The Pandemic Life – Weekend Report – 05.17.20

This weekend’s grocery trip was somewhat odd. Shortages were few. I got everything on my list except for chili powder (in stock but no mixtures that appealed to me). At 9:00 AM the store was surprisingly unbusy. Most of the employees wore masks. Masks on customers seemed to be 50/50. There were varying levels of stress and anxiety in the customers in the store. The most anxious shopper was a woman who cut the line in front of me. I guess with the six foot distancing rule she couldn’t figure out if I was in line or not. To give her the benefit of the doubt I did step away from the cart for a moment to grab a bag of coffee. But I think she knew she cut in front of me. Since she was not a mask wearer the expression on her face dripped with anxiety. No eye contact either. People are definitely acting strangely as if moving faster through the store makes the virus less likely to land on you and stick. This only works if it’s raining and you don’t want to get wet.

We ordered pizza one night for take out. Since SIP we’ve had restaurant/take out just three times. Not counting the two times with friends at their homes, this weekend’s pizza was the first restaurant/take out food we’ve had at home in two months. During this same time period I’ve cut way back on beer and in the process lost over ten pounds. Eating healthier and subbing whiskey for beer. Must be the whiskey.

On the way home from the pizza shop I stopped at my local liquor store for curbside delivery of the order I placed at the same time as the pizza order. Cheap chardonnay for The Boss and two six packs of Voodoo Ranger IPA for me. I’d lost so much weight by cutting down on beer I wanted to have a beer to celebrate. Hey, this makes sense to me.

The pizza shop, liquor store, several big box home improvement stores, plant nursery, and OMG a paint store all quite busy. Not enough mask wearers though.

The big news of the weekend was my barber. I noticed a sign in the window so I stopped the car and parked to read it. It was Sunday morning and the lights were on. Odd I thought because this barber was usually closed on Sundays. Suddenly Kevin appeared, saw me and waved me in. The shop was cleaner than I’ve ever seen in 14 years. Kevin said he has been coming in on Sunday mornings to clean and disinfect. There was a new take a ticket machine with an electronic digital counter facing the street. No more waiting indoors. Take a number and when your number is called you can enter the barber shop. Kevin then asked what I thought about taking reservations. After a few pros and cons traded back and forth Kevin told me he was accepting a small number of reservations on Sunday mornings only. I thought that was a good idea and promptly made a reservation. We spent a few minutes catching up and talking virus. Both of us knew someone who had contracted Covid-19. My story was of a coworker’s cousin who died from the disease. (I didn’t want to convey the story of a former coworker’s brother in law whose entire family is infected). Kevin’s story was of another customer whose daughter’s boyfriend got infected and died. The young man was a runner with no pre-existing conditions. He passed at the age of 24.

Welcome to the new normal. I think I’ll have that beer now.

Stay safe and please stay at home a few more weeks.

My new mask:

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The beer:

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The Pandemic Pantry – Shopping Day 05.09.20

Sat 5/9

SIP (Shelter in Place) Food Shopping Report

The early Old People Shopping Hour was nearly over by the time I got to the store. There weren’t many customers and all were practicing appropriate physical distancing, all were wearing masks. I made a list and pretty much stuck to the list. The shortages were spotty and I managed to buy nearly every item on my list. The trip was no scavenger hunt this week. The most surprising part of this week’s shopping adventure? Markdowns on certain items. Bacon (what meat shortage?), gourmet potato chips normally $4 a bag at almost half price, organic whole grain bread at a 33% discount from usual retail. I actually had fun at the store and it felt nearly normal.

Check out time brought me back to the new normal reality. There were just two check out lines open and the lines of people waiting stretched into the aisles (six feet apart, of course). The two back to back express check out lanes were gone. I wonder if some workers had to stay home or if another reason existed for the lack of check out lanes open. Old People Shopping Hour was over and the store got busier quickly. Only around 75% of the customers were wearing masks. I saw a mother/daughter combo shopping. There were young families of three and four shopping together, no masks. I guess they didn’t get the memo on masks or the recommendation that just one family member do the shopping. I would also venture a guess that these people don’t have a HCW on the front line and simply do not know the risk.

