My friends have been procreating at an alarming rate and this means I've gotten really good at two things: choosing which books to send to my newly pregnant ladies, and making meals for families with brand new babies. (I'm also a good babysitter, but that usually comes in handy a bit farther down the line.)

A couple years ago when my mother was very sick I developed a list of guidelines for bringing meals to others, and I try to stick to them when I'm bringing food to my freshly parented friends. But I also have a few things that I do just for new moms: first, I always bring beer, because it supposedly helps with lactation, and because mama probably hasn't had a drink in a long time, and she deserves a cold one. Second, I have a couple of recipes that I always use for new parents. I'm willing to do a little more work in the kitchen when I know I'm cooking for a new family. The extra time and steps in the recipe are my way of showing I really care. And these recipes are easy to make and split into two--one dish for the new family, and one for my family and me.

But the art of bringing food to a new mom (or dad) isn't just in choosing a recipe and making it. The whole point of bringing a meal is to be helpful and supportive, so you want to bring everything in a way that's as low maintenance as possible. I bring things in recyclable or disposable containers, and make it clear that I don't expect them to be returned. Often, I buy a new dish, bake the food in it, and give the meal and the dish to the family as a gift. When I bring the food I try to include a note about what's in everything, and I make an effort not to stay too long when I'm dropping off the food (unless I'm invited to stick around).

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

Ingredients:
2 Medium butternut squash
10 large tortillas (flour or corn--I've used both)
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 cups shredded cheese (ideally cheddar, but whatever you have will be fine)
1 15oz can black beans, drained and washed
1 jar salsa
Black or green olives, chopped
Sour cream (optional)

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the halves face down on a cookie sheet in the oven at 400F. Roast for 45 minutes, or until the squash is soft all the way through when you poke it with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Chop onion and mince garlic, and sauté in a large frying pan over medium heat, adding salt and pepper to taste. When the squash is cool enough to hold, use a fork or a spoon to scoop out the soft flesh. Put it directly into the frying pan, and mash with a fork (it should be very soft and will easily mash). Cook over low heat with the onions and garlic for just a minute or two. Turn off heat.

Spray another frying pan with cooking spray (Pam or its moral equivalent) and put over low heat. Place one tortilla in the frying pan and allow to heat for about a minute on each side, at which point it will be extremely soft. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the squash into the middle of the tortilla, and one tablespoon of black beans on top. Fold the sides in, and place the tortilla, seam side down, in a casserole dish. Repeat putting five tortillas in the first dish, and five tortillas in the second dish.

If you have leftover squash at the end, put it at either end of the dish, so the tortillas are bookended by squash. Then pour the salsa over all of the tortillas--half a jar per casserole dish, but I recommend having some extra salsa on hand in case half a jar doesn't seem to cover everything. You want the salsa to be a thin layer over the tortillas. Then sprinkle cheese and olives over the salsa.

Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Remove foil (but save it, because you'll probably want to cover the dish to transport it) and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melty. Serve with sour cream, if you're into that.

Serves 8 (4 per dish)

Chili With Cornbread Baked on Top

bowl of chiliChili Ingredients:
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1½ cups fake ground beef, crumbled (you can also use real beef if that's how you roll)
1 14-oz can tomato sauce
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 19-oz can beans, your choice
12 oz frozen corn
1 Poblano chili pepper, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons molasses
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Topping Ingredients:
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons milk (use soy milk or rice milk to make this kosher)
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly oil two 8x8" casserole dishes (round pie dishes work, too) and set aside.

In a large saucepan on medium heat, sauté the onions and green peppers in oil until onions are translucent. Add the rest of the chili ingredients and simmer for 5-10 minutes. If using real beef, simmer for at least 15 minutes.

To prepare topping: in a small bowl, while chili is cooking, stir together the milk and vinegar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the oil and milk mixture, stirring together gently until just mixed.

Transfer chili from pot to two baking dishes (half of the chili in each dish) and spoon biscuit batter evenly on top of chili. Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes.

Brownie Gems

brownie batterOf course, you're not done yet. New moms will also surely appreciate a tasty treat. This recipe is easy to make and while it calls for a box of brownie mix, the result tastes like it was made from scratch.

Ingredients:
1 package brownie mix (19-21 oz), plus the ingredients called for on the box
2 3/4 cups oats (quick cooking is fine)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup melted margarine or butter
1 3/4 cups mini chocolate chips or mini M&Ms (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, and baking soda. Add the melted butter or margarine, and mix until mixture is coarse and moist.

In another bowl prepare the brownie batter however is suggested on the box.

Grease a 15"x10" baking sheet, and press the oat mixture into the bottom of the sheet until there is a thin layer of oats covering the bottom of the baking sheet. You should still have at least two cups of oat mixture left. Pour the brownie batter on top of the oat mixture, and use a spatula to make sure it is evenly distributed. Sprinkle the rest of the oat mixture over the brownie batter, and then sprinkle M&Ms or chocolate chips over that, if desired.

Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

These can be kept covered in the refrigerator, or cut into bars and stored in an airtight container.

These recipes should be delivered with 2 cold beers and a salad of some kind.

Tamar Fox

Tamar Fox is an associate editor at MyJewishLearning.com. She has an MFA in fiction writing from Vanderbilt University, and a BA from the University of Iowa. She has worked as the editor of the religion blog at Jewcy.com, and is on the Editorial Board at The Jew and the Carrot. She spent a summer as a fellow at Yeshivat Hadar, and was a Senior Apprentice Artist for four years at Gallery 37 in Chicago.