Cooking and Baking

A Quarantine Cookbook: 20 Dinner Recipe Ideas

At some point during quarantine, my roommate started taking a photo of every new meal we made. She wanted to document our culinary adventures, especially since she’s not typically as big a fan of the kitchen as I am. But since the pandemic, she’s been forced into learning to cook some more dishes, and I’ve been glad for the help!

Because, to be honest, even though cooking and baking are usually a joy, figuring out what to make has been difficult in the past eleven months. I have not felt regularly inspired in the kitchen, and I mainly make things because, you know, eating is essential.

However, despite my lack of motivation, I have found some tried-and-true recipes during quarantine (and some beforehand) that I want to share with you all, in case you are needing some fresh ideas to try too!

In case you’d like to jump to a specific category:

Quick & Easy

Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken –

Legit this recipe is on my menu at least once a month – and has been since before the pandemic. I usually serve it with rice and some kind of steamed or roasted veggie.

Take it from me: it’s best with skin-on, bone-in thighs – though chicken breasts work too, in a pinch. And definitely tastes best in butter, though I’ve used coconut or olive oil when needing a break from dairy.

Sweet n Spicy Chicken – Taste of Home

“Fast and easy,” typed my mom next to this recipe’s name when passing it on to me. And it is. One of the fastest meals you could make. Again, it’s a served-with-rice dish. (What can I say? I live in a rice-eating country with a rice-eating roommate 🙂 )

Spicy Tilapia with Aioli SauceThe Spruce Eats

We’d love to see what this tilapia tastes like when grilled, as the recipe instructs, but we don’t have a grill. We baked it in the oven, instead and flipped it halfway through baking. It still tasted delicious.

Be forewarned – the entire recipe calls for a boatload of tilapia. We cut it down, but accidentally made the whole recipe of the Aioli sauce. And subsequently used it to dip e-v-e-ry-thing in it till it was gone. SO GOOD.

Easy Tuna Patties –

These are easy, and stay together great when frying. I use less oil than it calls for, but they still turn out well.

Tip: Only let the oil gently bubble and no more so it doesn’t splatter everywhere and burn your arms (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything).

Whatever’s-in-the-house pasta – Me

There’s no exact recipe for this, but I use this idea when I need to use up veggies in the fridge or haven’t one to the store or am feeling uninspired by whatever is in my kitchen. I generally use some combination of:

  • chicken, tuna, or beans
  • zucchini
  • carrots
  • onions
  • garlic
  • mushrooms
  • green beans or asparagus
  • bell peppers

I cook spaghetti or whatever kind of pasta. I sauté the veggies in olive oil. I will also usually cut some chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and cook in the skillet, seasoning generously with basil, oregano, salt, and garlic powder.

While the pasta drains in a colander, I whip up a basic white sauce, like this one, using whatever kind of dairy or non-dairy milk I feel like and adding in a generous amount of garlic powder. If I’m feeling the dairy, I use butter in the sauce and I add cheddar cheese. If I’m not, I use olive oil instead of butter, and I add nutritional yeast.

Then I mix it all up, scoop it into a bowl and eat.

Medium-length meals

Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry – Taste of Home

Let’s be real. Stir fry is so versatile, that you don’t have to stick to just broccoli. Pretty sure I added at least mushrooms and onions, if not bell peppers and carrots to this recipe.

Beef Tenderloin –

I made this for Christmas dinner – don’t think I eat this fancy every day 🤣. I’d use a bit less rosemary next time, and more garlic. But still yummy and satisfying.

Chicken with Spinach and Mushrooms in Creamy Sauce –

We eat this over pasta. My roommate absolutely loves this and wouldn’t mind if we had it every other week. You can’t beat the scent of garlic and butter and the mushrooms add a depth of flavor to the dish that rounds it out.

Filipino Chicken Adobo

This isn’t *actually* the recipe that is used in my house because, well, my roommate is Filipina and she doesn’t use a recipe. Plus, there are as many versions of adobo as there are, say, spaghetti or chili, in the U.S. But the recipe comes close. All I can say is chicken adobo is a new favorite, and eventually I’ll write down the recipe my roommate uses.

Tip: Roommate insists that Silver Swan Soy Sauce brand be used in order for it to taste “right”. Also use thighs and drumsticks with bone-in, skin-on for full flavor.

Spaghetti & Meatballs – my family

A family recipe from my mom’s side, I grew up with this being the way spaghetti “should” taste. The others are too bland after all the delicious amounts of basil, oregano, and garlic in this one.

