Posts Tagged ‘food’

Bringing Home the Gravy

rockwell thanksgivingThanksgiving changed the year I went vegetarian. I did not mind giving up the tender, moist turkey or the savory oyster-specked stuffing. But giving up the flavorful flow of mushroom-laden gravy was quite another thing. I watched enviously as my family ladled the luscious liquids over their mashed potatoes, turkey and stuffing. As I nibbled dryly on my carrots, green beans and salad, my lower lip protruded. I felt left out and deprived.

My brother, Dan, ever alert to the pouting big sister, came up with a solution.

“Next year I will make special vegetarian gravy just for you,” Dan promised.

Years later, that special vegetarian gravy has become one of my favorite Thanksgiving rituals. I begin fantasizing about it the moment the autumn leaves turn crimson. I know that in mere weeks, my brother and his family will arrive and I will have my yearly boost of family and feasting, highlighted by gravy.

When my brother calls to tell me his travel plans, I write his arrival time and GRAVY on my calendar. The night he comes to town, we make the shopping list together, avidly discussing how many pounds of mushrooms we need for both the carnivore and vegetarian pots of gravy. I relish the early-Wednesday morning trip through the grocery store, where Dan and I and our children carefully select the foods we will be making the next day. We linger in the produce aisle, filling several sacks with gleaming white mushrooms and buying rustling yellow onions. mushrooms

On Thanksgiving Day, Dan and I and other family members spend long, luxurious hours cooking. Dan mans the stove and I manage the slicing and chopping. Together we snap, peal, slice and dice the vegetables that will accessorize the turkey. I take special pleasure in wiping clean and slicing the mushrooms, then bringing my brother the brimming bowlful. When he has nodded his approval, I get out the old copper pot I bought in Germany in the early seventies. This year, Dan is improving his already amazing gravy. With his new immersion blender, he creates a rich base of caramelized onions, whose flavor surpasses that of the lowly vegetable cube. He adds in a little flour, then gentles the mushrooms into the onion broth. When the pot is bubbling with thickening nectar, he says, “Taste this and see what you think.”

I always think the same thing—“Wow, this is great.”

We are in a state of giddy and satisfied exhaustion by the time our guests arrive. We share grateful prayers with everyone and lay out the feast, including plenty of turkey-based gravy for the rest of the family.gravy

Then comes the moment I have been waiting for: I sit down, my own personal pot of gravy poised by my plate. I cover the mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, and salad with the aromatic concoction and I savor every bite. But more importantly, I savor the bounty, creativity, and love that have gone into this simple dish. Through this gravy, my brother speaks with his hands and his heart, saying: “I care about you and I am going to make sure you are not left out and that you have something fantastic to eat.”

For that and so much more, I am thankful.heart gratitude

…………

And now, if you’d like to bring home this delicious gravy, here’s how:

Dan Barnett’s Chicago Style  Never-Enough-Mushroom Vegetarian Gravy

Ingredients

2 large onions (chopped)

2 pounds (or more) white button mushrooms sliced (can add some portabellas for enhanced flavor)

1 cup of white wine (of lesser quality)

Salt & pepper to taste

Olive oil

Directions

To create the gravy base:

In a four -quart pot, pour a thin layer of olive oil and turn the burner on medium.

Add the onions and sauté for10-15 minutes until they are caramelized (golden brown)

Add water until the pot is about half full.

Simmer slowly for 30 minutes.

Blend the onion water mixture using either an immersion blender or by transferring the mixture to a food processor.

Once you have the gravy base

Add the 2 pounds (or more) of sliced mushrooms, white wine and fill the pot with water until it is 3/4 full.

Simmer for 30 minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper.  images

###

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Six Tips for Surviving the Holiday Season When a Loved One Has Dementia

t-dayNormally, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday, a time our family gathered together at my Kansas City home. But that November, my stomach clenched at the thought of our traditional Thursday evening meal.

My mother had Alzheimer’s and the holiday would be different.  I felt alone but of course I wasn’t: there were 15 million family/friend caregivers helping the five million Americans who have dementia.

