Saturday, May 02, 2020

The Pandemic Pantry: Cooking Covid-19 Style, Days 29 - 47

This is a continuation of my documentation of my experiences and humble sustenance during this strange but fascinating time.  So much of our human activities have shut down but I've just noticed the magnolia trees across the street and on the roof of a building have suddenly bloomed.  It's beautifully sunny also.  I've been meaning to get out to walk or bike ride more but I face quite a bit of exposure to people just getting in and out of my building.  My immune system has not felt strong in many years, so I do feel extra susceptible, and more likely to also transmit the virus to other people.  I have always loved my apartment, and I feel very safe here these days.  I'm more suited, at this age, to quarantine than many others.  I don't know what it would have been like if this had hit 25 years ago.  No good internet, no plethora of food delivery services and grocery delivery, no Zoom meetings and parties, and I wasn't employed in a job that translates to remote working from home plus I always wanted to go out.  It's an interesting time to go through this, but people are getting stir crazy.

Day 29: Sun Apr 12, Easter
Tzatziki, garlic hummus, veggies, dolmades, olives, chips and bread, served with guava/orange pop.
I made the tzatziki which turned out well.  I like to eat my carrots with the skin on, and I usually look for a bag of organic carrots that are mostly skinny ones so that I don't even need to cut them, but in this case I did, lengthwise.

Day 30: Mon, Apr 13
That green stuff was a jalapeño sauce from Trader Joe's that was pretty tasty. Remember when we could cross the border into the States just to get a different brand gourmet groceries than what we had here?

Day 31: Tue, Apr 14
Big dipper, fries, bbq ribs, garlic toast from Boston Pizza.
I think this was my second restaurant delivery during this last month.  I believe I chose Boston Pizza because it was one of the few restaurants available for delivery at that time of night, and I'm not a huge fan in general, but I do love beef dips; it's one of the few dishes of theirs that I like.  When I order delivery, I tend to order enough for several meals, so there is a bit of the rib dinner too.  The onion rings were great. I made a mistake with the pizza though.  I wanted one with pineapple and went for their chicken and pineapple to mix things up but really should have had the regular Hawaiian.  Next pizza delivery, I'm going old-school with just ham and pineapple.

Day 32: Wed, Apr 15
Spaghetti with mushroom tomato sauce, Boston Pizza bbq ribs, served with Diet Orange Crush.
My leftover spaghetti portioned out for the freezer was a great side to the ribs.  Pop is a big treat for me.  I'm very careful to not have it as often as I'd like to because I can easily get addicted.

Day 33: Thu, Apr 16
McDonald's Drive-Thru Quarter Pounder, McNuggets, a bit of a strawberry shake (unphotographed, but you know what they look like and here is a picture of the view I had when I ate it).
I remembered late at night that hybrid cars should not sit for weeks, so I went to go turn it on and 3 am was a great time to avoid people so I decided to go on a quick drive around, and visited the 24h drive-thru which would have been one of the few things open.  I discovered the hearts on the Fairmont Hotel, and it was such a bittersweet Covid-19 image.  So many empty rooms with no hope of filling them is needed to make these hearts in this strange time.  But I reflected on how people struggling to get through this are taking the trouble to send some love out there.  I found out when I googled it at home that hotels around the world were doing it.

Day 34: Fri Apr 17
Mac n' cheese with peas.  Potato salad, macaroni bean salad, garnished with olives, cornichons, grape tomatoes. 
Mac n' cheese and potato salad are great comfort foods.  

Day 35: Sat Apr 18
Orange flavoured water, mac n' cheese, frozen dim sum. 
Do you put your rinds and ends in water when you eat an orange?  I'm not great at drinking a lot of water, so it helps if I put a lot of ice in, and give it a little flavour with juice or orange slices like this.  There's so much flavour in the zest of an orange, might as well use it. I portioned out and froze a lot of mac n' cheese when I made a big batch.

