COVID-19: A Food Diary Days 30 - 50 -The Blur, Relocation, and Recalibration

Twenty days. Yeah, I got bored writing. Or I lacked motivation.  Or I felt like our cooking was sort of uncreative.  Delicious, for sure, but not super-interesting. Some highlights? Grouper with asparagus and fish generally -- I have gained confidence in my ability to cook all kinds of fish (olive oil, S&P, any other seasonings, bake to 145 degrees, viola!). Spaghetti and meatballs with freshly ground meat for the meatballs. Carbonara. Scallops in a shit-ton of butter. A lot of cucumber/tomato/chickpea salads. A honey dijon yogurt dressing. Some really good fucking steak (thank you, Dellapietras). More perfect roast chicken and potatoes. And then . .  .

I CAME HOME.

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After 6 weeks living with my dear, generous, patient, hospitable, and amazing friends, we drove back into the city, and they dropped me off at my apartment. Of course, the first thing I had to consider was food. Mind you, I had done some stocking up on non-perishables before I knew I'd be in CT for that long, so I started with some frozen steaks and scallops from Butcher Box, some frozen veggies, a bag of rice, extra pasta, a few cans of beans and chickpeas, some canned tomatoes, a container of black bean soup, extra olive oil, and shelf-stable milk. But of course, I ignored/forgot about all that when I went online to place a Fresh Direct order. I had heard nightmares about not being able to get a delivery spot, things being unavailable, etc., so jumped on an open slot when it came up. I packed up the cart with all kinds of things, which would arrive the day after I got home. 

Before they went back to CT, R&N stopped of to drop me off a care package from Dellapietra's -- they apparently make fried chicken. So I had a 4pm delectable fried chicken "snack" and took stock of my kitchen. Fresh Direct was coming mid-day the following day, so I was pretty set until it arrived, with the exception of my morning coffee -- I didn't think it was necessary to bust into the shelf-stable milk for one cup of coffee when I had a half-gallon coming a few hours later. As the evening wore on, I was trying to figure out if I really wanted dinner. Turned out I did -- I ordered a pizza from Joe's to welcome me home. I ate two slices, kept two slices in the fridge, and froze the rest.

20200426_210155Saturday morning I went to Lena, a small coffee place around the corner and got a cortado, and had it with a slice of sourdough bread (from the freezer) for breakfast. Then the food arrived -- I had to figure out how to shove it all in my already typically full pantry (answer -- overflow on the kitchen counter), but I was well-set. Several of my meals that week consisted of salads, fried chicken, and/or pizza, but on Saturday night, I made an enormous pot of Adult Spaghetti-o's, a recipe I was eyeing for a while. I froze a bunch for later, but that was in heavy rotation the first week as well. 

Oh -- I forgot to mention -- I was so concerned that the Fresh Direct order would fail that I got one of my Dinnerly boxes delivered for the following Tuesday (I subscribe to that and Blue Apron, but basically cancel them every week; PS, let me know if you want me to send you a free box), so I cooked through those as well. I placed a much smaller Fresh Direct order for this past weekend, mostly produce and protein, and now I am taking a huge breath before figuring out how to recalibrate my food purchasing going forward. More on that tomorrow.


COVID-19: A Food Diary Days 28 & 29 - The Weekend!

20200412_185945Is it the weekend? Who knows, really. I came to the realization this weekend that I'm not really writing about pantry cooking. True, we are utilizing our pantry and freezer, but we have also been able to get ample groceries weekly including fresh fish, dairy, produce and goodies (dumplings! sushi! frozen pizza! artichoke dip!). What this means is that we do not really have to be super-creative, but it also means that these posts may get to be somewhat boring. This weekend we dug into that artichoke dip (great with homemade matzo, although I think that was Friday), and we had the sushi as an appetizer Sunday night. 

Saturday night we had a snack/appetizer of "bang bang" shrimp (frozen fried shrimp - from Whole Foods), and dinner was bacon cheeseburgers (ground beef from freezer) and rosemary garlic oven fries. Sunday brunch was an oven frittata/baked eggs with mushrooms and tomatoes with turkey breakfast sausage (from freezer) and mimosas (why? why not?! Easter, maybe?), and dinner was pasta with lobster (another grocery goodie), corn and scallions.  Lobster and corn makes me think of summer, which seems like ages away -- who knows what life will be like then? I didn't have a real recipe, so here's what I did. Sauteed a small shallot and the whites of two scallions in a bit of olive oil until fragrant, then added frozen corn and butter. A LOT of butter. While the pasta cooked (fresh, so pretty quick) added in picked lobster meat (thanks, Stew Leonard!), salt and pepper, and added cooked pasta to the "sauce" with pasta water as needed. I think lemon zest might have been a nice addition, but I didn't think of it, and maybe a touch of basil if you're in the mood.


