FYI, We Don't Serve Lasagna

I have very distinct memories of the gesture of bringing meals to friends and family from early in my childhood. I know we received them from time to time, especially around the birth of my youngest sister, but my most vivid recollections were bringing them to people. Because as the third kid, I was always “along for the ride”.

I’ll preface this by saying my mom was not a great cook. I mean no disrespect, I think she would probably agree. But lasagna was her “go to” support meal. I was a picky eater and I loathed lasagna night at our house; picking and scraping at the noodles, dissecting it until it was unrecognizable but palatable (to me). One family in particular we would bring lasagna dinner to regularly. They were family friends of my parents through the ARC program as one of their two sons had a disability, but I personally didn’t know them well, except from when we delivered the meals.

The Mother of the family was being treated for breast cancer when we first started bringing meals and after she passed away we continued. I recall thinking a lot about how hard it must be for this family to cope with such a devastating loss, yet they were always so friendly and happy and welcoming when we would visit. I remember the Dad once praising my Mom when we walked in with what he called her “world famous” lasagna. I was too young to understand if he was teasing, it seemed sincere and I cringed to think they loved eating this huge pan of lasagna over and over again when I personally hated it. She accepted the compliment graciously, playing it off by saying “it’s just the recipe on the noodle box”...true story, it was in fact the recipe from the box, over-cooked noodles, a jar of Ragu with unseasoned ground beef, some ricotta cheese lumps and a modest amount of shredded mozzarella layered and then baked until borderline burnt.

I understand now as an adult that regardless of if they actually enjoyed or even ate the meals we brought, it was the gesture that was being recognized more than the food and that perhaps our presence and the distraction it provided from their very difficult daily reality likely meant more than the meal itself. 

Regardless, it is from these memories that the product we created for Support Suppers was developed. It is why you will NEVER see lasagna or chili or meatloaf on our menu. Ohhhh, people still call and tell me they just want to send a pot pie to someone. Sorry friends, we don’t do that here. But we will send your folks a delicious, well-rounded, complete meal, prepared with love. 

As we head into our 3rd year, I wanted to thank you again for all of your Support, (and understanding of my childhood culinary baggage). 😉 Happy Mother’s Day and 70th Birthday to my own, “lasagna-master”, Mother and to all of the other Mother’s out there making this world go round!

Uncharted Territory

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Each new year of this business adventure seems to bring new, exciting experiences that keep me inspired. Last year we received a lot of media and marketing attention. This year a neighbor, who is working on her MBA, has asked to do her Capstone business analysis project on Support Suppers. While I’m very grateful and excited for the opportunity, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to put ourselves out there and hear where we could do better.

While I was completing the online form to initiate the process, I had to reflect on some of the challenges we face as a business. I noted some pressing issues, all mostly business-related, one personal, but as I thought more about it, this business does not just face business challenges. We are a complicated business that treads in very personal and emotional territory. I know for a fact that when I was doodling menus and business plans in a notebook when Support Suppers was just a fun daydream, the emotional weight that might accompany it never crossed my mind. Let me explain.

A few weeks ago when my sister and I were in the kitchen divvying up the meal deliveries for the day, she pointed to one of the cards and asked “what’s the situation”, I sighed and shrugged my shoulders and replied “I don’t know, I’m trying not to know for a little while”. Her question was totally valid and normal, it’s good to know what you’re getting into when delivering to a stranger’s home. For example, if it’s a new baby meal we don’t ring the doorbell, we knock lightly and try not to stir up a commotion during delivery. And delivering is fun, I can honestly say that regardless of the situation, nobody’s been unhappy to see us when we come to the door with a big bag of homemade food. But when your business niche is helping people support one another through tough times, you are made hyper-aware of many of those tough times right here in our community, all around, all the time. You can’t help but feel a little bit of the weight of the situation when your job is to convey a message of love and support from the sender and distract the recipient, from sometimes a hard reality, with a great meal (no pressure, right?! 😉).

While the experience helps us gain a better perspective and more sincere empathy, it can also lead to unreasonable worry and shared sadness that spill into our personal lives. It’s one of those business problems I never saw coming and that I’m not sure has an easy textbook solution. It’s just something we have to navigate as we go. One thing for sure though is it’s not going to stop us. In fact, it’s hearing from the recipients of our meals that keep us motivated to keep pushing to move forward and get bigger and better.