I’d been through my initial storm of denial and grief. I felt I’d been coping well with Mom’s diagnosis, focusing on offering my father extra support and trying to flow with Mom’s now spotty memory and personality quirks. But a pre-season sadness invaded me in October and I found myself dreading the alleged festivities. How could we have our usual holiday dinner, take our after dinner walks, play Scrabble and Hearts and Charades without Mom’s participation?  How could we enjoy going to movies and plays when Mom was having trouble focusing and sitting still?  And how would Mom react to the situation: would she feel uncomfortable and out of place? Would Dad feel protective and anxious? And more important, what would we have for dessert! Mom was legendary for her chocolate and butterscotch brownies, date crumbs, and bourbon balls. No store-bought cookies would compare. brownies

As I stewed over the prospect of a depressing Thanksgiving weekend, I remembered the vows I had made: I had promised I would try to stay connected to Mom throughout her Alzheimer’s journey. And I had promised to see the gifts and blessings and fun in the experience.

So I began thinking: if the holiday is going to be different, why not concentrate on making it different in a creative and connective way? Here are some ideas I used to make the holiday work for me.

  • Acknowledge my feelings of loss and grief. I wrote them down and shared them with a few friends. Just expressing myself made me feel stronger.
  • List what I would miss most during the holiday season. My list included cooking with Mom, eating her brownies and rum balls. I asked my brother, who’s a terrific baker, to make some of our favorite sweets and I set up a place in the dining room where Mom could sit next to me while I chopped mushrooms and peeled potatoes.
  • Create an activity to give our holiday a new focus. We created a simple holiday scrapbook called, “The Little Kitchen that Could,” complete with a family photo shoot and a playful script.
  • Appreciate my blessings. We started our Thanksgiving meal by asking everyone to name one thing he or she was grateful for. I continued my gratitude practice throughout the holiday season, either alone or with others via telephone and social media.
  • Take extra good care of myself.  I treated yourself as I would a friend who’d suffered a deep loss.
  • Set up a lifeline. “I’m worried about melting down,” I told my friend. She urged me to call anytime for encouragement and reassurance.

These six steps helped me enjoy my holiday and appreciate my mom just as she was. Our holiday was “different” but it was also wonderful.

gratitude

 

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

A Halloween Surprise

For months, I’ve been working on my book on dementia and creativity. I’ve been so inspired by all the artistic people who know so many exciting ways to connect through creativity.
My mother’s sense of creativity and playfulness thrived in her last years. But there was one other part of her that was also in full force as well. See if you can identify with this Halloween tale that I first shared last year.

Do you remember trick or treating as a kid, racing down the street, dressed as a superhero or a princess or a witch, eager for treats? When I was growing up, I loved the freedom and surprise of that holiday and I continue to love the scintillating spookiness and dramatic dress of the holiday. Here’s a story about a Halloween gift I received in a memory care unit. Click here if you’d like to watch a video of the story or read on, if you prefer the written word. Either way, I hope you’ll “treat” yourself right this October 31.

Warmly,

Deborah

Halloween-Scary-Pumpkins-Wallpaper-Pictures-44234

My Caregiver’s Two-Letter Halloween Treat

On my mother’s last Halloween, her memory care unit held a party. Pam, the nurse, brought a basket brimming with hats, shawls, and scarves. Pam set a floppy white hat on Mom’s silvery curls and draped a lacy purple shawl over her shoulders. In her new adornments, Mom looked both puzzled and happy.

But during the “treat” portion of the Halloween celebration, which featured M & M’s and chocolate chip cookies, Mom’s smile was unambiguous. All her life, Mom had adored sweets and her Alzheimer’s had not dimmed her enjoyment.

Then small children paraded through the facility, dressed as princesses, witches, super heroes, and ghosts. Volunteers handed the residents wrapped tootsie rolls.

“For the children,” they said.

Mom smiled at the adorable kitty cats and pirates who chanted “Trick or treat,” in wispy voices, but she did not relinquish her hold on the sweets; she did not share her candy.

“Mom, would you like to give the children some of your candy?” I asked as my mother gripped her treasure.

“No,” she said.

No. The word floated through my mind and I gazed at Mom, my mouth open, my mind euphoric. Perhaps I should have been chagrined at her selfishness but instead I was thrilled that she had actually responded to my question. It was the closest we’d come to conversation in weeks. I laughed with delight. Mom laughed.

