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6 Things to Cook to Make You Feel Like You’re on Vacation

Let these destinations inspire your next meal.

No, we can’t travel right now; most of us are inside, self-isolating, and attempting to make the most out of our once-cozy-but-now-suffocating space. Being inside is what is responsible, it keeps you and others safe, but it’s okay to admit that it’s more than a little boring–one can only watch The Office so many times.

Though travel is seemingly impossible (well not impossible, but definitely irresponsible), it’s the one thing on all of our minds. Oh, to leave the everyday, to lie on a beach taking in the sun, to have a glass of wine on a terrace overlooking the market below. We are a long way from this exact scenario, but there are some things we can do to at least make the at-home experience feel a little less “at-home.”

The ideal activity both wastes time and makes you forget that you’re still inside: cooking can do both. It relieves stress, takes concentration, and can temporarily take us to that place we wish to be. With restaurants closing and more time on your hands than ever before, now is the chance to try that dish you had abroad that you just couldn’t stop talking about.

Let these meals bridge the gap between self-isolation and your next vacation.

1 OF 6

Cook This: Butter Chicken

WHERE: India

It’s just that time of spring when it can’t seem to stop raining, and to make things worse, we’re stuck inside. The only thing that can brighten these spirits is comfort food. If you want something simpler and more traditional, feel free to buy a Marie Callender’s chicken pot pie. But if you want a meal that takes time to prep and cook, and not to mention transports you out of your home, butter chicken is the way to go.

This recipe is wildly popular, with over 19-million views on YouTube. It is a process, and could require a trip to the grocery store if you don’t have all the called-for spices on hand (though, I welcome a reason to leave the house), but is otherwise relatively inexpensive to make. Another great bonus: leftovers. Butter chicken day two is always better, as the spices have really had time to soak in. Additionally, this meal is incredibly aromatic, warm and comforting, and definitely an upgrade from the Easy Mac someone in your apartment building accidentally burned. I might just cook it for that reason alone.

2 OF 6

Bake This: Tiramisu

WHERE: Italy

We all know, to a varying degree, how to make pasta, and whether the sauce is homemade or from a jar, it’s likely delicious. But something that, if done right, can transport us to an Italian bistro, is the dessert that ends the meal.

Tiramisu encompasses both the dessert and end of meal coffee–it’s the best of both worlds. This recipe, by best-selling author and YouTube favorite Alison Roman, allows for varying degrees of effort as you can make components from scratch or buy them pre-made, allowing you to spend as much or as little time on cooking as you please. When complete, this creamy delicacy will have you wondering if a trip to Italy is even necessary anymore (it is).

3 OF 6

Cook This: Lahoh

WHERE: Somalia

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but most of us either skip it, declare ourselves a liquid diet-er as we drink our iced coffee and say “good enough,” or grab a protein bar on the way out the door. If you work a 9-5 job, it’s probably not something you have the opportunity to indulge in. Self-isolation is the time to slow down and actually make breakfast. Being home alone all day is not ideal or fun, so starting the day on a positive note can really be something that makes or breaks it: this breakfast is guaranteed to make it.

A Lahoh is otherwise known as a Somali pancake–it’s a breakfast staple with a slight twist, allowing you to break every so slightly from the norm and monotony. This dish, from the incredibly popular Bon Appetit, is on the savory side: You’ve got half an onion and garlic in there. It’s a nice break from the teetering-on-dessert breakfasts that we often favor here in the U.S., making this East-African breakfast far from your typical Eggo.

INSIDER TIPBecause the dough needs to sit for approximately two hours, it is not something you can make during a typical work week, i.e. now, as you sit at home all day, is the perfect time to make it.

4 OF 6

Cook This: Red Curry

WHERE: Thailand

Curry is perfect for a lot of reasons, but one of the big ones is that it can be altered and adjusted to fit just about anyone’s dietary restrictions. You can substitute meat for chickpeas, or meat you don’t or can’t eat with another meat–the options are endless. A Thai curry, sweetened and lightened with coconut milk, will take you from your kitchen island, surrounded by mail you haven’t opened, to one of Thailand’s tropical islands, surrounded by crystal clear waters.

Though this recipe calls for only vegetables, if you’re an omnivore, chicken, or beef can be added.

5 OF 6

Make This: Poke

WHERE: Hawaii

There is nothing I am craving food-wise quite as much as something fresh–I’ve reached my canned food breaking-point. Vacation-wise, all I want is a warm beach, and right now, poke is the best we are going to do. Poke is great for take-out, but it’s also something so easy to make at home that there is no reason to buy out and pay for all the extra “add-ons”. Additionally, there is something about working with fresh fish that feels like an incredible accomplishment, no matter how easy it actually was.

There are a lot of different ways to make poke, with variations of how to marinate, the seafood used, and the toppings of choice, but this video from Action Bronson’s F*ck That’s Delicious is a good place to start. Not only does he walk you through how to make his variation of poke, he also takes you to Hawaii (pictures of this dream vacation will have to do for now) to show you where he learned to make it, as well as give you some history.

INSIDER TIPIf you have an Asian grocery store near you, consider paying it a visit rather than one of the big chains. These grocers have seen a decrease in customers since the coronavirus outbreak due to none-other-than racism and, as such, are well stocked. Not only are you getting more options than you would at a sold-out Kroger, you’re also helping a small business.

6 OF 6

Tacos Al Pastor

WHERE: Mexico

Our Taco Tuesdays need to be spiced up: No more ground beef with a packet of taco seasoning. What we need is a traditional Mexican taco, something to make the night more exciting than it would have been pre-corona.

These tacos al pastor are incredibly flavorful and not too difficult to make with a pretty simple five-step process. They might remind you of the trip you took to Mexico with your girls, or the food truck you frequented before this whole self-isolation thing. I would recommend a side-dish of margaritas (for this recipe and every recipe mentioned before). Just because you’re quarantined doesn’t mean you can’t have a (one-man) fiesta.