When life hits a crisis, a home-cooked meal delivered with kindness, no strings attached, is a welcome gift.
Naperville resident Barb Christensen is one of a team of meal makers at Bethany Lutheran Church who offers this type of gift often. These quiet heroes answer the call to extend these tasty acts of kindness when needed.
Christensen says that making meals for others “is not hard. I am not a fancy cook but the meal is always appreciated.”
After being a meal maker for several years, she has a few suggestions for others who might want to deliver a meal to friends or neighbors who face the arrival of a new baby, a sick family member or other crisis.
“I first call the person to tell them I am bringing the meal and ask what time they want to eat,” the mother of three grown children explains.
“I try to bring the meal hot so they don’t have to do anything. I package everything in disposable pans so they don’t have to return dishes. I also ask how many people for dinner and portion the dish to the number of people.”
Christensen, 58, makes adjustments to the meal if there are young children. For example, if she is making a lettuce salad, she might send applesauce for young children and salad for the adults.
“I also ask about allergies,” adds Christensen, whose daughter is unable to eat gluten, making the mom sensitive to dietary restrictions.
When deciding on a menu, Christensen says, “I like to make very neutral things. Chicken is a good choice and so is pork tenderloin. I try to include a main dish, salad, vegetable and dessert.”
Christensen also labels the dishes so families know what they are eating.
To prepare the meal for delivery, Christensen wraps the dishes in towels to keep them warm.
“I usually just drop the meal and leave,” Christensen says.
She knows that some volunteers stay and visit, but she feels it is best to make her stay short so the family can enjoy their meal.
One of her favorite dishes to share with families is a Wild Rice Chicken Casserole.
Most of the ingredients are usually in her pantry, so when the call comes, it is easy to put together.
The casserole also be can made the night before and refrigerated and baked the next day.
Christensen, who is a reading tutor at Kingsley Elementary School, will often make the casserole in the evening and quickly bake it the next day to deliver it when she gets home from work.
Another one of her favorite items for sharing is a raspberry salad dressing.
She notes that the dressing can be used for green salads or fruit salads.
She usually serves the dressing on salad greens sprinkled with fresh raspberries and almonds.
Baking is one of Christensen’s passions.
“I come from a long line of bakers. My grandma made wonderful pies,” she says.
She shares two of her favorite recipes, including the rice dish.