Families face many changes over the years, but one of the biggest has to be going from being a couple to becoming parents! If you know someone soon to be a parent, have a think about making them some quick and easy meals for after the baby comes. It might just be the best baby present they receive! Here’s 15 fantastic meal ideas to make for new parents.
The mixture of joy, anxiety and exhaustion that accompanies the arrival of a new family member is unlike anything else, and the first child creates the biggest change, especially if neither parent has had much experience with small babies.
Sometimes, it can seem that just getting up, getting the baby up, getting washed and dressed, changing the baby, changing the baby yet again, feeding the baby, cleaning up after the inevitable spills, soothing the baby and trying to get the baby to sleep consume most of the available energy.
This is the time when help from friends and relatives, especially with meals, can be an enormous relief.
Some societies make sure that an immediate relative moves in to take the responsibilities completely off a new mum’s shoulders in the first few weeks so she and the baby can settle.
That’s not so common in New Zealand, but what friends and family can do is take over the cooking for the first month or so. There’s nothing more daunting than the thought of trying to get dinner made for the adults while holding a tired, grizzly baby and feeling sleep deprived!
If friends and relatives live close by, you might be able to sort out a roster so someone turns up at the door each evening with a fresh meal in their hands.
It’s also important not to stay, unless the new parents ask you to. They may well be needing to collapse in a corner and eat dinner off their laps while staring blankly out the window – they don’t need polite conversation unless they ask for it! Just do your good deed and leave them in peace.
If everyone is a bit further away, see if someone can make a weekly visit with a chilly bin full of home-made frozen meals that can just be thawed as needed. Check first to make sure the recipients have adequate freezer space though.
It’s not just dinner that can be provided – tasty, home-made breakfast cereals can be a lifesaver as well.
By making a big jar of homemade muesli or other cereal you can make sure the new parents have a nutritious, low-sugar, sustaining start to the day that will help to see them through the morning, and you can make it to suit their specific tastes. If they happen to hate dates, dried apricots or almonds, you can make sure you don’t include them!
Here are a few recipes for things that are tasty, easy to make, and in some cases can be easily frozen for future use. They include recipes suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and adaptations to accommodate gluten-free diets where appropriate.
15 fantastic meal ideas to make for new parents
Breakfast meal ideas
1. Baked Oatmeal Breakfast
This can be made and served with almond or other plant-based milks if you prefer, and is considerably less sugary than many breakfast cereals (including granola). It’s also very tasty indeed!
These quantities make enough for four fairly hungry people. It will keep for a couple of days in the pantry and can be reheated briefly in the oven or microwave if people prefer it hot.
1.5 cups quick cook rolled oats (Pam’s creamy oats work well)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup milk or nut milk
60g melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
½-1 cup shredded coconut
handful of chopped nuts, currants or sultanas (optional)
Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Add wet to dry. Add nuts or fruit, if desired. Pour into an ungreased 20x20cm baking pan (a square glass baking dish works well). Bake at 180°C for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm with milk. It is crumbly by nature so just scrape it out of the pan and pile it in bowls.
This Chocolate Hazelnut Spread is delicious, easy to make, much lower in sugar than commercial chocolate hazelnut spreads (*Ahem, Nutella*), and very more-ish indeed. It’s a real treat to put on crackers or toast when everything is getting out of hand…
Hazelnuts are high in dietary fibre, and also very high in folate, so they’re the perfect tree nut for pre and post conception.
Cornflake nut crunch is a really tasty breakfast cereal, low in sugar and slightly spiced. Vegan-friendly if served with almond or other nut milk. The nuts and seeds can be varied according to the recipients’ tastes.
Lunch meal ideas
4. Spiced Lentil Rissoles (for vegetarian families)
These are heavily adapted from a recipe in an old New Zealand vegetarian recipe book called “Fresh and Natural”. They’re a bit like fish cakes, but without the fish… Anyway, they’re tasty. This recipe makes about twelve good-sized rissoles. They can also be frozen, uncooked, for future use.
225g red lentils, cooked and drained
8 small potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed with a little butter or oil, salt and pepper to taste
2 cups breadcrumbs (fresh, not dried). Use gluten free bread if you’re cooking for coeliacs.
1 small onion, finely chopped and fried until soft in a little oil
2 small carrots, grated
2-3Tbsp finely chopped parsley
½ tsp ground fenugreek
½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp garam masala
Finely ground cornflakes to coat the rissoles (use gluten free ones if necessary for coeliacs). An electric coffee grinder makes an excellent job of this
Mix all the ingredients apart from the cornflake coating together. If too sloppy to handle, add more breadcrumbs. Form into patties and coat each one in cornflake crumbs.Fry in oil until well browned on each side.
Serve with salad or cooked vegetables of your choice
There’s a number of sweet potato burger patty recipes on the internet. Some are very good, and others tend to be a little bland. This adapted recipe is the best of both worlds.
Kumara (sweet potato) and cannellini burgers are vegan/vegetarian and gluten free, full of flavour and very tasty. They also freeze very well once cooked and cooled. So they can be pulled out, defrosted and warmed through in either an oven, or even microwave. It takes very little effort to tart these up with fresh avocado and seasonal veg. And they’re super-nutritious.
6. Tandoori Chicken Burgers with Creamy Chutney
These are very tasty, freeze well and are easy to make! This recipe makes about 10 good-sized patties so will feed 4-5.
