Monday, August 29, 2011

Delivering Moral Support Meals: Real Food for Really Intense Times

Folks in our lives need help. It just happens as a matter of course. Your friend just had a baby. Your family member just had major surgery and is recovering on the couch at home. An acquaintance you know through a group you've joined is going through a tough time.

Bring them a meal.

It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't even (gasp) have to be "perfect paleo".

Just bring them a meal! Make it mostly nourishing, make it today, bring it to them. Take one more thing off of their to-do list and make them dinner.

Here are some practical ideas for making them dinner:

  • Ask in advance about allergies/dietary restrictions and the size of the crowd you're feeding. These are practical ways that you can make sure that the meal you prepare is appropriate to those consuming it.

  • Bake and/or serve the items in disposable dishware. I get foil serving trays at Sam's Club for this purpose, and at about $0.30/each they really fill the gap. After baking something, all I have to do is pop a sheet of aluminum foil on top and it's ready to go. But though it's convenient for me - it's even more convenient for the recipient, who doesn't have to worry about washing or returning dishes to you.

    Avoid using plastic as a disposable option, unless you're using it to contain cold foods like hard boiled eggs, clementines, etc. that don't have an acidic sauce. (Acids in sauces and dressings can cause plastic to leach, especially if they're left in a plastic container for several hours.)

  • Add any necessary instructions. Even a strip of masking tape on top of your pan of lasagna with: "30 minutes covered at 350F" can help later on when the family is figuring out how to reboot dinner.

  • Serve it as fresh as possible. If your meal recipient is in your neck of the woods, making and serving foods the same day works for the best-possible taste. Most meals that were made a couple of days or more before might not be at their best.

  • The slow cooker is your friend. I love slow-cooking meals I bring because it's the same amount of work to create a meal for my family and for the recipient family - I just double the quantities in my massive crock pot and divide once it's done cooking! You can also cook a large cut of meat with some veggies in the oven at low heat over the course of a day - this option being best left for cooler weather temps, of course. The doubling convenience works here as well - just double your ingredients and you've covered dinner for your family and theirs!

  • Don't be afraid to stretch a nutritious meal budget-wise. Purists may disagree with me, but I don't think that there's anything wrong with bringing a family (especially one that you know isn't paleo / primal anyway) a side of white rice with their meat-and-veggie chili, or some organic corn tortillas along with their soft taco fixings. Also, when I deliver meals to others, conventionally sourced items often work just fine.

    There are three reasons why using budget-friendly meal stretchers can work for you if you're faced with a host of potential meal recipients:

    ~First, now is not the time that anyone would or should be convincing a worn-out family of the merits of going paleo.

    ~Secondly - most families receiving our meals already eat grains and conventionally sourced items on a regular basis; upping the sourcing standard for one meal isn't going to make any kind of practical impact.

    ~Thirdly - and this for me is the biggest factor - for the price of a single meal produced entirely out of organic pastured animal products and organic fruits and veggies - I could deliver three or four - or more! - meals that rely more on conventionally sourced products and maybe a bit of non-gluten grains added in. Ask me what I'd rather do in a given month with our extra resources: a) deliver to one large family a singularly perfectly-sourced meal, or b) deliver multiple homecooked often-conventionally-sourced non-industrial-oil-containing gluten-free meals to several families? In our current budget, we are fortunate and blessed to be able to chose option b) many months out of the year.

  • Make them breakfast if they have their other meals being covered. Sometimes, breakfast isn't the most important meal of the day, it's the hardest to get off the ground, especially for a family with other concerns dominating. Bring a crustless quiche or two, maybe a bag of apples, a box of Larabars, or some fresh strawberries, or even a Chebe (taipioca-based gluten-free) batch of cinnamon rolls. A to-go box of coffee accessorized by a half-pint of half'n'half or (for the dairy-free) coconut milk creamer would have your recipients perking up in no time.

  • Cover them with a freezer meal for "who knows when". You could make any of the following, and deliver it ready to be popped in their freezer (don't forget to label and add instructions!):

    Eggplant lasagna. I cook up the slices in single-serve squares (about 3"x3"), and stack them 3 or 4 high layered with cheese and sauce (you could make it a meat sauce). This way, if the recipient needs only one serving, they can "break off" one serving of eggplant lasagna and warm it in the microwave without having to defrost/oven warm the whole thing.

    Twice-baked potatoes. This make-and-freeze recipe from Joyful Abode lends itself well to a kitchen with a vacuum sealer.

    Shepherd's pie, with either cauliflower faux mashed potatoes, mashed white potatoes, or mashed sweet potatoes. Mashed white potatoes are the most budget-friendly (even organic white potatoes are still fairly inexpensive) and the traditionally used item here.

  • Here, Primal Palate's Dark Chocolate Coconut Cake,
    as made for my husband's birthday a while back.
  • Add a sweet touch. It could be as simple as a bar of Green & Black's 85% dark chocolate to round out their meal, a drool-worthy fruit salad, or a batch of home-churned sorbet. Adding something dessert-y isn't always necessary, but I think that as the capstone to a warm, lovingly-prepared meal, a sweet finishing touch can help a frazzled family to feel a little more human again. Seek paleo and primal blogs with naturally, minimally sweetened recipes - by trying to keep refined sugars minimized or (better yet) out of the equation entirely, you'll ensure that you're not setting up your recipients for a sugar-crash.

  • Offer other ways to help. As you deliver the meal, be sure to ask if there are other ways the family is needing help. Maybe an able-bodied adult could stop by one weekend afternoon and mow the lawn - or perhaps for their kids to come hang out at your place for a while one afternoon so that the grownups can rest. The meal delivery is multipurpose - you get to bring them needed food, but you also get to touch base and offer them some human contact.

  • Make your delivery efficient. Though it's tempting to hang out and catch up for a spell, delivering your meal, offering to help in other ways, and letting them know with a hug that they are in your thoughts and/or prayers is probably the best way to go. A hungry family already worn thin by life's demands will be grateful for your quick visit, but even more grateful to then dig in to the meal you've prepared!

What tips and tricks do you have for delivering "Moral Support Meals"? Do you have any freezer-meal-friendly recipe links to share? Do tell! :o)


1 comment:

  1. I've just got into paleo after reading Robb Wolf's book. You have some great recipes here. It's all making me very hungry.


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