Enjoying the Holidays, One Delicious Meal at a Time

Holiday Dinner with Soup

By Stephanie Dobak

Stephanie Dobak, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC, is a clinical dietitian at the Jefferson Weinberg ALS Center in Philadelphia, PA. Stephanie is sharing these delicious recipes with us thanks to the help of Chef Guy Dunagan, who is living with ALS, and one of his students, Chef Bruce Connell.

Holiday celebrations are times of fun, fellowship and of course, food. And, while the holidays are meant to be enjoyed, they can also be a tremendous stressor for people living with ALS and their families. Homes of hosts may lack accessibility, and meal-time swallowing difficulties may cause additional anxiety.

Despite it all, the holidays are an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate family and friends. And as a bonus, there is typically a wonderful meal! I’ve created some tips to make holiday mealtime a low-stress, enjoyable environment, and provided some tasty recipes that will appeal to everyone.

  • Determine which holiday meals are essential. You may have different friends and families inviting you to multiple meals. Given energy restrictions that some people with living with ALS may have, decide which events are most meaningful for you to attend.
  • Consider hosting the meal, to maintain your daily routine. This way you can dictate the time of day that works best for you in a familiar environment. Just have everyone bring a dish!
  • Delegate. Hosting or attending a meal does not necessarily mean taking on a lot of additional tasks. Caregivers can often get caught up in preparation and hosting responsibilities so designate someone to cut foods and help with feeding if necessary.
  • Make cooking easy. There are many recipes that can be prepped ahead of time. Or make the meal a potluck, requesting guests bring a meal appropriate for any chewing and swallowing limitations. If time is a problem, consider ordering a meal from a local restaurant or grocery store.

Luckily, most typical holiday foods are optimal for people living with ALS: high calorie and softer textures to enjoy. Needing some new recipes? Here are a few that are delicious to eat and fun to share!

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Recipe by Chef Guy Dunagan
Serves 12
The preparation for this recipe can be done a day ahead to make it easy to serve.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 8 oz red seedless grapes
  • 1/4 cup Craisins
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 1 cup candied walnuts
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper 

Directions:

  1. Bring orange juice to a boil, add the Craisins, turn off and cover for 30 minutes.
  2. Slice the grapes into five or six thin slices.
  3. Dice the apple.
  4. Drain the Craisins, saving the liquid.
  5. Place the grapes and apples into a container, add the drained Craisins.
  6. Reduce the orange juice down to a syrup and whisk in the extra virgin olive oil.  Pour this over the apples, grapes and Craisins.
  7. Peel and dice the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.
  8. Add the olive oil, sugar, cinnamon, and some salt and pepper.
  9. Place on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven for 20 minutes at 400°F.
  10. Stir and return to oven for an additional 20 minutes or until the potatoes are light brown and cooked through. If you want to soften the apples, you can add the apples to the last ten minutes of roasting the potatoes.
  11. Place potatoes in a bowl, add the Craisins, apples, and grapes along with any liquid.
  12. Top off with the candied walnuts and season to taste with salt and pepper

Pumpkin Crème Brulee

Recipe by Chef Bruce Connell
Serves 6
This recipe should be prepared a day ahead to optimize flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree

Directions:

  1. Warm the cream, vanilla extract, spices and half of the sugar. Cover and allow it to infuse with the cream for 30 minutes.
  2. Blend second half of the sugar with yolks and temper into the cream mixture (carefully whisk some of the warm cream into the yolks before whisking the yolks into the cream). Strain. Whisk in pumpkin puree.
  3. Cover mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  4. Pour into oven safe dishes and bake in a water bath in a 280-300⁰F oven until the custard is set.
  5. Chill before serving and glaze (brulee) with sugar on top until ready to serve.

Macaroni & Cheese

Recipe by Chef Guy Dunagan
Yield: 14 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1.25lb winter squash
  • 1lb whole grain macaroni
  • 2 cups whole fat milk
  • 4oz sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2oz Monterey jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 tsp powdered mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cut squash in half, place on a sprayed baking sheet, and roast until tender (~20 minutes).
  3. Bring water to a boil and cook pasta in salted water until al dente.
  4. Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Scoop seeds out of cooked squash. Cut into chunks. Add to pot, add milk, and bring to a simmer. Puree squash and milk mixture.
  6. Stir in ricotta and all the other cheeses (except parmesan) to squash and milk mixture.
  7. Add Worcestershire sauce, powdered mustard, and cayenne pepper. Season to taste.
  8. Pour cheese mixture over the pasta, and stir to combine.
  9. Spray a pan with cooking spray, and fill with pasta.
  10. Mix bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and oil, and spread over pasta.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes at 375°F, covered.
  12. Broil for 3 minutes so the top becomes crispy, and evenly browned.

Comments

Submitted by: Ralph P. on Thu, 12/02/2021

Why not just make squash soup using a full butternut squash, halved and seed (frankly, that's the hard part), cut into small cubes (c. 1-1 1/2inch width), boil with enough vegetable broth to more than cover the cubes, adding your favorite seasonings during the cooking. When the cubes are really soft, blend them or use an immersible blender to make everything totally liquid. Then add some heavy cream to your liking. Serves a large group most often with leftovers,

Submitted by: Karen L. on Fri, 04/29/2022

ASL confirmed 2/21at Baylor ALS Clinic Houston at home care since non verbal waiting on funding of Tobi Dynavox unit

Submitted by: Amy L. on Mon, 05/02/2022

Hi Karen. You can email with your local ALS Association chapter, and they can provide you with information, resources and support. Find their contact information at als.org/chapters

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