10 Essential Quarantine Kitchen Tips From Ina Garten

Any hour can be happy hour.

Ina Garten Cook Like A Pro

In the best of times, the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten’s little corner of Instagram provides a delightful reprieve from daily life. But as the world continues its lockdown, the cookbook author and Food Network star and deserves to be crowned quaran-queen thanks to her refreshing real-life content and downright helpful cooking and meal prep tips.

“I just wanted people to feel like I was reaching out and supporting them, but they kept asking me questions,” Garten told The Atlantic. “And I just thought, This is so great. It’s like a town-hall meeting for what can I do with what’s in my fridge?”

So, according to Garten, what exactly can you do with what’s in your fridge (pantry, and liquor cabinet)? Here’s what I learned scrolling through the quaran-queen’s feed.

1. Have breakfast for dinner

Raise your hand if you’ve lost all notion of time. Make like Ina, and embrace it. Breakfast for dinner makes for a fun meal. And best of all, it’s simple to prepare—especially if you have some homemade waffles chilling in your freezer like Garten. How easy is that?

2. Don’t be afraid to experiment with pantry staples

When you find a new recipe, you usually head to the store and shop for a specific list of ingredients. Since that’s rather inappropriate now, we all have to make do with what we have on hand. So get creative with your substitutions, just like Ina. Some tricks: swapping out different pasta shapes and veggies for a noodle dish, using more dried herbs and spices, or even making your own buttermilk with milk and an acid (like lemon juice or vinegar).

3. Stay connected and celebrate special occasions—big and small

Make special occasions feel like an Occasion. “In the middle of a crisis, celebrating traditions and staying connected give us a sense of much-needed normalcy,” shares Garten on Instagram. Make your favourite recipes. Bake a cake for a family member’s birthday. And don’t forget to video chat with your loved ones.

4. Get creative to use up perishables that are about to go bad

When you’re shopping a week or two at a time, you might have fruits and veggies in your crisper that are just past their prime. Use slightly wilted vegetables to make soup, or chop them up for a protein-packed frittata. Garten even cooked down apples for a hearty homemade roasted apple sauce (she recommends serving it with a scoop of ice cream).

5. Cook up comforting meals

Whether it’s grilled cheese and tomato soup (for Garten), chicken soup, or cheesy baked pasta, now is the time to enjoy your favourite comfort foods.

6. Baking is a great math lesson for kids

E-learning might be on the docket now, but there are still plenty of real-life ways to supplement your kid’s curriculum at home. Garten recommends baking together to teach both math and kitchen skills.

7. Batch cook and store food in your freezer, properly

Not sure what to do with all the food you’ve been cooking? Freeze it so you have plenty to pick from when you don’t feel like making dinner. Follow Garten’s sage freezer-related advice—like cooling your food to room temperature before freezing, leaving room because liquids expand as they freeze, and labelling your containers.

8. Dried beans are your best friend

Dried beans are cheaper than canned and taste better, too. They’re also easy to cook (just remember to soak them overnight). Garten’s pantry is packed with dried white beans, which she uses in recipes like Tuscan White Bean Soup.

9. No yeast? Make soda bread

Baking supplies are scarce right now—especially yeast. So if you can’t get your hands on yeast—or sourdough starter—but want to jump on the bread-making bandwagon, Garten has a simple solution: Irish soda bread. Best of all, there’s no kneading required.

10. Any hour can be happy hour

Need some cocktail inspo? Look no further than the quaran-queen who’ll inspire you to raise a glass—no matter the time.

Originally published April 2020. Updated January 2021.

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