COVID-19 and the safety protocols around the world are changing. With the uncertainty that surrounds the novel coronavirus comes a collective feeling of fear which is completely normal

While information, and misinformation, spreads through Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and the news, it is important to stay accurately informed about COVID-19 updates from the CDC's website. The media has shifted its focus to how to best make adjustments due to developments with COVID-19, including what people are doing to beat cabin fever. Some people, myself included, are cooking and baking just about anything and everything we can to pass time and stay sane. I have been trying new recipes and making things I never thought I could which is helping me survive isolation and the boredom of routine that comes with it. 

These recipes have been tested and given my and, more importantly, my family's stamp of approval! They're fun to make and relatively easy to help get you out of a rut. One of my goals when cooking and baking is to create as little waste and clean-up as possible and these recipes achieve that. I hope they will help you reset and make isolation more tolerable.

1. Challah

This recipe takes the cake (we all love food puns) for the most fun food to make. Making these delicious loaves that represent my Jewish religion and culture is the best of both worlds. This bread, which is typically baked to celebrate the Jewish sabbath, is soft, fluffy, and perfect to use for french toast the next morning! 

The process itself was easy and mainly requires patience to let the dough rise twice. Choosing the flavors of each loaf allows me to be creative and have even more fun in the process. Some of my favorites are: cinnamon & sugar, everything bagel seasoning, chocolate chip, my own Italian herb seasoning (1 part dried basil, 1 part oregano, 1.5 parts thyme, 2 parts garlic powder, 1 part dried rosemary, 1 part dried parsley, a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste), and plain challah.

Make this challah in your home with this recipe and get creative with your flavor combinations!

2. Black & White Cookies

I have been a New Yorker my whole life, so the classic black and white cookie has a special, nostalgic place in my heart.

Tailoring recipes to fit my personal preferences is something I always do and recommend. I changed this recipe from the Food Network by adding chocolate chips in the cookie batter for a twist. I also love adding crushed walnuts, almonds, and potato chips (I know it sounds crazy, but trust me, it's a game-changer) for a salty, crunchy bite. Rather than use icing, I melted chocolate chips in the microwave for the black side of this B&W because it creates less mess and I prefer the taste.

I also recommend a few coats of the vanilla icing in order to make the white side more opaque. These were very easy to make, and I especially like this recipe because it does not use corn syrup which means any chemicals from fake sugar are not included.

3. Homemade Colored Pasta

Olivia De Lorenzo

Being Italian and a carb-o-holic, the one food I could never be without is pasta. To many, making pasta from scratch seems like a difficult and messy science, but in reality it's fairly simple. The only ingredients you need are flour, olive oil, and eggs. The ratio for fresh pasta dough is roughly 3 parts flour to 2 parts eggs. This of course can be modified depending on your desired amount.

With homemade pasta, the options are endless. I prefer to roll my pasta out with a hand crank pasta machine for more control over the pasta's speed and thickness throughout the process. You can find the one that I use here! (This is not a sponsored ad, just my personal preference!)

I learned this baseline recipe for pasta dough a long time ago, but similar recipes can be found from Love and Lemons and the Food Network

Now for the fun part: coloring the dough! I do not use food coloring ever, so I tend to experiment with natural ways to dye foods. To naturally dye pasta dough you need to make a purée and add it to your dough as you combine. You may need to add more flour depending on the consistency of your dough with the addition of the natural coloring liquid.

Natural coloring options are limitless and more sustainable. For the green pasta above, I put two handfuls of spinach into a food processor with olive oil and added more as needed until it created a smooth liquid. This is also a good way to use up herbs like basil, parsley, mint, and cilantro that are starting to wilt. I have used cooked beets to create magenta pasta, as well as carrots to make the dough orange. The vegetable puree's don't change the taste of the pasta, and it's definitely an easy way to impress your friends and family without any unhealthy additives!

