During the holidays, eating is as much about friends and family as it is about food. But when muscle weakness makes it difficult or impossible to eat by mouth, some shy away from coming to the table.
Nonsense, say those who’ve learned how to work around — or ignore — the social discomfort. Life’s too short to miss out on the fun. Below are adapted dining tips from therapists and people with weak muscles, along with a few easy-to-swallow holiday recipes that all guests can enjoy.
GLAZED HAM RING
1-½ lbs. ground cooked ham
1 lb. ground pork
1 can (10-½ oz.) condensed onion soup
1 egg, slightly beaten
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 cup soft rye bread crumbs
LOAF: Mix thoroughly ¾ cup soup, ham, pork, bread crumbs and egg. In shallow baking dish (13x9x2”), shape firmly into ring (2-inches high with 4-inch opening). Bake at 350 F for 90 minutes.
GLAZE: In small saucepan, combine remaining soup, brown sugar, vinegar, and mustard. Heat; stir occasionally. Brush loaf often with glaze while baking.
BAKED SQUASH CASSEROLE
2 lbs. zucchini or summer squash
3 Tbsps. onion, chopped fine
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsps. parsley flakes
½ to 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Slice squash in ½-inch pieces. Cover with water and bring to a boil.
Boil 3 minutes or until tender. Drain well, add onion, eggs and seasoning. Mix until well blended. Butter a 1-quart casserole dish and add squash mixture. Dot with butter. Bake at 350 F for 35 to 40 minutes or until brown.
SWEET POTATO BERRIED TREASURE PUFFS
1 lb. can sweet potatoes (drained)
1 can crushed pineapple (8-¾ oz., drained)
2 Tbsps. melted butter
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup cranberry sauce
Whip together. Swirl in ½ cup cranberry sauce. Spoon into 8 greased ramekins. Top each with 1 Tbsp. cranberry sauce. Bake at 375 F for 40 minutes.
INDIVIDUAL PUMPKIN CHEESECAKES
18 gingersnap cookies
12 oz. softened cream cheese
¾ cup sugar
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup corn syrup
Place 18 baking cups in muffin tins. Put 1 gingersnap in each cup. Beat cream cheese, sugar, corn starch, and pumpkin pie spice with an electric mixer until well mixed. Add eggs and blend well. Add pumpkin and syrup and beat 1 minute. Pour filling into cups, dividing evenly. Bake in a preheated 325 F oven for 30-35 minutes until just set. Chill for 1 hour before serving.
This recipe came from Debbie Button of Jarrettsville, Md., whose son, Joe, lived to adulthood with spinal muscular atrophy type 1. She is putting together a cookbook of easy-to-swallow recipes. Debbie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting Quest.
Note: The Glazed Ham Ring, Baked Squash Casserole and Sweet Potato Berried Treasure Puffs are from MDA's online cookbook, Meals for Easy Swallowing.
The I-Can’t-Chew Cookbook: Delicious Soft Diet Recipes for People with Chewing, Swallowing and Dry Mouth Disorders, by J. Randy Wilson, 2003, Hunter House.
Good Housekeeping Blend It! 150 Sensational Recipes to Make in Your Blender — Frappes, Smoothies, Soups, Pancakes, Frozen Cocktails and More, by Barbara Chernitz, 2003, Hearst.
The Dysphagia Cookbook, by Elayne Achilles, 2003, Cumberland House.
Easy-to-Swallow, Easy-to-Chew Cookbook: Over 150 Tasty and Nutritious Recipes for People Who Have Difficulty Swallowing, by Donna L. Weihofen, 2002, Wiley.