Category Archives: Cooking techniques

Simple, Yet Sophisticated, Single Ingredient Sorbets

What if I told you that two cool, creamy and easy fruit sorbets were just a blend away?  That’s two sorbets with no peeling, pitting or poaching required? And the best part: no ice cream maker necessary! It’s true! Simple, yet sophisticated Pear & Peach Sorbet is that easy! All you need is canned fruit halves in heavy syrup, a freezer and a food processor or sturdy blender. Fruit packed in heavy syrup is what makes this recipe work as sugar syrup doesn’t freeze completely like juice. Avoid fruit packed in juice as it will yield disappointing results.

These sorbets are nice enough to serve as is or garnish with some very finely diced candied ginger, homemade or store bought berry syrup or diced canned pears or peaches for a little flavor alliteration. No matter how you scoop or serve  them these sorbets are keepers. And by the way, I’m happily eating candied ginger again. There was a time that even those fibers bothered me. It’s so nice to have a useful old friend back in my life.

Pear & Peach Sorbet

For best flavor allow sorbet to soften for approximately 5 minutes before serving

2 15-16 ounce cans pear or peach halves in heavy syrup

Freeze unopened cans of fruit for a minimum of 8 hours. Dip unopened cans in hot water for 20 seconds to loosen filling. Pour contents into the bowl of a food processor (I used my Vitamix) tearing at the filling with a fork to break up the pieces of fruit. Puree until smooth. Transfer sorbet to a covered container and refreeze. When ready to serve, remove from the freezer and let soften for approximately 5 minutes.

Confession Time…

Bless me, fellow GPers, for I have strayed!  It’s been about a month since the Vitamix entered my life and I’ve been indulging “off diet”.  There have been dalliances with berries, onions, peas and greens other than spinach…and I’m not the least bit repentant!  My instruments of debauchery: Vitamix blender, fine mesh strainer, rubber scraper and ice cube trays. Would you like to hear more?  Discontinue reading now lest you be lured into similar mischief!  You’ve been warned.

All kidding aside, as I have mentioned a few times already, I was told that all baby food is considered acceptable for Gastroparesis because it’s pureed and strained.  So, why can’t I make my own pureed and strained fruits and veggies, season them according to my taste and press them through a fine, mesh strainer for further peace of mind?  With that in mind I have been enjoying Fresh Strawberry Puree and Five Berry Puree poured over my daily plain Activia yogurt and I’ve even taken some berry puree with me to pour over frozen yogurt at Red Mango (my favorite frozen yogurt spot).  I’ve also been indulging in cups of pureed veggie soup including Spring Pea & Lettuce Soup with my dinner.

I’m in no way advocating that these recipes are appropriate for everyone.  Remember, if in doubt, just leave it out.  You know your tolerances best and your personal judgment is still your best guide.

Fresh Strawberry Puree/Five Berry Puree

Perfectly portioned for individual servings of yogurt (just defrost one or two cubes) or dropping into smoothies (no need to defrost).

2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed and hulled or

frozen mixed berries, defrosted (I used a bag of mixed berries containing cherries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries and augmented with a bag strawberries from Trader Joe’s)

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Puree berries thoroughly and press through a fine mesh strainer.  Stir in a squeeze of fresh, strained lemon juice.  Spoon puree into ice cube trays (2 lbs of strawberries fill approximately two 12 count trays generously).  Freeze then pop out puree cubes and store in a Ziploc bag.

Spring Pea & Lettuce Soup

Adapted from Epicurious.com.  Makes 6 Servings of 2/3 cup each

To put things into perspective, a 3.5 ounce serving of Gerber 2nd Foods peas contains 45 calories, o grams fat, 3 grams of fiber, 8 grams of carbohydrate and 3 grams of protein.

