Food Shopping and Cooking During COVID-19

by Anouk Booneman

Cooking and shopping during a pandemic take on a very different meaning, and we all navigate that path in different ways. Some of you might still go to the store, others might use a delivery service or a combination of both. We probably all cook more though, and we are probably all doing more dishes as well. Personally, I haven’t been in a store since the quarantine started. We have been receiving a weekly delivery from the company Imperfect Foods. They sell “imperfect” produce, pantry items, dairy and meat for up to 30% less than at the grocery store. Their delivery has been impeccable until now. Mostly on time and their communication has been very effective.  We have also been receiving orders through Thrive. Thrive is a membership-based market. They have had issues keeping up with their orders, due to an increase in memberships. That hasn’t been an issue for us. My cooking has become even more no recipe based. Any recipe that I read is a suggestion of where to start and substituting items has become my norm. My only (food) outing is my weekly trip to the Featherbed Lane farm: a year-round CSA. For those not familiar yet with the concept: A CSA (Community supported agriculture) is a model of farming that allows people to buy their food directly from a local farmer. A CSA share is the farm’s produce for which you make an advance payment. It’s a perfect way to support local farms and get fresh produce safely. Both seem more important than ever. At Spring into Health we have two favorites: the Featherbed Lane Farm and the Denison farm. Both have a different approach. The Featherbed Lane Farm is year round, and you pick up your produce (and eggs) at the farm. Their CSA is also free choice which means you get to choose the produce, and how much of it. To read more about the farm, click here for a Time Union article.

The Denison farm, our other favorite, operates according to a CSA model, but they also sell their produce in stores and at farmers market.  Shareholders from the Denison Farm receive a weekly delivery of freshly harvested organic vegetables for about 22 weeks. The vegetables are already boxed, and there are several distribution sites to pick from (we are one of them). Egg and fruit shares are also available.

Besides the farm, Thrive, Imperfect foods and Amazon, we have ordered from small companies to try out new products or reorder. We particularly like the products from Atina Foods(herbal jams), Forward Roots NY (kimchisauce),  les Collines (delicious jellies and jams ), Rancho Gordo (beans),Community grains (pasta, bread, polenta).

In the past few weeks I have done a lot more cooking than usual. I usually enjoy cooking, but at some point, the endless amount of prepping, ordering and the endless stream of dishes left me rather tired and frustrated. I missed going out, having someone else cook for me, pour me a drink, do the dishes, and I looked into take out, which we do rarely.  Oh Corn! Arepas in Clifton Park, a Venezuelan restaurant, is a local favorite. They do curbside delivery or pick up. If you haven’t tried one yet, an arepa is a (gluten free) corn pocket sandwich that can be filled with infinite ingredients. I

Instead of ordering however, I ended up googling arepa recipes and instead of ordering food, I ordered the required flour to make my own arepas.  Making arepas requires 30 minutes and only a few ingredients. Salt, water, oil for cooking and areparina or masarepa, a special precooked corn flour specifically for making arepas. You can’t substitute with another flour. I ordered the brand P.A.N. through Amazon. The flour can also be purchased at Oh Corn! Arepas. Goya has a flour as well. Arepas can be enjoyed plain or filled. I made two different versions. One filled with avocado, onions and black beans, and a version shaped like a doughnut, served with a very simple black bean soup. I posted two recipes. The first one is for arepas. I used the recipe on the back of the flour pack, but the Minimalist Baker has a very good recipe as well. Her recipe requires the arepas to be finished in the oven. I cooked them entirely in the skillet. Six minutes on each side.  The second recipe is for a very simple black bean soup, that I also served with arepas.

Arepas (The minimalist baker)

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 heaped tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups areparina ( I used the brand P.A.N)
  • 1 Tbsp avocado, coconut, or vegan butter for cooking (if avoiding oil, just omit and be sure your pan is non-stick)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F . Set out a baking sheet and line with parchment paper. And to a large mixing bowl, add water and salt. Stir to combine and dissolve salt. 
  • A little at a time, add the areparina and stir with a whisk or your hands.  You’re looking for a dough that does not easily stick to your hands, is moldable and moist, and can be rolled into a ball. Once you have that consistency, cover with a towel for 5 minutes.
  • Uncover, grab a large handful of dough, and roll into a ball. This amount makes six large arepas or 8 small ones.  
  • Carefully press the ball between the palms of your hands to form into a roughly 1/2-inch thick disc. If it cracks a lot on the sides, your dough may need 1-2 TPSP more water. A little cracking is OK - just use your hands to close the cracks by gently patting along the edges
  • Once the arepas are formed, heat a large cast-iron or non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add a little oil and swirl to coat. Then add arepas, giving them a little room in between so they don’t touch. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until deep golden brown. You're looking to form a crust. Then flip and cook for 2-3 minutes more or until the underside is also browned.
  • Transfer to your parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes or until slightly puffed up and a little more golden brown in color. 
  • To enjoy, cut the arepa 3/4 of the way around, leaving a seam on the edge so you can “stuff” it like a pita. I stuffed mine with black refried beans, avocados and sautéed onions.

Simple black bean soup 

Ingredients
•    3 cups vegetable broth
•    1½ cup black beans, cooked, rinsed, drained
•    1½ cup chickpeas, cooked, rinsed, drained
•    ½ cup onion
•    3 garlic cloves
•    3 Tablespoons lime juice
•    1 jalapeño, seeded
•    1 teaspoon ground cumin
•    ¼ teaspoon salt
•    ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
•    ¼ cup (35 g) red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, diced

Directions

Sauté the onions until translucent. Add the spices, the red bell pepper, garlic and sauté a little longer. Place broth, sautéed vegetables, beans and jalapeño pepper into a blender. If you have a Vitamix use the hot soups program to not only blend but also heat the soup. If your blender doesn’t have that option, just blend and heat after. I served this with a doughnut shaped Arepa. 

Substitutions: If you don’t have chickpeas, use only black bean
Omit the bell pepper if not available
Use hot sauce if you don’t have a jalapeño.
Use lemon juice instead of the lime or a little bit of vinegar

¡Buen Provecho!


Anouk’s Archive

Cooking During the Time of COVID-19: Chickpea Scramble

The Making of Buddha Bowls with Delightful Dishes Added

Super Healthy Granola (Inspired by Rouxbe)

January Recipe – Socca Muffins

Great Cookbooks as Holiday Gifts

Butternut Squash Soup

Healthy Plant-Based Eating

Perfect Seasonal Vegan Recipes

Vegan Cooking for Taste and Health


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