12 Easy Meals to Take to a New Mom That Aren't Lasagna

Being a new mom is like training for a triathlon, but instead of swim! bike! run!, it's try not to kill this tiny human person that you just met! take care of everyone else in your family! never sleep again!

It's the bestworst thing ever. The high point? Other than that whole new life that makes your insides pudding? You get to watch a lot of TV. Babies need constant attention but aren't great at conversation, so hallelujah for Netflix. 

If the new mom you know doesn't have Netflix? Skip the meal and get her a subscription for a couple of months. TRUST ME. Best. Gift. Ever.

Aside from Netflix, feeding a new mom and her family is the greatest gift you can give. But let's avoid lasagna for awhile, shall we? Yes, it's easy, portable, and a crowd pleaser, but not when the family gets lasagna six nights in a row. Which ohmyword totally happens. 

Here are some fresh ideas that everyone will love.

1. Baked Chicken with Tomato Rice

WHY IT'S GREAT

You basically brown chicken in a pan, dump a few more ingredients in, and then bake it. Simple to make and surprisingly delicious for such a humble ingredient list. Plus it's fine if it sits out while a crying baby is looked after. It also reheats like a dream. 

HOW TO MAKE IT

If you have a large Dutch oven, it's the only dish you'll need. If not, you'll need a large skillet and a casserole-type dish. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375. 
  2. Heat a Dutch oven or skillet over medium-high heat on the stove. Generously season 3-4 pounds of bone-in chicken pieces (all legs, all thighs, all breasts, a cut-up whole bird, or whatever you have) with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pan, and put the chicken in with the skin side down. Cook until golden brown on both sides, flipping once. The chicken won't be cooked through, so just concern yourself with getting color which you achieve with a hot pan and not moving the meat around.
  4. Remove the chicken to a plate, and add the following to the hot pan: 2 diced celery stalks, a small red bell pepper diced, half of a red onion diced (but only if the mom isn't nursing since onions make breastmilk wonky), 1 1/3 cups uncooked white rice, 2 cups of canned crushed tomatoes, 1 cup of water, 2 tsp of salt, and a few cracks of black pepper. If you want to add a pinch of dried oregano or basil, go for it. 
  5. Stir that up and place the browned chicken on top. Put the lid on the pan, pop it in the oven, and it's done in an hour. Check the chicken for doneness, but an hour should do the trick.

 

2. Baked Polenta with Tomato and Basil

WHY IT'S GREAT

It's soooo comforting to eat and practically mindless to make. It takes an hour or so, but most of that is completely hands-off. We eat this all the time at our house. I vouch for it big time.

HOW TO MAKE IT

Head over to Joy the Baker's lovely space to get the recipe

 

3. Beef, Spinach, and Feta Pie

WHY IT'S GREAT

Again, super comforting and hits familiar flavor notes, but it's unusually presented and super delicious. You can also easily double it and make one for your family at the same time.

HOW TO MAKE IT

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Fill a pie dish with a sheet of homemade or store-bought pie crust.
  3. Now layer the following in the pie plate:  2 cups of seasoned cooked ground beef; 6 cups of fresh spinach that's been seasoned, sautéed, and well drained; 1 1/2 cups of jarred or homemade spaghetti sauce, and 2/3 cup feta cheese. 
  4. Put the second pie crust on top, crimp the edges of the crust together, brush the top with egg wash (an egg beaten together with a splash of water), cut a few slits in the top to let air escape, and bake for one hour until golden brown. 

 

4. Chili

I don't need to give you a recipe for chili, right? I know you've got one that you love.

Everyone loves chili, it's good dude food, and it reheats well for lunch the next day. Just make sure you check with the family to see if the mom is nursing. Most chili recipes contain onions, sometimes beans, and often chile peppers. Some folks are more sensitive than others, so just ask first. 

Bring cornbread along to be a rockstar. 

 

5. Mexican Pork and Tomato Chile Verde

WHY IT'S GREAT

IT'S DELICIOUS for one. Two, it takes a few hours for the slow cooking to happen, but it's mostly hands-off. Plus your house will smell awesome and make your family love you.

HOW TO MAKE IT

It's essentially a slow-cooked pork dish that you can serve over rice, polenta, grits, or even a short egg pasta. You'll love it. Head over to Barefeet in the Kitchen to get the full recipe

 

6. Creamy Barley with Tomato and Greens

WHY IT'S GREAT

I've been making versions of this for a long time, and it's always so easy and comforting. This is also one of the more healthy dishes to share with a family even though it tastes rich and satisfying. 

