Food with a soft touch

Kathryn Rem

Getting dental braces fitted for the first time is difficult enough. But Wendi Butler also had two teeth extracted the same week, one of which got infected.

Her food of choice during the recovery? Baked potatoes.

“I’m a big fan of the baked potato as post oral-surgery food. They’re the perfect texture and require minimal cooking effort when all you want to do is lie down,” said the Springfield photo organization specialist. She figures she ate 10 baked potatoes while her mouth was sore for two weeks last month.

Being dentally challenged doesn’t have to mean a dinner of two aspirin and a cup of bland pudding. There are plenty of soft foods that can add pizazz to a diet restricted by an aching mouth.

“A lot of people can get through with soup and Jell-O, but it makes life a lot more interesting when you don’t have to face another cup of Jell-O,” said Jim Moran, the Leominster, Mass.-based author of “Cuisine Apres Dentist” (Rutledge Books, 2001). The book offers soft-food recipes for those unable to bite into crisp apples or chomp on crunchy almonds.

Moran, retired from a career of running a physics research laboratory, remembers getting a toothache while in Tokyo on business. He asked a restaurant chef there to make something he could eat, and was rewarded with a bowl of fish soup.

“It was so good I forgot about my toothache for a while. In fact, it was so good that it got to be when I went to a restaurant, I asked what the chef could do for my toothache.” Moran got copies of those restaurant recipes and put them into his book.

He agrees with Butler that baked potatoes are ideal for tender teeth.

“Almost anything goes with a potato. You can add cheeses and other things to make them more interesting.” To twice-baked or mashed potatoes, he suggests additions such as sauerkraut, applesauce, salsa, gravy or cooked beets, turnips, leeks or carrots.

Soft sandwiches are another fix. To thin or crustless soft bread, add fillings such as mashed sardines, cheese, egg salad or creamy peanut butter.

Dr. Louis Scannura is a Springfield oral and maxillofacial surgeon who advises patients to drink clear liquids on the day of surgery — things such as juice, broth, tea and soda.

“We tell the patient not to use a straw because the suction action could disturb the clot,” he said. “After that, we let them advance their diet as they feel comfortable with soft foods and liquids — spaghetti, eggs, fish, yogurt, cottage cheese. Something that does not require chewing. And it’s important for them to be well-hydrated.”

Not following post-dental surgery instructions can lead to pain. But more importantly, it can cause the incision to open and possibly become infected, Scannura said. Warm or cold foods are the best.

Painkillers can mask a burn caused by hot foods.

Eating becomes more difficult when the patient has to have his or her mouth wired shut, a consequence of a broken jaw or jaw surgery. The lockdown can last up to six weeks.

Many of those patients rely on milkshakes, Scannura said, or instant breakfast drinks or canned protein supplements.

“Carnation Instant Breakfast has a lot of calories and nutrients and tastes good,” he said. “Many people like Ensure, too.”

Teeth-wired patients are advised to consume five or six meals a day because it’s difficult to take in a large volume of fluid at one time.

Sue Petter of Springfield, a pediatric physical therapist, has three children, all of whom have experienced pre-orthodontic or wisdom teeth extractions.

“My favorite recipe,” she said, “is milk, a package of Instant Breakfast, a large scoop of ice cream, some Egg Beaters and usually a banana. They all loved it and got to pick their own favorite flavors.”

Petter said she felt good about her concoction because “it has lots of protein, fruit and vitamins. The ice cream made it a treat. They never complained about it.”

Recipes from “Cuisine Apres Dentist”:

Soft Turkey Croquettes

2 cups cooked and cut up turkey pieces

1 small onion, peeled

5 or 6 fresh stalks of parsley

8 saltine crackers

1 can condensed celery soup

1 egg, beaten lightly

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon water or milk

Pinch of ground celery seed

Pinch of nutmeg

Peanut oil, for cooking

Place the turkey, onion, parsley and crackers in a food processor or blender and chop. Transfer to mixing bowl and add 1/2 can of celery soup, egg, lemon juice and pepper. Mix thoroughly.

After chilling the mixture in the fridge for about 20 minutes, form into cones or logs with your hands.

On the back burner of the stove, set to low heat, place the rest of the celery soup in a small pan together with a tablespoon of water or milk, a pinch of ground celery seed and a pinch of nutmeg. Stir occasionally.

Heat oil in a deep skillet or deep fryer to 360 degrees. Test the temperature by dropping in a freshly cut piece of bread, about the size of one of your croquettes. If it browns readily, the oil is the correct temperature.

Cook the croquettes a few at a time so that you can keep them rolling around and not become crusty. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Keep warm in a toaster oven until all of the croquettes are finished.

Serve with a few spoonfuls of the celery soup on the back burner. Peas make a nice traveling companion to the turkey croquettes.

Makes 8.

Drambuied Dreamboat Yams

1 medium sweet potato

Some honey, brown sugar, butter and Drambuie (see note)

Boil sweet potatoes until they can be easily penetrated with the tines of a fork; do not overcook. Cool, peel and place in a baking dish.

Spread 1 teaspoon of honey and 1/2 jigger of Drambuie on each potato. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar, place a few dabs of butter on each potato and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Pour 1/2 jigger of Drambuie on each potato and cook for additional 5 minutes. Cut each potato into thick slices and serve warm.

Note: Drambuie is a scotch-based liqueur sweetened with heather honey and flavored with herbs. Makes 1.

Cheese Blintzes

1/2 cup flour

1 pinch salt

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon cooking oil

1/2 cup skim milk

Filling:

1 tablespoon yogurt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

6 ounces cream cheese

Mix the flour and the salt. Add the egg and oil and stir thoroughly with a whisk. Gradually add the milk and continue to whisk. Use about the same wrist motion that you would use if you were making pancakes.

Pour about 2 tablespoons on a hot greased griddle and turn as soon as they appear to solidify. Remove as soon as they can be handled and store in a toaster oven (set to low) until you are ready to add the filling.

Mix the filling ingredients. Put a tablespoon of this filling in the center of each blintz and then roll the edges over like you were covering a baby. Press down the edges and return the filled blintz to the griddle for just long enough to make it hold together or until it turns a very light brown. Remember, you want them soft.

Makes 6 to 8.

Suggested foods

When asked to suggest palatable foods for the dentally  impaired, chefs from around the world named these dishes:

Gazpacho

Chiles rellenos

Chinese dumplings

Marinated mushrooms

Popovers

Fish chowder

Hungarian goulash

Irish stew

Prawn and lobster casserole

Western omelet

Broccoli souffle

Lobster bisque

Lemon cheesecake

Salmon with plum sauce on mashed potatoes

Poached mahi mahi

Fettuccine Alfredo

Pea soup

Peppers filled with salmon mousse

Chili

Crepes with maple syrup

— Source: “Cuisine Apres Dentist”

Kathryn Rem can be reached at (217) 788-1520 orkathryn.rem@sj-r.com.