Our 1st Celebrity Meal Provider of 2023
Knowing how much you enjoyed our "celebrity" series last year, we decided to continue it for a few more months. One of my favorite activities in 2022 was walking our young dog, giving me the perfect opportunity to listen to my favorite podcasts. One day, I heard an interview with the month's celebrity and I knew right away that I wanted to reach out to her because the content of her new book would encourage us.
This month's celebrity is Shannan Martin, author of Start With Hello (And Other Simple Ways to Live as Neighbors). I devoured Shannan's book and her practical tips for caring for those around us. Shannan and her husband, Cory, intentionally moved their family from the country to the city in an effort to intentionally connect with a community.
Shannan admits early on that she's an introvert, so nothing she suggests is intimidating for even the most reserved of us. Her tips for connecting with neighbors and those around us are achievable and inspiring. She suggests starting with the simple step of saying hello and learning the names of your neighbors as you pass them on a walk. Not all of these relationships will grow beyond this point, but even knowing this much about each other is a good start.
One struggle I had to overcome when I started taking meals was resisting the desire to impress instead of making a nice, simple meal that's easy for me. The same holds true when you invite someone into your home. Shannan encouraged me in her book when she wrote...
I hope you enjoy hearing from Shannon in her own words as she shares how she cares for others with meals.
1. What is your go-to recipe when taking a meal to a friend?
I almost always take soup. It's simple, comforting, easy to reheat, and offers a break from the pasta dishes that often arrive. I'm a bit of a taco/Tex-Mex fanatic, and love any variation of taco soup. It's a crowd-pleaser, in addition to being economical and easy to make. Here's a recent rendition I threw together using left-over pot-roast from a previous meal. (When we make it easy on ourselves, we're much more likely to take a meal to someone!)
Day Two Taco Soup
- Left-over shredded pot-roast with any broth-drippings (you can also substitute cooked, shredded chicken, or cooked ground beef/chicken/turkey)
- Canned Corn (drained)
- Canned diced tomatoes with green chilis (regular canned diced tomatoes will also work)
- Canned beans, drained (Black, Pinto, Chili all work well)
- 1 packet of taco seasoning or a mixture of cumin, oregano, garlic powder and chili powder
- Juice of 1 lime, if you have it.
This "recipe" is so versatile! You can add as many canned items as you need. It will stretch easily. The real magic is in the toppings, like tortilla chips, chopped avocado, sour cream, cilantro, and/or shredded cheese. I try to include at least a couple of toppers when I take this soup. They up the "special" factor and contribute some extra texture and punch.
(For another variation, find my Slow Cooker White Chili recipe in Start with Hello!)
2. What do you send along with the recipe? Any sides or desserts?
For me, the sides are where it's at. Regardless of the main dish, I always take a fresh fruit or veggie. The times we're most in need of care are also when we're most in need of fiber! A cut-up pineapple or a bag of washed grapes is always welcomed and simple to provide. If I have extra time on my hands, I'll send a sturdy salad. This Brussels Sprout and Kale Salad is an all-time favorite of mine that even picky eaters enjoy. The bright flavors scream vitality and optimism.
I typically also try to throw in something extra. A store-bought snack, a loaf of good bread, a box of ice cream bars in the summer, or even freshly baked muffins for the following day's breakfast if I can swing it. (I happen to enjoy baking, but remember, store-bought is ALWAYS acceptable and appreciated!)
Brussels Sprout and Kale Salad
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts
- 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced OR 1-2 chopped apples
- 2-3 large fistfuls of chopped kale, stems removed (about 4 cups)
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 2/3 cup grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 lemons, zested and juiced
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the bottoms off your sprouts, then thinly slice (shave) them.
Slice your celery, de-stem and chop the kale, mince the garlic, zest and juice the lemons.
Whisk together your dressing.
Now, toss it all together. Give it a stir, and be sure to use plenty of cheese.
This salad holds up well and tastes even better on the second day!
3. What containers do you use to take this meal?
I've surrendered any impulses to use "cute" packaging. My goal is to take as much pressure off of my friend as possible and to make it easy enough on myself that I'm quick to offer help. I always send disposable containers in order to eliminate any extra responsibility to track/wash/return dishes. I try to keep a supply of aluminum pans on hand, but I often end up relying on recycled Cool Whip or sour cream containers. These choices ensure that my friend can enjoy the meal, stress-free. Any opportunity to show ordinary, unfussy care for someone goes a long way toward cultivating the kind of authentic connections that are less about appearance or performance and more about simply showing up for one another.
4. What inspires you to take meals to others and how does that align with your work?
Having been on the receiving end plenty of times, I know the relief of having a practical need met while simultaneously feeling seen and treasured. These memories fuel my persistence in doing the same for others whenever possible. I'm getting better at doing this on-the-fly. As I'm made aware of a need, I try to act quickly, and avoid talking myself out of it. It's often easy to just make more of what I'm already planning for that night's dinner. I'm also working to show up outside of the typical new baby or death-in-the-family situations. Someone once brought a pot of soup to my family the day we returned home from vacation. I'll never forget how helpful that was! Similarly, when we find ourselves with more dinner than we need, that's a priceless opportunity to share with someone who could use a little love - a single parent in the neighborhood, an older man who lives alone, or a friend in the midst of a busy season. Being awake to these opportunities and quick to act builds connections and friendship in the midst of our regular, full lives. These small actions bring us closer together, which makes life better and brighter for all of us.
I'd love to know your thoughts after you read Shannan's book, Start with Hello. She even includes tips for how to quickly get a bathroom ready for guests without stressing out. She inspired me to find a time soon when my family can host a taco night!
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