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Notes from a Quarantine Kitchen

By Susan Weill

Cooking for me can be very creative and fun but only when the mood strikes, not when I have to. More often than not, dinner consists of some combination of prepared and fresh foods – chicken potstickers (thanks Trader Joe’s), quinoa veggie burgers (also TJ’s) or, if I’m really uninspired, a can of soup. I jazz up these dishes by adding broccoli and teriyaki sauce to the potstickers, topping the burger with sautéed onions, peppers and shredded cheese and enhancing the soup with some frozen mixed vegetables.

Before we started sheltering in place, I would stop into Trader Joe’s several times a week (there are two nearby) and pick up other groceries at ShopRite and Stew Leonard’s. These days, food shopping is way too stressful and involves a whole new set of issues – getting “suited up” with mask and gloves, long lines to get in the door, empty shelves, and then the cleaning protocol once you get home. As a result, I’ve been making one shopping trip a week to just one store where I get the few things I need.

Thankfully, I stocked up on my favorites before things shut down (or as much as I could in a small kitchen with limited storage), so I continue to cook the same things with a few variations such as the recipe below. I had all the ingredients on hand except the sweet potato and jalapeño so I bought a sweet potato on my last trip to ShopRite but forgot the jalapeño. No way was I going back out there so I figured the substitution of red pepper flakes would work. Hope you enjoy! (And feel free to make your own substitutions.)

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Hash

(Adapted from Vegetarian Times)

Serves 4


· 2 tsp. vegetable oil

· 1 medium onion, diced

· 1 medium red pepper, diced

· 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice (See Note #1)

· 2 large cloves garlic, minced

· 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (See Note #2)

· 4 - 5 tsp. ground cumin

· 1/2 tsp. salt

· 1 cup frozen corn

· 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

· Shredded cheddar cheese (optional, as garnish)


1. In large heavy skillet, preferably cast-iron, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.

2. Add sweet potato, and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown in spots, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in garlic, jalapeño, cumin (start with 4 tsp., add more to taste), and salt and cook, stirring often, 30 seconds. Add ¾ cup water and cook, stirring to scrape any browned bits from bottom of pan, until potatoes are tender, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in corn and beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Season with freshly ground pepper to taste, and serve hot. Pass the shredded cheese to sprinkle on top.


1 - To speed up the cooking time for the sweet potatoes, put diced potatoes into a microwaveable bowl, add 2 tablespoons of water, cover and microwave on High for 1-1 ½ minutes.

2 – If you don’t have a jalapeño, sprinkle in some red pepper flakes for a bit of heat, according to taste.

Susan Weill, a former Time Research Librarian and occasional freelance researcher, is sheltering at home in Westchester.



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