Recently I've been awash in wonderful friends announcing pregnancies or having babies. Not having kids myself, I can't really offer them advice or first-hand experience, but I can help fill their fridges, and freezers, too, if I'm really good.

People all over the world show up with food when a life even happens. Deaths, wakes, births, marriages, job loss, graduations... events both joyful and somber bring out the inner cook in all of us, longing to fill our friends if not with peace, than at least with casseroles.

These days, showing love through food is getting easier. Multiple online "care calendar" sites allow you to invite friends and family to sign up for specific days. These sites allow the receiver to pick the days they'd like meals, note preferences and allergies, and write a thank you to those who visit the site. Food bringers can check out the calendar, pick a color-coded day that works for them, and browse what others are bringing so that the pile of lasagnas doesn't grow three-deep in the freezer in one week.

Zucchini Eggplant Lasagna
Credit: Randy Mayor; Styling: Leigh Ann Ross

Let's be honest, if you get three Zucchini Eggplant Lasagnas, you'd be happy! See more make-ahead lasagna recipes.

The real question is, what should you bring to a new mom? What kind of foods do new moms need? In a word: Easy.

This weekend, I showed up at a friend's home with two foil casserole dishes, one filled with room-temperature lasagna, the other with piping hot cobbler. In a basket, I'd packed bagged salad (complete with croutons, dressing, and cheese), baked bread, and a gallon of sweet tea; sure, the sugar might keep the baby up, but the mom was grateful!

When you're organizing a meal for a new mom, here are some things to consider:

1) Allergies! If they didn't mention any, send a text or email to ask.

2) Think about foods you've dined on together in the past and don't go too wild with the menu. Fish, for example, can be a difficult thing to select for someone else.

3) Pack the food in disposable containers. If you do feel the need to take a fancy platter, mark your name on the bottom of it and be ok if it never returns. New moms aren't insensitive, not in the least; sometimes keeping track of all the generosity can be difficult. To be safe, go disposable or buy cute plastic containers that the family can reuse later.

4) Don't forget the sides! A casserole is easy and hearty, but something fresh goes a long way. Add in bagged salad, a simple side dish, or even a little fresh fruit. A two-liter of soda or a gallon of tea also helps, as she'll have something she can offer other visitors.

5) Plan to drop off the meal, not to dine with the family! If you're invited to stay, wonderful, but plan to leave shortly thereafter. New moms are tired!

6) When selecting a recipe, consider doubling it and taking two, one for now and one for later. I like to deliver my casseroles at room temperature so that they can go directly into the oven, fridge, or freezer.

7) Write the instructions on the lid of the casserole. Bake? Broil? For how long? Sharpie will do!

A fun trend I've seen popping up on Pinterest is make-ahead slow-cooker meals, entire meals in bags (including meat, veggies, and sauce) that are ready for the freezer. This gives the new mom a one-dish dinner ready to go, just pour the frozen contents of the bag into the slow-cooker in the morning, and dinner's ready that night. If you do go this route, consider two things:


Prep Slow-cooker Sloppy Joes through Step 1, then pack them with the directions for Step 2 written on the bag. Tell the new mom she can use the recipe for dinner the next night, or freeze it for later in the week.

1) Don't show up with an uncooked slow-cooker dish at 7pm on the day you signed up to bring dinner. They're likely counting on something they can eat that evening!

2) Write on the bag exactly what the recipe is, what to make with it (rice, or a salad), and the slow-cooker information, like the heat and the cook time.

Most of all, remember that the new mom (and her family!) is so excited to see you, show off her little one, and enjoy a night off from cooking dinner. Now go get some baby cuddles on your calendar.

When you're asked to bring a meal to a new mom, do you have a go-to recipe?

By Ashley Kappel and Ashley Kappel