5 Quick and Healthy Meals to Make at Home
While the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing everyone to stay locked down at home, it is more important than ever to eat healthy meals to help boost your immune system. With limited supplies of fresh ingredients on your shelves, you may think it's a difficult task, but with a little improvisation, you can prepare tasty, nutritious meals in no time. Before the crisis began, most people prepared ahead by stocking up on store cupboard ingredients such as pasta and tinned foods, so now is the time to start using some of them up.
1. Chickpea Curry
Tinned chickpeas are an excellent source of protein so they make an ideal alternative to meat. They are full of vitamin B6, A and C and they also contain a high amount of iron to keep your system strong. While you cook some rice make a tasty, rich sauce with tinned tomatoes and an onion.
If you have a red or green sweet pepper that needs to be used up, finely dice it and add to the sauce for even more flavour and the benefit of its anti-oxidant properties.
Curry powder was probably not on your shopping list of essential ingredients before lockdown began, but you can still make your dish hot and fiery. Try cayenne pepper, black pepper or turmeric which is an ideal anti-inflammatory agent. Dried chilli powder can also add some heat.
If you prefer not to eat your curry spicy, add a pinch of salt to increase the sweeter flavours of the tomatoes and peppers. Garnish with any herbs you have at hand such as coriander and parsley or improvise with thin strips of cucumber.
2. Shepherd's Pie
Traditionally made with minced lamb, you can easily replace this main ingredient with a dried soya mince product from your emergency rations. Soya beans are particularly rich in magnesium. This useful mineral has many health benefits such as fighting depression and relieving tension and anxiety. It's the ideal ingredient when you are suffering the effects of not being able to get and about as usual. Follow the instructions on the packet to hydrate the soya, then add your own ingredients.
If you still have a few fresh carrots and onions left, chop them and add to the soya mince. You can use tinned carrots and green beans as an alternative. Add a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce for a piquant flavour. Meanwhile, to make the mashed potato topping, boil some potatoes or use an instant dried version.
To make the potato topping appear glossy, mix in an egg yolk when mashing the potatoes. Place the soya mince into an ovenproof dish and spoon the potato on top before baking in the oven until golden brown.
3. Pasta Carbonara
This classic Italian dish can easily be adapted to be healthier, even if you don't have many fresh ingredients. While your pasta is cooking in a large saucepan, cut a few rashers of bacon into thin strips and cook them in the oven until crisp instead of frying. If you've run out of garlic, finely chop an onion or use a dried alternative and fry.
The tasty secret of a true carbonara is the rich, creamy sauce that accompanies the pasta, but finding a carton of cream in your refrigerator is not very likely in these stressful times. However, an excellent substitute is a small tin of condensed milk thickened by a tablespoon of cornflour.
A handful of fresh, curled leaf parsley is probably not in your vegetable rack either, but try a small tin of green beans finely chopped to add some colour and flavour. In addition, they are packed full of vitamins such as A, C and K that strengthen your immune system. They also contain vitamin B6, which ensures your system is burning energy efficiently, and minerals such as iron, potassium, manganese and calcium to help you stay fit and healthy.
4. Pea Burgers
If you like to keep your heart healthy, but you can't get out and exercise too much due to the lockdown restrictions, try making your own heart healthy burgers from peas. This humble vegetable is rich in protein and low in carbohydrates. It is extremely beneficial thanks to its high level of potassium, a mineral that helps your heart and muscles to function efficiently. Peas also contain manganese which has anti-inflammatory properties. You can use dried, frozen or tinned peas.
While they cook, soak some oats in milk and fry a finely diced onion. Use a fork to mash the peas, the drain the milk from the oats before adding them to the peas. Add an egg and enough breadcrumbs to ensure the peas have a stiff texture. Season with salt, pepper and herbs.
Form the mixture into several burger shapes and fry gently on both sides until nicely browned. Serve in either a burger bun or with some steamed vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.
5. Tuna Pasta Casserole
Tinned tuna is a versatile food to have in your larder as it can make tasty sandwiches, salads or casseroles. It also helps to increase the efficiency of your immune system through a combination of selenium, zinc and Omega-3 fatty acids. It's also a good source of muscle-building protein.
While cooking some pasta, fry a thinly sliced red onion until soft. Add a tin of tomatoes and a few cloves of crushed garlic. Tinned sweetcorn is a useful addition as it is high in vitamin B12 and helps to lower your cholesterol level. Using a fork, lightly flake the tuna into the pasta before placing the mixture in an oven proof dish.
Pour the tomato and sweetcorn sauce over the pasta. If you have any leftover cheese hiding in the refrigerator, grate it over the top of the dish before baking in the oven. Serve with some crusty bread and a side salad.