Coronavirus Meal Plan: Cooking from the Pantry with Red Lentils, Couscous, and Plenty of Cans

The Family Plan #19

I went to the farmers’ market this morning. Not that I especially needed anything—I’ve been to the supermarket a ridiculous number of times since this quarantine started, each time thinking it’s MY LAST CHANCE—but I wanted to support the farmers. And I have to say, I was impressed with their coronavirus cautions. GrowNYC, the organization that runs the city’s greenmarkets, has implemented smart social distancing practices: Only the workers touched touch the food, so that apple you’re about to eat hasn’t been manhandled a dozen times before it hits your mouth. And customers stand on line six feet apart. It takes a tiny bit of the fun out of going from vendor to vendor, chitchatting and sniffing, but it’s worth it. Today’s purchases: kale, broccoli rabe, scallions, carrots, parsnips, spring mix, apples, eggs, and baked goods.

What’s it like where you are?


Chicken-Lentil (or Just Lentil) Soup With Jammy Onions with bread

If you don’t have the fresh parsley called for here, use another fresh herb—or add a generous tablespoon of dried parsley along with the water. Meat eaters: Cook all the chicken thighs today and shred all the meat. Use half for today, and refrigerate the rest for Wednesday.

Vegetarians: Increase the red lentils to 1 1/2 cups, and use 7 cups of water.

Photo courtesy Two Peas & Their Pod


Sun-Dried Tomato, White Bean & Artichoke Pesto Pasta Salad

The nice thing about pantry-based recipes is, you can usually swap ingredients pretty easily. With this one, for example, you can replace white beans with chickpeas or a different type of bean. No canned artichoke hearts? Use marinated or frozen, or some other vegetable. Seriously, we’re doing what we can now. Think of recipes like this as guidelines rather than rules.


Mediterranean Chicken and Couscous Bowls

Meat eaters, you’ll use Monday’s leftover chicken.

Vegetarians, you’ll use chickpeas or whatever bean you like.

Everyone: The recipe itself offers a bunch of options, if you don’t have the exact ingredients. For the dressing, if you don’t have buttermilk/buttermilk powder but you do have regular milk, you can “sour” a scant 3 tablespoons with a splash of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes and go ahead. No fresh dill? Use 1/2 teaspoon of dried instead, or any other herb with tender leaves like parsley, oregano, or basil. Use whatever kind of crumbly cheese you’ve got.


One-Pan Mexican Quinoa

If you don’t have quinoa, you can swap in other grains like bulgur or rice—you’ll just need to adjust the cooking time and possibly the amount of liquid (consult the package for instructions). No limes? Add a splash of apple cider vinegar instead. And if you don’t have avocado and cilantro, don’t sweat it. Those extras definitely make the finished dish a little more exciting, but you’ll be ok without them.


Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Risotto

Think of this one as more of a concept than anything. If you’ve got arborio or canaroli rice, broth, and some parmesan, you can make risotto in the slow cooker. Here’s a basic version, and one using mushrooms. Here’s another with broccoli. To make it in the Instant Pot, sauté the vegetables and rice as usual, add the wine or vermouth and cook, stirring, until you’ve scraped off the browned bits and the liquid is absorbed. Turn it off, stir in the broth, close it up, and set the machine to Manual/high pressure for 5 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally and open the pot. It’ll be soupy—stir for several minutes and it’ll come together. Add parm and butter, adjust the seasoning, and serve.

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Stay safe,