THERE IS A LOT GOING ON RIGHT NOW. Chances are, your nerves are a bit jangled with all the Coronavirus news cruising through the airwaves. Today, we’re cutting through the noise and fear to bring some calm and commonsense things you can do you stay healthy and sane, as well as some tasty pantry and freezer recipes to make while we’re all in social distancing mode and spending more time at home.
We’ve been pretty quiet on Coronavirus as of now, as our family is also closely following news updates as they’re released. That said, while we normally keep things light and food-focused around here, COVID-19 is definitely the 600-pound gorilla in the room.
In this tough time, family is everyone’s focus, and sharing nutritious, delicious food is one of the best ways to keep ourselves healthy and happy. So here are a few words––and handy recipes––to recognize that some of our readers are probably just as nervous as we are right now. And to offer the best comfort we always fall back on: food.
A New Normal
- This is a global situation. It’s a challenge all of us humans will band together to deal with. Fear can sometimes bring out the worst in us. The start of the virus in China and characterizations like “foreign virus” by those in power have led to unfounded fears of Asian immigrants and Asian Americans. While the outbreak has become a quagmire for small and large businesses alike, Chinatowns and Chinese restaurants have had to deal with another problem entirely: xenophobia. But fear can also bring out the best in us. Let’s recognize the humanity in each other, rather than the “other.”
- We all have a stake in each others’ health. Now more than ever, our individual actions directly affect the health and welfare of others. Think about others, especially older, more vulnerable populations, as you go about your day. Follow the CDC’s advice on how to modify your behavior and implement social distancing to keep everyone safer. Avoid crowded places, work from home if you can, and if you know someone who can’t work from home, offer a helping hand. Encourage friends to reschedule parties, gatherings, and nights out. Don’t panic buy an excessive amount of toilet paper, rice, soap, hand sanitizer, etc. You’re taking those supplies from other people who also need them. We all need to keep each other healthy to keep ourselves healthy!
- It’s time to clean! Especially if you have been outside and among people. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your home!
- And again, all together now: Don’t touch your face and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you tend to touch your face a lot to scratch your nose or adjust your glasses, figure out workarounds. When washing your hands, count the seconds! An incredible site, washyourlyrics.com is a handy guide for making your favorite songs into a timed hand-washing jingle. To celebrate the release of Space Jam on Netflix—arguably my and Sarah’s favorite 90s’ kid flick, here’s the title track from the movie:
Tips from a Chinese Mom to Keep Your Immune System Strong
At times like these, we all want reassurance. I will say that probably the best source of said reassurance comes from your mom. Slightly overbearing, maybe a bit paranoid at times, but it’s BECAUSE SHE CARES, OKAY?
Simply taking care of yourself is more important than ever now. While we’re not health professionals, “mother knows best” is a saying for a reason, and there’s probably something to whatever a mother AND her mother, and her mother’s mother, AND HER mother’s mother have been saying for generations.
Here are some tips from my mom, Judy, for anyone looking for some practical motherly guidance right now:
- Get plenty of sleep! Cold and flu-season is not the time to stay out late.
- Keep your stress levels to a minimum. Do your best not to get too worked up over the little things, and keep your eyes on the bright side and silver linings. If you’re having a hard time, give someone a ring to talk it out or even just shoot the breeze. And yes, call your mother!
- Don’t run your body down. That includes seemingly innocent activities like working late, staying up to watch movies or play games, or even seemingly healthy activities like working outdoors and exercising. Everything in moderation!
- Listen to your body! If you feel tired or groggy, your body is telling you it needs rest. Take a nap and go to sleep early to regenerate and strengthen the immune system. If your body wants to sleep, but your mind says you should exercise or finish other daily tasks, listen to your body!
- Get your vitamins! Eat plenty of whole fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus.
- Drink lots of fluids. The best thing for the body is warm or hot rather than cold water, which is a shock to the system. Soup is also beneficial—skip the creamy, dairy-heavy soups and go for stocks, bone broths, or veggie broths.
- Keep covered and wear enough clothes when you go outside! Spring is almost here, but it may feel warm one moment and then get cold very fast when the wind blows. Traditional Chinese Medicine asserts that swings in temperature make your body more susceptible. While you may not actively feel “hot” or “cold,” you should try to layer up to avoid letting your body catch a chill. It’s easy to catch a bug during this transition between winter and spring.
