Pandemic snacking: Try sugar-free chocolate pudding

A lot has been written about people gaining weight while they sit home in quarantine because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The so-called “Quarantine 15” likely resulted from people loading up on high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar snacks. It’s been difficult for me not to do the same, and I have had my mini-binges as stress levels rose to hideous heights.

All you need to make pudding at home.

But I have found one snack that has no sugar and minimal fat — sugar-free chocolate pudding. You can buy it in pre-made cups, but those became harder and harder to find in my area as the pandemic persisted, so I bought the box variety instead and made it myself.

Chocolate pudding comes in two varieties, instant which requires no cooking, and the old-fashioned regular kind which requires you to do some very simple cooking. You can use either low-fat or no-fat skim milk, thus controlling the bad-fat levels you eat in the pudding you make.

The instant kind just requires you combines the powdered pudding mix with milk and mix it for a few minutes. I use an electric mixer but you can do it by hand with a whisk or fork too. The traditional kind requires heating the milk in a small pot on your stovetop and adding the mix, combining them in the pot.

This is my production from two boxes of pudding mix.

One regular-sized box requires two cups of milk, a pint, so two boxes work with a quart. I found a larger size box as well that requires three cups of milk.

Once mixed, you pour it into whatever small serving bowls or glasses you want and then put it in the refrigerator to cool and thicken.

If you need some chocolate every day, this I a great way to get it. Enjoy!

Covid-19 cooking trends: Everyone is making banana bread, apparently

I just finished blogging about one study on how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted American cooking and eating habits. And now a second study has crossed my desk, this one looking at the most searched for recipes since the pandemic began.

Banana bread (which I don’t like or eat, by the way) was the number one recipe searched for in all 50 states in April, found Bid on Equipment.

Tiny Rhode Island had the most searches for banana bread recipes, followed by New Jersey and Washington state.

So obviously the country likes banana bread more than I do and is finding some comfort in making it. More interesting, because of the range of choices, is which recipes came in second in every state. Regional differences can clearly be seen there. Continue reading “Covid-19 cooking trends: Everyone is making banana bread, apparently”

Pandemic eating means quick meals and more take-out, study finds

I’ve been blogging for several days about fascinating new research from Influence Central about how the COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted how people eat and cook. Today I’m focusing on what it’s meant for cooking time and take-out behavior.

While people are being forced to eat more at home, they don’t seem to be turning into health-conscious cooks who spend hours each day in their kitchens, the study finds. For example:

  • 46% are willing to spend 15 to 30 minutes cooking
  • 44% will spend 30-60 minutes.
  • Only 23% are willing to devote more time to dinner prep
  • 73% are devoting about the same as prior to stay-at-home orders

Sadly, what this means is many are eating unhealthy meals.

My mix and match fish dinner cooking away, walleye in the white pan, tilapia in the black with peppers and onions in the third.
My mix and match fish dinner cooking away, walleye in the white pan, tilapia in the black with peppers and onions in the third.

“Frozen meals from pizzas to more substantial heat and serve entrees, prepared meals ready to cook from the supermarket, and canned goods such as soups and chili become go-to items,” says Stacy DeBroff, CEO and founder, Influence Central.

“It’s clear that even with more time at home, some people still don’t necessarily want to spend all day in the kitchen,” she says.

All of those choices are normally very high in salt and can be high in fat and sugar as well.

When it comes to take-out:

• 69% of consumers have ordered take-out or delivery food from restaurants during the pandemic.
• 71% order from restaurants they ate in prior to the crisis.
• 87% order take-out from a specific local restaurant out of a desire to support the restaurant financially.
• When it comes to getting food delivered, consumers’ top choice is direct from the restaurant itself (60%). Favorite delivery services: Door Dash, followed by GrubHub and Uber Eats.

“More than half said they have not been concerned to leave the house to pick up food or collect it from a delivery driver,” DeBroff reports.

Influence Central found that the top ordering choices are:

1. Pizza (79%)
2. Fast Food (52%)
3. American and Pub Food (ex. Burgers and wings) (45%)
4. Mexican (39%)
5. Asian (35%)
6. Italian other than Pizza (23%)

Sadly, again, not very healthy choices. Continue reading “Pandemic eating means quick meals and more take-out, study finds”

Covid-19 — a boon for home cooking; organics have been hurt, study finds

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced people to rely more on home cooking and home-made meals. That one is pretty obvious, but new research from Influence Central dug a little more deeply into that trend to find that:

  • 88% of people are cooking more meals at home since stay-at-home orders went into effect.
  • 49% are now cooking meals from scratch.
  • 46% add into the mix pre-cooked and packaged foods.
  • 5% stick mostly to pre-cooked and packaged options.
  • These choices reflect consumer preference (57%) versus availability (43%).
  • 84% of consumers eat the meals they prepare right away.
  • 14% prefer preparing meals ahead of time.

    Getting ready for holiday cooking? Check back here often for no-salt, no-sugar, no-fat recipes.
    Almost everyone is cooking more at home since Covid-19 struck.

Influence Central’s May survey of 630 consumers found 17% of respondents are now delegating more cooking responsibilities to spouses and partners. For 3%, responsibilities have reversed, which means for 80%, who cooks has not changed. Continue reading “Covid-19 — a boon for home cooking; organics have been hurt, study finds”

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.

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