Sizzle Simmer Sauté–Quarantine cooking brings creativity to the kitchen

Jennifer Ruple

The past six weeks have brought a mixed bag of emotions for many. Whether it was anxiety, fear, boredom, or something else, folks turned to their kitchens for comfort and even entertainment. Cooking gave us a means to pass the time, an activity to keep the kids occupied, and an opportunity to try all those recipes torn from magazines or pinned for someday. And with Easter in the mix, we had an opportunity to make heirloom dishes perhaps we hadn’t made in years.

Personally, I enjoyed making dinners for my husband and I, something I don’t get to do on a regular basis. I was curious about what others were cooking, so I posed the question to friends through social media. The answers were wide-ranging, but the one that came through over and over was banana bread.
What is it about banana bread? Is it because it’s easy to make, because we need to use up those aging bananas, or because it’s just plain delicious? I am guilty. I made it a few times myself!

There were those who got creative with their banana bread. Sabah Mitri in Toledo added cranberries, and Tracey Barthel in Kentucky added chocolate chips. Second to banana bread in popularity was bread in general. Jackie Marcinkiewicz in Saline, Mich. baked apple fritter bread. Yvonne Thoma-Patton in Oregon created beautiful, artisan-style bread. And Julie Carns in Perrysburg made beer bread because it required no yeast, which along with flour proved to be tough ingredients to find in stores.
More baking was happening in Toledo. Jill Hunter made cinnamon rolls and mousse cake, and Nancy Rodgers baked snickerdoodles and lemon sugar cookies. From the Sylvania home of Paula Adam came bran muffins with fresh raspberries.
There were plenty of savory dishes being whipped up as well. “I’ve been making lots of fresh pasta,” said Lyndsey Stough in Sylvania. Cheryl Tyler-Folsom in Toledo made salmon patties, Mary Helen Darah in Old Orchard made shrimp and chicken curry, and my mom, Carol Alexander in Holland, ran out of rolls and made a cheesesteak burrito. Yum!
Others worked on dishes they remembered from the past. “I made vegetable soup and goulash, reverting back to my childhood,” said Gail McNeely in Atlanta. Pam Weirauch in Toledo made her mom’s potato soup with dumplings.
I realize we aren’t out of the woods yet, and we may have more extra time on our hands in the coming months. By all means, keep on cooking!
And then go for a long walk.

After-School Banana Bread
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter,
melted and cooled, plus softened butter
for serving
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 to 5 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar as

Heat oven to 350 F. Spray an 8 x 8-inch pan with nonstick baking spray or line it with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer), beat together the butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well blended. Add bananas and mix until combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat until just combined. Add the pecans (if using) and mix until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the sugar over the top.

Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Let the bread cool slightly in the pan on a rack. Slice and serve warm with butter.

When completely cooled, cover the pan with foil and store at room temperature for up to two days.
(Recipe adapted from Joanna Gaines’ “Magnolia Table,” 2018)

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