Time for the sixth installment of cooking through a pandemic…can you believe it’s been a half a year?!?
Cooking for the last month or so has been a little more challenging for me now that we’re back to school. I did have a little help though…the night before school started, we had Portillo’s via mail order, the first day of school was frozen pizzas for the first in I don’t know how long, we ordered Pizza Hut one night when I just couldn’t anymore, and just yesterday, we tried out the newest concept by Beast Craft BBQ, Wing Runner STL. We also tried quite a few new recipes in the last month, some of which were huge hits!
We’ve kept up with baking cookies every Sunday after church, and we even added a new chocolate twist. We also baked brownies, a few cakes, and made baklava over Labor Day weekend since we couldn’t go to the St. Louis Greek Festival.
Maybe I’ll do this again next month, maybe I won’t…only time will tell!
I have a confession to make. I’ve bought canned/jarred spaghetti sauce for years, but I don’t really like it. It doesn’t matter which kind we tried, I always thought it was too sweet, and didn’t have enough flavor. So I decided to try making my own. I already make excellent bolognese sauce (which takes all day to cook, so it’s not a an everyday occurrence)…how hard could it be? After tinkering with recipes a bit, I came up something I (and everyone else in the house) really like! Oh, and did I mention that the recipe is super easy? I call that a culinary victory!
29 oz. stewed tomatoes
6 oz. tomato paste
5 cloves garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
4 Tbsp. fresh parsley (or 4 tsp. dried)
Black pepper to taste
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
One large white onion, diced
1/2 cup red wine
In a blender or food processor, combine the first eight ingredients and blend until smooth.
In a large skillet, sauté onion with salt in olive oil until soft. Deglaze the pan with wine. Add tomato sauce and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Serve on your favorite pasta.
If there’s anything that defines this summer beyond the “Summer of Hamilton,” it’s “Waffle Summer.” When I rearranged our summer school plans from Tokyo 2020 to cooking, the first thing I wanted to tackle was making waffles. They were such a big hit that we kept making them…every kind we could come up with. Plain waffles, cinnamon, chocolate (topped with ice cream for dessert!), pumpkin, lemon-poppyseed, savory cheese and bacon (topped with fried eggs), cinnamon roll, banana, tropical, gingerbread, blueberry, potato, and buttermilk all made an appearance.
The waffle madness even made an appearance in Animal Crossing: New Horizons!
Another month or so has passed, so it’s time to look at back at what I’ve been cooking:
Since school will not be returning as planned (Moose’s school district has joined the others in the area in beginning the school year remotely), I think I’ll continue this for at least one more month, or until life is “back to normal” (whatever that means) around here. At any rate, it’s kind of fun to have a record of the things we’ve been cooking and baking, and helps me plan meals for the future!
I decided to keep my “Cooking Through a Pandemic” series going through the rest of the summer. While it seems like much of the country is back to business as usual, we definitely aren’t there yet, and won’t be until school begins again. So I’ll have at least one more of these posts to finish things out in August, assuming school does return as planned.
In the past month, we’ve had another birthday (mine), plus Father’s Day and the Fourth of July, so we’ve had some special meals. We’ve also enjoyed some family favorites, including one of our summer staples, homemade tomato soup.
We’ve kept up with our “quarantine cookies” every Sunday, and made a few other things, as well, including a birthday cake made by my girls, zucchini bread, pies for Father’s Day, and strawberry shortcake for Independence Day:
We have another birthday coming up in the next month, plus a few other special family days planned…it’s always nice to have something to look forward to!
Time for a new recipe! I made this a few weeks ago, and it was an even bigger hit than chicken piccata, which everybody here loves, so it’s definitely going in the permanent collection!
2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into thin medallions
Salt and pepper
Flour for dredging
4 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup lime juice
2 limes, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp. capers
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge in flour. Heat large skillet over medium and melt 2 Tbsp. butter with 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Pan fry chicken until brown and cooked through, about three to four minutes per side, and keep warm. Replace butter and olive oil about halfway through, and finish cooking chicken.
