News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Journey through Thyme: Cooking keeps us busy in stressful times

With health and government officials urging people to stay home in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are looking for productive and comforting ways to pass the time indoors — prompting the reawakening of cooking and baking.

With more people working from home, nutritionists say now is the time to start cooking and brushing up on your culinary know-how.

Cooking can be a comfort and one way to reduce anxiety during trying times. If you’re at home, cooking is a way to nurture yourself and learn a new skill and stay active. It’s also therapeutic because when you’re following a recipe, you put your brain to work and you’re focusing on that instead of thinking about the other worries you may have.

Baking or cooking can be a stress reliever, because you’re using all five of your senses, which puts you present and in the moment.

There is power in food. There’s a blessing in food, especially at a time like this. Create that feeling that makes the best of a crisis. Get cooking.

Turn to soups for comfort with a big pot of chicken soup with fine noodles, carrots, celery, onions, and parsley, just like mom made, and it’s good for you.

What are the best foods to buy when you know you’re going to be stuck at home? You can make nutrition a priority, and that’s all the more important if your immune system may be compromised.

When you go to the grocery stores you need a game plan of what can bring you the most nutrition. Fresh foods can be frozen, which will allow you to enjoy them later.

Reach for beans and legumes because they’re long-lasting and also a great starting point for a nutrient-rich meal. Chickpeas or lentils, for example, can be mixed with salads and pasta dishes, or used in soups and stews. They can also be used for making homemade hummus, a great snack. You should also stock up on quinoa, barley, ground cornmeal for polenta or grits, pasta sauces, and pasta.

Baking staples would include all-purpose flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, butter and yeast. Also keep stocked up on eggs, for baking and other uses, as well as oils, such as olive and vegetable, oatmeal and dried fruits that can be turned into granola, along with some nuts and seeds. A freezer can be loaded with proteins, frozen vegetables and broth, as well as frozen fruits for smoothies and for baked items such as muffins.

Try to stay away from highly-processed snacks, which can be an easy option when you have a cupboard stocked with biscuits, crackers, and chips, and especially when you are home all day, watching the latest updates on the pandemic and feeling stressed.

Instead, stock up on apples, oranges, lemons and bell peppers, all of which are high in vitamin C, which helps build a strong immune system. In between meals, healthy snack options include low-fat popcorn and nuts.

During this time, it’s likely that you’ll have some more free time on your hands than normal. So, if you’re used to cooking at home, why not use it as an opportunity to try your hand at a few recipes that you wouldn’t normally be able to.

One way to eat healthy all week is to practice making bigger batches of your dishes, and then freeze them. You’ve done most of the work up front and can reheat meals as the week progresses. A few of the meals you can freeze are healthy stuffed peppers, homemade chicken or beef soup, homemade banana bread or any breads for that matter.

If you have kids that are home from school right now, teaching them some cooking and baking basics can help give them a greater appreciation of the culinary arts. And on a more practical level, it can also make them less-picky eaters. Get kids involved in baking bread, cooking an egg, or creating a homemade salad dressing — then, search the Internet to discover the science behind why ingredients change when they are combined, heated, or blended.

In case you’re clueless in the kitchen during this era of coronavirus, here is a healthy comfort food recipe that you can freeze in batches:

 

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