10 great dinners for new parents

5 October 2017

For the last three or so months, we’ve brought a meal to a family with a new baby every other week. And you know what? I feel incredibly lucky to say that! That means that we have people around us we care about. It also means we have a tangible way to live out our calling to love others as we’ve been loved.

In case others of you are in the same situation, I thought I’d share a few of the go-to meals we like to bring to families in transition (new parents, yes, but also friends who are ill, grieving, or struggling in some other way!). Or, if you’re just looking for new recipes to try for yourself, that’s great, too :) I always like to put together a complete meal, so I’ve included my tips for accompaniments below, too.

If you’re looking to go above and beyond, I have two recommendations: one, take care with your packaging. Put freshly-washed blueberries in a mason jar, wrap up your brownie slices in parchment paper, tie a bow around a bottle of lemonade. A friend did this for us when June was born and I thought she’d hung the moon. Second, consider including something in addition to the main meal, like a pan of cinnamon rolls or a bag of bagels for breakfast, or cut-up veggies and dip or cheese and crackers for a quick snack. Totally not required, but a fun way to love a little extra!

Finally, don’t be feeling bad if you wish you had more people to bring a meal to. This is still a new phenomenon for me. And to be fair, because I know how much it meant to have meals brought to us as new parents, I basically chase people down on the street to ask if I can make them food, so it’s not like we have a million best friends :)

tomato penne pasta

Photo by Jenny Steffens Hobick

Lasagna | This is my absolute FAVORITE lasagna recipe (it is soooo good!), and I love making it for friends in the winter. If you’re looking for something similar and also yummy but a bit easier, try this one pot lasagna recipe. Pack with a green salad, vinaigrette, and garlic bread or a baguette.

Lemon Parmesan Penne with Grilled Chicken | This is one of my personal favorite recipes, so I love to make it for friends! It’s a lighter pasta dish that’s perfect for the warmer months, and it comes together easily (if I’m delivering it on a week day, I’ll often ask John to grill the chicken the night before). Pack with sparkling lemonade and brownies.

One Pan Orzo Italiano | We got this in the HelloFresh box we tried, and loved it so much we promptly made it for friends AND for ourselves the next week! One note: I found that a full box of orzo (not the 1 1/3 cups it calls for) was the right amount to absorb the four cups of liquid. Pack with sparkling lemonade and chocolate chip cookies.

Hot Chicken Salad | While I appreciated the friends who brought us healthier food after June was born, what I really craved was comfort food (maybe because she was born in the winter!). Our dear friends brought us this Paula Deen recipe, and it was soooo bad but soooo good :) Pack with crusty ciabatta rolls, green salad, and blueberries.

Black Bean Soup with Cumin and Jalapeno | This is an easy, economical recipe that’s great for vegetarians! It’s also easy to double, which makes putting dinner for my family and another family on the table on the same night more manageable. Pack with a baguette, a green or kale salad, and chocolate chip cookies.

Award-Winning Chili | For a cozy fall or winter meal, you can’t beat chili, and this is a good one. Pack with apple cider, guacamole, and Honeycrisp apples.

Easy Chicken Pot Pie | Alongside meatloaf, chicken pot pie is one of my absolute favorite comfort foods. This recipe takes a lot of shortcuts to make the prep easier, but it’s still yummy and satisfying. Pack with sparkling lemonade, fruit salad, and brownies.

Taco Soup | Cheap, easy to make, and delicious — that’s a winner for a sharable meal! This recipe is a top performer for my family, for guests, and for new parents alike. Pack with a green salad, cornbread, and cut-up strawberries.

Lightened Up Chicken Enchiladas | A friend brought this to us when June was born, and in addition to being yummy on the first night, it was great for leftovers! Pack with sparkling lemonade, tortilla chips, and Rice Krispees treats.

Any go-to sharable recipes you’d like to tell the group about? Or favorite meals to make when friends come over to your house for dinner? (I find so many good recipes that way!)

24 Responses to “10 great dinners for new parents”

  1. RachelC

    This is one of my favorite posts yet! I’m in this season of life as well and LOVE bringing meals to our friends with new babies since it was such a gift to us when our two little ones were born. My other favorite is to bring dinner the week my friends go back to work after maternity leave. That is such a hectic time when cooking shouldn’t take away from those precious after work hours of snuggling with your baby. These are great suggestions and I’m excited to have some new ideas for our rotation!

    I always add a loaf of banana bread for snacking or an easy breakfast and a small toy/coloring book/sticker sheet for a big brother/sister.

    Em

    Such a good idea to wait until the week they go back to work, Rachel! And yes to the toys, too — now that my many of my friends are having second babies, I’ll have to add this to my repertoire!

  2. Kelly

    Thanks for sharing Em! I took a friend a meal this week myself. Sharing the recipe below, as I find its healthy, heats well, and makes yummy leftovers! Trying all of these recipes. And I love Jenny too, her blog is such an inspiration!

    http://ifoodreal.com/ground-turkey-quinoa-casserole/

    Em

    That looks so yummy, Kelly! Adding it to my “to try” list! :)

    Em

    Just have to say that I made this last night and it was sooooo good! And made lots of leftovers!

