Transportable Dinners

Curried lentil and vegetable stew. Photo by Keri White

Whether due to cold and flu season, bad luck, general socializing or a desire to carry out mitzvot, I spent a goodly amount of the last month ferrying meals to people who were injured or ill or for a variety of other reasons.

That included stocking a neighbor’s fridge when she returned from a vacation trip to what turned out to be a disaster area, attending a community potluck, dropping a meal to a bereaved friend and bringing dishes to an Eagles watch party.

During these deliveries, I learned quite a bit about the best practices for transporting food and also how to avoid significant pitfalls.

Some general tips:
The recipient of this kindness should not be burdened in any way — that means avoid delivering food in a container or pan that you want back. Save takeout containers for this purpose and/or buy foil pans, so you won’t sacrifice your favorites or have to stalk your neighbor for your Pyrex as he recuperates from open-heart surgery!

Provide foods that require a minimum of effort on the part of the recipient/host. One-dish, heat-and-eat or microwavable meals are optimal choices. Think casseroles, soups or stews.

Be sure to check on dietary restrictions, allergies or preferences before you stir up something spicy that will go uneaten or complicate their symptoms.
Freeze the items before transporting. If something jiggles in your car, this prevents a messy spill.

Be sure to put the food on the floor of your car or in the trunk. Stopping short with a lasagna on the passenger seat is not recommended.

The lentil stew below is a good, nourishing option for a drop-and go dinner — it contains a bunch of vegetables, is vegan and gluten free, and can be spiced up or down depending on preference. Other good choices for transporting food, whether for an individual who is ill, or for a potluck or party, include the following, which can be found online in Jewish Exponent archives at (Note: Many of these have more spice than the average convalescent might need, but they can be simplified by eliminating the zestier ingredients.)


Soup, such as posole or roasted vegetable soup

Russian winter vegetable soup

Thai turkey meatballs

Macaroni and cheese

Braised chicken

One-pan chicken quinoa dinner


Curried Lentil and Vegetable Stew | Pareve
Serves 4

This stew takes on a decidedly curry vibe; I used a bunch of Indian spices and blends, but the result is more aromatic than spicy.

If this flavor profile is not suitable for the intended eaters, omit them and opt for something else — rosemary/thyme? Fresh dill and lemon zest/juice? Or just add salt and pepper, and let the vegetables speak for themselves.

If the dish does not have to be vegan, consider tossing in a smoked turkey hock to deliver a big burst of flavor. Like most recipes of this type, view this as a guide and swap in whatever vegetables you have on hand.

1 tablespoon canola or
vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon garam masala or curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 carrots, sliced
2 potatoes, chopped
1 pound lentils
1 bunch collard greens, coarse stems removed, and coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
Cayenne pepper to taste, optional
2-3 quarts water or vegetable broth

In a large pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions with ginger until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients, and sauté until coated and beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.

Add water or broth; it should cover the mixture by about 4 inches. Bring it to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 45 minutes until the lentils and vegetables are soft. Check the stew every so often to ensure that there is sufficient liquid; if not, add more during the cooking process.

This keeps for several days in the refrigerator and generally tastes better after it sits overnight. It also freezes well.



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