After all the chicken is cooked, deglaze pan with wine. Add lime juice, lime slices, rosemary, capers, and salt and pepper, and simmer for several minutes. Pour over chicken and serve with rice.
Like pretty much everything else this year, Summer School 2020 isn’t what it was supposed to be. This was supposed to be an Olympic year, and we were really excited about Tokyo 2020, and all of the fun things we were going to do that involved learning about Japan and Japanese culture. But you have to roll with the punches, so I came up with a new theme to tide us over until next summer, when we’ll hopefully have our Olympics-themed unit. Instead, this year, we’re going to do something very hands-on and practical, and learn how to cook!
Instead of our usual reading selections, I’ve come up with a list of cookbooks that we’ll be using this summer. Most are old favorites of mine (and not listed is the giant binder of family recipes I put together myself), but the first one is a recently-published book that I bought for this summer. I thought that having a kids’ cookbook would be a helpful jumping-off point for me, as far as figuring out where we should start, and what cooking basics I should cover first.
Here we are, almost three months after everything started shutting down due to COVID-19. At this point, some places are starting to open back up, but not like they used to be, so things definitely aren’t back to normal. I’m especially feeling that lack of normal, as I’m still only going grocery shopping once every two weeks, and pretty much no where else, and that’s hard. But cooking is fun, and something normal I can do, so I’ve continued to do a lot of it. Here’s a look back at some of the meals we’ve been enjoying in the third month of lockdown life (including one amazing dinner from Beast Craft BBQ!):
We’ve kept up with our baking, too. Sunday afternoon “quarantine cookies” are definitely a thing! We’ve had fun trying all sorts of different combinations of baking chips, but the base recipe is always the same. I’ve also made some other things, including blueberry muffins, and even quite a few cakes…a carrot cake for our 19th wedding anniversary, a red ale strawberry cake for Pentecost, and a red velvet cake for Trinity Sunday.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two other special treats we’ve enjoyed in the last month, too. Eli’s Cheesecake kindly sent us an original favorites cheesecake sampler, which was a huge hit with everybody here, and I was blown away by the lovely gesture! We also indulged in another Chicago favorite, Frango mints…since we couldn’t go to Chicago, I had an extra little bit of Chicago sent to us!
I can’t say I care much for shopping every two weeks, and having to plan our meals so far ahead and in such great detail, but I do have a routine, so there is that. My refrigerator Tetris and pantry Jenga games have also reached a whole new level of expertise, so that’s fun. And we all enjoy having some extra-special meals to look forward to!
I don’t know if I’ll have another “Cooking Through a Pandemic” post next month…things will maybe be closer to our old normal by then, but who really knows? And even if they are, I think some things have changed for us permanently!
So it’s been almost two full months since we got the call that Moose’s school was moving to distance learning. I figure that’s about the time our period of isolation began, even though it wasn’t fully official until a week or so later. Anyway, I’ve continued to do a lot of cooking, and I’ve continued to try to make some family favorites as well as some new things. Most of what I’ve made so far has been pretty popular (although the pork chops weren’t a huge hit), and we’ve repeated a few meals that were especially enjoyed (cheese and chorizo quesadillas are a new favorite!).
Baking has also been a favorite pastime…we bake cookies almost every Sunday afternoon. I also made a loaf of bread (not really from scratch, because I used frozen bread dough, but there was some effort!), plus a chocoflan for Cinco de Mayo, and a cake for Ladybug’s birthday.
New this month: We were actually able to support a few businesses, as well! We did carryout from two local favorites (The Wine Tap and Beast Craft BBQ), plus mail order from two others (Portillo’s and Eli’s Cheesecake). It was nice to have a small break from cooking on those occasions, because I’ve been going pretty much non-stop for the last two months!
I’m going grocery shopping on Thursday, and I have a whole new lineup of meals that I hope we’ll all enjoy!
It’s the rare Taco Tuesday that falls on Cinco de Mayo! To celebrate, I made beer-battered fish tacos with a spicy sauce from scratch. Now, it might not be the most elegant-looking member of the taco family, but it certainly was delicious!