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Recipes for guests at the Ronald McDonald House

The group I volunteer with has been preparing meals for the guests at Ronald McDonald House. While we have prepared hot meals several times over the past few months, we've rarely had anyone attend a meal as families are occupied with more important things (i.e. spending time with their child at the hospital, or sight seeing around the area). We've decided it would be best to prepare individually packaged items so they can grab them and go at their own convenience. I was thinking along the lines of sandwiches, pasta salad, potato salad, salad, fresh fruit, and some other type of dessert.

I'm not really a pasta salad/potato salad kind of girl so I really don't have any recipes. I'm looking for items that hold well over the day or 2 they'll be in the fridge, even ones that get better over time, and can travel well. We have a team of 4-8 volunteers to cook and package everything for around 20 guests in approximately 2 hours, and an awesome kitchen with lots of counter space, 4 stoves/ranges, and lots of supplies.

Any other ideas for side items, desserts, or tried-and-true recipes? Thanks!


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  1. what about soups, stews, and casseroles? Those can be held in the fridge (or freezer) and microwaved.

    I have a friend whose kiddo just finished her last chemo treatment for leukemia (and whose prospects for full remission are stellar - yay!) -- she has told me that she craved a hot, homemade dish most of all....because they ate sandwiches out of the vending machine so many times. She said that things like chicken soup and beef stew and humble macaroni and cheese soothed her battered soul more than she could ever express.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sunshine842

      Along those same lines, curries are a great comfort food and hold VERY well in the fridge, often improving with time. I've made the following in the past few weeks:


      All quite tasty and would adapt easily to different meats (although I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs for all of them, as I think they reheat better than other meats).

      As for cold, transportable items, pasta salads are great. One of my favorites is a super simple combination of cooked pasta (I like penne but anything smallish works), grilled, shredded chicken, roasted red peppers, crumbled feta cheese and sliced kalamata olives, dressed with garlic mayonnaise and plenty of cracked black pepper plus any fresh herbs you desire. This actually works great as just a plain chicken salad too, if you want to avoid carbs - just leave out the pasta and bump up the chicken. If you want to avoid mayo, look at some potato salad recipes that use vinaigrette dressings - here's one from Jacques Pepin: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

    2. How about pizza rolls. You mix up your fillings and cheese, spoon into the centre of a 6inch flat round of dough, bring the edges together then the two corners and smooth to look like a nice round roll. They microwave well and pizza can be eaten hot or cold.

      A play on chicken fajitas could work too, just have them either pre-assembled or you just have the chicken in the tortilla then have the extras on the side. Again, the chicken with the tortilla they'd be able to heat up if they wished.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Musie

        While your at it, what about mini calzones that are hand-held? Or savory turnovers. Fill puff pastry or phyllo dough with spinach and feta, chopped chicken in a bechamel, or even cooked ground beef.

      2. How about breakfast? You could make various stratas or quiches along with juice and coffee.
        A cereal/fruit/granola/yoghurt bar with to-go cups and spoons. Or a make your own breakfast sandwich bar with a toaster at one end and a microwave at the other. In the middle there would be cooked sausage, real and faux, cooked bacon, sliced cheese and some scrambled eggs.
        Your group is so terrific to do this. Think of the cost of feeding a family in a hospital restaurant every day. (I've been there briefly and it really adds up!)

        1. I have friends who have stayed at the Ronald McDonald house several times.

          Their food wants fell into two camps - comfort and transportable. They always took shifts. The parent returning from sleeping would pick up food and they would eat together before the other parent went to get a nap.

          Transportable could be sandwiches, cut veggies with a healthy dip, muffins, tortellini salad, mini quiche, cheese & crackers, whole fruits ie banana, apple, tangerine , grapes. Cookies.

          Comfort is pretty much anything you can eat with a spoon! Soup, stews, casseroles, bread or rice puddings, chocolate pudding. Quiche again.

          1. I'm thinking along the lines of a muffaletta, which does improve over time....

            Bless you for your work!!!

            1. I make a rice salad which is light and will hold for at least 3 days. It is just a long grain rice cooked in chicken stock, cooled down and then add green red, yellow peppers, diced or shredded carrots and grated ginger, vegetable oil and lemon and 1/2 cup of frozen peas. If you are interested I will dig through my recipe boxes and get you the official recipe. As for desserts, muffins are a hit with everyone or a slice of some kind of quick bread, a small sandwich, wrap, and fresh fruit, would certainly make for a nice lunch.

