In our busy lives, it can seem hard to find time to do something for others. Returning favors, and doing something “just because” is an important way to lift our own spirits, as well as those of the recipient. It never fails to make me feel better.
I have always found a way to give back. To the associations I belong to, I donate time, writing & working on education programs. So many people helped me get started in the businesses I have been involved in. I give back the help from others before me with my time, because I may not always have money to donate. It’s my way of saying thank you.
But most importantly, I find ways to give back to my family and friends. For instance, my mom is 92 years young, living on her own, but basically house bound. My sisters, who live a bit closer than I, get her groceries & clean the house. My cousin and his wife , who live nearby, stop by every couple days to make sure she’s okay, wash dishes, make the bed, and water plants. Her neighbors often take out her garbage and bring in her mail.
I feed her. After all, she cooked for me my whole life, and taught me my way around the kitchen at a young age.
I cook and freeze up meals to put away for her. Besides, I can’t cook small meals, and so there is always abundance. When I make a trip to visit, I have a big cooler filled with food. It’s so easy to make a bit extra, and freeze up leftovers or make a small portion. For instance, today I am making lasagna (recipe to follow). So while I make a 8 x 12″ pan for my husband and I, at the same time I make a little loaf pan baby lasagna for Mom. You know, those tiny aluminum pans sold at the supermarket. Just enough for a meal for her..I freeze it before it’s baked, and put a sticker on top with directions.
She has a hard time cooking a whole meal, so frozen soup, stew, meatloaf, bread, cookies, and yes, lasagna, make it easy for her to eat well without the effort. All she has to do is look in the freezer and find something that appeals to her for that day.
It’s really not hard to do, and I am cooking anyway. And I enjoy showing love to the people I care about with food.
So next time you are cooking a large meal, or have lots of left overs, think for a minute – who can use and appreciate the bounty you have in your kitchen? A family member who works long hours? An elderly neighbor? Maybe someone down on their luck who might not otherwise have a hot meal? Take a minute to reach out to someone – to just pay it forward into the universe.
It’ll make you feel good to give away lasagna – I guarantee it.
Tell me who you share food with, and why. Did I make you think about taking action and do it?
Fox Pines Lasagna
Lasagna noodle or sheets
Marinara sauce, homemade or a couple jars
A large container of ricotta cheese
Parmesan cheese to grate
as much ground beef/turkey/chicken as you need, 1-2 pounds usually for me
a whole nutmeg for grating
salt and pepper
herbs – I like fresh basil or parsley, but dried are fine
fresh mozzarella if you like
Note: I don’t measure anything for this, it’s just one of those things I make!
I don’t boil the noodles, but I do soak for a few minutes in hot water so they are pliable. They will soak up sauce when the lasagna cooks, and keep it from being watery. They are also easy to cut to size this way.
Brown the ground meat – you may need to add a bit of oil to the pan for ground chicken or turkey to keep it from sticking. Most ground beef will have ample fat, and in fact you will need to drain it. You can add onions, but I just use a tablespoon or so of onion powder, and grate in a few cloves of garlic while the meat browns. Season with salt and pepper. Once all browned, scoop out the meat & set aside.
For the cheese layer: dump the ricotta into a large bowl, add the egg, salt and pepper, more onion or garlic powder if you like, and grate in some fresh nutmeg, just a few passes on the grater (powdered nutmeg will work as well, but use only a smidgen). Add whatever herbs you like – today I grabbed some parley out of the garden and chopped up the leaves. No stems please.
In your baking pan, spread out a bit of the marinara sauce, and then lay out noodles to cover the bottom. Spread out a layer of cheese, and grate on a bit of fresh Parmesan. Sprinkle with the grated mozzarella, add a layer of drained ground meat. Sprinkle with a bit of marinara – just a drizzle, not a whole layer.
Repeat another layer. when the last of the noodles are spread on top, cover them well with the marinara sauce. Shake the pan so the sauce with run down around the edges of the noodle to the layers below. Cover with lots of grated mozzarella. If you have fresh mozzarella, I lay a few slices around on top.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil, and refrigerate for a few hours. This allows time for flavors to meld together.
Bake at 350 for an hour or until all hot and bubbly. I prefer to leave the foil on so the cheese doesn’t brown too much, but feel free to take it off whenever you like to get that mozzarella some color.
Serve with some fresh hot Italian bread and more grated Parmesan.
Now who would not like to receive this for dinner?