Food

What Do I Make With the Beans I Panic-Bought, and Other Burning Questions

What Do I Make With the Beans I Panic-Bought and Other Burning Questions?

Remember way back to February when crafting a dinner party menu was at the top of the culinary quandary list? You can’t imagine how much I look forward to having that problem to solve again, but in the meantime, in between washing dishes and emptying the dishwasher (“All. These. Dishes!” – reader Nicki), here are the burning questions on your collective quarantined minds…

What do I do with all the beans I panic-bought? — Maggie

Let’s assume we are talking about canned beans or cooked dried beans that you’ve already soaked and simmered. (Here is a primer on how to cook dried beans.) Some rapid-fire ideas: Add black beans to a deep skillet with onions, jalapeños, cumin, fork-smush that a bit before stuffing and frying in tortillas with cheese and pickled onions; Sub in pinto beans for the chicken in last-week’s recipe and you won’t be disappointed; Marinate a can or two of drained white beans in an oregano-spiked vinaigrette and add the whole thing to a romaine salad with tomatoes, mozzarella, finely minced red onion. (We call this Pizza Bean Salad in my house.) Fry two cans of drained garbanzo beans in more olive oil than you think over medium-high heat with salt until they get really crispy (about 15-20 minutes), then drain on paper towel, toss with cayenne and smoked paprika, and serve with yogurt and pita or naan. (Or throw them into a salad the way you’d throw chicken into any salad.) Sara Forte’s veggie burgers call for a cup of black beans and require other ingredients that might be hard to find at the moment, but it makes for a special dinner, and special might go a long way right now.

I’m suddenly feeling like I have to wow everyone with dinner every night. — Michele

You know how all the experts are suggesting sticking to your usual routine as much as humanly possible? (Exercise, shower, get dressed, commute to your office upstairs to work, etc.) It would be helpful to remind the overly expectant diners in your house about this crucial advice. If you don’t normally produce a parade of James Beard Award-worthy meals at dinnertime, don’t switch up the routine now — for the sake of everybody’s mental health! On the other hand, if you enjoy wow-ing people for dinner and find yourself with a little extra time, earmark a day of the week when you all cook something wow-worthy together. It’s looking more and more like our days are going to start blending together, and I think everyone, including you, might benefit from having something to regularly look forward to.

It’s my eight-year-old’s birthday next week. How can I make it special when she can’t have a party, we can’t go to a restaurant celebrate, and it’s hard to find cake ingredients at the supermarket? — Lynn

The food part is the easy part. If your local bakery isn’t offering curbside pick-up, and you’re determined to make a cake from scratch despite slim pickings in the baking aisle, consider an ice cream cake made from your daughter’s favorite cookies and ice cream (here’s a make-your-own guide). Cheesecakes generally do not call for flour or eggs; and of course the ever-popular donut cake wins big points for its huge return on investment: So much delight, so little work! As for the celebration piece of the puzzle, ask your daughter’s friends to stand outside their homes with “Happy Birthday” signs and drive your celebrant around the neighborhood to wave to the kids she misses so much. (Extra credit for writing “It’s My Birthday!” on the windows of your car in acrylic paint.) Jodi Levine, celebrator extraordinaire from Supermakeit, suggests Zoom dance parties (pro tip: fun for grown-ups, too!) and asking friends to send in a happy birthday video. You can edit them together and play it during her lunch or dinner feast. Most important, explain to your kids how unusual it is that we’re going through this and remind them how lucky you are to be celebrating such a happy occasion together as a family, hopefully in good health.

What other questions do you have? Please share in the comments…

P.S. More burning questions and eight awesome birthday cakes.

(Photo illustration by Maud Passini.)

  1. It’s very well documented. It was helpful. Thank you.

  2. Joy says...

    I love your book, “How to Celebrate Everything” and amid this chaos am determined to keep celebrating things with my small children (including Saturday pancakes and Sunday family baking!)
    We live in an apartment in NYC and my (baseball obsessed) 6 year old’s birthday is in 2 weeks. ALL he wanted IN LIFE was to a) take the afternoon off from school to attend his first Yankee game with Dad and b) play a big baseball game with his classmates in the park. Clearly (and for good reason) we can’t do either thing right now. He is devastated. (I know this is a small hurt in light of all the bad and serious things, but Birthdays are really important to young children). I need some help to celebrate with him! We *always* bake a homemade cake, let him choose what he wants for dinner, go around the table and say our favorite things about him. But I want a way to celebrate him (this kid who made a baseball out of paper and tape and a bat from a paper towel tube so he can play the game in our hallway). Any ideas?? xoxoxo

    • Kaitlin McCafferty says...

      A baseball shaped cake, a rerun of the yankees MLB final or a red sox yankees game? (maybe a print out of a score card so he can follow hits, runs etc?), crackerjacks, peanuts, soft pretzel (you can make them! Or buy frozen), hotdogs, and soda. Stadium seating? (a row of the fam sits on the floor and then the couch?), some baseball cards, a baseball hat… Trivia on baseball hidden all around the house on a scavenger hunt (the baseball hall of fame instagram looks like a good spot for trivia!). You could take him to a park and hit baseballs or play catch (at a distance from others). Give him tickets to get a tour of the stadium for later? Looks like there are a few YouTube videos of the stadium! Just a couple ideas! Happy birthday kiddo!