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 head Romaine lettuce (approximately 1 pound) including dark green outer leaves, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced

10 ounces frozen baby peas, rinsed

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 cups water

3/4 teaspoon salt

pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill

fresh lemon juice

Spray the interior of a large soup pot with cooking spray, add olive oil and saute onion until soft (approximately 5 minutes).  Add garlic and saute an additional minute.  Stir in lettuce and cook until wilted (approximately 3 minutes).  Add peas, broth, water, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.  The lettuce should be very wilted and the peas should look “puckered”.   Stir in dill during the last minute of cooking.  Puree thoroughly then press through a fine, mesh strainer before returning to the pot.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Season each serving with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

77.6 calories, 2 grams fat, 3.5 grams fiber, 10.4 grams carbohydrate, 3.26 grams protein

Tasty Find! And This Time It’s A Book

So you can’t eat it, but it may be able to help you eat better!  Fifty percent of those who were kind enough to participate in the most recent Poll were looking for ways to include more fruits and veggies in their diet…not always an easy task for those of us with Gastroparesis.

Recently, during a post-prandial, pro-digestive stroll, Hubby and I took  a browse through Sur La Table, one of my favorite cookware shops.  It was there I leafed through an interesting book: Cooking for Baby Recipes by Lisa Barnes. The cover boasts “Wholesome, homemade, delicious foods for 6 to 18 months”.  I’m always on the lookout for easily digestible ways to include more fruits and veggies in my day whether it’s juicing raw fruits and veggies, oven-roasting squash and root veggies, pureeing soups or even eating baby food.

During a visit with a Registered Dietitian shortly after my diagnosis I was told, because it has been pureed and strained, ALL baby food is acceptable for people with Gastroparesis .  Early on in the book the author asks “Do you eat a lot of  jarred, canned or processed food?”  The answer for most GPers is probably “Yes” given the constraints of the low fat/low fiber GP diet.  She then lists the benefits of making baby food at home: It’s unadulterated, more versatile, more varied and more nutritious.  I got to thinking, if it is that beneficial to babies why couldn’t it be beneficial to those of us with Gastroparesis, especially given our fruit and veggie challenges?  I ordered the book from Amazon (sorry Sur La Table) where it was cheaper and qualified for super saver shipping.

After reading the entire book, I feel the recipes are easily adaptable to be GP-friendly and provide a healthy and easy way to include more fruits and veggies day-to-day.  There are also suggestions for what herbs and spices pair best with certain fruits and veggies and the book includes a “how to” for making meat purees if that is or ever becomes necessary.

Recipes range from simple purees to more appealing dishes like Pumpkin Soup with Alphabet Pasta, Hidden Veggie Sauce (a combination of  homemade spinach and sweet potato purees combined with strained tomato sauce for sneaking in extra veggies plus a little Blackstrap Molasses for added iron) and Vegetable Oven Fries (using sweet potatoes, beets and rutabaga).  My only disappointment with the book is the lack of nutritional information for the recipes.

Just a reminder, purees can be easily morphed into very tasty soups with a little chicken or veggie stock and some creative seasoning.  Press purees and soups through a fine mesh strainer for extra peace of mind.  I regularly enjoy a teacup of pureed veggie soup with my dinner in lieu of plain, overcooked veggies.  I hope this “Tasty Find!” is able to help any of my fellow GPer’s who are looking for creative ways to increase their produce intake.  As always: Eat Well!  Be Well! Enjoy!

A Recipe is Only a Guideline…

The other day I came in with one thing on my mind: hot veggie soup but there was none.  Because of food allergies I can’t just open a box of Pacific or Imagine pureed veggie soup, which is a shame because some of the varieties look really tasty.  Every recipe I post here is just that a written recipe with specific measurements and directions.   In reality a recipe (unless you’re baking) is just a guideline.  Some of my favorite meals have no recipe.  I thought I’d do a post about flying on your own, untethered by the confines of a recipe.  With that in mind I will share thoughts for an Impromptu Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Soup and an Impromptu Carrot Ginger Soup that can be put together from whatever is in the fridge, freezer and pantry.

No squash, just sweet potatoes?  No problem!  Make Sweet Potato Soup.

Not enough squash or sweet potato?  Augment with canned pumpkin.

No chicken stock?  Use veggie stock or a bouillon cube or two.

No maple syrup?  Use some of the pear juice from the canned pears.

Feeling like a “creamed” soup?  Add a white potato and/or enrich with some fat free half and half, evaporated skim milk or a dairy substitute of your choice.