Last night’s leftover dinner mashup was an unmitigated disaster. I added a can of beans to some leftover chili and we ended up eating a bowl of inadequately seasoned beans for dinner. I thought I’d try a new recipe for Cornbread Griddle Cakes and they were awful as in awful dry. The Boss said something to the effect that our usual cornbread recipe was better which is Spouse Speak for you better not ever make this again or I’ll divorce you. So I woke up this morning needing to have a bountiful shopping trip and I got lucky.

Stay safe.  Stay home (for just a few more weeks).

Does Olive Oil Lower Cardiovascular Risk in U.S. Populations?

Does Olive Oil Lower Cardiovascular Risk in U.S. Populations?

Definitely maybe.

This study confirms what most of us likely recommend to our patients — replace saturated fats with olive oil. The CVD prevention benefit of olive oil seems to extend to all populations, including Americans, who consume far less olive oil on average than Mediterranean populations. As with all observational studies, residual confounding might explain some of the associations, and the healthcare professionals studied may not be generalizable to other more diverse groups. However, results from the PREDIMED trial (N Engl J Med 2018; 378:e34) support this well-conducted study. Recommending routine use of olive oil seems like a no-brainer.

The Pandemic Pantry – Shopping Day 05.02.20

The Household Executive order from an earlier Pandemic Pantry post has not been allowed to expire.   The order however was amended.  The following is the Amended Household Executive Order for grocery shopping:

“You are now allowed to go to more than one store per week so long as I need or want something that you cannot find at a single store.  You no longer have to shop with the old people and are permitted to go at times when store traffic isn’t busy. You will continue to wear a mask and keep your distance from everyone else in the store. You may wander up and down the aisles like you usually do. You will not shower before going. When you come back you will wash your hands for 20 seconds then put the groceries away. Disinfect the items you think need disinfecting. The plastic bags will not be recycled. They will go into the garbage. You will then go into the laundry room where you will strip down and put your clothes into the washing machine. Then and only then you go to our bathroom to decontaminate (and don’t use my bar of soap, use your body wash).”

The grocery store was less of a scavenger hunt this week.  There were still some empty shelves but I managed to buy most of the items on my list.  With all of the supply chain issues still ongoing I didn’t know what to expect.  Here are my observations from this morning.  Bear in mind your specific locale may be a lot different.

  • Toilet paper and paper towels were back in stock (limited brand choices and limited supply).
  • Cleaners and disinfectants aisle was empty.
  • Meat was plentiful.  Those creepy scary pictures of empty meat cases you see online?  That was not a problem here.
  • Fresh fruits, vegetables, bagged salads all in good supply (except zucchini and I wanted some zucchini).
  • Frozen french fries were available (another internet horror story of shortages).
  • Dairy, cheeses, eggs absolutely well stocked.

Retails prices on meat are creeping upwards.  So while the supplies are plentiful I picked up a few extra items for the freezer.  Last week I found frozen turkeys for $0.49 a pound so I have a ten pound bird in the freezer.  Here is my Pandemic Pantry Freezer Supply:

  • The turkey
  • Three or four loaves of garlic bread (one might be five cheese bread)
  • Rolls
  • Several loaves of whole grain bread
  • Two deep dish pie shells
  • Spinach and potato pirogies
  • Spinach and cheese ravioli
  • Cheese tortellini
  • Corn, peas, spinach, butternut squash
  • Two packages ground turkey
  • Chicken breasts
  • Two packages top blade beef
  • Two small sirloin steaks

So now between the canned/dried pantry items, freezer items, and fresh finds when found we should be OK even if the excrement hits the rotating blades.  I can shop at two stores a week.  I had already bought some items at my first allowed grocery stop two days ago (because someone in the house tosses dairy on the expiration date and we needed ice cream).

I’ve been even more diligent about keeping my food waste low since the pandemic started, since our visits to the grocery store are few and far between. So when I was taking stock of what was on hand the other day, the puzzle pieces started to move into place in my head…

Beth at https://www.budgetbytes.com/about/

It’s comforting to know your thoughts are shared by others during the Greater Depression.   I have definitely reduced the amount of food waste in our household.  Shopping trips for grocery items are definitely reduced in number and some trips will be bountiful while other trips less so.  Nice to know I’m not the only cook who stares at “the puzzle pieces” to figure out what to make.

