Cooking in Quarantine: Recipes we’ve found and loved

Cooking during quarantine has taken mealtime and meal prep to a whole new level. Like many people, I constantly feel like I’m thinking about what I’m going to feed myself and my family and it feels like I spend the other time doing dishes. As an immunocompromised IBD mom of two little ones, I’ve used these past few months to be a bit more resourceful in the kitchen.

Prior to the pandemic, I wasn’t the most adventurous. I had my 10-15 “go-to” recipes and never really branched out. While these past few months have been physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing, I’ve found spending some time in the kitchen, while listening to music, is a sweet distraction amongst the unknown chaos going on outside our home.

Since March 12th (102 days!), we have had take-out four times. So, as you can imagine, I’ve had to get creative with my cooking!

NOTE: These recipes do not follow one specific IBD or autoimmune “diet”. I am always hesitant to talk food, as each and every person has unique dietary needs and is able to tolerate food groups differently. If there was one way of eating that was a magic bullet for IBD, we’d all be following it. The best advice I can give when it comes to diet, is to keep a food journal and see what your individual triggers are.

Here are my favorite recipes I’ve found online since quarantine, that have been a hit in the Hayden household:

  1. Slow Cooker Chili. I’ve tried four different recipes these last few months and this one was our favorite. Since my kids are 3-years-old and 17 months, I did not add the hot sauce.
  2. Crispy Chicken. This is SO delicious, but heavy on the calorie count. (Worth it in my opinion!) Made for great leftovers, too. The pasta is to die for.
  3. Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Gyros with Homemade Tzatziki. You guys. As a Greek girl, I more than approved. The tzatziki sauce was fantastic.
  4. Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice. Super simple recipe. I make this with crescent rolls and green beans. Bonus: Makes the house smell great.
  5. One-pot Sausage and Peppers Pasta. Yummy meal, hits all the food groups, with minimal dishes. That’s a win! IMG-3692
  6. Crockpot Pulled Pork. So simple and so tasty. We pair up the meat with Hawaiian rolls and Bread and Butter pickles.
  1. Salsa Fresca Chicken Bake Recipe. I’ve always been a fan of making casserole-type dishes where you put everything together, put the dish in the oven, and that’s it!
  1. Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Tacos + Mexican Rice Casserole. We’re big fans of Mexican food. These paired up great together along with all the toppings (tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, avocado, lettuce).
  1. Crispy Breaded Pork Chops. + Warm Cinnamon Apples. I’m usually not a huge fan of pork chops, but this meal is good. I usually make green beans for the side. IMG-2680
  1. Ground Beef Taco Casserole. Like I said above, we’re all about Mexican food. My husband loved this one.
  1. Mediterranean Rice Bowls. I found this recipe last year in a Women’s Day magazine and it has been one of our absolute favorites as of late. You can make this with lamb or beef, we’ve only done beef so far. I also buy mini pita breads to go with this. If you don’t have cucumber or don’t like it, I’ve made this with green bell peppers as well. I couldn’t find the recipe online—so I’ll share it here.


1 lemon

2 tbsp. olive oil (divided)

2 cloves of garlic (I only use one clove)

4 cups of cooked long-grain rice

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

1 pint of cherry tomatoes halved

½ a seedless cucumber, cut into ¼ in. pieces

¼ cup of fresh mint

Crumbled feta, for serving

(I tweaked the directions a bit, so I’ll share how I make this)

  1. Make rice according to the box (will take 25 min. so start this first)
  2. Chop the tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, and mint and put to the side.
  3. Finely grate zest of lemon, then cut lemon in half. Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Add beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned. (Once browned, discard fat). Add garlic and ¼ tsp of salt and pepper and cook, stirring 1 minute, toss with lemon zest. Transfer beef to a bowl and squeeze juice of 1 lemon half on top.
  4. Once rice is done cooking add it to the bowl with the beef and season with cumin, coriander, and ¼ tsp of salt and pepper.
  5. Squeeze juice from the remaining lemon half into a medium bowl. Toss with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and ¼ tsp of salt and pepper. Fold in the mint.
  6. Add the mixture to the beef and rice and top with crumbled feta. ENJOY! IMG-3693

Bonus recipe: While we were visiting the Lake of the Ozarks recently, I created a salad that is simple and delicious:

Butter lettuce

Chopped apples (I use Honeycrisp)