COVID-19: A Food Diary Days 20 - 27 - This Weeks' Highlights

20200404_182438Um yeah. The daily thing didn't work for me this week. Oops. Instead, here's a highlight reel. On Saturday, R&N went out for groceries, both to Stew Leonard and to Halas Farm, so we were pretty flush this week. We dipped into the freezer and pantry for a few items, which I'll point out. Over the past few weeks we've had some discussions about foods that we miss, so from this weekend's haul, we had a crazy Saturday night banquet courtesy of Stew Leonard: sushi, fried chicken, and mac & cheese. It totally hit the spot.

Sunday night we had oven-roasted salmon and pan-grilled zucchini, each seasoned with a pre-made spice blend. They have a bunch of them in their pantry, as do I, but I tend to forget about them. I'll definitely have to re-visit them when I return home.  On Monday, we defrosted a steak from the freezer (I can't remember what cut it was), but N seasoned it with a delicious chimichurri spice blend before pan-grilling it. 20200406_203530We served it with some pre-made (Stew Leonard) stuffed mushrooms and a salad (we generally have a salad -- I've stopped mentioning it). On Tuesday we made steamed cod with green curry sauce using one of the jarred sauces from the pantry. I served it on top of some sauteed spinach and alongside garlicky green beans. On Wednesday, we had lentil pasta with a marinara sauce (jarred) and chorizo (from the freezer). None of us had eaten lentil pasta before and it was good -- maybe not quite a match for regular pasta, but infinitely better nutritionally (protein! fiber!). Thursday N made baked chicken breasts seasoned with a spice blend, corn on the cob, and pan-grilled zucchini (I'm eyeing the leftover corn to make this pasta with corn, bacon, and scallions), and last night we had pan-fried breaded pork chops (thawed from freezer) with a side of sweet and spicy brussels sprouts with bacon.

20200408_110020The pattern has been to buy fish at the store to eat early in the week and dive into the freezer for meats -- when we went back to the city a number of weeks ago, R&N visited their amazing local butcher and stocked up. Luckily they also have freezer space. At home, I have ordered meat in bulk a few times using Butcher Box when they had one-off specials. It has been delicious, but their regular subscription was too much for one person with a tiny freezer. That said, this whole ordeal has made me consider re-joining Butcher Box (not to mention figuring out how to fit a tiny chest freezer into a studio apartment).

The other big highlight of the week was Passover, or lack thereof. When this is all done I want to have a proper seder, or at least seder food, but I was able to at least make matzoh -- given the olive oil I'm sure it's not technically kosher, but it was easy and hit the spot.

 


COVID-19: A Food Diary Day 19 -- Snacky Time

20200406_104507I know, I'm still a few days behind. Maybe I'll catch up later, maybe I won't. Like I said, trying to be very forgiving to myself around here -- mental health is the #1 priority at the moment. Friday was a "typical" quarantine day. I started out with some mini croissants for breakfast, and then decided to break into the canned goods again. I made a simple chickpea salad with a can of rinsed and drained chickpeas, a small minced shallot, a diced tomato, and diced cucumber. I dressed it with a simple lemon garlic bottled vinaigrette that R&N like to keep in the house. I wasn't feeling like a full-on lunch, so made sort of a snacky lunch: cheese and salami with crackers and a bit of the chickpea salad mixed with a little za'atar (like I said, well-stocked pantry), followed by an apple with peanut butter.

I had arranged for a video chat catch-up with a friend and was inspired to make a daiquiri to sip on during our virtual happy hour. The only rum we have in the house is a spiced rum, so I went with that. I used 2 oz rum and and ounce each of lime juice and simple syrup and it turned out a bit too sweet; need to adjust the proportions next time. I nibbled on some of these amazing mixed nuts (I think I'm going to get some of these when I return home).

We rounded out the day with some spinach and cheese ravioli with browned butter, garlic, and parmesan cheese served with grilled (on the grill pan) zucchini. I have started recently to keep a package of ravioli of some sort in the freezer -- it's a nice change of pace from plain dried pasta and there are many fantastic options available at Trader Joe's (I'm a big fan of their corn, burrata and basil ravioli) and elsewhere if you can't find fresh ones near you.


COVID-19: A Food Diary Day 18 - Variety

Generally when I cook at home, I sometimes fall into ruts -- leaning on the same recipes over and over, buying the same staples, making a huge batch of something and eating it all week. Being in someone else's home provides a window into someone else's eating and cooking habits. We are definitely on the same page with regard to having a well-stocked pantry, for sure. I have noticed that my pantry at home leans a bit more international -- I always have coconut milk and various Asian condiments, and I have way more beans (I love them, R doesn't eat them so this is a bean-free zone). One thing we have that most everyone has in their pantry is canned tuna. I love a good tuna melt, but sometimes you need more variety. 

