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Pandemic stirs up interest in the kitchen

Pandemic stirs up interest in the kitchen
Pandemic stirs up interest in the kitchen
Suetta Tingler

Slice, dice, whisk and bake. Confidence in the family kitchen has soared, according to researchers and pollsters as reports begin to reveal how the COVID-19 pandemic shaped cooking trends in 2020. We have learned a lot during our days living with novel coronavirus.

According to the Hunter College Food Policy Center in NYC, the leading motivators to influence the decisions of those expressing desires to continue their home-cooking habits even after the world returns to an improved “new” normal are: to save money (58%), encourage healthier eating habits (52%), a way to try new recipes (52%) and cooking helped reduce stress (52%). Others responding to interviews admitted suffering from kitchen fatigue. Such fatigue has contributed to the 22% increase in mail meal kits delivered to homes. In summary, present studies show 54% of Americans continue to cook an average of nine meals a week while 46% are baking in home more than before the pandemic.

Consumers continue their search for new recipes as they express the need for new meal ideas to provide variety in eating habits while stretching the family dollar. These same cooks are eager to discover new ingredients and are willing to take on more challenging preps in the kitchen. One positive coming out of in-home cooking is the wake up to food tastes. This new awareness brings forth the desire to learn how to transform leftovers into satisfying meals.

The Kroger Co. claimed a 30% spike in grocery sales last year, and the company predicts consumers will continue to largely cook in home during 2021. The company also forecasts a growing interest in “global cooking.” Kroger believes this will be a “breakout year” for preparing recipes to include mushrooms along with an uptick in eating plant-based foods.

Don’t be surprised to find innovation at work in select Kroger brand stores since the company is expected to showcase specialty produce like “no cry” onions and hydroponic in-store farms. Keep the watch without the shock.

Yes, with every boil and stir during the last year, kitchen confidence and possibly enjoyment of time spent in our kitchens feeding ourselves and family have had a positive return on hours spent. Still, the same familiar words — sound, healthy, easy, quick, delicious, comforting and budget minded — repeat no matter the world situation.

On Dec. 24, the Kroger Co. released its Top 10 Food and Beverage Choices for 2020. These reported findings were based on consumer purchases in nearly 2,800 retail Kroger stores located across the country. If you’re like me, you will find consumer buying habits interesting since such market research tells the story of what products shaped home cooking and eating habits during 2020 while families dealt the pandemic were hunkered down at home. Here is the list in order of most purchased items last year:

1. Zero calorie soft drinks

2. Mexican blended shredded cheese

3. Flavored potato chips

4. Sauvignon Blanc wine

5. Heavy whipping cream

6. Fresh burger patties

7. Artisan breads and buns

8. Bulk coffee pods

9. Party bags of chocolate

10. Black Forest sliced deli ham

Kroger also revealed that consumers purchased fewer greeting cards, fresh-cut flowers and celebration cakes in 2020. Other sources reported bread machines and jigsaw puzzles were in demand.

How’s your kitchen confidence holding up thus far in 2021? In accordance with the Kroger Co. predictions and consumer requests for 2021, I share these recipes.

Cooks are expressing interest in global flavors. This is a one-pan winner filled with flavor, quick to make and sure to please the palate. I suggest using bagged coleslaw mix and tossing in fresh snow peas.


(Allrecipes magazine 2021)

1 or more cups of prepared cooked white or brown rice per serving

1 pound ground pork sausage

6 cups coleslaw mix

2 carrots, peeled and shredded

1/4 cup chopped green onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons chopped peanuts, plus for garnish

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Fresh cilantro, garnish

Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook, stirring and breaking up lumps, until browned and crumbly, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain skillet. Add coleslaw mix carrots, green onion, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil to skillet. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in peanuts and ginger. Serve over hot rice and garnish with more peanuts and cilantro. Serves 4.

Break out the mushrooms with this next recipe. These potatoes can be made and refrigerated one day ahead of baking to serve.


6 Russet potatoes, about 7 ounces each

5 tablespoons butter, divided

12 ounces mushrooms, coarse chopped

2 large green onions, chopped

3 ounces cream cheese, about 1/2 cup

1/3 cup sour cream

1-1/4 cups white cheddar cheese, coarse grated

Bake potatoes until fork tender. Melt 1 butter in a skillet; add mushrooms and sauté to brown, about 7 minutes. Add green onions to the mushrooms and stir until wilted, about 1 minute. Slit top of each potato and gently scoop potato flesh into bowl; leave a small margin of potato inside each potato shell. Add cream cheese, sour cream and 4 tablespoons of butter; mash. Mix the mushroom sauté and 1/2 cup of cheese mixture into the potato mash. Season with salt and pepper; stuff empty potato shells with mushroom-cheese filling. Sprinkle potatoes with rest of cheese. Double bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes. Serves 6.

This recipe lets pork chops bring a new excitement to taste buds. Serve with double baked potato and a side of fresh steamed or sautéed broccoli. It’s sure to impress family.


6 pork chops

6 tablespoons brown sugar

6 tablespoons butter

Soy sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chops in a single layer in a baking pan. Spread 1 tablespoon of brown sugar on top of each chop, then place 1 tablespoon of butter on top of the sugar. Sprinkle soy sauce over all of the pork chops. Tightly cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes or until all chops are well browned.

This next recipe is healthy, hearty, budget minded and comforting; add a side of crusty baked cornbread and oven-baked apples to complete a meal. Beans and greens belong in the Mediterranean diet.


(Treasured Italian Recipes)

3 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 head escarole, endive or 2 packages frozen spinach, cooked and drained

2 cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained

Salt and pepper

Red crushed pepper

Gently sauté 2 cloves of garlic in oil. Add cooked escarole, endive or two packages of frozen spinach cooked and drained. Warm slowly, turning frequently to get the full effect of the garlic and oil. Add the drained cannellini beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste; sprinkle with a small amount of red crushed pepper. Let simmer in skillet until properly heated.

Hints & Tips:

Use take-and-bake rolls from the grocery store. Before baking, brush with melted butter or olive oil and lightly sprinkle with garlic salt and a shake of Parmesan cheese.

Portion meatball mix using an ice cream scoop. First day, serve spaghetti and meatballs; second day, try baked meatball sandwiches with provolone, mozzarella cheeses.

Transform leftover slices of meat loaf into sandwiches; grill on a greased grill pan. Egg and olive make a great sandwich filling.

Prepare a large batch of soup; eat and then freeze leftovers for later use.

Vary the taste of macaroni and cheese with any of these change ups to create the main entree: add cooked chicken, smoked or Italian sausage; stir in a couple of cheeses like smoked cheddar, Gouda or Asiago cheeses. Serve mac ’n’ cheese with slices of fresh Golden Delicious apple.

Boil red-skinned potatoes in salted water until tender; mash and drizzle with purchased pesto. Try a light drizzle of pesto and olive oil over a bowl of hot pasta.

Toss leftover rice into a skillet or wok to stir-fry rice; add chopped green onion, carrot, frozen peas and even scrambled egg. Leftover rice can be added to cooked ground beef, cheese and tomato sauce to stuff and bake red and green peppers. Refried beans or mashed potatoes with cheese and onion make good fillings for peppers.