Looking for more exotic flavor?  Substitute a small spoonful of a mild Thai Curry paste of your choice.

Looking for less flavor?  Back off the curry powder or leave it out entirely.

Looking for a little protein?  Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt or even stir in a small amount of peanut or almond butter if you’re able to tolerate it.

By the way, a “palmful” is just enough spice to create a mound in the center of your palm.  Also, I’m always afraid of staining food processors and blenders with curry so I add it after I’ve pureed.

Impromptu Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Soup

1  sweet potato (any size), peeled and cubed

2 cups (or so) roasted butternut squash (or equivalent frozen puree or cubes)

low sodium chicken stock

palmful of onion powder

1 garlic clove (less or more depending on your taste), grated

1 cube Ginger Paste

pinch thyme leaves

2 canned pear halves

palmful pumpkin pie spice

palmful mild curry powder

2 glugs maple syrup (I like Grade B)

salt and pepper to taste

Bring sweet potato cubes and enough chicken stock to cover to a boil.  Reduce heat and add remaining ingredients except curry powder.  Simmer until sweet potato cubes are very tender.  Puree and return to the soup pot.  Thin to desired consistency with stock.  Season with curry powder and salt and pepper to taste.

Impromptu Carrot Ginger Soup

When I was able to eat carrots I made Carrot Ginger Soup often.  It too doesn’t require an actual recipe.

carrots, peeled and chopped

low sodium chicken stock

palmful of onion powder

1 garlic clove (less or more depending on taste) grated

1 cube Ginger Paste

pinch of curry powder or pumpkin pie spice

salt and pepper to taste

Bring all ingredients (except curry powder) to a boil in enough chicken stock to cover.  Simmer until very tender.  Puree and return to soup pot.  Thin to desired consistency with stock.  Season with curry powder or pumpkin pie spice, salt and pepper.

Sooo Clever…

Sooo clever I wish I had thought of it myself!  As you know, I’m the proud new owner of a Valentine’s red Vitamix and before you think it, I promise this will not become a “Vitamix Required” Gastroparesis recipe blog.  I just had to share one recipe from the Whole Food Recipes book that came as part of the order.

Ginger is every GPer’s best friend.  It aids digestion and relieves nausea plus, its spicy heat makes everything it’s added to (sweet or savory) warm, comforting and slightly exotic.  I thought I was being clever by peeling and freezing thumb-sized pieces of ginger then grating them and pressing the pulp through a fine sieve as needed.  Turns out there is an even better way!

Ginger Paste

What an absolutely fantastic way to always have ginger on hand for entrees, soups, marinades or even baking (use half the amount of paste if a recipe calls for ground ginger).

1 1/2 cups fresh ginger root (I peeled mine and sliced it into coins)

1.  If using a Vitamix:

Place ginger into the container and secure lid.  Select Variable 1 and turn the machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10 then to High.  Blend for 45 seconds, using the tamper to press ginger into the blades.

If using a food processor:

Chop ginger into small pieces.  Pulse in food processor stopping to scrape down the sides periodically.

2.  Press ginger puree through a fine mesh sieve with a spatula or rubber scraper.  Discard fibers.

3.  Spoon heaping spoonfuls (I used a 2 teaspoon measure) into an ice cube tray.  Freeze then pop out ginger paste cubes and store in a Ziploc bag in the freezer.

Pukka Christmas Dinner

I honestly wasn’t planning on having curry for Christmas but one thing led to another.  Blame it on the creative process and my slowly evolving craving for more spice in my life.  Both good signs in my opinion!  Curried Chicken & Chutney is definitely a keeper but I’m respectfully going to withhold the recipe until I can perfect it further.  This simple dish consisted of chicken breast, my Christmas Chutney (see post from 12/13/10), mild curry powder, chicken stock and a splash of fat free half & half but it could be so much more with some fresh ginger and a few other flavors.  Paired with basmati rice and Roasted Butternut Squash Cubes it was a very unexpected, very delicious albeit very nontraditional Christmas dinner for us.  I’m hoping it can become some sort of new tradition.  So forgive me for not sharing any further on the chicken and chutney front…I promise it will be forthcoming.  I’ve included the Roasted Butternut Squash Cubes as they’re a pleasing alternative to mashed squash.  They can be seasoned sweet or savory…just remember to roast until really tender.

