Here’s the recipe I used for 8 people (it varies a bit from the original, which you can find here with a picture):
- 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 4 roma tomatoes, diced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup chopped celery
- Place beans in a saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Chop into small pieces. Place in a large bowl; add onion and celery.
- Place tomatoes in another bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, oil, water, salt and pepper. Pour over the vegetables in each bowl; toss to coat.
- Mix together both bowls and enjoy!
What worked well:
-Because our cooking group is about 90 minutes, and because this recipe required a lot of chopping and cutting, we were able to easily fill the time. Chopping is a good task for many of the clients who have hemiplegia because they can use a rocker knife and it often works better than the regular butter knives that the other clients use. The original recipe calls for the green beans to remain whole, but because some of the clients have mild difficulty chewing and swallowing, we chopped them into the smallest pieces possible so that they would be easier to eat.
-Our clients wear gloves when they participate in cooking group, so whenever a recipe calls for ingredients to be mixed together, I try to have them mix with their hands (if appropriate). I do that because it offers an additional sensory experience to the cooking group and it allows the clients to interact more with the food that they are about to eat. I have learned in OT school that many senior adults struggle with malnutrition for many different reasons, some of which (but not all) include a decline in the sense of smell and a decrease in their involvement with the food preparation process (i.e., food is prepared for them and given to them, often whether they like it or not, and they sometimes eat less because of it). This was a great recipe for hand mixing. The dressing needed to be mixed in with the separate bowls so that all the ingredients could be thoroughly coated, and then the two bowls needed to be mixed into one. The hands were great tools for that. During the mixing process, I encouraged the clients to smell the different flavors (the dressing smelled good!) and talk about the different textures and temperatures they were feeling. They each took a handful of veggies, mixed them in, and then passed the bowl around the table until everything was well mixed.
-We refrigerated the salad for about 15-20 minutes and this allowed us to talk about the different ingredients that the clients just used, both the types of foods used and their nutritional value. It is important to help older adults know the nutritional value of the foods they are eating so that we can encourage them to engage in healthy eating habits and make wise nutritional choices as a means of sustaining or improving their health as much as possible so that they can continue to engage in their daily occupations. This is a great example of using occupation as both a “means” and an “ends”. Cooking group takes cooking as an occupation and uses it to improve physical functioning and to facilitate discussion and education of good nutritional choices (thus, cooking is the vehicle for improved physical function and discussion/education of nutrition). It also helps these senior adults to actually engage in the occupation of cooking, an occupation which so many of them surrendered long ago to their spouse/child/caregiver (thus, engaging in cooking is the end goal).
What I would change:
-We could have used a bit more dressing, and the dressing could have had a little more flavor, especially considering the decline in people’s ability to smell and taste as they age. I would suggest a bit more olive oil (to increase the volume of dressing), lemon, and pepper. I personally would add more salt if I was making it for myself, but not for the clients because some have hypertension. I’m not a dressing expert, so I’m not really sure what other ingredient(s) I would add to give this dressing more tang, but I’m sure you could experiment for yourself to see what you like.
I think this was an appropriate recipe to use with these clients, and I would recommend finding ways to make the taste stand out so that they can enjoy it even more!