Folks are taking to the kitchen these days and cooking more as they find themselves home with fewer options for ready-made food. So why not try mastering a few new dishes?
The shelves in many grocery stores here in Maine have been largely bare of some basics — flour, yeast and sugar, for example. The refrigerator cases have been devoid of chicken. And the bread aisle is mostly shelves with a few sparse loaves of bread.
People have stocked their kitchens with essentials and are cooking more as they find themselves at home more often. So why not put those ingredients to good use?
The following dishes are all ideas to stoke your creative culinary prowess. They are flexible too — with options for different ways of making things at varying levels of difficulty. If you want to make a creative toast but don’t have avocados, for instance, try other layers of ingredients.
So get into the kitchen! And share your kitchen experiments in the comments. Cooking more is a wonderful thing.
Get Creative with Toast
When my kids and I traveled to New York last year for a vacation, we sampled all sorts of foods. But it was a toast shop that was the sleeper hit of the vacation. There, they created all sorts of funky toast combinations. And while it’s always fun to have someone else make food for you, this is one restaurant concept you can easily bring home.
From creative takes on avocado toast and radish toast to cheesy creations (Brie Toast, anyone?) to sweet concoctions, you are limited only by your imagination. I love buttering toast and topping it with thinly sliced radishes and a sprinkle of sea salt, but you could substitute other non-juicy veggies for the radishes.
For a sweeter take, try spreading Nutella on toast and topping it with banana slices and Frosted Flakes. Or spread fig jam on your toast and top it with thin slices of that aged gouda you impulse-bought when food shopping. Or maybe you have an entirely different idea with sprouts, veggies, hummus and more. Get creative.
Juice Your Own Juice
You don’t need a fancy juicer to dabble in juice. Armed with my grandparents’ old hand juicer, I’ve juiced oranges, grapefruits, limes and lemons. If you want to add some berry goodness, get your blender in on the action and pulverize those strawberries. It will be a bit pulpy, but you could push the juice through a strainer to limit that.
Why not mix up your flavors and enjoy something fresh to sip on?
Try Your Hand at Bread
Breadmaking might sound challenging, but it’s all in the recipe you choose. A no-knead bread like Cinnamon Raisin Beer Bread, for example, is as easy as stirring a few ingredients together, pouring the batter into a pan and baking. The bubbly drink — beer, cider or seltzer, for instance — activates the leavening agent making the bread rise.
A quick bread like Perfect Pumpin Bread is similar in difficulty but has a few more ingredients. In this type of recipe, baking powder is the leavening agent and has everything you need to make the bread rise.
Here are some more recipes to try:
Make Homemade Pizza
At it’s easiest level, homemade pizza can be a precooked base topped with sauce, cheese and whatever toppings you fancy. English muffin pizzas, for instance, are perfect for little hands to help with, each designing their own mix of ingredients.
Pizzas can be built on flatbread, naan, pitas and even preformed pizza dough. For a step up, buy premade dough — the kind that comes in a can or the kind that’s in a ball in the bakery. Cheese and Tomato Pizza on a Garlic Bread Crust is a good example of how an ordinary crust can be transformed into something delightful.
Be creative with your toppings — you needn’t be limited by the confines of the typical tomato sauce and mozzarella fare. Why not drizzle Swiss Chard Chimichurri on Two Cheese Steak Flatbread Pizza?
But if you are really interested in a challenge, then take it a step further and make your own crust. My favorite is thin crust pizza dough, which takes a few hours but is reliably like my favorite pizzerias. Or perhaps you’d like a deep-dish pizza dough? Also, be sure to check out my tips and tricks for making a good pizza dough.
Here are some more recipes to try:
Roast a Chicken
The best thing about roasting a whole chicken is that it can feed your family in many ways over several days. You get to eat it the day you make it, use leftovers on salads and in sandwiches and the carcass can be transformed into chicken stock. And though this is something you might normally avoid — after all, already roasted chickens are cheap at the grocery store, right? — doing so will help you discover both how easy it actually is and how better homemade can be.
After you master the chicken, why not try roasting a turkey too?
Whip Up Some Scones
If you don’t think you like scones, then you probably have never had a good one. Fresh, homemade scones have a delightful crust that’s like a firmer biscuit. And the interior is tender and flavorful. These aren’t the saliva banishing, dry baked goods of so-so diners. No, these are a comforting, tasty and even easy baked good perfect for breakfasts.
Over the years, this site has featured many, many scone recipes — from Blueberry Pecan Scones to Raspberry White Chocolate Scones to Chestnut Scones. I think my favorite ones are Blueberry White Chocolate Buttermilk Scones, but really all scones are delightful in their own way.
You could even go rogue with a savory scone, if you are so inclined. Whatever you do, read the directions thoroughly, take your time and enjoy the results.
Poach an Egg
As far as proteins go, eggs are a wonderful one because they are inexpensive, nutritious and so, so tasty. I often make sunnyside up, over easy or hard-boiled eggs, but my favorite eggs are poached eggs.
Have you ever made poached eggs? Eggs are cracked open and then added to a pot of simmering, very hot (or lightly boiling) water. They are cooked for a few minutes until the white firms up and the yolk is creamy. Then they’re fished out and enjoyed.
I particularly like the texture of the white — soft and pillowy — and the creaminess of the yolk. This is the type of egg you’d find on Eggs Benedict, but it could also top rice bowls, salad or toast. Or even a noodle bowl.
If you haven’t made poached eggs before, the cooking method might be unfamiliar. But I encourage you to give it a try while you are cooking more and have time for trying.
Pickle making sounds challenging but with the right recipes, it can actually be a really easy and rewarding culinary endeavor. In terms of easy pickle making, I highly recommend the Half Sour Pickles recipe from The Midnight Baker. I used it over and over again last summer to wonderful results. To make it, you need pickling cucumbers, salt and a few other ingredients you may already have. Oh, and patience. They need to sit in the brine for at least a week. Half sour pickles cannot be canned.
Bread and butter pickles made in the refrigerator are the next step up — a little more technique and some additional ingredients but still pretty easy. Simply Recipes has a reliable Bread and Butter Pickles recipe worth trying and it gives you alternative instructions if you want to take the added step of canning the pickles for long term storage.
If dill pickles are your thing, my Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles are a good way to dip a toe in the water. But if you’d prefer canned pickles for storage, try the Dill Pickles recipe from The Kitchn.
Time to Make the Donuts
You won’t find donut recipes on this site. Until last week, I’d never made them. But I used a recipe from Cooking Light for yeasted donuts made in the air fryer and the results were good. They weren’t quite the Krispy Kreme imitations I dreamt of, but my kids enjoyed them. Plus, it was fun to make something entirely new.
There are dozens and dozens of recipes online for baked, fried and air fryer donuts. Some even skip the dough making and use premade biscuit dough instead. Find one that appeals to you (and that you have the ingredients for) and give it a try.
What surprised me most about making these donuts was that it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. The dough was straight-forward and the process was relatively simple, if not a tad long with all the rising time.
Ready to get cooking more? I can’t wait to hear what you’re making.