For that moment, we were two women, laughing at ourselves, laughing at life, simply laughing. For me, it was a most wondrous and unexpected treat.

halloween-toronto_00419844

*****

Please share one of your unexpected treats.

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

An Insider’s Guide To Just Desserts and Savvy Smoothies

popeye

Ever wish you could have an instant jolt of muscle and energy like Popeye did when he gulped down his can of vitamin-rich spinach? I asked renowned cookbook and fiction author Judith Fertig for some easy and healthy boosts of energy for worn out care partners. Judith agreed to share a few of her favorite smoothie recipes. They’re quick, refreshing, nutritious, and delicious.  Warning: if you drink your smoothie while reading Judith’s wonderful new book, The Cake Therapist,  you may need a moist, chocolatey piece of cake later in the day. Maybe one of your friends will treat you to a recipe from Judith’s other new book, Bake Happy. 

Judith’s Secrets for Succulent Smoothies

Smoothies can be a caregiver’s caregiver. These blended drinks offer big nutrition in a small package, can be made in minutes, and make us feel like we’re doing something good for ourselves.

Smoothie recipes are like blueprints—they’re meant to be changed to follow what’s fresh, what’s in season, or what we feel like drinking. Berries, greens, melon, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, celery, carrots and stone fruits like peaches and mangoes add antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. A tablespoon or two of healthy fats such as milled flax seeds, hemp or nut butter can add richness to the flavor, while providing omega-3 fatty acids necessary for complete nutrition. For the finale, add a touch of sweetness from fruits, maple syrup, agave nectar or stevia, or fresh lemon or lime juice.

Fruits-and-VeggiesThe best way to mix a smoothie is to start with either a liquid or an ingredient with a thicker consistency, like yogurt, placed in a blender or high-powered smoothie mixer. Next, add the desired fruits or vegetables and flavorings. It’s better to start on a slower speed while holding down the lid tightly. Once everything is blended, increase the speed to high to achieve a more velvety texture. If the smoothie is too thin, add more frozen fruit or ice.

Smooth-fleshed fruits like mangoes, bananas, ripe peaches and nectarines blend more easily to a silky finish than do fresh berries. Tender, baby greens such as spinach, kale or chard virtually disappear within a smoothie; if using mature, rather than baby greens, cut out the stems unless the blender or mixer is extremely powerful.

Blending enough ingredients for two smoothies can yield a leftover serving to store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator. To reactivate the full taste later, just turn over the jar and give it a good shake to re-blend the ingredients.

Brilliant Green Smoothie

Yields 2 servings

2 cups water

4 cups baby spinach

2 cups chopped butter lettuce, escarole, or romaine

1 large banana, cut into chunks

The juice of a lemon

Combine the water, spinach, lettuce, and banana and blend using low to high speeds until smooth. Add lemon juice and blend again.

Peachy Watermelon

Yields 2 servings

2-3 cups watermelon, seeded

1 cup low-fat vanilla-flavored dairy or coconut yogurt

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 fresh peach, peeled, pitted, cut into chunks and frozen

Combine all ingredients and blend from low to high speed until smooth.

Cool as a Cucumber Smoothie

Yields 2 servings

1 cup apple juice

1 cup sliced sweet apple

¼ cup applesauce

½ cup sliced carrots

½ cup cucumber, peeled and sliced

2 cups ice

Dash of nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

Combine all ingredients and blend from low to high speed until smooth.

For more great gourmet ideas, visit Judith’s website: www.alfrescofoodandlifestyle.blogspot.com/

bake happy

 

 

             cake

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Setting the Table with Memories

Imagine sitting down for your favorite growing up meal. The sight, taste, and aroma of those hallowed childhood dishes would stir up a cornucopia of delicious memories.

eating in the 50sRecently my friend Elizabeth cooked such a meal for her husband Charlie, who is living with early onset dementia. Charlie grew up in the 1950s, so Elizabeth bought a period cookbook. She and Charlie read through the recipes to see which ones he resonated with.

“I will cook your favorites and we’ll invite a couple of your old friends from high school over for dinner,” she told him.