    • Joy says...

      Thanks Kaitlin! Those are fantastic ideas!

    • Genevieve Martin says...

      Kaitlin’s suggestions are so great and thorough and it really warmed my heart to see such a great thoughtful response :)

  3. jenny says...

    A friend just had a bday party for her son (11). They had donuts delivered to friends, made homemade pasta (the maker was a gift) and then the kids all watched a movie “together” (there is a Netflix feature where you can text chat along with a movie playing at multiple houses). He loved it!

  4. silly lily says...

    BTW, if you can get your hands on a couple boxes of ice cream sandwiches, one or two tubs of Cool Whip, and some sprinkles, bam — birthday cake. Just stack the sandwiches on a rectangular or square platter, cover with Cool Whip, and let it set in the freezer. It doesn’t have to be big. Just pretty, and festive.

    In the absence of these ingredients, almost anything can become a birthday cake (pancakes, pudding…..?) with a candle in it.

    Happy birthday to everyone celebrating a birthday right now — especially the little ones. Things will get better. God Bless.

  5. Jessica says...

    I can’t say enough how important it is to prepare your dry beans properly. Under cooked kidney beans are poisonous! I learned this the hard way when I almost poisoned my husband and I once! I made a bean salad and had previously soaked my kidney beans over night and totally blanked on actually cooking them. Put them right in the salad. We both ate a bunch before realizing something was off with the beans. For some reason, I started googling eating raw kidney beans and that’s when I started noticing these stories about how they are poisonous raw. I thought this can’t be right, I’ve never heard of this, but I was 8 weeks pregnant and started to panic. I called poison control thinking I was just being an idiot, and lo and behold, they confirmed this is true! Just a small handful can make you sick. Luckily we were fine, we didn’t eat had many, but lesson learned. I try to spread the word when I can and find most people have never heard of this before. My husband doesn’t let me buy dried kidney beans anymore, only canned.

  6. Fiona says...

    We have some adult birthdays coming up, and while we realize its not the same type of sadness, its sad nonetheless! My dear friend will turn 40 next week and several of us will be zooming with the fanciest dinner each of us can come up with, the fanciest drinks we can come up with and the nearest item to a ballgown we can muster (including wedding dresses, a la Friends) as a stand-in celebration for her. There will be a dance party.

  7. Janice says...

    Follow @TheSiloPantry for wonderful bean and rice ideas. They are organic and local California Bay Area and are even making deliveries during this time of COVID-19!

  8. Julie says...

    In my children’s classes we got a list of the birthdays coming up and the teachers suggested to send postcards to the birthdayboy or girl. It’s fun! Or at least, I wouldn’t mind 20 cards when my birthday comes up in two weeks… ?

    • Alyssa says...

      With this type of community, I’m sure you could get 20 cards! :)

  9. Sarah says...

    Today was my husbands 40th birthday and I had friends and family make videos on tribute.co. It was pretty cheap ($25!) and my husband was so touched by the outpouring of love and tributes. It went a long way towards making the day feel special. I also baked him a ridiculously rich birthday cake – it was way too much food for our family of 3, but it was fun to make and felt very festive to eat.

    • Sarah says...

      On adding a “wow” factor for family dinners – I love making the slightest adjustment to our otherwise routine dinners and seeing my boys’ reactions when they come to the table! Gingerbread shaped pancakes, two gummy worms on spinach leaves next to their hot dogs, milk served in a mug rather than a glass (“cold white hot cocoa”!). It’s not every meal, but it helps brighten the mood when we are (once again) all coming together for the n-th time that day!

    • S says...

      Yes to the “wow” factor at dinner…We were able to do a very careful curbside pick up from one of our favorite Friday night places last Friday – while I was doing Zoom Happy Hour with some girlfriends and otherwise busy my two kiddos (6&9) decided to get all dressed up and fancy. It was adorable. I put on a dress that I would NEVER wear to be in the house and my husband put on a blazer. They loved it.

  10. Laurie says...

    1. Whenever you make rice (I use a rice steamer) add in a can of beans along with some extra seasoning to complement whatever cuisine you’re making. Example: white rice, add 1 can black beans, little salt, little cumin. When it’s cooked, add chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime and you’ve got a more protein- & fiber-packed Mexican/southwestern side dish. Mediterranean? Add chickpeas, cumin, salt. After cooking, chopped parsley, cilantro and French fried onions. Persian? Add lentils, shredded carrot, add walnuts and raisins at the end.
    2. Make a fabulous BD ice cream cake by layering favorite flavors (any) of ice cream in between layers of ice cream sandwiches, Oreos, hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream- you get the idea. Like this: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/232742/ice-cream-sandwich-cake/
    Let BD kid customize it with their favorites! Hugs all!!!

  11. Sara says...

    Lynn-my son celebrated his 8th birthday last week and it was definitely tough, but I think he had a great day. We did the ice cream cake idea that Jenny mentioned and he picked out what we were having for dinner. We had a zoom session with all of his friends. I made sure there was at least 8 presents for him (thank you Dollar Tree) and he opened one every hour on the hour starting at 8:00 am. Happy Birthday to you too…it’s tough right now and you are doing awesome!

