We hear the term all the time - Comfort Food. It makes us happy when we are feeling sad, relieves the pressure when we are feeling overwhelmed, fills a void when something in us is depleted. I remember growing up, watching when someone would get sick, have surgery, pass away - people would just keep arriving.. food in hand. It somehow replaced sending flowers (thank God), it became the new love language for, "here, let me make it better, I'm thinking of you".
When someone has baby, a surgery, an illness, a death in the family, it's our way of giving them one less thing to worry about, to be in charge of. Our way of trying to lessen their load. It's our way of saying, "I'm sorry for your problem, I don't know how to make it better but look, look what I made you. I made it with love and with every ingredient I added I tried to add more love, more comfort. I thought of you the entire time".
When I take a meal for someone I always try and take something that they can freeze in case they don't want to eat it that night. Sometimes meal trains can be overwhelming, the food starts piling up and it goes to waste. Take them something they can eat that night if they want or keep in their freezer for a night after the other meals have run out (this includes making your dish in a freezer safe container - if they forget to return it you'll be ok - make the dish part of the gift).
Now the dreaded question.... WHAT DO I MAKE? WHAT DO I TAKE THEM? First rule.. this is not a competition (do not act like you've never worried wether your dish measures up to what Suzy took last night). I promise that whoever is on the receiving end is just grateful NOT to be cooking and worrying about it themselves.
One dish meals are of course the easiest to freeze. Pasta dishes, soups, casseroles etc. all make for a perfect dish! Even if it seems like its a "all in one" dish, I still like to add a salad (pre mixed bagged salads are easy and have everything, including the dressing in one bag), a vegetable and if it's pasta I would add a french baguette or one of those frozen garlic bread loaves you throw in the oven. Remember EASY is key! Add a desert and you are good to go!
If you are making them something to freeze or cook at a later time be sure to tape cooking instructions to the top. Don't assume they'll know how long and at what temperature to cook it.
I'll be adding to the list of my go to comfort foods as we go along but here is one of my top favorites! And...... this is not just to take to someone else! Once you smell it cooking it will be hard to give away! Better go ahead and make one for yourself, or at least do a test run this weeked. You know, just so you're prepared!
MY VERY FAVORITE LASAGNA!
WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
2 pounds Ground Beef (organic and lean is my usual but use what you prefer)
1 minced Garlic Clove
1 medium White Onion (diced)
1 tsp Oregano
4 cups shredded Mozarella cheese
15 ounces of whole milk Ricotta cheese
28 ounces (about 1 jar) of Spaghetti Sauce - I like to use a seasoned one such as basil or italian - it gives it a zing you don't get with plain sauce
1/4 cup of Water
12 Lasagna noodles - cooked and drained. Do NOT use the no bake ones with this recipe! ( I'm not a fan of them in general, I don't think they ever get to a good consistency!)
Sooo are you still mincing garlic by hand? If so you need to stop immediately and get yourself one of these jars - found in the produce section. Super easy and I promise just as good as mincing it yourself!
Fun Fact: Never EVER cut an onion and put it back in your fridge! Once an onion is opened it immediately starts collecting bacteria (hence the reason a lot of people leave a cut onion out in a room as a cold and flu remedy - it sucks in all the germs!). Some say if you put it in a air tight container you'll be fine but I either use it all or throw the remainder away!
Speaking of easy... are you also still dicing an onion by hand? Well if so, you ALSO need to stop immediately and get yourself one of these amazing tools! One onion diced in 1 minute flat - perfectly! I got mine at Walmart for $14.99.
HOW TO MAKE THIS BAD BOY:
1) Cook beef, onion, garlic and oregano until meat is browned - drain off any fat
2) Add Spaghetti sauce and Water and stir together
3) Let simmer, covered for 1/2 hour
Now that you have your cooked noodles and your cooked meat mixture you are ready to assemble!
4) You are going to make 3 layers, noodles - sauce - cheese - repeat
5) Start with layering 4 noodles on the bottom of a well greased 9 x 13 baking dish (sometimes I will use a smaller dish such as 8 x 10 for thicker pieces, your call!)
6) Spread 1/3 of meat mixture evenly on top of the noodles
7) Sprinkle 1/3 of mozzarella cheese on top of the meat mixture
8) Drop spoonfuls of the ricotta across the mozzarella
9) Repeat 2 more times and add extra Mozzarella on top to coat
10) Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes uncovered, let stand 15 minutes covered
Sidenote: If no one but me was eating this I would be tempted to pull the top off and just eat the crunchy cheese!
What's your favorite thing to make/take someone? Suggestions welcome!