I’m in the season of life where everyone is having babies. The season where happy hours often include holding a friend’s baby in one hand and a cocktail in the other. The season where multiple friends at a time are down for the count with morning sickness.
While it feels a tiny bit bittersweet for the spontaneity of childless years to be leaving my friend circle, it mostly feels exciting. I love babies, and I love seeing the strong, awesome women I hold so dearly with their little ones.
Today, I want to share with you my favorite way to support the new mamas in my life: bring them a meal! This idea isn’t innovative or difficult or expensive, but it’s something I wish we all did more of. When a friend is in need, whether that’s because they’re struggling or celebrating, feed them!
Honestly, you don’t even have to enjoy cooking for this to work. Bringing your friend’s favorite takeout is probably just as welcome as a homemade meal. When you bring them food, any food at all, that means they don’t have to worry about the chore of making dinner, even if it’s just for the night.
I’ll be sharing a series of these recipes that work well for the dinner drop-off in the coming months. These meals have to fit several criteria: 1. Cozy and simple, 2. Store and reheat well, 3. Walk the line between healthy and indulgent.
My best tips and tricks for meal delivery success:
- All-disposable everything. When you’re bringing a friend a meal, it’s likely because the rest of their life feels overwhelming. Don’t give them the additional task of remembering to return your casserole dish. I am usually a stickler for glass storage and reusable containers, but this is an exception. I have a few Rubbermaids that I am not attached to, and I just tell the recipient to pass that container along as needed. If a gallon ziplock will do the job, use one.
- Check in about food preferences. If you’re not sure if your friend has any allergies or aversions, just ask. Especially if you’re making food for a newly pregnant and possibly nauseated friend or a nursing mom. I usually send a text or email like this: “I want to bring you dinner Wednesday evening. Are there any specific foods you’re avoiding?”
- Give a heads-up. Since the idea of this good deed is to take the weight off your friend’s shoulders, let her know a day or two ahead of time what you’re thinking. That way she doesn’t spend any time stressing about what’s for dinner that night — she knows she has a delivery from you on the way.
The meal I’m sharing today, a simple lentil daal with sweet potatoes and green peas, is a favorite at my house. It’s spiced and flavorful, but not spicy; it’s hearty, but not heavy. It freezes well in case your friend can’t use the meal right away. I brought it to a friend and her husband earlier this week with brown rice, garlic naan, and chewy blondies with chocolate, coconut, and pecans.
Sweet potato, coconut, and red lentil daal
Serves 2 hungry adults for 2 meals
I know that this dish isn’t authentic. But it’s wholesome, hearty, and has all the coziness of chicken noodle soup.
Medium yellow onion, diced
Coconut or olive oil
Four cloves of garlic, minced
Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
Tbsp yellow curry powder
½ tbsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt (more to taste)
3 medium sweet potatoes, chopped into small cubes
1 c red lentils
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 cup water (more to add if daal gets dry)
1 c frozen green peas
- Heat a large pan over medium-high heat (I use my cast iron skillet). Once hot, add a couple tablespoons of your chosen oil. I use a combination of coconut and olive. When the oil is melted/hot, add the onions. Sautee until golden brown, up to ten minutes.
- Add garlic and ginger. Sautee for 30 seconds, or until very fragrant. Lower heat to medium.
- Add spices, and — stirring constantly — toast for one minute. I add more coconut oil at this step if the pan looks dry.
- Add sweet potatoes, lentils, coconut milk, salt, and water. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally, ensuring that the lentils don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If the lentils or sweet potatoes need more liquid to cook, add about a cup of water halfway into the cooking time.
- Once the potatoes are fork-tender, stir in the green peas. Allow to simmer for five more minutes to warm the peas through.
- Serve with brown rice, naan, or both if you need extra comfort. Sriracha and cilantro are welcome compliments.
Heavily adapted from this recipe.
Note on rice: for the best reheating experience, spread still-hot, freshly cooked rice in a flat layer (like on a big baking sheet) until completely cool. Then store and refrigerate. The rice will reheat in individual grains, not as a big clump.