Sweet Italian Sausage Sauce

December 13th, 2013 by Joyce West No comments »

Sweet Sausage Sauce6 links of sweet Italian Sausage

2-3 T oil

1 large onion, medium dice

2 stalks of celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 16-ounce can of tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 Tablespoons tomato paste


  1. Remove sausage from casings and chop raw meat into small chunks; keep chopping as you brown the sausags. The sausage meat “chunks” and your goal is to break it up,  but don’t get too obsessed with this because in the end the entire recipe will be pureed.
  2. In a cold frying pan with a lid, combine the oil, onions, celery, carrots and garlic and “sweat”, over low heat until soft and flavorful.  Add to sausage meat and stir to combine.
  3. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs and continue to break up the sausage meat to help the herbs & tomatoes penetrate and cook slowly for 30 minutes.
  4. Cool until easy to handle, then puree in a food processor or a Vitamix blender.

Serve over well-done linguine or a white bean mash. This is another picture that’s not nearly as appetizing as the dish itself really is. It’s absolutely scrumptious, so do try it!

Pureed Sweet Sausage Sauce

Broccoli and Potato Mash

December 11th, 2013 by Joyce West No comments »

potato & broccoli mash

This is not the most appetizing photo, I admit, but it’s the best I could do under trying circumstances such as being late and wanting to get one decent shot of this really yummy dish. After it’s put through a Vitmix it is light and airy and tastes so..oo good!


  • 3 large broccoli crowns, cut into small florets
  • 1 large , 1 medium russet potato, cut into 1 or 2 inch dice
  • 2 Tb butter
  • 2 Tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste


  1. Peel the potatoes, cut them into  1 or 2 inch chunks and add them to a large pot of boiling water. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and boil until very soft, 10 to 12 minutes
  2. Roughly chop the the broccoli crowns into small florets. Place in a steamer over a pot of simmering water and steam covered for 10 to 12 minutes until broccoli is soft and well done. The color is likely to be an unattractive green.
  3. When the potatoes and broccoli are done, place in a Vita mix or food processor. Add the butter and cream and puree until thoroughly mixed and there are no chunks or particles remaining.
  4. Serves 4-6.

How to Thicken Soup, Sauces, Gravy and so forth

December 6th, 2013 by Joyce West No comments »

In the interest of not re-inventing the wheel, I’d like to point out that there are many marvelous websites with directions on how to thicken. The Wikihow sites  are quite instructive (you could learn to cook by following their step by step illustrations) and the comments afterward add even more tips. Do take a look:





 And there are more: how to thicken stew, spaghetti  sauce, etc. And remember this: what is thickened can be thinned. In other words, if your recipe ends up thicker than you wish, add water, milk, cream, or broth to thin it.


Butternut Squash (with Miso)

December 2nd, 2013 by Joyce West No comments »

butternut maskToday while I’m on the subject of butternut squash,  I should point out that it’s perfectly fine all by itself, not as a soup, but as a dish of squash! This recipe is adapted from River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. He’s called “a British iconoclast and sustainable food champion” in the blurb on the back of the book. All of his books are excellent. In this one, he’s really into mashes: mixed mashes, three-root mash, celery root and potato mash, rutabaga and potato mash, thyme and caramelized onion mash, you get the idea. All of which really reinforces the point that there’s a huge array of food and recipes that are delicious for  persons with swallowing problems without the need for any special adaptation.


1 tablespoon canola or olive oil or coconut oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

One butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces*

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

3 to 4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon Miso (optional)**

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

  1. Melt the oil with 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot (if you have one, use ceramic).
  2. Add the squash and simmer for 5 minutes or so, until the squash just barely begins to brown.
  3. Now add the garlic and sage and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of water.
  5. Cover the pan and let the squash steam in the water for about 20 minutes.
  6. Check after 10 minutes and add more water if it seems dry.
  7. Now put the squash and liquid into a food processor or Vitamix with the rest of the butter. Add the optional Miso (highly recommended) and process until smooth and airy.
  8. Taste and adjust seasonings. Ad more butter or cream if you want it thinner.

***Miso adds a wonderful, rather mysterious, taste to this dish. It’s a umami sort of mystery. Try it. I bought my Miso from Amazon.

Butternut Squash Soup

December 2nd, 2013 by Joyce West No comments »

This is a delicious soup, a perfect consistency for swallowing–it can easily be thinned with a bit more chicken broth or cream, it’s heart-warming, and it’s filling. The only thing negative about butternut squash in general is peeling it. It is, indeed, infuriatingly difficult. A very sharp knife helps, of course. But you can also not peel it, at least not until it’s soft. Simply put it in the oven or microwave until it’s soft, then let it cool enough to cut in half (length-wise), scoop out the seeds, and then scoop out the meat and there you have it!


whole butternut squash


It’s mushed up anyway once it’s in the soup, so that’s not an issue. Of course, you can also buy the squash already cut up. At my local Eataly, you can buy a vegetable, pay for it, take it a counter where very skilled lady is prepared with very sharp knives and an excellent cutting board, to cut your vegetable to your specification. I do this all the time, particularly with vegetables that are hard to peel and/or cut up, the aforementioned butternut squash, eggplant, celeriac root, etc. But enough. Here’s the recipe





