If nothing else, we are eating well (part 2)

Marion Leary
11 min readDec 28, 2020


Golden Syrup Asian Pear Pie

In July, I wrote a blog post entitled: If nothing else, we are eating well! and that has not changed. Staying home and working from home because of the pandemic has allowed me much more time to be adventurous in the kitchen - and to show me how much I love cooking (when time allows). I’ve begun to realize that not only is it a nice creative outlet that doesn't involve more screen time, but it is also task-oriented (I really do love being told what to do sometimes), and it also allows me to think of nothing else, which helps control the anxiety that is constantly coarsing through my body. Plus, at the end, I get to eat really well.

During these last 10 months, I have attempted recipes I would never have considered before and learned that you really can make anything at home as long as you have the right tools and supplies. My wife keeps our home well-stocked with a wide variety of spices and foods, so that most any recipe I want to make, for the most part, I can. We are fortunate that we are able to keep a well-stocked kitchen, and have food on our table every day, not everyone this year has been so lucky. If you can, please donate to Philadabundance or to your local food bank and help those in need. In the end, trying out different recipes and cooking yummy meals has been one of the best things to come out of this horrible year. Here’s to 2021!

Vegetarian Tikka Masala

I LOVE Chicken Tikka Masala, it is one of my top favorite foods — but now that I am a vegetarian, I haven’t been eating it — until now! I didn’t have all of the spices needed for this one, a byproduct of all of the cooking we’ve been doing lately, but it didn’t matter. This dish smelled like, looked like, and tasted darn close to the Chicken Tikka Masala I love so much.

Spanish Omelette

I was listening to an audiobook last week and the main character was in Madrid, eating Tapas. I was immediately transported back to the time I was in Madrid eating Tapas, and so obviously, I had to make a Spanish Omelette. It was very easy to make (minus the flipping halfway through, that was stressful), and extremely tasty. The wife agreed it tasted just like Spanish Omelette’s she had when she was in Spain.

Vegetable Paella

I made this recipe years and years ago and then out of nowhere last month thought about it again and decided I needed to make it. I remembered loving it the first time I made it, and it did not disappoint this time. This dish to me is the epitome of comfort in a bowl, hearty, filling, and popping with flavor. To make it vegetarian, I used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. I also don’t like eggplant, so substituted zucchini, and added some spinach as well. I highly recommend this recipe!

Date, Feta and Red Cabbage

There are like 6 common-ish ingredients in this salad and it is by far one of the tastiest dishes I’ve made since the pandemic had us all #stayinghome. If I had more red cabbage in the house right now, I would be making and eating it right now! I forgot to put in the sesame seeds at the end, but honestly, it didn't need it. It was soooo good I ate almost all of it myself.

Vegan Black Bean Chili

So funny story, I planned on making this Black Bean Chili before my wife went to the grocery store. I put all of the ingredients we needed on the grocery list. When she got home and I started making the chili, I couldn't find the Black Beans, turns out we didn't have them — you know the main ingredient for the Black Bean chili; I could have sworn I had seen them in our cabinet but it must have been a Black Bean mirage. Not to worry though, I am the queen of modifying recipes —and this one was significantly modified. It also turned out to be one of the best chili’s I’ve ever made. The recipe called for 3 cans of Black Beans, but instead, I used 1 can of white beans and 1 can of pinto beans and then put in two mini zucchini and two carrots in place of the third can of beans. I kept all of the other spices and seasonings in the recipe the same.

Joe’s Latkes

My Italian Catholic father-in-law was the person designated to make the latkes for Hanukkah every year at my in-law's house. As the years went on, I became his assistant (another Italian raised Catholic). When he died, I took on the privelage of making the latkes. This is more of a list of ingredients than a recipe but it works nonetheless. This year I made a “how to” video for my brother-in-law (another Italian gentile), you can watch it here. I also always make a second batch of Latkes and substitute the potatoes with sweet potatoes. You can use Gluten-Free Bisquick for those who have a gluten allergy.

Scallion Pancakes

When looking for new recipes, I not only try to find new ones that look just look extremely appetizing, but try to find recipes that use the products and foods we have in abundance in our home at the time. We had a bunch of scallions in the fridge the other day and since those things go bad quickly, I thought I would try to make Scallion Pancakes since the kid really likes them. They were time-consuming and the instructions were not straightforward, but eventually, I ended up with something resembling a scallion pancake. I used Gluten-Free flour and the texture was spot on, but they were not as flavorful as we were hoping. I don’t know that I would make these again.

Garlic Knots

What can I say, the kid loves bread and cheese (but then who doesn't). These were simple to make, quite tasty (so she told me every time she ate them), and a definite kid-pleaser!

