Help Wanted: Cleaning Up A Diet

Twenty-some years ago, my Norwegian Bachelor Farmer brother, Marty, attempted to make himself dinner.

“I made spaghetti, but…” he started.

“You cooked?” I interrupted, dropping the phone on the floor.

“I figure I can’t eat McDonalds every day,” he said. “But how…”

“Hold on, I have to write this date on the calendar,” I said. “This is bigger than our birthday.”

“I’m serious! I made spaghetti,” he said. “But how do you get the noodles cooked without the water boiling all over the stove?”  

Now my brother is a smart guy. Best salesman his employer ever had. He can fix almost anything, and he’s so patient he doesn’t swear when he plays golf.

“I’m not sure what you’re asking me,” I said, perplexed.

“Well, I kept having to lift the pot off the stove when it boiled over,” he said, exasperated.


“Why didn’t you just turn down the stove?”






“Man, I’m a bonehead.”

Last week, we learned Uncle Bonehead (as he calls himself to his nieces and nephews) has a lesion in the hippocampus region of his brain. Marty has suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy for 40 years. Three weeks ago he had a severe seizure and is still experiencing some amnesia caused by the lesion. His neurologist outlined his recovery plan on Friday and one of the laundry list of line items is to clean up his diet.

That’s where we come in.

I’m heading out to Minnesota tomorrow (Monday) and I’ve outlined a few things I’d like to do to help my brother with his recovery. I need your help with #8.

1.      Take daily walks, preferably around the lakes
2.      Bike several times, preferably around the lakes
3.      Celebrate our birthday early (we were both born on August 14, 10 years apart) by going to a Twins game
4.      Get him out golfing. I’ll caddy.
5.      Teach him the fundamentals of shopping for healthy food. No more Slim Fast shakes! Seriously, the man drank them for breakfast every morning for years. He needs supplemental protein, but not with that garbage.
6.      Inventory and upgrade his kitchen with basic cooking utensils and spices.
7.      Teach him some fundamental cooking techniques.
8.      Put together a binder filled with recipes for simple, healthy meals and snacks.

Marty isn’t a vegetarian, he likes a fairly wide variety of foods, and yes, he figured out how to make spaghetti without boiling over the water *grin*. I would appreciate it if you could share a favorite healthy meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) that is easy to prepare and doesn’t require exotic spices. Healthy snack ideas are welcome, too. You can leave a comment here or send me an email at

Marty is a horse being led to water, and together maybe we can help him drink. I’ll keep you updated from the road. Thank you for your help!

17 thoughts on “Help Wanted: Cleaning Up A Diet

  1. I have the lid ON when I am cooking potatoes, corn on the cob, etc. But for some reason I thought one NEVER had the lid on when cooking noodles. This comes from my grandma, and my memory is it had something to do with the noodles texture.

    not much of a 'recipe' girl, mostly stir fry and soups and salads where I just do it. sorry.

    good you are able to go and spend time with him this summer (I assume you have classes starting in the fall). have fun. enjoy 'the moment' of being there without thinking about all you have to do.

  2. Clearly, help is needed. 🙂

    Does he have a slow-cooker? If so, I have a stand-by Mexican dish that he might like: . It freezes beautifully in individual portions.

    And since he now (almost) knows how to cook spaghetti…I just created (to use the term loosely) an “Italian” variation of the crockpot chicken that uses chicken, a jar of good marinara sauce, and sliced black olives. I've had it topped with a little mozzarella and a sprinkling of panko breadcrumbs (a la Chicken Parmigiana or shredded and stirred into wheat pasta with some Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

    And then there are the green smoothies if he wants to get creative!

  3. Well, this is what I'd do. I'd teach him to do a lot of cooking all at once. I actually buy the Foster Farms turkey breast (yellow box), cook 2 at a time, slice and measure them in to 4 oz saran wrapped packages and freeze. Then, I'd take him to the store for some veggies. Steamfresh or fresh. Brussel sprouts, jicama, beets, zuchinni…whatever kind he will eat and teach him about garlic and then spices. (red pepper flakes, cumin, oregano, basil) Get him some healthy oils and don't forget toasted sesame oil for flavoring cooked veggies. Cook up a BUNCH of veggies and there's most of a meal with veggies and turkey. Throw in some healthy bread and a have a big bowl of his favorite fruits. Teach him to find things he likes and make enough to last a few meals.
    Give us a list of the foods he likes and we can find the recipes!
    He probably needs some healthy deserts too!
    This can be FUN Lynn!

