Cooking with Mamma and Her Having Fun

Apple Slicer/Corer
In my previous post on Mom’s hand therapy, I mentioned we sometimes did alternative things to her standard hand or arm exercises.   She didn’t mind her exercises because most were easy and quick.  However she did not always find them worth her time as she wanted to do “real stuff” not just exercises.  So I looked for ways she could help around the house without overtaxing herself.  

In the examples below of our cooking together, Mom was usually smiling throughout the process or making a very determined face as she did something that took effort for her.

One of my Mamma’s favorite things to do was cook.  She actually found reading through recipe magazines and books to be entertaining.  She would mark things she wanted to try by turning down pages or putting a coupon in as her book mark. Although she no longer did her own shopping, she still liked to clip coupons, circle things in the grocery ads, and be included in making up a shopping list.  So every so often we would buy ingredients or a prepared mix for her to help make for lunch, dessert, or to take to parties at the senior center.

Mom preferred to hand-stir most things rather than use an electric mixer.  So if we needed brownies or   cookies, we bought a mix and put it together at the dining room table.  I added the ingredients into the bowl and Mom stirred until everything was blended to her liking.  The fierce stirring my mother did probably gave her arm a better workout than the arm lifts we typically did in the living room.  When she was finished stirring, I would pour the brownie mix into a baking pan and she would use her mixing spoon to level it out.  If we made cookies, she would spoon them onto baking sheets.  I would then put the pan(s) in the preheated oven and turn on a timer.  Sometimes we would sit at the table and chat while we waited on the item to bake.  Other times, Mom would choose to take a nap.  I believe she enjoyed helping as it made her feel like she was contributing.  She did not mind my doing all the “oven work” since it was hard for her to move around in the tiny kitchen very much with her wheelchair.

One easy recipe that I found Mamma could help make was a simplified apple crumble.  It usually lasted her and my brother as dessert at 4-5 meals.  We would basically make cinnamon apples and then add an oatmeal cookie topping, since Mamma didn’t care for just eating the baked apples.  Mamma no longer had the dexterity to help peel the apples, but if she felt strong that day, she could cut the apples I peeled by pressing down on an apple slicer.  So while I peeled, she greased the pan.  Then we each had an apple slicer to cut with and she would arrange the apples in the pan.  I would put together the sugary ingredients, she would mix them together and she sprinkled it on top of the apples with a spoon.  While the apples baked for an hour, we would start on the cookie topping.  We used half a package of pre-made, unfrosted, “store-bought” oatmeal cookies, breaking up three at a time.  We broke each cookie into semi-quarters and put them into a zip-lock bag.  The other half of the cookies were stored in an airtight container and they ate them after the cobbler was gone. My Mamma would break the cookies chunks by squeezing the bag several times or pounding them with a piece of silverware until she had smaller crumbles.  I would have to remind her not to pound them to dust each time we filled a baggie.  She would empty the bag into a small bowl and then refill the bag until we had all we needed for topping the apples.  Once we had a full bowl full of crumbles, she would stop.  When the timer on the apples went off, I would scattered the crumbs across the top and put it back into the oven for 10-15 minutes just to soften and warm the cookies.  I think she enjoyed crumbling the cookies and just put up the apple slicing. 

One time, my Mamma said she wanted to make my Grandma’s biscuits.  So I found the recipe and we got the ingredients for the next time I came.  When it came time to bake them, Mamma did not feel like cooking that day but she still wanted the biscuits.  So I did most of the work and just brought the dough to her to look at during various stages in the process to make sure the consistency was right and let her feel included.  Even though she did little work on this project, she knew I was counting on her expertise to make sure the biscuits came out like they were supposed to.

We didn’t just do bread or desserts, we also did casseroles that we could stir together at the table and soups she could help cut up vegetables for.  Mom also helped put together her favorite pigs-in-a-blanket and spread out the side of tater tots on baking sheets, which we made about once a month.  These may not be the healthiest lunches we fixed, but she really smiled throughout the prepping and eating processes.  This made it very much worthwhile!

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