Butternut Squash Soup

1 tablespoon coconut oil or regular cooking oil

1 medium onion, cut into a rough dice

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 clove of garlic, finely diced

1 medium apple or pear, peeled and diced

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes (or if you’ve roasted it and then peeled it, just add the squash)

1 teaspoon grated ginger (or powdered ginger)1 teaspoon salt

4 cups of chicken broth

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup cream or milk


Simmer onion and celery in the oil for 5-10minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and apple or pear and simmer for 5 minutes more. Add the squash and ginger, stirring all ingredients together. Add the chicken broth. Simmer for 20 minutes. Check to see if all vegetables are tender by poking them with a fork.Cool. Pour all into your Vitamix, blender, or food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add milk or cream and process to blend. Taste for seasonings and add more salt or pepper if needed. Serve hot with a twirl of cream on top


September 5th, 2013 by Joyce West No comments »


Applesauce is sort of ubiquitous hospital food, sometimes served (it would seem) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!! But is often too runny to be a good food for those with the potential to aspirate. And, of course, as we’ve said before, apples have peels and peels are dangerous because they can get stuck almost anywhere in the mouth or throat and then fall into the airway. But in this recipe we peel the apples and if necessary spin them through the blender to get a consistency that will form a bolus. We can serve this applesauce with whatever meal we like, but it’s also very useful as an ingredient for apple cakes (a later post). Applesauce can also be quite bland. The recipe that follows, however, is rather spicy.apples


4-6 Granny Smith, Golden Delicious or other apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch slices

3/4 cup apple juice

1/2 lemon, juiced + the zest

1/2 orange , juiced + the zest

1/4 teaspoon Quatre Epices (what I used; it’s a mixture of white pepper, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, popular in French and middle Eastern kitchens, available on line or use the recipe that follows)Quatre Epices




Add apples, apple juice, lemon and orange juice, and Quatre Epices, and  a dash of allspice to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce to a simmer. Let cook for 30 minutes or until the apples are tender.

Mash with a potato masher, and stir in 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. Transfer to a serving dish and serve warm.

This should be thick enough to use as a relatively chunky applesauce, but you may need to put it into the blender for a quick spin.

This version of applesauce ends up being quite spicy, probably from the pepper that’s in the Quatre Epice, even though we’ve used very little of it. So if it’s too spicy for your taste, then substitute the following for the Quatre Epice:

dash of allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

dash of nutmeg.


Quatre Epices

(from About.com French Food)

2 tablespoons ground white pepper

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon ground cloves.


Stir together and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Will keep for quite awhile and be useful for all sorts of recipes. I’m going to experiment with using it in a glazed carrot recipe this very weekend.

Blueberry Fool

August 26th, 2013 by Joyce West No comments »

blueberry foolWell, again, I’m trying to use up fruit and vegetables from the CSA. Decided to see if I could create something with blueberries. Anything with skins is risky for people with swallowing disorders as the skins can get stuck almost anywhere in the mouth or throat and create a potential hazard by falling later into the airway. But by cooking the blueberries and breaking them down and then putting them through a spin in  my vitamix, I created a really lovely sauce without any skins. However, I didn’t think it was thick enough, so I added just ¼ teaspoon of xanthium gum and voila, a lovely blueberry sauce to use in making a blueberry fool. Here’s my recipe


1/2 pint fresh blueberries, washed and picked over

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon granulated sugar, or in my case, two packages of sweetener

3/4 cup whipped cream (I’m using just the canned stuff for this demo, but

you could whip up the cream as per the directions.

¼ teaspoon xanthium gum

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract



In a small, nonreactive saucepan, combine blueberries, lemon juice,  sugar, and 2 tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until blueberries begin to break down and juices boil and thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and transfer to the vitamix or other blender. .Blend slowly, then add the xanthium gum. Blend until thickened.


In a separate bowl, combine cream and vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form; fold in 1/3 cup of the blueberry sauce. Divide among four dessert dishes, and spoon remaining sauce over tops.

Or (if you’re using the already whipped type), squirt a half an inch of whipped cream into a parfait glass, add a tablespoon of blueberries, repeat until you’ve filled the glass, alternating whipped cream with the blueberries. Top with more whipped cream. Give the decorated parfait to someone without a swallowing disorder.

Fettuccicne Alfredo

August 25th, 2013 by Joyce West No comments »

fettuccine-alfredo_largeMost pastas are good for people with swallowing disorders, particularly if they’re cooked to be a bit soft, rather than al dente, which is the Italian way. It’s tricky, however, to cook them soft enough without having them fall apart  and be mushy. Pasta cooks from the outside in, absorbing liquid as it cooks. We want to make sure that more water does penetrate to the center, but not so much that it becomes mushy. Wider pastas seem to work better for getting the texture we need, but the cook here is going to have to experiment to see just how long to cook each type because there’s variation among types of pastas and manufacturers. But in general, follow the directions on the package and cook 2 minutes longer than recommended.

