Being at home and temporarily not able to go to work, I’ve had some extra time on my hands. So naturally, I have turned to cooking — and more cooking. I don’t have younger kids and my heart goes out to those parents trying to work at home while homeschooling and entertaining the kids as well as preparing meals.

My own son is home from college, and that’s been a great opportunity to cook together, and for him to keep building his culinary skills. Last night we made peanut noodles together; he made the peanut dressing and I cut up the veggies. Dinner came together in half the time. I’ve also taken on a few special cooking projects with this extra time, and I’ve spent some time mail-ordering from online sources to make sure my pantry is well-stocked. 

As I’ve been adjusting to more pantry cooking, I’ve been thinking of some tips and recipes I could pass along to you.


Tips for Stuck-at-Home Cooking

Cook dried beans and freeze in small batches. Beans cooked from scratch really do taste better than canned beans. (Sorry!) I like to make a big batch and then divide the beans into small containers to freeze. I use the beans for soups, tacos, veggie burgers, and salads. This week I pulled out chickpeas and made a pantry meal from the new cookbook I recently bought called Cool Beans, thanks to reading about it on Cook the Vineyard!  The recipe called for spaghetti with beans, greens, and lemony breadcrumbs – all of which I had on hand, or on hand employing minor substitutions. Beans are a powerhouse of nutrients and protein, yet they’re so cheap. And we might all need to be saving money pretty soon. 

The method: Soak beans overnight. Toss out soaking water. Fill a stockpot with fresh water covering the beans by several inches. Add a bay leaf and lightly smashed garlic clove to each pot, or a dried chipotle or other pepper for black or pinto beans. Boil, then simmer partially covered until tender. When cooling, add salt to taste. I usually freeze beans in a variety of different-sized containers with water they are cooked in which seems to prevent freezer burn. I later defrost and strain.

Use time at home to place online orders for specialty items. In my spare time, I ordered some foods online. Usually I just think of this, but then I never seem to have time to execute. I ordered beans: black beans for rice and beans; pinto beans for tacos and other Mexican dishes; and white beans, which come in handy in so many dishes. I ordered from Rancho Gordo, which has a great reputation for shipping dried beans less than a year old. This makes a huge difference in cooking, texture, and flavor. A funny side note: Apparently the bean idea hit others, too. I got a note from Rancho Gordo staff saying my order would be delayed by maybe two weeks. “Normally this would be unacceptable service from us,” the note read, “but the response to the coronavirus has overwhelmed us with orders and inquiries.” I just heard from a friend that Baer’s Beans in Maine is also a good source.

Don’t forget about Island products. I’ve been thinking of pantry foods that pack a nutritional punch, so I ordered some dried wild shiitakes from our own MV Mycological mushroom growers in Chilmark. Usually, I buy a bag of their dried shiitakes at the West Tisbury Farmer’s Market, but I’ve run out and the market is months away from opening. These are by far some of the best dried mushrooms around. And shiitakes are known for their immune-boosting properties. I’ve been slurping homemade chicken stock with these shiitakes and some thin egg noodles for comfort and recovery. Try making a miso soup with the dried shiitakes and any leftover veggies in fridge. That’s another nutrient-dense, but easy pantry dish. A minimum order online is four bags, so perhaps split the order with a friend.

When you’re ready to get out, Morning Glory Farm has eggs on the porch of their farm stand. The Grey Barn farm stand is open with plenty of meat and cheese and daily bread, and they’re providing full service to customers one at a time per the Board of Health. Mermaid Farm and North Tabor Farm are stocked as of this writing, and Ghost Island Farm is open on the weekends with a new system as well.


Recipes for Stuck-at-Home Cooking

Here are some of my favorite recipes for cooking from the pantry. For moms, here’s an easy Classic Tomato Soup that’s perfect for kids at home. This Carrot-Ginger Soup is a winner, too. To use those chickpeas, here’s a Chickpea Burger that’s like falafel but it isn’t fried. And you can make a great yogurt sauce to go with it with Mermaid Farm (or any) yogurt. And of course, those peanut noodles! Here’s the recipe for my Asian Peanut Noodle and Kale Salad from my book, Kale, Glorious Kale.