October 9, 2013 at 1:00 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: Friend-in-need meals

Marinated chicken and saffron rice for the man of the house, bowtie and gemelli pasta for the kids and sprinkly homemade (well, home-baked from a mix) doughnuts for all were the foodstuffs I brought my friend's family last week as they face a new baby and a move. What are your friend-in-need meals? (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)

Despite having a newborn and three other children at home at the time, including another son less than a year old my friend Dana brought me a big bag of baby clothes and meals for my husband and me shortly after I had our son.

Last week, she took on a new member of her family through foster care a 2-month-old, the younger sibling of her second youngest son. Meanwhile, she, her husband Jeff and their now six children are moving into a new home this weekend.

And I thought I had a lot going on.

Dana, whom Ive written about before, and Jeff are always helping others; in fact, Jeff took hours from his family to help us move into our home a couple years back, which, by the way, happened right when I was newly pregnant. (What is it with new babies coinciding with new homes?) My husband will return the favor this weekend; my part is making as much food for the family as I can.

I love this sort of thing and not just the cooking part. One of the most moving things in our newsroom is when a coworker gets a serious illness in his or her immediate family. Ive seen other coworkers rally to arrange meals and raise money to help, and its this sweet chance to step out of the hustle and bustle of working at a major daily newspaper to see the best in people.

But yes, I was jazzed about the cooking, too. First, I could return the gift Dana gave me after my son was born; second, Im working to clear out my deep-freezer anyway for a defrost, and this was perfect to speed that up; third, it was an opportunity to help someone by doing something I love (coincidentally, my husband likes to help people move and no, you cant have his number).

Conveniently, I found out about Danas need Wednesday, the day I get to be a stay-at-home mom and have a little more flexibility to cook.

As Dana said what would be most helpful would be food for the rest of her family, I concentrated on dishes for that gaggle of kids and Jeff, who loves hearty, tasty, simple fare. I had a blast making some of the colored, fun-shaped pasta (bow-tie and the corkscrew-like gemelli) we had on hand for our son, mixing it with chicken, vegetables and spaghetti sauce. For my husband and I, I had defrosted a 3-plus pound package of chicken tenders Id marinated with salad dressing (GREAT use-up for dressings you try but dont like on salad: marinating meat); baking some for Jeff allowed me to use up more freezer fodder in replacing it for us. I threw some packaged saffron rice in the rice cooker for a base for the chicken.

Finally, this was a great excuse to make a boxed mix of sprinkly doughnuts which allowed me to kill two birds with one stone, as I squirreled some away as an answer for the next time my husband asked, Do we have anything sweet in the house?

I also threw in a fully cooked frozen pot roast Id purchased from a school fundraiser thats one more spot freed in the deep freezer.

It was a crazy day, pulling the food together, packaging it up and delivering it amidst typical Wednesday duties (laundry, cooking for my own family and, you know, caring for my child) made more hectic by squeezing in taking our son to my husbands work for a rare lunch picnic, plus an overdue oil change.

And since I want to drop off one more load todayto get them through the rest of this week plus send some vacuum-sealed frozen casseroles with my husband Saturday to be moved to our friends new house to help with the post-move chaos Ive been sneaking in extra cooking all this week. Sometimes it was at the oddest times including throwing on another version of the Slow-Cooker Pizza Lasagna I wrote about recently when I got up in the middle of the night Monday with a crying toddler but its been kinda fun, seeing how much I could get done.

Besides, who are we kidding I bet my most chaotic day is nothing compared to the average day in Dana and Jeffs household.

What are your friend-in-need experiences or meals? Wed love to hear from you in the comments below. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but theyre easy to sign up for, and free. Maureen Tisdale, Detroit News Food Editor, will keep an eye out the next few days to respond to any great comments or questions you post. You can also follow her on Twitter @reentiz. Join the conversation!