When a friend or family member is under the weather, many of us head to the kitchen. Preparing meals is a meaningful and practical way to come alongside loved ones during a difficult time. But when facing the diagnosis of cancer or another challenging chronic illness, nutrition is more important than ever. Delivering “comfort food,” like a batch of macaroni and cheese or a pan of lasagna, might sound good in the moment. Unfortunately, heavy dishes like these are not especially healthy choices for those who are ill.
So what does a good meal for a sick friend look like? First, consider the shelf life. Fresh produce is a wonderful option, but especially if your loved one is traveling for treatment or has a decreased appetite, the food can go bad quickly. Prepare something that can be frozen and defrosted simply and quickly, for a comforting meal ready when they are. Second, focus on the health factor. Choose a dish high in vitamins and nutrients and low in salt, cholesterol and carbohydrates.
Chili has a reputation for being a heavy “comfort food” dish, particularly when prepared with cholesterol-laden red meats. Then there are the toppings. Chili is often served with cheese, sour cream, crackers or cornbread, which adds unnecessary carbohydrates and fats. But don’t dismiss chili just yet. When prepared with the right ingredients, chili can be a nutritious and crowd-pleasing meal.
This vegetarian quinoa chili fits the bill. Your loved one can enjoy it the moment you deliver it, but also freeze it easily to eat in the next few weeks. Full of tasty and nutritious vegetables (preferably organic), it’s a healthy option. The quinoa gives the chili great texture and a boost of protein. Deliver it with a fresh, crunchy salad for a well-rounded meal. Finally, it’s a crowd-pleaser: not only will your loved one enjoy it, but so will their spouse and/or children.
Vegetarian Quinoa Chili
- 2 red bell peppers, chopped
- 3 cups chopped zucchini
- 1 large chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- ¼ tsp. (or more) of ground red pepper
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes (preferably from a BPA-free can)
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (or ¾ cup dried black beans, soaked overnight)
- 2 cups organic vegetable broth
- Combine bell peppers, zucchini, onion, celery and garlic cloves in a skillet. Sauté lightly with coconut oil for three to five minutes, or until just slightly wilted.
- Add vegetables to a crock pot or a stock pot. Combine with remaining ingredients.
- Stir gently and let simmer. If preparing in a stock pot on the stove, cook on low for three or more hours, stirring occasionally. If preparing in a crock pot (slow cooker), cook on low for six or more hours, stirring occasionally.