You have to be a glutton for punishment if you choose to toil away at the stove these days, when the average temperature is in the high 30s or worse.
Even those among us who actually enjoy cooking steer clear of the kitchen if there’s an alternative. With the lockdown eased a little and with a bustling community of entrepreneurial home cooks willing to share goods, why bother cooking at all?
The rise of home-based food entrepreneurs during quarantine has been godsend for us who are tired of eating our own cooking—and tired of cooking, period—10 weeks hence. Now we can finally not cook when we don’t feel like it.
We get to partake of delicious family specialties and other dishes too laborious to make ourselves. They’re the next best thing to eating out—at least for now. (More on this in another story.)
If we must cook these days, we try to minimize our active time in the kitchen. If we have to fire up the oven, we try to make the most of it by making more than one dish at a time.
Once this past week, we made a whole roasted rosemary chicken and cheese cupcakes back-to-back. Another day, it was baked spinach penne and our first biko, just because.
Are the dishes worth your melting into a puddle on the kitchen floor? Try making them to find out.
Baked Spinach Penne
1 whole white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
200 g spinach, blanched and chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and shaved (optional)
220 g penne pasta, cooked slightly underdone
1 c cream
1 c yogurt
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 c grated parmesan
1 c grated mozzarella
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F.
Heat butter/olive oil in a saucepan. Sauté onions until soft, about three minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute.
Add spinach and carrots, if using (I had a spare fresh carrot, which I didn’t want to go to waste). Cook for one minute.
Adjust heat to medium low. Add cream and yogurt. (I replaced one cup of the cream with one cup yogurt for a healthier version; also, less cloying with the tartness of the yogurt.)
Let simmer, then add parmesan and chili flakes. Add pasta and mix well. Season to taste. Turn off heat.
Pour pasta mixture in a baking dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes.
1¾ c all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
½ c coco sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c unsalted butter, softened
¾ c sweetened condensed milk
1 c cheddar, grated
1 c quick-melt cheese, grated
I’ve made several batches of these cheese cupcakes (or muffins), which are reminiscent of a childhood snack, throughout the lockdown. They stay moist at room temperature for up to a week. They also keep well in the freezer.
Preheat oven to 350ºF (or prep this while your pasta cooks in the oven).
Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla extract and condensed milk until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in thirds.
Add the cheddar and half of the quick-melt cheese.
Line muffin pans with cupcake liner (or grease if you don’t have liners).
Fill muffin cups up to ¾ full. Top each with remaining grated cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.