My father introduced me to Flour Bakery & Cafe in Boston, where they make an excellent curried tuna sandwich (this link has recipes for other sandwiches too, bonus!). It has become a great option for when regular tuna doesn't quite cut it. I skipped the raisins and sprouts (don't have them) and used shallot instead of onion. I served it up with a side of pickles and chips -- a perfect lunch.

The rest of the day consisted of a small cheese omelette for breakfast and lamb chops with roasted broccoli for dinner. Yes, I forgot to take pictures. Sigh.


COVID-19: A Food Diary Days 15, 16, 17 - Catching Up

Sigh. Sorry about that. This retired blogger is not used to writing every day and, given the circumstances, I'm cutting myself a LOT of slack these days and treating myself with kindness and compassion. It's okay not to work out every day -- a walk and meditation is fine. It's okay if my eating habits are wonky. The goal is to keep the anxiety at bay and to stay safe and healthy. Period.

To make up for my lack of posts, I want to offer you some goodies. First, an app I discovered called Supercook. The idea is that you type in the ingredients you have and it searches for recipes on the internet that contain those ingredients. Sounds good in theory, but I'd imagine that it would take some time on the front end inputting your inventory. I haven't explored it yet, but if you do, let me know. Next, I wanted to introduce you to a meal planning/shopping list/recipe collecting app that I have been using for a few years called Plan to Eat. It does cost $19.50 a year, but I find it to be worth it. I clip all my online recipes to the app and use it as my regular shopping list. In addition, for the times that I do actual meal planning, I use it for that as well. Finally, I wanted to collect some of the recipes that folks have posted on Facebook in response to my cooking posts. 

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So what have we been eating since Sunday? For me, breakfasts have been either banana bread or yogurt, fruit and granola, lunch has been tomato soup and/or leftovers of some sort. Let's see if I can remember dinner. On the last grocery run, N picked up a bunch of fish. Monday night we had oven-baked lemon-pepper flounder with asparagus (I basically used this recipe, added some lemon-pepper seasoning, and cooked the asparagus on the sheet pan for about 5 minutes before adding the flounder); Tuesday we had seared tuna steaks with a mixed green salad; and last night we had pizza assembled from pre-baked flatbread, jarred marinara sauce, mozzarella, ham, tomatoes and mushrooms. I cannot express how delicious the pizza was -- it totally hit the spot and is something I truly have missed. I don't even think I eat pizza that much normally -- maybe it was just a reminder of NYC, home, and normalcy. Joe's and Otto, I'm coming for you when I return.


COVID-19: A Food Diary Day 14 - Sunday Dinner

20200329_194241Yesterday was definitely a Sunday. I woke up, let Mox out and fed her, then went back to sleep while attempting a meditation. Didn't roll out of bed until fairly late morning and the only "exercise" I did was a stretching routine that was entirely in bed. After a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich I lazed around, caught up on my junk TV, and facilitated our first family Zoom (for one part of the family) with mediocre results and some technical difficulties (good to "see" everyone regardless).

After a snack of chips and guacamole we had a classic Sunday dinner -- roast chicken and potatoes with rosemary. Perfect comfort food despite the fact that we watched our jackass President's presser while we ate. N uses Thomas Keller's roast chicken recipe, which I really like. It was delicious even without the trussing. I also like the Zuni Cafe roast chicken recipe if you have a day or two to plan in advance.


COVID-19: A Food Diary Day 13 -- Restocking and Resetting

Mango sauceI started off the day with a Zoom class run by Circuit of Change -- a yoga/bootcampish studio that I used to attend in Chelsea. It closed within the past year and the owners moved out of NYC, but they are offering online classes during this time. I always liked their classes because they've got an element of yoga and an element of martial arts and, given this time, they are perfect because there is no equipment needed and they make you sweat, for sure. It definitely started my day off in a good place, both mind and body, which was the reset I needed.

After a workout I came upstairs to scrambled eggs with tomato and mushrooms and some oven-cooked bacon. Nothing like smelling bacon to incentivize you during a workout! N had gone out to Stew Leonards for groceries early yesterday morning (but after senior hour) and reported back that they had taken many precautions to keep customers and staff safe, including sanitizer, plexiglass partitions, fewer customers and space between checkout lanes. Their prepared foods were pre-portioned and boxed, but he reported that everything seemed well-stocked and plentiful. At one point I mentioned that At some point during the afternoon I took Mox for a walk but it started to rain, so we didn't make it very far, unfortunately. I caught up via Zoom and phone with a bunch of friends/family during the afternoon and evening including some folks from our old wine club society that we had about 15 years ago give or take. It was great to connect with everyone, if only virtually. During wine club society I had a glass of Tempranillo and some cheese and crackers.

