Feeding yourself takes a back seat to feeding (and burping and changing and soothing) a new baby, leaving mere slivers of time for wolfing down food, let alone for whipping up meals, elaborate or otherwise. Which is why cooking for a new parent is an act of love. Dropping off soup, casseroles, or meatballs—all easy to make in big batches, freeze, and reheat—can help sustain parents in those first few weeks of navigating life with a newborn. (Or if you’re expecting yourself, many of these are easy to make and tuck away in the freezer a month ahead of time.) From savory hand pies to vegan enchiladas, read on for seven recipes that will elicit tears of joy from a new parent in your life.
Meatballs are a supremely versatile gift—perfect to add protein to a big bowl of spaghetti, eat alone with tomato sauce, or add to a roll for a simple, fork-free meal. Elevate the humble sandwich with Food52 resident baker Erin Jeanne McDowell’s chicken meatball sub with gobs of gooey mozzarella. “While you don’t have to use fresh mozzarella for a melty, gooey sandwich like this, it really makes it so much better,” she writes. Drop off a big batch of meatballs in sauce, along with some sliced rolls, fresh mozzarella, and a box of bucatini to give the gift of several meals.
Hand pies are a platonically perfect new-parent meal—they’re easy to make and freeze. They reheat well, and you can eat them with one hand. (The other will be busy holding or feeding or cleaning a baby.) The best part is you can add whatever fillings the parents like, from lentils to roasted vegetables and goat cheese to crumbled up hamburger meat. Whip up a big batch for your favorite new parent’s freezer, with reheating instructions—about seconds in the microwave does the trick. And for an added treat, add a batch of Sweet Cherry Hand Pies, too.
Whip up a dish of bright, delicious enchiladas from Jeanine Donofrio’s cookbook Love & Lemons Every Day: More than 100 Bright, Plant-Forward Recipes for Every Meal, and deliver with the quick baking instructions. (Just 20 minutes!) As Food52’s director of content Brinda Ayer notes, these enchiladas, “come together quickly (thanks, speedy summer standby, zucchini!), they’re super hearty (that’s because of the crumbled tofu and tender black beans), and they’re positively bursting with flavor (cumin, coriander, and a zesty tomatillo salsa verde, reporting for duty).” They’re also gluten-free and vegan—the creamy texture comes from avocados and a generous drizzle of lime cashew cream. Great news for parents who prefer plant-based eating, or for breastfeeding moms who have to steer clear of dairy for a bit.
There’s a reason why lasagna is a go-to meal to make for new parents—it’s pure, divine comfort food you can eat for lunch, dinner, or in a pinch, breakfast. (Time is meaningless in those first few weeks, after all). “This meat lasagna doesn’t have any ricotta—instead, it employs a bechamel for creaminess,” notes Merrill Stubbs, Food52 co-founder. All the more rich and filling to power parents through an endless string of night feedings. Even better: Double the recipe and give one lasagna to eat right away and one to freeze.
This deceptively filling red lentil soup from Food52 contributor ieatthepeach is ready in less than an hour, with only a quarter of that time requiring hands-on attention. Good news for the new parents in your life who are destined to fall in love with the comforting, smoky flavor and will want to make their own batches once things, you know, settle down a little. Pair a batch with a loaf of store-bought bread and good butter, plus lemon slices for squeezing on a final burst of flavor.
If you appreciated the Instant Pot pre-parenthood, prepare for a full-fledged love fest when the baby arrives. The beauty is in the set-it-and-forget-it ease—the minimal effort with, depending on the recipe, maximum results. “This recipe gives you fork-tender pulled pork barbecue with just 10 minutes of effort,” writes the Food52 team of Ivy Manning’s no-fuss formula from her cookbook Instant Pot Miracle 6 Ingredients or Less. It’s so simple and hands-off, even a new parent could pull this off. But they’ll appreciate you doing it anyway. Send along a tub of sweet-and-smoky pulled pork with hamburger buns, cole slaw, and sautéed greens, and dinner is served.
Recipe developer and former Food52 columnist Eric Kim calls his broccoli cheese casserole “the best kind of dish”—it’s comfort food that also covers a handful of food groups, including vegetables, protein, dairy, and carbs. The recipe calls for frozen broccoli florets, and with only 15 minutes of hands-on prep-time, it’s an easy one to make and reheat for days afterward. Pre-cut generous portions to make heating and eating even easier.
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What dishes would you make for a new parent? Let us know in the comments!