  12. Melissa says...

    I’m all for using ingredients you have, but as those run low, what are some suggestions for navigating the grocery store safely? I’m seeing lots of bloggers post fun recipes but I can’t shop to make them. ☹️

    • Carol S-B says...

      melissa, check out the budget bytes website. She has oodles of great ‘pantry’ cooking ideas. She recommends substitutions where possible. Her recipes are very accessible, and – most importantly- everything I’ve made using her recipes has been delicious.

  13. -Heather says...

    I have two kid birthdays next week! I’m going to try my hand at an ice cream cake with Nutella and Oreos for one; and an ice cream cake with ice cream sandwiches (his fave) for the other boy.

  14. Stacey says...

    Jenny, thank you for your Orecchiete with broccoli and sausage recipe. A favorite of my three girls and a nice, simple quarantine meal.

    • Awads says...

      We ate that last night! I think we eat it twice a month. It’s official name in my house is Little Ears.

  15. Ceciel says...

    The birthday comment is so helpful! I love it and will be doing this on April 11th–my oldest’s 11th birthday.

  16. Rachel Donner says...

    I am working my way through my pantry and am stumped every time I look at the shrink-wrapped-together stack of canned crab meat I bought in a Costco-inspired moment of optimism. The only recipes I can find online are for crab cakes, which are delicious to be sure, but more effort than my self-isolated lethargy can address. Any thoughts? Some kind of pasta, maybe?

    • Julia says...

      crab salad! like tuna salad – but with crab. All you really need is mayo. little thin sliced celery would be good, or some dill or or some chives.

    • Lin says...

      I love crab and I eat it for lunch pretty often. I usually make a serving of Asian or spaghetti noodles. Then heat the chopped crab quickly in a small skillet with spinach. Stir into to noodles and top with a bit of olive oil, garlic salt, pepper and Parmesan. If I have them, I also sprinkle with pine nuts. The whole thing takes however long the pasta cooks, so that’s handy. OR second choice crab lunch is an omelet with spinach, mushrooms and Swiss cheese. I use the same routine with shrimp, too

    • Jo says...

      If you have Alfredo sauce, drain the crab and add it ti the sauce and heat — you can add frozen spinach if you like. Cook pasta separately. Serve the sauce over the pasta, with a little Parmesan, if you have it,

    • Jo says...

      If you have Alfredo sauce, drain the crab and add it ti the sauce and heat — you can add frozen spinach if you like. Cook pasta separately. Serve the sauce over the pasta, with a little Parmesan, if you have it,

    • Ellen says...

      My mum makes a tinned crab and fish noodle dish (stir fry? Salad? Whatever?) When she and my dad go kayaking. Just add soy sauce, crunchy veg and sesame at a bare minimum.

    • Emily says...

      CRAB DIP! lots of recipes online but cream cheese + crab dip + other ingredients baked in the oven would be such a fun weekend app.

    • SB says...

      Sub in for tuna for a classed up melt! Sandwich or open-faced :D

    • anna says...

      seafood enchiladas!

    • Amy says...

      Or maybe tuna salad sandwiches, with all or part canned crab? I don’t think crab-stuffed mushrooms are any simpler than crab cakes, but hot crab dip is generally pretty quick to throw together and could be eaten on bread or crackers (sounds like my dream solo meal in front of the TV).
      Possibly a corn & crab chowder? I definitely feel your lethargy right now too, but occasionally a recipe sounds promising/nostalgic enough to motivate me.

    • MB says...

      Pasta is a great idea with the crab, fennel (if you can get it), lemon, creme fraiche, and chili flakes

    • Andrea says...

      You can make warm crab melts on bread or English muffins.

    • Denise says...

      no specific recipe to offer, but a yummy crab dip appetizer? crab soup? crab rangoon appetizers?

    • Karen says...

      A favorite food memory l have: a dinner of Virginia ham with sautéed crab and spring peas. The light taste of butter with lemon and pepper balanced with the salty ham. Substitute pasta if you have no ham- always good.

  17. Michaela says...

    If you’re looking to make a birthday cake but don’t have butter or milk or eggs, try making a crazy cake. Chocolate crazy cake is my go to cake and turns out great every time.

  18. Julia says...

    Hi Lynn,

    It’s my sons 6th birthday Friday (we’re from the Netherlands and semi-quarantined)
    It takes some time adjusting because I too want to make it a great day for him, especially because nothing feels normal and he has to miss a lot.
    It is common they get a birthday crown at school so I’m making one at home, they are allowed to give treats at school so he’s going to do that for his brother and sister during homeschooling, his teacher is going to phone him and I’ve asked all the grandparents and uncles and aunts to mail him his gifts and then we’re going to open them (and eat loads of cake) while we FaceTime.
    It will not be the same, but we can make something memorable.
    I hope your daughter will have the most fantastic birthday!

  19. Frustrated says...

    These are good tips. I make endless burritos by refrying black beans with onions and serving on a tortilla with cheddar. The beans last for a week in the fridge and it’s simple and delicious.

