Make ahead food for surgery recovery
January 21, 2017 11:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm having surgery next week and I want to make some food I can take out of the freezer/fridge and microwave while I'm recovering. Must be easy to make and easy to reheat, and not spicy. I have normal kitchen appliances, including a crockpot. Things I don't own and am not going to buy: dutch oven, rice cooker, instant pot, blender (I do have a stick blender). NO SOUP or soup like things.

I expect to need about 2 weeks worth of meals so they must be able to last that long. I will probably be heavily drugged the first week thus the need for simplicity. I won't be able to lift more than a few lbs so I don't want to have to get out kitchen appliances.

It doesn't need to be healthy or low calorie. The more calories the better actually so I can eat less often. I will eat any meats and cheeses. I do not like beans or anything spicy. I love fruits and like crunchy veggies. Don't like peas (except snap peas) or mushrooms (except raw). I can't tolerate chickpeas for some stupid reason. I'd like to be able to find all ingredients at a normal grocery store.

Feel free to suggest pre-made stuff I can pick up at the grocery store (and/or Target) too.

no soup
posted by AFABulous to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
posted by azalea_chant at 11:46 AM on January 21, 2017

I made a version of this baked spaghetti for my post-partum heat and eat needs. I put servings in individual containers and froze them so I wouldn't have to eat it for days in a row.

My version skips the pasta (we call it "SanSpaghetti"), adds A LOT of meat (1 lb ground beef and 1 lb Italian sausage) and I grate a zucchini and add it with the meat. I also drain the fat from the meat mixture before adding the tomatoes, etc.

I used those foil pot pie pans and it made about 6, but using the foil meant I couldn't microwave. You might want to use plastic or glass instead.
posted by erloteiel at 11:48 AM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

In addition to making foods, I'd be picking up some Stouffer's lasagna and spinach souffle and stuff like that. So high and fat and sodium, and so delicious. Also a bunch of parmesan to sprinkle all over everything.
posted by BibiRose at 11:54 AM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Do you have muffin tins? You can make a whole lot of mini-crustless quiches and fill them with whatever you want, bake and then freeze when cool.

Mashed potatoes. Pack them full of cheese and butter and freeze in portions. Get a carton (not a jar - jars are a pain in the ass to open post-surgery) of gravy and pour it over and nuke it.

Oatmeal! Make and freeze in portions; if you keep a couple containers of heavy cream (keeps for a ridiculously long time), you can pour it over your nuked oatmeal and add some dried fruit and you've got a calorie dense and fiber-full (good thing if you're on opioid painkillers) bowl of food.

Get a couple tubs of pre-made guacamole and a bag of carrots for easy munching. For additional easy snacking, get some salami and some string cheese or babybel cheeses so you can just have something in your stomach when you need to eat before taking meds. Also, yogurt. Full-fat yogurt. And pudding - buy it or make it.
posted by rtha at 12:00 PM on January 21, 2017

Frozen quiche would also work. Nancy's brand is good or you could make your own.

6 eggs, 2 cups of any grated cheese, 2 cups of milk or cream, some meat or veg as you desire and an herb or two for seasoning.

I cheat with either a frozen crust or the refrigerated kind. Pre-bake according to package. Let cool while you combine other ingredients, blending well. Put them in the crust and bake at 325 for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool and then you can freeze whole or sliced.
posted by erloteiel at 12:04 PM on January 21, 2017

2nding BibiRose, frozen Stouffer's lasagna is great. Chicken pot pies by Marie Callender are good, but high calorie and high fat--totally worth it once in a while. Cheap chuck roast in a crockpot with Lipton onion soup mix, throw in carrots and cut up potatoes and it can go for several meals.
posted by chocolatetiara at 12:24 PM on January 21, 2017

Frozen pizza? You can make it yourself (crust + sauce + toppings; bake it enough to melt the cheese but not all the way through; cut into slices before you freeze it) or buy it and nuke it.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:27 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't have specific recipes (would have recommended chili until I saw the no beans/no spice part), but you may want to check out this "once a month meals" website. It's focused on freezer/batch cooking, hence the name.

