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:
Butternut squash soup?
Nigella's brownies (she definitely has a chocolate thing so she can have a treat)
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.)