Chopped strawberries

Chopped grapes

Feta Cheese

Pecans (or whatever nut you’d like to add)

Honey Mustard dressing

Liquid diets: How to thrive and what to avoid

When you battle inflammatory bowel disease, chances are there will be several times throughout your journey where you are limited to only drinking liquids—whether it’s preparing for an upcoming procedure or needing to rest your bowel during a flare-up. It can be extremely dreadful to function in a workplace or in a social situation, when you’re limited to drinking liquids or sipping on some broth.

meandamandaWhen I was a news anchor in Springfield, Illinois, I used to interview and participate in cooking segments with a registered dietitian named Amanda Figge. She is extremely passionate and well-versed about nutrition and health and practices what she preaches in her daily life.

“Nutrition holds the key to the difference between going on or off certain medications, improving your performance and strength at the gym, raising energy levels, and reducing pain and inflammation, to name a few. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to healthy eating,” Amanda explains.

One of Amanda’s recent posts on social media really peaked my interest. She included a photo of Ensure. If you have IBD, chances are you’ve relied on these at some point. I know I have. In her post, Amanda wrote:ensure

“Ensure is one of the worst “nutritional” beverages to supplement in the diet. Yes, I fully understand the body just needs to receive nutrients in any way, shape or form it can. But when longevity and health are a prime concern, QUALITY should be a priority. As you can see, Ensure provides an assortment of vitamins and minerals, but in order to get those nutrients, you have to consume a bottle chalk-full of chemicals and high-inflammatory agents.”

She went on to say:

“Sugar is the third ingredient. Corn maltodextrin is a highly processed refined carbohydrate. Soy protein should be avoided. Artificial flavors/sweeteners are no way to treat the body nicely. You’re basically consuming a multi-vitamin that was covered in sugar, lit with a cigarette and left in the middle of a freeway during rush hour traffic.”

Whew. Intense. If you’re like me—and have depended on these meal supplement drinks when you’re in the hospital, fighting a flare at home or struggling to eat—those words probably struck a chord with you, too. Amanda’s focus is to heal the body with whole foods and eliminating potential sources of inflammation. Inflammation is the immune system’s first response to an acute or chronic condition. Chronic inflammation can be caused by cancer and its treatments, autoimmune disorders such as fibromyalgia and Crohn’s, metabolic complications such as diabetes and even neurological conditions like depression.

“While I believe it’s important for all people to practice low inflammatory eating habits (focusing on a whole foods diet and limiting processed foods, chemicals and added sugars), it is especially important for individuals experiencing chronic inflammation to adopt these protocols. Ensure is often provided to those undergoing chemotherapy or recovering from a bowel flare-up. While it may be appropriate for some, creating a homemade nutritional supplement can have far less chemicals and more immune-boosting benefits,” says Amanda.

If you’re put on a liquid diet to calm your bowel and to heal, avoid lactose, gluten, sugar-substitutes and soy. Making homemade shakes allows you to have complete control of the nutrients you are putting into your body. Here are two of Amanda’s favorite smoothie recipes:

 Creamy Chocolate Banana Smoothie

  • 1 scoop of chocolate whey protein isolate (lactose-free and naturally sweetened)
  • ½ frozen banana
  • ½ small avocado
  • 1 spoonful of peanut butter or almond butter
  • Handful of ice cubes
  • Unsweetened almond milk (1/2 cup- 1 cup)

Blend all ingredients in food processor or mixer. Using less almond milk will make the smoothie extra rich and thick.

Berry Bliss Smoothie

  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein isolate (lactose-free and naturally sweetened)
  • ½ -1 cup frozen blueberries
  • ½ frozen banana
  • 1-2 handfuls of spinach
  • Unsweetened almond milk (1/2 cup- 1 cup)

Blend all ingredients in food processor or mixer. Using less almond milk will make the smoothie extra rich and thick. IMG_5890

Another option instead of whey protein isolate would be collagen peptides. These specific amino acids can additionally help support proper gut function and strengthen immunity. L-glutamine powder is an additional supplement Amanda recommends that promotes gut healing. This powder can easily be added to smoothies and beverages.

I don’t know about you, but the next time I’m on a liquid diet, I’m going to take Amanda’s advice to heart. While we may not have control of our well-being with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, this knowledge and background enables us to grab the reins and give our body the best shot to heal, in a healthy way.