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COLUMN: Easy-to-make dishes you can cook while quarantined


A pot of tomato pasta sits on a stove. Michelle Lie

I don't consider myself a cook while school was still face-to-face. Studying and going to late-night meetings   consumed most of my time and left me barely any time to buy food, much less cook my own meals. 

But now I'm stuck at home because of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

I Googled multiple recipes and found Gordon Ramsey’s beef wellington, sauteed pork chops and chocolate souffles. There would have been a lot of options for me to choose from under normal circumstances. However, because most of these ingredients are currently hard to find at a supermarket, it is next to impossible to make these dishes.

I am, and most of you are, restricted to the leftover ingredients in my cupboard. 

Not to worry because here are some recipes I found that are easy to make and can be created using very simple ingredients you probably already have in your home.

Fluffy flourless banana oat pancake

When classes were in session at IU, I tended to just eat toast and fruit for breakfast. Now, because I have more time to spare, pancakes are another easy, great option.

I’m not talking about old-fashioned pancakes, though. I’m talking about a banana oat pancakes recipe I found online

To make these, I used about four cups of rolled oats I bought a few months ago and mixed them with the other ingredients — two mashed bananas, two eggs, three teaspoons of baking powder, a half teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of cinnamon, two tablespoons of honey, two teaspoons of vanilla extract and two- and-a-half cups of milk. Where’s the flour? You don’t need it. 

For toppings, I would add chocolate chips or maple syrup because the pancakes would be incomplete without them!

This is a fluffy flourless pancake that is worth the taste and allows you to experiment with some different ingredients in your pantry.

Simple, classic tomato pasta

First, boil the pasta for about six to 10 minutes. While the pasta is boiling, chop half an onion to small pieces. Then add the chopped onion and two to three slices of bacon or ham into to a pan with olive oil, and stir until the bacon is crispy or the ham has crispy edges.

When the pasta is done, drain it and put it in a bowl. Then, add the cooked onion and bacon, followed by two fistfulls of spinach and five cherry tomatoes, and stir all the ingredients together for two to three minutes. After, add the tomato sauce, mix for another three minutes and enjoy.

During winter break, I spent $20 on a similar pasta dish at a restaurant. Now, I know I can make this gourmet-style meal in the comfort of my own home by just using items already found my kitchen

Asian stir-fry vegetables

For this dish, you can either use pre-chopped stir fry vegetables or make your own stir fry using the vegetables you have.

To stir fry vegetables, you need to chop up some your favorite vegetables — however much you feel matches your appetite —such as broccoli, carrots and cabbage, mix them into a heated pan with oil and cook them until the vegetables are at a consistency you like. Then, if you want to add something to the dish, chop up some tofu and cook until done. Finally, add about three tablespoons of sauce, such as ginger garlic, sesame oil or Szechuan sauce.

As a cooking newbie, I like this dish because even I can make it with my amateur skills.

Frothy creamy coffee

I love coffee. However, because there are restrictions on when and how Indiana restaurants can operate due to COVID-19, it isn’t always easy to fetch my favorite cappuccino. So I decided to make my own. 

The best part about this recipe is that there are only three ingredients: two tablespoons of instant coffee, sugar and hot water. After gathering the ingredients, put them into a small bowl and quickly whisk until the coffee has a frothy texture. 

Once you're done with the whisking, pour the mixture on top of a half a cup of milk, and enjoy this creamy, foamy coffee.

The bad part about this recipe was I had to vigorously stir for about 15 minutes and couldn’t feel my arm after finally making the right texture. The sort of good news: I didn’t have to work out after I finished the coffee. I definitely earned my calories for this dish. 

These are just a few of the easy recipes I found. Of course, there are dozens of other recipes that are budget and quarantine-friendly. I hope you find your inner cook like I did.

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