Chicago is a food lover’s town. During this time spent sheltering in place, it can be hard to find joy in your kitchen after eating your own cooking for so many weeks, especially if you're on a tight budget. If you’re looking at a fridge or pantry with no idea what to make for dinner, here are some ideas for feel good recipes that make the most out of what you have. As part of See Chicago Dance's ongoing Dance Health Month—a series of workshops and resources focused on holistic health in the dance industry while quarantining—we're delighted to bring you the first of two recipe round-ups:
From the Loar Family Archives: Mushroom “Beef” Stew
This beef stew recipe was adapted from my grandmother’s 1960s Better Homes & Gardens magazine. I've swapped mushrooms for meat as a hearty vegetarian alternative. Not a mushroom fan? Use the two pounds of beef the original BH&G recipe calls for, or cook with turkey or chicken instead. If you’re on a plant-based diet, add potatoes, yams or any other root vegetable you have lying around for a comforting vegetable stew.
- 1-2 packages mushrooms (or as many as you have), any kind
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, canola oil or butter, for sauteeing
- 1Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 bay leaves, whole
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp paprika
- Dash of allspice
- 6 C. water, vegetable broth, chicken or beef stock
- 1 bag baby carrots (or 2 large carrots, peeled), roughly chopped
- 1 C. peas (fresh or frozen)
Dumplings (optional): I use this recipe for homemade dumplings, or you can use good ol’ Bisquick instead. You can swap for dairy alternatives in most dumpling recipes as a vegan option.
After washing mushrooms using the method of your choice (I rinse mine, but some prefer to pat clean with a damp paper towel), separate caps from stems. Half or quarter the mushroom caps, and dice the stems.
In the cooking oil of your choosing, sauté mushroom caps and stems in a large pot with a little salt and pepper, to taste, over medium heat until they release their moisture. Optional additions include just about any seasonings you have in your pantry (I like oregano). Add 1 tsp or so of flour, and stir for 1 minute. Add lemon juice, Worcestershire, garlic, onion, bay leaves, salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, allspice, and water, broth, or stock. Let simmer for 1-½ hours, stirring occasionally.
After approximately an hour, hunt down those bay leaves and pull them out, or you can leave them in for an exciting scavenger hunt upon serving!
Add carrots (chop ‘em however you like).
Combine all the ingredients for the dumplings, making sure they’re able to hold a shape, but still drop from your spoon. Add peas, then drop in the dumplings (should make about 4-5)
Leave the stew covered for 10 minutes, then serve! This stew freezes well; make sure to remove any leftover dumplings (those don’t keep).
You Too Can Eat Gravy 3 Times a Week
Gravy has been a life saver for me during this time, helping me view my time at home the same way I would think of holidays like Thanksgiving—warm and fuzzy and full of comfort foods.
Making homemade gravy starts by saving drippings and fat. Maybe you’ve noticed the can of bacon fat your grandparents keep on the kitchen counter? Now’s the time to adopt that same habit. Bacon fat, chicken schmaltz, and turkey drippings are all great things to have on hand for savory, old-fashioned comfort cooking. If meat isn’t part of your diet, butter, vegan margarine or olive oil are all great alternatives for making gravy.
- My favorite mushroom gravy recipe is here, adding an additional teaspoon of dried sage. No mushrooms? No problem! Leave ‘em out entirely, without ruining the recipe.
- For a great vegan gravy recipe, try this one that has just five ingredients.
Beans, beans, and more beans!
Making a large pot of black beans from scratch is a fantastic way to keep yourself happy and healthy on a budget, while using up any floppy, wilted produce hiding in your refrigerator. Follow this recipe for velvety frijoles negros (Cuban Black Beans). If you don’t have any ham hocks on hand, I use a healthy spoonful of bacon fat or schmaltz. Add a poblano pepper and 2-3 diced jalapeños.
In my family, Shepherd’s Pie is normally reserved for just after Thanksgiving. Shepherd’s Pie is thrifty, versatile and fulfilling. It’s a good opportunity to use that gravy you just learned how to make, and an impressive dish that doesn’t require too many advanced skills. Here are some of my favorite Shepard’s Pie recipes:
- Traditional Shepherd’s Pie, made with ground beef or lamb
- Chicken Shepherd’s Pot Pie
- Plant-Powered Butternut Squash Shepherd’s Pie (Vegan, Gluten-Free)
- Another Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potatoes
When in doubt, blend it, roast it, pickle it, or toss it in a soup
Even if something looks beyond reproach, if it doesn’t have mold, don’t throw it out! Wrinkly peppers and tomatoes, floppy carrots, wilted herbs—if you have some less than perfect items around, they can easily be given a new life with sauces, salsas, soups, and smoothies. Even better news: in most cases, ingredients for sauces and smoothies can easily be swapped out for each other with fantastic results. Here’s a big list of some of my favorite last-ditch efforts to use everything I have in my kitchen:
- Green Pea Hummus: It’s hummus, but with peas. And it’s amazing.
- Kale Chimichurri: With endless substitutions possible, chimichurri tastes good on just about everything and utilizes any sad, leafy greens you’ve been trying to ignore.
- Coconut Curry: Five ingredients, endless possibilities. This is a good beginner’s recipe.
- Vegan Aquafaba Mayo: Not only is this delicious—because, mayonnaise—there are endless possibilities available once you’ve discovered aquafaba, the frothy water leftover in your chickpea can.
- Root Vegetable Mash: Roast root veggies, mash them and add butter. Yum.
- Check out this handy Roasting Guide
- Quick Fridge Pickled Vegetables: It’s like a slaw, but better.
- Homemade Vegetable Broth: The best way to get rid of any odds and ends you’ve been hoarding, or to use any veggies that are just a little too old to eat.
- Lemony Lentil Soup: Take the vegetable broth you just made, and make lentil soup!
- Chicken Noodle Soup from Scratch: All the way from scratch.
- Roasted Red Pepper and Cauliflower Soup: This soup makes a great pasta sauce, too.
- Another great Roasted Red Pepper pasta sauce recipe
- Quick Roasted Salsa: homemade salsa is the best salsa.
- Killer Vegan Chili: An everything-you’ve-got veggie chili recipe.
- Zero-waste Pesto: Pesto, four ways!
As part of this week's focus on financial health, The Actors Fund presents "Strategies for Managing Your Finances and Career During the Pandemic" Tuesday, May 19, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Guest speakers include Rebecca Selkowe, who runs the Fund's financial wellness program, and career counselor Patricia "Patch" Schwadron. Visit the event page below to register for this free event and receive the Zoom meeting ID and password.
See Chicago Dance is still writing! Our editorial team continues to preview digital events and highlight the creative ways the dance industry is pivoting without the possibility of live performances. Don't forget to enter your events and classes in the SCD calendar, and let us know what you're up to.
Read more from our Dance Health Month series:
From Jordan Kunkel:
- Advice from Chicago's dance/movement therapists on how to cope with trauma and uncertainty offers exercises and tips for finding balance during the pandemic.
From Emily Loar:
- Five ways to connect without going online presents strategies to stay in touch with family and friends while avoiding digital fatigue.
- Five ways to up your cross-training game at home—or not explores online and IRL methods for keeping up strength and stamina while sheltering in place.