“Chesed Meals” Ideas


I wasn’t sure exactly what to call this Recipe Exchange, but here’s what I intended: You know those meals that you make for friends who just had a baby? Or are home sick with the flu and five kids? Or, G-d forbid, lost someone close to them?

I called them “Chesed Meals” only because I associate them with our shul’s Chessed committee. But I guess I could just as easily have called them “meals to share with friends in need”.

Anyway… I am feeling inspired by a good friend’s recent birth (recent, as in yesterday ~ Mazal Tov, D&D!). Our shul is wonderful about organizing meals for new moms, but I often find myself stumped for what to make. It seems as though I’m not alone, as when I ask for suggestions, I always get the same two answers: Lasagna or stuffed shells!

And I get why: It reheats well, travels well, and doesn’t cost a small fortune (the cost of kosher mozzarella not withstanding). But, there are only so many 9×13 disposable tins of lasagna a post-partum mom can eat!

Instead of sharing a specific recipe today, I am instead going to share some of my suggestions for “chesed meals”. I’d love it if you would do the same – although you can also feel free to share recipes… I always love those, and I know the rest of you do, too!

Oh, and if you have written a blog post about making a meal for a friend – or getting a meal from a friend – or, gosh, anything remotely related to friends and meals, feel free to link up on the Mr. Linky.

Here are my favorite tips for “chesed meals”:

  • Send along a fresh and abundant salad — and cut up veggies, too, if there are young kids at home (throw in some yummy dip and you’ll be the hit of the chesed meal kid committee!)
  • Tuck in some cut up fruit – I so appreciated the Tupperwares filled with ready-to-eat fruit after my daughter was born; it’s a little harder in the winter time, but even some already washed blueberries are a lovely treat in the morning
  • Give disposable containers – the last thing a friend-in-need needs is to worry about returning your Pyrex
  • Incorporate fresh and flavorful ingredients, while toning down the spicy-factor – unless you know for sure that the “heat” will be well-received
  • Pack a few extra treats for any kids at home – chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin bread and apple muffins are some of my go-to favorites
  • Make what you’re having – to prevent this from turning into a four-hour ordeal, just double up on what you are planning to make for dinner anyway

And here is a list of meals that I have prepared in the past, in case you are looking for some inspiration:

  • Baked ziti, lasagna, spinach stuffed shells – Yes, I know what I said above, but there’s a reason that lasagna is a “chesed meal” cliche, people.
  • Broccoli and/or mushroom quiche, home fried potatoes and fruit salad with yogurt sauce
  • Sweet & sour chicken with stir-fried rice (I made it easy on myself by using the breaded chicken cutlets from Empire, which our Costco no longer carries, sadly)
  • Vegetarian chili with cornbread and tofutti sour cream (vegan family with some food allergies)
  • Vegetable stir-fry with tofu, white rice, egg rolls (not homemade, although that would have been a really nice touch)
  • Falafal, hummus, “chips” (how Israelis say French fries – and yes, you eat them in the pita), Israeli salad & fresh pita
  • Faux Swedish meatballs (I just took them out of my freezer and quickly made the sauce), served with majadara, chopped salad and steamed veggies (This was for a family who had a baby on a Friday morning and needed a quick Shabbat dinner in the hospital)
  • Soup & salad, with homemade bread
  • Build your own tacos – I just individually packaged up veggie taco meat (made with either TVP or Morningstar crumbles), cut up tomatoes, shredded lettuce & cheese, “refried” beans and sour cream
  • Roasted veggies with orecchiette pasta, tossed with lemony vinaigrette + a Greek salad (This was my personal favorite… mmmm, I want it now just writing about it!)

Ok, now it’s your turn: Please do share… anything and everything remotely topical is welcome, either in the comments section or linked up with the Mr. Linky.

Shabbat Shalom and Tizku l’Mitzvot!


  1. I almost always do mac n cheese. Kids and adults enjoy, it’s the perfect comfort food. Here’s the recipe I use (along with my chili recipe, same post!):

    I usually skip a salad in favor of cut-up veggies. I figure it lasts longer in the fridge and is more versatile, for snacks, etc.

    Have you ever seen takethemameal.com? It’s a great website that you can use for coordinating meals…really great site. I also throw in some bananas, and bagels for breakfast so they’re also set for the morning. And whatever I’ve been baking that week for a special dessert treat.