Like this one, “I want to thank you for the wonderful meals being delivered to our home. [The recent passing of a family member] caused an outpouring of efforts by our family, friends and colleagues to make sure we had everything we needed during this trying time. Going beyond the necessary: Support Suppers has offered a wonderful dining experience within the confines of our home. The food is beautifully prepared, the ingredients fresh, the experience of fine dining is real, and the delivery is ‘high-tech’. Thank you for the care you take to make each meal a dining experience to remember.”

It simply amazes me that someone took time away from their busy life to write an email to me. All I did was take an order, cook the food and deliver it. It’s not from me, I don’t know them, but it still meant a lot to me. It confirmed also that the experience we set out create was happening in real life for real people in our community. So we’ll just keep on keeping on and take the bad with the good, maybe squeeze in some therapy when needed, because regardless of how it makes me feel, this is still the best job I’ve ever had, and at the end of the day it’s not about me, it never was.

We just posted dates and menus through the end of April. Check out what’s cooking at supportsuppers.com/order and during this lovey week of February, thank you for all of your love and Support.

Holiday Traditions

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This past weekends snowstorm, probably the closest we’ll ever get to a “white Christmas”, was nothing short of magical in our household. Since we knew the timing of the weather forecast, the boys were anxious to get to bed the night before, crossing their fingers and toes that the snow would come. When they woke up in the morning they shot over to the window and pulled open the blinds. There was no snow yet but they were still excited by the promise that it would be coming soon. I stayed in bed a little longer and my oldest busted through the bedroom door about an hour later and did the same thing to the blinds, this time announcing “MOM! LOOK!!!” as he exposed a beautiful snow white landscape out our front window. Since it was a weekend day, we all got to play outside as a family, going outside at least 2-3 times just on Sunday to sled, have snowball fights and just play.

Of course, the minor inconvenience of an extended weekend from school being closed had me trying to plan out activities so we all didn’t go stir-crazy. I figured we’d lay low on Monday giving the road crews time to clear everything and enjoy the rest of the snow before it melted and on Tuesday we would head down to Blackstone, VA to see the train display at the hardware store. The boys LOVE this display and with the drive to and from plus the hour or so they would spend circling the train display and picking out their small toy from the cash register, it would fill the entire day. Before getting ready, I did a quick google search just to make sure all was a go and discovered a message on the store's homepage “It is with much regret that we announce the trains at Bevell’s will not be running during the 2018 holiday season due to a major family illness. Thank you for understanding as the Daniels family works through this difficult time”.

The message weighed heavy on me for two reasons. Primarily, the thought of what the family must be going through to call off a season of a special, local tradition, and second, the disappointment my children would feel, and I’m sure the general sentiment of many people like us unconnected personally to the Daniels family other than by this holiday tradition, when I told them the news. I thought about it most of the morning, what the family must be going through personally, how inevitable the backlash of not doing something for the public that they’ve grown to love may have played a mental tug-of-war on the family as they made the decision, as much as I hoped it didn’t and wouldn’t. As if either by serendipity (or internet algorithms), this article showed up on the social media feed and I read it. What I’ve learned over the 19 Christmases since my husband died

It was not long ago that we experienced grief around the holidays. And let's face it, whether new grief and illness or the memory of another holiday season spent grieving or facing bad news, many of us and the people around us are facing this reality. They’re next to us in the long checkout line and looking for a parking spot in the crowded parking lots and putting a friendly smile on at the holiday party. And while there are very distinct religious reasons for the season, maybe a little empathy over giving and understanding over obligation should also be the genuine by-products that manifest during the holiday season.

While we will miss partaking in our little holiday tradition of seeing the trains in Blackstone this year, we wish many blessings of love and support to the Daniels family and the community of Blackstone, and to all of you who may be struggling to find joy in this very meaningful but often commercialized holiday season we wish you also much love and support. As always, we are thankful for the Support you’ve shown us this past year and for trusting us to show your friends and family some edible loving. We look forward to continuing to Support this community in the new year. Happy Holidays!

Pumpkin What?

