Those of you who know me know that it has been a rough month for my family. Mr. Foodie fell ill with what we feared was Covid-19 only to get a negative test after 12 days of having, we suspect, bacterial pneumonia, and we lost my paternal grandfather (age 92) this week. I find that I swing wildly between thankfulness that it isn’t worse (and that Mr. Foodie recovered) and high anxiety that more bad news is on its way.
In truth, I hardly cooked or baked at all during the worst of it. Instead our friends and family rallied to our aid with meals, snacks, medications, and even gummy bears and root beer (which Mr. Foodie craved desperately during his illness). Believe me when I say, we know how lucky we are to have such supportive friends and family.
Since then, our cooking and baking have largely revolved around what we were able to procure the last time we went grocery shopping and what is about to expire. This has lead me to a few new and interesting recipes that I’ll share below.
Our Covid-19 Baking Adventures
I learned about Covid-19 and the possibility of quarantine while on my spring break. So I did some mild preparation to hunker down for a couple weeks including ordering two cookbooks that had been on my wishlist from Politics and Prose thinking I’d have time to cook and bake my way through them.
The Halva Magic Bars (pictured) are actually a Molly Yeh recipe with some tweaks. The first time I made them, I found them way too sweet. So I use unsweetened coconut on the top, bittersweet chocolate, and I’m even toying with trying out unsweetened condensed milk next time to see how that works out. But what I love about these is the combination of flavors. They really are like midwestern magic bars meets middle-eastern desserts. They are also incredibly pretty with the dried rose petals on top (I found mine at our local halal store). They would be great at a bridal shower, as a birthday gift, etc. And they are incredibly easy to make!
The round cake in the middle is from Joudie Kalla’s Palestine on a Plate. I loved making this because it helped me use up a bunch of clementines that we had leftover from citrus season before they went bad. You use the *whole* clementine in the batter. Yum. Now I’m the proud owner of orange blossom water, so my syrup will taste extra orangey. I might experiment with a frosting or glaze next time as well because Mr. Foodie said he can’t eat cake without frosting lol
The lemon loaf cake is from Alison Roman’s Nothing Fancy cookbook. It was divine. Don’t let those toasty edges fool you – this was perfectly baked and perfectly delicious. Highly recommend.
Mr. Foodie and I have acquired a new habit – when he comes home from work, we have tea or Arab coffee and some of whatever I’ve baked recently. He’s usually hungry enough for dinner by then because his day starts at 4:30am, but if we ate at 3:00pm he’d be starving before bed, so we’ve compromised with a mid-afternoon “tea.” What’s extra nice is feeling like we get focused, quality time to talk about our day before I get on my zoom calls with friends or get back to household chores.
So Easter happened. Normally we are at my or Mr. Foodie’s parents’ home celebrating with our families, doing an egg hunt, cooking and eating way too much delicious food. This year my mother ordered an easter dinner from her club for us. I decided to mark the occasion by finally using this awesome cast iron animal mold that Mr. Foodie bought me from an antique store on one of our staycations. I chose a sugar cookie recipe that was made for baking with molds. I am now clear on why we don’t use cast iron molds on the regular anymore – they are really hard to clean afterward in spite of copious greasing. However, the little animals came out rather nice. It was clear they were intended to break apart so they could be decorated separately, which is what I ended up doing, but I honestly thought it looked nice as one whole piece. The recipe itself wasn’t terribly tasty – rather bland with a weird, dry crumb, but I might experiment or find another option for future use. If I had only had sprinkles on hand I could have made these look like frosted animal cookies! Oh and if you haven’t already seen it on Instagram, check out what I look like covered in blue food coloring 😛
I can’t write about baking without acknowledging that rhubarb season is upon us. It is honestly one of the bright spots of my life right now. I can *usually* find rhubarb when I go grocery shopping even now. Don’t let its unique appearance intimidate you – it is an extremely forgiving ingredient. Just chop the green leaves off your stalks and dice – freeze whatever you can’t use right away. Cook in a pan with some butter and sugar until it resembles preserves and slather on toast or pancakes. Stuff into store-bought pie dough rounds, crimp, and bake until golden (pictured). Cook in a pan with some sugar and lemon juice, strain – use the strained syrup for cocktails (pictured). Garnish your cocktails with mini stalks – you can eat them raw! I love nibbling on the end sitting in the cocktail as I sip.
One of the most joyful activities that I’m doing right now is making and mailing baked goods to my maternal grandparents. I wear disposable food prep gloves and a clean mask when I bake and package their treats. You all know by now that my love language is food! I miss having people over for dinner. Hosting holidays. Planning menus. I also miss my grandparents, so I’d like to think of this as a win-win. I sent them the rhubarb hand pies (pictured) and the rhubarb breakfast cake (pictured) – as midwesterners who still say “uff dah”, they are where my absolute love of rhubarb comes from ❤
This week I decided to switch things up and mail them donuts (without rhubarb lol). These are also from Palestine on a Plate. What makes them middle-eastern are the flavors in the glaze – rosewater and lemon. They are delicious. The dough was rather thick which made for difficult piping (my preferred method to fill a donut pan), but that could be because I used gluten-free flour (so my aunt could also enjoy them) and, in any case, they turned out just fine. This recipe comes together in almost no time – prep and baking included. The only time-sink is waiting for the glaze to set, but mine were fine after one hour. While the glaze was still wet, I sprinkled them with some dried rose petals. I hope my grandparents like them!
I’d like to wrap things up by asking: what are you baking these days?
Also, to remind you to keep an eye out for supplies that your local food bank might be needing (mine needs big bags of rice, for example). The next time you’re shopping, consider picking up some non-perishable goods to drop off at your local food bank. Here’s wishing that you and your families are staying safe and sane during this time of Covid-19.