- Stay away from unhealthy foods—anything fried, overly processed, or sugary that might take a toll on your body.
30 Nourishing Pantry and Freezer Recipes
Now for the recipes! Many of us are falling back on familiar pantry staples like canned beans, dried pastas, dried noodles, rice, and boxed stock, as well as stepping up our freezer game (for example, frozen chopped scallions, garlic, and ginger are a great way to preserve valuable but perishable aromatics!)
These are some of our favorite pantry and freezer recipes, for their reliance on some of our go-to heavy lifters. Think simple fried rice that only needs a couple of eggs and a pack of bacon from the freezer; stir-fried cabbage with glass noodles that relies on a head of cabbage, which will endure in the back of your refrigerator for weeks and weeks; great dried noodle and spaghetti recipes, and some of our favorite canned curry paste + coconut milk stand-bys.
These recipes are nourishing and delicious, and getting up and cooking will help shake up things at home if you’re going a little stir-crazy.
Click on the recipe photos to go to each recipe!
1. Bacon and Egg Fried Rice
Rice, a pack of bacon/frozen scallions from the freezer, a few eggs, and some pantry seasonings are all you need to cook up this tasty meal, perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
2. Easy Stir-Fried Cabbage with Glass Noodles
In our experience, cabbage keeps a VERY long time in a bag in the back of the refrigerator, making it a great option for a fresh vegetable to keep around when you don’t want to venture out. With some dried glass noodles from the pantry, you can make magic!
3. 10-Minute Tomato Egg Drop Noodle Soup
This quick and delicious meal can be made with fresh or canned tomatoes, dried noodles, and canned/boxed chicken stock. It’s our mom’s go-to easy lunch during the week, even when we’re not on lockdown!
4. Roasted Chickpeas: A Versatile Recipe for Soups, Salads, and Pastas
These very tasty roasted chickpeas are made from pantry staples, and can be used to dress up that box of tomato soup or pasta.
5. Mexican Rice
There’s nothing like a plate of tasty Mexican rice, made with canned tomato sauce/paste and broth or bouillon. Paired with some simple beans, it’s a meal in and of itself!
6. Ma’s Spanish Chicken Stew
This is one of the most comforting and delicious meals we know how to make. Grab some chicken thighs from your freezer, some jarred olives, canned beans, canned tomatoes and perhaps some celery/carrots/potatoes (frozen vegetables will also do!).
7. Bison Chili
Chili is one of everyone’s pantry favorites. This bison chili can also be made with frozen ground beef or ground turkey.
Consider this the right time to try Brazil’s national dish! Feijoada is as comforting as it is delicious, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to all that rice you’ve stocked up. Plus, it only takes 9 ingredients to make (serve with oranges for an extra Vitamin C boost!).
9. Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs and Anchovies
This pasta is one of those incredible meals you can make when it seems like you have nothing in the house. A box of spaghetti, a can of anchovies, jarred capers, garlic, and you’re in business. Breadcrumbs keep well in the pantry or freezer. The lemon zest and parsley are delicious, but the dish is tasty without those ingredients if you don’t have access to anything fresh.
10. Indian Lentil Soup with Garlic Naan
Wondering what to do with that bag of dried lentils you bought? Give this spicy, filling lentil soup a try. You do need to have a well-stocked spice cabinet for this one, though.
11. Red Curry Chicken
Countless delicious meals can be started from a can each of Thai curry paste and coconut milk, and this is certainly one of them. All you need is some chicken from the freezer and some rice. If you don’t have ginger and garlic, skip them (the curry paste will still be flavorful enough to make a tasty dish). If you don’t have any fresh vegetables to add, throw in some frozen peas and carrots or frozen broccoli or spinach! Need a vegetarian version? Try our Red Curry Tofu (fried tofu can be kept in the freezer!)
12. 15-Minute Coconut Curry Noodle Soup
This is another wonder of curry paste and coconut milk. With some chicken and dried noodles, you’ll feel like you’re eating out at a restaurant, from the comfort of your own home.
13. 20-Minute Congee
Freeze some of that rice you have stocked to make a quick and delicious congee. A little bit of pork from your freezer goes a long way, and you can grab some frozen aromatics (ginger, scallions, and cilantro can all be frozen) to spice it up. A thousand year old egg from the pantry doesn’t hurt either!
