We often get asked what is a good meal to take to a friend in need - whether that be a new baby or recovering from surgery or illness, the gift of a home-cooked meal is always well-received. It's one less thing for someone to worry about when dinnertime comes around and they need to feed themselves and/or their family.
A few tips I've learned along the way:
1. Ask about dietary restrictions up front. This just takes the guesswork out of everything and assures that you will be preparing something they can actually eat.
2. Coordinate a drop off time for earlier in the day. Schedules change, kids get hungry earlier/later than usual, etc. If your meal is already in their fridge, they can heat it up at a time that works for them and not be waiting around for you to still drop it off.
3. Disposable everything. Now is not the time to be precious about sustainability. Save them the effort of dishes and also yourself for trying to track down your casserole pan. Easy is the name of the game.
4. Bring a treat! Coming from experience, it was always nice when there was a little something extra with the meal. Whether that be a few cookies or a brownie. It can even be store-bought, no need to make a big fuss. An unexpected treat is always a nice surprise.
Mediterranean Chicken Kabobs
4 chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch cubes
2 red bell peppers, chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 green bell peppers, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 red onion, chopped into 1 inch chunks
For the marinade:1
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 large lemon, divided
6 clove of garlic, divided
2 tsp paprika, divided
2 tsp thyme, divided
4 tsp oregano, divided
2 tsp salt, divided
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
In a small bowl, mix the marinade ingredients together till well combined. Divide between two large gallon-size Ziplock bags. Add the chicken to one bag and the veggies to the other. Place in the fridge and let marinade for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
If you are using wood skewers, soak in water while the chicken & veggies are marinating to prevent scorching on the grill.
Thread the chicken, peppers, and onions on the skewers, alternating as you go. Depending on the size of your skewers, you should be able to fit about 5-6 chicken pieces and a combo of peppers and onions in between. Heat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat the grill grates with avocado or coconut oil spray. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side or until the chicken is cooked through to at least 170 degrees and no longer pink in the center.
Optionally, you can bake in the oven if you prefer. Either broil on high for a similar amount of time as you would cook on the grill, or bake. To bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken skewers on roasting racks placed over two foil-lined baking sheets and bake for about 25-30 minutes, turning halfway through, or until the chicken is fully cooked to an internal temperature of at least 170 degrees.
Cook's NoteTIME-SAVING TIP: Option to skip the kabob skewers and bake everything in a 13x9 baking dish. I bring these along with some store-bought naan and hummus.
Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas
8 medium whole-grain tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese, divided
1 cup packed baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
2 Tablespoons grass-fed butter or ghee
2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
3 (4 ounces) cans diced green chilis
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
Fresh cilantro for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a 9x13 baking dish with coconut or avocado oil spray and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups cheese, spinach, beans, and chicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide chicken mixture evenly among tortillas and roll up. Place the seam side down into the prepared casserole dish.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour for about 1 minute, then slowly add broth while continuing to whisk. Bring to a simmer and allow to thicken for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in green chilis and Greek yogurt. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour sauce over enchiladas and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is somewhat bubbly. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro before serving.
Crock-Pot Veggie Baked Ziti
1 (15 ounces) container 2% cottage cheese2 eggs⅓ cup fresh basil, chopped (plus extra for garnish)
2 (25-ounce) jars of clean marinara sauce (best ingredients, lowest sugar, no additives/preservatives)
1 pound uncooked whole grain penne pasta (whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, etc.)
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
2 cups fresh grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
½ cup grated Asiago cheese
Red pepper flakes (optional), for garnish
Coat the inside of the crockpot with avocado or coconut oil spray. Combine the cottage cheese, eggs, and basil in a bowl and stir well.
Add 2 cups of the marinara sauce to the bottom of the crockpot. Add 1/3 of the penne, then layer on half of the cottage cheese mixture, spreading over top. Add the diced zucchini and sprinkle with half of the Parmesan cheese. Repeat the layers (except use squash this time). Add the last of the penne and top it with the remaining sauce
Cover and cook on high for 3½ to 4 hours, or until the pasta is cooked through. During the last few minutes of cooking, sprinkle the asiago over top and let melt. Divide into bowls and sprinkle with fresh chopped basil and red pepper flakes.
Cold Kicker Chicken Noodle Soup
2 cups seasoned shredded chicken breast *Vegetarian option: 2 (15 ounces) cans cannellini or pinto beans
2 Tablespoons avocado oil
3 carrots (bonus points for rainbow colors), peeled & sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
½ zucchini + ½ yellow squash, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 bay leaf10 cups chicken bone broth *Vegetarian option: low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups whole grain or legume (chickpea, red lentil, etc.) fusilli or penne pasta
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
In a large stockpot, sauté the zucchini, yellow squash, and mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onion) veggies in the oil for about 10 minutes, until softened. Season with salt and pepper, then add the red pepper flakes, garlic, rosemary, oregano, and bay leaf. Sauté another minute, until fragrant. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, reduce to simmer, and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until pasta is al-dente. Add the shredded chicken, parsley, and lemon juice. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.
Spicy Chicken Chili
(don't let the title fool you - feel free to control the spice, by limiting the chili powder!)
1 Tablespoon avocado oil
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 jalapeños, thinly sliced (optional)
1 ½ pounds ground chicken breast (Vegetarian: Omit chicken)
¼ cup chili powder (or less, if making it less spicy)
1 (6-ounce) can tomatoes, crushed
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon hot sauce
1 Tablespoon salt
2 (15-ounce) cans of organic dark red kidney beans or black beans, rinsed and drained (feel free to use cooked, dry, soaked beans instead)
Optional toppings: Toasted pepitas, cashews, a few slices of avocado, green onion, nutritional yeast, or sprinkle of cheese
Add all ingredients to the Crock-Pot, cover, and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours or HIGH for 4-5 hours. Halfway through cooking time, use a large spoon to break up the ground meat, then stir everything until well-mixed. Return and continue cooking. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving and add any preferred toppings.
This last recipe is a bit of a bonus. When bringing a meal to a new mom, I always like to include a sweet treat. Something she can easily grab and eat one-handed. These include oat flour (oats are great for breastmilk supply) and they are gluten and dairy-free, if mom happens to be limiting either of those for baby.
Cacao Zucchini Muffin Tops
Servings: makes 6-8 muffin tops
½ cup almond flour
½ cup oat flour
¼ cup cacao powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ large zucchini, shredded and squeezed dry with a clean kitchen towel (about 1 cup)
½ cup almond butter
1 egg, beaten (option to use flax or chia egg)
1 scoop collagen peptides (optional)
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the flours, cacao powder and baking soda in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine zucchini, almond butter, egg and maple syrup and mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon batter onto large cookie sheet (like big cookies). Bake for 25 minutes or until done.