Photo via ohsweetbasil.com

One of the benefits of the recent COVID-19 stay-at-home legislation is that many are finding themselves with more free time to pursue forgotten hobbies and interests that are usually put aside at the end of the school year. However, for people like myself who are amateurs at cooking but want to try something simple to avoid stir-craziness at home, here are five simple recipes that include either ingredients you’ll be able to find or easily substitute.

Pancake Mix Muffins

From smashedpeasandcarrots.com

This particular recipe is perfect to use up the pancake mix that’s sat in a cupboard for longer than a person would like to admit. Since it’s a pancake-mix based batter, it does not call for flour or eggs, both ingredients which are hard to come by in grocery stores during this time. This recipe includes a few different mix-ins fresh or frozen, though raspberries are a personal favorite. 

Ingredients

2½ cups pancake mix

½ cup granulated sugar (or evaporated cane juice)

1½ cups milk (almond, soy or coconut works well too)

¼ cup butter, melted

May add mix-ins such as: ½ cup fresh blueberries, ¼ cup mini chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life brand) or top with cinnamon sugar before baking

Instructions:

Place all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl and mix until well incorporated but do not over mix.

Add mix-ins of your choice and fold into the batter.

Fill greased muffin cups ⅔ full.

Bake at 400 F for 14-16 minutes.

Let cool and enjoy.

 

Perfect Brownies

From Kimberly Nason-Mort, as featured in the Merrill Trust Company “Family” Cookbook.

While shuffling through a pile of old recipe books tucked away at home, this brownie recipe jumped out, proving to be completely unlike the usual dense, gooey box mixes. It has an airy texture and isn’t sticky-sweet. Additionally, since flour and eggs are becoming harder to find, there are easy substitutions for such ingredients that will not alter the taste and texture by much, if at all. 

Ingredients:

½ cup oleo [unsalted butter or margarine]

2 squares of unsweetened chocolate [OR 6 tablespoons of unsweetened baking cocoa & 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter or margarine]

1½ cups sugar

1 cup flour [OR 1 cup & 2 tablespoons of cake flour]

3 eggs [OR ½ cup & 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise]

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup chopped nuts [optional]

 

Instructions:

Melt oleo [or butter] until just warm. Add remaining ingredients.

Place in a greased 9×9 baking dish for 30 minutes at 350 F. 

 

Dorito Taco Salad

From Holly at spendwithpennies.com

Margarita’s is a Downtown Orono staple for many University of Maine students, but with the current COVID-19 pandemic, even if students are in the area, it’s not so easy to get out of the house. This taco salad recipe can easily be meal-prepped, as it utilizes the fresh produce that’s currently being overlooked at supermarkets. And of course, the ingredients are customizable to taste. 

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground beef

1 packet taco seasoning

⅔ cup water

1 head iceberg lettuce chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 red or orange pepper chopped

1 green pepper chopped

½  cup sliced black olives

1 can pinto beans rinsed and drained

1 cup tomatoes diced

¼ cup green onions chopped thin, leave a bit for garnish

1 cup cheddar cheese shredded

10 ounces Nacho flavoured Doritos

16 ounces Catalina salad dressing

sour cream optional garnish

 

Instructions: 

Brown the ground beef until no pink remains. Drain any fat.

Stir in the taco seasoning packet and water. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, peppers, black olives, pinto beans, tomatoes, cheddar and green onions.

Top with the seasoned and cooled ground beef.

Slightly crush the Doritos and sprinkle on top. Drizzle with Catalina dressing and toss to coat evenly. 

Garnish with sour cream and additional green onions if desired.

Serve immediately.

 

Beef Banh Mi Bowl

From itsgardentyme.com 

This might be the next best meal to sushi, and is a little more involved than the recipes prior. Similar to a poke bowl one might find in the Memorial Union’s cafeteria, this recipe tries a new take on the traditional Banh Mi sandwich by replacing the bread with lime rice topped with beef, pickled cucumbers, carrots and a sweet sriracha mayo. This particular recipe recreates the EveryPlate meal delivery service’s original rendition, to which I was first introduced and hooked. 

Ingredients: 

1 cup jasmine rice

1 small yellow onion

½ lime

3 cloves garlic

1 Persian or english cucumber

1 medium size carrot

3 ounces mayonnaise

1 ounce Sriracha

8 ounces ground beef

2 ounces soy sauce

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon salt & pepper

 

Instructions:

In a small pot, combine rice, 1 ¼ cups of water and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender, 15-20 minutes. Keep covered off heat until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, clean and dry all produce. Peel and mince the garlic. Zest and quarter the lime. Cut ends off and halve the cucumber lengthwise; slice crosswise into thin half-moons. Halve, peel and medium dice the onion. Trim, peel, and grate the carrot.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, as much sriracha as you’d like (add more to make it extra spicy), a pinch of the minced garlic and a squeeze of lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, combine cucumber, ¼ tsp sugar, a pinch of salt and juice from 2 lime wedges.

Heat a drizzle of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, for 4-5 minutes. Add beef, the remaining garlic and 2 tsp of sugar. Cook, breaking up the meat into pieces until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in soy sauce. Turn off heat; taste and season with salt and pepper.

Fluff rice with a fork and stir in lime zest and 1 tbsp of butter; divide between bowls. Arrange beef, grated carrot, and pickled cucumber on top. Top with a squeeze of lime juice. Drizzle with sriracha mayo.

 

Crescent Pizza Pockets

From Pillsbury Kitchens at pillsbury.com

Everyone loves pizza, right? This is a simple recipe that combines premade items into an easy lunch or dinner in under 25 minutes, tops. Plus, along with the Dorito Taco Salad recipe, it’s customizable so everyone can get creative, or keep it simple, and enjoy. I’m thinking Hawaiian pizza pocket.

Ingredients:

1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

¼ cup pizza sauce

¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

½ cup sliced pepperoni (24 slices)

1 teaspoon grated parmesan cheese

Instructions: 

Heat oven to 375. Unroll dough onto cookie sheet; separate into 4 rectangles (2 triangles each). Press each rectangle to form a 6×4-inch rectangle, firmly pressing perforations to seal.

Spread 1 tablespoon of pizza sauce on half of each rectangle to within 1 inch of edge. Sprinkle each with 3 tablespoons of cheese; top with 6 slices of pepperoni. Fold the dough from the top over filling; firmly press edges with fork to seal. Sprinkle each rectangle with 1/4 teaspoon of grated cheese. With fork, prick top of each to allow steam to escape.

Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until deep golden brown. Serve warm.