    I do want to comment that I get frustrated with “driving around” suggestions. I live in NYC, the epicenter of the US coronavirus where we are terrified of leaving our apartment buildings (so many common spaces!) and so many of us don’t have cars. Whenever I see advice that involves “go for a drive”, “drive to remote locations for a hike”, etc it makes me SO lonely. I know there are literally millions of other people in my position in this city, so maybe we can be more considerate about those who don’t have the same level of access. Believe me, this is especially hard when your neighbors are dying/sick and you can’t escape a shoebox of an apartment.

    • Rue says...

      Flipped perspective: I’m in a rural area with woefully underserved medical infrastructure. Even to treat pneumonia folks have to be medivac-ed 45 minutes away. We certainly don’t want even one person driving here “to the middle of nowhere” and compromising our entire community, which is already in such a precarious position if even a few people get sick enough to be hospitalized.

      It sucks for everyone. It may suck differently, but it sucks.

    • Susan says...

      Yes, for what it’s worth they’ve cracked down on this in Washington state – all the places you would drive to go for a hike have been closed, and they are urging people not to drive to rural areas.

  20. Sara says...

    Hate to be nitpicky here, but what cheesecake isn’t commonly made with eggs? Also, I’ll agree with another commenter that the wowing with dinner question is a bit ridiculous, considering.

    • Caz says...

      I’ve never made a cheesecake with eggs! All no-bake cheesecakes don’t use eggs, just cream cheese + heavy cream or sweetened condensed milk.

  21. Paige says...

    Re: Quarantine birthday party. We just held one for my son here in Switzerland where it is already impossible to find brown sugar, cake flour and other American baking goods. I ended up making him a brownie cake with homemade frosting and put all of his plastic dinosaurs on top. He loved it! Also, we filled the living room with 100 balloons.
    https://www.halfbakedharvest.com/fudgy-avocado-brownies-with-chocolate-fudge-frosting/

    • Rachel Walters says...

      Hate to break it to you, but at the moment, brown sugar is nearly impossible to come by in America as well. I guess everyone really feels the need for the comfort of a chocolate chip cookie at the moment. Not so shockingly, all of the vegetables are still quite well stocked. Lol Brownies with plastic dinos sounds like an amazing birthday to me! I’d rather have that than cake any day!

    • Ashley says...

      such a cute idea I would have loved that as a kid too! I think as parents we think it needs to be fancy but I think kids really just want it to be personal…like someone knows them.

    • Jacqueline says...

      Hi, also living in Switzerland. Some help I hope:
      – cake flour readily available at Coop, brown sugar is available on-line from
      -“American” cheesecake mix: https://www.coopathome.ch/en/search/?text=American+food from Coop@home
      – brown sugar is available at Manor Food on line and British shops on line such as https://www.myexpatshop.com/index.php/catalogsearch/result/?q=brown+sugar (they also have chocolate cake mix)

      Coop, probably Migros too at least have new deliveries in and is slowing coming back to “normal”.
      Good luck,
      Friend from Basel

  22. Marina says...

    Thank you for ideas and encouragement!
    It was our daughter’s birthday last week, she turned 13 and it meant a lot to her. She was bummed out that we could not celebrate, but understood the importance of social distancing. We agreed to reschedule the party for summer months :) and made stove top burgers from scratch (buns too!) and crepe cake, which was easier that anticipated.

  23. Valentine says...

    When it comes to feeding the family (and myself) three meals a day, I feel the least overwhelmed when I focus only on cooking dinner. Breakfast and lunch are assembly only (exception, maybe a quick fried egg). Toast, yogurt, fruit, smoothie, etc. for breakfast. And for lunch, leftovers (Always cook extra at dinner!), sandwiches (lunch meat is great, but don’t forget about tuna or leftover chicken! Toast your bread, open-faced, fresh herbs and big salt! Mm!), fried egg with leftover veggies, or even a lunch smoothie. For good measure, maybe add veggies + hummus, sliced apples with peanut butter, or maybe a yummy salt + pepper chip on the side to fill everyone up. Once you get into a rhythm, it does get easier! xoxo

  24. Noelle says...

    One of the neighbor kids had a birthday yesterday, and all of his aunts/uncles/cousins/friends that live in the area came with cars decorated, blaring music, and holding big posters to wish him happy birthday – they did a parade driving around the cul de sac for him! It was so sweet, it made most of the neighbors cry. Such a bright spot in the day yesterday!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that is SO cute!!

    • Meg says...

      How lovely and exciting! I’m sure it was glorious for everyone involved!

    • Anna says...

      We are doing this for one of my best friends’ 5 year olds tomorrow and everyone – including the adults – are so excited about it!

    • Sara Campbell says...

      My cousin’s son turned 5 this week and is obsessed with Pokemon. All around their small town, people made Pokemon posters, taped them to their windows with birthday greetings. They then drove around to see them all. It was just so sweet and lovely.

      My kids turn 15 mid-April, so definitely trying to sort something that is fun, meaningful and also teen appropriate. :) stay well all.