For the patties
600g chicken mince
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (use gluten free breadcrumbs if cooking for coeliacs)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
3 Tbsp plain unsweetened yoghurt (Greek style is good) or lite sour cream
1 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3 Tbsp chopped parsley
Combine in a small bowl and store in the fridge until required:
4 Tbsp plain unsweetened yoghurt (Greek style if possible) or lite sour cream
½ cup fruit chutney
To make the patties, mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl to combine thoroughly. Divide
into 10 equal pieces and form into patties. Roll each pattie in fine white rice flour and flatten slightly
between the palms of your hands.
If needed, store securely covered and away from other foods in the fridge – this is a sensible
precaution with any chicken products due to the risk of bacterial contamination in the raw meat.
You should also thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water and clean the bench surfaces you
have been working on, for the same reason.
To cook the patties, heat a thin layer of oil in a large frying pan, and cook the patties on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes on each side. Check they are fully cooked by cutting one open with a knife. There should be no pink flesh, or pink juice oozing from the patties. Serve immediately with creamy chutney and a salad and/or other vegetables of your choice.
7. All-purpose meat patties
These are great – they can be used for hamburgers, as rissoles, turned into meatballs with a tomato- based sauce, and are a cunning way of spinning out the meat a lot further than it might be expected to go! The uncooked patties freeze well and can be thawed and fried as needed.
500g mince, low fat if possible
2 -3 Tbsp tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
Ground black pepper to taste
2 medium zucchini, grated
2 medium carrots, grated
¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs (use gluten-free bread if cooking for coeliacs)
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands. Divide into 12 to 14 portions and roll them into balls, then flatten between the palms of your hands. Roll the patties in rice flour to coat. Fry in a shallow layer of oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat until nicely browned on both sides and cooked through.
Can be served as hamburger patties with salad in gluten free buns, or used more traditionally as rissoles with potatoes, beans etc and fried onion rings as an accompaniment.
This is a great last-minute dinner when you have only a few minutes and have run out of energy and inspiration. As long as you have a bag of corn chips and a tin of kidney beans in the cupboard, you’re away
Dinner meal ideas
9. Ginger Garlic Chicken Soup
This is particularly nice if anyone is feeling a bit under the weather – an Asian version of the proverbial chicken soup, but without the noodles! Leftovers can be stored in the fridge in a covered container and reheated as required – don’t keep more than two or three days though.
The quantities are variable and it doesn’t really matter if you have more or less of anything – it always works. The following are approximate amounts – feel free to modify to your own preferences.
1.5 litres chicken stock (or 2 chicken stock cubes dissolved in 1.5 litres of hot water
400g chicken breast or thigh fillets, cut into thin strips. This is easiest to do if the meat is still partly frozen, but as long as you cut the meat into small bits, you can approach it any way you want.
About 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped.
A large piece of root ginger, about 5cm long and 2.5cm diameter, peeled and finely chopped
200g button mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 bunch baby bok choy (usually 2 or 3 heads), washed thoroughly and sliced fairly finely.
2-4Tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
Bring the chicken stock to the boil, and add the ginger, garlic and sliced chicken, stirring thoroughly for a minute or two to stop the meat slices clumping together. Bring back to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and simmer for about 5 minutes more. Add the sliced bok choy and simmer until the meat and mushrooms are tender and cooked through (Maybe another 5 minutes). Add soy sauce to taste – start with a tablespoon or so and see how it tastes. The amount you need will be determined by how salty your chicken stock is, so take it cautiously to avoid ruining your soup at the last moment!
The remains refrigerate well and can be easily reheated the next day – the bok choy will lose its colour a bit but the flavour is still delicious.
There’s nothing quite like a winter vegetable soup to make you feel warm on the inside, when it’s cold on the outside!
If you know someone having a baby this winter, then this tummy-warming Lentil and Vegetable Soup recipe will be perfect. It’s also vegan (as long as you use a vegetable-based stock such as Massel, or a home-made veggie stock) and it’s very nutritious, so great for Mum and Bub!
This Lemon Roast Potato recipe is just delicious! You can serve these as a side with most meals, and they make a great dollar-saving tummy filler.
12. Kumura Frittata
Frittatas are wonderful – good hot or cold, naturally gluten free, and can be cut up for quick snacks, just like a quiche (but without the pastry…). They also freeze well, and the Kumura in this Kumura frittata recipe makes them super-filling. Perfect for dog-tired parents!
These Sticky Chicken Drumsticks are very yummy, very easy to make, and can be scaled up depending on how many you have to feed. So they make a great option for parents that suddenly have a heap of ‘well wishers’ drop in to see the new baby.
These can be whipped up for either lunch or dinner, as the don’t require marinating, and only take an hour to cook.
This is delicious and makes lots. The recipe is warming, but not too spicy, and sweet, but not sickly-sweet. This kid friendly curried sausage recipe will quickly become a family go-to favourite.
15. Bolognese Sauce with Mince Beef
This is exceptionally yummy. You can serve it just with a baked potato, or be more traditional and have it on pasta. Serve with a nice crisp garden salad, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. This can also be frozen and reheated in the microwave when needed.
500g minced beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 large carrot, grated
4 large tomatoes or 6 –8 smaller ones, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce (homemade is great but anything will do0
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup sherry or red wine
1 tsp fresh basil, chopped, or 1/2 tsp dried
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook mince, onion and garlic in a little oil over moderate to high heat in a heavy frying pan. Cook until juices evaporate and the meat browns. Add carrot, reduce heat and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, sherry or wine and herbs, and mix well. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to simmer, covered, for 30 –40 minutes.