My Food Diary: Cooking in the time of COVID-19

My Food Diary: Cooking in the time of COVID-19

★ My weekly Food Diaries are a way of tracking what I cook, buy, and eat every day. They provide insight into my eating preferences, allow me to analyze patterns in my spending, and help improve my cooking. And I always share my recipes! ★

A lot of things have happened in the past couple of weeks, haven’t they? I was in Toronto for my co-op, but I just got back to Waterloo last Saturday. Our coronavirus cooking journey begins this week, as my employer has ordered everyone to work from home starting Monday. Kevin’s classes have all been moved online as well, so we don’t really plan on going outside much at all, except for some occasional walks.

Monday

Chipotle Bean Burrito Bowl

Since my Chipotle-style burrito bowls have been such a hit with Kevin lately (and I agree they smell delicious), I decided to make a similar bowl that’s more veg-friendly. I replaced the meat portion with chipotle pinto beans. I also used long-grain brown rice for the added #health, and I have to say, it’s pretty damn tasty! I’ve been sleeping on brown rice and have been rediscovering it lately. I love the firm chewiness.

For the beans, I used the ingredients from this recipe, but left out the oil and skipped the saute step. I also doubled the amount of chipotle peppers and sauce. I made it in the Instant Pot, by throwing all the ingredients (sans oil) into the pot and setting it for 45 minutes on HIGH PRESSURE. It turned out great! I’m glad I doubled up on the chipotle because the flavour was just right, and it wasn’t too spicy at all.

Sadly, we were out of corn, and due to our community’s coronavirus food stockpiling efforts, the canned food aisles at the grocery store are totally bare. Some sweetness from the corn kernels would’ve completed the flavour profile of this dish, but even in their absence it was delicious. We are currently on a mission to find the most Chipotle-like guacamole by trying each brand we can get our hands on; last week it was Sobey’s in-house Compliments brand, this week it’s Wholly Guacamole. So far, Wholly Guacamole is winning!

Omelette Mexicana

I was so in love with the pinto beans I made for lunch that I wanted to eat them again for dinner! I decided to try an omelette-wrap of sorts after being inspired by this recipe. As you can see, mine didn’t turn out nearly as cute and perfect.

I whisked two eggs with a dash of heavy cream and black pepper, and set over med-low heat. After a couple of months of cooking with the gas stove in my Toronto apartment, it’s a big change to go back to the convection stove.

Tuesday

Quinoa Brownie Batter

Another perk of quarantine cooking is re-discovering old food from the back of the pantry that you’ve forgotten. Today’s victim: a half-full bag of Bob’s Red Mill tri-colour quinoa, purchased this time last year.

I used this recipe to make some quinoa brownie batter, although the cookies ‘n’ cream protein powder I have is made from whey, not plant-based. I cooked the quinoa in the Instant Pot for 0 minutes + 12 minutes NR, which was super easy and mess-free (add a pinch of oil to ensure nothing sticks). Next time, I would let it cook for a bit longer. The texture was perfect for regular eating purposes, but for this kind of dessert recipe, I would’ve been preferred the quinoa to be more mushy for a smoother and creamier mouthfeel.

I topped mine with some peanut butter and a healthy sprinkling of Reese’s Puffs cereal. Suuuuper filling!

Chipotle Burrito Bowl with Fried Egg

fried egg in onion ring trick

Another burrito bowl for today, jazzed up with a yolky boi.

I tried a new “cooking hack” for this egg: frying it inside an onion ring. When it comes to cooking sunny side up eggs, I’ve struggled with the egg whites running all over the place when all I want is a circular egg.

I stumbled upon this trick where you cut an onion crosswise, like an onion ring, and crack the egg into the ring. I was worried the egg would leak out of the bottom, but as you can see, only a little bit managed to get free. The best part of this hack is, you add some extra yummy onion flavour to your eggs!

chipotle pinto bean burrito bowl with fried egg and guacamole

The success of this technique depends on the size of your egg and onion. I cracked a large egg into a medium-large onion slice, which could just barely hold the egg. Another thing to watch for, when cooking the egg this method, is lowering the heat because the egg cooks slower because it’s not able to spread out as much as normal. If you don’t heat it gently, the bottom may get burnt while the top is not fully cooked.

Peanut Butter “Sandwiches”

Remember those Outback molasses dinner rolls I made last week? I had a hankering for peanut butter today so I made little pb sandwiches out of them. Pretty dry, but definitely satisfied my craving. I’ve been buying the all-natural varieties lately and sadly, they definitely don’t taste as good as those super-processed sugary ones like Kraft. But knowing that it’s a million times healthier than regular peanut butter makes it taste better!

Wednesday

Stir-Fried Garlic Lettuce

cooking in the time of covid-19 means even cooking the lettuce

I wouldn’t say I’m overly paranoid about this whole coronavirus thing, but one thing I am iffy about is eating raw vegetables. Everyone says you’ll be fine just washing it well, but… in the back of my head I’m always thinking, just how well can you really scrub lettuce? I know this virus isn’t supposed to last long on organic surfaces, but for my peace of mind I cooked the lettuce for today’s burrito bowls.