HOW TO MAKE IT

You essentially cook vegetables to make a thick sauce and stir in cooked barley and yummy cheese. Feel free to adjust the kinds of vegetables and certainly the kinds of cheese. Real Simple tends to think we have bigger wallets than we do, so go for mozzarella and parmesan if Brie isn't in the budget. Totally no big thing. This recipe relies on seasoning, so make sure you taste it before you serve it. More than likely, it'll need more salt to sing. 

Head to Real Simple for the entire recipe

 

7. Creamy Caprese Quinoa Bake

WHY IT'S GREAT

It makes people who don't like quinoa eat quinoa. Cheesy, rich, hearty, and super delicious, you'll love this take on the flavors of lasagna without being as heavy. We dig this at our house.

HOW TO MAKE IT

Heat to Half Baked Harvest for the recipe

 

8. Korean Beef Lettuce Wraps

WHY IT'S GREAT

This is a family recipe from my sweet little Japanese mother-in-law, and it's THE BOMB DOT COM THERE'S NO OTHER WAY TO SAY IT I DON'T CARE IF I'M LAME. The meat is seriously the best meat ever, and wrapping it in lettuce is light but filling. Serve with rice, or send along a bowl of simple potato salad to unite the nations in one meal.

HOW TO MAKE IT

1. Make the marinade. 

  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. sake
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. fresh garlic
  • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

2. Slice 2 pounds of ribeye or flank steak as thinly as you can against the grain of the meat. Add the meat to the marinade, and let it hang out in the fridge for at least two hours and up to a day. Then cook the meat over high heat on either a grill or in a sauté pan. It'll take NO TIME because the meat is thin and doesn't need to be cooked all the way through anyway. Serve it with big lettuce leaves, and call it a day. So simple. SO. GOOD.

 

9. Shrimp Couscous with Arugula and Tomatoes

WHY IT'S GREAT

So fresh and yummy. It's one of those dishes that combines simple flavors to make something freaky good. I had something like this at a popular restaurant in town and immediately went home to recreate it. That was over ten years ago, and I'm still making it. You'll love it, and it'll make your new mom friend feel like a person.

HOW TO MAKE IT

Head over to this Google Doc to see the recipe. No sign-in required.

 

10. Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos

WHY IT'S GREAT

Satisfying, a little spicy, and they reheat so well. You can also wrap the burritos individually so they're easily put in the freezer. Then the family can take out as many as they need and heat them up in the oven since there's no real "cooking" needed. Most of that is done on the stovetop. 

HOW TO MAKE IT

You can get the recipe here, but feel free to play around. I use different flavors and cheeses than they call for depending on what I have around. Sweet potatoes and black beans are a classic combination, and you can flavor them in just about any direction with a good result.

 

11. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

WHY IT'S GREAT

Because sometimes you need to feel like a kid when you're a new parent.

HOW TO MAKE IT

I'm guessing you know this. Try your hand at homemade tomato soup (The Pioneer Woman has a tasty one), and get a little grilled cheese education over at Serious Eats.

Be sure to wrap the sandwiches in foil to transport them, but don't close them all the way. Let a little air get out so that they don't get soggy.

 

12. Chicken Tikka Masala

WHY IT'S GREAT

Man oh man. This is possibly the favorite meal in our house. It's basically Indian tomato sauce with chicken cooked in it and served over rice. But MANALIVE it's tasty. So comforting and unexpected. You'll love it.

HOW TO MAKE IT

I started with Aarti's recipe several years ago and have adjusted things to my taste over time. For example, feel free to use canned crushed tomatoes instead of fresh. Saves a ton of time. Also, you can cook the chicken right in the simmering sauce, not on the grill first. Sure, you lose a little flavor that way but not enough to warrant getting another pan dirty. Simply cook it in the sauce until it's done, and make sure the bubbles are a nice steady simmer the whole time. 

Get the recipe here

And for a baker's doze, try trashy tamales. Every new mom wants to eat a food with the word trashy in the name. 

 

Any go-to meals you love to bring new moms and their families?

10 Things The Mindy Project Can Teach Us About Food

1. Don't eat or drink something new or cool to impress a guy.

You'll just end up spitting whiskey all over Schmidt because whiskey is gross and you've never had it before. 

 

2. Don't profess anything when you're drunk.

After four vodka sodas, I realized I had something to say.
- Mindy Lahiri

Because if you wouldn't say it sober, you'll should never say it drunk.

 

3. Spend time making beautiful food.

Don't fill your life with too many quick-fixes and time-savers. Otherwise, you'll forget the joy of slow. On occasion, take the time to do something that takes awhile. It's good for the soul. 

