In the last 15 years, I've probably made about a billion meals for people between that season where everyone is having babies to supporting people during difficult times in their lives. Having been on the receiving end many times, it is one of those small acts of kindness that reminds you how much people care about you.
This week I made dinner for a friend who had a baby. I've got quite the system down now. But it's taken years of taking meals, receiving meals, and figuring out what works best. Here's a few things to keep in mind and stay tuned to my surprising go to meal at the end.
1. Keep it simple - When I first starting making meals, I tried to duplicate what dinner looked like on my table. The hardest thing to figure out was the vegetable. Not many do well cooked at my house and then transported to someone elses. A bag of baby carrots, steam bags of frozen ones, or basic cut of veggies work the best. Meal recipients aren't expecting a fancy meal, simply one that feeds them with minimal effort.
2. Use disposable dishes - I hate killing the planet as much as the next person but this not the time! While you think it will be simple to grab your dish back from the person, the reality is that these people now have to wash, keep track of, and give back the dish. And not just to you but all the other families that are making them dinner.
3. Portion control and kid friendly - Making a casserole is an easy thing to get together and transport, but how many people are you feeding and how many days of leftovers will they have? If you are making dinner for a couple with their first baby, that casserole will last them a week. Which, again, super great and awfully nice of you, but what happens when they are getting 3 casseroles a week? And if they have little kids... gross... food touching other food! (Oh gosh, feeding kids!) Maybe you know your friends love your tuna noodle casserole (LOVE IT!) so go ahead and make it. But before you plan a meal that's easy for you to do, give a quick thought to who you are making dinner for.
So, what's my favorite take over meal? Chicken salads. For real! Stay with me here... First of all, it's healthy. If you've had a hospital visit, you might not be moving well, there might be dietary restrictions, and it helps balance out all the quicker food you might be eating. When I was making dinner for a neighbor whose back was broken by a tree falling on her car, she said the chicken salads just tasted so fresh that it was one of her favorite meals. Second reason, it's easy to transport and doesn't need reheated. You can figure that one out. Third, fairly kid friendly if you make it that way. If I'm feeding kids, I pack all the stuff in separate bags so they can decide what they want and nothing is touching anything else. Fourth, it's easy to scale. You can make one up for 2 people or an entire family. It's only a case of more chopping. Fifth, I've got great spices that make the chicken take great. Steel City Salt makes a killer Peruvian Spice blend that makes chicken amazing. Primal Palate, with their super clean spices, has an Adobo blend that is fantastic. Hot or cold, a tasty chicken with all those veggies makes a great meal.
Hope this helps the next time you make dinner for someone! Go ahead and just make one for no reason and really brighten the day of a friend.
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