Make & Take Recipes: Sharing Food Offers Comfort to Friends and Neighbors

Lasagna, Creamy Pesto Tortellini Soup, Chicken Taco Salad, Sweet and Sour Green Beans and Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

Years ago, after my daughter had an outpatient surgery, a friend from church dropped by with a pot of chicken and noodles and warm bread. It was a totally unexpected and much-appreciated gift. In fact, it’s been eight years since she rang my doorbell, but I remember exactly how it made me feel so loved and cared for to have someone take the time to cook for us.

Feeding a friend who has just had a baby, has sick kids at home or who is grieving the death of a loved one is a way to show love and care. And it truly doesn’t matter if it’s a pan of homemade enchiladas or a bag of snacks from Trader Joe’s – every bit of food received is comfort food.

My friend, Amanda Greenwald, is so good at this. She has comforted so many people with food that she calls it her “lasagna ministry.” When she’s making her lasagna, a recipe from her mother-in-law, she always buys enough ingredients to double the recipe. When doubled, it makes enough for three large lasagnas. That’s enough to give one, eat one and freeze one. So Amanda feeds one to her family that day, gives another away and freezes another to give when a need arises.

Amanda Greenwald

One thing I’ve learned from Amanda, through working with her at our children’s school’s Helping Hands committee, is that we don’t need to look far to find those needs. Through this committee, we identify people who may need a meal either because of illness or difficult family times, and then send out a sign-up to other parents to claim a day or two to make and take a meal. But none of us need an email alert to think of someone who could benefit from a night off from cooking. People all around us are dealing with illnesses, financial hardships, family struggles and stress.

A meal made and delivered in love needn’t be complicated. Here are some of our favorites to share with friends in need.

This makes enough for two large lasagnas and one small lasagna, or for three medium pans. Sometimes Amanda makes the meat sauce the day before, then assembles all three pans the next day. “The one in the freezer is a great insurance policy for us, and can, of course, be shared if I know of someone who needs it,” Amanda said.

Amanda’s `Lasagna Ministry’ Lasagna

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds ground round or sirloin
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 29-ounce canned diced tomatoes
  • 29-ounce canned tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Lasagna noodles
  • 1 egg
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese (cottage cheese may be used)
  • 16 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

1. Brown meat, onions and garlic in a large pan. Drain grease, if necessary.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and spices. Simmer until meat sauce is thick.

2. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.

3. Beat egg into the ricotta cheese until smooth.

4. Assemble ingredients in baking pans, layering with 1/3 meat sauce, 1/2 noodles, 1/2 ricotta, 1/2 mozzarella and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Repeat, ending with last 1/3 meat sauce and a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

5. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow an additional 10 to 15 minutes if lasagna has been refrigerated, or up to 2 1/2 hours if frozen. For easier cutting, let stand about 15 minutes after removing from oven.

In Amy Nelson Hannon’s book “Love Welcome Serve,” she says this is a great recipe for taking to friends in need of comfort. Be sure when taking the soup, to send the pot of soup with bag of tortellini separately. Jot down instructions for warming the soup and to add the tortellini just before they’re ready to eat.

Creamy Pesto Tortellini Soup

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (32-ounce) carton chicken stock
  • 1 (15-ounce) jar Alfredo sauce
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1 (20-ounce) bag refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 5 tablespoons pesto
  • Garnish with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese, if desired

1. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for several minutes or until tender. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute, just until fragrant. Stir in the chicken stock and Alfredo sauce. Add the chicken, and bring to a boil.

2. When ready to eat, add the tortellini and cook according to package directions, usually just a few minutes. Stir in the pesto. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with basil and Parmesan cheese.

This super easy recipe is easy to make and take. Pack the chicken along with bags of the lettuce, salad toppings and tortilla chips.

Chicken Taco Salad

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 (1 1/4-ounce) packet taco seasoning
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • Head of green lettuce
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 bag tortilla chips

1. Saute chicken breasts in a little olive oil. Cook until cooked through and juices run clear. Let cool slightly, then chop chicken into pieces.

2. Add chicken back to saute pan with tomatoes and taco seasoning, then simmer until flavors are combined, about 15 minutes.

3. To serve, combine lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and tortilla chips. Toss in chicken mixture. Serve with salsa or your favorite dressing.

Side dishes are great, too. Several times I’ve delivered a roast or casserole along with these green beans. It’s the green beans that people ask for the recipe.

Sweet and Sour Green Beans

  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large onion, cut into thin rings
  • 6 cans green beans

1. Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan.

2. Mix vinegar and sugar together in a small bowl. Add bacon grease, mixing until combined.

3. Add bacon grease mixture to a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and saute until tender. Add beans and stir. Cook 30 minutes to 1 hour on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.

Everyone loves cookies. It’s nice to share something sweet and homemade to eat after dinner. Be sure to include the recipe.

Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups oats (quick or old-fashioned)
  • 1 (12-ounce) package white chocolate chips

1. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, salt and oats; mix well. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Stir in white chocolate chips.

3. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute, then remove to a wire rack.

If cooking isn’t your thing…

1. Consider dropping by a grocery bag of fresh fruit and snacks for a family with kids.

2. A meat and cheese tray, along with a bag of rolls or French bread, makes a great meal.

3. Instead of making dinner, drop off a box of bagels and cream cheese or a big bowl of cut fruit in the morning. Mornings can be hectic for families, and anyone would appreciate this gift.

4. Restaurant gift cards are a big help to families with new babies who are too exhausted to cook.

Natalie MiklesNatalie Mikles is a mom of three. She writes about food, sharing recipes for busy families and picky eaters. She has been recognized for her food columns as well as features on families and issues affecting local children. She loves pizza and movie nights with her family.

Categories: Food