N had gotten some seafood during his Stew Leonards run, so we had a sheet pan dinner of cod with a very tasty mango, coconut and pepper marinade and roasted brussels sprouts, along with a green salad. I never think to buy bottled marinades, but this one -- available at Whole Foods -- would definitely be something I'd purchase in the future. Coincidentally, a friend texted me today asking about ideas for seasonings sauces and marinades. I stumbled across this list of marinades, which is a great place to start, and utilizes many of the things you may have in the house if you have a well-stocked pantry. Finally, I had a Zoom birthday celebration for a college friend, including a trivia game that his wife and kids created that involved breakout sessions -- it was really fun and made me realize I'm merely scratching the surface with what it can do!


COVID-19: A Food Diary Day 12 -- Friday Night Festivities

Steak dinner
I'm sure that many people feel like the days are sort of blurring together -- I know I do. I've been losing track of the days of the week, but we noted Thursday as we took stuff out to thaw for dinner that we should do something "special" for Friday and one of the other weekend nights, so we took some steaks for Friday and a whole chicken for one of the other nights (depending on how long it takes to thaw) out of the freezer. A roast chicken sounds particularly cozy and comforting to me right now, so I'm really looking forward to it, whenever we get to it.

Breakfast was some yogurt, granola, strawberries and honey with a small slice of banana bread and lunch was tomato soup and grilled cheese (again, but this time with the addition of some Stonewall Kitchen onion and garlic jam. It was gorgeous in the afternoon, so after lunch I took Mox for a walk and then we relocated to the deck, where we basked in the sunshine -- after Thursday's run I decided to take a day off and just do a meditation, and then I spent some time playing/practicing the ukulele. R&N finished working a bit earlier, so we had a lovely cocktail hour on the deck with some chips and one of my favorite salsas (from Jalapa Jar) -- I had a 50/50 martini (half gin/half dry vermouth) on the rocks with orange bitters.

After a Zoom session with "the beach house girls," we ate our festive Friday night steak dinner -- steak on the grill with sides of thick sliced tomatoes drizzled with a balsamic glaze and a some creamed spinach, made with one of the packages of frozen spinach from our stash (note, we were out of half and half, so just used melted butter and milk -- guestimated the proportions. Once again, I forgot to take a picture until we were most of the way done.  My old food blogger self would be ashamed!


COVID-19: A Food Diary Day 11 - Advance Planning

20200327_164903Each day I've been doing a scan of our larder (pantry, fridge, freezer) to see what we've got and come up with cooking ideas. That said, all of our proteins (with the exception of some canned chickpeas and dried lentils) are frozen, so we need to determine at some point early enough in the day what protein we want to thaw for dinner. Last night, without consulting the others, I went rogue (HA!) and decided to thaw out some pork chops that I had gotten from Butcher Box. Side note -- I've been thoroughly impressed with Butcher Box every time I've gotten their products, but find that their subscription is too much for one person, so have taken advantage every time they offer a one-off option, which they do periodically.  We have plenty of apples and onions, so I knew I wanted to utilize them in my pork chop dish.

Meanwhile, breakfast was banana bread and coffee, and lunch was the last of the Indian food. In the late afternoon, I actually attempted a run(ish). It's INCREDIBLY hilly here. So much so that I really can't run more than 30 seconds straight without encountering either an up or downhill. I tried the best I could, and ended up walking a lot, but at least I got my sweat on. 

Pre-dinner snack was chips and onion dip and then I set out to make my pork chop dish. No real recipe, but here's an effort to re-create it:  season pork chops well with salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large, deep skillet, and sear the chops. You will know they are ready to flip when they release easily from the pan. Once both sides are browned, move them to a plate. Lower the heat to medium and deglaze the pan with cognac (brandy or port would work too, or cider if you're feeling less boozy), scraping the pan to relase any browned bits. add a tablespoon or so of butter, then some sliced onions and apples. Season with salt and pepper again. At this point I added some cider syrup, which we had gotten at a local farmer's market, but perhaps a touch of sugar and some balsamic or sherry vinegar would serve the same purpose, and a bit of liquid -- water, cider, or chicken stock would probably all work. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until apples and onions are tender. Add the pork chops and either continue to cook on the stove or throw the whole pan in the oven. Stop cooking when the chops reach just under 145 (they'll continue to cook with the residual heat).