Pandemic cooking: try these Hawaiian chicken skewers

A dream trip to Hawaii in January was the last vacation we took before the pandemic swept across the U.S. I love Hawaii and miss it daily, so I’m always looking for ways to connect, especially now when I can’t leave my house. So this Mini Hawaiian Chicken Skewers recipe called to me when I saw it.

Luckily, I had a can of pineapple slices in my pantry to it and I’d stocked up on chicken breasts. I substituted lemon for lime juice because that’s what I had available. The same for ground ginger in my spice cabinet instead of the fresh ginger mentioned here. And I used fulls-ze skewers.

My Hawaiian chicken skewers.

Even with those changes, it came out very tasty, the grilled pineapple adding a nice bit of juiciness to chicken that could have veered toward dryness otherwise. I always recommend clicking through to the original recipe, where you can see a preparation video as well. But if you’d rather just see the recipe here (as some readers have told me they would):

Ingredients:

1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (the thick variety) [use sugar-free version]

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 cloves garlic, minced

Juice of 1/2 lime

Kosher salt [I left this out, it’s not needed and I’m on a low-salt diet]

4 green onions, sliced

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into bite-size chunks

2 red bell peppers, cut into chunks the size of the chicken and pineapple

One 20-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil, for the grill pan

 

Directions

  1. Add the teriyaki sauce to a bowl and stir in the ginger, brown sugar, crushed red pepper, garlic, lime juice, a pinch of salt and half of the green onions; set aside.
  2. Using wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for at least an hour, assemble your skewers. Start with a piece of chicken, then add a piece of bell pepper and a piece pineapple, then repeat until you 2 pieces of each on the skewer. Continue with the remaining ingredients for a total of 30 skewers. Season the skewers with salt and pepper and brush them with the marinade on one side.
  3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and brush with olive oil. Arrange the skewers on the grill sauce-side down (in batches if necessary) and grill for 3 minutes. While the skewers are cooking, brush the tops with the remaining marinade. After 3 minutes, flip and cook the other side for an additional 3 minutes. Remove to a serving platter and garnish with the remaining green onions.

All the chopping takes time, this isn’t a quick recipe to make, but it was worth the effort. I’d also recommend making more marinade than the recipe calls for. I had less chicken than specified and still ran out as I was coating the second side after turning the skewers on my grill.

Pandmic Shopping at Food4Less: hit and miss but hand sanitizer was available

Finding groceries during the Coronavirus pandemic has been a hit and miss affair, much like shopping during any natural disaster can be. I’ve written about my experiences with home delivery, and have been reviewing stores I venture out for. Food4Less is a Kroger-owned chain that operates in the Chicago area.

My local Food 4 Less was quiet Sunday morning.

In normal times, I find produce deals there as well as some low-salt and no-salt items not available elsewhere.

I journeyed there the past weekend specifically to find Mrs. Dash salt-free teriyaki marinade but was sadly disappointed. It was out-of-stock and I didn’t even see an empty space on a shelf with its tag, so I’m concerned the chain may not be carrying it any longer.

That would force me to buy it online, which would effectively double the cost to more than $7 a bottle because of shipping costs. Amazon does have it for Prime members without shipping charges, but the cost is close to $6 a bottle, about 50% more than in stores.

Another item I looked for, low-salt soft taco shells from a local Chicago company,. also was out-of-stock but that;s likely because that company had to shut down when employees there tested positive for Covid-19. I think the plant is running again, but it must be having difficulty meeting demand.

I stocked up on hand sanitizer and some disinfectant.

One pleasant surprise at Food4Less was that it had hand sanitizer in stock, two different brands in fact. I bought two bottles of each (the per-shopper limit), just in case I’ll need it this fall should I be able to reopen my theater (a possibility that’s seeming less and less likely).

The store itself was relatively empty on a Sunday morning and everyone I saw was masked, which was reassuring. The quiet and the lack of person-to-person interaction was very sad, however, another impact of this pandemic.

Imperfect Foods: an imperfect answer to Covid-19 grocery delivery

Two months after we began staying home, you would think home grocery delivery options would have improved. They had major problems when I first wrote about home delivery. But I just tried Imperfect Foods hoping it would be more reliable. Sadly, it was not and I ended my subscription after only one delivery.

The concept behind Imperfect is a worthy one — to use produce that might not look the best but is perfectly edible, preventing it from going to waste. Demand for it was so high in April, when my daughter told me she uses it, that I could not open an account until May. When I did, though, I found it’s having the same problems larger food retailers are.

My Imperfect Foods box really was imperfect — arriving a day late

It also had a problem I hadn’t encountered before — it simply couldn’t deliver anywhere near when it promised. It originally gave me an eight-hour delivery window — from noon to 8 p.m. In normal times, that would have been unacceptably long to me, but these days I have nowhere to go so I accepted it.

But when 8 p.m. and then 9 p.m. came and went on delivery day without any food, I emailed to find out how late I would need to stay up for my delivery. The answer — it wasn’t coming until the next day, with another eight-hour delivery window. Lucky I wasn’t counting on that delivery to make my dinner the night it didn’t come.

The next day, as time passed I wondered what was happening — until I received an email saying it would be yet another day before my delivery arrived. A delivery two days late is unacceptable to me, especially because I had ordered a meat and seafood add-on to my veggies and wondered where those all were sitting for two days. Continue reading “Imperfect Foods: an imperfect answer to Covid-19 grocery delivery”

Coronavirus impact: your food bills are climbing

Feel like you’ve been paying more for every item you can find in your local food store during this Cornoavirus Pandemic? You’re right and now reports are coming out to prove it.