Elizabeth is a terrific cook and Charlie loved this idea. They analyzed the potential entrees, Beef stroganoff, chicken Cacciatore, meatloaf, but Charlie kept returning to one page: the recipe for Johnny Marzetti Casserole.  johnny marzetti

At first, Elizabeth demurred. As an accomplished cook, she didn’t like the idea of serving guests such a simple meal. But Charlie was persuasive, so she bought ground beef, canned tomatoes, cheese, and elbow macaroni. She cooked up a big pan of Johnny Marzetti, otherwise known as goulash, American Chop Suey, or macaroni and beef.

Charlie and his friends went wild over the food and laughed as they shared memories of school, the neighborhood, their families, and favorite foods. The cookbook, the meal, and the cook were a huge success.

Next on Elizabeth’s list: take pictures of Charlie with his favorite dishes and paste them in a scrapbook along with the recipes.

 

What are some of your favorite childhood meals?

For me, the desserts were most important. I adored cream horns, Mrs. Smith’s Lemon Icebox Pie, and Mom’s brownies and chocolate cake, particularly the icing. We still include Mom’s memorial brownies, courtesy of my brother, Chef Daniel Barnett, at family gatherings.

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Three Secrets for Maximizing Your Meals and One Tip for Increasing Your Energy

Wouldn’t it be lovely to nourish and nurture ourselves at the same time? My friend Lisa Everett Andersen is a clinical pharmacist and a board-certified clinical nutritionist. She believes how we eat impacts our nutritional well-being. Her ideas have helped me maintain my energy and savor my food, even when I’m stressed and certain I have no time to spare.

  • gratitudeGive thanks. Scientific studies show that blessing the food has a physical impact, raising its vibrational energy level and improving the way you receive the nourishment. Before you take a bite, you can give thanks to the plants and animals, and to those who grew, harvested, and prepared the meal. You can also honor yourself and give thanks for your own role in procuring, preparing, and serving.
  • sit up straightSit up straight. No one wants a kinky digestive tract! Proper posture takes away the twists and turns and aids in digestion.

 

 

  • eating
  • Make the most of your dining (or snacking) experience. Slow down and bring your attention to the food. Notice its color, texture, and aroma. Take a bite, hold it in your mouth, and truly experience the taste. Of course, the primary reason you eat is to get energy to the cell’s mitochondria. But you also eat for pleasure. Chewing your food well is a crucial first step for digestion and a great source of pleasure. When the food is on your tongue longer, you better appreciate its deliciousness and you are sooner satiated.
  • H2OBoost Your Flagging Energy with a Shot of H2O. When your energy falters and flags in the later afternoon (or even sooner), dehydration is the most common culprit. Get out your purified water and drink deeply. This magical liquid doesn’t just lift up your energy—it also hydrates, cleanses, detoxifies, and alkalinizes your body.

For more about Lisa and her work, visit obrienrx.com/

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Using Movement Therapy to Engage the Brain and Ignite Imagination and Conversation

 “We see in order to move; we move in order to see.”  — William Gibson

Seven people circle around the brightly colored piece of cloth, holding its edges and shaking it to the beat of I Love You For Sentimental Reasons.

“What does this fabric remind you of?” asks Natasha Goldstein-Levitas a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania based registered dance/movement therapist who reguarly works with these memory care residents.

“We’re shaking out a tablecloth,” one woman says, giving the cloth a brisk tug.

“We’re hanging clothes outside to dry,” says another.

“We’re cutting up onions for potato salad,” says another.

“When might we eat potato salad?” Natasha asks.4th of july

“A Fourth of July picnic,” a man answers.

Everyone lowers the cloth to the floor and they discuss who might be at the picnic. Perhaps an old friend, a brother, a spouse, a grandchild. When the conversation wanes, Natasha moves around the circle, offering each person a squirt of coconut-scented hand sanitizer and rubbing it into their palms. As Natasha gently massages the fragrant lotion into the hands of a woman who rarely talks or participates, Natasha asks, “What does this fragrance mind you of.”

The woman looks right at her and says, “Hawaii.”

