Have you ever been through something like illness, the death of someone you love, or maybe something a little more exciting but still stressful like the arrival of a new baby or a move? I and/or my family have experienced all of the above throughout our lives, and one of the things I have appreciated most during these times is when our friends have organized meals for us. It is so nice to have one less thing to worry about!
I have both given and received meals over the years, and from these experiences, I have come up with a few tips (some of these are my own ideas, and others I have picked up from friends:
- Think about how your meal will taste if it sits for awhile or has to be reheated. In most cases, your friend will not be eating it the moment you walk into their home. So although a steak sounds like a great treat, it might not taste so good after sitting for an hour or especially if it has to go in the microwave later.
- Ask your friends about food allergies, dietary restrictions, and personal preference. They might be vegetarian or have a peanut allergy (as a mother of a child with a peanut allergy, this is very important to me), or they may not like mushrooms. You don't need to waste your time and theirs bringing them something they cannot or would rather not eat.
- Not a cook? Don't let this stop you from helping a friend. Ask them what their favorite take out restaurant is and what they usually order there. Or pick up a prepared dinner from a nice grocery store like Whole Foods. They will appreciate this more than you think!
- If you are the one organizing the meals for a friend in need, try out a website like Take Them a Meal. This website (and others like it) are great for this. You can set up a schedule, include the preferences of the friend receiving the meals, their address and phone number, so that they can be contacted about times, etc. Then you can email it out to everyone (this is great for churches, playgroups, and co-workers), and each person can sign up for a meal on the day that works best for them. They type in the meal they plan on bringing, and that way your friend will not receive 10 lasagnas in a row (I love lasagna, but it can get old).
- Bring all food in disposable containers or other containers your friend can keep. It's a pain to have to clean everyone's casserole dishes, remember which one belongs to which person, then bring it back to them.
- If they have children, consider including a few goodies for them, plus some food you know they will enjoy like fruit.
- Make double of everything, then you will have dinner ready for your family too.
- Give your friend some fresh flowers or a little gift like a candle along with the meal.
- Some of my favorite meals to bring friends are tacos, fajitas, enchiladas (you can do everything ahead of time except the baking so that they can just put it in the oven when it's most convenient for them), chili or soups, pulled pork, and brisket.
A friend of mine recently gave birth to a sweet baby boy, so having received meals myself, I was happy to make one for she and her family. I decided to do tacos this time. They are so easy, and one of my favorite meals. It's comfort food to me (I grew up in Texas, so Mexican food is comfort food there). I was always so happy when my mom made tacos, it made my night! It's one of the things she taught me to cook too, and I loved to help her with it, so it's one of the first meals I felt comfortable making on my own. Tacos are great for bringing to someone, because it tastes just as good reheated as it does fresh. I just buy a packet of taco seasoning at the store and follow the directions on it. My favorite is Lawry's brand, it's what my mom always used. It's usually around $1 per packet, but is often on sale for much less, so I try to stock up on it then and keep it on hand. You can use ground beef or ground turkey. Both are great, the turkey has less fat, but is usually more expensive. Or for vegetarians you could do a mixture of black beans and chopped or shredded veggies. Last night I used beef.
I made my homemade salsa to include with the meal. I have shared the recipe before, but I will do it again. If you have not tried making your own salsa before, you need to do it. It is so easy, less expensive, and delicious! Plus you can adjust the recipe to suit your own tastes. Here is the recipe for my salsa:
- 1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
- 2 jalapenos, seeds and stems removed
- 1 serrano pepper, seeds and stems removed
- 3-5 roasted green chiles, seeds and stems removed (if you don't have fresh ones, you can find canned green chiles in most stores)
- 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
- 1-2 garlic cloves, pressed
- Dash of salt (remember, the chips are usually salted, so taste with a chip to see how much you'll need)
- Dash of cumin