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Prairie Fare: Enjoy More Family Meals During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Getting family members to help make a pizza is one way for a family to eat a meal together. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay) Getting family members to help make a pizza is one way for a family to eat a meal together. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)
Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist (NDSU photo) Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist (NDSU photo)
Eating together as a family has many benefits.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist NDSU Extension

“We’re going to gain 10,000 pounds if you keep cooking and baking like this,” my husband said as he glanced in my direction.

Did I mention he tends to exaggerate a little?

“How many pieces of banana cake have you had?” I asked.

“This is my second piece,” he replied without even a slight bit of remorse.

“The cream cheese frosting is really good,” he added as he placed a large piece on his plate.

I think we will gain only 5,000 pounds. Or perhaps 5 pounds.

I won’t add to your family’s weight by printing the recipe. However, I know people will ask me for it, so check out https://www.allrecipes.com and search for “Banana Cake VI.”

Like any treat, cut the pieces small. Store the remaining cake in your refrigerator. Actually, you might want to put a lock on the refrigerator. However, my sweet-toothed husband would figure out how to dismantle a lock.

Cooking and baking are stress relievers for me, especially during this time of uncertainty in the coronavirus pandemic. Our kids appreciate the fancier meals that happen when we have more time to focus on food preparation.

For example, we had a Thanksgiving dinner the other day. My kids looked at me a bit oddly but loved it. We also had a lot of leftover turkey to use in planned-over meals.

Another day, we enjoyed a beef roast and all the fixings. We made barbecue beef sandwiches the next evening.

We continue to support our local restaurants as well, so we order drive-up or delivery at about the same rate as pre-COVID-19. We want the restaurants to be in business later, so they need our support.

Families and individuals are spending more time at home and eating together more often, sometimes “seeing” each other using technology. That’s a silver lining as we huddle in place.

As numerous studies have shown, eating more meals as a family has numerous benefits.

According to researchers, eating more family meals may have more benefits than some extracurricular activities. However, kids who have missed attending the prom and sports tournaments, and participating in music and theater performances might not agree at this point in their lives.

Eating as a family is a routine that is reassuring for everyone.

Researchers have shown that children who eat more meals with their families are more likely to earn mostly A's and B’s, compared with kids who eat fewer times with their families. Children who eat with their families improve their communication skills and build their vocabularies. Even the occasional bickering session among siblings builds communication skills.

Family meals provide structure, stability and feelings of belonging. As a result, children who eat meals more often with their families are less likely to engage in risky behavior, such as drinking alcohol, smoking or drug abuse. They’re also less likely to be depressed and less likely to have eating disorders.

A family who eats together enjoys more nutritious meals, too. Kids who eat more often with their families eat more fruits and vegetables, more calcium-rich foods and less high-fat, highly sweetened foods. They’re more likely to meet their needs for fiber, iron, vitamin E and folate, too.

Do you ever run out of conversation topics during meals? We can help. My colleague Kim Bushaw, family science specialist, created 60 conversation starters. You can access them on the Family Table website: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/familytable.

Here are a couple of conversation starters from the collection: What is your super power (something you do really well)? What food would you like to try if you were feeling extra brave about trying something new?

To help with a collaborative family meal, here’s an easy recipe courtesy of the North Dakota Wheat Commission (https://www.ndwheat.com). This recipe is featured in “7 Steps to Making a Pizza,” which is a publication in our “Pinchin’ Pennies in the Kitchen” series of 26 handouts. The handout lists a variety of toppings and more recipes, including a cauliflower crust. Try setting up a make-your-own pizza buffet with a variety of toppings.

Visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food and click on “Food Preparation” to view a wide range of free materials, including the “Pinchin’ Pennies” series, as we navigate our present journey.

Whole-wheat Pizza Crust

3/4 c. whole-wheat flour

3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 package quick-rising yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)

3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. sugar

1/2 c. warm water (120 to 130 F)

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil or other oil

Combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir to mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine hot water and oil (water should be 120 to 130 F); gradually combine water mixture with dry ingredients until a sticky ball forms. If dough is too dry, add 1 to 2 Tbsp. warm water; if dough is too sticky, add 1 to 2 Tbsp. flour. Using a stand mixer, process dough for one minute to knead. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and cover bowl, allowing dough to rest for 10 to 20 minutes before rolling. Preheat oven to 450 F and roll out dough (13-inch circle). Brush crust with olive oil and poke with fork. Top with your favorite toppings and bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese has melted and crust is browned.

Makes 10 servings (slices). Each serving of the crust has 80 calories, 1.5 grams (g) fat, 3 g protein, 14 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber and 180 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson)


NDSU Agriculture Communication - April 2, 2020

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, 701-231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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