What’s Cookin’? The Best of Alert1’s Senior-Friendly Recipes

By Sonja Wright

Recipes by Sandra Wu

There’s always a recipe that takes us back to our youth. We catch a whiff of chocolate chip cookies, and we’re back in the kitchen at Grandma’s house, smelling the cookies bake while she’s stirring a pot of soup on the stove. The happy memories come flooding back, leaving us with a big smile on our face.

It’s no secret that food has the power to transport people back in time. Nostalgic reflection and memories play an important role when aging in place. Memories and shared experiences bond family members together while teaching future generations about their family tree.

But as you’re aging in place, cooking isn’t what it used to be. It’s harder to move around the kitchen. You have to be extra careful of spills that could turn into a fall hazard. Extra precautions have to be made to ensure a safe kitchen space.

This doesn’t mean you don’t have to stop cooking! Alert1’s senior-friendly recipes are easy to cook and delicious to eat. That’s why we decided to write a whole piece about our recipes.

At Alert1, we love to eat. Dining is a favorite pastime of everyone here in our office. Reminiscing about past dining experiences is a second favorite pastime. While snacking on some delicious chocolate covered pretzels, we decided to bring our past into the present. We’d have a contest to find the best recipe here at Alert1! Our winning recipe would be easy to make, look appealing and appetizing, and remind us of fond memories. 

The Competition

We have great recipes here at Alert1. In fact, we have over 40 great mouthwatering recipes that are all senior friendly! However, we wondered—which ones would people be most likely to cook?

First, we polled our online audience to find out which recipe out of the 41 in our collection they would be most likely to cook. We then selected the top six recipes to move on to the second round of the competition. The recipes that made it to the next round were:

  • BLT Bread Salad
  • Easy Pork Chop Dinner
  • Irish Soda Bread Pancakes
  • New Year’s Black Eyed Peas and Greens Quinoa Bowl
  • Simple Mango-Ginger Blender Sorbet
  • Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

The second step was the taste test. We all know that food can look great in a picture. But would it really taste as good as it looked? To find out, we turned to our very own staff to answer that question. We constructed a panel of 10 adventurous staff members to perform a taste test on the six recipes that advanced to the final round.  

Judges were required to rank the recipe on ease of cooking, tastiness of the finished meal, and overall experience. As an added bonus, we asked them to share any memories they remembered while they were cooking.

Six recipes came in, but only one would be declared the ultimate winner and take home the crown of Alert1’s best recipe.

Now, you’re probably ready to hear about the results! Read on to learn which recipe took home the coveted top prize as the number one Alert1 recipe.

The Results

Potato

Voted best senior-friendly recipe of Alert1:  Delicious Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

What a surprise! The twice-baked sweet potatoes rose up and captured the number one spot as Alert1’s best recipe. Our judges loved how easy it was to make—just bake, scoop, mix, and brown the cheese until done.

The recipe is a blend of sweet and savory with a Mexican twist. The sweetness of the potatoes are juxtaposed with chorizo and black beans, making for a flavorful meal. Try these potatoes as a new side dish on Thanksgiving, or for an easy meal during the week. 

Overall thoughts from our judges:

“Anything with sweet potatoes in it is so much better than anything without sweet potatoes in it.” 

“It was really easy to assemble. My 80-year old mom could easily make these. In fact, I’m going to suggest we cook them together next time I visit. I think she’d really like that, as she tried to get me to stop eating fast food during college.” 

“The chorizo was a different twist to this. I actually liked it a lot more than I expected. In fact, I loved it. Clear winner for me!”

“My mom always made twice baked potatoes at Christmas. Now that she can’t easily cook anymore, I’m going to have to carry on the tradition for her. This recipe reminded me of the ones she used to make. As she never wrote anything down, I know I will never be able to duplicate what she cooked- but I can come close thanks to this.”

Ingredients:

2 large orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, about 1 lb. each

2 tsp. vegetable oil

8 oz. Mexican chorizo, casings removed

1/2 small red onion, diced

1/2 cup rinsed and drained black beans

3/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese  

2 Tbs. thinly sliced scallions

1 Tbs. chopped cilantro

Directions

1. Preheat an oven to 400° F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Prick the sweet potatoes all over with the tines of a fork and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 1 hour.

3. While the sweet potatoes are baking, warm the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and onion and cook until the chorizo is browned and the onion has softened, using a spatula to break the meat up into small pieces, about 8 minutes. Stir in the beans. Transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl to drain.

4. Transfer the sweet potatoes to a cutting board. Replace the foil on the baking sheet with a new piece of foil and spray the surface with nonstick cooking spray.

5. Cut a slit lengthwise along the top of each sweet potato. When cool enough to handle, carefully scoop out most of the flesh and transfer it to a bowl. Stir in the chorizo mixture and salt until combined and scoop the mixture back into the sweet potato skins.

6. Transfer the stuffed sweet potatoes to the prepared baking sheet, top evenly with the cheese and bake until melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the scallions and cilantro on top.
Serves 4.

