Bring us a meal.

"Cranberry Pie Eating Champ"

1948 — Six-year-old Richard Baranski caresses a full belly after being crowned Cranberry Pie Eating Champion, upon eating a 10-inch cranberry pie in 15 seconds flat.. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

It may seem a bit old-fashioned, and in the past I haven’t been great at it, but from this day forward I resolve to be ready. When a friend or acquaintance experiences a major life event or a time of stress, I will take that family a meal.

Having dinners delivered has been muy, mucho helpful to us during the last several weeks. We set up a calendar on mealtrain.com (takethemameal.com is a similar option) so that when friends expressed interest in helping out, Israel could easily send the link, where they could claim a date and find our address and other pertinent information.

Meal planning remains one of my . . . areas for improvement, shall we say. When faced with the upcoming week’s menu and shopping list, I inevitably develop mental paralysis. So not thinking about dinner has been a special, sweet gift enhancing the flavor of all the food we’ve received.

Based on our experience in the past month or so, I’ll try to remember a few things when I make dinner for someone in the future:

  • Breakfast items instead of or in addition to dinner are wonderful. One friend brought quiche. Nice touch.
  • Skip the salad greens. After the first couple days, we had several bags languishing in the fridge. I’ll have to think of an easy alternative side dish.
  • YES to disposable plates, napkins, utensils; which are also useful as props and costumes.
  • Related: use disposable pans or tupperware you don’t want back. Unless you’re a pretty close friend and willing to swing by to pick up your dishes. And possibly clean them yourself.
  • Take-out is more than FINE, and likely delicious. I won’t feel guilty if I don’t have time to whip up something homemade. When our friend brought Peruvian chicken with all the sides, it was one of the best meals we got. (Even if it wasn’t, bottom line, I didn’t have to think about dinner!)
  • Tell the recipient: No thank you note. Though I love thank you notes, friends, I’ve made peace with texting a heartfelt thank you that includes a picture of Jack. Note writing somewhat defeats the purpose of taking something off the mama’s plate. (Taking something off her plate by putting something on her plate! Get it? Nice.)
  • Several weeks after the event? Never too late. We are still in receive-every-form-and-offer-of-help mode. (Sarah brought us dinner tonight, which allows me to finish this post. The internet groans a hearty thank you, I’m sure!)
  • Bottle of wine? Absolutely.

What else would you add?

Really, the above are side issues. To state the main problem, I need a go-to dinner I can pull out of my back pocket that’s relatively easy and universally yummy.

And we may have a winner. My friend Katherine brought a crock pot dish using a recipe she got from our friend Megan. I might’ve been especially hungry that night, but it hit the spot, like whoa. Here’s the recipe, direct from Megan’s email:

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Just throw some boneless chx breasts, a jar of salsa, a package of taco seasoning, lime juice and cilantro into a slow cooker for 6 hours. It’s amazing. You can shred and put on tortillas or serve over rice.

Ease McCheese. Katherine served this over a mixture of rice and black beans, along with a yummy salad (that she’d premixed instead of leaving in the bag, which made a difference). Ugh. So good. And so were the chocolate chip cookies that we—literally—devoured.

What’s your best dinner to deliver? I’d love to know.

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Derby Pie + Spring Snapshots

I’m pausing the travel posts to bring you the not-so-secret recipe for the tastiest and easiest pie in the world: Derby Pie. I do feel reluctant to share, as this is pretty much the only thing in my dessert arsenal, since it’s so yummy and dadgum easy. It’s my favorite and has become my signature dessert, but I feel guilty hiding it. And I feel guilty when people get the impression that I’m a culinary wizard . . . shhhh! Golly, it’s so easy. Now that you have the recipe, you can simply have the ingredients waiting in your pantry and freezer. Dinner party, housewarming, work or church event? You’ve got dessert covered. You have such southern charm and grace! Please, don’t brag; you’ll ruin it.

Give it a try in honor of Saturday’s big race.

Derby Pie
2 eggs
1 stick melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cake flour (Regular flour is fine—I use that.)
1 cup sugar
a splash of bourbon (Optional, but you should definitely do it if you’re making this for the Derby.)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
6 oz chocolate chips
pre-made pie crust (From the refrigerated section.)

Mix first six ingredients together.
Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.
Pour into pie crust in round baking dish.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

And while we’re in a celebratory mood, here are some snapshots of our spring so far (only the good stuff, of course!):

 photo d9f9cb5f-4df5-49ab-ad69-58edfec1fce1_zpsdf3f9ad8.jpgThe satisfaction of an egg well hunted.

 photo E303E0AC-D91D-4B29-8D86-F27DD69EF33A-17767-0000105B7C7AA7DF_zpsd595e613.jpgIsrael is beyond thrilled that Mary Tobin is old enough to keep her wayfarers on now.

 photo 62B0E1B4-97B0-4152-B037-0EA3C5D62103-17477-000010EBBEA92147_zpsa227a80b-1.jpgWomen’s dinner centerpieces using Costco roses (!) and Cup of Jo’s flower arranging tutorial.

 photo D4F3D12B-9D60-4DA1-B56C-597C548AF762-17767-0000105BD7E27FB5_zps290f8d42.jpgWaiting with Tia Raquel after the zoo for brunch at Open City, a yummy spot which brilliantly provided chalk for their young antsy patrons. (Here, Mary Tobin is staring at little boys off camera.)

[Pro tip for taking kids to the National Zoo: If you’re using the Metro, go one stop past the Woodley Park/Zoo stop to Cleveland Park. From there it’s the same distance, and you can walk downhill instead of huffing uphill with strollers and the rest of your combat gear. When leaving you can walk downhill to Woodley Park (and Open City!).]

 photo 9425FE31-C09E-497B-950C-1FBF634E0F90-17477-000010ED88841BEA_zps8eddc433.jpgWhite House Spring Garden Tour.

 photo FA7F5AE0-77C2-4915-BC0E-771A882040D1-17477-000010EF2616EEE2_zps253aa70e.jpgEmbracing her Tennessee roots.

 photo 4C7C0384-807C-420A-B445-C8C3EE435678-17477-000010EE97C595E8_zps8cbf52bc.jpg photo CC9B5A71-2F46-47E5-AF1F-9DC58C28C26B-17477-000010EEA5200B4C_zpsea41841e.jpgAnd, of course, pulling out the summer clothes!

Happy Derby! Happy Spring!

The Cupcake Trick That Will Change Your Life

Source: thenotquitevegan.wordpress.com via Josie on Pinterest

If you live in the first world, cupcakes are going to be part of your life, so I don’t feel the title of this post is an exaggeration.

At the end of each episode of The Bachelor—as if you didn’t know—they roll bloopers or other funny footage during the credits. Last Monday we witnessed the awkwardness that often occurs when someone tries to eat a cupcake gracefully. You get icing on your nose, or a bite full of icing only, or cake only; it’s not pretty.

Solution: cupcake sandwich. Break off the bottom of the cupcake, flip it and place on top of the icing. Boom. Take a bite. Guaranteed perfect icing:cake ratio.

Warning. When you do this, you’ll be stopped at parties by amazed onlookers who say, “Holy Christmas. Did you just make a cupcake sandwich? That is the best thing I’ve ever seen. Are you a member of Mensa?”

My former boss, a lovely Member of Congress, let me in on the cupcake sandwich secret at an office birthday party a few years back. What about you? Have you known about this since second grade? If not, will you try it next time? It may sound simple. It is simple! But it will make a vast difference in your cupcake experience. If your life is not changed, I’ll refund your money.

If Lindsey doesn’t win The Bachelor, who knows what effect this cupcake trick might’ve had! If only!