Bread starter kit

Quarantine Kitchen Tips from a Plant-Based Dietitian

By: Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

With nearly all of us spending more time at home this year, we find ourselves with extra foot traffic in our kitchens and new norms around eating. It may also mean that not only is our food routine different than it was before, but it may continue to look a little different for the foreseeable future. This grants us a unique opportunity to brush up on cooking skills with a fresh look at some new food ideas.

Get Comfortable with Non-Dairy Sauces

Whoever said creamy is synonymous with dairy? Plant-centric ingredients get the job done, too! And sometimes with even better versatility and richness. Non-dairy sauces usually rely on shelf-stable ingredients which eases the burden of your weekly trips (okay maybe now it’s every other week with Pickup!) to the grocery store. Alfredo sauces, 3-ingredient béchamel white sauce or vegan nacho cheese sauce are full of “cheesy” goodness that won’t make you miss dairy.

How About Egg Alternatives?

The term “aquafaba” (directly translated to “bean water”) hit airwaves around mid-2015 and lit up many health and food publications as a way to add fluffiness and leavening to desserts and other dishes alike without the cholesterol. Aquafaba is the protein-rich liquid from a can of beans (preferably garbanzo beans). The formal introduction of aquafaba was a sort of dawning of a new era in egg substitutes. Since then, egg alternatives have picked up more steam and you can find ways to use everything from flaxseed to avocado to banana to chia seed in place of eggs for a recipe.

Become Bread-ucated

Browse social media channels during the coronavirus pandemic and you might catch some excitement around sourdough starter kits, the surging sales of active yeast, or the emergence of unique bread flours. Much of this stems from a temporary lag in supply of prepared bread loaves when shoppers scurried to supermarkets to load up on food staples once news broke about the virus in the U.S. But bread-making is a great activity no matter what’s going on in the world!

It’s time to dust off that bread machine and try some bread recipes from the comfort of your home. Here are a few of our favorites: rye bread, whole-wheat sourdough bread and, appealing to everyone’s secret hope that bananas will go “bad” quickly, banana bread.

The Spice of Life is Sodium-Free

Controlling sodium intake is a big deal when it comes to taking care of our health and preventing or treating chronic disease. Salt is a popular flavor enhancer in foods, but thank goodness there’s plenty of savory flavor to be unlocked from herbs and spices instead. We’re guessing you have more dry herbs and spices than you know what to do with. While you have extra time at home, experiment with new mixtures to replace the common seasoning blends that usually contain salt. Try out these top substitutes: taco seasoning mix, fajita seasoning, Cajun seasoning or an all-purpose salt-free seasoning blend. Get to know the taste that certain herbs and spices impart on foods: did you know dill and parsley are a winning combo for ranch-inspired cold dishes? Or how about smoked paprika instead of adding extra soy sauce or BBQ sauce to meat analogs for a subtle but savory “burnt” taste? Or how about sprinkling oregano on basically anything you want to turn immediately into an Italian-tasting dish?

Top Ten List

Find ten easy recipes that you know you can quickly turn to for meals most often, especially when life gets back to being a little busier. Try printing out a list of these meals and sticking them on the fridge. You’ll find you’ll eventually have them memorized. We’re talking super-simple meal starters like easy falafel patties, pizza bagels, French toast, easy Thai noodles or a taco bowl (feel free to sub canned beans for lentils to shave off 20 minutes on prep in this last one). Keep many of the canned and dry ingredients for these recipes on hand so you’re not scrambling to put it together come meal time.