Feeding the cancer patient who becomes a transplant patient
My hubby is currently going through chemo and if all goes well, will have a bone marrow transplant in the next month or so. I've been reading through the threads on feeding cancer patients to glean ideas for the chemo phase, but the post-transplant phase presents some new challenges.
DH will be immunocompromised when he comes home from the hospital, for a couple of months. They gave us a big binder full of instructions and basically he can't eat anything that isn't cooked at home, in our kitchen, right before he eats it. So our friends can cook for me & the kids, but I have to make all of his food. He can't eat leftovers, except for something like soup that cn be re-heated ina pan until boiling (microwaving is out, because of the risk that the food won't get hot enough).
So, I need to come up with things that can either be assembled in single-serving size, frozen, and then cooked right before he eats, or things that can be cooked and frozen in single-servings and then heated in a pan on the stovetop or in the oven. I don't want to make big trays of things, a la once-a-month-cooking, because he won't be able to eat much at a time and I'm tyring to think of higher-calorie foods than the rest of the family should be eating :-)
One thing I thought of was stuffed shells or manicotti - I can take a few from the freezer at a time and bake them with homemade sauce, as needed. I also ahve a foodsaver vacumn sealer thingy, might there be some way to freeze individual portions of something and then re-heat by dropping the bag in boiling water? That should get the temp up to the safe range, vs. the microwave...
What comes to my mind is single serve proteins, such as hamburger patties, salmon burgers, individually portioned fish. You can buy frozen salmon burgers at Costco and at grocers, as you can hamburgers. You can easily get single servings of fish as well. You can stock your freezer with a few choices there. You can buy chicken breasts, preparing them easily, as you pull them from the freezer. I assume you are allowed to thaw frozen foods such as animal proteins and cook them.
I want to encourage you in this endeavor. Those eight weeks will pass, and life will become more normal. Your husband is lucky to have a dedicated wife to cook his food so carefully.
I volunteer at a charity which cooks food for people with compromised immune systems. It might be helpful for you to get a probe thermometer so that you can reheat things until they reach the required temperature. I'm sure it's in your binder but it's also important to cool things quickly and keep them cold enough. It's also helpful for chicken breasts etc, which you might be confident about cooking under normal circumstances but don't want to take any risks atm.
The charity has a list of recipes on its website, which are designed for people who need feeding up - nutritional bang for your buck, as it were, for people who can often only manage small portions.
Agreed on the temperature probe and making sure you cool quickly. Cooking something in sauce in the oven from frozen makes me nervous given your doctor's instructions. Something like stuffed shells is going to be hot when you make it (potentially a couple of times, unless the noodles are done being boiled at the same time the filling is ready), then cool down either on the counter, which is slow, or in the freezer, which is going to heat up everything else in the freezer. Then dense non-liquid foods in the oven are prone to hot spots and cold spots, so even if you stuck a temperature probe in it, it might not be safe. If cooking on the spot is going to be tough, I think I'd stick to wet freezer foods - liquidy chili, soup, etc. I'd cook them on med/high heat quickly rather than simmer them, and I'd plan to add ice cubes or frozen stock immediately to cool them down before going in the freezer. I'd reheat in a saucepan rather than the oven. It might also be helpful to make a list of easy on-the-spot foods, in case coming up with them is hard when you're stressed. Not sure what he likes, but I'd say maybe scrambled eggs with butter, fried chicken tenders, noodles and meat sauce. I guess it will depend a lot on what he feels like eating.
Best wishes from here, too. I hope it goes as smoothly as it can.
I was thinking about my white bean and pasta soup, lot's of protein, carbs, and flavor. You could make that, then freeze in small portions for reheating as needed. Wondering if you could make mini meatloafs, then freeze, cook as needed. I always like to have meatballs on hand in the freezer. Bake them, then freeze, add to sauce to finish the cooking process. Best of luck on the treatments, hang in there!
When my friend went through this he barely wanted to eat for a long time and anything more solid than soup was repellant for months, so I would start with a big cache of soups frozen in small servings. Best wishes to you both.
Was also going to suggest soups that incorporate proteins like chicken, beans, etc. and greens. Can be made ahead and frozen in single-serving sizes. Stews might be a good idea too . . . likely he's not going to be super hungry, but he needs to be nourished to help his body recover from the assault. If you want to "beef up" any soup, you could also make some rice at the time you're heating his meals . . . easy to stomach and filling, too. And if you run out of make-ahead options or he needs something different, scrambled eggs can be appealing to someone who's feeling crappy and they're quick and protein-full.
I wish you guys the very best. These are hard times, I know . . . hope it all goes as smoothly as possible. Hang in there.