Black Eyes

Runners-up for best Alert1 recipe

Runner-up number one: New Year’s Black Eyed Peas and Greens Quinoa Bowl

Thanks to the abundance of quinoa, ham stock, and black eyed peas, this recipe is the perfect way to add more protein to your diet. Keep the leftovers to heat up for lunch the next day.

Overall thoughts from our judges:

”I thought the Black Eyed Peas were just a band. But I learned they taste pretty good too. I’m not a big fan of quinoa, but this may make me change my mind.”

“Grandma and Grandpa used to throw a fancy dress New Year’s party each year. Now that they’ve both passed, and my parents are retired, I’m going to start carrying on the tradition. This will probably find its way onto the table.”

“Be sure to read through the recipe before starting. I almost missed a couple steps when I was making this.”

“This is a sneaky way for me to get my kids to eat veggies.” 

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 small green bell pepper, diced

3/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bay leaf

1 cup dried black eyed peas, rinsed

6 oz. diced ham steak (about 1 cup)

1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well in a colander

1 1/2 cups water

1 bunch collard greens, ribs removed, leaves cut into 1/2-inch-wide ribbons

Directions:

1. In a large saucepan, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, 1/2 tsp. of the salt and the black pepper. Cover and cook until softened but not browned, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the garlic and bay leaf and cook until fragrant, about 1 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the black eyed peas, ham and chicken broth and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the beans are tender, 45 to 50 minutes.

4. When the beans have cooked for 30 minutes, place the quinoa, water and the remaining 1/4 tsp. of the salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered until ready to serve.

5. When the beans are tender, increase the heat to medium, stir in the greens and cook until the greens are tender, about 5 minutes.

6. Fluff the quinoa with a fork, divide among 4 bowls and spoon the black eyed peas and greens on top.
Serves 4.

Pork Chop

Runner-up number two: Easy Pork Chop Dinner

When you need an impressive dinner on the fly, try this recipe. Your friends will be amazed at how perfectly cooked the meat is. Mustard, apple cider vinegar, and Granny Smith apples in the coleslaw combine with maple syrup for a tart but sweet experience.

Overall thoughts from our judges:

“It’s super important for seniors to make sure they eat enough protein. This recipe is super easy, and tasty too! Eating protein shouldn’t be a problem with this in your recipe box.”

“Yum, yum, yum!”

“I used to be vegetarian until the doctor said my iron level was low. This doesn’t make me miss it.”

“I loved how tart and zingy the ‘slaw’ was. It was a nice taste comparison to the cooked meat.”

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbs. maple syrup

1 Tbs. whole grain mustard

4 Tbs. olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tart crisp apple, such as Pink Lady or Granny Smith, cored and julienned

1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced crosswise

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 small head of green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced

4 bone-in center-cut pork chops, about 1-inch thick

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, 3 Tbs. of the olive oil, 1 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Add the apple, fennel and cabbage and toss to combine. Transfer to a serving platter.

2. Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels and season liberally with salt and pepper. Warm the remaining 1 Tbs. oil in a large heavy fry pan over medium-high heat until almost smoking.

3. Add the pork chops and cook until well browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Turn the chops over, reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook 3 to 4 minutes longer. To test for doneness, make a small cut into the chop near the bone: the meat should be slightly pink and the juices should run clear or very light pink. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest 5 minutes.

4. To serve, place the chops on top of the slaw.

Serves 4

Pancake

Runner-up number three: Hearty Irish Soda Bread Pancakes

Tired of the traditional pancake breakfast? These soda bread pancakes will bring a new twist to your Sunday flapjack special. The toasted wheat germ sneaks in additional whole grain fiber with none the wiser.
Overall thoughts from our judges:

“This reminds me of the time that my cousin and I discovered a box of baking soda in the fridge at my aunt’s house. We both were addicted to the sugary taste of soda (who isn’t?) but our parents didn’t want us having any. Unbeknownst to them, we went in search of some. Not really being able to read, we got as far as ‘soda’ on the side of the box and decided that we just needed to add water for instant soda. It tasted so horrible that all our parents could do was laugh once they found out what had happened. Luckily, this recipe tastes a whole lot better!”

“I have Irish roots. Great-grandma Mary would roll her eyes at me, but this is better than the soda bread recipe she left us.” 

“My dad used to make pancakes every Saturday morning. They were great, but his recipe didn’t have anything on this. But shush, don’t tell him!”

“I feel so healthy, and I can’t taste the wheat germ! Also, what is wheat germ?” 

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup toasted wheat germ

1 Tbs. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup currants  

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 Tbs. vegetable oil, plus additional, as needed

Butter and maple syrup, for serving (optional)

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, wheat germ, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the currants.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg and butter.

3. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Let sit 5 minutes.