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Coconut Oil? No Thanks

Clinical trials don’t support the public’s positive perception of coconut oil, a recent systematic review and meta-analysis suggests. The study, published in Circulation, found that compared with other vegetable oils, coconut oil increases low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C)—the “bad” kind that ups cardiovascular disease risk—while offering no improvements to weight, blood glucose, or inflammation markers.

From the authors: Despite the rising popularity of coconut oil because of its purported health benefits, our results raise concerns about high coconut oil consumption. Coconut oil should not be viewed as healthy oil for cardiovascular disease risk reduction and limiting coconut oil consumption because of its high saturated fat content is warranted.”

Read the full article at the link below.

Coconut Oil’s Health Halo a Mirage

The Pandemic Pantry – Shopping Day 04.26.20

In case you missed last week’s Pandemic Pantry post I have copied over the household Executive Order:

“You can go to the store and shop with the old people. You will wear a mask and keep your distance from everyone else in the store. You will not wander up and down the aisles like you usually do. You will not shower before going. When you come back you will wash your hands for 20 seconds then put the groceries away. Disinfect the items you think need disinfecting. The plastic bags will not be recycled. They will go into the garbage. You will then go into the laundry room where you will strip down and put your clothes into the washing machine. Then and only then you go to our bathroom to decontaminate.”

So I guess you could say I was surprised this morning when The Boss said,

“You can go to two stores today.”

Two stores!  I was pretty excited!  This modern day scavenger hunt had a greater chance of success.  Two stores!  I was so excited I forgot my mask.  No worries though.  I used the disposable mask in the car and disposed of it after my trip.  I remembered my list, wallet, phone, keys, and disinfectant wipes.  It was time to start the hunt.

My first stop was the big box drugstore on the corner where I found both toilet paper and paper towels.  I hadn’t purchased either of these paper goods in over a month.  The drugstore had a few packages remaining on the shelves.  I asked one of the employees if there was a purchase limit.  Two she said.  So in addition to vitamins, allergy meds and a nail buffer I scored two giant packages of TP and PT.  If I found nothing at my second stop the shopping trip/hunt would have been a success.

Store #2 was the grocery store.  My list was a short list but this was a scavenger hunt.  What could I find that I might have use for later?  The broccoli crowns were not the freshest but I bought some anyway.  Green beans, a few apples, strawberries, new potatoes and a head of green leaf lettuce, one Roma tomato, one green pepper.  No mushrooms.  I bought the best two in the bulk mushroom bin and left around six for other shoppers.  Tortillas, check.  Whole wheat buns and two loaves of garlic bread, check.  A bag of frozen spinach and ricotta raviolis.  A dozen eggs for $0.99 (the last dozen cost $3.33).  Some cheese.  A back up jar of salsa, a back up jar of fruit spread.

I was about to call the hunt over and a success when I found frozen turkeys for $0.49 a pound (it’s the item under bananas).  For under five bucks I got a 10 pound turkey.

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So tonight’s dinner was meatloaf, mashed and fresh wilted spinach.  I also picked up some ground beef since many of the remaining meat items didn’t appeal to me.

Two stores!  Paper towels AND toilet paper!  A whole turkey for less than five dollars!  And I didn’t have to shop with the old people.

 

 

 

The Pandemic Pantry -Basic Corn and Bean Salad – 04.18.20

The look on my face must have revealed my aching soul. Maybe it was the numerous trips to the pantry or the multiple freezer checks. We had plenty of food to survive on but nothing I really wanted or cared to eat. The truth was I needed to cook. I needed some fresh foods to cook with. Ultimately she relented.

“You can go to the store and shop with the old people. You will wear a mask and keep your distance from everyone else in the store. You will not wander up and down the aisles like you usually do. You will not shower before going. When you come back you will wash your hands for 20 seconds then put the groceries away. Disinfect the items you think need disinfecting. The plastic bags will not be recycled. They will go into the garbage. You will then go into the laundry room where you will strip down and put your clothes into the washing machine. Then and only then you go to our bathroom to decontaminate.”

Senior Time at the grocery store is 7-8:00 AM. There were not many shoppers. The customers were all wearing masks, some had both masks and gloves on. But most of the employees were not wearing any masks or gloves. We know the mask wearing thing is more about not spreading virus if you’re infected and less effective for personal protection (though the latest scientific guidance is that masks do offer some level of personal protection). So is setting a specific time for a high risk group to shop at the same time and NOT have employees wear masks smart? It would take just one infected worker and s(he) could take out a number of the oldies. Just a thought. But everyone in the store respected each other’s space and kept their appropriate physical distance.

