Recipe corner: meal planning during a pandemic
Recipes prepared by Allie Farley, M.S., R.D., L.D., registered dietitian at VCU Health. Visit Allie's blog on Diet and Nutrition for more recipes and information about the connection between diet and cancer survivorship.
Meal planning during a pandemic has added challenges but it does not have to be stressful or difficult. Concerns that may arise include food safety and access. Try to limit your trips to the grocery store and practice social distancing as best as possible while shopping. Bring sanitizing wipes with you to wipe down your cart or basket. Don’t touch your face and use hand sanitizer.
When purchasing fresh produce, bag items separately and wash them properly with water before consumption. When purchasing frozen, choose items without added seasoning or sauces. When purchasing canned, pick items that have no added salt or low sodium, as well as light syrup or no added sugar. Try to choose 100 percent whole grain when available for breads, rice and pasta. Choose lean meats, fresh or frozen. Purchase low fat dairy products. Some food items can be stored in the freezer to keep their freshness longer including produce, meats and bread. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a great resource on how to properly store produce. Click here to view. Also the CDC has a great resource on how to keep food safe. Click here to view. Try your best to keep yourself safe and healthy while shopping and preparing your food!
Don’t forget the CDC has set guidelines for all grocery stores and food establishments to follow in regards to keeping food safe. If you are sick, an individual at high risk or simply don't want to shop in public, take advantage of delivery options.
I am a big fan of meals that can be prepared in advance. My crockpot should probably live on the counter as much as my family and I use it throughout the week. This month, I wanted to share a few of our favorite meal prepped recipes. I used fresh vegetables with these recipes however, frozen would work just as well.
"Everything but the Kitchen Sink" Mini Quiche
This recipe can be prepared with any vegetable, cheese and/or protein of your choice. I like to make them in bulk then freeze for a quick and easy snack on a later date. They can be kept in the freezer for up to two months. Featured in this recipe, you will find three different mini quiche variations. Honestly, I think each time I have prepared this recipe I used different ingredients. It is all very dependent on what I have. You can use fresh or frozen items. Yields four dozen mini quiche.
- Egg Filling:
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup of milk (I used skim milk)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Vegetables, cheese or protein
- Crust: Pie crust of your choice. I used a flaky crust recipe, but any recipe or store bought crust would work. It only takes a small amount of crust for each mini quiche. Also I only used crust on half of them. Half of my mini quiches did not have crust only the egg mixture. All depends on what you prefer.
- Optional Ingredients/Variations:
- Southwestern Style Mini Quiche: For the southwestern mini quiche, I added diced avocado, canned Ro-Tel (diced tomatoes and green chilies) and shredded cheddar cheese. I then topped them with some salsa and sour cream.
- Orange Pepper Mini Quiche: For the orange pepper mini quiche, I simply added diced onions and orange peppers.
- Green Mini Quiche: For the green mini quiche, I sautéed diced collard greens with onions, mushrooms, minced garlic and olive oil. I then added the sautéed vegetables and shredded mozzarella cheese. Spinach in place of collard greens would have been great too!
Directions: For these mini quiches you will need a mini muffin tin. If you chose to use a pie crust you will start by preheating your oven as specified within the crust directions. Spray your tin with nonstick spray and fill with crust. Then pre-bake for about 15 minutes. Eliminate this first step if you choose not to use crust, however you will still want to use nonstick spray. To prepare the egg mixture beat together 6 eggs with 1 cup of milk, add salt and pepper for taste. Once crust is finished you will add approximately one tablespoon of egg mixture to each muffin tin. If you are not using crust you will add 1.5 tablespoons to each muffin tin. Once egg mixture is added you can add your optional vegetables, cheese or protein items to your liking. Try not to over fill them. Your oven will need to be set to 375 degrees to bake your egg mixture. Bake for 15 – 25 minutes or until mixture is set. Remove from the oven and let them cool. Quiche with crust can be removed once they have cooled for approximately 5 minutes. You may want to let the quiche without crust cool for approximately 10 minutes, to prevent them from sticking to the tin.
This recipe can be cut in half if you are preparing for a smaller amount of people or don’t plan on freezing extras. If you plan on freezing them let the quiche cool completely. Place them on a plate in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Once frozen you can then place them in a freezer storage bag or container for up to 2 months. For reheating frozen quiche set your oven to 375 degrees and bake for 8-10 minutes. Make sure you date your storage bag or container with the date you prepared the recipe, that way you can keep track of how long they have been frozen. Enjoy fresh or reheated!
