Quick and Easy Dishes for Seniors

By Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD

Cooking often translates into caring, especially for our seniors, whether it be yourself, relatives, friends, or neighbors. We need to think of nourishing, comforting, possibly calorie-and nutrient-dense foods, as well as texture, color, taste and temperature, and of course, personal preference!

It's best to generalize some ingredients to have prepared as a base that can then be modified for individual taste. Once the potatoes or rice are steamed, for example, we can go on to build nourishing and comforting senior meals.

Potatoes

Bake an extra white potato to keep in the refrigerator. It can be quickly reheated and cut into a favorite soup or broth or topped with some savory mushrooms (canned mushrooms tossed with a bit of vegan margarine or sour cream and chopped herbs of choice).

A pre-baked potato can be quickly heated in the microwave or oven and then mashed with several spoonfuls of broth or soup, or topped with vegan sour cream or shredded vegan cheese.

A baked yam can be a hearty breakfast, served with some sliced fruit or applesauce. Mash a baked yam with a dash of orange or pineapple juice and top with a small amount of sorbet or soy yogurt. If you have ripe bananas in the house, you can mash a yam with a banana for a hot or cold breakfast or dessert, topped with raisins, sliced prunes, or other dried fruit.

Soups

When you don't have the time to create soups from scratch, ‘speed-scratch' some wonderful soup meals. Canned or frozen lentil soup mixed with a bit of tomato paste and served with a warm whole wheat roll, whole wheat toast, or a small amount of baked or mashed potato makes a cozy meal. This works with split pea soup as well; in fact, split pea soup flavored with tomato is a classic French soup, called ‘Purée Mogole!'

Vegetable soups can be thickened with mashed potatoes. If you have the time, you can tear whole wheat bread (remove the crusts) into very small pieces, stirring the bread very slowly into the soup until the bread dissolves. You'll have a thick, mild soup that is easy to swallow. This ‘chef's tip' is used in many cuisines around the world.

Hot Cereals Plus

Many people like to start (or end) their day with a nice bowl of hot cereal. You can add in warmed soy or rice milk, chopped dried fruit (cooking the fruit in with the cereal helps to soften the fruit), warmed applesauce, or even stir in a small amount of apple butter.

If you have some extra cooked rice, you can turn that into a hot cereal/rice pudding by heating it with enough soymilk, vanilla soy or rice milk, or almond milk to make the rice have a soupy consistency. For extra sweetness, stir in a bit of maple syrup and/or raisins while cooking. For extra flavor, stir in ground cinnamon and vanilla extract or powdered ginger.

Some cereal grains, such as grits, cornmeal mush, barley, or kasha, lend themselves to both sweet and savory. For the morning, we can add in maple syrup; sliced raw, baked or stewed apples; canned or dried apricots; chopped nuts; or fruit preserves. In the evening, we can add in a small amount of chopped, steamed, or sautéed onions, fresh or dried parsley, melted vegan margarine, nutritional yeast, or shredded vegan cheese.