    We had a friend who went thru chemo and she said one of the funniest things (there should be laughs during crummy times, right?) was that her 2 year old daughter got to the point that she expected dessert with every meal because each of us brought a dessert of course! I was so glad to be able to spoil her daughter! 😉

    (Have you ever thought of moving the recipe exchange from Fridays to another day? Usually I’m nowhere near the computer before Shabbat and then I forget by Sunday…I’m so glad I got to participate today!)

    • Phyllis – I’m glad you got to join in today! For whatever reason, I really like have the RE on Fridays – it gives me something to look forward to 🙂 But I know I need to be better about getting it up earlier in the day so more of you can participate. I never seem to get used to “winter hours”.

  2. I like to do taco salad- it can work vegetarian or meat, and is an economical change to the normal chesed fare:

    make meat (or faux meat) like you would normally for tacos.
    on the bottom of a toss-away tupperware (the short, long one works particularly well), mush a layer of refried beans (I’m partial to the Eden Organic, which you can usually find under $1). Put the cooked meat on top. In separate bags/containers, provide veggies (any or all that you happen to have): iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, sliced olives, etc. Throw in a mini-container of salsa and a bag ‘o’ chips, and yer done 🙂

    • I like it! (Veggie) taco salad is one of our favorites. I mix up some taco sauce or salsa with yogurt for the dressing. Throw in an avocado, too – not cheap, but I LOVE avocado!

  3. I often default to quiche, because it’s easy and essentially a full meal in one-dish. I’ve done some crockpot chicken recipes also. I always use foil pans or ziploc bags (put a salad in a gallon-sized ziploc, they can dump it into a bowl) so there’s no worry about returning anything. I try to throw in a dessert of some sort. And toss in a bag of bagels or English muffins for breakfast. If I really plan ahead, I tape an index card to the foil wrapping each dish with ingredients and heating instructions (e.g., spinach & cheese quiche with tomato slices, reheat at 350 for 15 min).

    • I agree with you that it’s such a nice touch to add breakfast – I try to do something homemade, but you’re right that even English muffins or bagels is one less thing for the family to worry about!

  4. I’ve done this one http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Roast-Sticky-Chicken-Rotisserie-Style/Detail.aspx along with mashed potatoes, a salad and Rhodes whole wheat bread. It travels easily and it is easy to double so that you have enough for both the recipient and yourself. I would cut down on the cayenne if you are making it for children.

    • Mmmm, that looks great! Everyone seems to be loving those Rhodes rolls/bread today, too. I’ve only ever had their cinnamon rolls (HEAVEN!), so I will have to branch out.

  5. I’ve done a mac and cheese (all put together, but they bake) directions included from this recipe http://smittenkitchen.com/2006/10/cheddar-and-elbows-exalted/ I give them everything measured out with directions of what to do. with a salad and possibly something sweet.

    or lasagne

    or soup

    when I was on bedrest we received some beans and rice which was a hit, too.

  6. great idea! I never know what to make and usually procrastinate on signing up and then all the spots get filled. I usually tend to do spaghetti and meatballs or build your own tacos like you mentioned above. Most recently I made a rice and tofu dish.

    • LOL, I also procrastinate with signing up and usually end up bringing meals after the rotation ends. I figure a home-cooked meal that YOU didn’t have to cook is always welcome.

  7. Lauren Gerofsky says

    I was recently the recipient of several “Chesed Meals” and so I thought I’d share the list of very appreciated meals my family enjoyed: 1) crockpot brisket with carrots and potatoes, a bagged salad, and biscotti, 2) meatloaf, pasta on the side, green beans and fruitcrisp, 3) veggie lasagna, a bagged salad, garlic bread, 4) cranberry chicken, steamed broccoli, brown rice, and fruit salad, and 5) beef stew, challah and applesauce. All a little different and with plenty of leftovers. The leftovers were appreciated too, as I could just put a plate in the microwave myself the next day if no one was close-by to help.

    • You got such nice meals 🙂 Sounds like Shabbat every day! I agree – leftovers are key. They can even freeze in one-serving portions for later, once the meals stop coming.

  8. I lime sending salmon (I linked up an easy recipe above) and baked ziti. They’re both easy to prepare. The fish is a hit with the adults and sometimes the kids, and the ziti is a sure hit with the kids. I usually include simple sliced veggies too, or an Israeli salad if I have time. Great topic, and I love your ideas! Thanks.

