Thursday, August 30, 2007

More good stuff through a straw

My husband has suffered from severe face pain off and on for twelve years. More on that later, but for now suffice it to say that there are periods, sometimes very long periods, when he cannot chew, indeed can barely manage to get liquid in his mouth and then swallow it. This presents a few challenges, to say the least. It's hard to keep him alive under such conditions, and harder still to provide a balanced diet, much less to provide one with enough substance and fiber to keep his digestive system from suffering along with his face. I've learned long since to not keep tallies on the bouts, but merely to dig in when I have to, and to refuse to let them beat us. It's the old one day at a time thang (except when it's the one hour at a time thang, except when it's the one minute at a time thang, except when...). Every time we get thrown back into this nightmare, I try to come up with more and better options for food through a straw. I am, alas for you, one of those by-guess-and-by-gosh cooks, who makes things up as she goes, and rarely keeps notes. I am thinking of changing that, by the way. I suspect there's a need for a cookbook for this type of specialty cooking.

Anyway, in rough form, here are some things I've concocted this last go-around...

=If you dump a can or two of fruit into the blender, juice and all, and puree it, you get a pretty good drink. We like mixing peaches with pears, and also experimenting with other combinations. Sometimes we add a bit of fruit juice to make it even thinner. Prune juice, to my surprise, mixes well with several types of canned fruit. We have joked about starting a business something along the lines of an espresso bar, but featuring pureed canned fruit. Honestly, it's pretty good stuff. Sometimes we add fresh fruit, but the canned is much easier and faster to work with, on the whole.

=We have been modifying our split pea soup recipes around here, making them lighter. I started out using ham, as per tradition, and then switched to carrot in lieu of ham, but since then I've skipped the carrots, too. I vary the recipe from time to time, but basically I put a bunch of water in a large saucepan, add a couple of chicken bouillon cubes, add dried split peas which I've rinsed under the faucet (usually two-thirds green peas to one-third yellow), some onion (dried, frozen or fresh, doesn't seem to matter), a pat or two of butter, some salt, some pepper, a few flakes of dried red pepper (I do mean just a few, five or six does for us, thanks), and maybe a sprinkle of garlic, and let the whole mess sit at a low boil until the peas fall apart. I stir from time to time, but I don't know if that's necessary or just for the fun of seeing how things are coming along. When it's done cooking, I let it cool slightly and then put it in the blender. Lately I've been adding a bit of pearl rice at the front end, and letting it cook along with everything else. It disappears during the pureeing, and I like to think it boosts the nutritional profile some. At any rate, I use more broth and less peas than I used to, which makes it easier to sip. This being split pea soup, it still manages to get thicker and somewhat solid on the bottom as it sits, but overall, if you use a fair amount of broth and then puree the soup, it works great through a straw.

=I have also been making various types of asparagus soup. In short, you add asparagus to water, cook it with whatever else suits your fancy, and puree the whole shebang before you eat it. My favorite so far was essentially a potato and onion and asparagus soup. I usually buy baking potatoes and use them for everything, but there was a sale on red potatoes, so I used those. I peeled and chopped a few potatoes, peeled and chopped half of a yellow onion, added half a bag of frozen asparagus bits, some chicken bouillon, butter, salt, pepper, a few flakes of red pepper, and... and I don't remember what else, if anything... and then boiled that at something between a low boil and a simmer until everything was soft, let it cool slightly, and then put it in the blender, etc. Asparagus by itself I'm not terribly fond of, but cooked up with potato moderates it to my taste.

=I also had good luck with a cauliflower soup: I dumped some frozen cauliflower in a pan, added about the same amount of chopped potatoes, a pat or two of butter, some salt and pepper, and enough water to cover, cooked until soft, added milk, pureed.

=I also made sip-able rice pudding. I put pearl rice into probably twice as much water you'd usually use to cook rice, added raisins, butter, sugar, cinnamon, a wee bit of vanilla and nutmeg, and cooked at something between a low boil and simmer until the rice was soft. Then I stirred in milk, and then pureed it. It's not the loveliest thing after it's pureed, but it tasted pretty good, and you could eat it through a straw. A side note: I made more than we could eat right away. You don't want to know what happens to drinkable rice pudding that sits too long in the fridge. Mercy.

By the way, when I say that I cooked something at between a low boil and a simmer, what that really means is that I spent much of the cooking time trying to find a setting that kept it at a low boil, and therefore what I cooked quite possibly seesawed between a high boil and something less than a simmer. Luckily, most soups are amazingly forgiving of such ineptness.

Previous related post. (Be sure and read the first comment. We haven't tried that yet. I'm pretty sure that if I were reduced to eating through a straw, I'd definitely try it, but my husband is balking... and I have to admit that I'm not keen on trying it as long as I can eat the food in question the usual way... :)


Michelle said...

Sorry your husband is suffering. I'll offer some prayers for him.

I was going to suggest Carnation Instant Breakfast, but I saw on your previous post you already know about that source of protein and nutrition. I hope this bout is over soon.

Kathryn Judson said...

Thanks, Michelle.

Laurie said...

When we were in Mexico last year we drank watermelon. They took everything inside the rind, including the seeds and blended it. Delicious and refreshing.

Laurie said...

The other fav drink at our place is half a blender of plain yogurt, half a cup of sugar, half a bag of frozen fruit and milk to fill the rest of the space. It is great on a hot day.