Chances are, you know someone who needs a meal. Someone who needs a minute to not shop, cook, and clean up their kitchen. Someone who needs the opportunity to rest, to sit down at their table (or on their couch) and enjoy the gift of being thought of, cared for, loved.
Who could that person be? There are people who come to mind easily- a family that has just experienced the death of a loved one, a couple with a newborn, someone recovering from illness or injury. If none of these apply to folks around you, get a little creative- maybe you can think of someone who works long hours most days of the week, a friend going through a particularly tough stretch of life, a neighbor who has a child with disabilities, a friend having a stressful pregnancy, or someone who lives far away from their family.
Maybe you feel like you don’t have the time and energy, or you are on a tight budget. That’s fair. And also- that is kind of the point of sacrifice. People going through difficulties in life doesn’t happen on our schedule. The gift is that we have the opportunity to respond in love. To say, “I see you and I care about what you are going through. Let me try to help in a small way.”
Here are a few quick, budget-friendly, and yummy recipes that someone is going to be very happy to enjoy (double the recipe, and that someone can be you too!):
Vegetarian (that I’ve seen satisfy the carnivore known as my father) option: Kale, Chickpea, Marinara Bake with Polenta and Mozzarella
1 can of garbanzo beans, drained
1 jar of good marinara
1 bunch of kale
1 ball of mozzarella
1 tube of polenta
- Preheat the oven to 400℉.
- Take the kale leaves off of the stems. Finely chop up the kale.
- In a large, ovenproof skillet, pan or wok, begin to heat the marinara on medium. Add the garbanzo beans and kale. Cook until the kale has wilted into the marinara. When the kale has wilted, you can turn off the flame.
- Slice the polenta into ¼-½ inch thick slices. Chop up the mozzarella ball into ½ inch sided squares.
- Evenly top the marinara mixture with polenta slices.
- Spread the chopped mozzarella over the top of the polenta.
- Put the pan into the preheated oven and bake until the cheese is bubbly and melted. (You could also prepare the dish up until the point of being baked and give your recipient the directions of baking uncovered in a 400℉ oven for 20-25 minutes).
- Serve with warm, crusty bread. If you are feeling really fabulous, you could gift this dinner with a bottle of pinot grigio or pinot noir.
Fish lovers (or fish likers, cause this is delicious) option: Baked White Fish over Green Beans and Tomatoes
This is a recipe from a cookbook that I love, Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. The authors of this cookbook (their first cookbook is entitled Run Fast. Eat Slow.) are two kick ass women with a great philosophy on food- food that is good for you can also taste incredible and be easy to prepare. No weird ingredients, just great food that honors our bodies and helps us enjoy life.
3 cups chopped bite-size green beans
1 pint cherry tomatoes
¼ cup chopped capers or olives (both are delicious, I think I prefer capers)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided (knowing me, I probably used a bit more)
1 pound flaky, white fish (see what looks fresh- tilapia, rockfish (watch out for bones), sole, Pacific cod, snapper)
Ground black pepper
½ lemon, sliced (knowing me, I probably used more)
Crusty bread for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400℉.
- In a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish, combine the green beans, tomatoes, olives or capers, 2 tablespoons of the oil, garlic, thyme, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Spread out to fill the bottom.
- Lay the fish on top of the veggies, sprinkling with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and place the lemon slices on top.
- Bake for 25- 30 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork and the green beans are tender but crisp. (Or, prepare up until the point of baking, wrap the dish in foil, and write directions to bake uncovered at 400℉ for 25- 30 minutes on top of the foil).
- I would love a glass of pinot grigio with this dish, but I am sure nearly any type of white wine would be lovely.
Comfort in your belly, family-friendly option: Pasta Bake with Meatballs and Spinach
I found this recipe in a magazine, and I am going to be honest, making homemade meatballs was too ambitious for me. I wanted to make three pans of this dish- one for my family and two for other families- and homemade meatballs was not going to happen. So, be gentle with yourself and buy some good quality frozen meatballs. Trader Joe’s Italian style is a personal favorite of mine.
Short pasta like mezzi rigatoni or penne
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 jar good quality marinara sauce
1 bag good quality frozen meatballs
1 ½ cups coarsely grated mozzarella
½ cup ricotta
- Preheat the oven to 400℉.
- Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Make sure to salt that water like the sea. I would go al dente since this dish will cook a bit more in the oven. In the last 5 minutes of cooking the pasta, add in the frozen meatballs (about 20).
- Drain the pasta and meatballs and return to the pasta pot. Gently stir in the marinara, 1 cup grated mozzarella, ¼ cup ricotta, and chopped spinach. Pour into large casserole dish (I used a 9 x 13-inch).
- Top with the remaining ½ cup mozzarella, and dollop with the remaining ¼ cup of ricotta.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until a little golden and you can hear that bubbly love going on. (You can prepare up to the point of baking, wrap in foil, and write instructions to bake uncovered at 400℉ for 15-20 minutes on top of the foil).
- If this is going to a family, I’d recommend delivering it with a bagged salad and nice loaf of bread.