Danny's annual gingerbread house is a good reminder of that. Also his red glasses are everything.

 

4. A coffee date as the first date is a horrible date.

So you went on a coffee date with a loser. ALL coffee dates are with losers.
- Peter Prentice

 

That's because coffee dates are the WORST.

Joe asks you to meet him for coffee at 4pm. What do you do if you get there first? Sit down? Wait outside? Order something? Then once Joe arrives, you have to awkwardly stand in line together to order overpriced lattes that you won't drink because coffee makes you poop and you already have the nervous first date poops, so WHY add to the problem. Plus you're sitting at a cafe table next to an old man and his sudoku puzzle, so the conversation feels like your grandpa is chaperoning. Then when is the date done? Okay, I guess I'll go hang out somewhere for 40 minutes before it's dinnertime this wasn't awkward timing at all let's do it again!

No. Let's NEVER DO THIS AGAIN.

 

5. Emotional eating is a human right.

Every great love story also has an end. And when your love story ends, all you can do is cry, listen to sad music, and drink wine that you bought from a gas station.
- Mindy Lahiri

Don't fight it. Sometimes McDonald's, gas station wine, or an entire cake is what the moment requires. Also Danny Castellano is what all moments require ever.

 

6. Fuel your body the right way.

Find yourself a beat fuel, y'all. Something that gets you going in your work. High protein, low sugar, and P.S. not frozen cookie dough balls. They're horrible for productivity, plus your fingers get all sticky and buttery, making it impossible to type or operate heavy machinery. 

 

7. Never leave food behind.

I just dropped a Mike & Ike; I need everybody's eyes ON THIS. 
- Morgan Tookers

The five-second rule is for the cold-hearted. You rescue lost food no matter how long it's been sitting there.
 

8. Don't give your single friend a copy of Microwave Cooking for One for her birthday.

It's insulting to assume single people can't cook or like to eat garbage. Be nice. She isn't a walking Lean Cuisine.

 

9. Be kind to those on a diet.

Your friend is trying gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, and/or food-free for awhile. Don't bring it up. Don't ask how it's going. Don't apologize if your breath smells like the meatball sub you had for lunch. Just. don't. SPEAK. Then when it's all over, bring her a cookie and let her eat it in peace.

 

10. Being confident and not being skinny at the same time shouldn't be exceptional behavior.

Enjoy food and treat your body kindly. End of story. Ignore everyone else. 

Welcome back, Mindy. Can't wait to see you and DANNY CASTELLANO tomorrow OHMYWORD I'VE BEEN WAITING SO LONG.

The Chocolate Chocolate Cake Shake

The binge watch. 

It's dangerous. Exciting. Perfect in the moment. Worth staying up until 2am because you pull the "just one more episode" bit five times. 

Until the morning. Then you regret everything about your life ever. 

My friend, that is exactly the story of The Milkshake. 

How many times have you had a milkshake and were happy about it two hours later? But how many times have you had a milkshake and it was basically the best thing you've ever tasted?

Here's my strategy. If you're going to binge-watch a show late into the night, you'd better make it good. Breaking Bad wins on all counts. Totally worth it. So if you're going to have a milkshake, it better be the best milkshake ever. 

Enter The Chocolate Chocolate Cake Shake. 

In honor of National Chocolate Milkshake Day (a real thing), we're going all out with a binge-watch-worthy milkshake.

Chocolate ice cream, chocolate milk, and chocolate cake.
I won't tell if you don't. 

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of awesome chocolate ice cream
1 cup of awesome chocolate milk
1/2 cup of chocolate cake scraps

HOW TO MAKE IT

Blend it.
Drink it.
Don't regret it for a second.

How to Make Salted Caramel That's Awesome Like Morgan Freeman

We all agree. You stick Morgan Freeman in a movie and it's automatically legit. He is legendary movie magic.

So is salted caramel. 

Put this stuff in/on anything - ice cream, coffee, hot chocolate, in/on brownies, in/between cookies, a banana and peanut butter sandwich, over apples or peaches or pears oh my, on top of a cooked fruit pie... just stop and don't stop at ALL.

Perhaps we will never see an actor again as versatile and game-changing as Morgan Freeman, and, my friends, the same can be said for salted caramel. 

Let's make some. 

 

Salted Caramel

Here are the basics. You cook sugar and water until it turns golden brown, and then you add cream, butter, and salt. Done. The important thing is to never walk away from your pan after the first minute or two. Sugar burns faster than Meryl Streep wins an Oscar, so vigilant attention, you guys.

Gather everything next to the stove before you start cooking.

