I hope everyone is doing well and coping well. In Switzerland, we just had our 5th week of quarantine and the government has announced last Thursday the easing up of safety measures from 26th of April. That being said, I think we are still far from going back to “close to normal”.
One of the quarantine cooking struggles I hear from my friends is how to come up with good variety of dishes at home every day without without spending too much money on ingredients that are just specific for 1 dish (then they end up rotting in your fridge) and only doing a supermarket trip once a week. For me, the best way to do this is to prepare a meal plan before going to the super market. Here’s how I do it:
- I choose my key dish and list down the ingredients. I usually go for a dish that I can reuse to make new dishes and/or the ingredients are versatile that I can use a variety of dishes out of them.
- Out of my key dish and/or its ingredients, I list other dishes I can make out of them.
When meal planning, I consciously choose the use of fresh produce because I want to maintain a good balanced diet at home and to support the local producers during this mad times. I also go for dishes that are flexible with their ingredients. When I’m grocery shopping, I do get tempted to get produce that are not in my list often – usually because I know they’re seasonal and they’re looking very pretty. But I still make sure that these random buys can be used in one of the dishes I planned for or I can add another dish in my plan using other existing ingredients.
Meal planning is a lot of work these days. In fact, my husband and I would often do the planning over an apéro while talking about the restaurants, the food, and the places we miss. This has actually inspired us to be more creative.
Here’s an example of one of our weekly quarantine meal planning:
Key Dish: Roasted Chicken
Jamie Oliver’s roasted chicken recipe has been my go-to recipe for years. The herbs used to marinate the chicken is quite flexible. For this chicken roast, we used basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, chili flakes, paprika, and garlic with olive oil for the the marinade.
From this roasted chicken, we had the following meals:
This salad had chicken roast leftovers, cherry tomatoes, bacon, cucumber, medley of greens (arugula, spinach, mint, living salad), leftover asparagus from our last week’s asparagus themed dishes. I used honey mustard dressing.
For the chicken salad filling, we put mayo, Dijon mustard, bacon, celery, and a little bit of lemon juice. The sourdough bread was freshly made by my husband, who is also rocking the quarantine baking and bread making.
His sourdough bread making has been going on for more than a year now. So, when our next door boulangerie closed for the COVID-19 crisis, we’re still spoiled with good bread at home. Aaron said this is the best video tutorial for sourdough making he’s seen.
Stir fried noodles and fried rice are my go-to dishes for saving dying vegetables in the fridge. All the vegetables we used here were leftovers such as the Brussels sprouts, asparagus, carrots, red bell pepper, and snap peas. For meat, we had the leftover chicken and beef liver (one of my random picks at the supermarket).
From that mashed potatoes we had, we saved an unseasoned portion of it to make gnocchi. The pesto is homemade as well from leftover arugula and spinach. Pesto is one of my favorite ways of saving the spinach and arugula in our fridge (they’re our go-to greens for salad) since we also have tons of basil at home.
We’ve also made soup out of the chicken bones. Slow cooked for 3-4 hours, all the remaining meat will just fall off the bone and a really good broth. We put in the vegetables we have, some flour diluted in water, heavy cream et voila! A hearty chicken soup.
We also do a “takeaway night” once a week to help some of our favorite small local restaurants, who have been greatly affected by this crisis.
Stay safe and healthy everyone!