Inviting People Into the Movement

“Any kind of movement can stimulate memory and creativity,” Natasha says. “Movement therapy is based on the principle that the mind and body are connected. It’s about helping the person feel empowered. I try to capitalize on the strengths of each person. We celebrate small successes, even if it’s just on making eye contact, taking deeper breaths, and saying a word.”

She concentrates on simple and focused movements, such as opening and closing the fingers and stretching arms overhead. She narrates every movement and frequently reminds people to breathe deeply.

clementinesSometimes food is integral to the movement. Natasha brings in a basket of Clementines and asks each person to choose one. They hold the fruits, gently squeezing them. They notice how each piece of fruit is unique. Natasha asks questions, such as. “What other orange objects can you think of? What does the aroma remind you of?” While they talk, they massage their arms by rolling the Clementine’s up and down.

In addition to physical movement, Natasha’s activities engage the senses, incorporating textures, aromas, colors, sounds, and tastes.         #

Natasha Goldstein-Levitas, 
R-DMT is a Registered Dance/Movement Therapist with over 14 years of experience working with high functioning to severely cognitively and physically impaired adults and older adults. Natasha’s recent writing will appear as a chapter in: Brooke, S.L. & Myers, C.E. (Eds.). (In press). The use of the creative therapies in treating grief/loss.   http://natashagoldstein.com/

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Four Insights for Connecting with Cooking

imgres “Mom, are you ready to help me make your famous meatloaf recipe?’ Stacy asked. Stacey was in town for the weekend, visiting her mom, Alice, and giving her sister a break from caregiving.

Stacy had wanted to take Alice out to eat, but her sister told her, “Mom can get pretty overwhelmed and confused when she’s around a lot of people. Why don’t you stay home and cook with her?”

Her sister was a nurse and seemed at ease with Alice’s diminished memory. But Stacy bit her lip when her sister suggested cooking.

“Think of a family recipe,” her sister advised. “Get all the ingredients organized beforehand and make sure the room is quiet and Mom has a comfortable chair. Once Mom gets started, she can do quite a bit. Just don’t rush her.”

It just so happened Stacy had been craving her mother’s famous meatloaf. That evening, she watched the news while she laid out the bowls, utensils, and ingredients on the table.

“A feast!” Alice exclaimed, as she shuffled into the kitchen. Stacy clicked off the television and said, “It will be a feast, Mom. It’s your meatloaf recipe. Will you help me make it?”

“You used to help me. In Provincetown,” Alice said.images

Stacy’s eyes misted. Sometimes her mom didn’t seem to know who Stacy was and when that happened, Stacy could barely breathe.

“You stood on a chair,” her mom said.

“Wearing Grandma’s apron.” Stacy could see the apron, a frilly flowered chintz with a red ribbon sash.

“This is your grandmother’s recipe,” Alice said. “She lived in Boston, you know, with her older sister.” As she reminisced, Alice cracked and whipped the egg. Then she poured the mixture onto the beef and blended it in with her hands. She sprinkled the breadcrumbs into the meat, added a handful of her secret ingredient—raisins– and plenty of pepper, then mixed it all together.

Stacy gave her mother the pan and Alice expertly shaped the loaf. Then she noticed her messy hands and wiped them on her slacks. “Am I eating dinner with you? Where is the other one?”

“She is out with friends tonight. And yes, you are eating dinner with me.”

“What time will your father get here?”

Stacy looked carefully at her widowed mom and wondered what she should answer.

“It’s just you and me tonight, Mom.”

“Don’t forget the parsley,” Alice said.

While the meatloaf cooked, Stacy brought over some bread dough she’d thawed earlier. Alice had been a phenomenal baker and Stacy still remembered the scintillating taste of her mom’s cinnamon rolls. When Alice saw the dough, she began to knead it. As she kneaded, she talked about the types of bread she’d made when she was a girl. “Even sourdough,” Alice said. “Our cousin brought a starter from San Francisco and we were all a buzz.”

“Which cousin, Mom?”

“Oh that Gertrude. You remember her, always dolled up and always flirting with the men. But she could bake a good dinner roll.”

“What was your favorite thing to bake?”

Alice slid her hands over the rolling pin and rolled the dough thin. Then she tore it into little tadpole shapes, one of their favorite childhood treats.

