The meal in my back pocket

I seem to be surrounded right now by people who are either pregnant or have newborn babies. Several friends also have had surgery or serious illness.

So, it seems like every few weeks a request goes out looking for people to bring meals to one of these families.

A few years ago, I couldn’t wait to take someone a meal. I loved to cook. And I felt like it was a really easy way to help someone in need.

But lately, I’ve developed a weird meal-bringing phobia.

What if they don’t like what I bring? What if it doesn’t turn out right? What if I can’t think of anything to cook?

Well, in the past few months, I decided it was time to conquer my fear of making meals for other people. I mean, this silliness was really standing in my way of helping others. It also was keeping me from inviting people over for dinner. I had even greater anxiety about eating a meal I made in front of friends who wouldn’t be able to hide their disdain of my cooking.

So, I came up with my standard-issue meal. This is the meal in my back pocket that I turn to every time I need to make dinner for someone.

It’s easy.
It’s all-American.
And I don’t have to think about it.
I always know exactly what I’m going to cook.

But before I give you all the details, I was wondering: Do you have a standard meal you turn to every time you need to cook for another family? Do you have a favorite meal that someone has made for you?

Do you love the chance to make dinner for friends or does it cause you to break out in a cold sweat and chills?


Here’s my super easy Meal in My Back Pocket, with the easiest variation and then a just plain easy version.


Easiest: Pulled Pork sandwiches
I usually have my husband cook the pork in his fancy Orion convection cooker. It takes about four hours, so this works if we can use it on a weekend. Serve with a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce and buns. Everyone raves about my husband’s pulled pork, and it makes my life much easier to let him cook the main dish.

If he’s not available, I put a pork loin in the crock pot and add a bottle of BBQ sauce. Cook all day on low. Shred the meat. Serve with buns.

Still easy: Italian Beef
I linked to one of many similar recipes. I usually use Chuck Eye Chuck Roast for my meat. This always tastes best to me. Cook all day in the crock pot. Shred the meat. Serve with buns.


Easiest: Emily’s Famous Coleslaw (OK, soon-to-be famous!)
Bag of pre-cut cole slaw mix from the produce section
Honey-roasted sunflower seeds
Raisins or dried cranberries
Jar of cole slaw dressing
Mix in whatever proportion looks good to you!

Not too hard: Broccoli Cauliflower Salad
I always get rave reviews on this salad. I make a few changes from the linked recipe.
I usually use one head of broccoli and one-half head of cauliflower. I chop them to smithereens using The Pampered Chef “Chopper”.
I don’t use the eggs, onions or vinegar.
I throw in extra bacon and cheese because what’s a salad without bacon and cheese?


Easy: Creamy Corn Casserole
This is one of my favorite comfort foods!

Even easier: Chips and Dip


Easiest: Cherry Dump Dessert
I make this with two cans of cherry pie filling, no pineapple, no coconut and no nuts.

Still pretty easy: The Great Pumpkin Dessert
I just made this dessert for the first time and it was good, especially for someone who can’t get enough pumpkin lately! It’s a lot like the cherry dump dessert, but made with pumpkin.

The next time I make it, I’m going to try it with 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, instead of 4. I thought it was a little too spicy.


So, if you are pregnant, about to have surgery or coming to our house for dinner, now you know what I will be serving. Enjoy!

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  1. My standard is pork loin, cheesy potatoes, salad and bread. Sometimes, I'll throw in some Illini Crispy cookies, if I'm not too tired. It's usually pretty good and easy Since I'm not a regular church-goer, and don't belong to any book clubs or fun things like that I miss out on the opportunity to make meals for people. It's mostly neighbors and friends. I think you've got under control girl! And I just go with the assumption, as well as my experience, that if someone else cooked it, it tastes delicious!:)Lynn

  2. I honestly can't wait to try these recipes! I usually make Chimi Changas (deep fried burritos) My family loves them and most people like Mexican food. Sometimes I will also make Spanish rice. Then just add the fixin's on the side lettuce, tomato, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, grated cheese. What is dump cake without the pineapple?Lynn: what are Illini cookies and will you share the recipe?

  3. Lynn: It must be our "pork country" roots that influence us to cook pork! =]Please send me the recipe! I would love it!Jenny and Sarah: Will you write a post with your recipes? Pretty please?? I would love to steal them!Anyone else who comes along: Feel free to leave your favorite recipe or link to it!

  4. The pulled pork is a fantastic idea for a meal to take to someone. I usually just make a lasagna because I can have it made and the person can pop it in the oven for final baking when they are ready to eat. Thanks for sharing the recipes!

  5. Who ever heard of commenting 3 times on one post?!? I served your Cole Slaw and Pulled Pork with Ruffles Chips. It was absolutely delicious! I will definitely be keeping that one in my back pocket! We frosted pumpkin shaped sugar cookies with the company for dessert.

  6. By popular demand… here is the recipe for Lynn's famous Illini Crispies! "Go, Illinois!"Illini Crispies 1 cup shortening (I use butter)1 cup sugar1/2 cup brown sugar1 egg1 tsp. vanilla1 1/2 cups flour1 tsp. baking soda1 tsp cinnamon (I use a touch more…love cinnamon)1/2 tsp. salt1 1/2 cups oatmeal (I use the quick kind)3/4 chopped nuts (I use pecans) Cream shortening, add sugar, egg, and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and add to first misxture. Shape into small balls, flatten on cookie sheet with bottom of glass which has been greased and dipped in sugar. (I use the medium size scoop from pampered chef. Sometimes I forget to do the sugar thing, but they still taste yummy.)Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes. Makes 4-5 dozen (Ha! Not if you eat the dough! Which we all know you shouldn't because of the raw eggs…but I like to live on the edge!)

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