Reheatable recipes for person with spinal cord injury, please help!
I'll be preparing meals for a client who uses a wheelchair and has limited use of his hands. He can (carefully) take things in and out of a microwave and toaster oven. He can feed himself but not cut things into small bites. He would like more fresh items in his diet and to keep things relatively nutritious.
I have some experience as a personal chef but more from dinner parties than make-ahead meals. I'll be cooking for him once a week and will be making a variety of meals for frig and freezer. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!!!
Stewy dishes both freeze and reheat well, and you could tip the emphasis toward vegetable content, instead of making the more meat-heavy.
Another possibility might be to prepare vegetables by cutting them in appropriate ways and packing them in microwaveable dishes or containers, with a dressing or sauce stored separately, and storing in fridge; he can cover, adding a bit of water if needed, and microwave to steam, then add sauce or vinaigrette, as the microwave does a good job steaming. Similarly, if he'd be cooking and eating it the same or next day, you could assemble a dish of seasoned/dressed (w/non-acidic things) raw fish or shrimp that he could either pop in the microwave to steam or bake or broil in the toaster oven.
How about thinking components? Making then freezing individualized items that can be combined well. (think muffin cups sized and a good way to bake multiples) i.e. a rice pilaf, a bean chili, pastas like mini shells or elbow macaroni (Mac and cheeses!), portions of blanched or lightly streamed veggies (finish cooking while being reheated), same with stir fried main bits. a pasta sauce with cubed or sliced sausage, mini pot or cottage pies, even mini meatballs (or super mini meatloaf) using a melon baller to size. Would things like pizza pitas be easy for him to handle?
for fresh items, you might want to think about lightly pickled vegetables--you can make pickled vegetables once a week and they'll keep. and they have a bright, fresh quality.
giardinera could be good--here's a recipe i've been meaning to try, rave reviews:
i love mark bittman's sesame sauce, with cabbage for an asian slaw, and/or with edamame, cucumbers--whatever you like. it's great as a dressing for pasta salad. your client can stir it into pasta and eat it cold, with carrots, red peppers, or anything that appeals. the great thing about it is, it keeps for at least five days--it's really a light pickle, so it will preserve what you put it on.it's always a hit when i make it for people--just has that salty-sweet thing people love. maybe try making a cabbage-edamame slaw in individual portions.
for every pound (or less, depending on how much dressing you like) of vegetables, combine: 2 tblsp dark sesame oil, 1 tblsp peanut oil, 1 tblsp soy sauce, 1 tbslp sugar, 2 tsp rice vinegar, 1 minced clove garlic, and chile paste, sriracha, or other heat source to taste (try 1.5 tsp chile paste).
something else i really like--a relish or pickle that's very loosely inspired by the topping on a banh mi.
about three cups veg (carrot, cucumber, daikon, cabbage, etc.); juice of half lime or more, 4 tbsp rice vinegar; 2 tblsp sugar; ginger; lots of cilantro; lots of mint; good pinch salt, plenty of sriracha.
mix it all together and adjust seasoning--you want it assertive, lots of acid and heat. best after at least half hour--and if there's lots of excess liquid, you may want to drain it. this is yummy but you need some fat with it to balance it. oil can make it a vinaigrette; some mayo and chicken breast will make it a salad; etc.
How about a roasted veggie lasagne? It freezes well, can be nuked to reheat and is not difficult to cut up.
I'd focus on braised dishes that basically need no cutting and of course they freeze and reheat very well.
You could work with dark meat chicken, pork and chuck.
He need a mezzaluna-type rocker knife to cut. Should not be without one and there's no reason he can't cut a steak if he wants (that doesn't reheat very well tho!!).
I'm assuming he has a low cervical quad injury?
As far as fresh things, cantaloupe chunks last several days in the fridge. Strawberries last a long time in a glass jar with a screw-on lid. Do not rinse ahead; he'd have to rinse them as needed. And keep the stem end on. He can simply eat up to the stem. And/or dip into the sour cream/brown sugar sauce you left for him.
There's a current thread on Jell-O salads where you might get some ideas. Although Jell-O itself has little nutritional value, it could be the perfect way to keep bite-size apples, pears, and bananas from oxidizing. Use a high percentage of fruit to Jell-O and make individual snack/dessert containers for the fridge.
Individual salads should last several days. Lettuce, spinach, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, and thinly sliced onions in one container; chopped tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, olives, whatever else he likes in another. He could top the lettuce mixture with a spoonful of juicy ingredients when he's ready to eat. Dressing in separate small containers.
Frozen sweet cherries, blueberries, and peach slices are good with plain yoghurt. No thawing necessary, and the yoghurt thickens up because the fruit is so cold. I love eating just a cup of frozen cherries as a snack.
Cooked brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat groats also store well in the fridge. Make a mixture if you wish, pack in individual servings, he can warm in the micro, then top with a spoonful of the salad fixings or some roasted veggies to make a salad or main dish.
Frozen fruit puree pops or individual cups.
just a few other ideas....
-stuffed potato skins - mostly scooped with fillings of choice (broccoli, diced chicken, cheese, etc.) and easy to reheat in toaster
--sweet potato skins filled with black beans, turkey, a little cheese of choice...
-another poster above made me think about those Turkey Meatloaf muffins at trader joe's... spinach on the bottom, mashed taters (or yams) in the middle and meatloaf on top with a little gravy maybe on the side to warm as well.
-polenta slices or cubes (less cutting tho polenta requires little anyway) topped with a veggie ragu
-steel cut oat-cakes - thick cooked steel cut oats with egg, little sweetener, vanilla, cinnamon formed into cakes and broiled or pan-fried. he can reheat in toaster
-also consider making pasta or rice or bean salads that benefit from a few days to soak and marry... that will serve both you in 'making ahead' and him waiting to eat it.
-ratatouille - lasts a long time and great with a bit of cheese or chicken or tofu or whatever protein you like in there
-taco fixin's - make em all separately and allow him to reheat and assemble (if that's possible... just in containers that he can dump together...)
good luck to you, and wishing your client a feed with ease.