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Since starting Support Suppers, I’ve become a lot more creative and adventurous in the kitchen. Perhaps it’s partly due to the utility of using what I have to make what I want without having to pay someone else to do it. But I’d say it’s mostly confidence to make proper adaptations and preparations to ensure a tasty outcome and make things efficiently without taking a lot of my time or making a huge mess.

Recently at my Kindergarteners Parent Night, the teacher put out sign-up sheets for parents to volunteer to contribute certain things to the classroom parties throughout the year. The first party was the Halloween party and all of the traditional items were taken...even double-taken except for one...PUMPKIN PLAY DOUGH (cue the horror movie music). I’ll preface this by explaining that I wasn’t even allowed to play with play dough as a child, so I acknowledge the mess it can make but turn a blind eye to it on account of making my own childhood play dough dreams come true for my children. I asked the teacher what it was all about, thinking maybe I just had to pick-up some mini-packs at Costco. Nope, she had a “really easy” recipe to use real pumpkin (turns out just Pumpkin Pie Spice) to make homemade play dough for each child to explore the smell and texture of pumpkin at the classroom Halloween party.

I was tempted to slowly back out of the classroom and run away, but how could I now. I cook for living for goodness sake, if anyone SHOULD sign-up to make pumpkin play dough, it probably should be me. I begrudgingly completed the party sign-up with a note to please send me the recipe. This past Friday, I discovered the recipe while cleaning out the little guy’s backpack and stuck it to the fridge. Today, we made it, and maybe it’s just my sense of adventure in the kitchen talking, but it was “really easy”, and really FUN!

Within minutes of starting the project, my kindergartener discovered me and ran to grab his little apron to help. He is literally the worst eater but he loved smelling the dough while he helped me kneed it, cut it and roll it into 20 individual balls. “It smells like cinnamon,” he said with his sweet mispronunciation of the word cinnamon. There was one ball left over that he and his brother got to play with at the counter while I cleaned up. They played and created for almost an hour with that little ball of leftover dough. I’m not suggesting that everyone should try to make play dough, and I certainly don’t blame you if you don’t, but if you want the recipe shoot me an email at kate@supportsuppers.com.

Despite knocking out all of this obligatory fall family fun we still found time to post our cooking dates and menus through the end of January 2019. Check out what’s cooking at supportsuppers.com as well as our Gift Meal option which makes a great holiday gift! Thank you for your Support and Happy Fall Y’all!

Grateful

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Greetings everyone! I know it’s been a little while since I’ve blogged so I just wanted to check in and say “Hi!” A lot has happened since my last post. Support Suppers celebrated it’s 2 year anniversary, I sent my first kiddo off to Kindergarten, we prepared for the first East Coast hurricane of the season, among many other things too. But as the seasons and our mindsets change I wanted to share some of these thoughts.

I am grateful for the Support this community has shown us over the last two years. You’ve restored my faith in humanity and showed me the kindness and compassion that you have for your loved ones. With your words and actions, I came to know an RVA that was different than the one I felt I knew before. If anyone is on the fence about how amazing this town is, give me a call, I can be very convincing and I have a lot of proof.

I am grateful that our community missed the wrath of Hurricane Florence, and am hopeful we don’t have to face another scare this season. I didn’t mind the crowds at Costco or the day off of school because I gained a weekend with my family where I didn’t have to worry about electricity or their safety, or spend my free time bailing water out of our basement and cleaning debris from our yard. I did a lot of cooking (and eating) this weekend, like the Butternut Squash Soup pictured above that was very distinctly NOT a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or cold canned spaghetti o’s like our neighbors to the South may be dining on right now. And I pray that those affected find the community support in their recovery the likes of RVA.

We have a tasty lineup of menus this week as well as our dates and menus for the rest of September and October. Check out what’s cooking and let us help you Support yourself or your loved ones with a delicious meal. Thank you for all of your Support and encouragement over the past two years.

Great American Road Trip

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We are back this week after another family week off this summer. This time around included even more family and friends and A LOT of windshield time. 

I am notorious for committing to a family road trip adventure and then almost instantly dreading it. Back in the spring when my husband said he was going to travel to the Cincinnati area for a party celebrating the 70th birthdays of two of his uncles, I didn’t even think twice about agreeing to pack up the car and drive there as a family. After all, isn’t that what summer is for? But, it included travel on a busy holiday week and the long road trip to Kentucky in April for spring break was still fresh in my mind. To make it easier on all of us we decided to break up the trip home by stopping to visit some of our old favorite places on the way back, driving a little bit each day until we were back in Richmond. Six nights, 4 cities, 4 different hotels...what a great idea (eye roll). Even though just the thought of it makes me feel exhausted, it actually was a pretty great idea.