They have a planning service you can sign up for, but they've got lots of recipes that you can use without signing up. The instructions even include specific instructions for if you want to freeze the meal vs serving it right away.

One tip: when browsing the recipes, there's a filter for "serving day cook type" and you'll probably want to pick "easy assembly". (For some recipes, you prep ingredients, freeze it, and then cook after defrosting, which doesn't sound like it would work for you.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:30 PM on January 21, 2017

Prepackaged salads that are heavy on cabbage and kale. Those last quite awhile in the fridge compared to lettuce type salads even when tossed with dressing. Packaged potstickers heat up really well in the microwave. There are prepacked, precooked rice that can be reheated or make your own and prepackage those and toss in the freezer and take out when needed.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 12:36 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I still really love this crustless spinach quiche that I mentioned a while back. It's good at room temperature or warmed up, and it makes a 9X13 pan, which is typically about 8 servings for me.

This granola bar recipe is my go-to for any friends after having babies or surgery.

Good luck with the surgery!
posted by punchtothehead at 12:39 PM on January 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Very bland quesadillas? They warm quickly and easily in a pan because they are so flat.
posted by Iteki at 12:48 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not American and this might be sacrilegious but when I make mac & cheese I always freeze half (after the sauce/cheese/pasta has been combined but before it goes in the oven) and it's absolutely fine after defrosting and cooking as normal.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:03 PM on January 21, 2017

Here's what you do with your favorite crunchy vegetables:

Spinach-onion dip: Take a giant container of plain yogurt or sour cream and add a batch of carmelized onions. Optionally you could blend up a bunch of spinach and add that to the yogurt and onions. It's genius and makes a great dip.

Blue cheese dip: Or you could just mix a bunch of crumbled blue cheese straight into the yogurt.
posted by aniola at 1:05 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Shepherd's pie also freezes super well. Just defrost overnight in the fridge and cook as normal.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:05 PM on January 21, 2017

I've got a great Instant Pot recipe for chickpea soup if you want it.

(I kid. Just wanted to say congrats and good luck. *fist bump*)
posted by zebra at 1:07 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Meatballs of any sort, fully cooked so you are just warming up. You can buy this pre made if you don't have time to make them ahead of time.

I also highly recommend this sweet potato chicken dish. Make it, cook it fully, then freeze in meal sized portions. It thaws surprisingly quickly and would warm up fine in the microwave. You control the spiciness by the amount and type of hot sauce you use. Even with the called-for amount, I wouldn't call it spicy at all. SUPER filling.
posted by raspberrE at 1:15 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're OK with eating the same dish a few times, I'd make a few large casseroles/stews. Most recipes make 4-6 serves and if you make 3 or 4 you can alternate them and not get too bored. They take a few hours to cook, but don't take too much effort, apart from chopping up veggies and usually taste better reheated anyway.
posted by Kris10_b at 2:00 PM on January 21, 2017

Burritos (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Meatloaf - either traditional cut into slices or cooked in muffin tins.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:43 PM on January 21, 2017

And buy celery, carrots, jimca, red peppers, cut them up and put in bags. Hummus to go with if you like that. Apples and peanut butter is a good snack. If you like peanut butter get a big jar of that. Peanut butter and bannana sandwiches are easy and filling.
posted by BoscosMom at 3:10 PM on January 21, 2017

I was just there. Shepherd's pie. Baked grits. Mac/chez. Casseroles. Make sure you got veg stuff to snax on. Hummus. P butter. If your experience is similar to mine you will be able to lift more after the first 2 weeks. Good luck!
posted by beefetish at 4:11 PM on January 21, 2017

Go to the store and get a pre-sauced pork tenderloin. Roast it per the package directions. Slice into 1 inch thick medallions. Freeze in plastic freezer bags with meat lying flat in one layer so they don't stick together. Thaw, heat and eat as needed.

