Mother’s Day Dessert – Safe for the Whole Family

When I saw the cover of the May 2016 Better Homes and Gardens® magazine, I was inspired!

Mother’s day is right around the corner and what better idea than to make a delicious modified dessert for the mom who’s having trouble swallowing but that the whole family can share and enjoy.

The recipe in the magazine is for “Showstopping Meringue Desserts”. Crispy, marshmallow-y meringues are unsafe to consume for someone on a puree diet because they consist of several different textures and dissolve on the tongue, making it impossible to control the swallow. Add whole fruit and the original recipe is definitely off the list of “okay” foods if you are having trouble swallowing.

So I created a recipe that is every bit as beautiful and delicious.

The whole family can eat this and not feel like they are being cheated…just ask my girlfriends who ate these for dessert at our “girls’ lunch” yesterday!

This recipe is easy to make ahead and scale up or down, as needed.

  • 1 – 8 oz. brick Cream Cheese, softened
  • ½ cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 – 8 oz. container Whipped Topping, thawed
  • 1 jar Lemon Curd
  • Seedless Blackberry Jam
  • Blueberry Syrup
  • Mint for garnish, optional

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.

Drop rounded half cup portions on a parchment lined sheet pan that will fit in your freezer. Form a well in each mound, making a shell, and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to serve, peel the frozen shells off the parchment and place on individual plates or on a platter. Place the shells in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or allow them to sit at room temperature for about 10 minute so they can soften.

Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon curd to each shell and top with small dollops of seedless blackberry jam and drizzle with blueberry syrup. Serve and enjoy!

Serves 8

The shells can be made ahead up to a month ahead, just freeze them until they are firm before you cover them with plastic wrap

.

If you are concerned about carbohydrates and fat, you can easily substitute Neufchatel cheese and “lite” whipped topping.

Nutritional Info each: 325 calories; 17.25 gm fat; 40 gm carbohydrates; 135 mg sodium; 0.33 gm protein

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Want to make bread, cakes and baked goods safer for those with a swallowing problem? Watch this video!


Swallowing Problems? What to do about Thanksgiving dinner.

Family eating at the dinner table

Gathering at the holiday table is one way we share our love, show our humanity and honor our cultural traditions. For manyof us, holiday feasts like Thanksgiving and Christmas don’t feel like a holiday without certain well known and loved dishes. Traditional foods and recipes are handed down from one generation to the next, keeping alive our memories and honoring those no longer at the table.

For most of us, feasting with friends and family is basic to our humanity. But when you are having trouble swallowing, the act of eating can be scary, difficult or even dangerous.  Needing to be conscious of every bite you take, how you position your head and thinking through the swallow is no picnic! It can create anxiety, prevent you from being in the moment, taking part in the conversation at the table and enjoying the occasion like everyone else. Those who are recovering from a stroke, are having treatment for cancer or who are living with dementia may already feel isolated.  Not being able to share traditional family meals in a “natural” manner may be frustrating and challenging and can make matters worse.

It is understandable when those with swallowing problems may be tempted to “cheat” during the holidays and eat foods that are not part of their eating plan. Sharing traditional foods with family and friends is how we celebrate! Platters get passed and everyone takes a little bit of this and maybe a whole lot of that. Traditional foods have a special place at the holiday table but if those foods are the wrong texture, they can be a problem for someone who is at risk for aspiration. Aspiration is when a small particle of food or liquid enters the trachea (a.k.a. the airway or windpipe).  Aspiration can cause choking and aspiration pneumonia, both of which can be life-threatening.

Whether your family celebrates a holiday dinner with roast beef, turkey or ham, it is possible for someone with dysphagia to eat almost everything on the dinner table with a few modifications.