We began sheltering in place behavior one week before our state formally declared a shutdown. Minus two days in Owasso, Oklahoma (the trip was taken with the expectation a lock down would be ordered) we have been home for a month. Welcome to The Pandemic Greater Depression. At our home we are fortunate to both have jobs. Many, many others are not as fortunate and the road ahead will be hard. Despite the fact we have a roof over our heads and food on the table the new era Depression mentality has set in. I call the new mindset Forced Frugality.   The grocery store trip was interesting.  Some of the supply chain issues are resolved and the shelves look better.  Still no paper products and some of the shortages (like frozen pizza) are just plain strange.  There were arrows on the floor in an attempt to direct traffic.  I learned that some people don’t know how to follow arrows.  And despite clear instructions not to wander the aisles I pretty much went down every aisle because you never know what you’re going to find (or not find).  I found this:

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$0.59 for organic dark red kidney beans and $0.84 for organic corn!

Today’s lunch side was a simple corn and bean salad.  Here it is.

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 celery rib, tiny dice
  • 1/4 cup red onion, tiny dice
  • garlic powder
  • pinch or two dried basil
  • a splash of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 can organic dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can organic corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Whisk olive oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic powder and basil in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. Adjust your seasonings.  Add sugar, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add your vegetables and beans.  Stir and mix thoroughly.
  4. Add a splash of fresh lemon juice.
  5. Serve as a side dish or over some fresh greens.  This size recipe makes around four servings.

Tips

Sugar is only needed to counteract the acidity in the dressing.  You might not need nor want any sugar at all.  I wanted to put some red bell pepper into this dish but there were none to be found at the store.

Here’s a list of pantry items.  Hopefully you have many if not all on hand as we shelter in place.

Pandemic Pantry Items – Updated 04.18.20

  • Canned tomatoes in 14.5 and 28 ounce cans.  Diced, crushed, diced with green chilies and stewed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Brown and white sugar
  • Dried oregano, basil, and parsley
  • Onion and garlic powders
  • Bay leaves
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Dried pastas
  • Dried beans such as brown and green lentils, pinto, black, adzuki, mayocabo, yellow and green split peas, black eye peas and cranberry
  • Canned beans such as garbanzos, black, black eye peas, pinto, great northern, navy
  • Broth, vegetable, beef, chicken
  • Rice – multiple varieties like basmati, brown, Texmati, arborio  and plain long grain white
  • Flour tortillas and corn tortillas

Stay safe, stay well, stay home.

And if you do venture out of the house wear a mask.

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The Pandemic Pantry -Lentil Soup

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She Who Must Be Obeyed reminded me again this morning of her Executive Order.  Last night’s dinner was a UFO (unidentified frozen object) that thankfully turned out to be chili.  And with some leftover cornbread from the freezer I was once again in compliance with the order to “clean out the freezer”.   A part of her Executive Order limits me to one grocery trip a week (with a mask, disinfectant wipes, and one store only).  This week’s trip was a calculated gamble on one of those tiny grocery sections housed within a burger/ice cream joint whose name will not be divulged for fear of possible legal action after they hear about this post.

Bad gamble.  I managed to find just five of the nearly 20 items on my list.  I did find some fresh spinach that wasn’t on the list.  A tiny win but I’ll take it.  This is going to be a tough week.  Less fresh foods and a heavier reliance upon pantry items and any remaining UFO’s.

I sauntered into my pantry multiple times and opened the freezer multiple times before I figured out what to make for lunch.  My flash of inspiration came from the jars of beans on the kitchen counter.  I had completely forgotten about the lentils.