Among our blander meals are rice and beans (flavored with chorizo) and arroz con polo (chicken with rice, Spanish or Latin-style). Freeze in single serving containers.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:47 PM on January 21, 2017

I like the marie calendars lasagna better than the stouffers...also bigger and usually on sale...their chicken and mashed potatoes with corn is pretty good too and bears a striking resemblance to actual food. Budget gormet makes a bunch of different pasta dishes and fried rice and other rice dishes for cheap that cook quick.
Pick up a bunch of fruits and veggies to munch on for as long as they last...2 weeks is a long time to go without (adding a multi-vitamin probably not a bad idea) fact: cucumber can be eaten like a candy slicing required, and grapes and baby carrots will last about 2 weeks in the fridge. Yogurt will also last a long time and will, ahem, 'keep things moving properly' which can be a real issue if you're bedridden for a while (medicines for both 'go' and 'stop' might also be worth picking up)
Snacks! Chips, dips (also good for veggies), cookies, crackers and cheese (mmm brie and table water crackers), artichoke hearts, pickles, peanut butter, Little Debbie anything/everything, ice cream/popsicles/sara lee frozen mini eclairs (which are best when juuusst thawed). I totally give you permission to not cook diddly-squat at least one meal a day
posted by sexyrobot at 5:13 PM on January 21, 2017

This recipe for beef and cabbage slaw is simple, makes a ton, and I could eat it for days. Contrary to the author's opinion you can totally skip the Sriracha (I'm anti-spice as well and I'm sure not going to buy a whole bottle just to sprinkle a tiny bit on one recipe). It probably wouldn't freeze well, but is SUPER easy to reheat in that it's good warmed up a little but also very decent plopped in a bowl straight from the fridge.

I'm also totally partial to Marie Callender frozen turkey pot pies as lazy, calorie-full, microwaveable comfort food dinner.

If you like simmer sauces for chicken or whatnot, the Afro Fusion line (available at a few specialty stores around town or can buy straight from Irie Zulu restaurant in Tosa) sells two different peanut sauces that are probably my favorites ever. Also not spicy at all.
posted by augustimagination at 6:01 PM on January 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Marie Callender turkey (or chicken, they're both the same to me) pot pies - which are bigger than the $1 Swansons, they are actual hearty-meal-sized and creamier.

For cook-and-freeze yourself, keep in mind that the flavors of lasagna are pretty much the same whether you make pretty layers or not, and whether you use lasagna noodles or rotini or penne or elbow mac: ground beef or ground italian sausage or just chunks of italian sausage (I actually really like the Jennie-O cased or loose turkey sausages in all their flavors because they are SO much less greasy than pork sausage, and their Sweet Italian hits a really good seasoning note).

If you want to cook up an unattractive but delicious mess of this, you want:
one pound of pasta, soaked in warm water 15 minutes
one large can tomatoes (diced of some kind) + 1 jar red pasta sauce
browned loose ground meat or bite-chunks of sausage
.5-1 bag of shredded Italian Blend cheese
1 regular bag mixed frozen veg (use the little diced stuff if you want it to disappear, or one steamer-sized bag of California Blend or Stir Fry or just a bag of green beans; just eat a vegetable, you'll need the fiber)
optional for fat/calories: one regular tub cottage cheese or one block cream cheese

If you have a big enough mixing bowl to just churn it all together that's great, otherwise you may want to split out all the ingredients into two casserole dishes and roughly stir the meat + veg + cottage/cream cheese, pour over the two tomato products mixed, just sort of poke it all around until the sauce gets into everything, top with the shred cheese, and bake 40 minutes at 375. Let cool, cut, and package to freeze and fridge.

(My husband reminds me that I also make this with the tomatoes + jarred alfredo or cheese sauce and cheddar cheese, and he actually likes that slightly better.)

My big concern, a common issue in surgery recovery/lifting situations, is that very little of your fresh/fridged food is good for more than 5-6 days. Unless you have a second freezer or your current freezer is ample and empty, you're going to be hard-pressed to store enough food safely. Do you have someone who can go do a fresh food run, or just someone who can be there to bring in an Amazon Fresh order (do you have that where you are? Or one of your local grocery stores doing delivery?)?