  25. Katy says...

    This recipe/video for lima beans by Carla Lalli Music at Bon Appetit is great! A good reminder that beans can be marvelous being just beans, instead of thinking you have to sub them in for other things. I’ve made this recipe several times in the past month or so, even before this craziness started. An easy and satisfying lunch or dinner with crusty bread. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/the-best-pot-of-beans-is-in-your-future

    • Melanie says...

      I’m in the middle of decorating for my almost 7-year old Zoom party tomorrow. I emailed a few moms, asked that the girls wear hats or tiaras and the big surprise- their teacher is going to join in for a while. They have no idea and I just know they’ll go bonkers when their 1st grade teacher’s face is on the screen ?

  26. Meg says...

    Gosh this one made me a bit teary. I have a sweet little lady who turned 10 today. She was crushed as news escalated and all her birthday wishes seemed to crumble beneath us. First the party. Then her favorite dinner out. Then even her presents were delayed by weeks in the mail and didn’t make it. We gathered her siblings (big sister and baby bro) in secret a couple night ago to imagine a million little gestures we could do at home with what we have to make sure she knows she’s loved today. And oh how it’s worked. With great relief to this mama heart, it’s been wonderful beyond words… for all of us. Birthday joy restored! Even grandma and grandpa, heartbroken over not being able to spend the day with us, came in the night to tie balloons (they had on hand and blew up themselves the good ol’ fashioned way haha) to the tree out front of our house so she would wake up knowing they were close and loved her. It’s such a hard time but there is incredible beauty coming out of this season.

    • nicola says...

      Can I ask what you did? My daughter is turning 9 very soon and is very sad about her party being cancelled. All ideas will be much appreciated!

    • Mollie says...

      I’m dying to know the million little gestures!

    • Meg says...

      Nicola! I feel you! Some things she especially loved for anyone in our same boat… Decorated over the top with every party related thing we had – cinco de mayo? sure, played recorded messages from friends every hour through the day… Alexa announced when it was time which made it exciting, homemade birthday crown, made sure the house was spotless – just feels good to wake up to even if you’re little, rearranged furniture a bit and made a sign for the best comfy seat in front of the tv that declared it her personal throne for the day, wrote sidewalk chalk jokes down the street, decorated her scooter/helmet and went for a walk to discover the chalk notes, set up a pillow fort ready to go with a laptop playing old home videos of her, each of us wrote her a thoughtful love note/note of gratitude and hid them under her pillow to discover at bed, watched her favorite movie with popcorn, siblings did her daily chores while she got to take a bubble bath with grown up candles, we blasted and danced to her favorite music (that other’s normally begrudge) all throughout the day, hosted a family spa service for her (mom did nails, sister did hair, brother was on leg and arm lotion duty, dad played guitar for relaxing music), played her favorite game and came up with ways to give her a “birthday advantage” like getting to go one extra spot with every turn, had family call staggered through the day to sing and FaceTime, she gets to stay up as long as she wants with the grown-ups tonight (incredibly exciting!), we are only referring to her with fancy names like your majesty, we remade her bed in secret with the softest blankets we have in the house, made a giant cookie for a cake, gathered as many pictures of her as we could find and put them in to a kitchen table centerpiece with construction paper hearts so we could talk at dinner about all the memories of her, while in her throne we all bowed and each person presented a homemade service coupon (like a foot rub or taking her turn for dog poop pick up ha), set out her toothbrush with toothpaste on it and ready to go, made her favorite meals based on what we had and got out the fine china and stemware, sang happy birthday as crazy as we could at every meal – why not?, dressed up in our absolute fanciest clothes to greet her in the morning for the special occasion, washed and laid out her favorite outfit to wear so she’d feel her comfiest, gave full access to mom’s makeup to put together her desired “look” (she always asks hahaha), gave little bro a personal assistant name tag to be at her service through the day, did a messy art project shes been dying to try, she was banned from cleaning up after herself for the day (we all shout silly and go crazy if she tries to do anything which makes everyone laugh), etc. etc etc. We made as many things a surprise as possible to enhance the drama – like having the candles lit and bath drawn before she looked in the bathroom. I hope your little has the happiest of birthdays amidst quarantine! I’ll never think about my kids’ birthdays the same again. It wasn’t special in spite of being stuck at home. It was special because of it. ❤️ Good luck and happy birthday ?

    • Caroline L says...

      Oh my goodness, Meg! That sounds amazing and reading all the little things you did made me cry! My little one is turning 2 tomorrow so we don’t need to modify much because she won’t know the difference but I’m going to do a couple more things than I planned for us all to be in a more festive mood. What a memorable birthday your daughter had!

    • Caitlin says...

      Omg Meg, your family is beautiful. Your list of things you all did for your little lady made me cry! What a special and loving family you have❤️

    • Sequoia says...

      Meg I just want you to know that you just changed birthdays forever! This was the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER! So much better than the a regular old party. I just showed my husband, and he says you’ve set yourself up, every birthday will now be compared to this forever. I posted earlier about my Cup of Jo folder, where I stash all the wisdom from this blog and this is definitely folder worthy!

    • Amy says...

      WOW! She must’ve felt incredibly loved.
      I’m going to borrow some of these ideas for my almost-7-yo’s birthday at the start of April – thanks!