To test the pasta first, bring a big pot of water to boil, drop 5 or 6 fettuccine noodles into the boiling water and fish one out at about 6 minutes, run it under cold water, and see how it taste and behaves. Then fish out another noodle at 7 minutes, and so forth until you can judge just how long you want to cook it to get a noodle that holds together and is soft enough. Remember, though, that the noodle will soften as it’s mixed with the sauce.

Alfredo Sauce

  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt
  • 2/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 or 2 slices of garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Melt butter over medium low heat in a saucepan that can later accommodate the cooked fettuccine. Add cream and all the butter and simmer for 1 to 3 minutes, until the butter and cream have thickened,  then add garlic and cheese and whisk quickly, heating through. Stir in parsley and mix with the cooked fettuccine noodles into the dish. Serve.

Custard and Flan

August 13th, 2013 by Joyce West No comments »

custard1 Perfect custardTake a look at the following definition of custard by Danilo Alaro at About.com Guide

Definition: “Custard is a culinary preparation made by blending eggs with milk or cream. Custard is thickened by the coagulation of the egg proteins, which is achieved by gently heating the custard in some way.

Custard is mainly used as a dessert, or as a base for a dessert, or as a dessert sauce.

Custard can be cooked in a bain-marie in the oven, or on the stovetop. Cooking custard in a bain-marie helps keep the cooking air moist and heats gently so that the custard doesn’t curdle or crack.”

Now, let’s think…what’s the difference between the Spanish Flan and Custard, or, for that matter, Crème Brule? Well, Flans & Crème Brule recipes usually have cream instead of milk and may be sweeter. What distinguishes them is caramelized crust on the top.  And a caramelized top would present risks for individuals with swallowing disorders because it is not soft and cohesive and may well break into pieces as it moves through the mouth. So we’re going to stick to the more ordinary custard. But what if you pine, absolutely pine for the Flan you remember from childhood? Can this custard be a Flan? Well, many Hispanic flans call for using evaporated milk, so you could substitute one cup of evaporated milk for one of the custard’s two cups of milk and it would be creamier and more like the one you pine for. It can also be flavored with a cinnamon stick while you’re boiling the milk combination.

I’m going to work on creating a soft caramel topping that would work with this flan/custard. Come to think of it, there’s a lot of thick sweet sauces that could be delicious on top of custard. Think custard pie without the crust. But for a quickie, buy a jar of butterscotch ice cream topping and thin it with brandy or bourbon or cream to a degree appropriate for your swallowing problem, then pour a bit into a bowl and then turn out the custard so that it sits on a pool of butterscotch topping.


2 cups milk

8 ounces eggs (4 large eggs)

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place 6 ramekins in a large ovenproof sauté pan or roasting pan and fill the pan so that the water comes ¾ of the way up.  Remove ramekins.

Combine the ingredients and blend until mixture is uniform with a whisk, hand blender or a standing blender. Fill ramekins evenly, about 3 ounces each. Place in the water bath in the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the custard are almost set. Remove them to a rack to cool, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, several hours at least.

To serve, loosen the edges where the custard adheres to the ramekin with the tip of a knife and turn them out onto plates


(Adapted from Gran Cocina Latina  by Maricel E. Presilla)

  • 1 cup whole milk (or cream)
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Place the whole milk or cream and evaporated milk in a 3-quart saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half, scrape the seends into the pan, and add the bean or the vanilla extract. Add the cinnamon and barely bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool.

Whisk together the egg yolks, whole eggs and condensed milk in a large mixing bowl. Stir in  the cooked mixture. Strain the mixture by pushing it through an extra-fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Put a 9-inch round cake pan to serve as a mold; set in a baking pan at least 3 inches deep. Pour the mixture into the mold, fill the baking pan with enough water to come half-way up the mold, then bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour and 15 minutes. When done, the flan should feel wiggly, not dry or firm. Let cool to room temperature then refrigerate, covered with a plastic wrap, for at least 3 hours before unmolding.






Puddings & Parfaits

August 13th, 2013 by Joyce West No comments »

chocolate banana puddingThis recipe (of sorts) started after I’d bought a bunch of bananas from Costco, all of which turned ripe at the same time and I ended up with a bunch of over-ripe bananas. So I decided to make pudding. Puddings are delicious food for those with swallowing problems, but then, on the other hand, puddings are delicious for anyone. I made one chocolate pudding from a package, following the package directions, but with an extra “filling” of pureed over-ripe bananas. This is easy enough to do, but it can be even easier if you buy a chocolate pudding and combine it with another to make a parfait. So the second “recipe” calls for combining a chocolate mousse pudding with a store-bought flan, layering them and topping it with whipped cream (from a can). overripe bananas & pudding

Chocolate-banana parfait

1 package, Hershey’s chocolate pudding

2 cups cold milk

3 over-ripe bananas

2 tablespoons milk or cream

whipped cream to garnish

1. Mix pudding according to package instruction: add package to cold milk, whip three minutes with a electric mixer.

2. Put bananas in blender with 2 tablespoons of milk or cream, blend thoroughly

3. Put 1/3 of chocolate mixture in bottom of glass; top with 1/3 of the banana puree; continue layering but end with a layer of chocolate

4. Top with whipped cream


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