Cooking in Quarantine: Easy Meals Made from Household Food Staples

Eating the same things over and over again can make quarantine feel even more limiting, but the food staples in your pantry can be used in more ways than you think (Photo by Jordan Revenaugh).

When in quarantine, there seem to be two modes of operation for most people: sitting in your pajamas all day or getting out and getting active. Either option is perfectly acceptable. Regardless of your activity level and regardless of the uncertainty in our world at this time, one thing is certain: We all need to eat.

Picking up the phone and ordering takeout or heating up a frozen meal seem like two of the easiest options, but eating the same things repetitively gets old, and it gets old quickly. In a time where shelves at grocery stores seem empty and options seem limited, getting creative in the kitchen may feel like an impossible task.

Here are some interesting ways to use staples from your pantry or your fridge to keep your meals nutritious, exciting and, most importantly, simple during this time of uncertainty.

Banana Bread Oatmeal

Constantly presented as nothing more than a boring, bland breakfast, oatmeal is not always painted in the most positive light. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of ways to make oatmeal more exciting that don’t call for an extra trip to the grocery store.

With the right mix of simple ingredients, you can easily transform your oatmeal into something interesting (Photo by Jordan Revenaugh).

All you need to take your morning oats from dull to delicious is oatmeal from your pantry; water, milk or a milk substitute from your fridge; cinnamon, vanilla extract and natural sweetener from your cupboard; and a banana from wherever you keep your bananas (we all have different preferences about where to store those).

Using half a cup of oats blended into oat flour and three-quarters of your liquid of choice, mix the ingredients together. Combine the mix with a mashed banana along with two teaspoons of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of your sweetener of choice (honey, pure maple syrup or agave nectar will do the trick). Add in cinnamon using a heavy hand to yield the best results. To bring out the sweetness of your oats, add just a pinch of salt. 

Spray a small, oven safe bowl with non-stick cooking spray and pour your oat mixture in before transferring the bowl to the oven. Bake the oatmeal at 400 degrees fahrenheit for 20 to 25 minutes. You can top the bread with your favorite almond or peanut butter, or just eat it as is. 

For another version of exciting oatmeal, follow these same steps, but substitute the banana for one-quarter cup of canned pumpkin puree in order to make oats that taste just like pumpkin pie filling.  

Eggs

Bought too many eggs? Not a problem. Eggs can be eaten in many different varieties, waffle-omelettes included (Photo by Jordan Revenaugh).

If you’re one of the many Americans who bought 52 eggs in one trip to the grocery store and now has no idea what to do with them, you’re in luck. You can make eggs in a variety of ways in order to prevent them from feeling repetitive, not to mention you can also use them in plenty of baking recipes as well, including breads, muffins and cakes. On their own, eggs can be scrambled, hard-boiled, fried or even made into a waffle for the more adventurous egg-eaters out there.

In order to transform your eggs from so-so to so-good, follow these simple steps.

First, whisk your eggs together in a bowl with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then, toss in your desired mix-ins as if you were making an omelette before pouring the mixture into a waffle maker sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. When the waffle maker tells you that your creation is ready, it should be. Remove your waffle-omelette hybrid from the waffle maker and place it on a plate alongside your favorite kind of toast.

If you’re going to buy an excess of anything, eggs aren’t a bad option due to their versatility. Although, as a word of advice for next time, maybe just buy a dozen eggs instead of clearing the shelf. The tendency to stock up on food right now is natural, but we all need to eat. We’re all going through this at the same time.

Chicken Tacos

If your quarantine activities are keeping you busy and you’re finding yourself short on time, it’s not a worry. Plenty of recipes, including this one, just take a little bit of prep work before ingredients are tossed into a crockpot. Throughout the day, the cooking does itself without any assistance from you.

In the morning, toss a few chicken breasts, a jar of your favorite salsa, a packet of taco seasoning and a splash of lime juice into a crock pot. Let the tacos cook on low throughout the day. When dinner time rolls around, remove the chicken from the crock pot and shred it before stuffing it into a tortilla or taco shell. 

From there, you can add on your favorite taco toppings, like guacamole, pico de gallo, lettuce or even more salsa (There’s no such thing as too much).

You can store any leftover meat in the freezer and reheat it for quick and easy leftovers.

Easy Muffins

Let’s be honest: A day is never complete until you’ve had dessert.

Especially during this time of stress and uncertainty, cravings for something sweet might be at an all time high, and that’s okay. We all deserve to have an extra cookie or a slice of cake as we maneuver through this unprecedented time. There are bigger things to worry about than how tight your jeans feel (Sweatpants are more comfortable, anyway).

Worrying about the fit of your clothes is a natural worry, as well, and it’s valid. If you find yourself reaching for that extra dessert and simultaneously worrying about popping a button on your jeans, this easy muffin recipe will alleviate both issues.

The recipe and method for these muffins is about as simple as it gets. For your ingredients, gather two cups of oats, two eggs, two bananas, half a cup of applesauce and a quarter cup of pure maple syrup or honey. Toss these ingredients in a blender and add one teaspoon of vanilla extract, one teaspoon of baking powder, a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Blend until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into a muffin tin sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Then, in order to add variety to your muffins, add on whatever toppings you like. Top some with blueberries, some chocolate chips, some cinnamon apples or some with your nut of choice. Bake them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees fahrenheit, and enjoy the flavor of your choosing.

The only thing better than these muffins is allowing yourself to give into your cravings once in a while. If you really want to stick your spoon in a tub of frosting, go for it. There’s no shame in that, and it takes less time than baking anyway.

About Jordan Revenaugh 54 Articles
Jordan Revenaugh is a junior from Rochester, Michigan. An aspiring journalist and author, she is a double major in psychology and English with a creative writing concentration. In addition to being Editor-in-Chief of the Pleiad, Jordan runs cross country and track, is a part of Delta Gamma and InterVarsity, and is a dedicated avocado enthusiast.

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