As for dessert…I can definitely share what was a simple but special treat.  Warm Banana Sundae with Sea Salt Caramel is another keeper…warm, creamy and sophisticatedly sweet with the unexpected savoriness of sea salt and crunch of crushed salted pretzels!  Frankly, it’s the sea salt and pretzels that make this dessert…without them it would just be cloyingly sweet and one-dimensional.  I love (understatement!) dulce de leche, the south american milk caramel…if you’ve never tried it just imagine “sex on a spoon” but at $10 a jar it’s not practical for everyone’s budget so I substituted Smucker’s Special Recipe Butterscotch Caramel topping ($2.29 at Target).  I hope you’ll try this scrumptious dessert.  The leftover caramel can be spread on toast (like Argentinians do with their dulce de leche!), spooned over banana pancakes, drizzled over bread or rice pudding, stirred into hot chocolate or served with warmed canned pears!

Roasted Butternut Squash Cubes

Serves 4 generously

2 pounds butternut squash peeled and cut into 1″ cubes

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Toss squash cubes in olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread cubes out on a sprayed sheet pan.  Roast 40-50 minutes or until very tender.

Nutritional information Per Serving:

122 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 4.5 grams fiber, 2.3 grams protein


Warm Banana Sundaes with Sea Salt Caramel

This combination is ALL about the crunchy salted pretzels and sea salt caramel!  Serves 1 but can be multiplied

1 small, ripe banana

1/4 cup scoop Edy’s Slow Churned vanilla ice cream (or fat free frozen yogurt)

2 tablespoons Smucker’s Special Recipe Butterscotch Caramel

a few grindings sea salt

4 mini pretzels, crushed

Peel banana and cut in half lengthwise then in half.  Preheat a no stick skillet and spray with flavorless cooking spray.  Saute banana until golden, turn and saute until golden and soft.  Meanwhile, warm caramel in microwave.  Remove bananas to a serving bowl, top with ice cream, warm caramel, sea salt and crushed pretzels.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

302 calories, 3.05 grams fat, 2.7 grams fiber, 3.75 grams protein

Cookies! Cookies! Cookies!

My favorite cookie tin originally housed rich, French butter biscuits from Brittany (where the butter contains extra milk fat!) and it was feeling very empty, lonely and forgotten.  In case you haven’t noticed I haven’t exactly been shy about sharing my frustration with low fat baking.  Not one to give up easily, I thought I’d give it another try.  I was so hopeful, I even purchased a bag of Nestle’s Semisweet Chocolate Mini morsels the last time I was marketing…and I’m glad I did.  These Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies are like cakey, little baby chocolate chip banana muffin tops!  Thanks to the Taste of Home’s website only slight adaptation was needed to make it a Gastroparesis-friendly recipe.

I bake with parchment paper…it guarantees there will be no sticking and no clean up.  No spatula is needed-just carefully pull each sheet of baked cookies onto an awaiting wire rack for cooling.  Once cool, cookies will lift off the parchment easily.  And a word about portioning: this recipe makes 36 cookies so to ensure the correct portioning I placed four sheets of parchment out on the counter and dropped the dough until I had 36 relatively uniform servings before baking. Remember to start each sheet of cookies with a cooled sheet pan in order to get the best results.

Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies

Makes 3 dozen

1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup mashed ripe banana

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup Nestle semisweet chocolate mini morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix first 5 ingredients (butter through sugar) until well combined.  In separate bowl mix remaining ingredients.  Combine liquid ingredients with the dry.  Drop by scant tablespoon measures 2 inches apart onto parchment paper lined baking sheets*.  Bake 11-13 minutes or until cookies are slightly browned around the edges.  Remove parchment sheet to a wire rack to cool.  Remove cookies from parchment.  Store in your favorite wax paper lined tin.

*I measured out all 36 on 4 sheets of parchment paper before baking to ensure good “portioning”.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

1 cookie per serving

50 Calories, 2.2 grams Fat, 0.4 grams Fiber, 0.8 grams Protein