If you're anything like me, you are so over this COVID-19 pandemic and all the cooking that comes with being under quarantine. So much cooking. So many recipes.
I'm a full-time SAHM, which means meal prep often falls under my jurisdiction. Plus, staying at home with a toddler who has boundless energy means I often find myself preparing three meals a day plus snacks every day.
And I'm burned out.
Please don't confuse that with not being able to cook. Nowadays, I find myself cooking ALL. THE. TIME. But its not the type of cooking that sparks joy. Pre-quarantine, if I was feeling down, I might find a new recipe on Pinterest (thank goodness for Pinterest and all its recipes!), take a leisurely trip to the grocery store to buy any ingredients I don't have on-hand, take my time preparing it while sipping on a glass of white wine, and not stress about it turning out perfectly. It was a coping mechanism I whipped out when I was feeling anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed. But these days, I'm feeling all of those things all the time, often all at once, and cooking means having a lot of the same meals on rotation each week because they use pantry and freezer ingredients I stocked up on and any produce that has made it this long in my fridge.
In light of those feelings and doing my part to stay home, I've found comfort in preparing flavorful, easy meals I know my family will enjoy no matter how often I make them. Here are five of my favorite fall-back quarantine recipes!
Stuffed Shells with Marinara
This recipe hails from my mother-in-law and is something my husband grew up eating somewhat regularly. Being the youngest of three boys, he was used to his mom needing to whip up something easy and delicious with plenty to feed everyone. This dish certainly fits that bill. I've made it with ground beef, ground turkey, and ground bison, and other times I just add extra spinach for a meatless option. I've made this for an easy dinner at home with just my husband and toddler, and I've served it to friends and family. It's a crowd-pleaser, no matter how big or small the crowd may be!
- 15 jumbo shells
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb. ground beef (can substitute ground chicken, turkey, or bison)
- 1 clove garlic, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon jarred garlic or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 1 8-oz. package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (or 2 cups packed chopped fresh spinach)
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 1/4 lb. mozzarella, shredded (at least 1 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- Fresh basil leaves, julienned, to taste (I usually use about 1/4 cup, plus more for serving; optional)
- 15-oz. jar of marinara sauce, like Rao's or traditional Ragu
- 3/4 teaspoon oregano
- Cook noodles according to box instructions and drain. Rinse in cold water, and drain. Toss with small amount of olive oil so noodles don't stick to one another; just enough to coat.
- Preheat oven to 350, and spray 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Brown ground beef on medium-high heat. Drain fat, and reduce heat to medium. Sautee garlic with the meat until fragrant, then add spinach and red pepper flakes until heated through. Transfer mixture to large mixing bowl. Add cottage cheese, mozzarella, salt, pepper, mayonnaise, and basil (if using) to mixture, and stir well until combined.
- Stuff cooled noodle shells with meat mixture and place in prepared baking dish. Stir oregano into marinara sauce, and pour evenly over noodles. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and basil to taste. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Then remove foil, and bake uncovered for another 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven, and enjoy with some toasted crusty bread!
Grilled Chicken Kebabds with Veggies
Springtime is the BEST time in Memphis, even during a global pandemic. The temperature is perfect, the sun is out, and the mosquitoes haven't amassed quite yet. And, honestly, the only thing keeping my toddler and I sane right now is that we spend most of our days outside. In the spirit of enjoying the beautiful weather and getting out of the house as much as we can right now — even if that means only traveling to the backyard — we have been grilling a LOT. Flank steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, various cuts of chicken, fish, and these kebabs. The grill just elevates the flavors of the meat, marinade, and vegetables to another level that you can't attain on your stovetop. Feel free to swap the chicken here for salmon, shrimp, or sirloin steak; or just stick with the veggies. They're all so, so good.
