feeding a family

tomatoes at market

It seems like just yesterday that we were bleary-eyed parents of a newborn, struggling to figure out how to keep this tiny little dependent creature fed and clean and happy, while taking care of ourselves, too. We didn’t have family nearby, and we had a very limited amount of freezer space, so we ate a lot of sandwiches from the deli down the street, and a lot of what I call “stuff on toast” – sardines and avocado, ricotta and jam, pretty much anything we could prepare quickly and eat one-handed.

peppers, pickled

We’ll be in that situation again soon, this time with a hungry toddler to feed as well, and you’d better believe Mike and I are already talking strategy, testing out new one-dish meals, and planning a rotation of things we can have around to keep us all nourished and happy. Some local friends of ours, whose son is one of Julian’s buddies, are in the same boat, having just welcomed a new baby girl to the world. Some of the other neighborhood moms had the wonderful idea to organize a sort of “meal train”, with everyone signing up for a night and taking over a meal to the family, and of course we were happy to contribute.

pico de gallo

My original thought was to send over a roast chicken dinner, which is great hot or cold and is so versatile – but with temperatures on our selected day still in the 90s, something a bit fresher and brighter seemed more appropriate. And since our friends said they were pretty much game for anything, I thought a taco dinner would be fun.

whole lotta brisket

I picked up a 5 lb. slab of brisket and braised it low and slow in the oven for the better part of a day in a mix of mild chiles, smoky spices, and a splash of coffee, then I carved the super-tender meat into shreds and chunks. I reduced the braising liquid by about half on the stovetop, returning the meat to the sauce and finishing it with a good hit of fresh lime juice.


I made a big pot of Borrachos with some Cayuga Farm pinto beans and home-pickled jalapenos, and a big pot of Mexican rice as well. We had a ton of juicy, ping pong ball-sized tomatoes from the farmers’ market that made a terrific pico de gallo, and a wee head of red cabbage that I shredded for a cilantro and lime-spiked slaw.

care package

I packaged everything up and packed it into a tote with some soft tortillas, fresh lime wedges, and some beer for the grown-ups.

brisket tacos

I set aside a little of everything for us, too. Quality control is important.


Mike and Julian took our care package over early the next day, and Mike reports the food (and beer) were very much appreciated. I’m just happy we could make one of those early, bleary-eyed days with a new baby a little easier for our friends.

11 thoughts on “feeding a family

  1. Please, please, please give me more details on the brisket. Did you cover it? How much liquid? Prebrown? What kind of chiles? Looks and sounds delicious!

    • Hi Stacey! I did pre-brown in a bit of grapeseed oil. The “rub” was a mix of kosher salt and the ground chiles/spices (maybe a tablespoon each of cumin, chipotle and guajillo chiles, smoked and sweet paprika, and some dry marjoram, with about half tsp. of cinnamon). I added maybe a cup of cold-brewed coffee for the liquid? And I did cover the pan with a double layer of heavy-duty foil while it braised (5-6 hours in a 300 degree oven – flipping it halfway through). I hope that helps – and thank you!!

  2. Christine says:

    That looks delicious! and kudos for you for turning on the oven at all over these past few hot hot days.

    Congrats again on the soon arriving baby! Hopefully you guys get to be on the receiving end of a meal train yourselves. xoxo

    • Thanks, Christine! One of the very best gifts we got when we had Julian was a goodie box from our friends at Farmstead in Providence – cheeses, nuts, crackers, all sorts of nibbles. We always love food gifts, but it was especially welcome in those early days of parenthood 🙂 It felt good to be able to pay it forward!

  3. Lauren Martin says:

    Thats sweet. Meal trains are a lovely idea. I had to depend on fresh direct and seamless to be my meal train. Viva la internet!

    • Another reason I wish we lived closer – I totally would have cooked for you guys!

      And I agree, the meal train is an awesome idea – I hadn’t heard of it until recently.

      • Lauren Martin says:

        yeah, some local families just started a meal train for one of the other local moms who just had her third kid….. i hadnt heard of it before… it’s hard when you dont have any family close by or willing to travel to help out….

  4. laziza says:

    Empanadas or something similar! Infinite varieties, freeze beautifully and, most importantly, can be eaten with one hand. 🙂

  5. I wasn’t going to leave a comment on this post until I was reading about the braised beef with the addition of coffee on it. That sounds DELICIOUS. Family dinner ideas are a hard thing to come up with. Is there a page on here that has that recipe?

    • Hi Jesseca – I’m sorry, but I don’t really have a recipe for the braised beef – often when I’m making a braise like that, I just kind of wing it, adding various liquids and flavorings until I have the flavor and volume of liquid I want. Of course, now I want to make this braised beef for tacos again, so maybe I’ll take notes 🙂

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