Over the past few weeks of self-quarantine and social distancing, one question has come up in conversation quite often: “How are you staying busy?” It’s a valid and important question: We want to make sure that the people we love are finding ways to take care of themselves and adjust to this strange new reality of ours. However, I’m very much opposed to the idea that we need to spend our days in isolation conforming to conventional models of “productivity.” You don’t need to write the next great American novel, train for a marathon or finish every daunting task on your to-do list in the name of staying busy.
It is, of course, important that we all find ways to maintain our emotional, physical and spiritual health right now, but our bodies and minds are experiencing so much anxiety and confusion amidst this chaos — they deserve to rest and to be taken care of. Sometimes, something as simple as cooking ourselves a yummy meal is one of the best forms of self-care that we can take part in. The Bon Appetit (BA) Test Kitchen — nothing less than a cultural phenomenon that’s taken millennial internet culture by storm — provides us with wonderful recipes to make for ourselves and our loved ones while we safely and responsibly self-isolate. There isn’t a recipe I’ve tried from BA that I haven’t liked, but my five favorites below are especially perfect comfort foods in times like these. Without further ado, here are the five best recipes from the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen (yes, almost all of them are Molly Baz recipes, sue me):
If I was allowed to write a 600-word piece solely about Molly Baz’s earl grey yogurt cake, I’d make it 1,000 and then plaster it on billboards across the country. Seriously, guys, this cake is so good. So. Good. Eating it makes you feel like you’re snuggled up in bed on a rainy day, wearing silk pajamas and reading your favorite book. It was super easy to make and only called for a handful of ingredients that I already had on hand. I didn’t have loose leaf tea, but using tea from tea bags worked perfectly. If earl grey tea isn’t your thing, you can substitute it with another kind of tea, particularly something sweet with aromatic or fruity notes.
Serving suggestion: Bake this in the afternoon during golden hour while listening to Billie Holiday (trust me on this one) and let it cool overnight. In the morning, cut a slice, put some butter in a frying pan, griddle the cake slice on both sides and sprinkle some more sugar on top because life’s hard and you deserve it. Enjoy your delicious breakfast with a cup of coffee and some more Billie Holiday (keep trusting me on this).
I was hesitant about this recipe at first because a) I live and die by a traditional, bacon-loaded carbonara and b) I’m not a big mushroom girl, but I trust Molly Baz more than anyone should trust an internet celebrity they’ve never met, so I took a leap of faith on this mushroom carbonara, and it worked out incredibly well. This dish tastes like almost nothing I’ve ever eaten before: the umami flavor of the mushrooms is strong and savory, and the texture contrast between the pasta and mushrooms makes for a satisfying bite. I substituted spaghetti for the orecchiette and it felt much more reminiscent of a traditional carbonara. I would definitely go heavier on the garlic and shallots, and add less parsley than the recipe calls for — maybe even substitute the parsley for another herb or spice like basil or crushed red pepper instead.
Serving Suggestion: Serve yourself a heaping bowl of this cheesy mushroom goodness, log off of social media for some much-needed disconnection and talk to a loved one while you eat (maybe set up a FaceTime dinner date with a friend who’s far away!)
Chili is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods — it’s hearty, flavorful and easy to make. I especially love this chili recipe because it requires only one pot and just a few healthy ingredients that you’ll likely already have in your pantry or fridge. I added kidney beans to my chili for some added protein and texture and used Tostitos instead of Fritos. It was such a perfect meal that I had it for lunch and dinner that day, and the recipe makes several servings, so it’s a great meal prep option if you’re looking to limit your time in the kitchen.
Serving Suggestion: Enjoy a bowl of this chili while you make yourself a daily self-care schedule to adhere to during self-quarantine or self-isolation. Try to fit in physical activity, like yoga, YouTube workout videos, or even a brisk walk if you’re able to go outside. Make sure you also schedule in time to take care of your emotional and mental health needs: activities like meditation, crafting, journaling, or calling a loved one are just a few examples!
Before I delve into yet another Molly Baz recipe, let me say this: Everyone should know how to poach an egg. No excuses — it’s the best way to cook an egg and it’s so much easier than it looks. You boil some water, stir it to make a little vortex, lower the heat to simmer, crack an egg into the water, and take the egg out with a slotted spoon 3 minutes later. Boom. You’ve poached an egg. It’ll have a soft yet firm white exterior and a warm, gooey yolk inside, and it’ll change your life.
Eggs benedict is the most popular poached egg recipe, and Molly’s version is delicious and foolproof (you can use bacon if you don’t have ham, and can opt-out on the hollandaise if that isn’t your thing), but I put poached eggs on almost anything. Pasta with pesto? Add a poached egg as a finishing touch to add some more texture and creaminess to the dish. Avocado toast? Add a poached egg and the Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend from Trader Joe’s for the best breakfast of your life. Leftover veggies? Season and sauté them, add them to some rice and put a poached egg on top as a finishing touch. I could go on forever.
Serving suggestion: Make some eggs benny on a weekend morning, pair it with a mimosa or fruit juice of your choice and watch your favorite movie while you eat (my friend Chris has some great recommendations here!)
Serving suggestion: Enjoy these bad boys fresh out of the oven with a glass of your favorite milk — almond milk is my choice, but to each their own. Freeze any leftover cookies to share with loved ones once this all passes (and it will).
So, dear reader, if you do nothing else today, get yourself out of bed, make a cup of tea, try out one of these Bon Appetit recipes and let me know which was your favorite. And if you’re looking for some comfort viewing, check out Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel — it’s nothing less than pure joy. Stay safe, stay healthy and take care!