    • Nicola says...

      Wow Meg – thank you SO much for all the wonderful ideas! I am very grateful and so inspired by this. You sound like an amazing family, I’m sure she will remember that birthday forever. A huge thank you from me over in the UK.

    • silly lily says...

      Be careful, Meg, she’s gonna want this every year now. But congrats on making it such a wonderful and memorable day. I’m sure THIS is the birthday she will remember!!!!

  27. Julia says...

    Mung beans!!!! What do I do with all these bags of mung beans??? We are out of rice ? I’m sick of curry ?

    • Maria says...

      I bought a bag of mung beans like three years ago when I read an article about how nutritious they are. They are still sitting in my pantry.

    • Anon says...

      Soak them overnight..grind to make into pancake batter consistency.. make savoy pancakes!

      Add ins can be salt,ginger, any spices you want ..serve with dollop of sour cream on top!

  28. Chelsea says...

    My favorite way to use pinto beans or black beans is nachos. Place tortilla chips on baking sheet and top with beans and shredded cheese. I also like to add Trader Joe’s hot and sweet jalapeños and if I happen to have some leftover meat I’ll add that too. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and top with salsa. It’s a great easy meal and my husband and I love sharing nachos while watching a movie.

  29. Anja Meyer says...

    If you have stuff in your cupboards and need ideas, head over to Twitter,
    #JackMonroesLockdownLarder. It´s very helpful.

  30. Alexis says...

    You are doing such a great job with blog content during this strange new reality we are in. So many blogs I read seem to be trying to do business as usual and I have found myself clicking away without reading their latest posts. Thank you for striking such a good balance in tone – avoiding provoking anxiety, but also not acting like nothing is wrong. I imagine it is hard to navigate.

    • Chelsea says...

      I agree, Alexis! I am having a harder time being interested in the design and style posts I used to love but I also don’t want to read only really heavy news. I love the acknowledgement of the situation but not too heavy or panic-inducing. Thanks Cup of Jo team!

    • Ceciel says...

      Absolutely! So well said.

  31. Annie says...

    I just . . . no. What to do with beans? OK, I’m game, I get it. But “I’m suddenly feeling like I have to wow everyone with dinner every night?” Who ARE these people? This is such a sign of how different classes are facing this epidemic. Millions of people all over the world are going to die — if not from COVID then from starvation, or economic collapse or despair. How is anyone thinking they have to wow someone with dinner? (How is anyone thinking that much about dinner at all?) How is this possibly on anyone’s mind today?

    • Zoe says...

      “Just because someone has it worse from you does not mean your problems are not valid.”

      I’m not trying to say that someone feeling like they have to wow others with dinner at night is a huge problem, but people are allowed to have small concerns such as these while the world is in a pandemic. It doesn’t make them self-centered and it doesn’t mean that they are not worried about bigger things. The lack of empathy I’ve seen from people over “first world problems” during these past few weeks is astounding. We are all trying to get by as best we can here. Less judgment and more kindness make a world of difference.

    • K says...

      Whoa, breathe!. All your points are true, but some people just have to think of the simplest task in front of them – FOOD! People’s anxieties pop up in different and strange ways that may be different than how you process things. Hope you are doing well in these trying times!

    • Mamabird says...

      For me cooking is how I relax, how I feel like me again when my kids both have a fever and we haven’t left the house in weeks. It’s how I breathe.

    • c. says...

      Easy does it. People still have to eat. Nothing wrong with beans, or dinner.

    • Amy says...

      Sometimes one’s mind pops to the only thing they can control. I am an elected official of a city and logistical head of a family with 7 people over the age of 70 all suddenly with inadequate income and varying levels of ability to protect themselves in their homes. I am desperately trying to keep everyone safe. Thousands and thousands of people. And I’m also a wife and I am fighting the societal pressure to deliver a dinner party for my household every night. I absolutely understand why you’re focused on negative externalities. You’re right to do that. And everyone will panic in a different way. And that’s ok too. I’m very grateful to come here for a moment and remember that you’re all out there doing lots of things to keep your families safe now too, including feeding them.

    • Lydia says...

      I think a ton of people are spending way more time than usual thinking about dinner right now. For many of us, family dinner is the one time during the day that we actually get to enjoy ourselves, or at least not be in a constant state of stress and panic. An emergency situation that requires most people to sit at home is a particular challenge because there are fewer releases for anxiety that don’t put our communities in danger. Since we all still have to eat multiple times a day, food is a natural outlet for that anxious energy.

    • Annie says...

      I see your points disagreeing with me, but I guess I just disagree with you. Of course, I think it’s totally fine to worry about eating (the beans question is why I clicked on the link) or what to do with food or lots of other concerns about daily life in quarantine.

      But yeah, I think it’s scarily small-minded to worry about wowing people with dinner during a pandemic — and definitely expressing it out loud! — when the NYT points out today that experts are predicting that literally millions of people to flat out starve to death in India. Starve — not wow! I think pretending it’s OK to think about these things just shows how out of touch we are the actual insecurities of the world, not just the instagram kind.

