Most of us have stressed out, time-challenged lives. The most common difficulty can be summed up in one sentence – “I don’t have time to cook.” I think of it this way. You don’t have time not to cook.
Cooking will lessen your stress and have you prepared. You will eliminate the, “we don’t have anything to eat,” moment when you go into a panic because you cannot put food on the table for the dysphagia patient. The strategy for solving this dilemma is a change in priorities. It’s a good shift, and it’s healthy for the cook. If shopping is planned, ingredient lists are planned, and cooking days are planned, the task of cooking is simplified.
The Essential Puree philosophy is that the kitchen is a place of transformation. It is a place of magic and alchemy, where one may change the composition of the human body down to the level of cells. The cook is something of a magician, as well as a purveyor of pleasure. Orienting oneself in this manner has all the benefits of mindfulness. It is stress-reducing. Cooking at home saves time and money. If you are living on fast food and takeout, you are spending. The cost per serving of a home-cooked meal is amazingly low, even when you use top ingredients. When you make it at home, you custom-tailor the food to your own tastes. You don’t have the experience of getting takeout food home only to discover a hideous sauce, a mouthful of salt, or some really bad ingredient that you cringe when putting into your body. You are not ingesting a serving of chemicals used to improve taste or to preserve food or to get the maximum amount of product out of an animal. Think of the eventual savings in expensive pharmaceuticals to heal an illness that came about from a diet poor in nutritional elements.
You don’t have to be rigid. When I was cooking for my mother, every now and then, she wanted to go through a drive-through and get a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate milkshake. So what? Nothing in life is worse than being rigid. We are not in the business of being food snobs. We are flexible. When entering the land of fast food, adapt your puree technique. Just make sure the puree is smooth and the right thickness. When you know you have an out, you are less likely to stray. Case closed.
If you are picking up from the supermarket deli-counter, you are paying a price for others to cook your food. Think of it. You are already in the supermarket, and you are buying pre-cooked food. You don’t know what they use to make the food. But, food creates mood and health. Here’s a link to nutrition writer Jenny Chen about how food can affect your emotional well-being.
When you buy the ingredients, you know what you are getting. You are in control. Mindless eating makes for bad nutrition, and in all health situations, nutrition has increasingly become an element of health and healing. Even if you don’t think you can cook, in reality, you can cook. A whole television show has been built around this concept of taking a terrible cook and giving him or her the confidence to create in the kitchen, even when the newbie has no skills, at all. The show is on the Food Network, and it is called ‘America’s Worst Cooks’. You might want to check it out.
Not cooking takes time and money and can be filling the patient with swallowing difficulties full of the wrong foods, including foods that create more health problems. There have been countless exposes of the practices of the food industry over the past few decades. I don’t have to go into it here. You might as well create a list, and shop. The setup takes a little time and thought, true. But once you set up, life is sweet. You only have to get the basics in the pantry, and the Essential Puree Guidebook has a list.
Some of the basic ingredients include: flour for thickening, onions, garlic and lemons for flavor. You also want to keep broths for sauces, juice for pureeing, and healthy carbs, such as pasta, rice, or sweet potatoes. Keep a few basic spices on hand, and be sure to buy white pepper rather than black pepper. Buy good protein, and you can keep it on hand in the freezer if you don’t have time to cook until the weekend, and your shopping hour is during the week. Thaw it in the fridge the night before cooking. If you decide to use the new pressure cookers, you can cook right from frozen. That’s the basic setup. Pantry items for completion of the dish, spices for flavor, proteins for daily requirement, fresh fruits and veggies for the phyto-chemicals and nutrients, and the all-important sauce, which is essential for the puree. This is simple.
You start with making one dish on a cooking day, which should give four to six servings in using the recipes of Essential Puree. You might make one entrée and a vegetable side dish. Then the next time, you make two dishes. This is simple. If you shop for the right containers for freezer storage, and the right labels and pens, you will have meals in the fridge and the freezer, and this saves time from working out takeout menus and the cost of either having them delivered or picking them up. This is simple. I think the best tool of all is the whiteboard that goes on the front of the fridge or freezer where you keep track of what you have on hand. This way, you always know what you need to cook, especially if you have patient input.
You have reduced the stress by using the foolproof recipes in the Essential Puree Guidebook and the breakdown of the components of the meal. The hidden benefit is in the increased nutrition in the home-cooked meal. We have a hero around our Essential Puree team. She is Dr. Dee, the nutritionist, who is also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Dr. Dee says, “The healing power of food created with love cannot be underestimated.” Remember, the beginning of setting up a new routine is the most difficult, because change is stressful even when it is change for the better. The Essential Puree Guidebook stresses basic recipes that are easy to prepare with great flavor plus suggestions of the ways to vary them.
If you, or your family member, or your patient is diagnosed with swallowing difficulties, your best bet is to cook it yourself. Using the Essential Puree Guidebook, you can get the best quality without being chained to the kitchen. The object is to make it new, and make it fun. It also happens to be the smart way to go.