Day 36: Sun, Apr 19
Balkan style yoghurt, honey, nuts served with coffee for breakfast.

Day 37: Mon Apr 20
Japanese curry with carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, green pepper, tofu, sausage served with rice and Chinese sausage (lap cheong).
Leftovers from the freezer. Chinese sausage is amazing, isn't it?  In its package stored in the fridge, it lasts so long.  Great "pantry" item when it's unopened (in the fridge).  When I'm cooking the rice, I throw the sausage on top so that it's done when the rice is cooked, and then I slice it afterwards.

Day 38: Tue Apr 21
Cobb salad with grilled chicken thighs seasoned with five spice salt. Grape tomatoes, cucumbers, chunky blue cheese dressing, shaved carrot, celery, black olives, cauliflower, spinach/kale/red chard dressed in red wine vinaigrette.
I love this old bowl that my mom gave me ages ago,s traight from the 70's and still going strong.  Also, I used the George Forman little grill my parents gave me decades ago when they upgraded to the large size.  Iconic.  I love how it crisps up the skin on chicken thighs, and it really does keep the juices in while cooking both sides simultaneously.

Day 39: Wed Apr 22
Duck broth, duck meat, noodles, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cherry tomato, Chinese mushrooms, noodles, dumplings. Dessert was a faux banana cream pie.  Crushed digestive biscuits, Tesco instant custard, banana slices, sweetened whipped cream. (photos of inside layers and the finished cream topped dessert).
I love get Chinese bbq meats, and when I get roasted duck, I save the bones and the bony pieces to make a broth for soup noodles.  These bones were in the freezer, and I've really cleared out a lot of things in my freezer which is very satisfying.  That includes these slices of duck meat that I had forgotten about for a while.

Getting an whipping cream canister was a bit of a splurge, but I used my Canadian Tire money to get it and love it (and I like to use those points for treats that I wouldn't normally buy with regular money).  I have plenty of cartridges at home so that's not a problem, but it took a while for the whipped cream to be available and I still don't have sweetened condensed milk which I'm waiting for to use up my box cake and make tres leches cake.  This faux pie really did taste like a real banana cream pie, which is my favourite pie (with warm blueberry à la mode being a close second).


Day 40: Thu Apr 23
Frozen udon, duck broth, Chinese mushrooms, carrots, green onion served with coffee with chocolate syrup and whipped cream.  
Breakfast of champions.  I would never have gone to the trouble of making this for breakfast on a weekday in the "before times."  A hot bowl of noodle soup is a great hearty breakfast.

When I buy green onions, I don't store them in the fridge in water.  I plant them in soil, and they grow like crazy, even though it's indoors, with a northern exposure, and pretty much throughout the year (but of course it's better in the spring and summer sun).  I cut what I need from the top, so I never get the white parts, but that's fine for me.  I usually have yellow onions around if I want a harsher flavour. I typically use green onions nearly every day, and I get at least five times the material by keeping them in dirt.  They do eventually wither away after a couple of months, and then I start over again with another bunch from the store.  

Chicken Caesar salad with avocado, broccoli, baby kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. 

Day 41: Fri Apr 25
Butter flake roll, strawberry jam, whipped cream, apple, grape tomato, celery, French press coffee, my whipped cream canister.
I was in the mood for being fancy and having a matched set of dishes.  Once I've got whipping cream loaded into my canister, I want to have it on everything.  This was sort of like having scones with devon cream and preserves.

Avocado, grilled chicken, sriracha, and mixed greens sandwich.  Side of veggies and spinach hummus, and peanut butter.
I put the peanut butter out for the celery sticks (like ants on a log sans ants), but I discovered that raw broccoli tastes way better with peanut butter on it.  

