Easy pantry meals while we’re all staying at home

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that to help slow and prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus, people should stay home as much as possible and take precautionary measures. Gov. Jared Polis has issued a ‘stay-at-home’ order fall Coloradoans, and non-essential CSU employees have been working remotely since mid-March. 

 The CDC also recommends having a two-week supply of food, medications, and other essential items to help limit grocery store trips and to prepare for isolation and sickness. For you, this might mean cooking at home more often and relying on ingredients you have on hand, which can feel stressful. Foods you routinely buy might be out of stoc kat the grocery store, leaving you feeling confused about what to make for meals.  

 Here are some easy pantry meals that you can make with the foods you might have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. 

 Clean-Out-The-Crisper Tacos  

 If your fresh produce is running near its expiration, or if you have leftover nubs and ends from meals earlier in the week (onion, tomato, spinach, potatoes, kale, carrots, cabbage), consider throwing them together for flavorful tacos. Heat a little bit of oil in a pan, sauté sturdier vegetables first (onion, carrot, cabbage, potatoes, etc.), then add more delicate vegetables toward the end (tomatoes, spinach, kale, zucchini, etc.). If you have canned beans and/or canned diced tomatoes on hand, add a scoop of those. Cook until just softened. Season with a blend of spices, like a few pinches of cumin, chili powder, oregano, onion powder, and garlic powder. Serve in warmed tortillas with any garnishes you have on hand: avocado, sour cream, cheese, cilantro, chopped onions, salsa.  

 5-Minute Pasta Sauce  

 All you need to make a homemade pasta sauce is a can of crushed or whole peeled tomatoes, oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Optional add-ins include chili flakes, basil, Italian spice blend, and lemon zest. Sauté some minced garlic on medium-low heat in a little bit of oil for about 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. If you are using chili flakes and or basil (fresh or ground) add in to the tomatoes. Stir the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. If using lemon zest, add after 5 minutes and cook for 1 more minute. 

 Any Bean Chili  

 To make chili, use any type of canned bean you have in your pantry. Lentils, quinoa, and other grains can be used to supplement beans. If you have onion and garlic, start by sautéing those in a pot with some oil. Add fresh or frozen chiles or peppers if you have them. Drain and rinse your beans and add to the pot. Add in stock and/or any canned tomatoes you have (diced, fire roasted, crushed, whole peeled) to cover the beans. Use a blend of whatever seasonings you have: cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper.  

 Egg Fried Rice  

 All you need are some eggs, rice, and veggies of any kind (frozen, fresh, or canned) to make this meal. Cook the rice according to the package directions or use leftover rice. Substitute any grain you have if you don’t have rice. Once the rice has cooked, add oil to a pan and sauté the veggies. Cook the veggies for 4-5 minutes and then add the rice. Add in soy sauce or a premade marinade/sauce that you have in your fridge or pantry and mix together. Make a well in the center of the rice mixture and pour in whisked eggs. Cook the eggs in the well in the pan for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently to make scrambled eggs. Mix everything together and enjoy. Optional: add in any additional protein, such as chicken, shrimp, pork, tofu, tempeh, or cashews.  

 Veggie Omelet  

 Use whatever vegetables you have on hand – fresh, frozen or canned. Start by sautéing veggies in a pan with some oil. Season veggies with salt and pepper. While veggies are softening, whisk eggs together. Pour eggs into pan over the veggies, cover with a lid, and let cook until the eggs are cooked through, approximately 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle cheese, if desired, over half of the omelet and fold in half. Cook for additional minute to let the cheese melt.  

 Pasta Veggie Bake  

 Make a yummy pasta bake by combining cooked pasta (cook for 2-3 minutes less than package directions), veggies (fresh, frozen, canned), salt, pepper, and canned tomatoes or pasta sauce (optional) and pouring in a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with cheese if desired and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350° F.  

 More Meal Ideas 

  • Smoothies using any combination of frozen fruit, frozen vegetables, milk, yogurt, peanut butter, juice, etc. 
  • Mix salsa and chicken and cook in a crock pot on high for 4 hours for an easy protein to add to a variety of meals such as tacos, sandwiches, wraps, salads, pizza, and more 
  • Mix frozen veggies and/or a protein source (canned tuna, chicken, beans, etc.) with boxed mac n’ cheese 
  • Pantry grain bowls: cook any grain you have on hand, sauté any veggies you have, cook any protein you have (meat, eggs, beans, canned fish) and mix all together in a bowl. Top with a salad dressing or marinade if you have one in your fridge 
  • Baked oatmeal using oats, eggs, milk of choice and any add-ins you have: apple sauce, raisins, shredded coconut, nuts, seeds, chocolate chips, frozen fruit. 
  • Homemade pizza with bagels, English muffins, pita bread, sliced bread as your base, top with any pizza or pasta sauce, cheese and whatever toppings you have on hand. Or doctor up a frozen pizza with chopped fresh or frozen vegetables (mushrooms, peppers, onions, eggplant) and/or leftover protein or pineapple. 

Thank you to all the essential CSU workers who are continuing to work hard to help keep us healthy and fed. We greatly appreciate your dedication and determination during this uncertain time.  

Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center