(Aug. 14, 2020) When a loved one or friend is diagnosed with a serious illness, our first reaction is to reach out and offer assistance in any way.
Family and close friends are there for emotional and logistical needs, but what can those who are concerned, but not necessarily part of the immediate family, do to help out.
Communicating support is a good start, but believe it or not, prepared meals are a true blessing.
These are emotional times for the family, and quite often one simply does not have the energy to cook meals. Following are some ideas that can brighten their day during this difficult period.
Paper products may seem insignificant, but they will be greatly appreciated.
Paper plates, paper cups and plastic silverware can easily be disposed, saves time, and allows the family to devote their time to their loved one.
Breakfast seems to get lost in the shuffle.
Consider making an egg casserole or breakfast burritos.
Frozen waffles or pancakes are the perfect gift for someone who does not trust their cooking skills. Make sure you bring butter and syrup. Do not assume they have it.
Snack foods will be greatly appreciated.
Place an assortment of snack foods in a basket, enclose it with wrapping paper, and top it with a bow. Remember, the presentation is just as important as the gift itself.
If you are going to provide a salad, bring the dressing on the side so the greens do not wilt. Another option is to prepare marinated vegetables or pasta salads.
It is a good idea to take your meals in disposable containers. Mark what type of dish it is and include any cooking instructions.
Arrange to drop off the meal at a certain time, so the family knows when to expect you. Do not overstay your welcome and leave the children at home.
Taking simple dishes and elevating them is a delicious way to say you care. Chicken salad adorned with red grapes, toasted pecans and fresh dill will hit the spot for those caring for a loved one.
A few tips will ensure perfection.
Poaching the chicken breasts in chicken broth enhances the flavor profile and ensures the meat is tender and juicy.
Sometimes precision may not be the best option. I prefer to cut the meat into various sizes. It allows the other ingredients to come to the forefront and adds to the overall presentation.
Red grapes are a key component of this salad. Each grape should be cut into thirds. It is very important to use a very sharp knife, otherwise, you will end up mashing the grapes.
Sweet onions will add depth of flavor. However, onions contain a lot of natural juice.
After the onions are chopped to the desired coarseness, place them in paper towels and squeeze out the excess liquid.
If you do not follow this step, the salt will eventually draw out the natural juices of the onions and you will end up with a soggy mess.
Dill has a refreshing quality, but if not used sparingly, it can easily overpower a dish. I suggest adding a little at a time until you reach your level of personal preference.
The toasted pecans will add much needed texture. One word of caution – when toasted nuts are chopped, they have a tendency to also yield a very fine crumb-like consistency.
Only use the chopped nuts, the fine crumbs stay on the chopping board.
How much mayonnaise to use is up to the individual. Some prefer a little, while others insist on a lot.
The chicken breasts have a tendency to absorb the mayo. After the salad is made, allow it to rest for about 10 minutes, then double-check to see if the amount of mayonnaise is to your liking.
Chicken salad adorned with red grapes, toasted pecans and fresh dill takes time but the recipient will appreciate your efforts and know you truly care.
I know from personal experience how much a small gesture can mean.
Just recently, I opened up my home and took care of a dear friend who has cancer. After a few weeks, the illness became too much for her and she passed.
I would like to thank everyone for all your support. The casseroles, take-out dinners from local restaurants, and homemade desserts were greatly appreciated. Colleen, you will be dearly missed.
Chicken Salad Adorned with Red Grapes, Toasted Pecans and Fresh Dill
1/8 cup kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning the salad
1 quart of cold water
4 chicken breasts, deboned and skin removed
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
2 large stalks of celery, including the leaves
2/3 cup red, seedless grapes (sliced into thirds, horizontally)
½ sweet onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
good quality mayonnaise to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1. Place chicken breasts, 1/8 cup kosher salt, and 1 quart of cold water in a 2.5-gallon Ziploc bag. Then place it in another 2.5-gallon Ziploc bag to ensure it does not leak.
For peace of mind, I then place this in a medium bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours.
2. After the chicken has been brined, thoroughly rinse the meat and pat dry with paper towels.
3. In a large sauté pan, poach the chicken breasts in chicken stock until thoroughly cooked. Remove chicken from pan, allow to cool and cube the meat.
4. Using paper towels, squeeze out the excess liquid of the onions.
5. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, pecans, celery, red grapes, onion, dill, mayonnaise, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
6. The salad should be refrigerated several hours before serving.
Secret Ingredient – Caring. “Never be so busy as not to think of others.”
– Mother Teresa