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Best dishes for shut-in, ill mother-in-law

My mother-in-law is very ill and heading home after a couple of weeks in the hospital. I'd like to keep her fridge full from week to week with dishes that her home health aide can easily heat up in the microwave and that will keep her interested in eating. She's in her 80s, Jewish, and lives in Brooklyn, so it's probably best not to compete with the hundreds of great Italian restaurants. Any suggestions for good soups, quiches, and casseroles? I'd like to keep it healthy but still very tasty.

Thoughts so far:

Chicken soup
Mushroom-barley soup?
Tomato soup?
Butternut squash soup?

Mushroom casserole
Tuna casserole?
Stuffed cabbage

Nigella's brownies (she definitely has a chocolate thing so she can have a treat)

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  1. Does her hospital stay impact what she can and can't eat?

    Or on the flip side, she's 80.. healthy smealthy - eat what is delicious - cook the lady up some braised pork shoulder (unless she holds kosher, though..).

    1 Reply
    1. re: grant.cook

      She no longer keeps Kosher, so that's an idea. Thanks. She's diabetic but also has advanced lung cancer, so her docs have lightened up on recommending a diabetic diet.

    2. A friend of mine's mother is at home recuperating (same demographic profile;-). I surprised her with a brisket. I brought it over in a foil container, sliced with the potatoes and veggies all around it, ready to go right into the oven, accompanied by a nice fresh challah. My friend called me the next day to say it was the first time she'd seen her mother smile in weeks and I received the most lovely flowers and note from her mother the following week in which she wrote, "How did you know brisket is my favorite? The prefect comfort food..." I know it's not the healthiest but I skim the fat and keep it very moist with lots of gravy. Speedy recovery to your mom-in-law.

      1 Reply
      1. re: GRobin

        Perfect! I didn't even think of that and now it seems so obvious. THANK YOU!

      2. Definitely chicken soup and mushroom barley soup. If you're up to it, bake some fresh bread to go along with it. A light meal, but very satisfying.

        You can also make a brisket. Cook it, portion it out with gravy and onions, and it can be reheated easily.

        If she likes salad, prepare the greens and the dressing separately. Her aide can toss the greens with the dressing right before serving. You can also grill or poach some chicken to serve on top of the salad.

        Definitely a quiche. You can make mini ones or cut a whole one into slices and pack them separately. Spinach, mushrooms, and goat cheese is my favorite. If she's not into the crust, just make it into a glass pie plate.

        What about portobello mushrooms? I've had them stuffed with quinoa or pizza fillings, and it's always delicious. Heats up well in the oven. Not a huge dish, but very satisfying and filling.

        Since asparagus is all over the markets right now, what about an asparagus quiche or tart? Everyday Food has a pretty version with gruyere and roasted asparagus. Or just roast some asparagus plain or with teriyaki. Delicious cold or warmed up a bit.

        Good luck!

        2 Replies
        1. re: cheesecake17

          Hmm.. a chicken pot pie with a biscuit topping, done in a Pyrex dish, is delicious (Cooks Illustrated). Meatloaf is another classic - the Alton Brown recipe worked well for me.

          As an elderly person, perhaps in some discomfort, something spicier might be in order. Flavors needs to be more intense for elderly taste buds, and there some anecdotal rumors about the health benefits of capsicum. But I can undertand if you are wary of blowing out the M-I-L sinuses. But you could get away with Chicken Paprikash (use good, fresh paprika) or something with a vinegar-y, bell pepper kind of braise..

          1. re: grant.cook

            I made a veggie pot pie recently and it was very good reheated. They can be made in mini pyrexes or ramekins so they're pretty and easy single serving meals.

        2. I am, sadly, also cooking for a very ill relative. He is on oxygen approximately 18 hours of each day, so cooking with his gas range is sometimes not possible. His doctors have indicated that he needs high concentrations of proteins and that he should still be careful about sugar.

          I bring him a variety of frozen and refrigerated items weekly. Now that I have added a microwave and some microwaveable dishes to his kitchen, I may change the mix going forward.

          So far he has enjoyed:

          Meatloaf with vegetables. Three frozen tins, each of which represents two meals. In desperation the other day, he cut off the tin and zapped for a quick meal.

          Smoked fish, but this has too much salt for some of his conditions, so he ate it with gusto and ask me not to include it again.

          Ruhlman Pate. He has eaten this straight and mixed it into scrambled eggs, something I never would have thought of.

          Cottage Pies: minced beef with vegetables in a red wine sauce topped with mashed potatoes.

          Fish Pies: salmon and cod with a fish sauce and potatoes

          White beans, fully cooked with some turkey stock and onion. He likes to sautee some steak tips and eat them alongside the beans.

          Anne Burrell Meatballs with a tub of already cooked pasta and sauce. Easy to zap when the blood sugars are running low.

          Salt-Free Multi-Grain rolls. Lots of them. Easy to pull out even when tired. Cut a piece of cheese and collapse back onto the couch.