If you are on a Mechanical Soft Diet, remember to take small bites of soft, well-cooked foods. Add gravy and sauces to your foods to make them moister and easier to chew and swallow. Dark meat turkey is often more moist and tender so choose thigh meat and cut it into small pieces. Be mindful when eating foods with mixed textures. Avoid foods that aren’t easy to chew like nuts and raw vegetables. Stick with roasted vegetables and stay away from the crudité plate. Have the pumpkin pie instead of the pecan pie.

If you’ve been prescribed a puree diet, you’ll need a make a few additional modifications to many foods to make them the right texture for you.  To puree a single serving or two, you will find that a powerful mini food processor will become an invaluable tool.  Full-size food processors and blenders won’t work because they are too big to efficiently puree one or two portions to the correct texture. You will also need an instant food thickener like ThickenUp Clear® or ThickIt®.

Here is a puree plan for most traditional foods:

Turkey

Roasted Turkey/Beef/Ham/Brisket

  • In a mini food processor, place cooked a 2 – 3 oz. portion of cooked meat and process until finely chopped. Add 2 tablespoons of broth and process again until very finely chopped. Add 1 scoop instant food thickener and puree until smooth. The texture should be as thick as mashed potatoes. For visual appeal, place the meat in the corner of a quart-size zip-top bag and seal. Snip off the corner with the meat, and pipe the puree onto a plate in the approximate shape and size of a serving of meat.

Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

  • No modifications needed, just make sure the potatoes and gravy are lump-free and the potatoes are firm (not soupy).

Stuffing

  • Avoid stuffing. Try slurried dinner rolls (below) which taste a lot like stuffing.

Sweet Potatoes

  • Mash with lots of butter.

Green Bean Casserole

  • No mushroom soup allowed. Instead, puree a portion of well-cooked green beans and fried onions in a mini food processor with a small amount of cooking liquid. Add 1 scoop of Instant Food Thickener (I like ThickenUp Clear) and blend until smooth. You are looking for a texture like smooth mashed potatoes.

Dinner rolls

  • Use only soft dinner rolls. NO SEEDS OR WHOLE GRAINS! Make a slurry with ¼ cup of chicken broth and ½ scoop of Instant Food Thickener (ThickenUp Clear) and mix until it thickens. Pull apart the roll and cover with the slurry. Set aside for about ten minutes, until the roll has absorbed the slurry. Reheat as needed.

Cranberry Sauce

  • Canned smooth, jellied sauce is okay.

Pumpkin Pie

  • Filling only. No crust.

Apple Pie

  • Puree the filling in a mini food processor. No crust.

If you crave apple pie a la mode, check-out the archived recipe on this blog.

With a few modifications, you or someone you love can safely enjoy a holiday feast!


Autumn Pie Smoothies

apple drawing

Autumn is in the air and apples and pumpkins are in season.

It seems that everywhere you look, there are pumpkin-spiced lattes, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin pancakes not to mention apple pie, baked apples, apple cider, apple this and apple that! Both fruits (and yes, pumpkin is technically a fruit!) are full of vitamins, fiber, phyto-nutrients and other goodness. Because pumpkin is full of Vitamin A and fiber, it is a super-food. Combine pumpkin with a powerful anti-inflammatories like cinnamon, ground ginger or other warm spices and you have an especially delicious super-food!

The old saying: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is grounded in truth…though the saying does not include the all-American apple pie…which is too bad! The good news is that an apple pie smoothie can be just what the doctor ordered when you have trouble swallowing and can no longer eat a traditional apple pie. This apple pie a la mode smoothie recipe includes great anti-inflammatory spices (cinnamon and ground ginger) that boost overall health and is so delicious that you won’t miss the crust.

These autumn-in-a-glass smoothies are delicious and nutritious…even if you are not having trouble swallowing!

 

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

 ½ banana, chopped (and frozen is possible)

1 container honey Greek yogurt

4 ice cubes

½ cup canned pumpkin

1 cup orange juice

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)

1 teaspoon finely ground flaxseed meal

1 tablespoon honey, maple syrup or brown sugar (optional)

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until perfectly smooth. If too thick or chunky to drink, add more juice and re-blend until smooth. Taste and adjust spices and sweeten, as needed.

