For me, and many others, the best form of stress relief comes in the kitchen. Whether it’s kneading challah for Shabbat dinner or crying my eyes out over a pile of onions, I forget all my worries temporarily and get comfortable in my apron (and sweatpants).
Currently, there is a lot of stress in all of our lives. Something as simple as a Shabbat dinner quickly becomes a tricky Zoom call across multiple time zones with spotty WiFi and dogs barking in the background. And let’s not even talk about trying to find a bag of flour or yeast.
While we can’t have friends or family over for dinner, we can still spread joy through food. Taking as many safety precautions as we can—washing hands, wearing masks, no-touch delivery—cooking for others is one way to stay sane and care for those around you.
The loaf pan is the perfect vessel for these gifts. It’s easy to transport, can be stuck directly in the oven for reheating and offers endless possibilities for dishes to make. Load up on some loaf pans and make some of the following recipes to express your love without any physical contact.
If it seems like everyone and their mother is making banana bread these days, there’s a reason for it: Banana bread is a classic quick bread that can be made with lots of different ingredients (butter or oil, chocolate chips or nuts—or both, whole-wheat flour, almond flour… the possibilities are endless) and is a great way to use up those bananas rotting away on the counter. It’s comforting, quick, not too sweet and…wonderfully transportable. Take the classic to the tropics with this Coconut Oil Banana Bread. With healthier ingredients like coconut oil and Greek yogurt (you can even swap out half of the flour for whole wheat), it’s not too decadent for these stay-at-home days.
Feeling bananas, but not feeling the bananas? Try hearty Date-Fig Nut Loaf or rich Tahini and Honey Cake. Bring out the veggies with Carrot Loaf Cake or Zucchini Bread. Or brighten your recipient’s day with Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake or Alison Roman’s Lemony Turmeric Tea Cake (top photo).
If you’re one of the many people nurturing a sourdough starter, bake it up into a loaf bread and send it off into the world. Or try your hand at “Easy Little Bread” or, for the celiacs, Gluten-Free Black Olive, Caraway and Honey Yeast Bread. And guess what? Challah can be braided and baked in a loaf pan, too!
Go savory with loaf-pan casseroles. You can divide up a single recipe into multiple loaf pans to feed several neighbors or friends. This Vegetable Lasagna is easy to prepare and can be made with whatever vegetables you find at the grocery store. You can even use pantry items like frozen spinach and jarred tomato sauce to keep things simple. For vegan friends, make them this Spring Vegetable Lasagna with cashew cream and eggplant. It’s just as flavorful as regular lasagna and definitely a crowd pleaser.
Quiches also lend themselves well to loaf pans. You can use a crust if you’d like, but this Vegetarian Crustless Quiche is gluten-free friendly and easy to divide into multiple pans. Drop off a pan of quiche and Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie to give a loved one both breakfast and dinner.
Even if you can’t express your love in person, there are still many ways to spread joy through food. Not only does to act of cooking and baking offer up stress relief, but the joy of sharing a meal can also still happen even in these distanced times. Make some loaf pans for yourself and your friends, get on a Zoom call and enjoy a meal together across several homes.