When someone is sick, grieving a loss or quarantining because of COVID-19 illness or exposure, nothing shows you care like a warm, hearty meal delivered to their doorstep.
During difficult times, friends, relatives or neighbors may feel isolated and dropping off a meal can be a way to provide comfort and connection.
You can cook up one meal, or if someone is facing a long-term challenge, help organize more regular food deliveries. Sometimes called a meal train, the idea is to organize a scheduled delivery of planned meals (usually dinners) over the course of a few days, a week or even longer for someone who needs it.
Typically one person takes the lead on planning (websites like Take Them A Meal and Meal Train make it easy), sharing with participants any dietary restrictions or preferences and offering slots for signup. Then it’s up to you to decide what to cook for the person in need.
Whether you’re organizing a meal train or taking part in one, keep a few things in mind. First, don’t feel pressured to make the “perfect” meal.
“When we are supporting someone through grief, it can feel like we have to say, do and, in this case, cook the right things,” says grief consultant Alica Forneret, executive director of PAUSE, a service that supports communities of color through grief. A dish should be a “reminder that there are people willing to put in the effort to support them.”
Making a meal? Consider these tips:
• Ask about food allergies or preferences before planning a meal.
• Pack food in containers that don’t need to be returned. When possible, opt for containers that are easy to eat from, for convenience, and that can be reused.
• Ask if meals should be left on the porch in a cooler or if someone will answer the door to receive them. Sometimes people aren’t up to seeing visitors.
• If you're planning the meal train, schedule meals every other day, since leftovers often stack up.
• Make a big batch of whatever you’re cooking and freeze extras for someone else, or your own family.
Then think about dishes that don’t take a lot of time to make. Some foods can be made in batches and frozen (think tamales, energy bars or smoothie cups), Forneret says.
“My number one tip is to take a meal that you like to make and is easy,” says Adina E. Bailey, cofounder of the free meal-scheduling service Take Them A Meal.
Consider adding store-bought elements to the delivery to lighten your load, like a nice loaf of crusty bread or a warm rotisserie chicken, Bailey says. “The love behind the gesture is what counts,” she says.
Ready to get cooking? Read on for seafood, vegetarian, chicken and beef dishes that will provide comfort, but aren’t complicated.
A seafood frittata for breakfast or dinner
It’s hard to beat the versatility of this dish, which can be served with fresh berries and toast for breakfast or mixed greens and French bread for dinner.
“Casseroles make a great meal train food because they are portable and easy to reheat whenever the recipient is ready to eat,” says food and nutrition expert Rima Kleiner of National Fisheries Institute blog, Dish on Fish.
This frittata contains nutrient-rich veggies and crab, which provides protein for muscle-building, as well as omega-3s and vitamin B2 for brain health, Kleiner says.
Crab Frittata Squares
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
- 8 eggs
- 6 ounces milk
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 2 cups chopped kale
- 8 ounces pasteurized lump crabmeat
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Hot sauce for garnish (optional)
- Nonstick cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and coat a 10- by 10-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. Sprinkle panko onto bottom of pan.
3. In medium bowl, whisk eggs, milk and oregano.