By Alison Lopez
MRG Contributor

Hello, everyone! I have been wanting to reach out to all of you with a new blog post but have really been at a loss as to what would be beneficial to share in this strange and unknown place we are all in right now. 

I am a chef. I am a runner. I am a teacher. Feeding people and helping people has always been what I do and who I am. Teaching people to take care of themselves and their loved ones is so important to me. Cooking for me has always been about love. And now as we navigate being in our homes more, and having to feed ourselves and others, maybe more than we are used to, it can sometimes feel even more stressful. Some of us may resort to comfort foods, familiar recipes or maybe frozen foods or takeout. We need to do the best we can. Everyone is in a different situation and we need to show ourselves and each other some grace. 

So in thinking about what might be most valuable at this point to share with you all, I thought that maybe I would talk about foods we can eat to help boost our immune system and increase our chances of staying healthy. I wrote about immune-boosting foods previously and gave a recipe for a great immune-boosting soup you could try. But now I thought I would give you a peek into my creative process and how I eat and “plan” meals. So instead of recipes, here are some ideas for working with what we have in our pantries since we are limiting our shopping.

I am always a big fan of having a well-stocked pantry, and now more than ever it is really important to limit our shopping time while still eating well. Hopefully you have a good variety to choose from at home.  

Veggie power

So what are some of the best immune-boosting foods and what to do with them? Well, this should come as no surprise to you when I say “vegetables. ” Yup! It is time to start eating veggies like it is your job. They are loaded with all of the good stuff and provide a lot of the key vitamins and minerals to keep us healthy (of course along with hand washing and social distancing). 

So what to do with these veggies besides salads and soup? Well, for me the simplest thing to do is pick my veggies, pick a grain (or starch) and then pick a bean/lentil.

Here is a step-by-step approach in words and pictures: (And don’t forget the salt and pepper!)

Dish #1

  • Roasted some carrots and broccoli. 
  • Had some already cooked farro (but you can use rice, quinoa, pasta, millet, etc.) and tossed it in a skillet with some good olive oil and some walnuts. 
  • Then added a handful of frozen edamame (but you can just use peas or the bean of your choice). 
  • I roasted veggies and heated it all up. 
  • Top it with cheese if that’s your thing. Or a big drizzle of olive oil or a big squeeze of lemon. 

Dish #2

  • Roast some butternut squash (or sweet potatoes).
  • Saute some collard greens (or your fave green, or use frozen) with onions, mushrooms and garlic (my holy trinity, or as my boyfriend calls it OMG!) 
  • Cook up some lentils (or beans). 
  • Then season as you like. 
  • A big drizzle of balsamic vinegar is lovely with lentils. But maybe you chose black beans here, well then some avocado or salsa would be great. You get the idea? 

Okay. Here’s one more and this one doesn’t even require the oven.

  • Saute up a big mess of the “holy trinity” (OMG!) 
  • Add a big bunch of the greens of your choice. 
  • Make sure to be generous with olive oil, salt and pepper. Let ’em wilt and then add some cooked quinoa to the pan. 
  • Toss around, add some crunchy almonds or walnuts (healthy fats) and some beans (or not) if you choose. That’s it. 

So I hope these ideas have been helpful and that you can enjoy some creative time in the kitchen. Cooking for me is all about love and sharing it with others through actual cooking or my words. So I am sending you all love and strength. And please reach out if you want more ideas, recipes, suggestions. Leave your thoughts and questions in the comment section below!

Here are some past recipe posts that might be quarantine friendly (by that I mean ingredients on hand!) 

Three-bean sweet potato chili 

Split pea “stoup” 

Lentil Soup 

Savory sweet potato recipes

Ali Lopez is a northern Michigan runner, chef and health coach. You can learn more about her at her web site Healthy Chef Ali. She’s also on Facebook here »

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