June 13, 2010

Esophageal Cancer Recipes

So this post will be quite long, and will probably take me a few days to write all of it. The reason for that is that I'm going to write what I have to say, and then post a bunch of recipes, and it will take time to type all of them.

Basically, my dad is really struggling with his cancer treatments. He finally fessed up this week and told us that he's been eating less and less because he's hurting more and more. I guess he's getting open sores in his mouth from the chemo. And the radiation is burning the inside of his esophagous, the doctors say it's like a really bad sunburn... only inside, and through his whole body (front to back) at the point that the radiation is aimed at. So his cancer is just at the junction between the bottom of the esophagous and the top of the stomach. He still has really bad acid reflux too (which is what gave him the cancer to begin with), so his stomach acid comes up and burns that area even more. So eating is a very difficult and very painful thing right now.

The day that he admitted all of this to us (Thursday), I had already made pork chops for dinner. So I stuck his in the food processor for a good 10 seconds and ground it to a pulp. He got all teary eyed (something he NEVER does), and said "I'm sorry I'm such a burden." Talk about break your heart. So I decided that he needed some more things from us. First of all, he needed food that he could eat without having so much pain... food that has enough nutrition and calories to keep him going because he's still not eating much. Next he needs to feel in control of his life, like he's alive and a contributing member of society. Finally, he needs to be able to take care of most of his own needs, when he wants, how he wants, without having to ask someone.... so he won't feel like he's a burden. In short, we need to take better care of him without making him feel like he's "being taken care of."

So my plan was to make a bunch of meals that would be frozen, so he could have them when he wanted, that would be high in calories and nutrients, but super mild and bland, and soft and creamy. I feel somewhat blessed in this aspect because of a previous trial. It's funny how God prepares you for a challenge by giving you a challenge. My little Angel Boy couldn't swallow for the first 2 years of his life. We went through A LOT to get him swallowing. Finally surgery fixed the problem and he eats like a champ now. But I have a lot of knowledge and experience with preparing meals for people who have difficulty swallowing. So I feel blessed that I know enough to be able to help my dad when he needs it.

I've checked many many cancer recipe sites, and only found soft foods or foods that you don't have to chew as much. But nothing that was soft, mild, tasty, and healthy. So I emailed all my friends and family and begged for their best recipes, made a shopping list, and sent my mom to the store. On Saturday we all got together and had a "cooking day" where we made 8 pots of different soups and 2 loaves of banana bread. I have the ingredients still to make some egg custard, rice pudding, zucchini bread, and quiche.... but we were too tired to do all of it in one day.

After a heroic effort on everyone's part, we ended up with 100 snack size ziploc baggies full of "single serving" meals in the freezer that dad can now pick and choose and be independent with. I'm so glad that we did it, and I'm so glad that it's over. AND I'm SO glad that my sister stayed late and cleaned up my kitchen afterward!!!!! But mainly I'm glad that we all have the peace of knowing that he has food whenever he wants it. Just pull it out of the freezer, put it in a bowl, and thaw it in the microwave. I think it will help him feel less helpless and that should hopefully help him as much as the food itself will.

So the real reason I'm posting all this is that I'm hoping that it might somehow reach someone who's in a similar situation and looking for recipe ideas. I know my blog is very small, and very few people read it. I don't know enough about technology to join sites or communities. BUT I still feel like I have this information, and it was priceless to me this week, and I couldn't find it anywhere online. Someone else must be needing this also, and I'll put it out there and trust that God will help people find it who need it. So here come the recipes, if you're not interested in them, then stop reading. Haha. All the recipes are REALLY GOOD by the way. But we omitted almost all spices because of my dad's particular needs. No salt, no pepper, no garlic... you get the idea. So this is how WE altered the recipes to fit his needs. If you were to make them for someone without that need, they would taste even better if you added a little garlic, or other spices.... except maybe the banana bread, leave garlic out of that one. :)


Basic Tips:

First of all, we got A LOT of big mixing bowls and big soup pots. Then we boiled a big pack of chicken breasts in some water while we baked a big pack of pork chops in the oven. Made 2 packs of bacon, and 1 pack of breakfast sausage. When the meat was done, and cooled, we stuck it in my food processor in batches and made all of it into a fine powdery type substance. So we had a bucket of each kind of meat that we could just add to anything, to make sure he gets some protein at every meal. We had some meat left over at the end, and just stored it for when he wants just some meat. Then I boiled a pot of chopped potatoes, because a bunch of the recipes need some and I just left those on the back burner and used them as I needed them. We had one person cooking, one person washing dishes (so we could re-use them as we went), one person chopping, and one person filling the containers. My dad can't eat very much at one sitting. So we used the snack size ziploc bags. Perfect size for him, and since we're not storing it long term, I didn't worry about it not being a "freezer bag." But it did complicate the process a little because we had to wait for each soup to cool off enough to put into those bags without melting them, which is why we used so many big pots and big mixing bowls.

