The COVID-19 pandemic means more time spent at home and likely more meals coming from your own kitchen. Matthew Ward, chef general manager at the University of North Texas award-winning Mean Greens Café has tips on food preparation and collection as well as ways to use the cooking process as a fun, interactive and educational experience for all ages. Plus, he has ideas on how to inspire new dishes as people are cooking more.
Reconnect with your cookbooks and food magazines – If you are stuck at home and haven’t opened those cookbooks and old magazines collecting dust on bookshelves, all this free time will give you a chance to reconnect with food by flipping through those old classics again.
Turn cooking into an interactive history lesson – With kids at home and ideas running low, try celebrating national food holidays. At Mean Greens Café we started celebrating national food holidays to keep the student patrons engaged in what we were serving. You can turn cooking into an educational moment not only with food preparation, but also learning about the history of certain food items. It’s a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen, giving them ownership in the meal and new knowledge along the way.
Post your creations on social media to engage and inspire others – It seems like everyone is channeling their inner baker these days. Use social media to show off your culinary creations and inspire someone else to do the same.
Support local farmers and businesses – With the grocery store shelves running low at times, this is your chance to get to the farmer’s market and support local farmers and local businesses that may be struggling during this crisis. You never know what you’ll stumble upon at the market. Just remember to practice responsible social distancing and personal hygiene.
Grow fruits, vegetables and herbs in your own backyard – With the weather improving, it’s a perfect time to start that spring garden. We have a garden of our own in an old shipping container at Mean Greens that produces some of the best lettuce, greens and brassicas. You’ll get satisfaction from planting those seeds and hopefully harvesting some fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables in no time at all.
Try handcrafting foods you’d normally buy premade – One of those is pasta. Most pasta can be made with just a few ingredients, your hands and a rolling pin. If you are lucky enough to have a pasta roller, dig it out of the back of your kitchen pantry and put it to use. Once you have your pasta sheets all rolled out, the possibilities are endless for cutting into noodles. The internet is a good resource to discover all the different shapes of pasta you can create.
Learn to braise or smoke some meat – These are cooking methods that have been lost to convenience foods and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s time to slow down and let your meats cook for hours and you’ll be rewarded for your patience. Those cuts of meat will be the most tender pieces of meat you’ll ever eat, and the house and backyard will smell great during the process.
Take time to reset your diet – Look into incorporating more whole grains, beans, legumes and vegetables into your diet. They’ll keep you full for longer and you’ll be less likely to eat your snack stash all in one sitting. Plus, you’ll feel better with a more balance diet.