In fact, cooked lettuce is pretty tasty. It’s quite common in Asian cuisine, and I enjoy it most in soups. But for today I settled on a stir-fried dish. I decided to try this recipe first. The taste was very disappointing, to be honest. It smelled very good and soy saucy but I couldn’t quite taste that savouriness when it came to eating. Further, it tasted a little acidic, not sure if that’s from the cooking wine or what. I’ll be trying a Woks of Life recipe next time, and hopefully it turns out better!

Thursday

Another day, another burrito bowl

chipotle pinto bean burrito bowl with lettuce, guacamole, and hot sauce

I am trying to get through all the beans and lettuce that I still have. Did you know that one head of romaine lettuce can straight up last forever? I had Kevin buy one last Friday and it’s still not finished. Luckily, romaine lettuce is sturdier than some other varieties, like iceberg, so it’s held up well, but I hope to finish it soon.

Shortbread cookies

This is the first time in yeeeears that I’ve baked using a boxed mix. Last Christmas, my parents got a box of shortbread cookie mix from their PC subscription, and I took it back to Waterloo with me, since they don’t go for that super sweet and buttery stuff. I’ve been saving it for an occasion when I want a fail-proof dessert but am too lazy to make something from scratch, and today that moment finally came!

I was pretty tired from work and didn’t feel like measuring out ingredients today for shortbread cookies (although arguably they are the simplest cookies, ingredients-wise), so I went for the mix. I should’ve read the instructions a little more carefully, because I ended up using waaay too little butter in the first batch. As I was pressing it into the baking pan, I thought, “hmm, this looks very crumbly,” but figured it was just how box mixes looked like before baking. As they were baking, I re-read the instructions and saw that where I thought they called for the entire box of mix, they actually only called for 300 mL. The entire box, which I had dumped in, was 500 g!

shortbread cookies made from pc president's choice boxed shortbread cookie mix

The poor butter did its best to hold the cookies together, but my first batch definitely turned out very dry and fragile. I added a few spoonfuls of margarine into the rest of the batter, and the dough took on the familiar soft consistency. As you can imagine, these turned out muuuch better! They were super buttery, but not greasy, and literally fell apart in your mouth. Don’t get me wrong, the first batch was actually very tasty too (even earned Kevin’s seal of approval), but the second had a much better mouthfeel.

Friday

Grilled Steaks with Cherry Tomato Relish

grilled steak with cherry tomato and radish relish

Cooking the first meal in our Good Food box! The one I decided to try today is called “Grilled Steaks with Za’atar Butter,” served with “Cherry Tomato Relish, Spiced Bulgur & Toum,” but I made some substantial changes. (You can access the same recipe online here).

Kevin is very picky when it comes to any grain but white rice, and I wasn’t confident about his chances of liking bulgur, so I replaced it with, you guessed it, white rice. I also didn’t bother with the za’atar butter or toum, because I’d forgotten to take out the butter to soften and was a bit pressed for time. (Working from home does give more flexibility, but I’d feel bad if my lunch break lasts much longer than an hour).

Anyway, the title is a bit misleading because the steaks are not grilled – even the recipe itself gives directions for searing them in a pan instead of grilling. Cooking those steaks was a bit scary because even though I took care to pat them as dry as possible, they still spewed hot oil/water when I placed them onto the pan. Another thing I’ve never figured out about steaks – how do you get them to stop releasing so much water (meat juice…?) when you cut them? I tried to soak up as much of the meat juice with a paper towel as I could.

My boyfriend’s overall review for this meal:

Pretty good.

Kevin

Saturday

Seared Chicken Thighs with Cheesy Garlic Potatoes

seared chicken thighs with cheesy garlic potatoes

The great thing about Good Food is that they post all of their recipes online publicly, for free. Even though I’ll be cancelling my subscription with them, I’m going to continue trying some of their recipes.

Kevin had nothing but positive words to say about this recipe, which is a better reaction than the last meal! It was also easier to make than yesterday’s steak (mainly because the chicken didn’t splatter the oil quite as violently as the steaks did). He loved the “Tuscan sun spice” seasoning mix, as well as the tender juiciness of the thighs. Empirical evidence in our household that chicken thighs are indeed superior to chicken breasts!

I also ate part of it, principally the potatoes and the red peppers (bell peppers – another traditional enemy of the Kevins). They were sooo delicious cooked this way (pan-seared with a little apple cider vinegar, then marinated in the remaining liquid), and I don’t even like peppers that much! The only issue is that apple cider vinegar obviously reacts with oil a lot. So I got quite a few microscopic burns with this one, but I’m still determined to try again. Maybe using a cooking spray instead will help.

Tune in next Sunday for another issue of Cooking in the Time of COVID-19 🙂



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