So the cooking process on this is to put each ingredient into the food processor before cooking it. Except of course the meat and any liquid. But any veggies or anything, got chopped down before being cooked. One person can work the food processor and just add all the veggies for one soup into a mixing bowl and have it sitting and waiting to be cooked, so the cook just has to finish one soup, set it out to cool, get a new pot and dump the next set of veggies into it and start cooking. Assembly line is the ONLY way to go if you're going to attempt this.... Once the soup is all cooked, let it cool a little, and then put it into the upright blender in batches, pouring it into a large clean mixing bowl to cool entirely before storing in the baggies. Also, we altered all of the recipes to be HEAVY in calories. If it says to sautee the onions in 1Tbs of butter, we used a whole cube of butter. If it said to use skim milk, we used heavy cream. When you're only eating 1/4 cup of food at a meal, and only 2 or 3 meals a day, what you do eat HAS TO be rich in calories. Especially with cancer treatments, if you start losing weight, you're much more likely to die. So keep the calories UP! Also, if you're working with someone who has difficulty swallowing, obviously liquids are easier to swallow, BUT thick liquids are easier to swallow than thin liquids. For instance, pudding is MUCH MUCH easier to swallow than water is. A doctor explained why to me once, but I'd only bungle the explanation. So just trust me.

Also, Pediasure or Ensure are fabulous products for this time. Kinda nasty, but they have lots of calories and lots of nutrients. So our plan is to make lots of ice cream shakes, and fruit smoothies and to use the Ensure as the base for them, rather than milk or yogurt. And dad really likes cold cereal for breakfast, but it's too coarse right now. That's why we did the banana and zucchini breads, he crumbles them into his bowl and pours milk on them to soften further. Yummy alternative to cereal. In all of this VARIETY is the key. If he gets sick of the foods he's eating, he'll eat less and less. So we made as many different things as we could think of, labeled them, froze them in individual servings, and HOPEFULLY he won't get too sick of any of them. If he starts to, then we'll be looking for more recipes and doing this again. And I know that cold foods are generally easier for him than warm foods, and most of these are soups. BUT they are fully cooked, so he could theorhetically just thaw them out and eat them cold??? It's not perfect, but it's something. Oh and if you're going to puree a soup, be prepared that you'll need more liquid than you would when making it normally, otherwise it's just thick, lumpy, gritty, gross.
Okay, enough background and blabbing. Here are the recipes. Hope they help.


Broccoli Cheddar Soup (we added chicken)

4 cups chicken broth, 1 family size can Cream of Chicken soup, 10 oz package of frozen broccoli, 1/2 cup butter, 1 medium onion, 1/4 cup flour, 2 cups milk (cream), 2 cups grated cheddar cheese.

Mix broth, soup, and broccoli in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Cook until tender. Reserve. In skillet, saute the (chopped) onion in the butter. Add flour to the onion butter. Cook about 1 minute. Gradually stir in milk/cream using a wire whisk. Cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens nicely, about 5 minutes. Combine it into the large pot containing broccoli mixture. Slowly add grated cheese, stirring constantly. (If you add it too fast it will clump rather than dissolve). Let it cool, and puree it in blender until smooth.


Roasted Cauliflower Soup (we added bacon)

1 cauliflower head, 1 cube butter, 2 (150z) cans chicken broth, about 2 cups of cream.

Clean and chop cauliflower. Saute in butter until it's starting to brown, it's tender, and smells yummy. Puree in blender, in batches, with the broth. Pour into bowl. Stir in cream.


Bacon Potato Chowder (obviously, bacon)

Peel, cube and cook a small bag of potatoes. Fry up a pack of bacon, drain and crumble (or stick in food processor). Mix it all together with 2 cups sour cream, 1 family size can of Cream of Chicken Soup, and 3 cups of milk/cream. Puree in batches.


Carrot Soup (we added chicken)

1 onion, chopped. 1 pound of baby carrots, ground in processor. 1/4 cup italian dressing (we used olive oil). 2 (15oz) cans chicken broth. 1/4 tsp ground cumin (also curry would be SO GOOD). 1/2 cup sour cream.

Saute onion in italian dressing. Add chopped carrots and cumin/curry. Cook until carrots are tender. Add broth and sour cream. Puree in batches.