          Crustless Quiches: broccoli and cheese and sausage and cheese, cooked in small souffle dishes for individual portion. He likes to take a roll, put the quiche on top.

          Next week I am planning to make a large amount of Ina Garten's Chicken Stew, Fish chowder, and a lentil soup. With the addition of the microwave, high moisture items seem more possible.

          1. How about a nice strata with cheese and mushrooms. And any other fillings you would like. These freeze and reheat nicely and are total comfort food. Perfect with a little salad on the side if that can be managed.

            How about baked apples or baked pears that can be reheated for a nice dessert. Maybe baked with an apple juice/maple syrup sauce. (I do something like that from Claudia Flemings book. Let me know if you want more details on that.)

            1. when my mom was ill and confined to home, i periodically grilled her chicken breasts and lamb chops--then froze them for reheating. these were foods we had often eaten together and she reported that even frozen and reheated they made her feel attended to.

              i honestly think the best choices are those foods that make the patient happiest. consider that it might not be about the recipe but the emotional history of the food. i probably could have chosen things that defrosted better than a grilled chop--but i don't think i could have chosen anything that made her happier to have.

              1. It is very important to keep fiber in mind when making meals for a person who is bedridden or not moving around a great deal. While choosing food that appeals to the patient is of paramount importance, be sure that the diet contains extra fiber like legumes and fruits, because constipation will only make matters worse, and if unaddressed will cause a decrease in appetite. Keeping up intake of liquids is also very important here.

                1. Don't forget fruit. My mother will eat her weight in cantaloupe, given the chance! Seriously, cantaloupe is a powerhouse of nutrients. Cut one up in bite-size pieces, give her half if you think that's all she might eat in a week, keep the other half for your family, and do it again next week. Blueberries are also very rich in nutrients. In muffins or a faux jam to mix with yoghurt or cottage cheese. A jug of pomagrante juice, maybe thinned with water or seltzer.

                  1. Talk about perfect comfort foods, how about Chicken Marbella (recipe available on Google), Chicken Tetrazzini, both dishes can be frozen and reheat very well, fresh bagels with cream cheese and lox, sweet and sour cabbage soup, lox, eggs and onions, homemade apple sauce.

                    1. I visit my 91-year-old mother once a month and spend a couple of days filling the freezer. Mom needs to eat mostly soft, easily digestible, things so most meats, other than something like shredded chicken, are not an option for her. And she needs to keep her calories up, so you might not consider some of this “healthy.” Here’s what she asks for over and over again:

                      Ina Garten’s Chicken Pot Pie:

                      Tuna-Noodle Casserole
                      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... (Double the tuna; use panko instead of bread crumbs; add some parmesan or pecorino to the cheddar.


                      I make huge pots of chicken soup and lots of matzoh balls, which I freeze two to a baggie. She adores them, they freeze beautifully, and they make the soup really special for her.

                      I freeze individual portions of Bolognese so all she has to do is boil the noodles. I tried mixing the sauce and the noodles together so she could just put it in the microwave but that didn’t work out very well. I know you said no Italian, but you’re not going to be able to order in a spaghetti Bolognese that can compare with a homemade sauce.

                      1. Could you make a noodle kugel or would it be a problem because of the diabetes (it contains a bit of sugar?)

                        1. A great turkey tetrazinni; soups are a must. but some great stews, chicken vegetable stew, all vegetable; shrimp casserole with couscous or rice and lots of vegetables. A creamed asparagus or broccoli soup is good with some fresh bread as another post. A cabbage casserole with sausage, cheese and a light chicken broth sauce.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: kchurchill5

                            You and the turkey tetrazinni again! I think I have some in the freezer and you've made me hungry. It's a great idea for this thread.

                          2. First, find out what she likes and, second, find out what her medical needs are. A person nauseated by chemotherapy has dietary needs very different from a heart patient who feels fine but can't tolerate much salt. That said, the two most successful things I have taken to sick friends are 1) tapioca pudding made from the Fluffy Tapioca recipe on the Minute Tapioca box and 2) icy-cold homemade applesauce with a little sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg added. People who won't/can't eat much of anything have enjoyed these. Unless your MIL really hates sweets, she may appreciate puddings, custards, Apple Betty, muffins, cookies, and ice cream. If she is getting on in years, be aware of any dental situation (if she's having teeth trouble she will not welcome nuts in things, raw cabbage or broccoli in a slaw, raw carrots etc).

                            1. Prayers to your MIL.

                              How about a nicely roasted chicken that she could pick on. I made cauliflower soup the other day that was really easy and good vitamins AND easily digestable.: http://smittenkitchen.com/2006/09/the... It might also quell queezy feelings and not to off the charts for the diabetes.

                              If she does meat - stuffed cabbage rolls or a meatloaf with mashed potatoes.

                              For a tasty treat. How about an almond biscotti. They are usually OK for diabetics. If she needs to pack on a few pounds - almond shortbread.