Cooking during COVID-19: Skip the store, raid the cupboard for these healthy recipes

Easy recipes
Looking for meals that don’t require a trip to the grocery store? Here are six versatile recipes for hearty and healthy meals that can be made with ingredients most people have on hand.

During these days of lockdowns and quarantines, many people have rediscovered their kitchens, cooking old family favorites, experimenting with new recipes and making so much homemade bread, there’s now a yeast shortage. For many, cooking is a way to relax, reconnect with the family and create a fun activity for the kids while filling your home with wonderful aromas.

If you’re a cancer patient, nutritious and well-balanced meals are essential to help maintain the strength you need to stick to your treatment regimen and help support your immune system. By now, though, you may be running out of ideas for healthy meals. Or your pantry may be getting low on certain ingredients. Meal and grocery deliveries are an option to put food on the table. But if you choose to limit contact with others or want to reduce trips to the store, you may be looking for more options for using the ingredients you have on hand.

The versatile recipes below require lots of ingredients, but they leave healthy room for omissions and substitutions. Don’t have green onions on hand? Use a yellow or sweet onion instead. Running low on maple syrup? Substitute that honey or agave syrup you’ve been wanting to use.

“We wanted these to be healthy, but not intimidating, using familiar ingredients with an opportunity to adapt and substitute without worrying about something not turning out right,” says Carolyn Lammersfeld, Vice President of Integrative Care Services at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA). The recipes are courtesy of Cancer Nutrition & Recipes for Dummies, co-written by Lammersfeld, Maurie Markman, MD, President of Medicine & Science at CTCA® and Christina Torster Loguidice. “Sometimes when we experiment this way, we create favorites that we want to continue preparing.”

Homemade Granola

Substitute whatever nuts, seeds or dried fruits you like or have available.

Prep time: 10 min | Cook time: 30 min | # of serving: 8 | Serving size: ½ cup


  • 2½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
  • ¾ cups untoasted sunflower seeds
  • ¾ cups untoasted almonds
  • ½ cup shredded coconut (unsweetened if possible)
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ½ cup liquid sweetener (honey or maple syrup)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup dried cranberries


  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, seeds, nuts, coconut, spices and salt. Toss well to evenly distribute ingredients.
  3. Add liquid sweetener and vanilla to the dry ingredients and mix well to combine all ingredients.
  4. Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally for even browning.
  6. Remove from oven, add raisins and cranberries, and stir to combine.
  7. Let cool, stirring occasionally until the granola reaches room temperature.
  8. Store in an airtight container. Stays fresh about seven to 10 days in your pantry or for up to a month in your refrigerator.

Simple Veggie Omelet

You can make this high-protein breakfast feast with peppers, broccoli and zucchini, or whatever vegetables you might have on hand.

Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | # of servings: 1


  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tbsp. 1 percent milk
  • ¼ cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
  • Oil spray


  1. Preheat large skillet over medium heat and mist pan with cooking spray.
  2. Add tomato (with juices), green onion and spinach to pan. Stir and cook vegetables until soft and spinach is wilted. Remove veggies from pan.
  3. Return pan to stove, reduce temperature to medium-low heat, and mist pan again with cooking spray.
  4. Whisk egg, egg whites and milk in small bowl and pour into pan.While omelet cooks, lift edges and allow uncooked egg to flow underneath. Once egg is mostly cooked, flip.
  5. Place vegetables on top of egg and sprinkle with cheese. Turn off heat.
  6. Once cheese is melted, fold egg in half. Serve warm.

Hearty Vegetarian Minestrone

Hearty and healthy, this old-fashioned favorite has plenty of mix-and-match opportunities.

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 50 minutes | # of servings: 6


  • 1 28-ounce can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • ½ cup cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • ½ tsp. dried basil
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ cup dried pasta of choice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot and add the onion, garlic and celery, and cook and stir over medium heat until the onion is translucent and celery is tender.
  2. Add the broth, tomatoes (with juice), carrot, cabbage, zucchini, chickpeas, parsley, basil and oregano. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat.
  3. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes on low heat, or until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Add your pasta of choice. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and cover and simmer until the pasta is al dente (about 10 minutes).
  5. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.

Chicken Stir Fry

Substitute shrimp, lean beef or tofu for chicken in this recipe. You can also use whatever type of mushroom or veggies are available. 

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 35 minutes | # of servings: 2


  • ½-pound boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 tbsp. teriyaki sauce
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, sliced fine
  • 1-2 cups broccoli flowerets
  • ½ -1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 small can water chestnuts, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

For Sauce

  • 1/8 cup chicken broth
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cornstarch


  1. Marinate your choice of protein in teriyaki for about 15-30 minutes.
  2. Mix first four ingredients for sauce.
  3. Heat stir fry pan or wok and add 1 tablespoon of the oil.
  4. Stir fry chicken until cooked through, remove and set aside.
  5. Add another tablespoon of the oil to pan and stir fry onion for about a minute or two, followed by the garlic and ginger. Add remaining veggies one at a time and stir fry for 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. Return cooked protein to pan and add sauce. Mix cornstarch with a tablespoon of water and then add to pan to thicken sauce.
  7. Serve over brown rice or another whole grain, like quinoa.

Slow Cooker Stew

Stews are a great way to make good use of available meats and veggies.

Prep time: 5-10 minutes | Cook time: 6-10 hours in slow cooker | # of servings: 4 to 6


  • 5-6 small potatoes, washed thoroughly and cut into quarters
  • ¾ small bag of carrots, washed and sliced
  • 1 small bag frozen, mixed vegetables
  • 12 ounces beef broth
  • ½ small bag pearl onions
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5-6 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1.5 pounds beef stew meat
  • Water to cover all ingredients in crock pot


  1. Combine all ingredients in crockh3pot, cover and cook on low for about 8 hours.
  2. Season with pepper, paprika and other herbs as desired

Triple Antioxidant Yogurt Popsicles

Mix and match whatever fruits or yogurt flavors you have on hand.

Prep time: 10 minutes | Freeze time: 3 hours | # of servings: 12


  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 2 cups vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tbsp. honey


  1. Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
  2. Pour mixture into 12 popsicle forms per the product’s instructions and place in the freezer for at least 3 hours before serving.
  3. Remove the bar from the popsicle form and enjoy.

If you’re a cancer survivor or in active treatment and are concerned about how the COVID-19 situation may impact you or your care, please contact your care team.

Learn more about food safety for cancer patients.