Afghani Qabily (Raisin Carrot Rice Dish)

Afghan food is one of my all-time favorite cuisines, hands down, so I was excited to make this dish. It was not hard to make, but it was a little too sweet for my liking. My next Afghan dish is going to be Kabuli Palaw which I believe is a little more savory and a little less sweet. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.gourmettraveller.com.au/amp/recipes/chefs-recipes/kabuli-palaw-8270

Masala Stew

I made this dish to go along with Tahdig, which I had made once before, and described in part 1 of this blog post in July. It was so good and went really well with the crispy rice. Highly recommend.

Vegetarian Lentil Tortilla Soup

I love tortilla soup, it hits all of my favorite flavors and textures in one bowl. This recipe was pretty easy to make and very tasty.

Mac and Cheese

Another kid-approved recipe, it was gooey and cheesy goodness.

Gluten-Free, Lactose-Free Mac and Cheese

I also love gooey mac and cheese. As someone who is gluten-free, and also trying to be dairy-free, it can sometimes be difficult to get that gooey texture. This recipe hands down was the best mac and cheese I’ve ever made (or eaten) since becoming Lactose-free and somewhat dairy-free. I don’t like the Daiya cheese so I used a sheep’s milk cheddar/manchego combination - it was everything I wanted it to be and more! :)

Candied Sweet Potatoes

I made these for Thanksgiving and they were just as you would expect, buttery, yumminess. They were also simple to make, which had me questioning why people buy them frozen?

Golden Syrup and Asian Pear Pie

If you’ve been reading my comments under all of these recipes you will notice that I substitute a lot of ingredients, all the time; with multiple food allergies and restrictions in our home, I have to get creative. Generally, recipes are a foundation for me to build upon, and this recipe was no different. I love Golden Syrup, it is like sweet golden goodness in a bottle. I also really like Asian Pears, so I figured a Golden Syrup Asian Pear pie would work great — and it did. Spoiler though, I used a premade Gluten-Free pie crust, which was the least tasty part of the pie. I also made an oat crumble for the top instead of a pie crust covering. I am not a baker by any means but this pie was spot on.

Orange Scones

This orange scone recipe is pretty simple to make. My wife made it first with regular flour, and then I made it with a Gluten-Free scone mix. We both really enjoyed it and the scones were bursting with fresh orange flavor.

Lemon Scones

We also made Lemon Scones which were equally as yummy and bursting with lemon flavor!

White Beans with Toast

An easy and quick bean dish. We’ve made this a few times (with substitutions of course).

Smoky Tangy Greens and Beans

We love tangy greens and beans, so this recipe hit the spot. Again, you can substitute regular breadcrumbs with Gluten-free breadcrumbs if needed.

Ribolita (Tomato Kale Soup)

This was one of the best soups I’ve made (and eaten) in a long time. It was hearty and tasty and made me long for my Grammy — which means it tasted authentically Italian!

Grilled Indian Yogurt Sandwich

A friend posted this recipe on Twitter and I was so excited to make it. Plus the kid had wanted a sandwich press, so we got one and I was excited to use it. I was a bit disappointed though, this recipe lacked flavor. It was pretty bland. I would not make this again.

Summer Squash Pizza

We made this recipe over the summer when we were still socially-distancing, outside, with friends, wearing masks (!). This recipe had potential but I may not have drained the squash well enough because I found the pizza soggy, and also a bit bland. I would try it again though.

Orange Tofu

Like I mentioned before, I look for recipes I like and then substitute as needed. We are vegetarians in my home, so I replaced the chicken with tofu. It is really tasty and goes nicely with broccoli and rice. The kid doesn't like tofu very much, so she usually cooks up some vegetarian chicken nuggets and pours the orange sauce on those. Pro tip: when cooking the tofu, coat it with corn starch then fry to a nice crisp, and then coat with orange sauce.

Zucchini Enchiladas

This was a quick, healthy, really tasty meal. It’s on my mental list of recipes I want to make again.

Chickpea Casserole with Lemon, Herbs, and Shallots

I was a little leary about this recipe, but it turned out pretty good. It was a hearty meal and had a nice flavor. Again, you can substitute regular bread crumbs with Gluten-free breadcrumbs, and really no one would be the wiser. There are also a number of ways to make this Lactose-free (by using lactose-free cottage cheese) and by using sheep’s milk cheese like Pecorino Romano instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Corn & Cheddar Mashed Potato Fritters

I thought the kid would love these as they hit all of her culinary sweet spots: potatoes, cheddar, and fried things, but alas, maybe it was execution, but no one really enjoyed these. You can’t win them all!

I hope that 2021 is a better year for the world than 2020 was, but it will be a while before anyone in our home feels comfortable eating out again (plus with my inhalation shellfish allergy, who am I kidding, I wouldn't be rushing to eat out regardless). Therefore, I am grateful for the confidence I’ve found in the kitchen this year, for the recipes from around the globe that have sustained us, and for the privilege of being able to make them. I can’t wait until I can share these meals with all of our family and friends again and eat well together!



Marion Leary

Science geek. Passionate abt Philly, resuscitation, social media, scicomm, innovation, art, & helping others. http://marionleary.strikingly.com