COVID-19 may entail a change in food options

Coconut butter shortbread cookies (Barbara Silverstein photo)

Shabbat Shalom. What a difference a week makes! The country has closed down. On Friday I signed papers at a lawyer’s office and on Monday, she was working from home.

By the weekend the shelves at the grocery stores were empty and the checkout lines were a 40-minute wait. This is the new normal. The coronavirus distancing is affecting all aspects of our lives – work, entertainment, synagogue attendance, and at our dinner tables.

So far, fresh food has been readily available in grocery stores, but that could change at any time. What is disappearing off the shelves is canned and dry foods, and toilet paper, go figure.

People may be stock-piling canned soups, beans, rice and pastas to minimize trips to the grocery store or perhaps they’re afraid of a food shortage.

This week, I decided to choose recipes with ingredients that are essentially made from canned and packaged staples. These foods do not require refrigeration and are easy to store in case the supply of fresh food becomes scarce.

In that event, my go-to ingredient is coconut butter because it’s a stable oil with a long shelf life and it’s a good substitution for butter.

One of my husband’s favourite meals is cream of tuna on toast, but this dish is actually a partial recipe for Tuna Fish Casserole. I found several tuna-fish casserole recipes because it’s comfort food and easy to prepare.

The online recipe – it’s at a site called Live Laugh Rowe – uses four pantry ingredients.

Second Helpings, Please!, the classic kosher cookbook edited by the late Norene Gilletz has two variations on tuna fish casserole.

One of the characteristics of this cookbook was the use of convenience foods like canned vegetables, ketchup and instant soups. Those recipes were not the highlight of the book. It was a group effort and not all the women were as food savvy as Gilletz.

However, in this year of COVID-19, the book’s lesser known recipes may come in handy if we become more reliant on non-perishable ingredients.

The Macaroni-Tuna Casserole in the Second Helpings recipe calls for a box of macaroni and cheese dinner, along with a can of tuna and some ketchup. The added hard-boiled egg is optional.

Chop Chop Casserole calls for canned green beans, canned soup, and canned tuna.

Food consultant and Instagrammer Amy Stopnicki (amyskoshertaste) sent me her recipe for No Bake Balls, essentially made of non-perishable dry fruit, and this snack of that can even be eaten on Passover.

Italian-Style Rice and Beans is a recipe from the Spruce Eats site. The dish only requires three ingredients – all non perishable – and some Italian spices. It was surprisingly good for such an effortless dish.

In my search for shortbread cookies made with coconut butter, I came across Coconut Oil White Whole Wheat Shortbread Cookies, from a site called Anita’s Organic Mills.

I substituted all-purpose flour for the whole wheat flour and I added some vanilla extract. I divided the batch into cookies of various thickness and they were all very tasty.

The thicker cookies tasted like, but were not as soft as, traditional shortbread. For the thinner cookies – I added some mini chocolate chips to the batter – and they were really delicious.



750 ml (3 cups) medium egg Noodles

400 ml (1½ cups) can cream of mushroom soup

100 g (5 oz) can of tuna, drained

354 ml (1½ cups) can evaporated milk (optional)


Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F)

Cook the noodles according to the package directions and drain.

In a sauce pan, mix together the evaporated milk, cream of mushroom soup and tuna fish on medium. Heat through until creamy.

Place the noodles in a 1½ L (1½ quart) casserole dish and pour the sauce over noodles.

Bake for 15-20 minutes


MACARONI-TUNA CASSEROLE  (Second Helpings, Please!)

1 box macaroni & cheese dinner

100 g (5 oz) can of tuna, drained

45 ml (3 tbsp) ketchup


Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F)

Prepare macaroni & cheese dinner according to the package directions. Add the tuna and ketchup. Toss in egg (optional). Place in a greased casserole dish and broil until crispy, about 5 minutes.

Makes 3 – 4 servings.


Chop Chop Casserole

1 354 ml (15 oz) can of sliced green beans or green peas, drained (reserve juice)

30 ml (2 tbsp) soy sauce

400 ml (1½ cups) can cream of celery soup

100 g (5 oz) can of flaked tuna, drained

250 ml (1 cup) diced celery (optional)

375 ml (1½ cups) cooked rice

125 ml (½ cup) chow-mien noodles


Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F)

Combine reserved juice with soy sauce. Add remaining ingredients, except the noodles. Place in a greased 1½ L (1½ quart) casserole dish. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Garnish the dish with the noodles before serving.

Makes 4 servings

Italian-style rice and beans (Barbara Silverstein photo)


1 796 ml (281/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs (do not drain)

1 540 ml (19-oz) can Great Northern beans or cannellini beans (or any kind of white bean; drained and rinsed)

375 ml (1½ cups) cooked rice

2 ml (½ tsp) Italian seasoning

1 bay leaf

Sea salt or kosher salt (to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)


Place the diced tomatoes and their juice, the Great Northern beans or cannellini beans (drained and rinsed), instant rice (or you can also use leftover pre-cooked rice) uncooked in a medium saucepan, and season lightly with a bit of Italian seasoning and a bit of sea salt or kosher salt and fresh black pepper.

Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. The dish is done once the rice is cooked and the beans and tomatoes are cooked through. There will still be a bit of saucy moisture, some of which will evaporate as the dish cools slightly. Makes 3 to 4 servings.


NO BAKE BALLS  (Amy Stopnicki)

375 ml (1½ cups) dried dates

375 ml (1½ cups) dried apricots

125 ml (½ cup) dried cranberries

250 ml (1 cup) walnuts, finely chopped

125 ml (½ cup) almond flour

5 ml (1 tsp) maple syrup

8 ml (½ tbsp) honey

5 ml (1 tsp) cinnamon


Combine dates, apricots, cranberries in a food processor and pulse until the mixture forms a fine consistency.

Add remaining ingredients and continue to blend until you reach that fine consistency. Using a cookie 1/2 inch cookie scoop, roll out mixture and place on a cookie sheet.

Let the balls set in the fridge to for 1 hour before serving.

Makes 12-14 balls.



375 ml (1½ cups) coconut oil, room temperature

375 ml (1½ cup) icing sugar, sifted

750 ml (3 cups) all purpose flour

5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

1 pinch salt

125 ml (1/2 cup) mini chocolate chips (optional)


Preheat the oven to 190°C (375˚F) and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using a stand mixer or a wooden spoon, mix all the ingredients together. The mixture should resemble wet sand and hold its shape when squeezed into a ball. If not, add a little more coconut oil.

Using a tablespoon, scoop the dough and shape into a ball. Place each ball on the prepared cookie sheet and flatten slightly with a fork.

Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until golden around the edges.

When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Makes 36-48 cookies