Sausage Corn Chowder
1 package breakfast sausage, cooked and ground up in food processor. 1 onion, chopped. 4 cups cubed, cooked potatoes. 2 cups water. 1/2 tsp marjoram. 1 (15oz) can corn. 1 (15 oz) can creamed corn. 1 (12oz) can evaporated milk.
In a big pot, cook sausage and onion. Add everything else. Puree in batches.
Creamy Chicken Vegetable Soup
1 Tbs rosemary. 1 Tbs thyme. 1 tsp cumin. 1 Tbs marjoram. 1 tsp oregano. 1 tsp paprika. 2 tsp parsley. (This is my own recipe, and usually also add 1 Tbs chili pwd and 1 tsp cayenne.)
1 onion. 4 stalks celery, chop before you put in food processor to avoid long strings. 1 zucchini. 1 red bell pepper, roasted. 3 or 4 potatoes. 3 (15oz) cans chicken broth. 1 pint heavy cream.
Cut bell pepper in half, clean out center of ribs and seeds. Score the inside of it with a fork. Place skin side up 6 inches from heating element in oven and broil on high for about 10 minutes, until most of the skin is totally black. Remove, allow to cool. Peel off as much skin as you can, and discard. Puree remaining pepper. Reserve with other veggies.
Chop (in food processor) all of the veggies, reserve in big bowl. In a large pot, heat some oil or butter and put in the spices. Cook those on medium heat for about a minute to release flavors. Add veggies, increase heat, and cook until nicely tender. Add broth and cream. Puree in batches. (Add chicken breast meat to this.)
Vegetable Beef Soup (we used pork instead of beef)
1 onion. 4 celery stalks. 1 zucchini. 4 potatoes. 1/4 head of cabbage. 2 Tbs rosemary. 1 Tbs thyme. 2 Tbs parsley. 2 Tbs oregano. 4 (15oz) cans beef broth.
Blend all veggies in food processor and reserve in big bowl. Heat some oil/butter in a pan and cook herbs on medium heat for one minute. Increase heat, add veggies, and cook until tender. Add beef broth. Puree in batches. Add more broth if needed.
Zucchini Bread
(Crumble in bowl and top with milk for a yummy substitute for cold cereal)
2 cups grated zucchini. 1 cup vegetable oil. 3 eggs. 1 Tbs cinnamon. 1 Tbs vanilla. 1/2 tsp allspice. 1 tsp nutmeg. 3 cups all purpose flour. 1 cup brown sugar. 1 cup normal sugar. 1 tsp salt. 1/4 tsp baking powder.
Mix it. Divide into greased bread pans. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Banana Bread
2 eggs. 4 Tbs butter. 1 cup sugar. 4 Tbs milk/cream. 1 Tbs vinegar. 3 mashed bananas. 1/2 cup chocolate chips. 1 tsp baking soda (dissolved in milk). 1 1/2 cup flour. Dash of salt.
Mix it. Divide into greased bread pans. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.
Baked Egg Custard
5 eggs. 1/2 cup sugar. 1/4 tsp salt. 3 cups milk/cream. 1 1/2 tsp vanilla.
Mix all of that together really well. Then butter some custard cups (little glass cups/bowls that are oven safe and individual serving size). This will fill up 6-8 of those cups.
Sprinkle nutmeg on each filled cup.
Place cups in cake pan. The cake pan needs to be filled with water that surrounds the custard cups, up to 1 inch below the top of custard cups. Sounds confusing, sorry, but it's easy.
Bake at 300 for one hour. Allow to cool in oven until you can handle them. Then store in the fridge until ready to eat. Need to eat them cold. Super yummy. Don't freeze well, but will stay good in fridge for a week.
Crockpot Rice Pudding
8 cups milk. 1 cup white rice. 3 eggs (we usually do about 6 eggs to make it more rich). 1 cup sugar. Raisins if desired.
Combine milk and rice in crockpot. Depending on your crockpot, you'll probably need to cook it on low for several hours, stirring periodically (with a wire whisk) to stop the rice from clumping. Just make sure the milk doesn't ever boil, and cook it until it's thick and soft, the same consistency as tapioca pudding.
In a seperate bowl, beat eggs and sugar. Add a little bit of the hot liquid to it slowly while stirring to temper the eggs. Then pour the egg/sugar mix into the crockpot and stir. Turn off crockpot. Add raisins or other fruit if desired.
Quiche Lorraine
2 unbaked pie crusts. 6 eggs. 2 tsp salt. 3 cups grated cheddar cheese. 1/2 tsp pepper. 2 cups milk. 1 cup sour cream. 1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled. Dash of paprika. 1 tsp dry, ground mustard.
Flatten pie crusts to fit in a greased cake pan (9x13). Sprinkle cheese and bacon into pie crust. Beat remaining ingredients together and pour on top of cheese and bacon. Bake at 375 until firm and brown, about 45 minutes.
I think that's it for now. My sister has a REALLY GOOD pumpkin soup recipe that we're going to make whenever she calls us with the recipe. It's super easy, so I'll post that when I get it. Anyway, hope that's helpful to someone else out there searching for answers. And if you have any ideas for more meals like this, please send them my way as we'll probably have to do another day of cooking in a few weeks to keep my dad eating new and exciting foods.