Saturday, March 31, 2007

Good stuff through a straw

I could use some help here. I'm cooking for someone who currently can't eat except through a straw. I find myself sliding into a rut. Any ideas you have on straw-suitable soups, healthy drinks, and regular foods that can still be somewhat palatable after dilution and pureeing would be appreciated. It's bad enough not being able to eat solid food, without having the liquid stuff get monotonous.

To get the ball rolling, here are a few tips from around here.

= A few years back, we noticed that the nutrition tallies for Carnation Instant Breakfast were almost identical to the nutritional tallies for the expensive and rather chalky nutrition supplement the doctor prescribed. We haven't used the fancy stuff since. We use whole milk to boost the calorie count.

= Split pea soup is easy to make from scratch. There are lots of variations, but here's how we generally do it around here: Wash the dried split peas you're going to use (I put them in a colander, sort out anything that isn't supposed to be there, then rinse under the faucet). Put the peas into a saucepan with three to four cups of water for every cup of peas. (My usual batch uses two cups of peas.) Add a pat of butter or other oil to keep the soup from getting too much froth. Toss in some diced onion and whatever else suits your fancy. Traditional recipes call for diced ham, but one day when I didn't have ham I tried chopped carrots and found that we liked that better. A lot of recipes suggest celery, but I haven't tried that yet. Add some salt and pepper and simmer or cook at a gentle boil until the peas fall apart when you stir. Add milk to bring it to the consistency and taste you want. If the soup's too thin, simmer until it's thick enough for you. (Steam equals water, you know.) Tah dah, cream of split pea soup. A lot of recipes use chicken broth instead of water, and omit the milk, but we like the creamy stuff. I keep chopped onion in the freezer, ready to use at a moment's notice, which makes it even easier. To make 'chopped onion in the freezer,' chop onion like usual and put it in a freezer bag or container and put it in the freezer; I'm sure some folks blanch it, but just plain old onion works for me. You can also buy commercially prepared chopped onion in the freezer section of your grocery store, if you get sick and tired of dealing with raw onion (been there, done that).

=Cream of potato soup is also easy. Cook chopped potatoes with chopped onions until done. Drain excess water, if any. Mash and dilute with milk. If you don't need it straw-suitable, you can skip the mashing part or do a half-hearted job of it. Salt and pepper makes it better. A dab of butter in the cooking water is also good. You can dress it up by adding carrots or ham or whatever else sounds good to you.

=Cream of wheat cereal and some other cooked cereals work great through a straw if you add enough milk.

=Yogurt works if you stir in enough milk. Beef it up by adding a banana or other fruit and putting it in the blender.

(Yes, we use a lot of milk around here. Why do you ask? :)

=If you use a lot of fruit juice, buying frozen juice can save you a lot of money. Mixing fruit juices in unlikely combinations sometimes produces disaster but sometimes turns up something really good. (To my surprise, I find I like cranberry juice mixed with orange juice.) Of course, making juice from scratch, leaving in a lot of pulp, is probably better. But it can get messy. We use 2-quart plastic fruit juice bottles because they're easy to handle and have screw-top lids. (Obviously, at some point we splurged and bought ready-to-drink juice instead of frozen juice.) To save fuss, we thaw the frozen juice in the fridge before opening, so we can just pour it into the bottles. If you like, use a funnel, but pouring without a funnel gets easier with practice. To wash the bottles, put dish soap and water in the bottle, put the lid on, and shake. To rinse, dump the soapy water and put in plain water and shake and dump, repeating as many times as necessary. It doesn't take much dish soap to make a whole lot of suds, by the way.

Your turn. Feel free to provide either a link or a full recipe in the comment box.


Anonymous said...

When I broke my jaw a few years back and had to take everything through a straw, my favorite food was a cheese burger. Put the cheese burger, bun,and all toppings in a blender. hit puree, add a little water at a time until it is liquid enough to go up a straw. Sounds awful but it tasted pretty good!

Kathryn Judson said...

Anonymous, Thanks. We've tried a few things like that, too - but I not cheeseburger yet. Considering that anything that might register as 'real food' or 'regular food' is a boon, we'll give it a shot.