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Need help with dinner for sick friend

A college buddy of mine had open heart surgery yesterday and I’m slated to make dinner for him and his family (wife and daughters ages 8 and 12) next week.

Other than the typical pan of lasagna or tater-tot casserole (we live in Minnesota), can someone suggest a unique meal that’s relatively easy.

Any help is greatly appreciated!

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  1. Oops, somehow missed the fact that you're cooking for him, too. editing to remove my meal ideas which are pretty inappropriate for a heart patient. I''m very sorry about that!

    Could you roast a turkey breast/whole chicken and a savory root vegetable dish?

    1 Reply
    1. re: fern

      For a heart patient, twice baked potatoes with a filling of lean chicken, broccoli, and chives bound together with fat-free cottage cheese, fat-free yogurt and some lemon juice and lemon zest. Even kids like this. Just bake the potatoes, split in half and scoop out the innards. Reserve the potato jackets. Mix the potato with come chicken, some lightly steamed broccoli, cottage cheese, yogurt, lemon juice and zest. Taste it. Add some black pepper and a minimum amount of salt. Pack the mixture back into the potato skins, and bake about 15 min at 350, or until all bubbly.

    2. Heart patients generally must follow stricter food guidelines than before, and if he is taking blood thinner--warfarin--his vitamin k must be kept low, or consistent. (Advice from doctors on this varies.) Get some info from his wife before planning the dinner! One of the first dinners I made my husband, and his visiting brother, was chicken thighs (skinned) and baked over a savory rice mixture. Two chicken thighs make a proper serving. You must lightly oil or spray the chicken so it does not dry out. The liquid for the rice can be commercial chicken broth, no-fat and reduced sodium. Salt the thighs with a light hand. What a good deed you are doing! Good luck!

      1. Yes, absolutely check for dietary restriction. In general he will be on a low fat, hear healthy diet. So think about skinnless chicken or a roasted turkey breast or baked salmon as a main course. I take skinless chicken breast and slather them with dijon mustard and sprinkle with herb bread crumbs and bake. Very easy and delicious.You are a good friend. Hope your friend has a good recovery.

        1. Definitely ask about dietary restrictions. Beef and anything cheesy or high-sodium are usually not on the list of approved foods for right after heart surgery. Hot Dish is a no go. Also, keep in mind that after major surgery, the patient is going to want foods that are easy to digest.

          Roasted chicken is always nice. Rice pilaf is wonderful. Add some nice steamed veggies or a salad (be sure to put the dressing on the side) and you have a healthy but tasty meal. The American Heart Association has alot of dietary information on their website.

          1. Go easy (avoid) vegetables high in vitamin K, as another poster noted.

            Link: http://www.whfoods.com/foodstoc.php

            1. Thanks for all the considerate replies. I should have mentioned his surgery was to correct an abnormality not related clogged arteries. As far as I know, he doesn't have any heart related diet restrictions. Not to mention, he hasn't had much of an appetite - I suspect pain and medication will do that do a guy.

              With that said, any ideas for fun meals with wife and kids in mind? He's home now but in loads of pain and requires extra attention (thus the need for family meals for a few weeks).

              Thanks, again for all the help!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Zander

                Based purely on what my kids love (but not very chowhoundish):

                Morning Glory Muffin Bars
                Baked French Toast (especially good using cinnamon bread)
                Mini burgers/sloppy joes (we use dinner rolls) and baked sweet potatoe fries
                Good ol' tuna casserole (great way to "sneak" in veggies)
                Black Bean and Corn Chili (can easily be frozen/reheated)
                and of course,
                Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

                1. re: Zander

                  I'll still stand by my recommendation of roast chicken but add in some mashed sweet potatoes and green beans cooked with a bit of olive oil and some garlic and sliced almonds. Add a nice salad with a bunch of veggies in it and some cornbread and you have a great, simple meal.

                  Beef stew or pot roast would be another great meal.

                  Also, planning a meal that will have some leftovers is very considerate.

                  I know that when I've been ill and people have brought food, simple has been the best for my family. More elaborate foods that may be more interesting and show of more cooking skills can be very hard on post-surgery stomachs, so, while they might be nice for the family, your friend would probably require something particular made just for him which means work for his wife - which is what you are trying to spare her.

                  I had surgery last fall and one of my friends brought Boston Market. Now, I hadn't eaten at Boston Market in probably 10 years, but that was one of the best meals. Turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad and some cornbread. And even some apple pie for dessert. It wasn't chowish and I had a tiny appetite, but it was comforting and that is what I needed. Somewhat bland but sort of salty tasted better than you can imagine. Lots of leftovers as well which was so nice for my husband. Someone else brought takeout from Cafe Izmir. It delighted my husband and, under normal circumstances would have delighted me, but I could barely stand to smell the stuff after surgery.