- 2/3 cup oil (olive or vegetable)
- 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
- 1 teaspoon onion salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Chicken tenderloins or breasts, cubed into 1.5-inch pieces
- 1 onion, cut into 1.5-inch pieces (yellow, white, or red would work)
- 2 bell peppers, cut into 1.5-inch pieces (I like using one green and one red)
- 1 container small tomatoes (Campari, cherry, or grape)
- Combine marinade ingredients together in gallon-sized Ziplock or reusable storage container. Add chicken, bell pepper, onion, and tomatoes, and mix well. Let marinate in refrigerator for at least one hour.
- Assemble kebab ingredients on skewers, alternating in the order of your choosing. (I like to go onion, chicken, bell pepper, tomato; and repeat. We also tend to make a couple skewers that are all veggie.)
- Grill over medium heat for approximately five minutes per side. You want to get a good char on the outside edges.
- Serve over rice with green beans on the side.
Jambalaya with Shrimp, Sausage, and Chicken
If you're reading this blog, you probably have a kid or two (or more) and can relate to this feeling: I love box dinners. We don't make them a lot because they're typically loaded with sodium (delicious, delicious sodium), but they come in handy on days you don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen or dirty up a lot of pots and pans. I almost always keep Zatarain's Jambalaya mix in my pantry, and it was something we stocked up on at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I love to jazz up the box mix by adding extra veggies, chicken, shrimp, and Conecuh sausage. You customize this to your family's liking, but it's even good just on its own as a flavorful rice dish.
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 package Zatarain's® Jambalaya Rice Mix
- 1/2 pound smoked sausage, thinly sliced (I prefer Conecuh.)
- 1/2 pound cooked chicken, sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 bell pepper, chopped (optional)
- Brown sausage in large saucepan over medium-high heat. (I like for mine to get nice and charred, but follow your own taste.)
- Once browned, remove sausage from pot and add celery, onions, and bell peppers (if using). Sautee for a couple minutes until veggies start to sweat, then add chicken and brown. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Return sausage to pan.
- Mix water and rice mix in the saucepan with meat and vegetables until well blended. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 25 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed and rice is tender
- Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with fork before serving.
Thai Curry with Veggies over Rice
I love incorporating a flavor punch meal into my rotation, and Thai curry always hits the spot. We love all the curries — red, green, and yellow — but you can use whichever you prefer in this recipe. I love to use this as a way to clean out our fridge. You can honestly throw anything you want into a curry, and it'll turn out delicious! This recipe calls for food items I tend to keep in stock like chick peas, onions, garlic, bell peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli; but you can use pretty much any veggies you like! We also tend to use chicken or shrimp in this dish, or we stick with just the veggies and keep it vegan. Lots of versatility!
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons red curry paste (could also use green curry paste)
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar (start with less and add more to taste)
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/3 cup snap peas
- 1/3 cup bamboo shoots
- 1/3 cup sliced red bell pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil (can also substitute Italian basil)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- Bring coconut milk to simmer in large skillet on medium heat. Stir in curry paste and sugar until well blended; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Stir in chicken and vegetables. Cook 3-5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender-crisp. Stir in basil and fish sauce.
- Serve with cooked and fluffed Jasmine Rice, if desired.
Chocolate Mug Cake
I don't know about you, but my cravings have been out of control since being stuck at home under quarantine. I have a tendency to eat when I'm bored, and man have I been bored these last several weeks. But, in an effort to do my best and not gain the Quarantine 15, I'm not keeping a lot of treats in the house. This chocolate mug cake recipe from The Pioneer Woman is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth without overindulging. It's best served with a big dollop of soft, fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, but I wouldn't turn my nose up at marshmallows and sprinkles, either.
- 3 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
- 3 Tablespoons Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
- Tiny Pinch Of Salt
- 3 Tablespoons Whole Milk
- 3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- Splash Of Vanilla Extract
- 3 Tablespoons Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
- Into a 12-ounce microwave-safe mug, add the flower, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a fork.
- Add the milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla and stir until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Use a damp paper towel to wipe excess off the sides of the mug so it doesn't burn.
- Microwave for 90 seconds, then let the cake stand for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes before eating. Serve with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.