A single mom who committed to cooking at home during the coronavirus pandemic to protect the health of her daughter with lung disease has now cooked over 200 meals for her family and started her own food business.
Yolanda Latimer's daughter, Savannah, was born a micro-preemie at 23 weeks, weighing just one pound, and spent much of the first year of her life in the hospital.
Savannah, now 3, remains immunocompromised, which puts her in the high risk category for COVID-19.
Because of that, Latimer and her family, including her two sons ages 8 and 19, have followed strict stay-at-home orders since early March at their home in a suburb of Washington, D.C.
"What I did was to revert back to being very vigilant, like I did when Savannah was first home from the hospital," said Latimer. "When I decided not to do any outside food, it was a conscientious decision for myself and my family and it was a peace of mind because I know exactly who's touched her food and where it's been. That's a huge relief for me."
Latimer, who has cooked every breakfast, lunch and dinner for her family since March, said she has always loved to cook but was rarely able to do so pre-pandemic because she worked long hours outside the home as a corporate recruiter and was always driving her kids to and from activities.
When the pandemic struck and Latimer was forced to work from home, alongside her three children, and cook every meal, she rediscovered her passion for cooking.
"With not having to go into the office, that's like four hours of time I get back every day," she said. "Quarantine has been a blessing in disguise. I've been able to cook like I would if I was a stay-at-home mom."
Latimer began posting her quarantine food creations on social media so that she could have what she called a "photo diary" to look back on of what life was like during the pandemic. Instead, Latimer began receiving messages from family and friends about her meals and requests for the recipes.
Friends encouraged Latimer to start a food blog, but she said she resisted, not believing in herself, until one morning when she watched the documentary "Becoming" about the life of former First Lady Michelle Obama.
"I wanted to watch it uninterrupted so I got up at 6 in the morning to watch it," she recalled. "I was crying and was so inspired and as soon as it ended I went online and bought my name and logo."
"If you would have asked me before the pandemic if I'd be owning my own business and cooking, I wouldn't believe you because I wouldn't have time," said Latimer. "I didn't have time to shower barely."
"It has been a blessing in disguise," she said of her own experience during the pandemic. "It's slowed us all down and made us think about things that are more important than the hustle and bustle that we're used to."
Latimer has kept working her full-time job at home during quarantine, but she said that rediscovering cooking has led her to want to find a way to turn her passion into her career.
"I want to put more time into focusing on and building this up and keeping it up because this is my passion," she said. "I do well in recruiting because it fits my [outgoing] personality and it pays my bills, but I want my passion to pay my bills."
Try three recipes from Londa's Laboratory
Shrimp & Old Bay lemon grits
6-10 Jumbo shrimp (tail on)
Quaker Oats Quick Grits1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 lemon ( squeezed)
1 cup milk (divided)
1 tablespoon thyme
1/4 tablespoon garlic salt
4 tablespoon butter (divided)
In a small bowl place shrimp and 1 tablespoon of thyme and 1/4 tablespoon of garlic salt. Set aside.
Prepare grits per directions for (4 servings) adding in 1/2 cup milk in addition to the 4 cups of water. Once the grits are done, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk.
Stir in the tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning, and pour in the lemon juice. stir. Add 2 tablespoon of butter and any additional milk (1 tablespoon at a time) to gain desired consistency.
In a small skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and place in the shrimp. cook until opaque 1-2 minutes on each side.
Scoop out the grits into a bowl, place shrimp on top.
Garnish with parsley (or cilantro) and lemon zest.
Vodka & dill smoked salmon angel hair pasta nests
1-2 package of vodka and dill smoked salmon
1 jar of Alfredo sauce
1 - package of angel hair nests
1 - tablespoon of oil ( I used avocado oil)
Smoked black pepper
Boil water add salt to taste, drop nests in , boil for 2 minutes and then scoop out with a slotted spoon immediately to your plate.
In a small saucepan, heat up the Alfredo sauce. I also added some smoked black pepper.
In a small skillet, put in the oil and then place the slices of salmon. It literally takes about 20 seconds for the slices to become opaque. You don't technically need to do this step, but I prefer to.
Take a spoon and drizzle the Alfredo sauce over the angel hair nests, and then place the salmon on top.
Garnish with smoked black pepper (if desired).
Chai latte chip frappuccino
1 cup of ice
1 chai latte pod (Use the middle setting on your Keurig, or use a Chai latte instant mix or tea bag instead.)
1 cup of milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
1/4 cup of white chocolate chips
1/4 cup of sugar
Blend ingredients together.
Add more ice/milk for your desired consistency.
Note: I used Hershey's caramel whipped cream and chocolate syrup for topping. I also used a few chips on top, as well as the rim of the glass!
Recipes reprinted with permission from Yolanda Latimer of Londa's Laboratory.