You can make the meatballs separately and bake them on a cookies sheet (350°F), but I usually mix and brown all the ingredients together in the pot and then add the sauce ingredients in so it’s just a flavorful meat sauce.

For the Meatballs:

  • 4 slices of bread, grated to make crumbs
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground sausage (or just use more beef)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese (leave out if dairy-free)
  • 2 T parsley
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1tsp basil
  • 1 tsp salt

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 8 cups diced tomatoes (about 4 15-oz cans)
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 (6oz) cans tomato paste
  • 1/2 c. chopped mushrooms (or 1 small can)
  • 4 tsp basil
  • 1/4 c sugar (or finely grated carrot)
  • 1.5 tsp salt & 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 T oregano

Slow-cooker Recipes

Chicken Burrito Bowls –

I’m a sucker for anything taco-flavored. If you aren’t home during the day to add the rice, look at the recipe notes at the bottom for tips. The next time I try this, I’m going to either add more tomatoes, or do my red onion-tomato-white vinegar salad on top of it.

Taco Soup – The Spruce Eats

Easy, throw it in the slow cooker and let ‘er simmer recipe.

If I want to, I sometimes add ground beef to this, too. And while some recipes say to brown it beforehand, I don’t. That’s what the slow cooker is for, for pete’s sake!

Beef Stew –

This isn’t the easiest crockpot recipe since you can’t just toss everything in. However, the steps for browning the beef don’t take too long, and it’s warm and delicious. Serving it over mashed potatoes, as the recipe suggests, is definitely the way to go.

Lemon & Herb Chicken with Asparagus – Baking Queen

I love that people have gotten more creative with slow cookers – adding the asparagus a few minutes before the end is a great and easy way to steam it.

Vegetarian and/or Vegan

Coconut Chickpea Curry –

I don’t even usually like curry recipes. But this one, it’s satisfying to your taste buds and to your stomach.

Tip: If you’re like me, and don’t have garam masala handy, here’s a diy recipe for that.


Mushroom Barley Soup – Chocolate Covered Katie

I made it this week – yum. If you’re wanting to spruce it up a bit, this recipe from The Mediterranean Dish also looks good.

Loaded Taco Fries – A Virtual Vegan

Forewarning: This one takes some time, so don’t do it on a night when you need a quick dinner. However, leftovers taste good, even if you reheat the fries in the microwave.

I usually use the substitute avocado sauce she suggests. And her idea of using chickpea juice instead of oil really works!

Time Investment Recipes

Falafel and Pita – The Mediterranean Dish

I mentioned these in an earlier post, but they’re worth mentioning again. Suzy has a knack for making these dishes easy to understand and gives very helpful tips. I’m looking forward to trying more of her recipes in the future! She’s the one who taught me the “oil gently bubbling” trick I mentioned above with the tuna patties. Life saver.

It was so fun to make my own pita bread and to see it bubble up to make the pocket. It felt like magic – I wasn’t sure it would work!

One change I’ll make to the falafel in the future is to put in a bit less pepper – but that’s personal preference.

Homemade Pizza Crust – by Mario Batali (from the Food Network)

The most time-consuming part is letting the crust rise and making the Basic Tomato Sauce (adding oregano to it). But if you have extra sauce in the freezer from a previous batch, it becomes a faster meal.

(Yes, yes we did eat straight off the pan/cutting board 😆)

Bonus: Breads and Sweets

Southern Biscuits – Alton Brown

My favorite biscuit recipe yet – with great tips on how to make them all flaky and fluffy.

Quick and Easy Banana Muffins – Sally’s Baking Addiction

She’s not kidding with the name: they are quick and easy, and also my favorite banana muffins I’ve had.

Artisan, No-knead bread – Cafe Delites

I’ve been experimenting with no-knead bread since the pandemic started. I haven’t quite found the right amount of flour for high-altitude, but it’s good enough that I’ll keep trying.

As you can see, I don’t have a Dutch oven, but this casserole dish seems to work just fine.

Classic Pancakes – Betty Crocker

Pretty sure Betty Crocker is the source of the pancake recipe my mom always makes, but I spy a few changes – like how there’s less salt in this recipe. But I would guess it’s still going to give the same results.

Dairy-free chocolate chip cookies – Life as a Strawberry

Dare I say it? I think these might beat the Tollhouse recipe I grew up eating. I still make that one, too, but sometimes, having a dairy-free treat helps my tummy.

I hope you found a few recipes here to inspire your time in the kitchen!

What is a tried-and-true recipe of yours?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s