HOW TO MAKE IT

  1. Put the water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Don't stir it. Let it bubble for 6-8 minutes until the sugar turns a dark golden amber color. If one side of the pan is cooking faster than the other, tilt the pan a bit to redistribute the sugars.
  2. Turn off the heat, and add the cream. It will bubble a lot. Don't freak out. Stir with a wooden spoon.
  3. If some of the sugars are still stuck to the sides/bottom of the pan, turn the heat to medium and allow the sugar to melt into the cream.
  4. Off the heat again, add the butter and salt, stirring until smooth. 
  5. Let the caramel cool completely to get the thick, drizzly texture, but it still tastes awesome and is very easily used straight from the pan. 
  6. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks if you honestly don't use it that quickly. 

Here's an extremely rocky and eerily silent time-lapse video of what happens when you make salted caramel. I got tired holding the phone; clearly I need to work out more.

The Fangirl's Guide to the NFL

College football got you started, and now we're playing with the big boys. The first game of the NFL season is tonight, and you are in for a world of fangirl fun over the next four months. I'm Kendra, and I'll be your tour guide. Follow me.

League Basics

The more you actually understand the game, the more fun you'll have watching the fangirl game. Here are a few basics so you can halfway understand what everyone is talking about.

The Teams

There are two conferences in the NFL - the NFC and the AFC. Each conference is broken up into four divisions - north, south, east, and west - with four teams in each. That's 32 total teams. Finite and fantastic, unlike the bazillion college teams to keep track of.

In case you want to know where a particular team lands as you tour:

NFC North - Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears
NFC South - Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons
NFC East - Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants
NFC West - St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks

AFC North - Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals
AFC South - Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars
AFC East - New England Patriots, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills
AFC West - Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos

Each team plays 16 games, and they play the teams in their division twice.

Who gets to play in the Super Bowl?

You have to get through the playoffs to get to the Super Bowl. So who gets in the playoffs? Six teams from each conference - the winner of each division and then two wild card teams who have the two next best records. 

The NFC teams play each other until there's a conference winner; same with the AFC. Those two teams play in the Super Bowl where Beyonce should always do the halftime show amen.

What are downs?

We'll pull out this graphic again. It's as simple as you can get.

So if the offensive team is at 2nd and 4, that means they're on their second chance to move ten yards, and they only have four yards to go. You're practically a pro now, right? 

Now let's get to the important stuff.

 

Offseason Suit Models

Damian Williams, #1
wide receiver - Miami Dolphins

Can we say Macy's catalog?

Dwight Freeney, #93
outside linebacker - San Diego Chargers

You can't see much of the suit, but um you can see enough. Hubba hubba.

Eric Decker, #87
wide receiver - New York Jets

In his spare time, Eric attends the Antonio Banderas School of Suave. I hear he's doing pretty well.

Julian Edelman, #11
wide receiver - New England Patriots

You're quite the looker, Julian. Sadly, there's a little Ryan Phillippe going on here, but I refuse to hold that against you. Because Ryan Phillippe is gross.

 

Famous People Who Look Like Other Famous People

Adam Hayward, #55
outside linebacker - Washington Redskins

Pirate Hugh Jackman all day. The smile is on point.

Alex Mack, #55
offensive line - Cleveland Browns

Look, you guys! It's the live action Buzz Lightyear!

Austin Johnson, #35
fullback - New Orleans Saints

Somebody call Gerard Butler and get this man a leather skirt.

Clay Matthews, #52
linebacker - Green Bay Packers

It's David Beckham's humongous, sweaty older brother!

Darren McFadden, #20
running back - Oakland Raiders

Kanye West and Julius from Remember the Titans had a baby. Don't tell Kim.

Wes Welker, #83
wide receiver - Denver Broncos

Do you think he knows he looks like Ewan McGregor? I think he knows. He's got swagger like he knows.

Jordan Cameron, #84
tight end - Cleveland Browns

A Tom Hardy doppelganger is never a bad thing.

Logan Mankins, #70
guard - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jim Gaffigan and Louis CK? Your secret's out, hashtag lovechild.

Matt Spaeth, #89
tight end - Pittsburgh Steelers

Joey Fatone in da hiz-oooouuuuuse! 

Nick Foles, #9
quarterback - Philadelphia Eagles

I'm not sure you want to look like a combination of Clay Aiken and Jon Heder, aka Napoleon Dynamite, but Nick does. We can't fight it.

Stephen Gotskowski, #3
kicker - New England Patriots

Yet another lovechild, and Jim Carrey and Phil Dunphy sure do make an eager one.

