We’ve all heard ourselves asking this when friends are struggling with illness (their own or their aging parents’ or their kids’) and we’ve all probably come back around to a similar answer: Food. For better (normalcy) or for worse (one more thing to be exhausted by), people still need to eat. In my mind — this is Dinner a Love Story after all — dropping off a meal that can be frozen, however cliche, is still one of the more appreciated things you can do for someone going through a rough patch. This past weekend, we spent a few hours banking a week’s worth of those meals for a bedridden friend and her family. I thought I’d share the line-up in case you’d like to bookmark as a resource.
One thing: If you plan on doing this for someone, I recommend freezing everything in flattened BPA-free zip-top bags, which makes thawing more efficient. I’d also recommend including thawing instructions for two scenarios: 1) When they’ve thought to thaw their frozen dinner ahead of time or (more likely) 2) When they haven’t thought to thaw ahead of time. (Go in with the assumption that they are pretty distracted.) I’ve included thawing notes below, but here is a downloadable instruction sheet you can print and include in the care package. I recommend personalizing it with a handwritten greeting and signature, and include your mobile so they can text you if they have any issues.
And by the way, this plan might come in handy when the primary dinner maker in the house is traveling for work, or for someone in the nesting phase of their pregnancy, or someone insane who just appreciates a well-run ship.
MACARONI & CHEESE
If thawed: Place pan covered with foil in 350° oven for 25 minutes.
If frozen: Place pan covered with foil in 375° oven for 1 hour or until knife inserted into center comes out warm.
Recipe: Dinner: The Playbook
CHICKEN POT PIE
If thawed: Place in a 425° oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.
If frozen: Place in a 425° oven and bake for just under an hour, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.
Notes: I prepared the pie fully until the step when you actually bake it. (So I froze with an un-baked dough draped on top.) I’ve never actually baked one directly from freezer, so hopefully these googled instructions will work. You’ll know it’s ready to eat if a knife stuck in the center comes out warm. Also, if crust looks like it’s starting to burn before inside is bubbly, just tent with foil.
Notes Part 2: If you’re feeling ambitious, brush the top with egg wash (a whisked egg) before baking to get that sheen-y color.
Recipe: From Dinner: A Love Story, or here (look for instructions for 9-inch pie plate)
PASTA WITH PORK RAGU
If thawed: Dump ragu into medium pot, and heat on medium-low until warmed through. While it’s heating, prepare pasta according to package directions.
If frozen: Run the bag under warm-ish water until you can break the sauce into chunks (while still in the bag). Dump into medium pot, and heat on medium-low (covered) until warmed through. While it’s heating, prepare pasta according to package directions.
Notes: Top with Parmesan if you have it.
Recipe: Dinner: A Love Story (or here)
CHICKEN CHORIZO CHILI with CORNBREAD
If thawed: Dump chili into medium pot, and heat on medium-low until warmed through. Wrap cornbread in foil and heat in a 300° oven for 15 minutes.
If frozen: Run the bag under warm-ish water until you can break the sauce into chunks (while still in the bag). Dump into medium pot, and heat on medium-low (covered) until warmed through. Wrap cornbread in foil and heat in a 350° oven for 20 minutes.
Recipe: From How to Celebrate Everything (or another chili, here) Cornbread: Silver Palate (I usually omit the bacon)
CHICKEN ORZO SOUP
If thawed: Dump into medium pot, and heat on medium-low until warmed through.
If frozen: Run the bag under warm-ish water until you can break the soup into chunks (while still in the bag). Dump into medium pot, and heat on medium-low (covered) until warmed through.
Recipe: From Dinner: A Love Story (or here for similar)
SLICE & BAKE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Preheat oven to 350°. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (return unused dough to freezer); place 2-inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake cookies until edges are golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool. (Recipe: Dinner: A Love Story or here for similar)
GREENS & RED WINE VINAIGRETTE
There is probably enough for two nights of dressed greens here. (Recipe: New Favorite Salad Dressing.)
Related: Soup for a Friend