Easy recipes to lift your mood

Photo of a bowl of ramen
Gary Stevens/Creative Commons

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During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I found peace in cooking. The process of creating and enjoying my own food helped me keep myself grounded when my mental health was not the best. When so many aspects of our lives seem out of our control, it’s satisfying to make your own dish and enjoy it right after. Sometimes, though, that satisfaction is needed sooner than an hour of baking or cooking, especially when I don’t have the mental energy. To find quick-cooking solace, here are a few recipes that can be completed in under ten minutes. They are split into sweet and savory, for whichever is preferred. 

Sweet

Cake in a Cup

Baking is one way to enjoy the process with a lovely reward at the end. Cake in a cup is the quickest fix to a sweet craving that’ll leave you with a smile on your face. All you need is a mug and a microwave. This cup recipe can be made in an array of flavors, but this specific recipe is going to be chocolate cake. I’ve modified this recipe from a Food Network recipe by Ree Drummond.

Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons oil 
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons chocolate chips 

Directions

  1. Put flour, sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder in a microwave-safe ceramic mug. Mix well with a fork.
  2. Then add milk and oil, then mix again. 
  3. Stir in chocolate chips if using.
  4. Microwave on high for 90 seconds. Let cool and enjoy!

Banana Boats

Bananas are great for filling your appetite, and sweet chocolate and marshmallows can lift your spirit. These banana boats are best eaten over a campfire, but a kitchen stove works just as well. They’re very easy to make and only need a few ingredients. Just be sure to have protective heat wear such as oven mitts to hold the banana after it’s been cooked. 

Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • 6 marshmallows 
  • 1 chocolate bar
  • Tinfoil 

Directions 

  1. Take the banana and slice down the middle, longwise. Be sure not to cut through the banana, only about halfway into it. 
  2. Begin to wrap the banana in tin foil, leaving the cut open.
  3. Stuff the inside of the banana with marshmallows and pieces of chocolate.
  4. Close the tinfoil wrap and hold the banana over the stove for 3 to 5 minutes until marshmallows and chocolate are melted and gooey.
  5. Unwrap and eat directly from inside!

Savory 

Dressed up Instant Ramen

Instant ramen is a staple pantry item for college students. For times when life is too busy to make something special, spiced-up ramen with these accessible ingredients is all you need. I’ve adapted this recipe from a New York Times Cooking recipe by Jeff Gordinier. 

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of flavored instant ramen 
  • ½ teaspoon of butter
  • 1 egg
  • Cheese
  • Optional toppings: scallions, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Boil 2 ½ cups of water, then add noodles and cook for 2 minutes. 
  2. Once noodles are cooked, add the flavor packet and stir. 
  3. Turn off the heat and add the egg on top. Pull noodles over the egg and let sit for one minute. 
  4. Transfer cooked noodles and egg into a bowl and add cheese, butter and optional toppings.

Avocado Toast

Avocado toast is a personal staple for me. With the right ingredients, it is easy to throw together for days on end and does not get old. It’s a healthy, easy way to make breakfast, brunch or any meal feel special.

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 to 2 slices of bread, toasted (sourdough bread is recommended)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice
  • Optional toppings: Everything but the Bagel seasoning, parsley, tomatoes

Directions

  1. Toast your bread. While bread is toasting, cut the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the skin. 
  2. When toasted, drizzle olive oil on bread and spread. Then, smear the avocado across each slice.
  3. Drizzle with lemon juice and spread across to mix in with the avocado.
  4. Sprinkle salt and any extra toppings and enjoy!

Personally, the ease of these recipes has been a great way to keep me going about my day. Engaging in touch, taste and smell senses while cooking and baking acts as a grounding technique that helps me refocus on my environment. I believe that focusing on creating thoughtful relationships with food is extremely beneficial to mental health overall. I hope that accessible recipes like these can do the same for you!

Contact Kat Smith at [email protected].