A Vegetarian Holiday Feast

Homemade apple pie with nuts and pumpkin seeds.I’ve been a vegetarian since 1971—my entire adult life. I’ve never had a problem eating Thanksgiving dinner. I just avoid the turkey and make a veggie dish containing protein. The benefit is that, although tryptophan—the essential amino acid in turkey—won’t be surging through my body to promote serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter—I will be getting more antioxidants and fiber than most people enjoying the holiday feast.

Whether you eat turkey or not, are a vegetarian or not, here are some great veggie dishes worth trying. I’ve listed them in order from appetizer, salad, muffins, entree, side dishes, and dessert to make a complete vegetarian Thanksgiving/holiday feast.

These two appetizer recipes are a throwback to the 70s. They are still delicious! Serve before your feast, while you are busy in the kitchen with final preparations. All recipes are gluten-free except for the pumpernickel dip, which can be made gluten-free if the dip is put into a bowl or gluten-free hollowed out bread.

Appetizers

Artichoke Dip

  • 1 can artichokes, drained and cut into small pieces.
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients together.
  2. Sprinkle paprika on top. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
  3. Serve with crackers, veggies, etc.

Pumpernickel dip

  • 3 cups sour cream (1 large container) or plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 cups mayonnaise
  • 4 tsps dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp. celery seed
  • 4 Tbs. dried onion flakes
  • 4 Tbs dried parsley flakes

Directions

  1. Blend together and refrigerate overnight or for several hours so flavors blend.
  2. Scoop out the center of a round pumpernickel or sour dough bread. Fill with the dip.
  3. Serve with raw veggies that can be dipped into the bread.

Salad

Green salad with “cutie” mandarin oranges—serves 4-6

  • 1 or 2 heads of Butterhead lettuce
  • 3 mandarin sectioned oranges or 1 can of mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • sliced red onion (optional)

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, oranges, and sliced onions.
  2. Heat sugar and almonds in a pan over medium heat until sugar melts and coats almonds; stir and heat until almonds are slightly brown.
  3. Turn onto plate and cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Combine remaining ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid; shake vigorously.
  5. Pour salad dressing over lettuce mixture; toss.
  6. Sprinkle with sugared almonds.

Muffins

Gluten-free Flax Meal Muffins

  •  ¾ cup brown rice flour
  • ¾ cup buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup ground flaxseed
  • ½ cup date sugar (or sweetener of your choice)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup oil of your choice (coconut, avocado, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup buttermilk or coconut milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375º. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with unbleached paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, flaxseed, sweetener, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and raisins.
  3. In a second large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, applesauce and buttermilk. Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture and stir until just combined.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  5. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Entree

Kale Slab Pie (adapted from a recipe by Arthi Subramaniam)  serves 12

  • 3 bunches of kale—tear the leaves off the stems, or 2 pounds of Swiss chard
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch scallion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste (divided)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups coarsely ground cornmeal (polenta style)
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds for garnish

Directions

  1. Blanch kale leaves in salted boiled water for about 4 minutes. Transfer wilted greens to a bowl of cold water. Drain and squeeze out moisture. Chop and set aside.
  2. Heat 4 Tbs of olive oil over medium heat in a skillet, add onion. Cook, stirring until tender, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add scallions and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in kale, dill and mint. Add red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste, and combine well. (I don’t add salt because I think there’s another salt in the cheese.) Remove from heat and let kale mixture cool.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13-by-9pinch rectangular pan with remaining oil (1 Tbs plus 1 tsp.)
  5. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Gently and slowly add polenta and 1-2 tsp. of salt. Stir continuously so it doesn’t lump until thick. Spread in the pan, like a crust.
  6. Add feta and mozzarella cheese to kale mixture; lightly combine well. Spread evenly over the polenta crust. Cover the dish with foil, loosely, and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until top is slightly brown. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds. Allow the slab pie to “rest” for about 30 minutes before serving.

