve your snacks, whatever they are, in a nice bowl or on your most beautiful plate. Yes, even your chips. Making them special will make you more mindful and hopefully less mindlessly munching on them.

A few tips to make your veggie snacks fancy:

– Dip your carrot sticks in hummus. Bell pepper and celery like hummus too.
– Most veggies like guacamole too. Double veggie points!
– Cauliflower (cut into florets, make a puree soup from the stems) in particular likes a yogurt based dip, but carrots and cucumber would like their share too.
– Squeeze lime juice over jicama and sprinkle some (or a lot if you can stand the heat) of tajin (Mexican chili powder) over it.
– Dip radishes first in olive oil, then in an Egyptian nut and cumin mix called dukkah. Or plain salt.
– Thinly slice an apple and serve with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon to dip in. Just like my grandmother used to do.

Now it’s your turn: share your favorite way of snacking on raw vegetables and fresh fruit with us below!

Thanks for reading this far! Of course, this is only just 1 tip. So this will become a series and in the next blog post I will discuss how to organize and cook from your pantry, fridge and freezer. So stay tuned if you’re curious to learn how I do that.

Join the conversation!