  3. emma

    love this round up! I’m sure you do this, but one thing to consider is dietary restrictions, especially new ones due to baby/breastfeeding. I had some troubles and at one time was gluten, dairy, and nut free (eating suddenly took a lot of prep work!). Many of these recipes could easily be adapted, just a thought to find out if anything has changed since baby has arrived :)

    Another idea is to pick up someones groceries, especially in areas where they have the drive up services as stores. Getting to the grocery store (which for us is 20 min away) was suddenly such a chore! And love the idea to help mamas once they are back at work, that for sure is a big transition!

    Em

    Yes! Great point, Emma! I like that Meal Train has a spot to note dietary preferences and restrictions!

  4. Kasia

    Love this! I second the grocery idea! When my son was nine weeks old, he was in the ICU for an infection & meals were a life-saver! A few friends would tuck in a Starbucks or grocery store gift card, which was so thoughtful — and a huge blessing in a season of a lot of medical bills :) Enchiladas with some groceries on the side are my go-to!

    Em

    Enchiladas are a sure winner! And of course, gift cards never hurt :)

  5. This is such a helpful post! I am now looking for people to help too, because it meant SO much to us not to have to cook during the first two months with Victoria. I agree though that you totally shouldn’t have to get married or have a baby to be loved on. It’s so important to look for people who could use some hospitality for a variety of other reasons!

  6. mary wilmot

    Thanks for this reminder! I really need to bring our neighbors a meal. The last time I did this, I literally doubled what our family was going to be eating for dinner that night so it was super easy. Roasted chicken thighs, roasted sweet potatoes/broccoli, and bagged a bunch of fresh berries. I like to pack paper plates, napkins, and utensils too. :)

    Em

    Yes! That’s usually my game plan – just double whatever we’re already making!

  7. I’ve started making quiche for friends with new babies because it’s easy, travels well, reheats beautifully, and is appropriate for any meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner). I feel like people always offer to bring dinner, but what about the other meals?! It can also feed a crowd if the new parents have family in town. As for my current go-to recipe, I can’t stop making these veggie meatballs. I’ve made them 3 times in the last week-and-a-half! http://goop.com/recipes/jessicas-eggplant-and-cauliflower-meatballs/

    Em

    Ahh, so smart, Molly! Adding those meatballs to my “to try” list, too!

  8. Ellie

    I love this post! Having meals made for you when you have a baby is such an amazing treat. It’s much harder to bring the meals but you’ve inspired me to look for occasions to do so. Thank you for the recipes and inspiration. I agree that the little touches like lemonade and cookies that make it extra sweet.

  9. Maggie

    I am always looking for a good list of meals to bring for families, so thank you! I’ve got some staples that I bring for each season that are adaptable for dietary restrictions. In the summer, I often make smitten kitchen’s chicken Milanese and a big salad and this fall I’ve been bringing over shepherd’s pie to new families. I’ll have to add some of these to my list!

    Em

    Shepherd’s pie is one of my favorites! Always reminds me of big family meals at my family’s cottage in Maine :)

  10. Megan

    Mexican lasagna is my go-to recipe!! (Rachel Ray, but we sub turkey) with all the fixins (rice in a bag, cilantro, green onion, like, avacado) and a dessert. It’s so good, but I love getting some fresh ideas because we’ve been making it a little too often lol!
    And my favorite thing from when we had LS, was individually wrapped burritos in tin foil that we could freeze. They came in super handy for lunches over the following weeks.

    Em

    Yes!! My Mom always keeps individually wrapped burritos in her freezer for easy lunches, and John was famous for eating one whenever he came over to our house when we were first dating, in high school! :)

  11. Jenifer

    Hot Question; (haha) What do you like to pack soup and chill in to transport and deliver? Always the hardest part for me. I like to not leave dishes that have to be kept track of and returned.

    Em

    Good question! It depends. If it’s someone in my neighborhood where I know it wouldn’t be a burden to return a dish, sometimes I’ll bring it in a pot, but usually I put it in a disposable plastic container. Or, sometimes I’ll make it ahead of time and then freeze it in a gallon ziploc bag!

  12. I love this! Such great ideas. What is the etiquette when bringing a meal over for new parents? Do you leave it on the door step (as to not require them to see you) or bring it inside and leave right away, or offer to hold the baby while they eat or does it just depend on how close you are to the person?

    All the best,
    Rachel

    WithLoveAndStyle.com

    Em

    Great question, Rachel! This was a big question I had when we were on the receiving end of a Meal Train — I had brought far fewer meals to others at that point, and was a little leery of having to regularly “entertain” people, even if briefly, during this uncertain time in our lives.

    For me now, it depends on the relationship with the recipient. For our closest friends, we’ll usually stay to eat with them (and hold their baby!). For most people, we’ll stay and chat for a few minutes or up to a half an hour or so but not eat with them, and sometimes we do a very quick drop-off. I think any of those options can be loving! :)