  4. Lynn,
    Good to read that Marty is doing better and that you have time to him with his cooking and diet. I am not a cook so I have no recipes. For snacks I enjoy almonds and walnuts, peaches in individual cups, grapes, apples, and raw vegetables with ranch dressing.

    Good luck

  5. Since it is summer time, fresh vegetables are always a good start. I like to put a little olive oil or butter in a skillet, slice an onion into it, and after stir frying that for a few minutes, add slices yellow/and or zucchini squash. Stir fry it till the squash is the tenderness you like it and then top with a little grated cheese if you want. You can also add any of the following: fresh tomatoes quartered, cooked turkey or chicken, spices as you like. Good luck to you and your brother!

  6. How about a bunch of different types of smoothies? They are easy and if you can get him to try one with spinach, that could help with the veggies 😀

  7. For me the easiest way to have meat on hand is to cook a bunch at once and then freeze individually, so when i want some but am not in the mood to cook I can jsut take a piece of meat out of the freezer. I can eat it plain, or in a salad, or added to rice and veggies, etc. Here's how I cook boneless skinless chicken breast. heat the pan over medium high heat. spray with pam and sprinkle salt and pepper (or whatever seasonings you want, sometimes I use garlic salt.) put the chicken in, leave in place until nicely browned. Put seasonings and spray topside with pam and flip over. Brown that side. Then turn heat to medium and continue to cook until done (depends on how thick the chicken is.)

    Cammy's italian chicken recipe sounds delicious.

    A couple of people mentioned smoothies. This is a link to miz's smoothie which is fantastically delicious and full of good stuff.

    I'm glad to hear your brother is doing better. Take care of yourself too, Lynn.

  8. Switch him to Barilla Plus pasta, for starters. High protein and fiber. Yum.

    Give the man some hummus. My bachelor cousin likes to mix a can of black beans (rinsed) and a can of diced tomatoes (or Rotel) with some chopped red onion, cilntro, and salt/pepper and eat it cold as a salad. It is pretty good!

  9. My best to your brother. It's so kind of you to help him, Lynn. I think it's best to keep it simple with primarily whole foods. You have such a lot of “know how” when it comes to healthy AND good eats, that I know you will be a real asset for him.

    I'm envious of the cohesiveness and support in your family of origin. …wouldn't happen in my family of origin, I'm sorry to say.

  10. If Bro. has a good grocery store, have him get a cooked Rottiserie chicken. You can several meals out of that pretty often: 1st night, eat with a salad or veggies. 2nd night, throw some BBQ sauce on, side of beans 3rd night, chop up the rest with grapes and pecans for chicken salad wraps. Great for someone who doesn't really cook. Also, if he likes oatmeal, add 1 teas. peanut butter for a kick of filling protein in the AM. I'm a fan of frozen veggies to make a meal around if planning with fresh is too demanding.

  11. One of our fav. snacks here is garbanzo bean snacks. You take garbanzo beans(cooked and cooled) Pat them dry with paper towel. In a ziploc add the beans, spray with butter flavored spray and season with chili powder. Bake in oven on cookie sheet at 350 until crispy. Yummy!!

  12. One thing you left off your list, but one which I have been doing since you first wrote about your brother 3 wks. ago is PRAY! But here's a recipe, too 🙂

    Irish oats in a crock pot:
    2 Cups Irish (steel cut) oats
    5-6 Cups water

    Set to cook on LOW just before bedtime, for 6-7 hrs minimum. Wake up to creamy, healthful breakfast. (Usually you would cook 1 part oats to 2 parts water, but the extra water is super important here, or you'll end up with crunchy clumps!)

  13. I'm jumping in a little late and you're already starting your visit with Marty, but here's a Christmas gift idea that you might want to get him. It's not like this cooking thing will happen over night.

    I have a 5-ingredient cookbook that I use as a base for a lot of things. Really easy and unintimidating. I make up the five-ingredient recipe, then taste. Generally they're pretty good, but then I add ingredients to my own liking. I write them in the margins and feel that I'm just brilliant because I'm more sophisticated than my cookbook.

  14. I am late to post here- but how about some healthy tortillas to make chicken and/or cheese and/or veggie quesadillas. I spray a little bit of Pam and either use one folded over or two and slice into pizza style slices. Slice some fruit and make a fruit salad, poach salmon and have leftovers the following day cold over some romaine lettuce, make a healthy pasta salad with whole grain pasta and a good old summer tomato sandwich. Enjoy the time with your brother and I wish Marty the best with his recovery.

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