In a month full of Cupid arrows and lots of red hearts, it can be easy to get swept up in celebrating all things romance in February. However, there’s much more to this short month that you can choose to highlight, especially when thoughts of love and marriage may make some of your residents feel sad for partners that have passed away. Take advantage of still chilly temperatures (depending on where your community is located geographically) and cozy up to something delicious. Try out our theme of Gourmet All Day, a month long celebration of food – the fancy and the comforting – and all the sensory, new learning, and reminiscing that comes with each bite. Bon appetit!
MUSIC – Host your own Kitchen Lip-Synch-Along, preferably held in your dining room or home-style kitchen, if your community has that. Pass out whisks or wooden spoons (make-believe microphones) to every participant, then play songs and encourage everyone to lip synch into their kitchen utensil – a little silly, but fun. If you and your activity staff lead the way, your residents will catch on in no time. Choose songs that are somewhat food-related (“Sugar Pie Honey Bunch,” “Blueberry Hill,” “The Candy Man,” “Sugar Sugar,” “Tea for Two,” etc.) and serve tasty appetizers to all of your hardworking lip synchers.
COGNITIVE – Host your own version of the Food Network show Chopped. Begin by splitting participants into small groups. Each group gets a basket with identical ingredients. Try to keep the ingredients easy to mix and match – for example, a basket that includes strawberries, honey, Twinkies and cocoa powder might be perfect for residents to experiment with. After each group has their basket full of ingredients, let them know that they have 20 or 30 minutes to prepare a dessert for judging. You can have pantry items available for them to use (perhaps whipped cream, milk, mint leaves, or chocolate chips), as well as utensils and preparation dishes. The teams will work together to submit their dessert creations to your panel of very famous judges (perhaps your Administrator, Maintenance Director, Resident Council President or even the town mayor. After the judges give their critique, they will choose the Chopped Champion. Winners can receive a fabulous prize such as dinner with the community chef, or a gold spray-painted spoon trophies.
FAMILY – While you can certainly tie any dinner family event into your Gourmet All Day theme, spice it up by hosting a family/resident cooking class. Consider running this event multiple times throughout the month to give a more intimate feel by hosting small groups for the class. If possible, have your community’s head chef lead the class. Work with your chef to choose a dish to prepare, set up stations for your participants, and make the event as interactive as possible. The activity staff can circulate during the class and offer adaptation ideas for tasks that might be more difficult for some residents. Finally, be sure that family members and residents get to enjoy eating the dish they created and have a small parting gift that includes the recipe.
FOOD – With a theme like Gourmet All Day, your dining team should be heavily involved with your planning. Encourage them to add a bit of gourmet flair to one meal each week (or one for the month) that features something extra special such as a flambeau dessert (such as bananas foster) or tableside preparation (guacamole). Try out new presentation techniques, such as radish flowers or other unique garnishes to add a bit of pizazz to plates. Plan out your Gourmet All Day special meals and be sure to highlight those on your monthly programming calendar.
SPIRITUAL – Food gathers people around a table to share with one another and this can be deeply spiritual. Check out the book Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. This book is full of short essays that are suitable to read aloud during a devotional time, and it also includes recipes that match the essays. A weekly devotional for this month, with essays and recipes from Shauna’s book, will be time well spent together. You can work to make the recipes together, or have your dining team prepare them for you.
CRAFTS – Invite participants to create mosaics with food for your craft project this month. Depending on the abilities and preferences of your group, come prepared with outlines of a picture already drawn or you can let group members choose how they will lay out their mosaic. Use dried beans, seeds, and even pasta as your “tiles” for the creations, and glue them to card stock.
SENSORY KIT – For your sensory kit this month, bring the kitchen to those who may benefit from a bedside food-related sensory experience. Include wooden spoons, silverware, and spatulas, plua a box full of recipes for food that have varying textures. Add a lemon, lime, and cutting board – slice the citrus while you are in the room for aroma and taste. Include fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or basil. Add in some conversation about favorite recipes or kitchen tips and you have a great kit for male and female residents.
INTERGENERATIONAL – Decorate a gingerbread houses with a group of kids for Valentine’s Day. Ask your dining team to prepare the gingerbread homes before your group arrives so that residents and kids only need to worry about the fun part – candy decorating. You can also use cardboard, or plan ahead and purchase gingerbread kits right after Christmas. Line the table with a festive, disposable, plastic tablecloth. Purchase Valentine candies such as red hots, chocolate kisses, red and pink gum drops, red M&Ms, and licorice. Whip up royal icing and put in piping bags to use as the “glue” to hold the candies on, or use real glue if you can be confident that the kids are old enough to not confuse the glue with icing. Decorate the homes by working together in small groups, and end the event by serving gingerbread heart cookies and red punch.
GIVING BACK – Host a food drive to stock a local food bank by asking residents, families, referral sources, staff, and passersby to bring in nonperishable food items. At the end of the month, load up the food and residents on your community bus and drop off the items together. If you call in advance, you might also be able to set up a tour so everyone can see the resources available to families and individuals in need. You can host a bake sale, with proceeds going straight to your local soup kitchen or shelter. You may even want to set up a date to volunteer at the soup kitchen with staff members or residents.
CELEBRATION – Pair Fat Tuesday (February 28 this year) and our Gourmet All Day theme. Work with your dining team to create a Mardi Gras menu full of bite-sized Cajun treats to enjoy with a jazz band performance. Try small servings of etouffee, gumbo, deep friend oyster sandwiches, and jambalaya while saving room for King Cake and beignets. Serve New Orleans-inspired hurricane drinks and pass out beads to participants for each food they try. Have fun with masks and funny hats to capture more of the feeling of Mardi Gras.
GOURMET ALL DAY TRIVIA
- If you can’t stand the heat, get out _____. Of the kitchen
- Hey good lookin’, what _____? You got cookin’?
- If you have added lots of ingredients to a recipe, you might say that you added everything but the _____. Kitchen sink
- If there are too many leaders and not enough followers, you might say that there are too many _____ in the kitchen. Chefs (or cooks)
- What culinary kitchen name was given to a neighborhood in Manhattan once known for crime? Hell’s Kitchen
- If someone can’t take a stressful situation, you might tell them, “if you can’t stand the heat, _____“. Get out of the kitchen.
- Many aprons have a saying on them that tells readers to give affection to the person who made the food. What saying is it? Kiss the cook.
- If you like someone a bit better than others, they may be called the _____ of your eye. Apple
- If you are calm, especially in stressful situations, you may be referred to as “cool as a _____“. Cucumber
- If something is very easy, you might compare it to a certain type of pastry, as in, “It was as easy as _____”. Pie
GOURMET ALL DAY THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ~ Virginia Woolf
“Gourmet All Day” was written by Haley Burress. Copyright 2017 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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