Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Take-In Meals for Families with New Babies

The greatest gifts I received after delivering both Matthew and Emma were the outpouring of meals and snacks from friends and family to help sustain us throughout the first couple weeks as we adjusted to life with a newborn. Every time a meal was brought over, it was such an incredible blessing because it freed us up to completely focus our energy on welcoming the new baby into our family instead of trying to figure out what to make for dinner. It was also fun to try out some yummy recipes that were staples in the households of our friends! Because I appreciated this gesture so much, whenever one of my friends has a new baby I try my best to offer them the same courtesy with a "meal tray" full of goodies.

I have made a take-in meal quite a few times and normally end up doing a variation on the same meal both because it is easy for me to transport and a pretty good crowd-pleaser. I try to pack everything in a tight box so I can simply hand it off to the family once I arrive. I also always use disposable trays and plates so the poor new mother does not have to figure out when to return my plates! That helps a lot. My take-in meals always consist of:

1) A hearty main dish - normally a casserole of some sort. I have been making Baked Spaghetti the last few times because it is both easy and incredibly delicious.

2) A salad of some sort - I have made an Antipasto Salad, Strawberry Spinach Salad, Caesar Salad, etc. depending on the tastes of the individuals receiving the meal.

3) Some type of bread - rolls, French bread, garlic bread, whatever! Everyone loves bread!

4) Some type of dessert - usually something super portable and freezable in case the family would rather save them for later. Brownies, cookies, fruit bars, muffins, quick breads, or slab pie are all great options. Recently, I have been opting more for muffins or a quick bread because of their versatility: they can be used as a dessert, snack, or sweet breakfast treat!

5) A gift for the newborn (optional) - I like to especially throw in a gift for first-time parents or if the newborn is a different sex than the other children in the household.

My suddenly shy little sous chef during the making of our most recent take-in meal.

The best part about bringing a meal to families with new babies? Getting a first peek at the adorable new baby. The photos in this post are from a meal I brought to friends who adopted their second child a couple weeks ago. They had been waiting for that second baby for a long time and they suddenly received a call one morning and brought home their daughter that same evening! And she is the tiniest, most petite, beautiful baby I have ever seen!! She is such a lucky little girl to be part of that family - she will be loved and treasured her entire life by her mommy, daddy, and big brother.

Do you have a favorite meal you like to cook for families with new babies? I'm posting the recipe below for the Baked Spaghetti casserole because it is truly a favorite family recipe and one that I make so often that I really should share it. It's nothing fancy - just really good comfort food! Since I have a sensitivity to lactose, I normally make the casserole with Greek yogurt cream cheese instead of regular and it is every bit as wonderful and doesn't upset my stomach quite as much as the regular cream cheese. I also like to top the casserole with a mixture of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese - but really whatever you have on hand will probably be delicious!

This post is linking up for Tuesday Talk. Head on over to Sweet Little Ones to check out all the other posts!

Baked Creamy Spaghetti
adapted from Plain Chicken

1 pound hot or sweet Italian Sausage
12 ounces spaghetti noodles
1 28-ounce jar pasta sauce (I love using a savory sauce like Parmesan Romano)
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature
1-2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded cheese (Mozzarella, Parmesan, or a mixture) - more if you're into cheese!

Remove the Italian sausage from the casing and cook in a pot over medium heat until done being sure to break the sausage apart into small pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Drain the sausage and then return it to the pot. Add the pasta sauce and stir to combine. Cover and keep warm over medium-low heat.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the spaghetti noodles. Let cook until al dente according to the package directions.

While the noodles cook, place the cream cheese, garlic cloves, and Italian seasoning in a large bowl and mix as best you can to combine. When ready, drain the pasta noodles reserving a bit of the pasta water. Immediately pour the hot noodles over the cream cheese and begin stirring and tossing to completely coat the pasta with the cream cheese mixture. If you need to, add a bit of the pasta cooking liquid to facilitate the process. Just do the best you can to distribute the cream cheese evenly.

In a 13x9 pan, pour a thin layer of the meat sauce, making sure that the bottom is covered. Add the noodles and spread evenly to the edges of the pan. Pour the remainder of the meat sauce over the top and top with the shredded cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes until bubbly. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 5-10 minutes before serving (we almost never do - Paul is usually picking at it before it even leaves the oven). Serve!

Make Ahead Note: The casserole can be prepared through assembly, allowed to cool, and then refrigerated until ready to bake. Add an extra 15-20 minutes to the baking time if cooking straight from the refrigerator and keep it covered with foil for the first 20 minutes or so.


  1. Swinging over from Tuesday Talk! I think taking food to a new family is the BEST gift you can give. I was so grateful for every single meal I received. And bringing them in a throw-away container is a great idea, too. I also try to bring an entree that could also be frozen, in case they're up to their eye balls in food. :)

    Katie @ Cup of Tea

    1. Bringing an entrée to freeze is a great idea! I know this one gal who would bring a couple of casseroles to the family - one to eat that night and a couple others to keep in the freezer for emergencies. So nice! When I had my son, another family gave us a bunch of gift certificates to a local pizza delivery chain that also came in handy down the road. The gift of food in any form is so appreciated!

  2. Such a good idea! I think that would be such a wonderful gift, especially for 2nd and later children since you don't need as much of the stuff and I imagine watching a newborn and one (or more) other kids is a challenge!

  3. I also like to throw in some $1 wonders for older kids if there are any. I stock up from Target or the Dollar store - with coloring books or little books or puzzles, etc. Whenever I drop a meal for a new baby from my Moms, I make sure to have a little something for the big sibs. Someone did this for me when I had my 3rd in 4 years - and I was never so thankful. The $5 spent on those things not only occupied them for a while which was a gift for me - but it pleased them so. It made them feel appreciated too - as my friend told them - it was a present because she was proud of what wonderful big brothers they were being. It was very sweet.