Veggie side dish

Roasted Cauliflower  serves 6

  • 2 heads cauliflower cut into florets
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins soaked in hot water

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, toss cauliflower, 1/4 cup olive oil, curry powder, salt and pepper. Spread onto a pan and roast for 10 minutes. Toss and then roast another 10 minutes until slightly golden, about 2 minutes.
  • Toast the pine nuts in a toaster oven, making sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Drain the raisins. Toss the cauliflower with the pine nuts and cauliflower.

Side dish

Butternut Squash Risotto serves 4

  • 1 butternut squash baked and scooped
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 6 cup of vegetable stock or water
  • 6 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups of Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan
  • Heat oven to 450 degrees. Peel squash and cut into cubes, discarding stringy center and seeds. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and roast 30 minutes. Set aside.

Directions

  1. Heat stock and simmer.
  2. In a large pot, melt butter and add shallots for 10 minutes. Add rice and coat with butter.
  3. Add wine and cook 2 minutes.
  4. Add 2 full ladles of stock to rice plus saffron, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir and simmer until stock is absorbed. Continue to add stock until almost all is used, cooking about 30 minutes.
  5. Turn off heat and add squash and Parmesan cheese.

For dessert enjoy apple pie, pumpkin pie or simple baked apples with ice cream.

Baked apples

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds apples peeled, cored, sliced (Honeycrisp, Gala, or Granny Smith, or a mixture of 2 or all 3)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel the apples, cut and remove the core and cut into slices about 1/3-1/2 an inch thick.
  3. Put the apples to a large bowl and add the light brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir to combine. Spoon the apples into a 2 quart baking dish.
  4. Cut the butter into small squares, and place over the apples.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring after the apples have baked for 15 minutes. This prevents apples on the top from drying. Bake until the apples are tender and soft.
  6. Remove and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Serve warm.

Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Barbra Cohn cared for her husband Morris for 10 years. He passed away from younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Afterward, she was compelled to write “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s & Dementia”–winner of the 2018 Book Excellence Award in self-help– in order to help other caregivers feel healthier and happier, have more energy, sleep better, feel more confident, deal with feelings of guilt and grief, and to ultimately experience inner peace. “Calmer Waters” is available at AmazonBarnes & NobleBoulder Book StoreTattered Cover Book Store,  Indie Bound.org, and online at Target and Walmart, and many other fine independent bookstores, as well as public libraries.

10 Great Gifts for Caregivers

New Year's box with gifts and bows, fir cones, snowflakes and Christmas toy on old boardsIf you’re a caregiver, you have little time for yourself and you’re probably stressed out. You don’t need another pair of pajamas, and you don’t need another coffee mug.

What you desperately need is some time for yourself to relax and rejuvenate, and ways to make your life easier.

When friends and family ask you,” How can I help?” Or, “What do you need?” send them this list. They will appreciate it, and you will definitely appreciate the rewards.