              1. I know when I'm at the hospital I crave something fresh and light since the food available in cafs and machines tends, sadly, to be heavy and unhealthy, not to mention brutally expensive. How about yohgurt parfaits in disposable cups? Enchilladas reheat well. Spanokopita can be eaten cold or room temp. One of my favourite lunches used to be wraps that were humus, shredded carrot, shredded lettuce and bean sprouts. Also, the fried eggplant, humus and cucumber in a pita. Bulgar, quinoa and rice salads also keep well. How about taboulleh?

                1. This has become a favorite go-to for a pasta salad. The peanut sauce can be made as spicy or not as you or the guests like, and because it's got peanut butter in it, can be enticing for kids.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    In today's world, you really can't serve anything with peanuts in it...no matter how delicious it is -- because there are now so many folks with nut allergies that it becomes an enormous liability.

                    If you were making something for a family you knew, it would be different -- but to just stock a public-access fridge is just asking for trouble.

                  2. Teriyaki Pasta Salad: Cook boneless skinless chicken breasts. Shred the meat and douse it liberally with soy sauce and garlic powder. Cook a pasta that has a lot of surface (spirals or butterflies are good). Drain it. Mix it with the chicken, some chopped green onions, pineapple (canned crushed or tidbits or the frozen if you have a Trader Joe's nearby) and some cashew nuts. Holds well and is substantial because of the chicken.

                    1. I was speaking with my friend who has stayed at Ronald McDonald Houses several times about this thread and wanted to relay her thoughts.

                      To summarize, the key to remember is that these people are stressed and exhausted. They don't want to have to expend energy having to figure anything out about their food - simple and familiar is best in this situation. She said her family appreciated being able to just open the fridge and have easily identifiable options at the ready. She said they really had no energy or focus available for determining ingredients used in a casserole and often bypassed them for this reason.

                      She mentioned many of the adults she met were in the midst of gastric issues due to stress - classic "sick" foods were preferred since they were easy to eat and digest. Broth based soups being popular.

                      The families often have other children in tow. These kids are in an unfamiliar place, frightened and confused. Their parents attention is focused on the child who is in crisis and the other children can slip into behavior that they had previously grown out of - bed wetting and fussiness with eating - as a response to the confusion. Just another reason for having some very simple yet comforting options.

                      Most of us on the site are adventurous about food. Items we may consider as normal ie ginger, olives, peppers may be quite strange to some people and their children.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: meatn3


                        My friend told me that there was so much unknown and new and unfamiliar when you are supporting a sick kid, that she lost all desire to try anything new or different at meal times.

                        And yes, yes, yes to keeping it non-spicy....when you're sick with worry, jalapeno chili isn't going to help much.

                        And the good point -- do write the ingredients on a label and stick it on the top of the container -- this is good for allergies and sensitivities, as well as plain old likes and dislikes.

                        1. re: meatn3

                          Then again, some of the people staying at the RMD House might be from other cultures and find mac and cheese just as strange as others might find ginger or curry. LuckyCharm, do you know anything about the families for whom you'll be cooking?

                          1. re: biondanonima

                            Good point regarding inquiring about the mix of people. A variety of condiments could help give those who wish more variety. Soy sauce, bottled minced ginger, a range of hot sauces and a stocked spice cabinet could allow guests to spice their food as they desire. A basic roast chicken and rice could be transformed in a number of different ways.

                        2. We have been there and done that - 2 months in a Ronald McDonald House - and it was a godsend. Anything that could be eaten reheated - mac and cheese, spaghetti, I don't even remember the food, was just thankful it was there. We were there Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years... I don't remember any of it, but the availability of the volunteers made a real difference. I would agree with the admonition against spicy or unfamiliar foods, the necessity for the food "keeping", and caution against fried food just because fast food and cafeteria food were available in the hospital, what we craved were fruits, vegetables, and one dish "home" foods. And while it may seem boring to you if your group cooks the same foods, the turnover of families at the Ronald McDonald facility will ensure that your food will be "new" and very welcome to the guests.