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Why community, care, and comfort are important during these uncertain times

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In these unprecedented times, many of us are turning to our kitchens — both as our primary source of food, and to embrace the soothing ritual of baking and cooking. I know I take great comfort in making bread now more than ever — it makes me feel grounded in the present, and it makes me feel strong and empowered to be able to feed my family and myself. I make my pizza crust from scratch too – it literally takes minutes in a food processor or a stand mixer.

With my turning-brown-bananas, last week I made banana muffins, and took a few to the neighbors (keeping my social distance, of course). It was a way to share – and to check on my neighbors.

Community, care, and a sense of comfort are things we can all lean into right now, and baking is a wonderful way to embrace all of these.

I’m new to the SIU Medicine family, but a longtime Springfield resident and SIU supporter. Food has always been a source of sharing and caring for me, learned from my late mother and plenty of 4-H food projects along the way. As a dietitian, I believe food can be a journey to health, and that’s why I was happy to join the Culinary Medicine team at SIU Medicine.

Whether you find baking or cooking to be a good stress reliever or another activity, it is important to prioritize these stress-relieving activities right now. During times of stress and anxiety, we must pay extra attention to our mental health. Stress can affect you in many negative ways including headaches, fatigue, digestive problems, sleep issues, depression, sadness, anxiety, over or under eating, and many other negative effects.

Here are a few of my suggestions on how to stay strong and stress-free:

  • Focus on your mental health: Whether through meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or mindfulness, it is important to take time during your day to quiet your mind and find some inner peace.
  • Stay active: There are plenty of workouts online that you can do at home, or can even go outside (please continue to practice social distancing!) and go for a walk or run.
  • Eat a balanced diet: Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains throughout the day and try to avoid processed foods.
  • Limit news and social media consumption: With so much information being released right now, it is important to limit your news and social media consumption for your own sanity and stress levels.
     

Adding some of the items above into your day will help lower your stress levels and provide a sense of community, care, and comfort into your life during these uncertain times.

For me, I will continue to work in my kitchen. If you need a little inspiration to get started in your kitchen, I’m sharing a couple of recipes for my favorite pizza crust and banana muffins below. Please note I do make mine a little healthier with a 50-50 blend of whole wheat/all-purpose flour.

Sending thoughts and inspiration for ways to stay well-fed, safe, and healthy while you enjoy this time at home with your family.

Enjoy!

Favorite Pizza Crust Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup warm water

Instructions:

  • Into the warm water, add the package of yeast and teaspoon of sugar. Stir and let sit until bubbly, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Measure the flour into your food processor; add the butter, cut into 3 pieces and salt. Mix in the food processor until fine, about 20 seconds.
  • Add the yeast/water mixture. With the machine running, add enough additional water for the dough to run around the inside of the bowl.
  • Lift it out and knead for a couple of minutes. (You may need a bit more flour so it doesn’t stick to your counter.)
  • Place in an oiled bowl (flip it when putting in, so the oiled side is on top).
  • Then let rise until doubled. This is enough to make 2 pizza crusts. I prebake mine in a 400 degree oven, then add my cooked toppings and bake again until the cheese has melted.

Banana Muffin Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 very ripe bananas, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ cup butter or margarine, chilled, cut into 6 pieces
  • ¾ cup all- purpose flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup walnuts or pecans or mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In your food processor, add bananas and butter; process until finely chopped, about 20 seconds.
  • Add remaining ingredients; process 10 seconds. Scrape down sides.
  • Add nuts or a handful of mini chocolate chips, if desired and process 3 seconds more.
  • In a muffin tin with muffin liners, fill each muffin about 2/3 full. Bake 30-35 minutes. Makes about 18 muffins.

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