Pandemic cooking – stretching few ingredients into a family meal

Yesterday I taught my 12 year old how to make a full meal for a family of 4 with a frugal ingredients list.

What I mean is, I had 3 strips of bacon, and 2 small chicken breasts. This had to feed the hungry working man, the growing teenage boy, my tween girl and me.

For some people, creative cooking is second nature. For instance, when I look at these two food items, I can immediately think of several ways to cook them into a hearty and satisfying meal.


      • Add Mexican spice and you can roll into tortillas or make tacos.
      • Add Mediterranean spice and you can toss with pasta or rice.
      • Add Asian spices and toss with rice or rice noodles.
      • Grill and eat with salad.
      • Mix with quinoa (or couscous or kasha etc) and vegetables and it becomes a grain bowl.
      • Add to soup.

My daughter prefers to follow a recipe. There is nothing wrong with that, especially because she is still a child.

But by now we should all realize that there are many ways to homeschool children, and cooking can certainly be a so-called educational lesson. Perhaps more practical than geometry or Shakespeare sonnets (neither of which I have anything against), but you know what I mean.

Real education doesn’t have to come from google classroom or zoom. 😐


She was ready and eager for the break in monotony.

So, I told her to snip the bacon into a pan and fry it up. While she did that I chopped a cooking onion.

“I don’t like onion,” she said.

I explained that frying onion is a flavour agent, and especially so if mixed with bacon.

She didn’t believe me.

I dropped the onion into the pan anyway.

“Watch how they turn translucent,” I told her. “If we sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on them, it will help to sweat out their juices.”

She wanted to know how much salt.

“Just a pinch,” I answered. “Bacon is already salty so you don’t need much.”

After a while, she admitted that it smelled really good.

“Bacon and onion frying together wakes the dead,” I told her. “And sleeping teenagers.” πŸ˜‰

While she stirred, I chopped up the defrosted chicken breasts. Once they were added to the pan and started to brown, I said we can commence with the spicing.

“What kind of spices?” she wanted to know.

“This is where cooking can get really creative,” I told her.

We began with pepper. Then we added some garlic powder.

Immediately the scent wafting through the house changed.

I briefly wondered why the men hadn’t emerged from the basement yet.

Next, we added smoked paprika, and some mustard powder too. Just because.

Then I poured a touch of water from the nearby kettle and the mixture began to sizzle.

“Why are you adding water?” she asked me.

“I want to make a sauce,” I said. “Should we have rice or pasta with this?”

Pasta, of course, was the answer. Kids and their noodles…

I took a tube of tomato paste and squirted some in.

Oregano goes well with tomato,” I explained and she sprinkled some into her mixture.

I had a small amount of almost wilted spinach and arugula left over, not enough for a serving or salad, so I chopped that up too and added it to the sauce.

“Never waste food,” I lectured her. πŸ™„

I can’t help myself. πŸ˜‰

While the sauce simmered, she disappeared for a while. Probably to pester her guinea pigs.

That’s her craft corner. This causes me OCD. πŸ™„

I put on the pasta, and hoped this cooking lesson will stick to her brain.

Pandemic chicken tomato sauce with bacon.

24 thoughts on “Pandemic cooking – stretching few ingredients into a family meal

  1. She will never forget the moment shared with you while cooking. Surely it will be a favorite memory that will evoke with emotion.
    It’s a beautiful story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have been doing similar cooking sessions with our kids. They do fine until they have to depart from a recipe (or they don’t read it properly, or they leave a pot to boil, forgetting all about it).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I drive my daughter nuts because when I cook most meals, there is no recipe. Just toss a bit of this, then a bit of that in a pan and we’re done. She’s always harping at me “But mom! I want to learn how to do this myself! I NEED measurements!” I just laugh at her.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m reading Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked. Fabulous read about the science and history of cooking. Very well written – not dry. I think cooking is a great chemistry lesson disguised as a life lesson. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes. He’s done it, a few times…but he openly admits to not liking it.
      With him it’s timing, and baby steps. Plus I had him do the laundry so small miracle? πŸ˜‰

      He will cook again. But he was occupied yesterday…

      Liked by 1 person

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