Monday, March 2, 2009

What's For Supper Ya'll? Treat New Parents to 'Welcome Baby' Dinner

Treat New Parents to 'Welcome Baby' Dinner
By Ame Andrews, Little Rock, Arkansas

When friends of mine had a new baby, I came up with a "Welcome to the World" dinner to deliver when they came home from the hospital.

From personal experience, I knew how difficult it can be in those first few weeks to care for a new baby and the rest of the family, plus baby yourself a bit. I didn't have time to make many home-cooked meals, and I appreciated it when someone stopped by with a tasty dish.

For my friend's theme menu, I combined several favorite recipes that were easily portable and came up with clever names for them: Special Delivery Chicken, Green Bean Bundles of Joy, Bringing Home Baby Carrots and 2 a.m. Feeding Snack Bars.

Comforting Main Dish
Special Delivery Chicken is a simple but delicious casserole that can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen. Chicken breasts are baked in a savory sour cream sauce. With a buttery crumb topping, this main dish is comforting and popular with all ages. I was quite sure my friend's toddler would love it, because mine does.

The casserole was accompanied by two vegetable dishes. For Green Bean Bundles of Joy, I used fresh green beans from our local farmer's market and tied them with bacon strips to make the "bundles." They take on a pleasantly tart taste when baked in Italian dressing.

Bringing Home Baby Carrots are cooked with honey and apple juice. The baby carrots fit my theme nicely and are so sweet and tender, just like a newborn. They couldn't be simpler to prepare.

And finally, I made 2 a.m. Feeding Snack Bars for dessert or a late-night snack when Mom or Dad gets up with the baby. It was a fitting name for these decadent triple-chocolate brownies with a candy-bar topping. They are great with a glass of milk anytime.

The brownies can be made the day before, and I cooked the rest of the food just before delivering it. The meal was ready for the table when I arrived at my friend's home in the evening. Each dish was labeled, wrapped with ribbon and placed in a baby gift bag.

I had cooked and packaged everything in disposable foil or plastic containers so the busy new mom didn't have to worry about cleaning or returning any dishes to me. The proud parents were delighted with their special dinner—and putting it together was fun for me.

I started thinking up themes when I was a kindergarten teacher, and it's become an enjoyable hobby! "Welcome to the World" is one I wanted to share because it's a unique and appreciated gift. Why not consider it the next time someone you know brings home a new bundle of joy?

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Easy Chicken Pasta

Easy Chicken Pasta

What's For Supper Ya'll?

White Beans, Pasta and Chicken
8 ounces dried cavatappi, fusilli, rotini, ditaloni, or other short pasta tubes
1 15- to 19-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
12 ounces cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 cup snipped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional - I usually skip it)
Olive oil (optional - but I recommend at least a little for moisture)
1. In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions; drain well and set aside.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine 3/4 cup of the beans and the chicken broth. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Place bean puree in pan used for cooking the pasta; bring to boiling. Return pasta to pan.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook garlic in 1 tablespoon hot olive oil for 1 minute. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining beans, shredded chicken, snipped parsley, pepper and salt. Heat through.
4. Add the tomato mixture to hot pasta; toss to cost. Top with parsley sprigs and additional olive oil. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Posted by Stacy Nelson, Easy Dinner

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