It seems banana bread is having a resurgence in popularity, although it has always been the go-to recipe in homes with an abundance of over-ripe bananas. In these days of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home orders that continue to be in place, this recipe, among many others being created in our quarantine kitchens, carries new significance.

The inability to gather for holidays, crawfish boils and many other family celebrations has brought on new challenges for our Acadian families that are so proficient in celebrating the joie de vivre found in South Louisiana. In adapting to these stressful changes in our lifestyle, the kitchen can become a therapeutic environment with comforting activities.

Many psychological benefits can be realized by preparing recipes in one’s kitchen. It has been noted that in the mindfulness activity of following a recipe and giving it full attention, stress can be reduced, and happiness increased. In baking, the steps of measuring, rolling out the dough, whisking and beating eggs and batters and the aromas of home-cooked bread and pastries emanating from the oven, can all provide an escape from the present-day home-bound situation in which we find ourselves.

Cooking food for others, and the appreciationderived, also does much for boosting one’s mood, and the gift of food may convey feelings that are not always able to be conveyed with words. In connecting with others in gifts of food, and overall sense of well-being and connection is achieved. Positive mental side effects are realized from using personal creative skills, whether it is in cooking, painting, gardening, flower arranging, or making music. In experimenting with new recipes, new ingredients, spices, and textures, stress can be relieved, and personal growth and confidence are fostered. Finding new ways to express oneself through new dishes is an added benefit. In repurposing leftovers into soups or stews, trips to the grocery store for ingredients can be decreased.

In addition, cooking at home can add to one’s overall health. Healthy meals cooked at home are usually lower in sodium than restaurant-prepared dishes and aids in controlling blood pressure. Eating healthy meals consisting of vegetables, fruit, unprocessed grains, fish, seafood and lean meats contributes to mental health and assists in stable blood sugar levels, avoiding that irritable feeling of hangry we have come to experience from lowered blood sugar.

Serotonin, a chemical that nerve cells produce, is largely found in the digestive system and can impact emotions. It can be found in diets consisting of eggs, salmon, poultry, spinach, milk and nuts. Known as the feel-good hormone, serotonin can also be produced by the occasional slice of indulgent chocolate cake, as self-love can be an important aspect of self-care in these challenging times.

With the oft-repeated phrase, “We’re all in this together,” in mind, we can make that togetherness a little sweeter during this time by sharing and creating delicious, homemade recipes in our quarantine kitchen.

The following recipe is sure to sweeten anyone’s day.

LEMON-BLUEBERRY POUND CAKE

1 Butter recipe box of yellow cake mix

1 8 oz. pkg. of cream cheese, softened

3 eggs

1 stick of margarine or butter, melted

3 Tablespoons sugar

2 cups fresh blueberries

1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

Glaze:

½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

(from 1 lemon)

1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

With a mixer, beat the cream cheese, then add eggs and beat well. Add melted margarine or butter, and sugar.

Add dry cake mix and mix until well blended.

With a large spoon or spatula, gently fold in blueberries.

Grease and flour tube or Bundt pan. Bake in 350degree oven for 38-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove pan from oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.

Glaze:

Combine the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon the glaze evenly over the warm cake so that it drizzles down the sides and into the center. Slice and serve warm, or let it cool before slicing.

CATHERINE WATTIGNY embraces the “jour de vivre” as a wife, mother and grandmother, inspired by her prior nursing experience with a new focus on good mental health for all.

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