Cooking during a quarantine: Pantry essentials for easy meals while sheltering at home

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- With shelter at home in full effect due to the novel coronavirus, we need to rely on pantry staples to make budget-friendly, easy meals for our families. You'd be surprised how just a few simple ingredients can be transformed into delicious, healthy food without breaking the bank.

Here to share her favorite pantry recipes for cooking in quarantine is Modern Mom contributor and best-selling author of 'Half the Sugar, All the Love,' Jennifer Tyler Lee.

Keep your pantry stocked with these 5 essentials

Canned tuna or salmon, chickpeas, lentils, nut butter, and pasta. "If I had to pick my top five pantry staples, I'd recommend having these five essentials on hand. Chickpeas and tuna can be combined into a nourishing and budget-friendly salad, which I'll show you how to make today. Bonus: the chickpeas are a good source of plant-based protein," advises Tyler Lee. "Canned tuna can be easily transformed into a hearty pasta dish, too, along with frozen vegetables you have stored in your freezer," she recommends. As for the almond butter, "Nut and seed butters are great add-ons for smoothies to give them a boost," says Tyler Lee. The lentils seem unusual, but Tyler Lee says they're essential. "The liquid in canned lentils, called aquafaba, can be used as a substitute for eggs," says Tyler Lee. Use three tablespoons of aquafaba in place of one whole egg.

Farro, Tuna, and Chickpea Salad with Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing

This budget-wise, pantry salad was inspired by Becky Krystal at The Washington Post. Her post about how canned tuna can be totally craveable was well-timed! Chickpeas and tuna form the base of this simple salad and give it a nice boost of protein. Healthy grains come in the form of farro, which also gives this salad a lovely, nutty flavor. You can use brown rice if you'd prefer. The Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing from Half the Sugar, All the Love lends brightness and a touch of natural sweetness. This salad will keep, tightly covered in your fridge, for up to one week. Get the recipe: Farro, Tuna, and Chickpea Salad with Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing.

Super Moist Chocolate Cake

This decadent chocolate cake is made with all shelf-stable pantry ingredients, comes together easily in a food processor, and clocks in at half the sugar of a typical chocolate cake! To keep the rich moistness without adding loads of saturated fats-egg, butter, oil-Tyler Lee added cooked lentils. The reserved water from the lentils, called aquafaba, is the secret ingredient. The cooked and pureed lentils in this recipe add a rich, moist texture without adding any discernible flavor which lets the dark chocolate and cocoa powder shine through. Aquafaba can be used as a substitute for eggs: 3 tablespoons of aquafaba replaces one large egg. Get the recipe: Super Moist Chocolate Cake.

Salmon Yaki Onigiri

Now that we're sheltering in place, and my kids and husband are home for every meal with me, I needed to add a few more easy lunch ideas to my rotation. I made yaki onigiri for lunch today. They're great because they can be prepared with all shelf-stable ingredients -short-grain rice, canned salmon (or tuna), teriyaki sauce, ginger, and garlic. You can also use shredded roast chicken as a filling if you have it on hand. The onigiri can be made ahead, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and stored in your refrigerator until you're ready to heat them. It's also a fun recipe to cook with kids if you're looking for an easy project to get them engaged in the kitchen with you. Get the recipe: Salmon Yaki Onigiri.

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