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Favorite Pantry Meals

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

It’s May, 2020 and the Coronavirus pandemic is ongoing with most everyone but essential workers sheltered in place. In these unprecedented times, families that are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work from home are cooking more than ever. My social media feed is filled with photos and videos of friends preparing family recipes.

Back in March, there was a wave of buying in bulk across the United States. In an effort to limit the number of trips to crowded grocery stores, many of us purchased days or weeks worth of food to stock our pantries full of non-perishable staples including pasta, rice, beans, canned goods and all types of bottled sauces. Even now, buying meat is a hit-or-miss proposition. One day the grocery store shelves are bare, another day there are a few staples like beef, turkey or chicken. The same is true for fresh produce. Wanting to avoid fruits and vegetables that may have been exposed to the virus by other customers’ touching or breathing, I’ve been buying fruits and vegetables that are either packaged or frozen. It’s not an ideal situation to be sure, but I weigh the pros and cons. I’m also thankful for the means and the access to good nutritious food at a time when many are suddenly unemployed and food banks struggle to keep up with demand.

Many of my own favorite comfort food recipes are influenced by the cultures and culinary traditions I’ve been fortunate enough to experience and learn. My family’s African-American Southern heritage. The Puerto Rican and Caribbean dishes I learned from friends during my years in New York. A few Italian recipes here and there. The Mexican and Asian influences from living in Los Angeles.

For years, I’ve been in the habit of spending one day over the weekend cooking for the upcoming week. As much as I enjoy cooking, I prefer to do it all in one swoop rather than have to figure out what to make for dinner every day. Little did I know that one day this way of cooking would serve me well during a global pandemic. Some of my favorite recipes are great for stretching my supply of meat and poultry. They can be easily made with packaged foods. A dash of some of my favorite spices keeps the meals interesting and flavorful. For the most part, they are high in protein and can be easily frozen and reheated.

Whether you’re sheltering in place or just starting to venture out of the home, these recipes are easy to make, and will make good use of the staples that you may likely have stored in your pantry.


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