Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Scorching Summer Salad

This summer’s record-breaking heat and drought have taken a toll on our chickens, our pond, and our garden. I have given up watering my hanging flower baskets, reserving water instead for the herbs, the tomatoes and our outdoor animals.  Several times a day, our dog, Anya, appears at the door a scummy mess after taking a disappointing “swim” in our evaporating pond. Our heat-stressed chickens have nearly stopped laying eggs.

When it’s this hot outside, I can’t bring myself to heat up the inside of the house with my crock pot or oven. So how can I prepare a balanced meal for my family? How about a favorite summer-time staple: bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches! Add some fresh blueberries topped with plain yogurt, honey, and cinnamon for dessert, and you have a cool, refreshing, and satisfying meal for a scorching summer day. Better yet, the BLT Salad recipe below blends well for feeding through a g-tube so your entire family can enjoy this summery meal together.

BLT Salad

Makes one salad or g-tube serving; about 226 calories, 14.1 g fat, 16.8 g carbohydrates, 21.9 g protein (, and loads of vitamins and micro-nutrients.
  • A few handfuls of spinach, torn in small pieces.
  • Several fresh basil leaves, chopped.
  • ½ cup chopped tomato.
  • ¼ cup firm tofu, broken into pieces.
  • 2 slices crisp bacon, crumbled.
  • ½ cup plain yogurt.
Toss the spinach and basil in a bowl. Add tomato, bacon and tofu. Top with plain yogurt. For your g-tube tummy, blend all ingredients and strain through a fine-mesh strainer.  Enjoy your cool, summery meal!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Squash Surplus

My garden has entered into its annual summer squash surplus.  While my spinach and lettuce have bolted and my cucumbers have wilted in the heat and drought, my garden is overrun with sunny yellow summer squash.

Last April, those tiny squash plants didn’t look like much.  They certainly didn’t look capable of producing a continuous supply of full-sized fruits nearly overnight! Now, at the height of the season, I find us eating a rather one-dimensional diet: Squash.  We eat squash in salads, squash in stews, and squash in smoothies.  I fry, bake, and saute squash.  I substitute squash for pasta, and hide squash in muffins and cookies.  I try to pass squash off to unsuspecting neighbors and acquaintances, and offer squash as a treat to our chickens. By the middle of July, I’m about squashed out. 

Thinking about the summer squash surplus got me to thinking about how many American diets, and especially g-tube diets, are frequently one-dimensional.  A commercially-processed g-tube formula is definitely one-dimensional.  In addition, if you honestly evaluate your family’s meals, you may find yourself using the same recipes and the same ingredients over and over, creating one-dimensional food that lacks the variety needed for a balanced, healthy diet.

So how do you turn one-dimensional food into a fabulous 3D diet? Feed what’s missing!  Start by adding colors and flavors that aren’t normally found on your table and in your g-tube meals.  Try different proteins (eggs, meats, nuts, beans, tofu), colorful vegetables (bell peppers, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, squash), handfuls of leafy greens (spinach, Swiss chard, kale), healthy fats (olive oil, smashed avocado, coconut milk), and tasty liquids (tomato juice, broth, soy milk, plain yogurt). 

If you have a g-tube user that also eats by mouth, select foods for your g-tube recipes that are often lacking in other meals.  My daughter, Kyra, likes to eat peanut butter and bananas, so I don’t include these ingredients in her g-tube recipes.  However, she has a hard time eating meats, so I blend a lot of meat for her g-tube.  In general, you can blend 1- ½  cups of chopped proteins and vegetables with about ½ cup liquid and 1 Tablespoon of oil to prepare a g-tube meal that contains about 250-350 calories.  (Remember to strain g-tube food before feeding.)

Experiment with what’s missing, and serve your entire family a more satisfying 3D diet!

Summer Squash Pizza

I’d like to share this Summer Squash Pizza recipe with you.  In addition to helping out the summer squash surplus, this pizza crust is easier to eat than regular crust, and blends well for g-tube meals.
  • 3.5 cups grated summer squash / zucchini.
  • 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded.
  • 1/3 cup flour.
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese.
  • 3 eggs.
  • 1 Tablespoon basil.
  • Salt & Pepper.
  • 1/4 cup pizza or spaghetti sauce.
  • Your favorite pizza toppings.
 Mix crust ingredients together (everything except the sauce and toppings), and spread onto a greased pizza pan or cookie sheet.  Bake the crust at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until slightly brown on top.  Cool 5 minutes.  Spread the crust with about ¼ cup pizza or spaghetti sauce, and add your favorite  toppings.  Bake about 10 minutes more.  Cool pizza 5 minutes before cutting.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dog Talk

Our yellow Laborador Retriever, Anastasia Ophelia Maxine (Anya), is 5 years old today.  An Almost-Independence-Day dog, she wears pride and honor quite well.  However, her high-bred self-importance dissolves around children, especially children in distress.

Among all of her disabilities, my daughter Kyra’s inability to speak is often the most distressing.  For the past 16 years, we have tried countless communication methods and devices.  Because of Kyra’s lack of fine motor skills, she cannot use sign language.  Her inability to grasp small objects prevents her from using a picture-exchange system, or turning the pages of a communication book. Her inaccurate arm and finger movements make typing and pointing ineffective.  Her head and neck instability make eye gaze difficult to interpret.  Her impatience and poor motor planning make switch-scanning a frustrating chore.

But none of that matters to Anya.  She understands Kyra’s body language perfectly.   Anya’s favorite place to be is wherever Kyra happens to be.  She doesn’t flinch when uncontrolled arm movements result in a smack to the head, and patiently endures Kyra’s stiff fist grasping an ear a bit tightly.  Anya sits and waits politely for Kyra to swipe a doggy treat off her lap, even when that treat is inches from her nose.

More importantly, Anya topples social walls built by wheelchairs and disabilities by riding to school with Kyra almost every day.  Each morning, her ears perk up when we put our shoes on, and she dances in front of the wheelchair when it’s “time to go!”  In the school parking lot, Anya wiggles her rear end in joy, trying desperately (but rarely succeeding) to obey my “sit” command as I transfer Kyra from our van to her wheelchair.  So many kids to greet!  So many doggy hugs to relish!  So many pats on the head to enjoy!
With Anya’s help, Kyra is not someone to ignore or pity, but someone to envy and engage in conversation.

Recently, Kyra started using an iPad with the GoTalkNow communication app.  The slim, lightweight iPad slips into her backpack easily, and slips out just as easily whenever she’s ready to use it.  After researching over one hundred communication apps, I chose GoTalkNow, by Attainment CompanyAttainment Company has been providing communication devices and other products for special needs populations for many years.  Their GoTalkNow app has the blend of features I was looking for: It has both recorded and text-to-speech voice options; grid or scene page setup; integrated graphics, personal photos, and Internet graphics search support; an optional sentence bar; gesture control options; switch-scanning capabilities; media/video playback; unlimited number of users/books/pages; local or iCloud backup; PDF output options, and book/page sharing among other GoTalkNow users.

While Kyra is extremely motivated to use her iPad, we have not yet found the perfect gesture controls and positioning, so her efforts are often met with fatigue and frustration.  At those times I wonder if all that work to learn to speak will be worth it. After all, if the relationship between Kyra and Anya is any indication, communication is essential to any relationship.  But words? Maybe not so much.