4. Focaccia

Olivia De Lorenzo

By now, you may have seen or even tried hopping on the bread-making train like many others in quarantine. If making sourdough isn't your thing or it requires too much planning ahead (which is something I also struggle with), then focaccia is the perfect food to satisfy your inner bread-baking persona. You probably already have the necessary ingredients in your house!

I have been making this recipe, but have found through trial and error that a little less olive oil, a lot more salt, and a deeper pan make it less greasy, more flavorful, and more fluffy than the exact recipe. You can play around with different toppings such as tomatoes, olives, onions, and some herb variations.

It's a quick and easy recipe that has gotten rave reviews from my family (considering it gets eaten within a day in my house).

5. Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Treat

Olivia De Lorenzo

I'll be honest, my family has been spoiling my dog in quarantine, but they always deserve a little extra love.

If your dog loves peanut butter as much as mine, then they will roll over for these homemade treats! When baking for your pets, you just need to be mindful of what you choose to include. In large quantities, some ingredients can be harmful. However, this recipe does a great job of specifying what is safe for your dog to eat! 

I recommend halving the recipe to see if your dog likes them or freezing half the batch once the treats are cooled. The recipe makes a lot of cookies and they went bad after a few days because the ingredients are perishable.

I found heart, star, and squirrel shaped cookie cutters in the back of a cabinet in my kitchen, but you can always just use a knife to cut out any shape. You can also use the rim of a cup to make even circles.

Your puppy won't stop giving you endless thank you kisses, after finish all the treats first. We expect nothing less!

6. Stuffed French Toast

Olivia De Lorenzo

Quarantine may have made your breakfast routine boring, but this cheesecake stuffed french toast recipe may be able to change that. 

I typically make this on the weekend and use the challah I made the previous Friday, but it's still a fun treat to make any day of the week to brighten your day. I adjusted this recipe by mixing in small pieces of strawberry into the filling. This added a brighter color, more texture, and certainly a burst of flavor throughout.

The best thing about this recipe is that if making a trip to the grocery store isn't feasible right now, the bread you already have at home and frozen berries are a great substitute. I've made this recipe with blueberries, raspberries, and peaches since they're in season. You can change up the toppings to fit your preferences with things like chopped nuts, powdered sugar, nut butter, or chocolate syrup!

This is an easy way to treat yourself first thing in the morning, but I have admittedly made this for lunch and dinner as well. My family has been loving the switch from their basic egg breakfasts, as variety is definitely necessary in and out of quarantine.

7. Bagels

Olivia De Lorenzo

Living in New York, I've always taken bagels seriously. I'm convinced that I'm partially made of bagels and cream cheese. I figured quarantine was the perfect time to attempt making one of my all time favorite foods (second only to pasta). 

This recipe explains what creates the perfect texture that non-New York bagels try to imitate. I always thought making bagels would be a tedious task, but it was much easier than expected. The recipe actually makes the number of bagels it claims to. 

A common theme with recipes I love is that they are adaptable. I only had whole wheat bread flour on hand so I opted to use that rather than going out to get additional ingredients. Also, I used honey instead of granulated sugar and it did not change the texture of the dough. Like with the Stuffed French Toast, the flavor combinations are a way to get creative. Some of my favorites are garlic, everything seasoning (which I would argue makes everything better), asiago cheese, and cinnamon raisin. 

The best part about bagels, whether they're from New York or not, are the fillings. I stand by the belief that schmears are the best and possibly the only filling you need for a bagel. But if you want to mix up what goes between your bagel, here are 30 ideas that will satisfy your craving at any time of day. These bagels will hold up to your local deli and solidify your love for bagels all at once.

Most importantly, remember that finding ways to spice up your routine while in isolation is essential to your wellbeing. We're all trying to figure out ways to navigate the new world and cooking is just one way to find normalcy when life is anything but normal.

Even if cooking isn't your ideal way to cope, there are other ways to take care of your mental health. Our state of mind and mental wellbeing is just as important to protect as is our physical health. However you choose to find control and peace in your life, staying connected will help us get through this pandemic together. I love these recipes, and cooking in general, because they provide an outlet for me to express myself and share my love with others, especially during difficult times.