“Remember, Stacy doesn’t like hers burned,” her mom cautioned.

Stacy smiled.

Even though her mother ate little and fell asleep at the dinner table, Stacy felt like the evening was a success.

cooking 2“Cooking together can help family members connect in the kitchen,” says Kate Williams, LMSW,Care Counselor/Social Worker, Henry Ford Health System Collaborative, Alzheimer’s Association Greater Michigan Chapter. “The act of preparing food can draw on long term memory and trigger activities people have done in the past.”

Since the care partner needs to make meals anyway, working together offers a low-stress way to accomplish a task and a chance to relive family and food memories. People want to be useful and have a purpose; Kate believes creating food for and with someone meets that need.

For a successful cooking experience, Kate offers these tips:

· When designing cooking activities, consider the person and their current skills. Make sure the number of steps is appropriate to his or her level of memory loss.

· Give them as much independence as possible and be ready to help as needed.

· Create an environment with few distractions.

· Prepare the food and cooking utensils, so everything is at the ready. If possible, using the same type of equipment they used in the past.

Even for those who can’t really follow directions, the sensory experience of handling food can be connective and comforting. Cooking projects engage the senses, invite memories, offer a sense of completion and purpose, and are nurturing for both care partners.

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

An Insider’s Guide to Savvy Smoothies: From Judith Fertig

The-Nutritional-Value-of-SpinachEver wish you could have an instant jolt of muscle and energy like Popeye did when he gulped down his can of vitamin-rich spinach? I asked renowned cookbook and fiction author Judith Fertig for some easy and healthy boosts of energy for worn out care partners. Judith agreed to share a few of her favorite smoothie recipes. They’re quick, refreshing, nutritious, and delicious.

Judith’s Secrets for Succulent Smoothies

Smoothies can be a caregiver’s caregiver. These blended drinks offer big nutrition in a small package, can be made in minutes, and make us feel like we’re doing something good for ourselves.

 

Smoothie recipes are like blueprints—they’re meant to be changed to follow what’s fresh, what’s in season, or what we feel like drinking. Berries, greens, melon, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, celery, carrots and stone fruits like peaches and mangoes add antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. A tablespoon or two of healthy fats such as milled flax seeds, hemp or nut butter can add richness to the flavor, while providing omega-3 fatty acids necessary for complete nutrition. For the finale, add a touch of sweetness from fruits, maple syrup, agave nectar or stevia, or fresh lemon or lime juice.

veggies and berries

The best way to mix a smoothie is to start with either a liquid or an ingredient with a thicker consistency, like yogurt, placed in a blender or high-powered smoothie mixer. Next, add the desired fruits or vegetables and flavorings. It’s better to start on a slower speed while holding down the lid tightly. Once everything is blended, increase the speed to high to achieve a more velvety texture. If the smoothie is too thin, add more frozen fruit or ice.

Smooth-fleshed fruits like mangoes, bananas, ripe peaches and nectarines blend more easily to a silky finish than do fresh berries. Tender, baby greens such as spinach, kale or chard virtually disappear within a smoothie; if using mature, rather than baby greens, cut out the stems unless the blender or mixer is extremely powerful.

Blending enough ingredients for two smoothies can yield a leftover serving to store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator. To reactivate the full taste later, just turn over the jar and give it a good shake to re-blend the ingredients.

Brilliant Green Smoothiesmoothies

Yields 2 servings

2 cups water

4 cups baby spinach

2 cups chopped butter lettuce, escarole, or romaine

1 large banana, cut into chunks

The juice of a lemon

Combine the water, spinach, lettuce, and banana and blend using low to high speeds until smooth. Add lemon juice and blend again.

Peachy Watermelon

Yields 2 servings

2-3 cups watermelon, seeded

1 cup low-fat vanilla-flavored dairy or coconut yogurt

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 fresh peach, peeled, pitted, cut into chunks and frozen

Combine all ingredients and blend from low to high speed until smooth.

Cool as a Cucumber Smoothie

Yields 2 servings

1 cup apple juice

1 cup sliced sweet apple

¼ cup applesauce

½ cup sliced carrots

½ cup cucumber, peeled and sliced

2 cups ice

Dash of nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

Combine all ingredients and blend from low to high speed until smooth.

