Prairie Fare: Food gifts can be shipped
I noticed the shelf inside the entry of a small restaurant. It was lined with brown paper bags and attached receipts.
The four shelves were labeled “self pick up” or they were labeled with one of three different companies that pick up and deliver food.
People in masks popped in and out of the restaurant and grabbed the to-go bags.
My husband and I were seated at a table at least 20 feet from anyone. Most of the tables were not available due to the restaurant capping its capacity.
Some people are fearful of food prepared away from their homes during the pandemic. Should we be?
We have picked up food a couple of times a week in the past eight months. We want restaurants to remain in business when the pandemic ends.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the virus that causes COVID-19 does not spread to people through food. However, many other types of germs can be spread through improper handling and cooking of food.
Sitting or standing close to people in crowded bars and restaurants has been reported as a COVID-19 risk. According to public health data from Colorado and Louisiana, 20% of all COVID-19 cases were traced to crowded bars and restaurants in a recent study.
As the holidays approach, food becomes an even more integral part of the “togetherness” of family and friends. Eating together is fun. Sharing family recipes builds memories.
Perhaps your favorite cookie, kuchen or lefse recipe gets retrieved from the recipe box at this time of the year.
Is mailing your own homemade cookies, breads and other holiday fare to your family and friends safe to do?
Yes, sharing food is safe as long as you follow all the food safety precautions, especially careful hand washing. See https:// www.ag.ndsu.edu/food and click on “food safety” to learn more.
A gift package filled with favorite foods can conjure up fond memories of home if you cannot be together during the holiday season.
Besides deciding on the treats to send, keep postal regulations, safety and quality in mind. Check on postal restrictions related to allowable items, and size and weight of packages, especially if your family lives in another country.
Perishable items, such as meat and soft cheeses, must be kept at 40 F or lower, so they aren’t good choices for a long trip. Dry ice can be used for the overnight delivery of highly perishable items. You’ll need to decide if the expense is worth it, and you’ll want to be sure the recipient knows the arrival time of the perishable items.
Consider the moisture content of the foods when deciding what to mail. Moist carrot bread or pumpkin bread may become moldy during shipment, depending on the length of shipping.
Quality can be an issue if you’re thinking about sending your favorite delicate holiday cookies. Cookies can become crumbs without some special precautions.
To keep cookies from crumbling, pack them back to back and wrap with plastic wrap. Put the wrapped pairs between two plastic foam plates and tape the plates together. Finally, surround the items with bubble wrap, foam or newspaper and pack in a sturdy box.
To celebrate 2021, I will be giving away at least 50 colorful calendars with 12 recipes and lots of food and nutrition tips. By Nov. 30, 2020, email me your 1) name, 2) address and 3) a topic you would like me to consider writing about in the future. I will add your name to my electronic “hat” and randomly draw a bunch of names on Dec. 1.
Email me directly at email@example.com to be entered in the calendar drawing.
I also have several ideas for make-your-own gifts for your family and friends who like to finish the food preparation process at home.
See “Mix It Up – Food Mixes in a Jar” ( https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn1494.pdf ) with recipes for cornbread mix, oatmeal cookie mix, country chili and friendship soup mix.
See “Beverage Mixes in a Jar” at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn1625.pdf with recipes for spiced tea mix, hot cocoa mix and others.
See the “Quick Bread Mix” publication at https://tinyurl.com/QuickBreadMix with recipes for cherry chocolate scones, peanut butter bread and more.
If you have a specialty coffee lover on your gift list, here’s a make-it-yourself drink mix featured in the “beverage mix” publication.
French Vanilla Coffee Mix
1/3 c. instant coffee
1 c. instant skim milk powder
1/2 c. powdered nondairy coffee creamer
1/3 c. white sugar
1/4 c. French vanilla instant pudding mix
Add the ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until thoroughly mixed and you have a smooth powder. Store mixture in an airtight, pint-size container. Decorate container as desired.
For each serving, place 3/4 cup of boiling water in a mug and stir in 2 heaping teaspoons of mix.
Makes 16 servings. Each serving has 50 calories, 1 gram (g) fat, 2 g protein, 10 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber and 65 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.