There are many reasons to cook for others besides, of course, just wanting to be nice. A new baby. A birthday. Someone is sick. Special occasions. Or, for condolences.
I feel it is important to cook something right for the occasion. For example, a birthday, something the recipient loves or something decedent. I have friends who love my homemade pimento cheese. So, that is a good choice for Shayne or TJ. My father, though, prefers my chocolate chip cookies. I sometimes send a package to him though it costs a ridiculous sum to ship them from here.
For a new baby, I think some sort of large tray of food is good. Anything that is ready to go and in the fridge when you actually have a second to eat (lasagna, enchiladas, etc.). Pasta salad is a good option in this circumstance, too. In the past I have made homemade salad dressing, which you know a new mom doesn’t have time to make but will appreciate.
For sick people, that is easy. Soup! I like the standard chicken noodle, but anything broth, not cream, based will do.
For bereavement fare, it is a little easier. Anything will do. These people just don’t have the time, energy or even appetite to cook. Most often, they aren’t eating much, either. However, they do have people stopping by to show respect. So, something to feed the guests will be much appreciated. And when the mourners finally do get hungry, it is nice to have a stocked refrigerator. Take it from me, they will appreciate it.
When we lost a close friend, I had some other friends and family bring us food. There was pasta salad from my friend Cody. This was perfect. It was a huge, ready-to-eat meal that we could snack on and share with our out of town guests whom we had no energy to prepare for. She also brought by a homey meatloaf and mashed potatoes. My husband could not have been happier. And it made the house smell good.
And then there was a tray of lasagna from my mom. She had mentioned this chicken spinach lasagna before, and I thought it sounded delicious. She doesn’t always like to make “big trays of food.” She generally cooks only enough for leftovers once. But in this case, she made an exception. And it was very much appreciated.
This lasagna is rich, but not too crazy decadent; the spinach and chicken lighten it up just enough. It kept well and reheated without drying it out. It made enough for us to have for a few meals. Not to mention, it was delicious. I would add a generous splash of Tabasco to the sauce to give it a kick. Use this recipe next time you need to take someone a tray of food!
Recipe: White Chicken Lasagna
- 9 lasagna noodles
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 2 cups cubed, cooked chicken meat
- 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
- Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, and rinse with cold water.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until tender, stirring frequently.
- Stir in the flour and salt, and simmer until bubbly.
- Mix in the broth and milk, and boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Stir in 2 cups mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
- Season with the basil, oregano and ground black pepper.
- Remove from heat, and set aside.
- Spread 1/3 of the sauce mixture in the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.
- Layer with 1/3 of the noodles, the ricotta, and the chicken. Arrange 1/3 of the noodles over the chicken, and layer with 1/3 of the sauce mixture, spinach, and the remaining 2 cups mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
- Arrange remaining noodles over cheese, and spread remaining sauce evenly over noodles.
- Sprinkle with parsley and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
- Bake 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
Preparation time: 45 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8