      So I suppose I agree with you in part Zoe — just because someone has it worse than you does not mean your problems are invalid — of course that’s true. But it makes me cry to think that worrying about wowing someone with dinner could be seen as a valid problem anywhere in the world right now.

    • LK says...

      My neighbor is leading our major city’s outpatient respiratory clinic – she and her boyfriend are literally on the front lines. We facetimed today and she said “…all I want to talk about is what everyone’s eating and cooking.”

      So…if she can worry about dinner, I can, too!

    • As someone who grew up dirt poor (like actually poor, not just middle class) and who is now struggling to provide for my family on solely my retail salary – I hear you. There is definitely a class divide in *how* a person is struggling right now. But you know what? We are all in this together, rich and poor. We have all lost something (or, god forbid, someone) to this, and we are all struggling with an abnormal timeline, in which we don’t if we will ever get back to the old normal (most likely not). And we are all human. Don’t compare your struggles. Don’t put yours or anyone else’s struggles on a top ten list, it isn’t worth it. That we are ALL struggling at all is worthy of compassion. If someone is buried in beans, that’s their story. If someone else is feeling pressured to be an all-star chef, that’s their story. If someone else can’t worry about anything other than basic survival – that’s their story. We all have one, and they’re all valid.

    • April says...

      I just wanted to thank you for your thoughts and concerns. Your comments are really important and valid. Your compassion for those who have it much harder is beautiful, and I appreciate your care for those who are struggling in ways hard to imagine. Take care.

    • Elizabeth says...

      Agreed, Annie. The comment seemed ridiculous and ill-timed to me. The replies you received were a bit harsh, in my opinion. This is an adult blog, and I don’t think everything should have to be so overwhelmingly “sunshiny” all the time.

    • Amanda says...

      You know, I come to CoJ because I want to STOP reading about Big Serious Problems for a minute. If I wanted to read that, I’d get on an actual news site.

      It’s nice to spend a few minutes thinking about regular, mundane “problems” like how to stay productive, how to connect with family, comfy clothes for working at home, and what to cook for dinner. These aren’t the real problems out there in the world right now, but I can’t do anything about those problems except stay inside (obviously). Personally, I really appreciate having a place to go where I can enjoy a sense of normalcy and mundane without totally ignoring the crisis. If you want serious news only, perhaps try another website?

    • Annie says...

      Fair point, and I never meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. But I’m not really worried about lack of empathy for “first world problems” right now. Is that where we should be putting our empathy right now? And are all problems really valid? Is that what has brought us to this point of crushing inequality — distracting ourselves with minor issues and validating them as actual problems? Maybe some problems are WAY more valid than others and I think it’s OK to say that too.

      I do actually like this post, and totally get that we all need to spend time figuring out what to do with ourselves, including cooking, but I think it’s OK to also get annoyed that people are spending their time worrying about impressing other people right now.

    • Kara says...

      I will point out that “wowing at dinner” could also be the pressure parents are feeling to try and soothe their kids’ anxieties. They are just trying to do something to cheer everyone up at the end of the day. These days are exhausting after all.
      I am struggling with remembering that everyone has their own struggles right now. I am SO envious of everyone getting to work from home when I work in a financial institution as an “essential” employee. There is no thanks or recognition in it but I am still risking my children to this virus. I also know other people have lost their jobs so I am grateful I am secure but it doesn’t make my struggles and anxiety less, if that makes sense?

    • C. says...

      I don’t get the point of any of this. It’s just dinner, and it’s a blog post about beans. It’s not a mandate, and it’s a big leap to turn it into judgement about character. You still get to choose how you fix dinner, so just do it how you want to do it. We are all tense and worried, nobody needs to freak out over beans.

    • Elizabeth says...

      C.
      I mean, it IS called “the comments section”…

    • Gabi says...

      Annie, this is such a complicated question. Because we (most of the readers of this blog) live in a time and in countries where life is better than it’s ever been, we can be unaware of the suffering of others, both in our own wealthy countries, and more often, in other, faraway countries. We should be paying attention and trying to make the world a better place. But I could just as easily say, “Annie, people were starving and being slaughtered in Syria long before COVID-19 and you were thinking about frivolous things during that time because it wasn’t affecting your life directly.” I’m not saying this to give you a hard time. It is so understandable that you feel deeply empathetic to the suffering of others at this time, but there is always suffering. The answer to “How is this possibly on anyone’s mind today?” is that there is still beauty in the world and love is real and how we show love to one another is more important than ever. Feeling pressure to express that love during a time of great upheaval through fancy dinners or crazy birthday parties or making rainbow crafts (or any number of other “frivolous” things) is good and right.

      This reminds me of my favorite poem: “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.” It is hard not to be overwhelmed by the suffering in our world right now. Sending love to you today.

      A Brief For The Defense by Jack Gilbert

      Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
      are not starving someplace, they are starving
      somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
      But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
      Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
      be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
      be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
      at the fountain are laughing together between
      the suffering they have known and the awfulness
      in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
      in the village is very sick. There is laughter
      every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
      and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
      If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
      we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
      We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
      but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
      the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
      furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
      measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
      If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
      we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
      We must admit there will be music despite everything.
      We stand at the prow again of a small ship
      anchored late at night in the tiny port
      looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
      is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
      To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
      comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
      all the years of sorrow that are to come.

