what should I cook for friends why they deal with an extended illness?
July 5, 2012 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Food recommendations, recipes, anecdotes and other suggestions for friends with a long illnesse?

I saw this question and was hoping for a little more.

For the next few months a close friend is going to be going through chemotherapy. She is the cook in the house, and it looks like her husband has already resigned himself to cold hot dogs and bread for the time being. I want to help.

We’ve received the go-ahead to bring food over (I am a good cook). So far she’s preferred raw vegetables for a few days after the treatments, so I’ll be bringing over raw soups and a variety of undressed salads for her. What I’m not 100% sure of is what would be easiest for her spouse.

I’m looking for:
1. Comfort food suggestions that are not too smelly, but are very easy to reheat. These don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian.
2. Suggestions for cold soups that are vegetarian (vegan preferred but I can totally make adjustments.) other than gazpacho.
3. from people who have experienced long illnesses in the family- other suggestions that I might have overlooked because I haven’t been in their shoes. Was thawing frozen meals a pain? Was there something that you found to be particularly time-saving? Were individual meals good or was it easier with just big cassarols of food? were cassaroles intimidating?

thanks a ton.
posted by Blisterlips to Food & Drink (13 answers total)
Okroshka is super awesome in the summertime - just leave out the meat and you're good to go. For added meatyishness you can use delicious mushrooms fried in butter instead.

Also, when my mom had chemo, her go-to favourite meal was really just fudgesicles.
posted by elizardbits at 4:14 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about vichyssoise? I've made this version subbing veggie stock for chicken.

As far as "ease of use" for your friend and her husband, friends in similar circumstances that I've cooked for have really appreciated:
- individual portions
- disposable containers (so they don't have to keep track of and worry about returning a million things)
- complete meals (including a beverage, napkins, condiments, etc. sometimes I've gone as far as to include paper plates and plastic utensils)
posted by tealcake at 4:15 PM on July 5, 2012

I have a chronic illness and used to really struggle to eat. I am a huge fan of potato soup. I would ask how she feels about that.

Potatoes are extremely nutritious and you can nearly live on them. You need something high in one of the B vitamins to fill in the gaps. Other than that, they are one of the most solid staple foods. When I was really ill, I would buy new potatoes, which are easier to digest and even more nutritious. I would switch it up, sometimes yellow, sometimes red, sometimes other types. A super plain version: boil them in salt water and add a few spices. If she can tolerate a little fat, slice them up, toss butter and spices and salt into a deep pan, cover with water. Cook the water out and brown slightly. You can also add things like fresh garlic sliced onions, and/or baby carrots for some variety and flavor.
posted by Michele in California at 4:26 PM on July 5, 2012

Best answer: Crepes are nice because they freeze very well, heat up quickly, and can be eaten plain or filled with sweet or filled with savoury. Just put a piece of waxed paper between each crepe and stack them up and put the lot in a freezer bag.

In re. 3: pasta sauces are, despite freezer friendliness, kind of a drag because boiling pasta is a surprising amount of work when you can't stand easily. Avoid anything that requires work to complete (which I know makes the crepe suggestion look lousy, but, grabbable things like jams and cheeses will work there, as do many leftovers)

If you are doing a lot of casseroles, find out what sort of baking dishes your friends have (if you are not going the disposable tinfoil route) and freeze your offerings in the right shape -- if it is going to go into an 8x8 square, put the food in a bag, freeze it in your own 8x8 square dish, remove the bagged food from your dish, and it can be just de-bagged and put in their dish, rather than thawed and put in a dish.
posted by kmennie at 4:30 PM on July 5, 2012

My favorite cold soup (and one that I ate occasionally during chemo myself) is cucumber and buttermilk (or yogurt). I also really loved potato soup and cream of asparagus while I was ill.

(I have some more thoughts/suggestions on the topic, but will have to chime in further a little later.)
posted by scody at 4:39 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is the classic cold watercress soup recipe. I also had an amazing chilled avocado soup some place in LA - I don't have the recipe but I'm sure Dr. Google has some ideas.
posted by mckenney at 4:43 PM on July 5, 2012

Best answer: This melon soup is good.

My neighbours are doing a lot of cooking for me as I go through chemotherapy. My favourite thing is vegetables roasted with salt and olive oil -- think beets, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, turnip, etc. Bring over a variety of chopped fruit and keep it in separate containers -- pineapple with pineapple, watermelon with watermelon, berries with berries, etc. Make muffins. Bring over nuts and things to snack on. Baked tortilla or lentil chips and hummus are a standard for me.

Veggie lasagna is good. Lightly sauteed vegetables -- asparagus, beans, whatever is in season. Rice pilafs. Basically light and fresh foods. Casseroles are tempting because they are easy to reheat, but they can be too many flavours mixed together.

Bring nice bread and cheeses. Pickles. Roast a chicken and cut it off the bone so it is readily available for salads and sandwiches. Do the same thing with a roast. Saute some mushrooms and onions. Quiches are great.

The biggest help for me is that all the work is done. There are easy snacks and light foods appropriate to the weather and not too heavy. Lots of fresh herbs are good. Having all these things done for me helps me make sure I eat properly and don't just resort to a grilled cheese sandwich when I'm too tired/taste sensitive to think about food.

I don't know how close you are, but my neighbours often just bring me over a plate of whatever they had for dinner themselves.

If you can, provide containers that don't need to be returned.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 4:44 PM on July 5, 2012

Also to answer your last question -- I prefer individual meals as opposed to something big like a casserole.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 4:46 PM on July 5, 2012

Be scrupulous in your food prep sanitation while preparing raw food for a chemotherapy patient. She will be the person to become critically in an E. coli outbreak.

Bless you for helping out!
posted by SLC Mom at 8:32 PM on July 5, 2012

Therapeutic Chef is a good resource for this.
posted by judith at 9:46 PM on July 5, 2012

Macaroni and cheese - homemade. It is the ultimate in comfort. 2nd best is lasagna Both reheat well and are very satisfying.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:42 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about a cold pasta salad. Low on smells, and nice and light on these hot summer days.

You can pile tons of veggies in it, or very few. I like to combine a pasta with fresh pesto sauce (again, low smell if you put room temp pesto on warm pasta) throw that on a raw spinach or field greeens salad, and then dump sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives and pinion nuts on top. A bit of roasted chicken doesn't hurt. Something about the warm pasta (and chicken) with the cool greens just makes a yumminess.

You're a mench for helping!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:18 PM on July 6, 2012

For him -- crustless spinach quiche. Very easy and can be eaten hot or cold:

Preheat oven to 350

Defrost and drain a bag of frozen spinach and start some chopped onions in a frying pan.

In a bowl -- 5 eggs (stirred up), 3 cups of basically any shredded cheese (I sometimes substitute one cup with cottage cheese or ricotta), some salt.

Throw the spinach in with your now-sautéed onions, just to dry it out a bit more.

Now mix the onions/spinach into the eggs/cheese and then pour it all into a greased pie pan or quiche pan.

Cook for 30 minutes (a knife inserted into the center comes out clean)

Add French spices of Italian spices sometimes, if you feel like it.

It's an easy recipe to double, too.
posted by vitabellosi at 12:49 PM on July 6, 2012

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