Contributed Photo from Mindy Benton / Mindy Benton, owner of Mindy B's Deli, calls this recipe Quarantine Cheater Chili because the ingredients are so adaptable to whatever meat, beans and seasonings you have on hand.

Sheltering at home for nearly two months has meant cooking more meals in your own kitchen, which could mean both the supplies and the ideas for recipes are in short supply. We asked several area cooks and restaurant owners to share some of their go-to dishes.

Some take a little planning, and some can be made with whatever you have in the pantry and fridge. In fact, chef Charlie Loomis from Chattanooga Feed Table + Tavern has a pasta recipe that he shares with people who don't typically do a lot of cooking that features whatever salad dressing, cheese, vegetables and protein you have on hand.

"You already know you like the ingredients because you bought them," he said.

Simply cook the pasta, and stir in your favorite salad dressing and other ingredients and serve. Add a little spinach or lettuce for color if desired.

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Chefs share go-to dishes

The other dish he likes is a variation on whipped goat or Feta cheese spread.

"It's great because it's user friendly. You can use whatever you have around. It's a 50-50 mix of cheese and yogurt and then some herbs, some garlic and some sort of roasted vegetable.

"I actually made it last night," he said. "It's really simple."

Mindy Benton, owner of Mindy B's Deli, offered up a pantry-cleaning "Quarantine Cheater Chili" recipe and stresses that it can, and should, be adapted any way you like.

"This recipe was developed out of necessity to utilize what was in the pantry and fridge. I broke all kinds of arbitrary rules, but it still turned out delicious, so I say throw the rules out!

"This is truly a pantry/clean-out-the-fridge recipe. I kind of like letting people know they have the freedom to flip things around based on what's on hand and what they like."

Chef Karen Loveless of Big Table Restaurant gets two meals of a roasted chicken, and she says the second one is a family preference.

"My favorite, and probably a family favorite, would be chicken enchiladas after serving a roast chicken for dinner. I just make a white sauce, seasoned as you wish, add lots of cheese, and bake."

Casseroles were a Friday night tradition in the Mayo home, and Dawn Mayo has continued to make some of those dishes at the family-owned Mayo's Clinic on Brainerd Road.

"It was every Friday night, and we loved it," she said.

She shared her recipes for salmon patties, chicken and rice casserole, and broccoli casserole.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.


Whipped Goat or Feta Cheese Spread

2 ounces cream cheese Greek or plain yogurt

2 ounces goat or feta cheese

1 teaspoon chopped chives

1 clove garlic

Fresh herbs such as basil, thyme or rosemary

Make any changes you want based on what you have on hand. Mix together the goat cheese and cream cheese. Mix well, and add the remaining ingredients, and season to taste.


Roasted Carrots

1 bunch carrots (about 8) with tops attached

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the carrot tops, wash and set aside for the salsa verde. Peel the carrots, and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Lightly saute in the olive oil, and place them into a 400-degree oven until they are tender. Season to taste.


Carrot Top Salsa Verde

2 cups carrot tops

1 clove garlic

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon honey

You can substitute carrot tops with arugula, spinach, cilantro, parsley or any other green veggies that you have. You can also substitute apple cider vinegar with lemon or any other vinegar. In a blender, add the carrot tops, garlic, honey and mustard, and blend until pureed. Slowly drizzle in olive oil to form an emulsion.

To plate: Make a pool of the goat cheese in the center of the plate. Top this with the roasted vegetables followed by the salsa verde. Serve with bread or crackers.

— Chef Charlie Loomis, Feed Table + Tavern


Quarantine Cheater Chili

1 pound dry kidney beans, sorted

2 quarts water

1 pound meat

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

1/2 large bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 can Rotel fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies

2 cups Spicy V8

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon each cumin, smoked paprika, salt

Here is where the cheating comes in. I threw everything in a Dutch oven and let it cook. No soaking the beans, no searing the meat or sautéing the vegetables. Could I have done these things if time and patience permitted? Sure, but I didn't. Why do I just list meat? Because you can use whatever you have on hand that you don't mind eating in chili form. I happened to use skirt steak because it's what I had on hand but ground meat, chicken or pretty much anything else you have on hand will work. Don't have Rotel or V8? No worries. You really just need a tomato element. You can use fresh tomato, some tomato paste, tomato juice or your favorite spaghetti sauce for that matter. Season it how you like. Start with a little seasoning because you can always add but you can't take it out. Don't like one of the spices, like say smoked paprika? Don't use it. If you don't have these spices on hand but you have a pack of store-bought chili seasoning, then use that. If you like it super hot, add your favorite hot sauce or chilies. I let mine simmer for around 1 1/2 hours until the beans and meat were tender. Just have fun and taste along the way, making adjustments as needed.

— Mindy Benton, Mindy B's


Salmon Patties

1 can salmon

1 egg

1 sleeve saltine crackers

Salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients very well. Form into 4 equal-size patties, and deep-fry for 4 minutes.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

4 chicken breasts, cooked (reserve broth) and shredded

3 cups long-grain rice (not instant, if using instant will need to adjust rice and broth amounts)

6 1/2 cups chicken broth ( I use water and chicken base)

1 cup sour cream

2 cans cream of chicken soup ( you can substitute different cream soups like mushroom or cheddar)

1 cup of cheddar cheese shredded

Salt and pepper

Cook the rice in the chicken broth. Once it begins to boil, turn off heat and let pan sit with lid tightly on for 25 minutes. Add all ingredients in a big bowl, except for the cheddar. Mix well and scrape into a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Top with the cheddar, and place in 400-degree oven for 20 minutes until cheese browns.


Broccoli Casserole

2-pound bag broccoli cuts

1 cup mayonnaise

1 can cream of chicken or mushroom

1 egg

1 cup whole milk

2 cups shredded cheese

Cheez-It snack crackers

In big bowl, mix together all ingredients except the Cheez-Its. Scrape into a 9- by 13-inch casserole dish, and top with a cup of crushed Cheez-Its. Cover and bake in 400-degree oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 more minutes to brown.

— Dawn Mayo, Mayo's Clinic