    • Thanks so much for linking up, Rivki! I love salmon, too. It’s so expensive (especially b/c I’ve been trying not to buy farmed fish) – but it’s easy and my kids LOVE it.

  9. I usually make sesame peanut noodles (although I use sesame tahini instead of peanut butter…), with a fruit salad. I put the “fixings” on the side – chopped cilantro, crushed peanuts and some red pepper flakes.

  10. My most comforting meal is butternut squash soup. I often make 4x the recipe in my big pot – one or two to send over, one for dinner and one for the freezer. We add Rhodes rolls or Mrs. T’s perogies to make it a full meal.
    Saute 1 carrot, 1 rib celery and 1 med onion in oil
    Add 3.5 cups water
    1 lb butternut
    1/2 lb potatoes
    3 tbsp. salt
    1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
    boil for 20 minutes and blend.
    Creamy, yummy, healthy and easy!

  11. in our community we’ve created a google document where people can sign up for days when they will be providing the meals and list what they will be making. it makes it much easier to get all of the days filled up since nobody has to call around coordinating dates, and it also ensures that people don’t wind up receiving the same thing every night!

  12. I tend to send macaroni and cheese and caesar salad for chesed meals. Nothing very creative.

    My favorite tip is send EVERYTHING that they would need for a complete meal–drinks, cups, plates, plasticware, the pan to heat the meal in, etc. That way the family does not have to worry about any aspect of the meal.

  13. Definitely agree about sending disposable items.

    One thing I love to do because it’s a little bit “different” and kids tend to appreciate is to make a huge batch of pancakes from scratch, usually with whole wheat flour. Leftovers will freeze in smaller portions and can be pulled out any time for “breakfast for dinner.” With that I include a frittata for the adults and fruit salad for everyone.

    That’s for weekdays; when possible I try to angle for the Friday night meals because then I just increase what I’m making for us: soup, chicken, salads, rice, dessert.

  14. Ms. Krieger says

    I have been both a giver and receiver of chesed meals. I never make lasagna or stuffed shells because, well, everyone else does. I usually make a bean and vegetable soup and bring it in a plastic container (hearty, can be easily frozen) and bring fresh bread and seasonal fruit. Sometimes I bring a frozen casserole (shepherd’s pie, for ex.) And I usually try to keep the food vegan/pareve to be most flexible (and to my personal taste – like Kosher on a Budget, I usually just make a double meal of whatever I am cooking.)

    In the summer I make rice pilafs with beans/mushrooms/nuts. Very popular. Fresh cut-up vegetables and seasonal fruit also.

  15. My regular “go-to” chesed meal is a huge batch of pasta (I cook up a whole kilo, 2 packages) with either turkey bolognese or vegan bolognaise, depending on the family and the meal I am cooking. I pack it up in two large disposable trays and tell the family they can freeze the second one if they like. Families receiving chesed are usually inundated with food during the “chesed time” but then the meals stopand it’s nice to know there’s something still there, waiting for you in the freezer.

  16. I gave birth this past summer and got at least 5 lasagnas! Good thing I like lasagna…I loved your suggestions, thanks!

  17. i usually meatballs and rice and a salad or lentil soup/vegetable soup and a salad or sometimes baked chicken with potatoes and carrots. i try not to do pasta since i think most people do that and i like to give a meal that is more substantial.

    agree with the disposables and also i try to give more that for one meal–assuming i am only cooking for a couple of people.if i have to cook for a larger family i only cook enough for that meal

  18. Tuna casserole – wide noodles, tuna, white sauce, peas, maybe an egg and shredded cheese. Top with crushed potato chips for extra kid friendliness. Serve alongside oven fries and green beans.

  19. shandel strasberg says

    i have really good, quick and easy chinese chicken chow mein recipe… i like to make with rice (either brown or wild rice) i’ll have to find it and post it later.

  20. I just wrote a 4 part series on this (see link above or search “chesed” on my site). I coordinate a lot of the chesed meals in my community, and I have received twice over the past two years, so I have some experience, too!

  21. What I find most helpful with chesed meals is making something that can go right into the freezer. As a recipient of many, very large meals, I was very happy to be able to freeze something for the future.

    A bagged salad mix is also a big help- many times people forgot the veggies.

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