Day 42: Sat Apr 26
Cobb salad with a bit of garlic sausage added this time.  Kozy Shack tapioca pudding with whipped cream.
I substituted a little grilled sausage for bacon, and lightly cooked some carrot/broccoli/cauliflower for this when I was searing the chicken.  Cobb is always such an indulgent salad.  The tapioca pudding was a treat at the end of the day.  I was given a free sample of Kozy Shack at the Sun Run the first and only year that I ran it.  I had walked it before, but it was a huge accomplishment for me to run 10k when I've always hated running and out of shape.  But what I discovered was that it wasn't great for losing weight because I was always starving.  You can imagine how good that Kozy Shack tasted on race day when I was so hungry and tired, and I had never heard of the brand before that (this was probably 17 years ago).   Anyhow, I'm hooked on the rice pudding and the tapioca, but I try not to buy it for myself much.  Buying a pack is one of the "hell with it" kind of moments that I've had in response to isolation. I normally wouldn't buy individual cups because of the plastic waste, but if I buy the big one, I can't make it last over weeks.  I did the same with buying a giant multi-pack of small bags of chips which I still have not run out of all these weeks.  A big bag would disappear in only a few days.

Day 43: Sun Apr 27 
Canned sockeye salmon sandwiches two ways - one grilled as a breaded patty and the other as a cold salmon salad mixture.
Now that I'm cooking at home so much, I've taken opportunities to test and compare techniques side by side to see what I prefer.  In this case, I used an ancient can of salmon and tried two approaches to sandwiches.  I did like the pan-fried patty quite a bit.  But I would say that both were equally good, but just very different. I think my mom gave me those cans of salmon years ago and I just never felt like using them until now.

Dinner was my take on pasta con sardé.  Spaghettini with sliced onions, celery whites plus crushed fennel seed, dill, saffron, white wine, raisins, grape tomatoes, cashews, olive oil toasted panko bread crumbs and canned Bar Harbour skinless, boneless sardine fillets. (photographed in the pan before the pasta was added, and then the final plate with a topping of bread crumbs and roasted cashews).
Appetizer of one more salmon patty from the lunch mix.  And my first alcoholic drink of the quarantine.  Botanist gin and soda (known as a Gin Rickey).
Pasta con sardé is a dish that I have never tasted or even heard of until I was searching the internet for a pasta and sardines recipe.  I had bought the can just before the quarantine thinking that it would be a good thing to have in the pantry and imagined having the oil and the fish with just some chilli flakes on pasta (but discovered I had bought sardines not packed in olive oil).

I was intrigued by this Sicilian dish, and I saw many different versions of it.  I didn't have fennel (which is put in with the bulb and greens) and make my own fascimile with the celery and herbs.  I got to use my saffron which I hardly ever use, and I have a fond memory of when I was gifted the huge stash on a cruise where the chef was on deck making a giant paella as a cooking demonstration and saw me surprised at the size of his box.  After the demonstration, he gave me the tin.  That was a fun day.

I had planned a virtual dinner party with foodies and that was great for encouraging me to go that extra step with my meal, and also to finally have a cocktail.  I usually use tonic, so trying the gin with the club soda that I had available was great, and I think I might even prefer it for letting the gin come through on its own.  The Botanist from Islay (which is known for scotch) has 22 hand-foraged local botanicals.  I wound up watching a YouTube video that night about scotch drinkers visiting Islay and it sounds like a magical island.

Day 44: Mon Apr 28
Quesadilla with black olives.
A simple but tasty breakfast.  Again, in the spirit of side-by-side comparison, I tried three different amounts of toasting on the tortilla.  Very different end products, but I still enjoyed all three. I think I like the softest for a bit of chew.

Day 45: Tue Apr 29
Balkan-style yoghurt, very cherry fruit cocktail in light syrup and Nature's Path vanilla and almonds granola.
Another indulgence - a big pack of fruit cocktail cups on sale that would last for months as a backup when running out of fruit.  I always like to have some fruit around.  Canned fruit cocktail is something I really only ate as a kid but I love it.  With the sugary syrup, it was great in the yoghurt.  Unfortunately it meant much more plastic waste than I would normally buy, but the cups are better portions without the metallic taste, so I caved.