Makes one generous serving

Nutritional Info:

375 calories, 12 gm protein, 4 gm fat, 73 gm carbohydrate. 388% RDA Vitamin A, 88% RDA Vitamin C, 30% RDA Calcium, 13% RDA Iron.

 

Apple Pie a la mode Smoothie

 ½ banana, chopped (and frozen if possible)

1 container vanilla Greek yogurt

4 ice cubes

½ cup canned apple pie filling

1 cup apple juice or apple cider

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon finely ground flaxseed meal

1 tablespoon honey, agave nectar or brown sugar (optional)

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until perfectly smooth. If too thick or chunky to drink, add more juice and re-blend until smooth. Taste and adjust spices and add sweetener, as needed.

Makes one generous serving

Nutritional Info:

475 calories, 12 gm protein, 4 gm fat, 103 gm carbohydrate, 6 gm fiber, 103% RDA Vitamin C, 28% RDA Calcium


Instant Food Thickener Review: the Good, the Bad and the Gloppy

For people living with swallowing disorders, it is unsafe to drink “regular” liquids. Mixing an instant food thickener into beverages is the most common, but unsatisfying, way to make liquids safe for swallowing.

Getting proper hydration is critically important to health, recovery and living. Implementing a care plan for thickened liquids is challenging but possible, even at home.

Starch-based instant food thickeners like ThickIt®, Thick & Easy® and ThickenUp® tend to be the most affordable options but they add a noticeable “starchy” taste to liquids. Starch-based thickeners react differently to different liquids. Liquids high in acid, like juice and coffee, thicken quickly and may continue to thicken as they sit. Starch thickeners also make milk look unappealing because they thicken the water component, separating the milk fat, protein and minerals making the milk look almost curdled. They work great for making a slurry but you can’t thicken carbonated beverages (or wine) with them.

Liquid xanthan gum-based gel thickeners, like SimplyThick®, are a better tasting option for thickening liquids but these gel thickeners don’t mix easily into liquids with a spoon. You need to either shake or whisk it into a liquid or it will not be completely smooth. Xanthan gum-based gel thickeners are about three times more expensive per serving than both starch-based and xanthan gum-based powdered thickeners.

Fortunately, powdered xanthan gum thickeners are becoming more widely available. The first xanthan gum powdered thickener on the market is ThickenUp® Clear. I am so excited about this product! It is a convenient powder and it mixes easily into liquids with just a spoon. Best of all, it has no flavor. When I it mixed into water, I could taste nothing but water. I mixed it into orange juice and milk and the results were smooth and tasted just like orange juice and milk. When I mixed it into hot tea, it thickened more than expected but it was easily remedied by add a little more water or milk. I didn’t try it in a carbonated beverage but I did try it in wine and it was the perfect consistency and added no flavor.

The only downside I see to powdered xanthan gum-based thickeners is that they are slightly more expensive than starch-based thickeners but think they are worth the slightly additional cost.

Like all thickeners, you must allow the both the gel and powdered thickeners to completely disperse and thicken into the liquid before you drink it. Those five minutes can seem like a very long time when you are thirsty so I recommend mixing liquids in bulk and keeping them in the refrigerator. Make sure to mark the container and drink the beverages within 24 hours. Shake or stir the thickened liquid before serving. If, the liquid had become is thicker than you need after it has been refrigerated, add more liquid to make it the proper consistency.

In the meantime, if you are living with a swallowing disorder, you now have better options. If you want to thicken your own beverages you have a choice of thickeners.

The texture of thickened liquids is tough to get over, though you do get used to it. Drinking thickened liquids that have a starchy taste is really tough. Pre-thickened beverages taste better and are convenient.  Drinking a beverage thickened with a “Clear” thickener is a revelation!

 

Happy older man with glass of juice