Camille Radhakrishnan

Social Distancing Leaves Time for Baking Adventures

Take a look at some delicious pastries I have made from random foods during quarantine.

It’s hard to stay busy while social distancing.

I’ve spent more time on my typical hobbies: coloring, reading, walking my dogs, annoying my siblings. But after a while, I get a little stir-crazy.

That’s why I started baking.

Baking is something I do regularly, but since there are endless recipes out there on the World Wide Web, I never have to make the same thing twice. 

This twist on peanut butter chocolate chip muffins let me experiment with uncommon ingredients.

My family is trying to limit the regularity of our grocery store trips, so I have to be conscious of how many frequently-used ingredients I deplete: foods like flour, sugar, chocolate chips, butter, and milk.

Since I am rationing certain items, I like to look up recipes that incorporate random items in my pantry.

For example, one day I noticed that we had a large amount of banana chips –  which is weird, considering no one in my family eats banana chips – so I grabbed the chips and used them as the basis of my recipe. Knowing bananas go well with peanut butter, I chose a recipe for peanut butter chocolate chip muffins, substituting the chocolate chips for banana chips.

The banana chips were much larger than the chocolate ones, so I threw them into the food processor and let the machine do the work, crushing them into smaller pieces.

Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies cool down on a wire rack after baking.

The resulting muffins were quite delicious.

A few days later, I decided to make chocolate chip cookies, one of my favorite desserts.

Taking into consideration that flour is a limited resource, I once again took to the shelves of my pantry, scanning for an alternative ingredient.

Luckily, I came across gluten-free flour left over from a disastrous attempt at making cookies for a friend with a gluten allergy. Those cookies were grainy and absolutely disgusting, but I had nothing better to do, so I decided to try again.

These banana blondies with cream cheese icing were delicious as a snack or after-dinner dessert.

I found a recipe for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies that looked promising, but noticed that it called for xanthan gum. I had absolutely no idea what xanthan gum was, so I returned to the internet and found that corn starch can be used as a replacement.

This time around, my cookies turned out very well. My dad didn’t even realize that they were gluten-free.

Even after I used all our banana chips, my house had an overabundance of bananas. Although I sometimes slice bananas to have with peanut butter, they aren’t eaten regularly in my house. They all began to brown, so I made many loaves of banana bread, banana blondies with cream cheese icing, blueberry banana oatmeal bars, and chocolate chip banana bars.

Chocolate chip banana bars ready to be served straight from the baking dish.

In all of these recipes, I substituted applesauce for butter. This trick works well, so long as you cut the amount in half. For example, if a recipe calls for half a cup of butter, use one-fourth a cup of applesauce.

I came across the chocolate chip banana bar recipe while trying to find a way to use coconut sugar instead of regular sugar. The recipe also called for almond milk, helping us conserve our supply of 2% milk.

Trying to bake without common household ingredients has allowed me to be more creative and forced me to think on the fly. It’s an activity I wholeheartedly recommend: you never know what rabbit hole it might lead you down. 

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