Quarantine Cooking: Being a DJ.

When you can’t leave the house, you have to get creative when it comes to cooking. There is a trend of people continually leaving the house to get specific ingredients to make certain meals as an excuse. If you’re out of marinara, use ketchup. Now, this is quite extreme, but we need to figure out substitutions to stay in the house. I have always been good at cooking by looking at what I have in my fridge. It is as if I am a DJ in a nightclub called “My Kitchen.” But, most of us don’t know how to improvise. Here are some ways to think about how to maximize your food.

One major thing you can do is to evaluate the bases of your meals such as rice, noodles, potatoes, bread, and tortillas. Did you know if you have a hunk of cheese and a stale loaf of bread, you can make soup? All you have to do is to boil ripped up bread in hot water for a while then add cheese. The point being is that you can make any meal using these bases from sandwiches, soups, stir-fries, tacos, etc. Say if you have grilled chicken, butter and noodles, then this makes a meal. Or, if you have ingredients such as chicken, spinach, and bread, you can make a sandwich.

Then you have your spices and condiments. Add any of these to the bases of the meal to enhance flavor. If you want to make pad thai sauce, use peanut butter, bbq sauce, lime juice, and regular hot sauce to create a great stir fry sauce. It doesn’t need to be exactly like what you get on the streets of Thailand, but it makes for a good time. Frying rice in soy sauce make fried rice. A cup of milk, a few eggs, cinnamon, and sugar can make French toast. You can even use ramen noodles and marinara to make a poor man’s spaghetti.

Once, a recipe called for ginger, and I didn’t have any. So, cinnamon was my next best option, and I discovered that it was still enjoyable. I’ve used almond milk for pancakes on many occasions as a substitute, and it still tastes great. Once, I took parmesan cheese and mixed it with half and half, garlic, and mozzarella to make a pasta sauce.

If your spinach and fruits are going bad, then blend it all up into a smoothie. Or, you can pickle a lot of your vegetables before they expire, making them last longer. Everyone should have a gallon of vinegar below their sink, and now under lockdown, we have an excuse to use it.

Deglazing is one of my favorite methods of cooking meat. If you have a low cut piece of meat, take some chicken stock and pour it all over the meat before it is done cooking. This method will enhance flavor to the point where you can take a five-dollar steak and make it taste as if you got it from a steakhouse.

I can survive off of many combinations of protein, rice, and pickles. I’ve used sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and anything pickled to make simple meals. If I want to get fancy, then I will add a fried egg on top.

Use your spices and sauces and marinate your meats in any creative fashion. Brown sugar, hot chilis, and soy sauce can make a very delicious marinade for your pork.

If you have a can of coconut milk, you can make coconut rices. Then stir fry vegetables and toss some spicy meat on there. Add a fried egg to be fancy. Everything is better with a fried egg.

In college, I was out of marinara, so I boiled some tomatoes that were going bad, smashed them up, added herbs and spices, and a little chicken broth, and then I had a substitute for marinara.

Just be creative.

I made hamburgers using English muffins, and it was unbelievable. It is simple as using olive oil, salt, and pepper to add to mixed greens to make a salad. Add lemon to be fancy. Got raisins too? Throw that in there.

This lockdown is a time to get creative with our cooking. There is no need to go to the grocery store until we are 100% out of food. Be a DJ cook and make stuff up by mixing and matching ingredients through using some improvisation.  All you need to remember is to use a base, meat, and a vegetable to create any weird combination of a meal.

Use all of your supplies and stay home. There is no need to make cupcakes. Stay safe, everyone.


“The Zos Knows”

-David Zosel 

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