Sunday, March 29, 2015

Feeding the New Family

Hello readers! I am back on the blog after having crossed the great divide from pregnancy into parenthood. Baby M arrived and she is wonderful and perfect in ways that Greg and I could have never imagined.

When Baby M was born, I learned a lesson that I intellectually understood pre-baby but felt viscerally as a new mom - BRING NEW PARENTS FOOD. Truly. I recently found this list of ways to be helpful to new parents. I had a friend who also recently become a new mother point out to me that the only problem with this list is that number 10 should repeat bring food, simply because it's that important. And she is correct.

You may feel that bringing food simply feels like a token or like you are going through the motions. Friend, I am here to tell you: FOOD IS EVERYTHING. Baby M was stubbornly breech, so I had a planned c-section, and frankly I was in no position to cook until 6-8 weeks postpartum. And really, even if I hadn't had surgery, given the effort and exhaustion that goes into caring for a newborn, plus the fairly constant stream of calories you need if you choose to breastfeed, I simply can't imagine I would have been ready to cook for that period of time anyway. Had we not had family and friends feed us, I'm pretty sure I would have starved to death. The number one tip I have given friends who have become new parents is that the price of admission to come visit the baby needs to be food of some kind, and I stand by that advice, 100%.

With that said, what kinds of food should you bring? The reality is that new parents probably don't have time to do any food preparation, so ideally the food you bring will work cold or can easily be pulled out in small portions and zapped in the microwave or warmed up on the stove. (As a note, ideally this food should be brought in containers you never need to see again, like Gladware, and remember to tell the new parents you don't want it back so they don't feel like they need to chase you down to return your storageware!)

So what should you bring? Many endless choices abound (and Greg and I benefited from the talent and creativity of others immensely), but one that I can't recommend enough is the wonderful classic: Soup!

Soup is really wonderful to bring for many reasons:
- It meets my criteria of being easy to reheat and eat.
- It's extremely delicious.
- It's super easy to make.
- It's great for vegans, adaptable for those with food sensitivities, and embraced by omnivores alike!

If you want to be really fancy, stop at Panera Bread and pick up a sliced loaf of sourdough bread, which is accidentally vegan - hooray!

My nephew was born a few months after Baby M, and feeling as strongly as I did about bringing food, I made batches of chili and froze it in my sister's freezer, and then everytime I went to visit, I made sure I had food, and that food was almost always soup and bread. Oftentimes I would make a variation on this soup and bring it along.

Another great option, which also happens to be a staple in my house, is a variation on Zesty Black Bean Soup, from the fine folks at Whole Foods. This soup is full of flavor - and seriously, so easy to make, it's almost embarrassing.

First, heat up approximately 1 Tablespoon of oil (olive, vegetable, canola - whatever you have on hand) in a stockpot over medium to medium high heat. Add the veggies of your choice. For us, this is usually frozen corn and bell peppers.

Once the veggies have some color on them (usually after 5-10 minutes, depending on if you started from frozen), add your spices. For us, it's onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, and, the secret of this recipe, a bit of cinnamon!

 Stir in your black beans and tomatoes (crushed or diced, whichever you have on hand - though we tend to go the fire roasted route for an extra bunch of flavor), add your veggie broth, and bring to a boil.

 Once the soup is boiling, bring to a simmer for ten minutes -and that's it, you're done!

Once the soup is cooled down, load it up in disposable storageware and head out to the lucky family who will receive your bounty! (Or double that recipe so you have dinner, too.)

And that's all there is to it! So go ahead, get cooking, and be a hero to a hungry new family who will only be too happy to eat up your efforts. :)

Black Bean Soup (as adapted from Whole Foods)
Serves: 4

1 Tbsp. plant-based oil (I usually use olive oil)
1 pound of the veggies of your choice (I usually use half frozen corn and half frozen bell peppers)
1 to 2 Tablespoons of onion powder
1 to 2 Tablespoons of garlic powder
1 Tablespoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 to 2-15 oz cans of black beans, rinsed and drained, 1 1/2-3 cups of cooked black beans
1 - 14.5 oz can of crushed or diced tomatoes
32-48 oz of vegetable broth (I usually use 48 for a brothier soup; you can always use a 32 oz container of broth and add water for the rest)

1) Heat oil in a stock pot on the stove over a medium-high flame.
2) Add veggies; saute for 5-10 minutes (depending on if you are using frozen) until the vegetables have some color on them.
3) Mix in the spices, beans, and tomatoes. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
4) When the soup is boiling, reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
5) Serve or package up for a lucky family!

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