By Tracy A. Mozingo
Food is a source of life; it is also a source of comfort. It helps heal the grieving, serves as a welcome relief for a proud (and weary) new mom and dad, and is often a reward for academic achievements. Remember the last time your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were all together for Thanksgiving? Those family dinners can be the centerpiece of many lifetime memories.
Syndicated daytime host Rachael Ray is no stranger to the feeling of warmth and fellowship a good meal can bring to a group of family or friends. After all, she grew up in food.
“My mom would hold me up to stir soup and pasta sauce with a wooden spoon even before I could walk. My first vivid memory is watching Mom in a restaurant kitchen. She was flipping something with a spatula. I tried to copy her and ended up grilling my right thumb! I was 3 or 4,” says Ray, who insisted that cooking is a way of life she was simply born into. “Everyone on both sides of my family cooks.”
Her heritage of can-do cuisine combined with her bubbly personality led her to the outrageously successful career she enjoys today. From the Food Network shows “30-Minute Meals” and “$40 a Day” to cookbooks, her own lifestyle magazine and television syndication as the host of “Rachael Ray,” an hour-long daily talk show, Ray’s time is consumed by her passions.
Relief for the Busy
Following Ray's 30 minute meal concepts can help Alzheimer's caregiver's make those former chore-driven meals easy to master, yum-o (to use a Rachael-ism) and even more than a little fun. "Cooking doesn't have to be complicated - it can be easy, simple and relaxing," she explains. "The idea is to create something in the kitchen that you are proud of, that you would eat yourself, or share with a friend or loved one. You can do it in the same amount of time it takes you to order take-out and with basic, fresh ingredients you can find in your supermarket."
The notion of quick and easy meals may seem simplistic, but Rachael Ray’s way of life can revolutionize the lives of caregivers. After pouring so much into caring for someone else all day, everyone wants to sit down and enjoy a good meal. The sad truth is that many find themselves settling for fast food or the ever-faithful peanut butter and jelly. Whether your evening plans include homework with your children, a home improvement project or some well-earned time for yourself, you can still have time for those pressing endeavors as well as a home-cooked meal.
“I think if (caregivers) have the tools to create meals at home that are easy to prepare and if they keep a stocked pantry with the basics, they can prepare easy meals without feeling totally stressed out. They can do it—they just need the right recipes and ingredients ready to go at home,” says Ray. “If I can do it, anyone can do it!”
She offers some simple tips for healthy cooking in a hurry in her book, Express Lane Meals:
- Stock your pantry with the basics.
- Put everything away clean. When you unpack your fresh foods from the grocery store, wash and trim your produce so your ingredients are always ready and waiting for you to cook.
- Lay out all your ingredients first. Having everything ready and within arm’s reach is a time saver.
- Work near your stove. Place the cutting board as close as you can to the stove top so you can chop then drop food directly into pots and pans.
- Use a garbage bowl instead of running back and forth to the trash can.
- Using chicken stock instead of water makes quick meals taste slow-cooked and adds layers of flavors to the dish.
- Use leftovers to create a “new” meal.
- Don’t buy too many gadgets; cluttering up your drawers and cupboards with a lot of equipment will make cooking feel too much like work.
- Keep your fridge and cupboards clean; give them a good once-over monthly so you’ll be familiar with what you have.
Most of us did not go to school to study the art of cooking, and neither did Rachael Ray. “I didn’t major in food in school, but I did go to the ‘School of Momma.’ The kitchen was the heart of our home—it was where you would always find everyone gathered talking about their day or their dreams,” says Ray. “Throughout my life, I’ve met people who were positively influenced by lessons learned in the kitchen. Food definitely brings a smile to my face, and so many great memories can be made by spending time together as a family in the kitchen.”
The kitchen does tend to be a gathering spot—a place that cooks up not only heavenly smells, but also deep discussions and fulfilling family time. Sitting around the kitchen table may also trigger memories of a day when Mom was the one preparing food; her recollection of these special moments is something you can enjoy reliving with her.
Showing You Care
As an Alzheimer’s caregiver, you may not be recognized by Time magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people of the year (as Rachael Ray). In fact, being a caregiver is one of the most demanding and overlooked jobs you can hold. Incorporate Rachael Ray’s way of showing she cares—inject some fun into your usually mundane chores and spice up your kitchen time to create a more rewarding experience!
Fish Dishes Can Be Fast — and Healthful
Studies have shown that the Omega-3 fatty acids found in a variety of fish may protect against memory loss. In fact, eating fish at least once a week may slow memory loss in seniors. Check out Rachael Ray’s simple, “yum-o” fish dishes.
Rachael Ray’s Healthy Recipes!
These recipes will allow you to prepare healthful fish dishes quickly and easily.
- Four 6-oz. fillets of Sea Bass, Mahi Mahi, or Cod
- Salt and Pepper
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
- 1 lemon, cut into 8 slices
- Crusty French bread, to pass around the table
- Preheat the oven to 425° or a grill to medium-high. Season the fish with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons EVOO to coat.
- In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, shallots, and tarragon; season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons EVOO.
- Cover a baking sheet with foil. Arrange 4 piles, each with 2 lemon slices, 1 fish fillet, and a quarter of the tomato-shallot mixture. Cover with another sheet of foil and pinch together on all four sides to seal the packet.
- Roast the fish in the oven or closed grill until opaque, 15 to 18 minutes. Open the foil packet and, using a large spatula, transfer the fish to plates. Pour the cooking juices over the fish.
- Pass the bread at the table for mopping.
Was-sup Tuna Salad Pinwheels
- ¼ tsp. wasabi paste, a blob the size of a pea
- 1 Tbsp. tamari (dark soy sauce), eyeball it
- 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 scallions, chopped
- One 6-oz. can of water-packed tuna, drained and flaked with a fork
- 1 large (10-inch) flour tortilla
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach
- In a small bowl, mix the wasabi with the tamari and the oil; add the scallions and tuna and mash with a fork to combine.
- Heat a large skillet over high heat and blister the tortilla for about 30 seconds on each side to soften and toast. Transfer the tortilla to the counter top and let cool for about 1 minute.
- Top the tortilla with an even layer of the spinach and then the tuna salad. Fold 2 sides of the tortilla over the tuna and tightly roll up the tortilla to enclose the salad. Cut into 1-inch-thick slices to make the pinwheels.
For more information about Rachael Ray, as well as fast, delicious recipes, visit rachaelray.com.
Source: www.ALZinfo.org. Author: Tracy A. Mozingo, Preserving Your Memory: The Magazine of Health and Hope; Fall 2007.