While sheltering in place has disrupted everyday lives and routines, for some people it’s enabled them to sit at a table with their loved ones and share a meal, and perhaps created the opportunity to try a new recipe.
As one of life’s great unifiers, food can bring people together, help them learn about different cultures, and provide a kind of healing.
“When you look at most of the major holidays they all revolve around family and friends gathering together to celebrate, usually revolving around a meal together,” said Jennifer Martin of Hollister.
Martin has been in the food service industry since 2016 and holds an AS in culinary arts and hospitality management from Cabrillo College. Currently attending San Jose State University, she has worked as a line cook at Cordevalle in San Martin and more recently as a baker at The Grove in Hollister.
“Food is a necessary part of life, but it can also be a fun and creative part of life,” she said. “Since consuming food uses three of our senses—sight, smell, and taste—a food or meal can correlate strongly to memories, making food very emotional and intimate.”
Reflecting on her own experiences as a child growing up in a house where she watched and then later participated in baking and cooking with her mother, Martin encouraged parents during shelter-in-place to create new memories with their own children.
“Cooking with a family and young kids can be challenging, but it’s worth it,” Martin said. “I think it is important for children and their parents to cook and make it a fun activity, even if it is once a week. Cooking from scratch can be educational and a very useful life skill.”
Martin offered tips on cooking at home, as well as three simple recipes that experienced cooks and novices alike can complete.
“My no. 1 tip would be to make sure you have pantry basics such as salt, pepper, oil, onion, garlic, and a kitchen thermometer,” Martin said. “It’s okay to start with something simple like spaghetti and meatballs. Get store-bought noodles and sauce, then you have time to focus on making the meatballs from scratch.”
Cooking is forgiving, Martin said, so those just starting out should not be afraid to fail.
“If you mess something up there is always a way to fix it, you just have to try and look for advice.”
Makes six or seven 4-inch pancakes
Tip: “If you are not sure what you are doing, follow a recipe, but don’t be afraid to add your own twist,” Martin said.
- Favorite pancake batter or Krusteaz buttermilk pancake mix
- Eight ounces of mini chocolate chips
- Half a package of jumbo marshmallows
- Eight ounces of graham cracker crumbs or pieces
- Follow your favorite pancake recipe or grab a bag of Krusteaz buttermilk pancake mix.
- If following the directions on the Krusteaz package, use one cup of mix and 2/3 cup of water and mix until combined. Add in six ounces of chocolate chips or as many as you’d like.
- Heat your pancake griddle to 375° or use a skillet over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Turn your oven on to broil or use a kitchen torch.
- Pour 1/4 cup of pancake batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Once you see bubbles or holes form on the top of the pancake it’s time to flip it.
- Cook for another one-two minutes on the griddle or skillet.
- Stack the pancakes two high and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and graham cracker crumbs or pieces. Place three-four jumbo marshmallows on top and place under the broiler for two minutes at a time. Keep a close eye on the pancakes, as the broiler can easily burn them. If using a kitchen torch, there’s no need to use the broiler. Just toast the marshmallows to your liking.
- The pancakes are ready as soon as the marshmallows are toasted and the chocolate is slightly melted.
Pan Seared Oven Roasted New York Strip Steak
Tip: “Don’t be afraid of heat!” Martin said. “You have to preheat your pan before you put anything in it. A hot pan means you will get a good sear (golden brown coloring) on whatever you will be cooking.”
- Two New York strip steaks
- Olive oil
- Your favorite seasoning blend or two tablespoons butter and four fresh rosemary sprigs
- If you have a day or two, pat steaks dry and generously salt, approximately 1 teaspoon on each side. Place on an open rack (like a cookie cooling rack) uncovered and in the refrigerator to “dry out” for up to two days. If you do not have extra days to do this step, leave the steak in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Heat a heavy frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium to medium-high heat for a few minutes.
- Add oil and continue heating. Take steaks out of the fridge and pat dry.
- Season with pepper and additional salt if necessary. If using a seasoning blend, put that on now. Place both steaks in the hot pan.
- Press each steak down to get a good sear. Cook for three-five minutes on each side.
- Take the oven-safe pan and place it in the oven with the seared steaks for an additional seven minutes for a nice medium-rare steak. Check the temperature with a thermometer. A medium-rare steak should be 135° internally. If the pan is not oven safe, transfer the steaks to a sheet pan when placing them in the oven.
- If using butter and rosemary, place them in the pan once the steaks come out of the oven. Then grab a spoon and as the butter melts, spoon it on top of the steaks for one minute.
- Let the steaks rest for five-10 minutes and then slice and enjoy with your favorite sides!
Chorizo Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Dates
Makes approximately 20-30 dates
Tip: “It’s hard to cook when you don’t have the ingredients and you are still learning to cook,” Martin said. “Make it easy on yourself and plan to make something you have the ingredients for, or make a list and go shopping to ensure you have everything you need.”
- A six or eight-ounce container of pitted dates
- An eight-ounce package of bacon (not thick slice, it will not cook as crispy)
- Six ounces of Spanish Chorizo
- Cut bacon into 1 to 1-1/2-inch pieces, or big enough to wrap around your dates.
- Cut chorizo in half lengthwise to have two long halves.
- Cut the chorizo in half lengthwise again. You should end up with four long pieces.
- Grab a date and cut the chorizo into the same size as your dates are.
- Preheat the oven to 375°.
- Place one piece of the cut chorizo inside of one date. Repeat until all dates are stuffed.
- Wrap each stuffed date with a piece of bacon and hold it in place by sticking a toothpick through the meaty part of the bacon and into the stuffed date.
- Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and place all of the dates on the baking sheet with the toothpicks facing up.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until bacon is crispy.
- Enjoy this delicious treat as-is or dip in your favorite red pepper sauce.
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