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With the inability to eat out as much thanks to the shutdowns due to COVID-19, some people are turning to home-cooked meals more often than usual. And with this increase, it can be difficult to keep from repeating the same few dishes. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find an abundance of ingredients with current shortages at grocery stores. Here are a few ideas for recipes and meal options for at-home cooking with items that are accessible, and maybe even in your pantry right now.
A fun option that maybe isn’t on your usual menu is homemade pasta. It may sound intimidating at first, but it is genuinely a very simple process to make at home. It does not require any special equipment or machinery and can be made in the span of a half hour. It boils to perfection in less than 2 minutes, and, needless to say, is a much tastier pasta option than packaged ramen. As a bonus, it’s also a fun project to undertake. It only takes two ingredients that hopefully are already in your home: eggs and flour. It doesn’t take a particular recipe; rather, this is a dish that you feel out. The process is simple: mix together eggs and flour until a stiff dough is formed that is neither too wet so that it sticks to your fingers, nor too dry so that it crumbles apart. It is best to err on the side of too dry as the dough will continue to hydrate as it sits. Package the dough in some form of airtight container – it could be a Tupperware or a Ziploc bag, and allow it to sit in the refrigerator for thirty minutes. Once this step is accomplished, all that is left is forming it into whatever shape of pasta you prefer, and then cooking it. An easy option is to flour a surface, roll the dough as thin as possible and cut it into long strips that resemble fettuccine. The fun part is that it really can be whatever shape you like. You could even take this time to make ravioli by choosing a fun filling – you could even try a dessert option! Once it’s shaped to your liking, place the fresh pasta in a pot of boiling, salted water and stir so that they do not stick together. Once the pasta floats to the top, it’s done. Depending on the size, the cook time is around 1-2 minutes.
It really is a simple process that provides great results that leave you feeling accomplished. Try enjoying the pasta plain, or with a bit of butter and pepper. Or, if you have the means, make a bigger meal out of it. Try roasting some vegetables in the oven and pairing them and the fresh pasta with a canned tomato sauce. The dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days, or the formed pasta can be stored in the freezer where it can be easily accessed and ready for cooking at any time.
Full recipes and other tips for homemade pasta can be found on various food websites and accessed for free online.
Another great, quick option is to boil a big batch of eggs. Boil them to the stage of your liking. For ease of peeling, a good tip is to shock them in ice cold water; this will help the shell separate from the cooked egg white. The eggs may keep longer in the fridge unpeeled, but if you think you’ll eat them fairly quickly, or you have several people in your home, peel them before storing them away so that there’s zero prep time for whenever you’re hungry. They make for a great, fast option that is healthier than other packaged alternatives.
If you’re able to buy fresh vegetables, cleaning them before storage is very important at all times, now more than ever. An easy way to clean several at once is to get a large bowl and fill it with room temperature water. It is important to not use hot water as it can wrinkle the skin of some vegetables, and even begin to cook some more delicate vegetables. Depending on the amount of produce you’re washing, mix in an adequate amount of dish soap. Put the vegetables in the water mixture and agitate them lightly so that every surface of the vegetable is covered. Then transfer to a colander or strainer and rinse under running water until every trace of soap and dirt is gone. Change your soapy water after each batch – you may be surprised at the amount of dirt you’ll see left in the water! For root vegetables, like potatoes and carrots, try double washing them using this technique, but be sure to use fresh soapy water after each wash. The same technique can be applied for fruits.
Another tip for cleanliness during this time is to wipe down all your packaged groceries with a disinfectant wipe before storing them away in the pantry or fridge. This will insure a germ-free storage area.
Be encouraged to use this time to try new things and push yourself. Who knows, you may find out that you’re a natural chef – or you may already know that you are. Either way, try new things, hug your loved ones, enjoy home cooked meals with them, and be sure to wash your hands!