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What to Eat During Social Distancing

So I know that everyone’s stressed out. We’re having to provide more meals than we’re used to. Our kids have fewer outlets for all their pent up energy. 

And to top it off, we’re having to figure out this homeschooling thing while many of us are working from home for the first time ever.

First, some tips

Consider making two small casseroles and split them into two separate meals. You could alter what you eat with them as well, in order to make two different meals.

  • An easy way to get in your produce when you have limited shopping availability is to purchase fresh, frozen, and canned versions.

Start the week with fresh, then switch over to frozen and canned later in the week.  

Use frozen fruit to make smoothies for breakfast or let them thaw to make Greek yogurt fruit parfaits for breakfast or snacks.  Canned beans and veggies do well in casseroles.

Frozen veggies taste best when allowed to thaw completely before cooking.

  • Host a “Chopped” style competition at home. Give each family member a meal and allow them to come up with a new dish for whatever meal they are assigned.

Have an open mind, especially when the kiddos are competing!

  • Embrace prepared meals either frozen or prepped by the store. 

In many ways, we have even less time to prepare meals. We have to teach our kids, work, entertain the kids, fit in physical activity, and keep the house clean (made even more difficult since EVERYONE is home!).   

Some days, a frozen veggie lasagna with a bagged side salad is the fanciest you’re going to get. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that!  If you can, look for lower-sodium versions.

For further simple ideas, continue reading. Suggestions are divided into sections based on an easy vegetarian protein source.

Beans and Lentils are versatile and full of protein and fiber

Beans

  • Quesadillas
    • whole-wheat flour tortilla, cheese of your choice (we usually use the bagged Mexican blend), black beans.  Leave plain, or season beans with cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground chili, and salt and pepper.
  • Nachos
    • layer corn chips on a baking sheet, top with beans, cheese, peppers, onions. Any veggies you have on hand would work. I actually really like sliced radishes on nachos.
  • Vegetarian chili
    • 2-3 cans of beans (I like black and kidney beans), onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, cocoa powder (trust me!) and veggie broth.  Sweet potatoes, zucchini, or chayote squash make yummy additions to up your vegetable intake! Top with Greek yogurt for another protein boost. Serve with cornbread or crackers.
  • Black Bean Soup
    • super similar to the chili.  Add a bay leaf, tomato paste, and rosemary for a nice difference. Blend half the soup to a smooth consistency and return to the pot. Serve with cilantro and sliced avocado.
  • Stuffed peppers
    • Hollow out bell peppers. Stuff with cooked brown rice (or quinoa), canned diced tomatoes, beans, and whatever seasonings you want. Again, I would use garlic, onion, cumin, and chili powder.
  • Chickpea Shakshuka
    • Saute diced onions, garlic,  and red bell peppers. Add a 28oz can of pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, cumin, and chili powder.  Add 1 can chickpeas and simmer 2-3 minutes.  Crack an egg on top (per person) if you wish, to your desired doneness.
  • Edamame Soba Noodle Salad
    • Saute onions. Add mushrooms and continue to cook. Mix cooked soba noodles, edamame, mushroom mixture, and baby spinach. Drizzle with a mix of soy sauce and lemon juice.
  • Stir fry
    • Use edamame as a sub for other protein sources. You can make an entire stir fry easily using only frozen foods! For an easy sauce, combine soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Add at the end of the cooking time, combine well to coat veggies with sauce.  Serve over rice or noodles. Top with pepper flakes for some spice.
Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Quinoa

  • Casserole
    • Mix cooked quinoa, raw broccoli, cubed potatoes, and sliced red bell pepper. Cook in a 375-degree oven, until potatoes are soft. Top with cheese and broil until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.
  • Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
    • Saute diced onion and minced garlic. Add 1 can crushed tomatoes and simmer until slightly thickened. Add cooked quinoa. In a separate bowl whisk together red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, and salt.  Whisking continuously, gradually add olive oil until an emulsion forms.
    • To serve, line a bowl with romaine lettuce. Add quinoa mixture. Top with sliced olives, diced cucumber, and feta. Drizzle with dressing.
  • Quinoa Fried “Rice”
    • use your favorite fried rice recipe, but sub with quinoa for added protein.
  • Quinoa patties, “meat” balls, and “meat” loaves. 
    • Do a quick search for recipes. In order for these to form, you need pretty precise measurements. But there are many, many great recipes available online.  Consider my Pinterest Profile for some inspiration.
Tempeh skewers on grey marbled backdrop. Good source of vegetarian protein
Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Tempeh

  • Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie
  • Barbecue Tempeh
  • “TLT”
    • Tempeh, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwich. This is particularly good with LightLife’s Smoky Tempeh Strips.
  • Tempeh and Broccoli Stir fry
    • Cut tempeh into cubes or triangles. Brown in a hot oiled pan. Add chopped broccoli, minced garlic, and jarred teriyaki sauce. Simmer ~10 minutes.  Serve with quinoa or brown rice.
  • Tacos/nachos
    • Use crumbled tempeh in place of ground beef.
Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

Tofu

  • Breakfast tacos
    • Replace eggs with crumbled firm tofu. Season with turmeric (for color), salt, pepper, smoked paprika garlic powder, and onion powder. Serve on a flour tortilla with cooked, diced potatoes, or go exotic and use jarred cactus strips (nopales).
  • Seared tofu
    • Slice pressed tofu into strips and coat with olive oil and your preferred spices.  Cook in hot pan until seared on all sides. Serve with your choice of veggies and whole grain.
  • Baked tofu “nuggets”
    • Cut pressed tofu into cubes.  season panko bread crumbs, parmesan is a good addition here. Dip tofu into an egg wash, then bread crumbs. Cook in the oven at 350 until crispy. Serve with oven sweet potato fries and apple slices.

When buying tofu, look to see if you can find the high protein tofu. It’s not available everywhere, but worth it when you can find it. I like the texture a lot better, and you usually don’t even have to press the tofu!  I’ve seen high protein tofu at Whole Foods and at Trader Joe’s.

Greek yogurt

  • Parfait
    • Plain Greek yogurt with fruit (great use for those frozen fruits) and sliced almonds or sugar-free granola.
  • Smoothies
    • Use plain Greek yogurt in your smoothies to boost the protein and make a creamy texture. 
  • Replace sour cream
    • In soups, on baked potatoes, or on tacos.
  • Make a dip
    • Add taco sauce to plain Greek yogurt for a yummy veggie dip.
    • Mix with a bit of honey and peanut butter for an awesome fruit dip.

Egg

  • Scrambled eggs
  • Omelets for dinner, stuffed full of veggies and cheese.
    • If you’re feeling brave you can let everyone choose their own toppings.
  • Make-ahead breakfast casserole.
    • compress tator tots or hashbrown in the bottom of a baking dish. Add scrambled eggs. Sprinkle with lots of veggies and vegetarian sausage. Bake at 350 until eggs are cooked.  In the morning heat in the oven, add cheese to on top and broil until bubbly.
  • For an easy lunch or snack
    • Top toast with avocado and then an over-easy (or over-medium) egg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Top an easy pasta dish with a fried egg. 
almond in white bag on white background. good source of vegetarian protein
Photo by Ignacio F. on Unsplash

Nuts and Seeds

  • Buy flavored, or make your own. These are an excellent snack!
  • Toast some pine nuts and sprinkle on a pasta dish.
  • Use almond or peanut butter in your smoothies.
  • Dip fruit in almond or peanut butter to add protein and healthy fat to keep you going.
Mock chicken in my Roasted Vegetables with Gnocchi recipe

Meat Analogs

These aren’t my favorite things to eat regularly, but they are readily available in most grocery stores, they keep for a long time in the freezer, and are super easy to cook.

Add veggie crumbles to pasta sauce, casseroles, or make meatballs.

Gardein makes a large vegan line and we’ve used those products to eat with a stir fry. They have sweet and sour “pork” and orange “chicken” that are both pretty good. Meaning they impressed my husband.

They also have “chicken” strips, “beef” tips, sliders, meatballs, even “fish” filets. I recently saw some meals at a store recently. Everything in one bag!

What are you eating?

Luckily, the vegetarian options and the fresh and frozen produce seemed to be relatively untouched at my recent trip to the grocery store so eating relatively healthy isn’t quite as hard as I thought it would be!

Please continue (or start) to follow recommendations to stay at home, aka social distancing. Order grocery items ahead of time if you can and buy enough to get your through longer than usual, if possible.

The more we are strict with this now, the less time we all have to do it!

And for the love of all that is good, quite stockpiling toilet paper. You know who you are…

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