The birthday party was well attended by extended family that we hadn’t seen in years and probably won’t see again for many more. It was a hot day on a midwest lake and we all spent a chill day together floating, drinking, eating and celebrating. The next day we visited with my cousin and took the boys to the largest model train exhibit in the world to watch their little heads explode with excitement. We stopped in small towns we passed along the way and ate at our favorite spots in Columbus. We visited my mother and sister in Pittsburgh and stayed for a day at Kennywood Park, which I swear has not changed at all in the 15 years or so since I’d been there last. On 4th of July, we started the day riding the inclines at Station Square in Pittsburgh and ended the day watching fireworks frame the Washington Monument on the National Mall.

See what I mean...exhausting! But so much fun. We were greeted by friendly people everywhere we went and it reminded me of how much fun it can be to introduce the children to people and places that have made an impact on our lives. If you’re feeling up to a Great American Road Trip of your own, check out the link below for some ideas, I highly recommend #14!

25 Essential Drives for a U.S. Road Trip

While I wish I was serving up some homemade pierogi and Primanti Bros.® sammiches to you all this week, we still have a great line-up scheduled. Check out what’s cooking and let us help you show some love and Support to your loved ones this week. Happy summer and thank you for your Support.

Summer Stock

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This past week, in honor of the first official week of our Summer, we took off to travel around a bit, visit with family and celebrate some special milestones. As you might imagine, that didn’t include a trip to the grocery store for our weekly family groceries. But we were still home for most of the week. We even hosted some hungry visitors for a couple of days. Like arriving home after a week-long summer vacation, it’s times like this that force me to get creative with what we have to make delicious homemade meals that will satisfy everyone.

We always have meat in the freezer, but that takes a certain amount of pre-planning to defrost. There are certain non-perishable and slow perishing items we usually keep on hand. Bacon and eggs for breakfast, pasta, cheeses, cherry tomatoes and onions, frozen veggies and during the summer, fresh herbs from the garden. It’s with these items that I cooked up a couple of recipes worthy of sharing if you find yourself in the same situation during your Summer travels this year.

The first dish reminded me of a carbonara pasta dish I remember from a trip to Italy in my teens. I found this Food Network® recipe as a guide, but substituted bacon for pancetta, shallots for the onion, penne for the fettuccine and doubled up on the Parmesan. I topped it off with a poached egg that I cooked in pasta water that was already boiling. The end result was flavorful and satisfying.

The second dish was a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad made with leftover cherry tomatoes cut in half, cubed fresh mozzarella, you could use feta or blue cheese or any creamy cheese you might have on hand as a substitute, and fresh basil from the garden tossed with light olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. I love that this salad is really flexible and delicious. Add a cucumber or avocado if you have one to use, omit the cheese if you don’t have any, it still makes a great compliment to any Summer meal. We served this salad alongside cheeseburgers and baked potatoes when I realized our spring mix lettuce had gone bad.

This week we’re back at it with a line up of tasty menus. Check out what’s cooking at supportsuppers.com and let us help with dinner. Thank you for your Support.
 

America's Spirit

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In case you missed it, we’ve posted all of our Summer cooking dates and menus and you may have noticed that we are taking some time off this Summer. One week in each June, July, August we are not offering meals. One of those weeks is this coming week, although we will still be fulfilling all Gift Meal orders without interruption. This time we intend to spend with our families, celebrating milestones and making precious memories.

So, you may be wondering why there is a picture of a bottle of bourbon for this post...or maybe if you’re from Virginia you’re just wondering why there is a Kroger® sticker on a bottle of liquor. 😉 I know I talk about bourbon a lot. I wouldn’t blame you for thinking I might have a drinking problem...I do but I don’t if you know what I mean. Because to me bourbon is more than just a super tasty beverage, it’s a tradition steeped in heritage and history with so many amazing stories to tell. Frankly, you just don’t get that from a bottle of SKYY® vodka, which is (fun fact) bottled at the Wild Turkey Bourbon® distillery we recently visited in Kentucky.