4. Heat 1 tsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Tilt the pan so the oil covers the pan evenly. Working in batches, drop the batter by the 1/4 cupful in 3 spots. Working quickly, use a rubber spatula to help spread the batter out so each pancake is about 4 inches in diameter. Cook until the bottoms of the pancakes are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the pancakes over and continue cooking until the other side is golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a large plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

5. Turn the heat down to medium-low and repeat with the remaining oil and batter. Serve immediately, with butter and maple syrup alongside, if desired.

Serves 4 (Makes 9 to 10 4-inch pancakes).

BLT Salad

Runner-up number four: BLT Bread Salad

BLT sandwiches are blasé. Turn the old lunch staple into a hip new dish with this bread salad. The fresh mozzarella and basil elevate the recipe to the next level.

Overall thoughts from our judges:

“When I was in grade school, we learned how to garden. I started trying to compete in the huge vegetable contests at the local fair. My tomatoes never grew big enough to enter but they did taste good in a BLT for lunch. I feel like this is a grown-up version of a BLT.”

“Tomato, tomahto. Potato, potahto. Loved this almost as much as I loved the sweet potatoes.” 

“The bacon really makes this salad pop. I loved the classic twist on the traditional BLT sandwich.”

“BLT sandwiches ain’t got nothing on this.”

Ingredients:

4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups crusty rustic-style bread, cut into 1-inch cubes  

3/4 tsp. kosher salt

5 slices thick-cut bacon (about 6 oz.), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces

2 Tbs. red wine vinegar

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced

1 1/2 lb. assorted heirloom tomatoes, diced

4 oz. fresh mozzarella balls, packed in water

6 oz. assorted lettuce greens 

1/4 cup chopped basil leaves

Directions:

1. Warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bread cubes, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. of the salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted and golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

2. Add the bacon to the pan and cook until crisp and browned, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 Tbs. oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, vinegar and pepper. Add the onion, tomatoes and mozzarella and toss to combine. Add the toasted bread and refrigerate 15 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

4. Just before serving, add the bacon, lettuce greens and basil and toss to combine.

Serves 4 to 6. 

Mango

Honorable Mention: Simple Mango-Ginger Blender Sorbet

While the mango sorbet didn’t receive any of the judges’ votes for the number one spot, we included it here as the perfect way to wrap up a meal. The mango and the ginger combine for the perfect sweet and spicy experience to cool you down on a hot summer day.

Overall thoughts from our judges:

“As someone who’s lactose intolerant, I’ve always been jealous of people who could eat ice cream when it was hot out. But I have to say I’m not jealous anymore. This sorbet was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I don’t even want anyone else to eat it! Just me!”

“Smooth and delicious, while providing the perfect hint of mango.”

“I like how I can control the amount of sweetener used for this. It wasn’t too sweet, and having no added sugar is a big bonus.” 

“The perfect way to polish off a meal.”

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups frozen diced mango

1 Tbs. honey

1 Tbs. lemon juice

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

Directions:

1. Place the mango, honey, lemon juice, water and ginger in a blender. Blend on high until smooth and thick, about 1 minute, stopping as needed to scrape down the bottom and sides of the jar.

2. Divide between 2 cups and freeze 2 1/2 to 3 hours before serving.

Serves 2.

Tips for Kitchen Safety

Before you jump into trying one of Alert1’s recipes for dinner tonight, take a quick glance around your kitchen. Is it set up to keep you safe while you’re cooking? The kitchen is one of the most common rooms in the home for senior falls. You want to keep the memories of cooking in the kitchen happy, not sad.   Before you dive into cooking, be sure you check the kitchen for:

Spilled water. Water splashed on the floor can cause slips and falls. Don’t risk injury while you’re taking the potatoes out of the oven. Clean up all spills immediately.

Crowded cabinets. Don’t risk flour raining down on you when you’re reaching for the salt. Clean out the kitchen cabinets and install a Lazy Susan or pull out drawers. They’ll bring the supplies to you rather than you having to go in search for them.

Something to hold onto. Losing your footing is dangerous. Install grab bars at the doorway and near the sink. If you feel unstable, they’ll help you stay on your feet.

Sharp objects. Avoid unnecessary movement while carrying a sharp knife. Keep knives and cutting boards next to each other to minimize movement while you’re chopping vegetables.

An Alert1 Medical Alert System. Give yourself extra peace of mind by getting an Alert1 Medical Alert. When it’s time to start cooking, make sure to wear your Alert1 home fall detection medical alert when you step into the kitchen.

Keep Cooking Up Memories

What are you waiting for? Grab your apron and get ready to spice up your dinners. These senior-friendly recipes not only taste good, they’re easy to make too! We loved being able to have a contest to find the true best tasting recipe at Alert1. Our staff had a great time reviewing each recipe to declare a winner. Whether you’re cooking for yourself, your spouse, or your family, everyone’s going to leave the table feeling satisfied.

Food connects us. Cooking and sharing meals together strengthen our family and social ties. Create new memories while reliving some of your favorite stories over healthy and delicious recipes.