                2. No brainer here, whenever I take a meal to someone who is not feeling well I bring them Chicken Soup. Everyone calls the next day to tell me how much better they feel. Soup is filling and easy to digest. Kids love it too. So just use your favorite chicken soup recipe, might add noodles (ie. egg noodles, ditalini ) pick up a fresh loaf of french bread and they will thank you for sure. You also benefit because your house will smell so good. Also if they can't eat it all, it freezes so easily in zip loc bags. Hope your friend recovers with no problems.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cdesoto

                    I second the chicken soup idea. The boiled chicken does not have a lot of flavor, but sometimes is comforting and should be easy to digest. You could bring it on the side, or put little bits right in the soup. I was going to suggest to OP to make matzoh balls, but I now see that you're in Minnesota and doubt that you have access to Streitz's or Maneschewitz mixes, though if you can find matzoh meal, you could make the balls from scratch.

                  2. Seeing as your friend is probably going to be sick and tired of blander food, fairly quickly, and as most of the dishes below all mention white meat, often chicken, why not cook the chicken but after it marinated in something spicier. One of the things I do to have meals I can cook quickly is marinate and skewer meat, then cook it in the oven. Last week, I marinated pork in tamarind and other spices and herbs, then cooked them in the oven on metal skewers, switching the broiler on for the last ten minutes, for example. I could see in this case, marinating chicken in any combination of herbs or spices you like, skewring it like a satay, and then cooking it. To make the clean up easier, I lay the skewers across a disposable roasting dish, into which juices can drip. You could do a few types of skewers and create some variety.

                    1. After reading through the thread and learning that your friend is in a lot of pain I have been there and done that. Not the same surgery but I can relate. The pain can cause lots of nausea and diminished appetite. For him keep it on the bland side unless he asks specifically for something with more flavor and spice. Find out from his wife if there is something he has been wanting. Also bring along some good quality dark chocolate. The endorphins kicked in by the chocolate can help make him feel better. I always found when I was waiting for the next round of pain medication a square or two of good chocolate helped ease the pain and kept me more comfortable until the pain meds kicked in.

                      1. I love this turkey sausage and chick pea stew (although I normally use white beans instead). Very homey, easy to make, and delicious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: LulusMom

                          Do white beans cause discomforting gastrointestinal issues? If so, may not be the best thing for someone recouperating from surgery. Just a thought.

                          1. re: Shayna Madel

                            You know, that is a very good thought ... I eat beans often enough that I don't have problems with them, but I bet you're right. Someone else could have serious issues with it. Oh well.

                        2. I brought an updated, lower fat and very flavorful Chicken Pot Pie to my friends in a similar situation. It definitely constitutes as comfort food and is easy to transport and reheat.I even made an extra one for us.

                          I'm sure you sure you can find a good recipe for "light chic pot pie"...I think even Martha Stewart has one on her website.

                          1. I'm in a similar situation now myself. We rotate weekly as well.
                            For my last dinner that I brought over I decided to do a meal rather than casserole. I made salmon filets, with lemon wine buerre blanc, rosemary red potatoes, steamed dill carrots, and creme brulee. I heard that the family ( a 13 year old too) really enjoyed the dinner.

                            The creme brulee and after finding some little dishes that they could keep were perfect. For a few dollars more, it was nicer than foil cups, and your friends can either keep or not keep the dishes. It's up to you.

                            1. I've found that a deconstructed Thanksgiving dinner goes over well: braised turkey legs, cranberry/apple/prosciutto stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, cheesy bread, pumpkin souffle, individual pecan pies with homemade vanilla & anise whipped cream, and mulled cider. Not for traditionalists, but sure is a tasty and relatively easy/quick way to bring some joy :)

                              1. My husband had a bi-femoral bypass surgery a couple years ago. He was in ICU for 5 days, and when he got home we were pretty overwhelmed, exhausted, etc. The nicest thing that a friend brought was a brisket, and a bowl of mashed potatoes. It was perfect! I got several meals out of the brisket, and when my DH wasn't wanting to eat, I could always coax him into a bowl of mashed potatoes.

                                1. I find that Miso soup and Chicken Ramen are very comforting as well as extremely delicious! Chicken Ramen consist of vegetable stock (and something extra), oyster mushrooms, noodles, scallions, hard boiled egg, blanched chicken breasts and some noodles. It has most of it's vitamins and a great comforting flavor without the immense fat and oil.

                                  You can get excellent tips from VIDEOJUG website, you can view the actual demonstration of cooking a certain meal. I guess as everyone said, the meals most comforting will be terrific. Check out the website, great tips:


                                  For me, comfot foods are:
                                  yams, red potatoes, basmati rice with mushrooms and onion or peas, corn and red pepper.

                                  Lentils with parsley, onion and garlic cooked with chicken broth, you can even add shredded boiled chicken breasts.

                                  Mac n' Cheese!

                                  Stew with potatoes, carrots, leeeks, tumeric and chicken tenders cooked in beer and broth, with parsley.

                                  VideoJUG's beef in Guinness, great for your back!

                                  Mashed potatoes

                                  fresh Cucumber, yogurt and dill salad, very refreshing

                                  Cucumber, tomato, feta cheese and dill or cilantro with oil and vinegar.

                                  Russian salad is everyone's favorite
                                  spinach pies...

                                  I think I got carried away....