My husband and I have been fortunate enough to learn about the history of bourbon during our family visits to Kentucky, but if you don’t have a chance to do that, I highly recommend you take a relaxing evening to rent and watch the documentary Neat: The Story of Bourbon. We know several people involved with the film and it is truly a work of art. 

One person they follow in the film is a third-generation employee from Buffalo Trace Distillery®. Near the end of the film, he tells a story of how he and his father received a very rare and special bottle of Pappy®. He, his father, and his brother share a drink together and he puts the lid back on the bottle when his father stops him and asks him what he’s doing. He explains to his father that this was a very special bottle of bourbon and that they should save it. His father disagrees and tells him that that bottle was made to share and be enjoyed. They spend the rest of the night finishing the bottle, sharing stories they never knew and making lasting memories. Within a year both his father and brother had passed away and the memories he made that night he’d cherish forever.

When my husband and I recently celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary, my mother-in-law traveled from Kentucky to watch the kids. With Summer ahead and my stock of my favorite bourbon, Buffalo Trace®, running low I asked her to pick up a bottle for us. When they arrived, I threw the bottle in our suitcase without even looking at it. It wasn’t until I unpacked at the hotel that I noticed the label. It was a special “Honey Barrel” single barrel run of my favorite bourbon. So rare and special that, just like the story above, I likely would have stashed it away and saved it for some distant special occasion. But it was all that I had and for goodness sake, it was a special occasion. A 10 year wedding anniversary and the first time my husband and I had ever spent a night away from the kids. We spent the weekend eating, drinking, relaxing and exploring the quiet towns around the Rappahannock River. We finished over half that bottle and I don’t regret it.

The art, time and care put into making a bottle of bourbon is unmatched. Some of the most special bottles are aged so many years that the distillers that make them never get a chance to taste the finished product. Just like the love and relationships we form with others we encounter in our lifetime, each bottle has a story to tell and many will be shared while making lasting memories and celebrating special occasions. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do what I love while also giving me the flexibility to spend time with my loved ones. We look forward to helping you Support one another this Summer. Cheers!

Happy Mother's Day

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We hope that everyone enjoyed this beautiful Mother’s Day. We certainly had a fun-filled weekend laying low and getting some work done but still enjoying a certain amount of fun. 

On Saturday we headed to the South of the James farmers market for the first time this season. We picked up some Yoder’s Donuts, always a family favorite, fresh seafood and peanut and cashew butter from our friend and neighbor at Reginald’s Homemade. On Sunday the boys made me breakfast in bed and then we took a bike ride down to the University of Richmond to see all of the baby ducklings and goslings. This little turtle was our favorite find, but against my best efforts, my husband said we couldn’t bring him home :(.

This week we have two delicious menus to offer and we’ve also posted our dates and menus for June, July, and August. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for exciting news and adventures starting later this week and through the weekend. Thank you for your Support, Happy Mother’s Day!

Making Mother's Day

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Being a mother of two young kids myself, my daily activities usually involve being around and interacting with other mothers and grandmothers. Many times I will overhear conversations sharing easy recipes, or good places to grocery shop with quick, easy meals that kids will eat and adults can enjoy too. It’s amazing, but certainly not surprising how much energy we put on ourselves to provide healthy, tasty meals to nourish our families and how much of a dreaded chore it can feel like day after day.

I’m in a place now where preparing food is one of the top priorities in my life and it seems very effortless for me to make homemade, creative dishes quickly and easily. Even clean up doesn’t seem to take as much effort as I remembered it feeling like when my work days were long and stressful. So while the meme picture for this Blog post is meant to be funny, maybe there’s some truth for some Mom’s to want to take a day off from cooking.

While we don’t have any meals on the calendar for the actual day of Mother’s Day, our Gift Meals make a great gift for the women in your life to give themselves a “night off” during the weekdays. Our Gift Meal cards are usually mailed but to ensure that all Gift Meal orders placed as Mother’s Day gift arrive on time, we’ll hand deliver or email all Gift Meal card orders that come in after 5pm on Thursday, May 10, 2018 up until 9am Sunday, May 13, 2018.

As always, we have a tasty menu lined up for this week. Check out what’s cooking and let us help with the cooking this week. Thank you for your Support and Happy early Mother’s Day!