Avocado toast with whipped cream cheese, grape tomatoes, Kewpee mayo, and green onion

Day 46: Wed Apr 29
Mint (probably peppermint).
This stuff just doesn't die.  It sprouted up again this year, and I really didn't take care of it at all last year.  Not enough for a summer of mojitos right now, but we'll see how it does.  The rest of the day was for eating leftovers of my pasta sardé.

Day 47: Thu Apr 30
Romer restaurant delivery of steak with a peppery sauce, roasted potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts and tomato, and fries (and an unphotographed mushroom burger for lunch). 
This was my third restaurant delivery (actually less that what I was doing in the before times) and mainly inspired by the announcement that Foodora bike delivery is closing down its business.  Sad to see it go as it was my favourite restaurant delivery service.  Recently it had some bad press that criticized them for not reducing their charges to restaurants in this time, but I was thinking that they had to keep things afloat too just like the restaurants, and their delivery people also need to make money just like the restaurant employees.  Apparently they did not make it.  I gave a good tip for the delivery guy.  Romer was a new restaurant for me (not my kind of place generally), and I did that on purpose because I do miss discovering new places in person.  That was one of my main hobbies along with sharing those places with other people.  It was all good and those potatoes and brussel sprouts were definite winners.  Steak was a bit thinner and smaller than I expected, but honestly pretty good for a $22 main at a burger place.  Burger for a separate meal was also good (but not crazy good). 

At this point, there are rumblings about other provinces opening up a bit more, and BC is doing well. There's a bit of hope we'll stop quarantining in stages soon, but that we will need to be ready for a second wave.  There are a lot of lessons we should have learned about living during this pandemic about gratitude, being less wasteful, learning "old-fashioned" basics skills, reevaluating priorities for how our time is spent, and more.  It will be fascinating to see the next steps.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Pandemic Pantry: Cooking Covid-19 Style, Days 22 - 28

Day 22: Sun Apr 5
Steamed piggy egg yolk custard bun massacre and pork dumplings.
This is what happens when you steam these piggy buns a couple of minutes too long.  Poor things look they've been bludgeoned in some sort of dim sum gang war.

Roasted carrots and shallot with dill, served with lamb rarra gosht, rice, and pickles.  Guava juice and a few drops of tequila for flavour.
I roasted carrots and a whole shallot in grapeseed oil (my favourite for cooking), dried dill, kosher salt and black pepper.  I'm working on using up a few things in time for my grocery delivery on Tuesday, and it was very satisfying eating my last shallot and two carrots. Dill just works so well with carrots, and I'll credit the old Market by Jean-Georges for inspiring the carrots and Linh Café for the shallot.  When restaurants open up again, it will be interesting to see what they've done with the new iteration, Marketplace on 3rd.

Day 23: Mon Apr 6
IKEA meatballs, tater tots, Tesco brand instant gravy, cranberry sauce, canned dolmades.
I've got an entire week where I don't need to work at home (a previously scheduled block of time lining up with the Easter stat holidays).  I was expecting my first grocery delivery order on Tuesday, so I was working on using up what I had in my fridge.  Unfortunately, I didn't anticipate how many items (20) would be sold out in my order.  This order was the first fresh groceries that I've had for three weeks, so I was very excited about it.  However, it was also very satisfying using up so many items that had been lingering in my freezer.

Pineapple and peach "Julius."
This pineapple and peach Julius-style smoothie (with vanilla and just a bit of water and sugar) was made with some frozen fruit that I have had in my freezer for ages because the chunks froze together in a big blob in each bag, so I never got around to using it.  

