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East County Wednesday, Apr. 1, 2020 1 year ago

Culinary incarceration creates fun in Lakewood Ranch

Self-quarantined families familiarize themselves with pots and pans.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

It’s a good thing Lakewood Ranch’s Sandy Hughes loves eggs because they’re about the only thing she’s eating due to the coronavirus threat.

The two meals she makes per day consist of either scrambled eggs or plain oatmeal — the kind that comes prepackaged, so she

Lakewood Ranch's Sandy Hughes loves eggs and has been happy eating scrambled eggs every day. She keeps her pan out and ready.

doesn’t have to dirty any dishes.

“My go-to right now is scrambled eggs,” Hughes said with a chuckle. “I have the pan out. I keep it out on my stove. I’ve been here four years, and the oven has been used once when my sister visited, and she made a batch of chocolate chip cookies.”

The lone hand towel hanging in Hughes’ kitchen sums up her philosophy on cooking. It reads, “I have a kitchen because it came with the house.”

After a more than 40-year corporate career that required extensive travel, the 77-year-old has continued her lifestyle of eating nearly every meal out. It has never been a problem until now.

Because of her age and health history, Hughes falls into the high-risk category for COVID-19 and says she has been “incarcerated” in her apartment at The Venue. She has made minimal trips to the grocery store and avoided restaurants altogether, even though she could get take-out service.

At a trip to Publix, Hughes bought a few premade salads, blueberries, some frozen steam-in-the-bag vegetables and more eggs to get her through the week.

She used paper plates for years — and still has a stack of them in her bare cupboards — but now is opting for real dishes, at least until she can get back into her normal routine of patronizing her favorite restaurants.

“I’ve started using my dishwasher,” Hughes said. “I set the table now.”



River Club resident Denise Pope is admittedly “the worst” cook.

River Club's Denise Pope grills hamburgers for dinner. Her husband, Robert, helped with flipping them. She normally grills chicken or fish when she's tasked with the job.

She has eight go-to meals she prepares for her family — husband, Robert, and their three children, 16-year-old Caroline and twin boys William and Andrew, 12.

“I boil the noodles, and I use a jar of sauce,” Pope said, laughing about her pasta dinners. “It’s really bad.”

Since her family started to social distance, she has been cooking more.

She had an “incident” while trying to make chocolate chip cookies. The recipe a friend posted said to melt butter and brown sugar together, wait 10 minutes and then mix it into the dry ingredients.

“All my chocolate chips melted. My kids were like, ‘What kind of chocolate chip cookie is that?” Pope said. “I tried it again and did much better. I’m trying new things. I’m being more creative.”

She’s made an oatmeal breakfast casserole and egg sandwiches with a fried egg, toast, cheese and bacon. Both were a success.

Normally, the family dines out or gets take-out three or four times a week. Pope would stop at Publix almost daily to pick up snacks or other items, such as milk. However, she is only going to the store once per week now, so she is having to do more meal planning.



Summerfield resident Jeff Parrill tests software by day and works as a baseball referee at night and on weekends.

He used to eat out about four times per week, and when he was home for dinner, he would have frozen pizza or make a sandwich.

Jeff Parrill makes simple dinners, like bowtie pasta with Jimmy Dean spicy sausage and hot RO-TEL or hamburgers with corn on the cob.

“Something simple,” he said.

Now that sports seasons are canceled, Parrill has much more free time. Finding the right ingredients has been somewhat challenging, but Parrill said he’s enjoying the chance to cook a little more. He is a “meat, potato, pasta” type of cook, but he still is enjoying the change of pace.

“Right now, I’m sticking to things I know based on the ingredients I have,” he said. “I’d like to try some new dishes, but the stores just don’t have some of the things I would need, mainly meat product.”



Rebecca Marchino has been using cooking apps to find creative recipes with foods she already has in her pantry. Courtesy photo.

At a time when some foods can be more difficult to find, Greenbrook’s Rebecca Marchino is getting creative with the help of various apps, including Tasty and SuperFood. You plug in the ingredients you have on hand, and ta-da!

Last week, she made a hot dog cornbread casserole.

“It wasn’t the most nutritious, but that’s what we had on hand, and everybody liked it,” she said. “I was waiting for the paycheck, so I hadn’t been to the store.”

Marchino said there are even ways to make ramen noodles feel gourmet.



Watercrest Condominium resident Karen Curlin would rather be out socializing with friends, but since her efforts to self-quarantine started March 16, she’s forged a new bond with her cookbook.

Curlin has not done much cooking since her husband, Roger, died six years ago.

Karen Curlin is cooking fresh now that she's confined to her home. Courtesy photo.

For breakfast, she would make a smoothie or eat an energy bar. Lunch would be from Taco Bell or Subway. Dinner would be a salad as a side to a prepared frozen meal, such as Healthy Choice or Jenny Craig entrees. She ate with friends about twice a week and usually had leftovers too.

“That’s pretty much always been my [method of operation],” Curlin said.

However, with no more golfing or bridge games planned for the near horizon and only virtual meetings for the 20-25 hours weekly she volunteers for Indivisible East Manatee, Curlin has gone to a fresher format.

“I have plenty of time now,” Curlin said. “I bought lots and lots of fresh veggies and fruits. Part of the reason I don’t do that regularly is just being very busy. It wasn’t a priority.”



Country Club at Lakewood Ranch resident Kimberly Courie, an architectural building designer, considers herself a good cook, but she never has time to do it. She and her husband, Jason, a Realtor who also does land acquisition for car dealerships, eat dinner out six days a week because they’re always out working at dinnertime.

The Courie family made a feast of green beans, salmon, potatoes and curry March 25. Courtesy photo.

Their 15-year-old daughter, Ysabel, is the gourmet chef, whipping up street tacos for breakfast or pasta with a homemade avocado aioli sauce for dinner. Most nights, Ysabel Courie makes her own dinner — at least she did until the coronavirus quarantined her parents to working from home.

“We all want to be the one who cooks,” she said. “It’s fun to be at home. This has really changed our entire perspective of being here in Lakewood Ranch. I got used to always being out in the crowds and having all my appointments out socializing. [This] is more fun. We feel more connected.”

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