  1. You know how wonderful it feels to have a sparkling clean house. And you probably haven’t had time to do a deep cleaning in a while. Ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations for a good house cleaner or cleaning service. Merry Maids is a national company available in most parts of the U.S. They also have gift cards online to make it convenient for your gift givers.
  2. Wouldn’t it be heavenly to get away for a few hours? It’s important to maintain friends throughout our lives, and even more important when we need to vent or just need a friendly chat or someone to tell you that you’re doing the best that you can. Gift cards to a neighborhood coffee shop or restaurant can help provide an excuse to connect to a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Make a date.
  3. But in order to make a date, you might need a companion to stay with your loved one. Providing TIME to you may be the greatest gift of all. Ask for a time donation, possibly in blocks of time. Two hours a week for a month? Four hours a month? Spread your wishes around. You’re bound to get several “yeses.”
  4. Do you like to sing? Whether you sing in the shower or in a chorus, it’s been well documented that singing reduces stress levels and depression. Group singing boosts oxytocin levels, and creates a feeling of “togetherness.” (Oxytocin is called the “love  hormone” because it is released when mothers breastfeed and when people snuggle up or bond socially. Request a favorite music CD that you like to sing to. Try to include the person you are caring for. Invite neighbors over for a singalong, and make it intergenerational. It’s amazing that people who even have advanced dementia can often remember the words to songs they sang decades ago.
  5. What about dance? You might have two left-feet, but you can dance away your blues without anyone watching in your living room. I always say that dance is what kept me off anti-depressant medication during the 10 years I cared for my husband. I did folk dance, salsa, and contra on a weekly basis. It was well worth the expense of hiring someone to keep my husband company on those evenings. Dance supports the release of endorphins from the brain into the bloodstream. I experienced firsthand a rush of happiness for hours, and sometimes days, after dancing for just a couple hours. Not only does dancing uplift your spirit, it can help you think more clearly. A 21-year-long Einstein Aging Study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 found that dancing is the best form of exercise to help prevent dementia when compared to 11 other activities including swimming, bicycling, and team sports. The study also found that dancing can help slow down cognitive decline. Dancing to music that carries special significance can be a wonderful way to connect with your care partner. Why not ask for a CD of your favorite music and dance in your living room, alone or with your care partner? Or, learn a new dance. Request a DVD to teach you the steps. Or, try a Zumba class. Fitness is a Latin-inspired cardio-dance workout that uses music and choreographed steps to form a fitness party atmosphere. While many of the types of dance and music featured in the program are Latin American inspired, classes can also contain everything from jazz to African beats to country to hip-hop and pop. Attend a Zumba class at your local recreation center or YMCA. They are also available on YouTube videos. And ask for a gift of companion-sitting for your loved one.
  6. House maintenance is often neglected when you have a million caregiving tasks. When is the last time you raked your lawn, pulled weeds, fixed a leaky sink, or had your carpets cleaned? The offer of someone volunteering their time to provide these services or the gift of a handyman service is always appreciated.
  7. Would you like to try a yoga class, either online or at a studio? Ask for a yoga mat, yoga blocks and a yoga strap. That’s all you need to help you release stress, build up endurance, relax muscles, and reduce risk of osteoporosis. Yoga videos are sold on Gaim, and are offered on their website for $11.99 per month after doing a free 2-week trial at https://www.gaia.com/yoga?utm_source=google+paid&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=gaiam%20yoga&utm_campaign=1-USA-ENGLISH-BRAND-EXCT&utm_content=gaia&ch=br&gclid=Cj0KCQiA5dPuBRCrARIsAJL7oejWgk-kRRzIVjk_nt7xXY3-I5F_cYeHbltpDj4H7vba2QBjnQPwwiMaAqLVEALw_wcB
  8. Everyone loves a home-cooked meal. A personal chef who prepares meals in your home or theirs is an extravagant service. But put the idea out there. You never know . . . . A more affordable option is home-delivered meal kits. Home Chef, Blue Apron, and Green Chef are a few of the meal kit companies that allow you to choose meals that arrive with fresh, pre-measured and prepped ingredients, and instructions on how to create a fast meal.
  9. Massage is a wonderful way to relax and tune out the world. I highly recommend asking for a gift certificate to a spa that offers massage with hot stone and aromatherapy. You will emerge like a new person.
  10. One of the best gifts you could receive is respite care.  Do you have a relative or friend who could stay with your loved one a night or two so you can get away and totally tune out the world? If not, maybe one of they would generously provide you with a professional care service. Just imagine getting away from it all without any responsibilities for 24 or 48 hours.

You deserve gifts that will help you, the caregiver. So don’t be shy. When people ask how they might help or what you need or want, send them this list.

Have a happy, restful and peaceful Thanksgiving!


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Barbra Cohn cared for her husband Morris for 10 years. He passed away from younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Afterward, she was compelled to write “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s & Dementia”–winner of the 2018 Book Excellence Award in self-help– in order to help other caregivers feel healthier and happier, have more energy, sleep better, feel more confident, deal with feelings of guilt and grief, and to ultimately experience inner peace. “Calmer Waters” is available at Barnes & NobleBoulder Book Store, Tattered Cover Book Store,  Indie Bound.org, and online at Target and Walmart, and many other fine independent bookstores, as well as public libraries.