Day 24: Tue Apr 7
Ketchup chips and blueberry pie with yoghurt.
My groceries arrived in the morning, and I dove into some of the more indulgent items for lunch.  I had been wanting chips since they didn't make it into my previous London Drugs order.  I never liked ketchup chips when I was little but now I definitely have a taste for them.  I bought a big multipack of chips so that they would last a long time, and I would be able to just eat a small portion each time.  I normally very rarely buy myself potato chips to have around my place, and really look forward to having them when I have a party or something like that.  But I figured it would be good to have a treat.  Same with the individual portions - I would normally be trying to reduce packaging, but these chips packed this way should last me weeks, maybe months.  I had rice with an egg and some seaweed sprinkled for breakfast before the order came and was sad to learn that the eggs in my order were not available (and no substition was offered even though I checked that option).  Blueberry pie was delicious though, and I did receive my big tub of Balkan style yoghurt which will have many savoury and sweet uses.

Japanese curry with carrots, potato, mushroom, onion, celery, daikon, garlic sausage, tiny bit of deli ham and tofu.  Served with rice and raita (yoghurt, cilantro, green onion, toasted cumin seeds, garam masala, cayenne, salt, cucumber). Diet Orange Crush.
I was looking forward to making this curry for a long time, but just needed the ingredients. I was planning to put beef in it, but they weren't able fulfill that in my order, so I threw in sausage, and bits of other protein around.  I haven't made Kraft Dinner for ages, but I think I have a similar type of childhood nostalgia fondness for packaged Japanese curry sauce, even though I never had it as a child.  I made so much of this and planned to freeze some for later.  In addition to the serving shown, I had three more servings for the fridge, and four for the freezer.  I was also planning to make a huge meatloaf if my ground beef had come in the order, and was going to preslice the portions for the freezer so that I could take out a bit at a time.  Maybe I can get some ground beef later.  I've been wanting a good diet version of orange pop for a long time, as it's one of my vices.  I do like things like Diet A&W Rootbeer and Diet Pepsi.  All I can say about the Crush is that it's the right colour and looks appetizing.  The artificial taste of the sweetener is too prominent for me.

Day 25: Wed Apr 8
Bits and bobs. Hummus, homemade raita, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, sour cream and onion Ridgies, digestive biscuits, mixed nuts, gala apple with caramel sauce. 
This was a plate of munchies to eat in front of a movie.  I wound up adding HBO to my Crave subscription this week on top of my existing Netflix account, and over this pandemic, I have watched (in part or whole) things like Beyonce's Homecoming, Tiger King, Ferdinand, Bear Grylls' You vs. Wild, Tropic Thunder, American Made, Picard, Killing Eve, Aquaman, The Hustle, Once Upon a Hollywood, Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald, Pokemon Detective Pikachu, and Oceans 8. 

Day 26: Thu Apr 9
Blueberry pie, yoghurt with a bit of sugar and vanilla, and pan-fried garlic sausage.
I don't know if anybody else does this, but I find a warm slice of fruit pie to be a great breakfast once in a while, or at least as good as a strudel or other breakfast pastry.

Day 27: Fri Apr 10, Good Friday
Buttery flaky roll with grape jelly, (unphotographed)
This was a leftovers day as I worked through more Japanese curry, rice, and pie.  I had been wanting grape jelly for classic PB&J sandwiches even before I started staying at home, and had some trouble finding a jar in person and online, so I was excited to receive the jar.  Here's a photo of the jelly and the rolls separately, photographed on another day.  I have several preserves, but I always seem to go back to strawberry jam and grape jelly.

Day 28: Sat Apr 11
Homemade crispy waffles with banana, pecans, maple syrup and a side of pan-fried garlic sausage (forgot to plate the yoghurt topping).  Paired with french press coffee, milk, and sugar.
I had plans with a few friends for an online camera chat over brunch.  I've missed going out to restaurants with friends so I decided to try to make it a bit special for myself by aiming for a pretty presentation and even pulling out my cute cream and sugar set.  We chat with text only all the time, but it was really nice actually seeing each other and having a planned day.  Even though it was virtual, it really did feel like having a meal together.