I’ll never forget when my dad was in the hospital years ago. It was a sad, stressful, and painful time. The hands on the clock that hung on the wall just seemed to be stuck in one spot, yet the days were passing so quickly somehow. It was like watching one of those movies where the days flew off a paper calendar, each day removed like it were only a second in time.We spent most of our days up at the hospital standing with my dad when we could be, or sitting out in the waiting room. So many families from far away were also in the same predicament but didn’t have the luxury of having a home to go to close by each night to shower and get some much needed rest. My dad spent 3 whole months in that hospital and two of those were in the ICU alone.
I’ve locked a lot of that whole experience away in my “choose not to remember” files, just as my father has. One of those evenings stand out to me in particular. I had spent the day, as usual, up at the hospital and we just made it home. We were all so exhausted dinner hadn’t even crossed our minds. As soon as we sat down, the doorbell rang. It was our neighbor Susan who’d brought by a chicken casserole. She quietly handed the warm dish over to me, whispered a few words of encouragement, and disappeared into the darkness.
That meal was the only thing I can really remember eating and actually tasting through that whole ordeal. It was such a simple gesture, but yet it meant so much to my family.
When people are in mourning or are taking care of someone else, they often forget to take care of themselves. Meals are easily forgotten because the person is focused on their loved one(s). I just found out yesterday that a coworker of mine lost his partner. He didn’t want anyone to know. He didn’t want to hear the “I’m sorry’s.” He didn’t want the pity, or the looks. He just told me yesterday, and she had passed over a WEEK ago with no one really even knowing. She is what brought him to this town. She was all he had, not only here, but even back “home.”
When he shared his loss with me I racked my brain trying to think of what I could do to perhaps give him a moment of comfort, perhaps a second to catch his breath. And then I thought of that casserole that Susan brought over.
These recipes are just simple little dishes that provide warmth and heartiness to the soul…especially one that is grieving. They can all be frozen in a pinch, especially if you’re making them for just one person. For my coworker I did a chicken poppy seed casserole (which is made with rotisserie chicken), a quick spaghetti, and some super quick banana muffins. These meals should provide a bit of sustenance for someone for a few days. The Poppy Seed chicken was adapted from the website “All Recipes.” It is a good and simple recipe made even quicker with Rotisserie chicken. This casserole recipe makes two 8″ Square Cake pans as well as the spaghetti. I used disposable foil pans so that my friend could just throw it away when he was done. The spaghetti is super simple using one of my favorite pasta sauces that I always buy in bulk when it goes on sale. It uses only good wholesome ingredients like roma tomatoes, olive oil, and basil. There’s no preservatives or added junk. I just let the sauce simmer on the stove with an added 1/2 cup of water for about 20 minutes with 1 pound ground beef.
Poppy Seed Chicken:
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 sleeves Everything Ritz Crackers, crushed (you can sub in Regular if you like)
2 teaspoons Poppy seeds
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
2 8oz. Container Sour Cream
1/2 cup milk
2 (10.75 oz) Cans Cream of Chicken Soup
1 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Preheat oven to 350°. Mix crackers, butter and poppy seeds and set to side. Mix sour cream, and cream of chicken soup with milk. Divide half the mixture between the two pans. Spread with shredded chicken and top with remaining soup mixture. Sprinkle each with 1/2 cup cheese and top with Cracker mixture. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes until golden brown.
Super Simple and Hearty Spaghetti:
I often make a homemade sauce for spaghetti but I always have a jar (or two) of really good quality sauce hand for quick meals and that’s just what I did with this recipe.
1/2 Pound Spaghetti Noodles
1 Jar Del Grosso “Late Night Puttanesca), 26 oz.
1 Pound Hamburger meat
1/2 cup water
Squeeze of fresh Lemon
Fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
Boil pasta following box instructions. Add hamburger to large skillet and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook hamburger until no longer pink. Add sauce and water, using the water to get all of the sauce out of the jar. Let simmer 20 minutes. Taste. Adjust seasoning to your liking. Add fresh squeeze of lemon juice. Toss pasta in sauce and scatter with Parm.
I wrapped one of each dish in aluminum foil and put it in a brown paper bag. I baked off 12 muffins and packaged up 6 for Jim as well. They were good muffins but not a recipe I’d try again so I’m not even going to post the recipe here. Here they were shining in the sunlight though.
I called up to my job to make sure Jim was there and asked him to meet me out back at the delivery door. I handed him the bag and said, “I brought you some food.” He just stared blankly at me. I said,”No card though Jim, they were all covered in birds and butterflies and pretty sappy so…”
His eyes watered up and he just said back, “Thank you for thinking of me Jennifer.” I caught myself tearing up and quickly explained the meals before telling him bye.
You never really know what people are going through in their life. We are all so quick to judge others based on our assumptions of how they are or even WHO they are. I have to remind myself of this constantly. It felt good such small gesture for someone that was/is dealing with so much..the loss of a loved one.
What foods do YOU find comfort in? Is it something that reminds you of someone from your past? Maybe a cake your grandma used to make? Cookies? Leave me comment below. I’d love to hear YOUR story.