  32. Johanna says...

    I laughed out loud at this headline. So thank you for that.

  33. liz says...

    love this post + simultaneously made me want to cry that the world’s in such a bad/weird place such that even cooking blog posts (which are usually high on my list of lighthearted reading for the day) need account for it

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i hear you, liz xoxo

  34. Julie says...

    My birthday was last week and yes, I’m adult, but the snail mail has been SO GOOD. So fun to get cards at any age, tell her friends to send all the mail!!

  35. Sarah says...

    Your suggestion on driving around the neighborhood for birthday signs is so sweet it made me cry. What an absolutely lovely idea!!!

  36. Paige says...

    Oh the ice cream cake is an excellent suggestion. Hands down was my favorite part of my birthday was the chocolate and coffee flavored ice cream with the (store bought) Oreo crust my mom made each year. Didn’t realize until adulthood that it’s literally the easiest dessert to make!

  37. Genevieve Martin says...

    Birthday ideas are so cute :D

  38. Charlotte says...

    As a vegan, I cook beans and lentils all the time, so I was surprised to see so many of the legumes in the bulk section of my grocery sold out! If you’re making beans from dry (which tastes so much better and is much cheaper), you can make a large batch on the stove, drain and freeze them in individual jars in the freezer to pop out and defrost when needed–just don’t overfill the jars, because the beans expand a bit when frozen. As far as recipes go, I roast garbanzos for salads and snacks, add beans to chili and soup, and make hummus. I made falafel last night for something different (https://cookieandkate.com/crispy-falafel-recipe/) and it turned out great. Some good lentil recipes I rely on are a golden french lentil stew (https://www.veggiesdontbite.com/vegan-lentil-stew-oh-she-glows-every-day/) and a samosa-inspired shepards pie (!!!), which I know from experience can also be frozen (https://www.101cookbooks.com/shepherds-pie-recipe/).

    • Linell says...

      That Shepard’s pie recipe looks amazing! Thank you!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      That samosa-inspired shepherds pie looks AMAZING, thanks for sharing all these ideas.

    • Heather says...

      Immediately pinned the shepherd’s pie recipe to my “Things My Husband Wouldn’t Eat” board. Thanks for sharing!

  39. Caitlin says...

    Thank you as always for this post!
    More bean ideas…Last night I made Chrissy Teigen’s Thai Red Curry but swapped out the chicken and potatoes for chickpeas and broccoli and it was delicious!
    If you have white beans, canned artichokes and parmesan cheese, I highly recommend the recipe below. I don’t even bother with the crostini anymore. It is delicious, easy, and super versitile if you need to omit/substitute ingredients!
    https://everydayannie.com/2015/04/15/lemony-artichoke-white-bean-crostini-with-shaved-parmesan/

  40. Ann says...

    What about Trader Joe’s frozen cauliflower gnocchi? I panic bought that and I have never tried it. Is there a good 1 sheet pan recipe for that? Thanks!

    • Becca says...

      You can sheet pan them for 20 min tossed with a little olive oil and they get crispy! Or, depending on what else you have at home, I will often throw them + ~2/3cup water & a handful of frozen shrimp in a pan, let them steam thaw for about 5 min and then add half a container of pesto, a bag of spinach, and whatever extra veg I have lying around (chopped onion, mushroom, cherry tomatoes). The whole mixture will thicken as the shrimp cook & it’s all done in 10-15 min.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      We made that a few weeks ago — delicious! (Note: You have to have a subscription to NYT Cooking to access.)

  41. LOVE beans! Mash them and put on toast. Saute with spinach or any greens. Make a dip.

    It’s my birthday (and my twin’s) on Sunday. We were supposed to meet in Arizona. I’m having a hard time trying to figure out how to celebrate when I live on my own ;(

    • anne says...

      I just had my birthday, and my family joined for a video call which was nice, but I also live on my own, and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit of a hard birthday.

      This was the first year in a long time when I had actually made plans for my birthday, so I was joking that I will make sure never to do that again, so as not to cause any more global catastrophes just to cancel my birthday plans.

      I’m looking forward to having a big party when this is all over. In the meantime, I’m sending all my hugs and good wishes for your birthday!

    • Awww, Anne! Thank you! I am just scared I’ll start crying while videochatting my friends and family…which is so awkward and sad.
      It’s hard to have plans that you have to cancel after looking forward to them.

      Hope you have a fabulous party very soon!

    • Amy says...

      I was just saying to my husband tonight that there are going to be SO MANY birthday parties once this eases up. Two of our three kids are spring babies, and with the steady pace of birthday invites from school etc, there’s going to be an explosion of celebrations in a few months (which I both sincerely hope for and also dread a tiny bit haha!)

    • Baily says...

      Anna!! I love your instagram and blog! So great to see you in this corner of the internet!

    • Chelsea says...

      Yes, soups and chili are great for beans and veggies you would like to use up. I made a big pot of chili last week and froze batches of it.

    • Paige says...

      I have gone down the rabbit hole on this blog! It’s great!! Is it yours, Anna? Your soup breakdown is so accessible and makes me want to go make soup right now!! :)