WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH AND YOU HAVE TO EAT SOFT

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH AND YOU HAVE TO EAT SOFT

We’ve all had the need, however temporarily, for one reason or another, to alter our diet somewhat drastically.  This 4th of July, a friend and myself planned to spend part of the day at a local park; traditionally, that has always included some sort of picnic.  But she had had oral surgery several days before and could not really chew and spicy food irritated her still healing mouth.  I have been in situations like that myself, and I volunteered to make food for both of us which I hoped would be tasty, eye-appealing and be easy to eat.

I thought of things which fit naturally into the requirements she had, and then I improvised.  I thought of other things which normally require some chewing and altered them considerably.  Here are the four things we enjoyed on our picnic.  I’ve increased the recipes so that they feed 4 people easily.

Soft Foods

CAULIFLOWER AND POTATO MASH

Mashing potatoes with other vegetables, like turnips or cauliflower, is pretty traditional. But I have always preferred such a mash to have some texture, one of the few times when lumps seem like a preference rather than an accident.  But here, because I wanted the dish to be perfectly smooth, I thought to add some additional flavors to compensate for the “blandness” of the appearance and “feel” on the tongue.

 Ingredients:

▪ 4 medium sized potatoes (I used Yukon Gold potatoes)

▪ 1 head cauliflower

▪ 1 pt. half and half

▪ 3 C shredded jack or havarti cheese*

▪ ½  C finely chopped basil

▪ 2 cloves minced garlic

▪ salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Cut the potatoes into ¾ inch cubes.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into small florets.
  3. Combine the potatoes and cauliflower and steam them till very tender.
  4. While they steam, heat the half and half.
  5. Shred the cheese and chop the basil
  6. When the potatoes and cauliflower are thoroughly cooked through, remove them from the heat and place into a food processor.
  7. Add a bit of the hot half and half and begin to pulse the ingredients
  8. Add a bit more of the half and half and then the grated cheese.
  9. Add the basil and the minced garlic (you can grate the garlic cloves on a microplane or use a garlic press to achieve a puree so that the garlic will not be noticeable except for its flavor).
  10. Continue to pulse, adding more half and half, until your achieve a silky, smooth consistency.
  11. Taste and adjust the flavor with a little salt if needed (it should need at least some).

*You can of course use any cheese, but try to use one that melts easily and doesn’t separate.

Note: You can serve this hot with any meal or at room temperature.  You can even refrigerate it and take it on a trip and eat it cold.

 

CREAMED SPINACH

This classic American take on the Indian dish, Saag Paneer, uses cream instead of the Paneer or cheese.  It has become the traditional vegetable side dish to serve with a big steak.  Here the trick was to make it with only a hint of spice and to cut down on the calories a bit by using non-fat Greek yogurt instead of cream.

Ingredients:

▪ 12 C baby spinach (use the stems, too, if they are small and tender)

▪ ½ C finely chopped onion

▪ 1 t freshly grated nutmeg

▪ ½ t Chinese 5 Spice

▪ 1 C non-fat Greek yogurt

▪ salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Steam the spinach and onion together, till the spinach is completely wilted. (You may have to add the spinach a bit at a time unless your pot is really big).
  2. Put the spinach/onion mixture in a sieve and press to extract as much liquid as possible.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a food processor.
  4. Add the nutmeg and 5 spice powder.
  5. Pulse till the mixture is thoroughly blended.
  6. Check the taste and add a bit of salt as needed.
  7. Remove the mixture from the processor and mix in the yogurt.

This dish can be served hot or cold.

CHICKPEAS & VEGETABLES

By this time, I wanted something with a little texture, but still tender enough that no real chewing was required.  I also wanted something with taste but without any irritation that could come by the normal flavor enhancers like lemon juice or tamari soy sauce.  I also found that canned chick peas were not soft enough, so I cooked them some more.

Ingredients:

▪ 3 (14 oz.) cans chick peas (garbanzo beans)

▪ 3 Zucchini (depending on the size)

▪ ½ lb. soft tofu

▪ 1 C smooth peanut butter

▪ 1 ½  C vegetable broth

▪ 1 clove minced garlic

▪ 1 t freshly ground cumin

▪ salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Open the cans of chick peas and put them into a good pot, liquid and all.
  2. Add some more water and turn up the heat to high, letting them boil for at least 5 minutes to get them very tender.
  3. Heat the vegetable broth.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the broth and the peanut butter together to form a sauce.
  5. Grate the garlic on a microplane or use a garlic press, and add the garlic and cumin to the sauce and taste. Add a little salt as needed.
  6. Cut the tofu into small cubes and add to the peanut sauce to absorb the flavor.
  7. Cut the zucchini into small pieces and steam them.
  8. Put the now soft chick peas into a food processor and pulse them a few times till they are coarsely chopped; be careful, you are not making hummus.
  9. Add the zucchini and pulse one or two more times to combine.
  10. Remove from the food processor to the mixing bowl with the tofu/peanut sauce.
  11. Gently mix with a spatula till all the ingredients are combined.
  12. Refrigerate for several hours to let the flavors “marry” (just like a good potato salad).

You could also not wait and serve it warm or warm it up afterwards.

 

Rice Pudding, creamed

RICE BANANA PUDDING IN COCONUT MILK

I’ve always loved rice pudding and this occasion made me think about how I could make this absolutely delicious and still have it be more pudding than rice.  No chewing, remember?

Ingredients:

▪ 1 ½ C Arborio rice

▪ 4 C coconut milk

▪ 1 cinnamon stick

▪ ½ – ¾ C maple syrup (how sweet do you like it?)

▪ 1 t vanilla

▪ 1-2 very ripe bananas, sliced

▪ pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Soak the rice, rinsing it several times and rinse it several times, till the water is no longer cloudy.
  2. Combine the rice, 2 C of the coconut milk, the cinnamon stick and the sliced banana in a heavy bottom pan and heat on very low.
  3. Stir the mixture frequently.
  4. As the coconut milk and rice heat up, the rice will begin to absorb the milk.
  5. Keep stirring and adding the additional coconut milk a little at a time, the same way you would make a risotto.
  6. When the rice mixture is almost done (as in thoroughly cooked), add the maple syrup.
  7. Taste and add any salt as needed.
  8. Keep adding the coconut milk until the rice is soft.
  9. Let the mixture cool and then put it all in a food processor and puree it till it is the consistency of thick pudding.
  10. Serve with some soft berries if you can eat them or just enjoy it all on its own.

It’s perfectly fine slightly warm, at room temperature or cold.

 

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