New senior center menus include innovative dishes

The Care Connection culinary team members are adding innovative dishes to the menus they serve in the senior center dining rooms and for delivery to the homebound.

A range of ethnic options and lighter fare such as soups and sandwiches have joined the traditional favorites like fried chicken and meatloaf.

New menu items include Stuffed Shells Florentine, Hungarian Goulash, Chicken Margherita, Cuban Sandwiches, BBQ Pulled Chicken Sliders, Roasted Butternut Squash, Chicken Pesto Sandwiches, Minestrone Soup, Hand-Pattied Salisbury Steak, Turkey Cranberry and Swiss Sandwiches, Blackened Pollock, and Red Beans and Rice.

Meals are provided in the dining room of the centers open for in-person services, as well as curbside and delivered to homes in all the area’s 13 West Central Missouri counties. To find out about services at your center, call 1-800-748-7826 or visit

 Care Connection, a non-profit area agency on aging, provides meals, services, and activities for people 60 an older – a wide range of ages with many, varied interests and needs.

The menu changes are part of an effort to transform the area agency’s services to appeal to the preferences of baby boomers while still serving the area’s octogenarians, said Care Connection Regional Director Chris McCune. Older adults in all age groups are more active than ever before, but they differ a bit in their tastes.

The revamped menu is the result of a year-long study of which meals might meet the changing needs.

“We started looking at doing innovative foods, incorporating more ethnic and imaginative dishes,” McCune said. “And we are trying to coordinate between the culinary staff and center coordinators to provide more of a celebratory atmosphere in our dining rooms. What we hope is the different dishes will draw all seniors in so that we have something for everyone.”  

“The new menu items are a lot more restaurant-esque,” said Care Connection Nutritionist Eric Messer, who created the new meals. “We hope that our guests enjoy it and notice a pleasant difference.”

More of the recipes call for cooking from scratch, using hand-pattied burgers and house-made sauces, Messer said.

Because the meals are supported in part by federal and state funding, they must provide one-third of the recommended daily intake for nutrition in accordance with government regulations.

“The requirements create the challenge of making the dishes nutritious as well as appealing to the center guests,” Messer said.   

Regional Services Director Deb Krieger helped incorporate “theme days” at the centers, when center staff will celebrate “Tailgate Day” to cheer on football season as well as “Italian Day” and “Backyard Barbecue Day.”

Upcoming menus will celebrate fall, Thanksgiving, Christmas, winter, the Super Bowl, Mardis Gras, and St. Patrick’s Day.

Meals are provided in the centers and curbside and delivered to homes for a suggested contribution of $5 to $6 toward the cost of the meals.

Care Connection serves 21 locations in 13 West Central Missouri counties, including Bates, Benton, Carroll, Cedar, Chariton, Henry, Hickory, Johnson, Lafayette, Pettis, Saline, St. Clair and Vernon. The mission is to provide opportunities for positive aging experiences. Call 1-800-748-7826 or visit to learn more.

Here is a detailed list of the new menu items:

Stuffed Shells Florentine: Jumbo shells stuffed with a mouthwatering combination of Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and sauteed spinach; served over the top of a house made marinara sauce.

Hungarian Goulash: A cousin to American Beef Stew, a rich beef broth flavored with paprika and other spices with chunks of beef, carrots, potatoes, and other vegetables.

Chicken Margherita: Baked Italian seasoned chicken breast topped with basil pesto, melted mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes.

Cuban Sandwich: Tender shredded pork and shaved ham served on a ciabatta roll with Dijon mustard and bread and butter pickles.

BBQ Pulled Chicken Sliders: Tender pulled chicken covered in barbeque sauce on a whole grain bun.

Roasted Butternut Squash: Fresh butternut squash roasted to perfection with honey and cinnamon.

Chicken Pesto Sandwich: Baked Italian seasoned chicken breast, topped with basil pesto and melted mozzarella cheese on a ciabatta bun with a smear of red pepper aioli.

Minestrone Soup: Tender vegetables cooked in a vegetable broth with kidney beans and pasta.

Hand-Pattied Salisbury Steak: A new take on an old favorite, fresh ground beef mixed seasoned with herbs and spices, formed by hand, and served with a mushroom gravy.

Turkey Cranberry and Swiss Sandwich: Fresh roasted sliced turkey on wheat bread with swiss cheese and cranberry sauce.

Blackened Pollock: Oven blackened pollock filet seasoned with a blend of paprika, cayenne and other herbs and spices.

Red Beans and Rice: Cajun style red beans and rice. Red beans that have cooked until tender with cajun style seasonings and vegetables. Served with a scoop of rice.