Easy, Healthy Meals to Make, Take to Others

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When someone is sick, recovering from surgery or going through a hard time, we often want to do something to help. If you’re like me, you like to bring comfort to others with a good, home-cooked meal. But, what to take? You want it to be easy to bake, reheat or freeze. There are other things to consider, too. Your friend or loved one may have dietary restrictions or may be under a doctor’s care. When offering to bring over a meal, ask about any food allergies or dietary restrictions.

Also, keep in mind that when someone’s sick or in declining health, their senses can become diminished, including their sense of taste. Medication can alter their appetite, or they could have a loss of appetite. Try to be creative, although this is no time to try out a new recipe. Instead if you know the person doesn’t feel like eating and doesn’t have a large family, take smaller portions, as a large casserole for one of two people can feel overwhelming. Consider taking a couple of options that give them choices.

One last recommendation: No one likes to eat alone, especially when they’re sick or elderly. Studies confirm that people who eat meals with others consume their food at a steadier pace, which helps in their normal digestive process, and tend to eat healthier. So, if you’ve decided to prepare and provide a meal or series of meals for someone who is alone, take the time to sit with them and enjoy the meal together.

Websites, such as delish.com and countryliving.com provide dozens of simple, affordable and tasty recipes. Consider including a fruit or vegetable salad, cooked vegetable or canned fruit to increase the nutrient content.  These dishes can be used as sides or a premade snack anytime.  Here are three recipes that are easy to make, that will bring smiles to anyone who receives them, and that taste great. Get cooking and take pride in making a difference in someone’s life at a difficult time.

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Ground Turkey Tomato Sauce
Serves 10

2 lb. package ground turkey
1 large (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
½ large package frozen mixed peppers
½ large package frozen spinach
Basil, oregano and dried red pepper flakes
Garlic to taste
2 pinches of salt
1 cup Parmesan cheese added to the sauce
1 package whole-wheat angel hair pasta

Slowly brown the ground turkey; if you do it slowly, you won’t need to add oil. Season with garlic, oregano, basil and dried red pepper. Then add more if desired. Add frozen vegetables. Cover and simmer slowly until vegetables are thawed. Add crushed tomatoes. Stir well. Add water, leaving sauce on simmer until sauce reduces to your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings. Follow directions for pasta. Drain without rinsing. Serve with salad.

Recipe from sparkpeople.com

Mexican Casserole with Roasted Corn, Peppers
Serves 12 people

2 red bell peppers
2 green bell peppers
1 jalapeno or 2 chipotle peppers
½ red onion
2 cups frozen corn
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
Salt to taste
2 cups Mexican cheese
18-20 corn tortillas
1 can refried beans
1 can black beans
2 cups red enchilada sauce
Cilantro, guacamole or sour cream for topping

Pan-roast the veggies: Dice the peppers and mince the onions. Heat a large nonstick skillet with a little bit of oil over high heat. Add the onion and peppers, sprinkle with chili and cumin, and stir, rest, stir, rest until you get a nice browning on the outside of the peppers. Remove and set aside. Repeat the roasting process with the corn, sprinkling with chili and cumin, removing from the heat when browned and roasted on the outside. Sprinkle the roasted veggies with a little bit of salt and toss to coat.

Prep the ingredients: Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tortillas into thin strips. Put the refried beans in a bowl and mix with a little bit of water to make them easier to spread, add the black beans.

Assemble: Spread a little sauce on the bottom of the pan to moisten. Layer in order: half of the tortilla strips, ALL the beans, half of the veggies, half of the sauce, half of the cheese. Cover with the other half of the tortilla strips, veggies, sauce and cheese.

Spray one side of a sheet of aluminum foil and cover the casserole with the sprayed side down. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling, and the cheese is melted. Serve with guacamole, fresh cilantro, sour cream or anything you want.

Recipe from pinchofyum.com

Slow-Cooker Mediterranean Chicken, Orzo

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground pepper
¾ cup whole-wheat orzo
⅓ cup quartered black or green olives
2 tsps. chopped fresh parsley

Cut each chicken breast into 4 pieces. Combine the chicken, broth, tomatoes onion, lemon zest, lemon juice, herbs de Provence, salt and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on high for 2 hours or on low for 4 hours. Stir in orzo and olives; cook for 30 minutes more. Let cool slightly. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with a side salad of your choice.

Recipe by Carolyn Casner of eatingwell.com

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