Torrey Smith, #82
wide receiver - Baltimore Ravens

Michael from LOST. You can practically see him running through the jungle after Walt.

Kai Forbath, #2
place kicker - Washington Redskins

I'm sorry for this one, but it can't be helped. Seth Meyers and Gollum. This is real life.


Where do I recognize him from?

Jay Cutler, #6
quarterback - Chicago Bears

He's married to Kristin Cavallari from Laguna Beach. Yes. Her. Also I find him rather ugly. Real talk.  I don't get the hype.

Troy Polamalu, #43
strong safety - Pittsburgh Steelers

His hair is real, y'all, and it's all over those Head & Shoulders commercials you've seen. He's also been voted by the players as the nicest guy in the league.

Peyton Manning, #18
quarterback - Denver Broncos

Commercials galore. A Super Bowl champ. Fantastic SNL host. The guy is one of the most famous in the league and for good reason. It's hard to root against him.

Tom Brady, #12
quarterback - New England Patriots

Won a bazillion Super Bowls. Married to Giselle. A model for Uggs. You know, the normal stuff.

Drew Brees, #9
quarterback - New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees is that handsome dad who wouldn't make you feel uncomfortable driving you home after babysitting. Super nice, a smaller guy and therefore an underdog, a fixture in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and you've seen him on your TV selling cough medicine and jeans. 

Reggie Bush, #21
running back - Detroit Lions

He dated Kim Kardashian for awhile, but because of THIS, I'll never forgive him.

[shudder]

Aaron Rodgers, #12
quarterback - Green Bay Packers

Discount doublecheck? More accurately, hotness doublecheck. I'm a big fan of Aaron Rodgers for a number of reasons, and his beautiful face is one of them.

Michael Oher, #72
offensive line - Tennessee Titans

You might not know the face, but you know the name. Can you hear it? Imagine it in a Southern drawl by a rich white lady. This is the guy The Blind Side was based on. Yep, he's a real dude.

Tony Romo, #9
quarterback - Dallas Cowboys

The savior of Dallas who is actually pretty mediocre, he's dated Carrie Underwood and Jessica Simpson. Now he's married to yet another tan blond, a reporter from Dallas. Can't fault the guy for having a type I guess.


Helmets Off, Please

THE SMILERS

Adrian Peterson, #28
running back - Minnesota Vikings

One of the best players in the league. You'll see him a lot, and this is never bad.

AJ Jenkins, #13
wide receiver - Kansas City Chiefs

Stop it. We're 500 watts with this one. Love.

Arian Foster, #23
running back - Houston Texans

Another star, Arian Foster is a cool dude with a great smile. A lot of fun to watch.

Golden Tate, #15
wide receiver - Detroit Lions

Golden Tate with the golden smile. 

Justin Bethel, #31
safety - Arizona Cardinals

rsz_justin_bethel.jpg

He's so handsome! With a shy smile like a puppy!

Justin Hunter, #15
wide receiver - Tennessee Titans

He's the Huxtable son we never knew.

Michael Johnson, #90
defensive end - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I shake my head at you, Michael Johnson. The suit, the glasses, AND the smile? You're not being fair to the rest of the men.

Osi Umenyiora, #50
defensive end - Atlanta Falcons

That smile could light up a thousand cities.

Von Miller, #58
linebacker - Denver Broncos

No one has the power to fight this glasses-smile combo. Maybe Galadriel, but that's it.


THE STUDS

Chris Owusu, #80
wide receiver - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mm-hmm.

Vernon Davis, #85
tight end - San Francisco 49ers

Um, yes please.

Roman Harper, #41
safety - Carolina Panthers

Gray hair got even sexier.

Luke Kuechly, #59
linebacker - Carolina Panthers

Adorable and kind of scary-big, like the frat guy in a movie who ends up being sweet and into the ballet.

James Ihedigbo, #32
strong safety - Detroit Lions

Nothing to see here. Just cheekbones that could carve stone.

Terence Newman, #23
cornerback - Cincinnati Bengals

Work.

Travis Coons, #4
kicker - Tennessee Titans

rsz_travis_coons.jpg

Excuse me, who ordered the Dimples for Days? 

Victor Cruz, #80
wide receiver - New York Giants

victor-cruz.jpg

Chambray WOWbray.

Greg Olsen, #88
tight end - Carolina Panthers

It's like looking at the sun. Greg, TURN DOWN THE HOTNESS WE CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE.


And finally, the nameless football player with four necks.

 

Feel a little better about attacking a sport you've never really cared about? You know the basics, and more importantly you know who's hot. What else really matters?