Prepping for quarantine: recipes for the freezer, recipes from the pantry, and social distancing without social isolation

From Monday, I’m going to be working mostly from home. We’re not sick and we haven’t been anywhere particularly high risk, but at this point, I think the most useful thing someone like me can do is avoid being out in public as much as possible, so that there is one fewer person wandering around potentially getting infected and spreading contagion. I know not everyone is in a position to do this, but if those of us who are, do, that reduces the risk to those who can’t (because they come into contact with fewer people), which in turn helps slow the spread of infection and will hopefully prevent our medical and other systems from being overwhelmed.

I’m also getting prepared for the possibility that one or both of us will get sick and be really, truly quarantined for two or more weeks. We have plenty of food (and toilet paper!) in the house, and our weekly farm box delivery, as well as access to other delivered grocery and household items, but I’m going through the freezer to catalogue what is there and rotate out the old stuff, and this weekend, I’ve been cooking large batches of a few things that will either be full meals if we are sick or will make full meals easier, or that can be delivered to someone who is in quarantine.

I thought it might be useful to put links here to some of the things I’ve made or am planning to make, as well as a few really basic recipes that can be put together from the pantry or from the freezer. This is for me as well as for you – when I’m sick, I might be able to cook, but making decisions about what to cook is just too hard.

The other thing I’m thinking about, though, is how to make sure that social distancing doesn’t equate to social isolation. I live with my husband, and a lot of my social interactions are online anyway, but a lot of people I know are going to have far fewer connections. I’m thinking about ways to make sure I’m checking in with those friends who live alone regularly, and I’m also thinking about ways to have social gatherings online. We’ve already planned one Skype dinner party with a friend – we’ll drop off food on her doorstep and collect the tomatoes she has grown in her garden that she was planning to bring over, and then we will drive home and Skype over dinner (probably after dinner, actually – more practical). I’m wondering if Skype choir is feasible or whether there would be time lag issues, and I’m definitely considering reviving the Shakespeare table readings over Skype – I suspect that would actually work pretty well (and might even allow us to include some of our friends who are now overseas).

Connection is important, especially at times when we are all anxious, and we are lucky to live in a world where there are tools to connect with others even if we are all staying at home in our own houses.

I hope you and yours are well, and remain so. And if you have any brilliant recipes for the freezer or for days when you find it hard to cook, please come by and link to them in the comments!

Ten Meals for the Freezer

Three Meal helpers that freeze well:

  • Roast garlic – I’ve been buying kilos of garlic, roasting the lot, then freezing it in ice cube trays and putting the results in a plastic bag in the freezer – so I have tablespoon portions of roast garlic ready to go. And I’ve been using it for everything.
  • Bechamel sauce (I’m planning to make a huge batch of this so that I can have instant cheesy pasta bakes with whatever vegetables come in the veggie box) (Recipe has Vegan and GF variations)
  • Stewed fruit – I don’t really have a recipe for this, but halved stonefruit or peeled and chopped apples or pears or quinces, a small amount of sugar, and an even smaller amount of water, cooked on a low heat until nice and soft, freezes well and is lovely as the base of a crumble or with yoghurt for breakfast.

Six basic recipes from the pantry and freezer

  • Pasta with tomatoes and chickpeas: for 3 people, sauté an onion or a tablespoon or two of roast garlic in olive oil with half a teaspoon of chilli flakes, and half a teaspoon of dried rosemary or oregano, add a tin of tomatoes and a tin of drained chickpeas, and cook for about ten minutes so the flavours can blend. Stir through pasta and serve with or without parmesan.
  • Pasta bake: 1 – 1 1/2s cup of cheesy bechamel sauce or passata, 200-300g pasta (dry amount – cook til al dente), 2 cups tinned, frozen or fresh vegetables or fish or poached chicken or both (anything not too watery and with a reasonably fast cooking time works here; leftover roasted vegetables or cooked or marinated vegetables are also great; a handful of bocconcini is nice if you are using passata for your sauce) – stir together, top with grated cheese, breadcrumbs, or a mixture of both, bake at 180°C until heated through and golden on top – about 30 -45 minutes.
  • Baked rice – this isn’t something I tend to do, but there are great recipes from Diana Henry, or Donna Hay that can easily be adapted to any flavour profile (Hay’s recipe is really just plain cheesy risotto – you could add a cup of cooked or frozen vegetables pretty easily without changing its simplicity – peas would be good and give you protein, or a mix of peas and cauliflower would be nice)
  • This oven dal recipe from Recipe Wisdom would be a fantastic and nutritious choice if you are sick and don’t have much energy for cooking – if you use ginger from a tube (Woollies has a lot of herbs and spices in tubes), and swap out the garlic for your pre-prepared roast garlic, then about all your kitchen prep is slicing an onion and measuring out some rice and spices.
  • Easiest chilli: chop 1 onion, sauté in olive oil until soft, then add 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp oregano and 1/2 tsp chilli (or more of any of these to taste – if you have a chilli seasoning, just add that). Add a tin of chopped tomatoes, and a drained tin of red kidney beans or black beans, and mash together a bit. Let simmer for a few minutes, and serve with rice, corn bread or corn chips (or over a baked sweet potato with guacamole if you have the ingredients to hand), as the basis for a nacho salad, or however you prefer to serve chilli.
  • Fruit crumble: Stewed or tinned fruit, with a basic crumble topping, and bake I have half a dozen crumble recipes on this site (including several gluten-free ones), but my two standards are the nice, filling oaty crumble topping which I make in a saucepan and is good for heavier/wintry fruits, and the lighter almond meal topping which is great for stone fruits, berries and rhubarb. I find both pretty comforting when I’m sick, and crumble topping freezes well, so I plan to make some in advance.

Six Fast / Simple recipes that require some fresh ingredients

  • Cheesy toast with vegetables
  • Tuna and Bean Salad
  • Roast vegetable soup (this is still a good base recipe for any root vegetable – add spices or herbs to your liking. And use stock from a packet if you don’t have time/energy to make your own, though I promise it isn’t hard.) (Vegan, GF, nut-free & freezes well)
  • Super easy tomato soup (Vegan, GF, nut-free & freezes well)
  • Diana Henry’s Greek Baked Beans (Vegan without the feta, GF, nut-free & freezes well)
  • Tessa Kiros’s Youvetsi (I often add a chopped, baked eggplant for a bit more veg content) (Nut-free, can be frozen before you add the risoni)

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