###

Sometimes after I eat something truly healthy, I develop a craving for something darkly chocolate.

If you have such cravings, you’ll want to pre-order Judith’s new cookbook Bake Happy, coming out in Spring 2015.

And if you crave something delicious to read, the first in her new fiction series, The Cake Therapist, appears this spring as well.

For more great gourmet ideas, visit her website: www.alfrescofoodandlifestyle.blogspot.com/

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Bringing Home the Gravy

rockwell thanksgivingThanksgiving changed the year I went vegetarian. I did not mind giving up the tender, moist turkey or the savory oyster-specked stuffing. But giving up the flavorful flow of mushroom-laden gravy was quite another thing. I watched enviously as my family ladled the luscious liquids over their mashed potatoes, turkey and stuffing. As I nibbled dryly on my carrots, green beans and salad, my lower lip protruded. I felt left out and deprived.

My brother, Dan, ever alert to the pouting big sister, came up with a solution.

“Next year I will make special vegetarian gravy just for you,” Dan promised.

Years later, that special vegetarian gravy has become one of my favorite Thanksgiving rituals. I begin fantasizing about it the moment the autumn leaves turn crimson. I know that in mere weeks, my brother and his family will arrive and I will have my yearly boost of family and feasting, highlighted by gravy.

When my brother calls to tell me his travel plans, I write his arrival time and GRAVY on my calendar. The night he comes to town, we make the shopping list together, avidly discussing how many pounds of mushrooms we need for both the carnivore and vegetarian pots of gravy. I relish the early-Wednesday morning trip through the grocery store, where Dan and I and our children carefully select the foods we will be making the next day. We linger in the produce aisle, filling several sacks with gleaming white mushrooms and buying rustling yellow onions. mushrooms

On Thanksgiving Day, Dan and I and other family members spend long, luxurious hours cooking. Dan mans the stove and I manage the slicing and chopping. Together we snap, peal, slice and dice the vegetables that will accessorize the turkey. I take special pleasure in wiping clean and slicing the mushrooms, then bringing my brother the brimming bowlful. When he has nodded his approval, I get out the old copper pot I bought in Germany in the early seventies. This year, Dan is improving his already amazing gravy. With his new immersion blender, he creates a rich base of caramelized onions, whose flavor surpasses that of the lowly vegetable cube. He adds in a little flour, then gentles the mushrooms into the onion broth. When the pot is bubbling with thickening nectar, he says, “Taste this and see what you think.”

I always think the same thing—“Wow, this is great.”

We are in a state of giddy and satisfied exhaustion by the time our guests arrive. We share grateful prayers with everyone and lay out the feast, including plenty of turkey-based gravy for the rest of the family.gravy

Then comes the moment I have been waiting for: I sit down, my own personal pot of gravy poised by my plate. I cover the mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, and salad with the aromatic concoction and I savor every bite. But more importantly, I savor the bounty, creativity, and love that have gone into this simple dish. Through this gravy, my brother speaks with his hands and his heart, saying: “I care about you and I am going to make sure you are not left out and that you have something fantastic to eat.”

For that and so much more, I am thankful.heart gratitude

…………

And now, if you’d like to bring home this delicious gravy, here’s how:

Dan Barnett’s Chicago Style  Never-Enough-Mushroom Vegetarian Gravy

Ingredients

2 large onions (chopped)

2 pounds (or more) white button mushrooms sliced (can add some portabellas for enhanced flavor)

1 cup of white wine (of lesser quality)

Salt & pepper to taste

Olive oil

Directions

To create the gravy base:

In a four -quart pot, pour a thin layer of olive oil and turn the burner on medium.

Add the onions and sauté for10-15 minutes until they are caramelized (golden brown)

Add water until the pot is about half full.

Simmer slowly for 30 minutes.

Blend the onion water mixture using either an immersion blender or by transferring the mixture to a food processor.

Once you have the gravy base

Add the 2 pounds (or more) of sliced mushrooms, white wine and fill the pot with water until it is 3/4 full.

Simmer for 30 minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper.  images

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Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.