Friday, August 19, 2022

Regular options missing from the grocery store? Here are some suggestions for cooking in the Covid-19 era [Free read]

As residents stock-pile food and supplies, shelves have been empty around the region. (Port City Daily photo / Benjamin Schachtman)

SOUTHEAST N.C. — Concerns over Covid-19 have caused residents around the region to take precautions and stock up on supplies. While being prepared is a good thing, unfortunately, it has also led to shortages of items most people take for granted — everyday staples, from toilet paper to ground beef.

As restaurants close down due to Governor Cooper’s executive order, you might be looking for new ways to keep things interesting in the kitchen with limited ingredients.

One strategy: utilize what’s left on the shelves — those items that other customers might be less familiar with (turkey backs, anyone?) or unsure of how to cook with. Another strategy: learn to love meatless options, and put beans front and center in your cooking (now, there’s going to be some flatulence, so in close quarters, you might want to make sure everyone’s on the same page first).

Finally, it’s always worth checking out local farms: With many restaurants shuttered, farmers rethink business models, shift to ‘over-the-fence’ sales [Free read]

Basic bread

The best thing since sliced bread? Make your own bread if the stores are running low. (Port City Daily/File)

One of the first items to go during any time of crisis is often bread, and while sliced bread is convenient, you would be surprised just how easy you can make your own bread.

Ingredients needed:

  • 1 packet dry active yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (not too hot or it will kill the yeast)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6 cups flour


  • Empty the yeast package into a large mixing bowl; add the warm water and sugar to the yeast and mix. Let mixture sit for a few minutes until bubbles begin to form.
  • Start adding flour to yeast mixture, start with half of the flour and add additional cups until a dough begins to form (you might need more or less flour depending on humidity and other factors).
  • Knead the dough until elastic and smooth, once smooth place the dough in a bowl coated with oil to prevent sticking. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or cling wrap and let sit for 1-2 hours to let the dough rise.
  • After two hours punch the dough back down and divide into two loaves. Separate the two and set aside, let these rise again for another 1–2 hours.
  • Bake the bread at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until bread is cooked to a golden-brown crust.
  • Let bread cool or enjoy it fresh out of the oven!
  • (Tip, you can freeze the dough of the second loaf before letting it rise. When you are ready to cook it, let it defrost in a warm environment and allow it to rise a second time).

Easy jambalaya

Jambalaya is a filling dish that you can add lots of different proteins to including seafood. (Port City Daily/File)

Meats might be in short supply around the region but some things are easier to find than others, while there is a definite shortage right now of ground beef, things like andouille sausage (often found in the hotdog section) are more available. Plus, fresh and frozen shrimp still seem to be in plentiful supply.


  • 1 package of andouille sausage (or any smoked sausage you can find)
  • Cajun seasoning
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • Cajun seasoning (to taste)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-1/2 cups white rice
  • 2-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Oil for cooking
  • Can of crushed tomatoes


  • Add the green pepper, onion, celery, and garlic to a large pot, coat the bottom with oil of your choice for sautéing. Sauté until tender.
  • Once tender add in salt, pepper, cajun seasoning, tomatoes, and any other spices you want to add along with the sausage. Allow the sausage to render its fat and brown for about 5–10 minutes.
  • Add chicken broth and rice to pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cover, allow rice to cook for 20-30 minutes, stir occasionally
  • (Tip, for those who want to, you can add shrimp and other seafood to jambalaya during the second step)

Philly Cheesesteak sliders

Try a Philly favorite with any steak you might have sitting in the fridge. (Port City Daily/File)

Many commonly used proteins — ground turkey and beef, pork chops, chicken breasts, etc. — are the first to go because they’re relatively inexpensive, in addition to being familiar. Ribeye has remained on many area shelves, in part because it’s expensive (and, in part, because some grocery stores get whole rib sections in frozen, and can thaw and slice them when needed). In any case, while ribeye isn’t the cheapest option, turning into cheesesteaks is a way to make it go further.


  • 1  Pound of ribeye sliced thin (try skirt steak for a cheaper option)
  • 1 Package of slider rolls or Hawaiian rolls sliced in half
  • 1  Green pepper sliced
  • 1 Onion sliced
  • Sliced provolone cheese to top each slider
  • 1  Tablespoon oil
  • ½  Tablespoon black pepper


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Start by cutting the slider rolls in half and placing in a baking pan with the tops left off.
  • Add oil to large skillet and set to medium/high heat. Add onions and green peppers and cook until tender about 5-7 minutes and add steak, cook until tender.
  • Top rolls with steak and veggie mixture and top with provolone cheese slices.
  • Put the tops back on the sandwiches and bake for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted.

Vegan Roasted Mexican Street Corn Dip

Try this meatless option if you are looking for something new. (Port City Daily/File)

This 15-minute recipe for Roasted Mexican Street Corn Dip is inspired by the traditional Mexican street food known as Elote. This dip is the perfect plant-based addition for the vegetarians.


  • 1 Pound Frozen Corn
  • 1/3 Cup Vegan Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Vegan Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 Red Onion
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup Cilantro
  • 1/2 Teaspoon. Chili Powder
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon. Nutritional Yeast
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Lime


  • Turn the oven on high broil. Mince the onion, garlic and cilantro. Spread the corn kernels in an even layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Broil between five and seven minutes until the corn has a deep, golden color. Check frequently to make sure the corn does not burn.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the vegan cream cheese, vegan mayonnaise, onion, garlic, cilantro, chili powder, nutritional yeast and salt. Add the hot corn and stir to combine.
  • Pour the elote into a serving dish and garnish with and sprinkle extra chili powder and cilantro on top. Sprinkle with lime juice if desired.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature with corn chips. The elote will keep, refrigerated, for about three days.

Other options

Turkey backs? Yes. (Port City Daily photo / Benjamin Schachtman)

Turkey necks/backs — While there isn’t much meat on these, they’re inexpensive (sometimes less than $1), and they can produce a lot of stock. Pan-seared or oven-roasted until golden brown, they can be added to onion, celery, and carrots (or even scraps) and water, brought to a boil, and allowed to simmer.

The result, quality stock (which you can refrigerate, to make it easier to skim off some of the fat). Use the stock to liven up rice, beans, or make your own soups.

Go big — Grocery stores are starting to thaw out turkeys, but even if you can’t find a pre-thawed one, if you’re feeding a family you could do worse than to buy one, let it thaw, and roast it up. After that, there’s turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, and — why not — turkey tetrazzini.

There’s also leg of lamb, usually tucked away in the corner of the frozen meat section. Relatively inexpensive compared to lamb chops, a leg of lamb can easily feed a family of four, whether rubbed with rosemary and roasted whole or trimmed down into pieces and roasted for stew.

Beantown — Black bean burritos? Six bean chili (pinto, kidney, navy, garbanzo, black, Canelli)? Or, in bean-adjacent territory, lentil soups, salads, and burgers? In addition to being cheaper beans and lentils are much easier to find and they’re shelf-stable.

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