I will tell you what I leave my husband for "bachelor chow" when I'm gone at length because he won't eat without the peer pressure of someone else needing to eat, and he won't make any effort if he's alone:
- pre-boiled peeled eggs
- instant oatmeal (I just discovered you can get instant steel-cut now; I don't like the slimy Quaker stuff myself)
- Maruchan Yakisoba (Teriyaki beef or Roasted chicken flavors, neither are spicy) noodles, which can be augmented with pre-cooked/canned meats, microwaved meatballs, grocery rotisserie, boiled eggs, etc
- Pouch tuna and boneless/skinless salmon, canned chicken, canned brisling sardines, vienna sausages (I eat those, he doesn't), frozen meatballs in 2lb bag that need 2m in the microwave. You can pre-portion out the meatballs into quart bags so you don't have to yank out the big bag.
- shelf-stable microwave rice, wild rice, and quinoa, which can be dumped into some other food to make that food more like a meal
- Easy Mac, and the microwaveable Boyardee oeuvre
- The bullshit-expensive-unless-on-sale individual salads in the plastic bowl with the pull-off plastic top - they fill the air in there with whatever gas keeps lettuce from wilting, and if you can find the ones without meat/eggs (usually there's ONE, with tomatoes and mozzarella) a fresh one will hold a good 7-9 days in the back of the fridge or crisper drawer
- Soup, usually ricey soup, but you didn't want soup
- dehydrated mashed potato flakes. You can barely tell the difference from fresh if you just stir it up in the right order, and if you are nauseated there's nothing finer.
- carton of Egg Beaters
- apparently you can buy frozen smoothie ready-made now? I saw something like this recently
- yogurt
- 5lb bag of smaller Russet potatoes for nuking as needed
- a bottle or two of cheap-ass BBQ sauce, from my mother's single-working-mom days, because you can make some pasta and boil frozen broccoli in the same pot and drain it and put BBQ sauce on it and say "that's what we're having for dinner, you can eat it or don't eat at all."
- some boxes of shelf-stable Almond (or whatever) milk and packets of Carnation Instant Breakfast or similar.

I just asked my husband and he said to give you his chili recipe, which is this:
- one diced onion
- some garlic if you like, minced or mashed or powder
- one large can or two regular cans diced tomatoes (he doesn't know I routinely do two big cans to make the chili go farther, so...there you go)
- two cans tomato paste, the little ones
- 2lbs ground beef or turkey or both
- two regular cans of beans, whatever beans you feel good about (I like one can dark red kidney and one pinto, but I've done black, white, all kidney, it's fine, you're just getting some thickening and fiber in there)
- 1 tablespoon (ish) chili powder, not the hot kind, just called "chili powder" in the spice aisle
- black pepper, if you want
- if you have it you can also add cumin, and paprika smoked or not
- 1-2 bay leaves if you have them
- some salt, a couple pinches? you can add more later if you need, but keep in mind nothing else you've used has added salt so you have a lot of room for salt here.

Brown your meat in your biggest pot, you can do it a pound at a time if you prefer, and scoop it out of the pot so it's mostly just the fat left. Saute the onion in the fat until translucent, if you use real garlic add it for the last minute, and put in your seasoning powders for a final 30 seconds, then dump in the tomatoes. It's fine if they sizzle a little. Then add the paste and get that stirred in, put the meat back in, put in the beans and their goop, throw in some salt, put in the bay leaves, stir it good, and then leave it on low (you want an occasional bubble, no spattering or anything) for an hour or three or four. OR brown your meat and stir all that stuff up in your crock and let it go overnight or 4-6 hours in the day. It's VERY forgiving.

This is not prize-winning chili. But, it tastes fine! You can just eat it, make Frito pie with it, put it over weenies or Hillshire Farms Smoked Sausage with some cheese for chili dogs, scramble some eggs and throw it in at the end to heat through, over rice, over cornbread, over biscuits, stirred into steamer vegetables, on pasta.