Until today.  Here’s my Lentil Soup recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 celery rib, diced
  • 1 very large carrot, diced
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
  • garlic powder
  • pinch dried thyme
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups water and 2 cups low sodium chicken broth (approximate)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, lower the heat to medium and saute the carrot, onion and celery until translucent.
  2. Sprinkle thyme and garlic powder over the vegetables in the pan and saute briefly.
  3. Add lentils and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.
  4. Drop the heat down to low and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the lentils need more liquid.  Add one cup water and continue to simmer.
  5. Check and stir frequently.  Add either more water or broth to suit your taste.
  6. Adjust your seasonings.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Simmer for a total time of around one hour and 10 minutes.
  8. Serves four.
  9. Or two if you eat half, save the rest for another meal and eat sandwiches/tacos using leftover fillings from the freezer

Tips

Over time I’ve learned how important technique can be for turning out tasty food.  Note the chicken broth is used first, then water.  For a cup of dried lentils you will need about a quart of liquid.  I start with chicken broth (you can sub vegetable broth) and allow the lentils to absorb the broth, then add one cup of water.  The amount of additional liquid will depend upon your personal preferences.  My approach is to add additional broth slowly after the 2 cups broth, one cup water.  Most times I never approach a full quart of liquid.  I like my lentil soup thick.

That half of a fresh onion didn’t sit around long because I made Pete’s Fried Rice without any broccoli.  Instead of broccoli I used half of a green cabbage sliced into strips.  The fried rice turned out just fine.  You have to be flexible nowadays and don’t waste anything.

Here’s my updated list of pantry items.

Pandemic Pantry Items – Updated 04.06.20

  • Canned tomatoes in 14.5 and 28 ounce cans.  Diced, crushed, diced with green chilies and stewed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Brown and white sugar
  • Dried oregano, basil, and parsley
  • Onion and garlic powders
  • Bay leaves
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Dried pastas
  • Dried beans such as brown and green lentils, pinto, black, adzuki, mayocabo, yellow and green split peas, black eye peas and cranberry
  • Broth, vegetable, beef, chicken
  • Rice – multiple varieties like basmati, brown, Texmati, arborio  and plain long grain white
  • Flour tortillas

Stay safe, stay well.

I think I bought too many bay leaves though.

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The Pandemic Pantry – Basic Quick Tomato Sauce

 

“We’re cleaning out the freezer.  We have plenty of leftovers to eat up.”

…said She Who Must Be Obeyed.  Since this Executive Order was issued the frozen stockpile of meals has been gradually dwindling.  Last night’s dinner was a mash up meal that used some leftover frozen ricotta/chicken/spinach filling and a freshly made Alfredo sauce.  The leftover ricotta filling was the result of making far too much for cannelloni a few weeks ago.  Then last night I made too much Farfalle and now I’m staring at the reality of having leftover leftovers for lunch today.

So I thought to myself, Self…wouldn’t this be good with some tomato sauce?  Of course I answered to myself and went to an old favorite cookbook for inspiration.  My quick tomato sauce is inspired by a recipe from:

Cooking from an Italian Garden Paperback –
by Paola Scaravelli and Jon Cohen

Paperback: 372 pages
Publisher: Harvest Books (November 15, 1985)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0156225921
ISBN-13: 978-0156225922

But as I have discovered over the years I’ve accidentally created my own recipe.  Here it is.

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 celery rib, tiny dice
  • 1 small carrot, tiny dice
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • pinch dried oregano
  • pinch dried basil
  • pinch dried parsley
  • a splash of white wine
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can organic stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, lower the heat to medium and saute the carrot and celery until translucent.
  2. Sprinkle the herbs and vegetable powders in the pan and saute briefly.
  3. Add a splash of wine to de-glaze the pan.
  4. Add the tin of tomatoes and bring to a boil.
  5. Drop the heat down to low.
  6. When the tomatoes start to soften begin crushing them with the flat side of a wooden spoon.
  7. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
  8. Adjust your seasonings.  Add sugar.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve over leftover leftovers (freshly made pasta works too).

Tips

Sugar is only needed to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes.  You might not need any sugar at all.  I wanted to use as many pantry items as possible.  If you feel you can spare a fresh onion or fresh clove of garlic, use them.  The wine is a luxury but can probably be eliminated if you don’t have an open bottle in the fridge. Taste as you go because stewed tomatoes are sweeter than plain canned tomatoes and come already seasoned.

Here’s a list of pantry items.  Hopefully you have many if not all on hand as we shelter in place.

Pandemic Pantry Items

  • Canned tomatoes in 14.5 and 28 ounce cans.  Diced, crushed, diced with green chilies and stewed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Brown and white sugar
  • Dried oregano, basil, and parsley
  • Onion and garlic powders
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Dried pastas

Stay safe, stay well.