The food at home index, compiled by the  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics rose 2.7% in April compared to March 2020, its sharpest one-month climb since February 1974. Prices in April are up 4.1% compared to April 2019. Prices are up pretty much in every category, according to the bureau. Examples include:

  • Poultry, meat and fish — up 4.5% in April compared to March
  • Cereal, baked goods and non-alcoholic beverages — up 2.7% in April compared to March
Grocery prices are climbing during this pandemic — if you can find the items you want in stores that is.

Demand has soared as people eat at home more than they ever did before the virus struck and supplies dwindle as processing plants close because of sick employees. Imported food supplies likely also are down. And we’ve yet to hear about deliveries breaking down because of sick truckers, expect some of that as this goes on too.

Don’t expect the price picture to brighten anytime soon. People who are filling their shopping carts to the brim every time they go to a store likely are wasting a lot of that food because they aren’t accustomed to planning meals to use everything before it goes bad. So they’ll likely be back in stores making the same mistakes all over again and keeping demand for everything high — along with prices.

Ordering Meal kits/meal delivery in the pandemic? Here are ratings to consider

Meal kits, sold by most major supermarket chains these days, are something I’ve avoided because of the generally high salt content of most offerings. I wrote about one that my local supermarket chain was offering, you can read about that by clicking here.

But if you’re a non-cook being forced to eat at home during the coronavirus pandemic, you may have turned to meal kits or home meal delivery services as a way to eat with minimal cooking involved.

Men’s Journal, presumably aimed at non-cooking men, recently rated several of the most popular services, you can read its ratings by clicking here.

You’ll have to check to see which are available in your particular area.

The article breaks them down as best for vegans, best for health enthusiasts, best for too lazy to cook but staying one specific diet. The categories are cleaver, see where you fit and make your decisions accordingly.

 

 

Having digestion issues with your Covid cooking…here’s why

Americans are eating at home in record numbers these days, with many who have never been that comfortable in the kitcehn suddenly forced to cook — and to shop in food stores with limited supplies.

Finding it all spells some indigestion for you? Well maybe it’s not your cooking so much as what you’re cooking and eating these days. Cooking Light ran this insightful story on eight types of foods that can cause indegestion. Some of these may surprise you, others you should know you shouldn’t overdo.

Here’s one more reason not to eat fried foods.

Top of the list is fried foods, no surrpise there. “They can lead to tummy aches and diarrhea for some, or possibly contribute to reflux for those who experience it,” Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club, says in its article.

A surprising one might be raw vegetables but I know from experience they can be a killer depending on your stomach and how it reacts to them.

Other items on the list:

  • Sugar-Free Packaged Foods
  • Chewing Gum
  • Coffee
  • Garlic and Onions
  • Soft Cheeses
  • Legumes

Trader Joe’s shopping in the pandemic. Hurry up and wait

I took my first trip to a Trader Joe’s in more than two months this week, which also means it’s my first trip there since the Coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. I had to wait on line to get in when the store opened for senior shopping at 8 a.m. But once inside, I found the items I wanted and even a few I don’t normally buy there.

I went to a checkout lane with no one waiting in front of me, but the checkout was a sad moment for me, so much different from the pre-pandemic Trader Joe’s.

Shopping at Trader Joe's
The line I encountered waiting to get into a Chicago-area Trader Joe’s. These were all seniors waiting for the 8 a.m. opening of the store for senior shopping.

Checkout clerks now are surrounded by plastic shields. I was asked to push my cart to the clerk but to remain at the six-foot away line on the floor while she checked out my items.

Once she was done, she asked me to walk past her and her sheild to the card processing terminal to pay and leave.

The usual friendly banter with the clerk was gone. I am someone who looked forward to talking to those clerks when I shopped there. Chalk it up to me being an old man with few, if any friends nearby anymore.

Those days of chatting at the checkout are gone. Continue reading “Trader Joe’s shopping in the pandemic. Hurry up and wait”

Getting tired of pandemic cooking? Here’s one way to make it easier

Everyone is eating and cooking more at home during the Coronavrus pandemic and, let’s be honest, it’s a lot of work. Tired of it all yet?

Ordering take-oput from local restaurants is one alternative. But another is looking for ways to simplify recipe prep. This food hack I found for making chicken kebabs is one of those.

It suggests skewering chicken breasts before you cut them up and then creating the kebab pieces. The picture expelains it better than I can, click here to read the full story from Cooking Light.

Here’s a handy heart-healthy cookbook for pandemic cooking

If, like most of us, you’re doing more homecooking during the Coronavirus pandemic, you’re liekly running out of new recipes at this point to give some variety to your daily meals.

The American Heart Associaiotn has a free cookbook available, Cooking in Color, that could help with that dilemma.

Among the recipes in the book, which you can grab as a PDF by clicking here, are:

Fruit Kebabs
Tomato and Ricotta Toast
Teriyaki Salmon with Cauliflower Rice
Couscous-Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps
Grilled Cuban Mojo Pork Tenderloin with Plantains
Orange-Glazed Turkey with Potatoes and Carrots

Of course, you’re still on your own trying to find the ingredients you need amidst increasing sparse food stroe shelves but hopefully this book will give you some ideas to vary your menu.

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