Final note: if you like fruit, stock yourself a mix of fresh, frozen, and canned. Get yourself a spray bottle of whipped cream. If you want to go wild, buy a pound cake or two and pre-slice it and cube the slices and freeze on baking sheets/cutting boards/plates and then portion out into baggies. There's nothing worse than having a sweet craving and no means of satisfying it, and pound cake is very forgiving and totally microwaveable.

Final final shopping list item: the drugstore version (I prefer Walgreen's or Wal-mart's, but whatever, or name-brand) of Pedialyte popsicles. When I am unwell, especially opioid or unpredictable-post-surgical-blood-glucose unwell, it sometimes takes one of these eaten slowly to make it possible to be hungry enough for something else.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:54 PM on January 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Breakfast burritos: scramble some eggs with butter, salt and pepper and a splash of milk, cook peppers and onions, cook your favorite breakfast sausage, layer in large tortillas, plus cheese to act as a barrier between filling and tortilla. Wrap in tin foil individually. I also like to add salsa!

Reheat in a toaster oven for 15 minutes while still in foil (my favorite method), or unwrap, and reheat in the microwave.
posted by SkinsOfCoconut at 3:22 AM on January 22, 2017

Response by poster: Do you have someone who can go do a fresh food run

Yes, I'll have someone stopping by at least once a day for garbage, cat duties and other miscellaneous. There's a store nearby. I just like to be as prepared as possible. I can't get deliveries due to having a locked lobby (anything left on the stoop will be stolen).

Thanks for all your ideas, folks. I've already made a batch of scrambled eggs and bacon (if you don't cook it in the oven, you should).
posted by AFABulous at 7:20 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I meant to add my spaghetti sauce recipe earlier but here it is: sauté one diced onion in butter, then add and brown up to a pound of ground beef. Add a 28 oz or so can of diced tomatoes. Don't drain the can. Add an 8 oz can of tomato sauce. Add 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, nutmeg, and allspice and 1 teaspoon of basil and a bay leaf. Let simmer for a while.
posted by azalea_chant at 7:44 AM on January 22, 2017

Is stew too souplike?

Chicken Stew with Olives and Green Beans aka Stew Niscoise:

In a large pot with a heavy bottom, melt butter. Sprinkle in an equal amount of flour and stir over medium heat until the mixture turns a lovely pale brown. You have just made a roux! Dice a quarter of an onion, a few ribs of celery, a little carrot. Peel a few cloves of garlic and smash with the side of your knife. Mince a few anchovy fillets. Dump that into the pot with some salt and sauté to begin softening it up.

Trim and cut green beans in half. Dice some fresh tomatoes or halve some cherry tomatoes, not too many. Slice a bell pepper of any color into bite sized pieces. Pit and roughly chop olives, any sort you like (if they are strongly flavored like kalamata use fewer, if milder like castlevetrano use more, I like to get the mild mix at the olive bar). Mince a good bunch of parsley. Open a bottle of white wine.

Cut up boneless chicken thighs into large pieces. You don't have to use thighs but dark meat works better in stews. Stick that in with the aromatics in the pot and coat with the roux. When things start to brown a bit, add all of your other vegetables except the green beans, a good glug or two of the wine, salt and pepper, and bring it all to a simmer. Cover and cook on a low simmer for 30 minutes to an hour (this depends on the amount of liquid you started with) until the veggies have released their juice and the chicken is starting to shred but remains moist. Take off the lid and add the green beans. Bring it back up to a simmer and taste, adjust seasoning. Cook until the beans are at your desired tenderness - since you will be reheating, leave them even less cooked than normal. Mix in the minced parsley. If it seems too souplike, simmer with the lid off before adding the green beans.

I make this a couple times a year, and will typically have it with good bread, but I also like to put it on top of roasted potatoes, which you can also make ahead. You can add potatoes into the stew too.
posted by Mizu at 8:34 AM on January 22, 2017

Make and freeze a few sandwiches, too. Bread, meat, cheese, condiment.

Mega-low-effort version: move it from the freezer to the fridge, say, somewhere between 24 and 4 hours before you want to eat it.
Low-effort version: pop it in the oven long enough to melt the cheese before you eat it. Yum.
posted by MangoNews at 4:51 PM on January 22, 2017

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