14. Green Curry Chicken
Green curry is another great dish to make from a can of Thai curry paste and a can of coconut milk. Throw whatever frozen vegetables you have in for fiber and nutrition. Canned bamboo shoots are also great to have on hand!
15. Spicy Crispy Pork Noodles (Made with Spaghetti)
Go beyond pasta sauce to make that box of spaghetti into something new and exciting––these spicy crispy pork noodles just require some jarred sauce, some ground pork from the freezer, and maybe some frozen leaf spinach!
16. Chinese Spaghetti Bolognese
A block of ground beef, a bag of frozen peas, and a box of spaghetti come together to make this magically delicious dish that both kids and adults love.
17. Chinese Stir-Fry Sauce
While it may be challenging to get a hold of a variety of fresh vegetables depending on where you are, our all-purpose stir-fry sauce can delicious-ify any combination of protein and/or vegetables.
18. Mapo Tofu
Silken tofu keeps in the fridge for a long time––usually a couple months. You can also buy shelf-stable tofu in cartons. Just add some ginger and garlic (you can store it in the freezer!), ground meat, spices, and a few condiments, and you have a delicious dish to serve over rice. Need a meat-free version? Try our Vegan Mapo Tofu, which uses mushrooms! If you can’t find fresh mushrooms, dried shiitakes will work!
19. Chinese Handmade Noodles
We all have flour and water in the house, right? Mix them up to make these beautiful handmade noodles! It’s also a great project to do at home if you’re getting cabin fever. If you don’t have bread flour on hand, all purpose flour will work in a pinch.
These are a delicious freezer staple in our house. Take some ground pork or chicken (or grind it yourself with a knife and cutting board, if you don’t have pre-ground meat in the freezer), and whatever veggies you have on hand, from garlic chives, to baby bok choy, to zucchini, to cabbage. Mix it together with some basic ingredients like soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and sesame oil to make a filling. Don’t have dumpling wrappers in the freezer? Make some yourself with that simple combo of flour and water. It’s easier than you think.
21. Taiwanese Sesame Oil Chicken Soup
This warming sesame oil chicken soup is made with just chicken legs (bone-in thighs, leg quarters, or a whole cut up chicken can also be used), sesame oil, ginger (frozen ginger is a lifesaver again!), wine, sugar, salt, and scallions (optional). Just add water, and voila! A nourishing Chicken soup that can scare away a cold!
22. Ching Po Leung Cantonese Herb Pork Bone Soup
In cold and flu season, the best defense is sometimes a good offense––in the form of a big pot of hot and comforting soup. This traditional Cantonese soup is made with pork bones, water, and lots of dried pantry ingredients. If all the dried ingredients sound daunting, know that you can buy them bundled together in Cantonese herbal soup packets!
23. Simple Chinese Oxtail Soup
It doesn’t get much simpler than this oxtail soup, which can be made with oxtails, onion, daikon radish, water, and salt. Some of your reserved freezer cilantro can give it a little extra zip!
24. Chinese Rice Cake Soup
Rice cakes freeze very well, making this soup a breeze to make when you can’t get to the store. Just add pork, stock, frozen scallions/ginger, carrot, and cabbage.
25. Seaweed Egg Drop Soup (紫菜蛋花汤)
Dried seaweed, storebought stock, eggs, frozen scallions, sesame oil. Tasty, nutritious soup done!
26. Snow Fungus Soup with Pears
Dried snow fungus is believed to have many health benefits according to Chinese medicine. Replace those processed desserts with this sweet soup!
27. Tomato Egg Drop Soup
Tomato egg drop soup can be made with canned tomatoes if you can’t get fresh. Just add stock, eggs, sesame oil, and some frozen scallions.
28. Shanghai Style Red Vegetable Soup (罗宋汤 – Luo Song Tang)
This vegetable beef soup freezes well and tastes delicious. It’s a full meal in a bowl!
29. Japanese Superfood Miso Soup
Dashi granules, silken tofu, miso…these are all ingredients that last forever and can come together to make a delicious, warming soup.
30. Chinese Ginger Tea with Red Dates
This ginger tea is the perfect warming drink for when you’re feeling run down. The spicy ginger clears the sinuses and soothes the throat. Don’t take it from me, take it from my mom, who insisted on posting this recipe for our readers!
We hope you give these pantry and freezer recipes a try, and that you’ve enjoyed this break from the news headlines. Have some fun in the kitchen to take your mind off things, and stay safe everyone!