This recipe is a family favorite. Very simple, inexpensive and can be enjoyed multiple ways!
- 1 sliced red bell pepper
- 1 sliced green bell pepper
- 1 sliced onion
- 1 can (14 ounces) of diced tomatoes and green chilies (Ro-Tel is what I typically use)
- 4 thinly sliced chicken breast
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper
- (You can use a taco seasoning packet, try to use a low sodium version.)
Directions: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice all your peppers and place them in a oven safe baking dish. Mix in the can of diced tomatoes with green chilies. Then top with thinly sliced chicken breast. Sprinkle your dish with seasoning. Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring once halfway through baking. Once chicken is fully cooked, remove from the oven and slice.
Crock Pot: Spray crockpot with nonstick spray. Add vegetables, top with chicken and seasoning. Now let your crock pot do all the work! Set on high for three hours or low for six hours. Once dish is finished, your chicken will fall apart easily and can be shredded in the crockpot.
Freezer Storage: Place all the ingredients in a freezer safe storage bag or dish, then label with the assembled date. Your meal can be stored in the freezer for up to two months and then placed either in the oven or crockpot to cook. You may need to increase your cook time to four hours on high and eight hours on low in the crockpot. Also increase your time in the oven to one hour.
Serve your cooked fajitas on tortillas or over rice. Feel free to add some of your favorite toppings such as sour cream, salsa, cilantro or avocado.
Vegetable Stir-fry Freezer Pack
This dish can go from freezer to skillet for a quick and easy meal!
- 1 yellow bell pepper diced
- 1 orange bell pepper dice
- 16 ounces broccoli florets
- 2 large carrots peeled and diced (or grated)
- 1 green onion diced
- 1 cup sugar snap peas
- Sauce (You can make your own or use a prepared stir-fry sauce, try to choose a low sodium option.)
- 3 cloves garlic and 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sriracha
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Directions: Prepare and combine all the vegetables in a gallon freezer bag. You can add raw shrimp, chicken or a protein of your choice if you would like. If you choose to only use the vegetables don’t add the sauce until you are ready to prepare this dish on the stove. If you decide to add meat toss it in the sauce and place that item in the bag first. This freezer pack can be left in the freezer for up to one month. Please make sure you label your freezer bag with the date it was assembled. When you are ready to prepare this dish heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until vegetables are tender or if you added a protein until it is thoroughly cooked. If you have not already added your sauce add to the mixture while it heats on the stove. Serve immediately and enjoy with brown rice or try an alternative such as cauliflower rice.
Black Bean Stuffed Peppers
This is a filling meal that can be prepared in advanced and cooked in the crockpot or oven.
- 6 bell peppers
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- 1, 14 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1, 14 ounce can refried beans
- 5 cups red enchilada sauce
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic salt
- 5 cups shredded pepperjack cheese
Directions: Cut the tops off of the peppers and remove the ribs and seeds. In a large bowl combine quinoa, beans, enchilada sauce, spices and one cup of shredded cheese. Mix until well combined. Fill each pepper with quinoa mixture. I have a large crock pot that can fit all six peppers. Some crock pots may only fit four. If your crockpot fits all six peppers put ¾ cup of water in the bottom before adding the peppers. If your crockpot only fits four peppers put a half cup of water in the bottom of your crockpot. Cover and cook on low for six hours or high for three hours. Remove lid and add remaining cheese over the tops of peppers then cover again until cheese is melted, about three to five minutes. Serve your stuffed peppers topped with cilantro, sour cream and garnish with a lime wedge.
If you want to prepare all six peppers and can’t fit them in your crockpot the additional ones can be put in a deep dish with water, cover with foil and place them in the oven. Cook the peppers at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. If you don’t prepare the peppers the same day they are made they can be kept in the fridge for a few days. Or you can freeze the uncooked stuffed peppers for up to two months in a freezer safe bag or container. Freezer peppers may take extra time in the crock pot (four hours on high and eight hours on low) and/or the oven (one hour and 15 minutes at 400 degrees). Be sure to label your freezer safe packaging with the assembled date. If you want to add an animal protein in place of the refried beans you can try ground chicken or spicy ground sausage.