What do you most remember/or miss about your loved one this Alzheimer’s Awareness Month?

christmas angel on blur bokeh city lights at night on background. Little white guardian angel in snow.As we honor our loved ones this Alzheimer’s Awareness Month of November, I invite you to submit:

  • a memory, poem, or tribute on how being a caregiver has changed your life
  • how having a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease has changed your life
  • a bit of advice that you’d like to share
  • just a memory

You can add it as a comment on this site, or send it to my email account and I will add it for you. Feel free to send a photo. calmerwaters410@gmail.com

I’d like to share something that my husband said to me three years before he passed away from younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease. This is in response to being asked what it’s like to have Alzheimers.

In Morris’s wordsMarch 2007

One time I feel one way and another time I feel a different way. I cope by finding things to do. I read, talk to people, go out to lunch with my friends. I feel just like anybody else, but I’m limited in things that I want to do, or where I want to go. I have to have someone take care of me. I would rather be my own person and do what I can do as much as possible. It’s not great having this [Alzheimer’s] and there’s not much I can do about it. But I do have lots of great friends and family, and I’m lucky to be able to think and act and live a partial life.

I’m not very happy at times. It’s not easy for me, and my wife tries to help as much as possible. I feel frustrated. I can’t have my car, which was taken away. I don’t have as many options. We have our TM lunch*; one of the things I look forward to. That’s a happy thing to do. Having people around is obviously good. I like watching movies and TV.

Sometimes I don’t know what to do, or I forget things and have to depend on my wife. I’ve had things taken away from me. When I first got the diagnosis, I thought it was a bunch of crap. I didn’t think the doctor had the right diagnosis and that I was pretty much okay. Now I understand that I have Alzheimer’s disease and things are more difficult. That’s the way it is. Having a support group is very important to me. Sometimes I get frustrated and sometimes I feel that I’m still a human being and that I can do things.

I know I’m taken care of.  I’m able to just be a good person that other people want to be around. I’m already enlightened in my own way. I feel like I’m my own being, my own person, and am living a life to the best of my ability. I like music and culture. I’m very lucky to have a support group of friends and family. In this life, I’m doing the best I can and I’ll continue to with friends and family.

I want to be treated like any other human being. My message to others is try to find your own happiness and do the best you can. I still like to meditate and I like to take a nap every day. I am getting more tired. I can’t do a lot or do as well as I used to do.

* About a dozen friends who practice Transcendental Meditation have been meeting regularly for lunch every Tuesday for the past 18 years.


This morning, I listened to an interview with the flutist Eugenia Zuckerman on NPR. Sadly, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago. This past September, Zukerman was playing Claude Debussy’s “Syrinx” — a piece she said that she’s played more than 20,000 times since the age of 10.  In the middle of playing it, she drew a sudden blank.

Eugenia said that she wants people to know that having cognitive decline is “not the end of the world.” At this early stage of the disease, she is able to write, play the flute, and enjoy her everyday life. Her recently published book “like falling through a cloud” is a lyrical memoir of poetry that addresses coping with forgetfulness, confusion, and a dreaded disease.

Eugenia spoke of living each day to the fullest—a definite mantra of mine and most people.  I am happy that she is enjoying her life by loving, sharing and playing her flute. But she doesn’t have a clue about what’s in her future. There will tragically come a time when her memory lapses manifest as blank stares. She may eventually not be able to recognize her face in the mirror and ask the existential question who am I? 

I wish you, and Eugenia’s family and friends peace and strength on the hard journey ahead. Make each day count and, as Morris said, live it as well as you can. There will be days that are hard to get through, and days where you just want to stay in bed. Even if you have to drag yourself out of bed, do at least one thing that will bring you an inkling of joy. Make a cup of chai, take an Epsom salts bath, light a candle. Take a whiff of your favorite essential oil. Remember the good times.

 


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Barbra Cohn cared for her husband Morris for 10 years. He passed away from younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Afterward, she was compelled to write “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s & Dementia”–winner of the 2018 Book Excellence Award in self-help– in order to help other caregivers feel healthier and happier, have more energy, sleep better, feel more confident, deal with feelings of guilt and grief, and to ultimately experience inner peace. “Calmer Waters” is available at AmazonBarnes & NobleBoulder Book StoreTattered Cover Book Store,  Indie Bound.org, and many other fine independent bookstores, as well as public libraries.