Tip Number One
Plan each meal around vegetables and fruits. The Essential Puree cookbook contains a big section on veggies with tasty ways to cook them. Fill one serving dish with veggies, grilled, steamed or roasted. Served with a pasta is another good way to get the veggies in.
Since vegetables form the half of the Choose My Plate guidelines suggested by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, start with them. I can hear the moans and groans out there. Do not be discouraged. Stick with me. The trick is in giving the veggies flavor. No boring veggies is our motto.
There is a simple, no-fail flavoring: lemon juice and olive oil, salt and white pepper. Sometimes, the simplest is the most elegant. This lets the flavor of the veggies shine through. We are a few days into spring, now. The markets are already brimming with the new season’s veggies. I have just bought myself some Florida-grown string beans. I make garlic string beans with a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt, white pepper and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on the hot string beans. When I puree, the cheese melts into the dish. Leave it out if it interferes with the swallow, according to your healthcare provider.
The second trick is in cooking the veggies in a fabulous way. Do not boil or microwave vegetables into limp fibers. No overcooked and boiled veggies. How do I cook veggies? Steaming is good. Invest in a steaming rack for a regular saucepan. Get a little, lotus shaped, folding steamer to put in the bottom of a stock pot. Get a three-tiered steamer, either bamboo or electric, and make your protein at the same time. We have recipes for all kinds of vegetable soups that may be thickened with the ingredients in the soup or with instant thickeners (see the resources section of the book and the website for instructions).
Sometimes, these are mixed veggies, such as our delicious minestrone, with beans and pasta, a meal in itself. Sometimes, these are creamed soups made from one vegetable, such as tomato or butternut squash. The bonus with vegetable soups is that they are colorful. We want to avoid the boring bowl of beige at all times in the dysphagia kitchen. We have soups that cook on the stove in an hour and soups that can be made in the new high speed blenders with the soup function in seven minutes.
Have a nutritional extracted salad on the side or for a snack. We give recipes for pureed salads and even warm salads. This means you liquefy vegetables in one of the nutrition extractors, such as a NutriBullet, and then thicken according to your level of the National Dysphagia Diet, NDD. See the website for levels. We give recipes for snack or dessert shakes based on fruits. We also have a recipe for a homemade “ice cream” based on frozen fruit.
Tip Number Two
In the Essential Puree Guidebook, we recommend batch cooking, making a dish with four to six servings. Serve the first time on the day of cooking, one goes in the fridge for service during the week and the remaining servings are stored in individual containers in the freezer. Use labels with the name of the dish and the date they were made. This is especially true of vegetable dishes. That way a quick veggie is always on hand. Slow bake four sweet potatoes at once. Mash. Freeze in individual containers. You have six servings.
Tip Number Three
Essential Puree recommends using a white board on the front of the freezer to keep track of what you have inside. That way you know when you are running low on a favorite dish. The system works. Your friendly author knows that because when I took the kitchen tour of God’s Love We Deliver, the New York charity that delivers meals to patients who are unable to shop or cook for themselves, I discovered that GLWD uses the white board system to keep track of their cooking schedule. They deliver 5,000 meals a day. Quite an operation.
Batch cooking is labor saving for the caregiver. You cook once and eat four times. That way, you are not chained to the kitchen. The trick is shopping ahead of the cooking day and having everything on hand. That way you are not running out to the store. Of course, to go along with the veggies, you need lean protein, but that is the subject of another blog post. Stay tuned. Come back for more tips and tricks.