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  • Renee Kashuba

How are you doing?

Tip #1: Learn what a 6-foot social distance standard looks like. Shopping at Costco last week (left). They were smart to limit the number of customers in the store at one time, but they did a poor job of separating us for social distancing. The pallets separating us are 4' x 3'. We should have been standing 1.5  pallets apart within the line, and the divider should have been 2 pallets wide. Six feet is longer than you think. When going out, stay far away from everyone else, and ask others to keep their distance also. You're protecting them as well as yourself.

Tip #2: Wear gloves while out, if you have them. Keep a box of gloves in the car, so you can put them on anytime you enter a store, or touch something someone else could have touched. Consider using a bandana as a face mask, as well.


We'll get through this

It's been quite a while since our last newsletter, and I've decided to restart emails with a new focus: helpful tips, shopping suggestions, recipes, and information for home cooks. What better time to kick it all off than during our current crisis? So here goes. What to buy: Firstly, there's no need to hoard. It's very hard to resist this, I know! We've all felt the pull: What if I can't get to the store? What if we run out? How will I protect my family? Unfortunately, the items we hoard are often not the ones that will really help us get through the crisis. People are buying way too much toilet paper. I actually didn't even buy any, and we've got plenty. I know this will go on for weeks or even months, and I am a little concerned about where this will eventually go, but if we all buy just what we actually need, we should have plenty in the supply chain. (I guess I'll update you all on that later!) The virus is killed by simple soap and water, and hand sanitizer is never recommended over soap and water for cleaning hands. In fact, the Westchester County Department of Health has always considered hand sanitizer inadequate to clean hands. You can use it, but only if you've washed your hands properly with soap and water first. When I grill onsite or serve food in the open, I bring my own hand-washing station. Hands wiped with sanitizer are considered unwashed hands. So, if you have been unable to find hand sanitizer anywhere but online for $90 a pop: great news! Save your money. You probably already have plenty of soap at home. More great news! Soap and water works on surfaces, too. You don't need fancy cleansers or disinfectant wipes! I bet you have plenty regular cleansers, plus dish soap, that will work just fine with a rag.  When shopping for groceries, make sure you buy stuff you regularly eat. We do need to be flexible, based on availability, but resist the urge to stock up on stuff that you just really never eat. You won't want to eat it now, either, and that will get very dismal very fast. Now, here's a list of stuff I'm stocking up on.

  • Vegetables: buy a range and triage usage by how long they last. Buy some leafy veggies (spring greens, romaine, plus dark greens like kale), some soft (tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash like zucchini and yellow squash, and such), some hardy (broccoli, cauliflower), and some starchy (winter squash, yams, carrots, potatoes).

  • Fruits: same as with veggies, buy a range based on how long they last. Soft (grapes and bananas) and hardy (apples, citrus, melons). Apples can last for months in the refrigerator.

  • Citrus: yep, they get their own line, because I think they're so important. Lemon, lime, and orange can be used to flavor pretty much anything. You can use the rind and the juice. Plus, a little fresh lemonade or limeade will do wonders to lift your spirits. I prefer lemons to limes for longevity.

  • Proteins: embrace the less popular proteins! Everyone is buying chicken breast, because it's very intuitive to use. Buy whatever is available, and freeze most of it. Stock up on dried beans, and canned beans if you want added convenience. Stock up on nuts and nutritional yeast (we'll talk about how to use it later). Stock up on harder cheeses, they last longer. Throw in some powdered milk, just in case, if you rely on milk.

  • Starches: Make sure you have a variety of starches you regularly eat. If you bake, make sure you have the staples for baking. I'll try to have some recipes for easy staples in future newsletters.

  • Flavors: Make sure you have a range of seasonings you use regularly. And then use them liberally!

  • Treats: get a few family favorites just because. Make sure you stagger these as well, or everyone will eat their favorite right away, and you'll have nothing to look forward to!

What to make:

Now that you have a stocked kitchen, use your ingredients wisely. Set the order of what you'll make in your mind ahead of time, so that you don't have food going bad. Waste not, want not. My goal is to go to the store every other week at the most. I'm not sure if this will keep us disease free in the end, but if we all limit our trips, we should minimize community contact and exposure, and hopefully this thing will die out. We all have to do our part.

  • Splurge in the first few days with salads using the softest veggies.

  • Wilted greens? No worries. All salad greens can be lightly steamed or stir-fried, just like spinach. You can also braise them (if it's good enough for Julie Child, it's good enough for me!) and use them in soups.

  • Tomatoes getting wrinkled? Zucchini getting puckered? Mushrooms getting gamey? Cook your softer veggies once they start to look unappetizing raw. Sauté them in olive oil, or simmer in a sauce for pasta. The further gone the veggie, the longer you cook it to lose that sad look. Cut off any actual mold, though, leaving a clean margin.

  • Cook fruit that's starting to get dried out, mealy, or just not so great. Add it to veggies or meat for a savory meal, or add some sugar (or other sweetener) for fruit compote dessert. Or just cook it plain for a regular fruit side with a meal. Consider adding butter (or salt), plus vanilla (or sherry or brandy) for decadence!

  • Venture out with combinations. Have a bunch of stuff going bad at once? Throw it all together, with your favorite seasonings, and it will probably work fine. Trust me -- I do this all the time.

  • Use meat sparingly to make it last longer. The serving size of meat is actually quite small, but if you mix it with veggies or beans you can eat a half serving and still feel like you're getting meat in the meal.

  • Go veggie or vegan for some meals, instead of dipping in to your store of frozen meat. Use nuts, beans, and nutritional yeast for protein. Veggies also have protein! Did you know that calorie for calorie, broccoli has about the same protein as ground turkey? The thing is that 250 calories of broccoli is about 10 servings. So, you can absolutely get enough protein from vegetables, just make sure you're eating enough of them.

  • Use your hearty vegetables last: roasted winter squash with grain and nuts makes a great meal. Add some dried fruit, too.

  • Use up what's in your pantry. Most of us could go days or weeks, if we just got a little creative with what's in our pantry.

This week's recipe:

We're observing lent in our household (well, some of us, and to varying degrees), so we're eating a lot of vegan food. Here's a basic "recipe" for savory pasta with nutritional yeast, just to show you how to use it for a nutty cheese flavor.

  • Aromatic: sliced onion or minced garlic (whatever you have on hand)

  • Soft veggies: zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, greens (whatever you have on hand, or any combination), plus green beans, broccoli, or cauliflower (if you have it)

  • Cooked pasta or GF pasta, any kind

  • Nutritional yeast

  • Onion powder

  • Dried herbs (Italian mix, oregano, thyme, Herbes de Provence, or the like)

  • Salt and pepper

  • Olive oil

  • Sliced almonds or pine nuts

Saute the aromatics in olive oil until soft and sweating. Add hardy veggies, followed by soft veggies. Cover to steam a bit after each addition, so that it's all a little soft (still al dente though) at the end. Meanwhile, cook pasta and drain. Return to pot, still a bit wet. Mix in herbs, salt and pepper to taste, plus onion pepper to taste, and about 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast (or more if desired). Cover pot to keep warm and wet, if the veggies aren't ready yet. Toss veggies with any liquid in the pan into pasta. Sprinkle with nuts. Enjoy!

Have a question or want a specific recipe? Send me an email!

Happy cooking. Stay healthy. Keep in touch.

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