Like the ingredients pictured above, cooking can be a daunting task when it ocmes doen to the needed materials in front of you, but it can also be a big stress reliever especially during quarantine.
Baking can be an escape from the many tribulations put in front of us. Do you agree? (Image via unsplash)

Cooking and Stress-Baking as Self-Care in Times of Distress

Feeling stressed? Cook and bake your way out of anxiety. Treat yourself to home-cooked food.

Have you been cooking or stress-baking lately? I know I have. Just this past week, I baked a batch of white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies and peanut butter banana sheet pan muffins.

With the pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders, lives are thrown into chaos. Restaurants have either temporarily closed down or only do takeout orders. People have been stocking up on groceries and pantry items. However, this is also the time for home cooks to shine.

As a result of colleges transitioning to online learning, many students have returned to their family homes, which can potentially turn into stressful environments. And while staying at home with parents means the luxury of not having to cook, taking the initiative to use the kitchen can be a stress-reliever.

Cooking Is Therapy and so Is Stress-Baking

The famous phrase “food is medicine” comes from Hippocrates who said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Not only is nutrition an important part of health, but the process of cooking food is as well. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, many counselors suggest therapeutic cooking to combat depression and anxiety.

Cooking and baking allow people to de-stress because of “behavioral activation.” According to Eater, “these activities alleviate depression by ‘increasing goal oriented behavior and curbing procrastination.’” Cooking and baking require time and effort. However, you’re rewarded with the food that you made.

Life can be chaotic, especially as we face uncertainty. I see cooking and baking as creative outlets. Making food gives me a measure of control and satisfaction when there are many variables outside of my power.

Creativity Is a Must in the Kitchen

As I mentioned before, cooking and baking are two great creative outlets as they allow you to channel your energies in a productive manner. However, cooking may seem daunting for many people who feel like they’re forced to rely on exact measurements and recipes. Cooking can turn stressful if you’re anxious about making a dish perfectly according to the recipe.

I would say that you shouldn’t stress over it. Cooking should be fun. Just think of it as an adventure for foodies — right in your own kitchen. Even baking can be done without recipes through practice. It’s a learning process that gets more and more rewarding over time.

According to the YouTube channel Pro Home Cooks, the ability to make something out of nothing is the most important skill for home cooks to hone. The channel originally started out as the Brothers Green channel before the two siblings separated to pursue their individual interests. With 1.77 million subscribers and nearly 500 videos, Pro Home Cooks has become an established presence for beginner cooks and home cooks alike.

Mike Green, now the sole owner of the Pro Home Cooks channel, is known for making dishes out of leftovers in the fridge and few ingredients in the pantry. In a three-part home cooking survival guide, Green shows the step-by-step process of meal-prepping and cooking for a busy work week.

In the last part of the survival guide, Green expresses the importance of creativity — or what he calls “freestyling” — when ingredients run low at the end of the week. I think that this is also applicable to the current quarantine situation as we all try to cut down on our trips to the grocery stores.

Not only does cooking and baking allow us to relax in the creative process, but creativity in the kitchen has become a necessity in our lives now.

Meet the Brilliance of Sheet Pan Meals

Perhaps you already know how wonderful it is having a baking sheet in the house. It’s not just great for cookies. With just one baking sheet pan, you can make many dishes.

Similar to one pot meals, sheet pan meals allow people to make dishes without using so many pots and pans. It’s less effort and fewer plates to wash. What’s not to like? In fact, Food Network recently wrote an article on 11 uses for a sheet pan, including organizing ingredients for mise en place and freezing fruits without clumping.

If you’re feeling lazy from cooking every day during self-quarantine, let the sheet pan do its magic. Here are some recommendations for sheet pan meals

Baked Tilapia in Foil: Baked fish is an easy way to get your omega-3. If you’re tired of garlic and butter, I’d recommend dressing it up with a spoonful of pesto, a dollop of Thai red curry paste or a squirt of sriracha before you bake.

Hamburger and Potato Foil Packets: Otherwise known as “hobo dinner foil packets” because of the simplicity of the recipe. If you have some ground meat and some potatoes, then it’ll be easy to throw this meal together.

One Pan Healthy Sausage and Veggies: Have a pack of sausage links? Throw it in with some veggies and you got yourself a meal! If you’re a bit queasy about dealing with raw meat, it’s easy to switch to ready-to-eat sausages or spam.

Sheet Pan Pasta Bake with Chicken and Kale: Maybe you’re feeling for a baked pasta dish. Although it takes a bit more effort, the end result is delicious enough to justify it.

Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables: Eating veggies doesn’t have to be a chore as this recipe shows you how to make tasty roasted vegetables.

If you want more ideas, be sure to check out Bon Appétit, Cooking Light and Feasting at Home. The versatility of sheet pans has no bounds. If you’re craving something sweet, you can look into sheet pan cakes or sheet pan muffins.

Final Thoughts

As we all struggle with cabin fever, stress and anxiety, it can be hard to find a peace of mind. However, taking up the hobby of cooking and baking can be therapeutic for the mind and body.

What are you planning to cook up?

Angel Lin, University of California, Santa Barbara

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Angel Lin

University of California, Santa Barbara
Comparative Literature, minor in Japanese

Angel Lin is a fourth year comparative literature major and Japanese minor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. When she’s not in class, she reads webtoons, watches films and cooks up delicious food.

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