Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To: New Mom, From: Working Girl

Being honest on the internet is tricky.  Assuming you successfully walk the line between too much information and vague rambling, there is always the good chance you'll come off either whiney or self-satisfied (see, even in saying that there is a certain smugness).   However, I am going to risk it, and write (briefly) about something that has been difficult for me: benevolance.

When I was growing up, there were a lot of new babies in our house .  And where there are new babies, there are benevolant people bringing hot meals and well wishes.  In turn, my mom took meals to new moms and others in need.  In the foggy future I envisioned for myself, I knew I'd be taking meals to people as well.

I never thought I'd be 29 and working full-time (let's face it; I never thought I'd be 29); but while most of my friends are raising babies, I am working at a desk from 8:30-5:00.  I appreciate the differences - they serve four people supper at 5:30 or 6:00; I serve two people supper at 7:30.  They run errands during the day with children; I run errands on the weekends with my favorite adult (and many, many more differences).  But I am a competative person, and it is easy for me to feel like I am less than I should be when my lifestyle doesn't align with their's. 

I used to be one of the first to sign up to take a meal when people were celebrating new life or greiving.  The results were chaotic.  As hard as I tried, I could never get a hot meal to a friend without stressing out myself and Matt (and probably the family I was trying to serve).  My kitchen would be a mess; we'd eat late and go to bed even later.  After a while, I stopped signing up to take meals.  

Recently, our friends had a second baby.  These are very good friends.  We have known each other through falling off the side of a mountain (literally and sometimes figuratively), break-ups (with other people), weddings (respectively), and looking for a snake in a dashboard at 2 am.    I wanted to take them a meal, but I knew I’d have to do something creative.

I did a little research (thank you, Pinterest) and came up with a meal that I could deliver on my schedule.  And like pulling away the layers of paint on an ugly old piece of furniture, several benefits made themselves brilliantly clear.
1.       I could make everything on Saturday and then deliver it to them at church on Sunday

2.       If the family had leftovers from all the other meals people have been bringing them, they could just save my meal in the freezer for another night.

3.       If they were experiencing dessert overload, they could heat up only the things they wanted.

4.       And best of all, I could make multiple portions and stick everything else in the freezer for myself!

 I came up with:

1.       Cheese stuffed shells with chicken sausage

2.       Multi-grain garlic toast

3.       Chocolate chip cookies with sea salt

Aspargus, cookie dough balls, cheese stuffed shells, and a jar of pasta sauce
 I cooked on Saturday, stuck the food in the freezer, and had it all ready to deliver on Sunday.  That left me short only a green vegetable.  I remembered I’d seen some “steam-in-bag” veggies at Publix, so I picked up a couple of bags of asparagus.  I added a card with congratulations and heating instructions, and voila.  Benvolence!

I am still growing up, and I am learning that there are many versions of giving.  I just need to find my own.

Ready to eat.

 Elizabeth's version of Cheese-stuffed Shells with Chicken Sausage (in case you needed another recipe for this!)

1 box of jumbo shells cooked according to the package directions, drain then keep in cold water.
1 15 oz container part-skim ricotta
1 15 oz container whole milk ricotta
2 cups mozzerella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 lb Italian seasoned chicken sausage, cooked and crumbled
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the pasta.  Fill each shell with about an 1/8 cup of filling.  Line shells in a 9x13 pan.  Before cooking, top with a jar of  pasta sauce (this is my new favorite).  Bake covered at 400 (15 minutes if room temp, 30 minutes if refrigertated, 1 hr if frozen) until cheese is melty and bubbly and makes your heart happy.

The idea for freezing the cookie dough came from here, and I used Orangette’s adaptation of the NY Times chocolate chip cookie recipe


  1. I can relate! I love having company too, but if I'm not careful I can be pretty frazzled by the time they arrive.

    1. Oh Carrie, having company over is a whole other battle - you have the added pressure of the clean house! Matt has taught me a lot about scheduling company wisely (weekends!) and simplifying my meals (remembering I'm not Martha Stewart). I'm slowly learning that people are appreciative of hospitality no matter what I serve them.

  2. Yumm Looks like something as good to get as to give. Not only are you 29 but a very mature one at that. (Or from the side I see!)

    1. Thank you, Marcia! It's funny that you mention maturity. I was just commenting to a friend that it is nice that as we get older we are also blessed with the maturity to deal with increasing complexities. I would not trade 29 for 19 any day!

  3. I wonder of us feel the same way about meals?!? I never did them before Carmondy was born --my excuse was that I had no ideas and wasn't creative (I was waiting to have a baby so I could glean ideas from the meals brought to me!). After Carmondy came, I realized I had to start taking meals :( So I've begun --and I still don't enjoy it!! But yes --I love your ideas --particularly the make-ahead and make-double-for-me ideas :)

    1. Rachel, I'm sure you're right! I remember reading something once where a woman said that her dishwasher and her washing machine were like the Porverbs 31 Woman's handmaidens. I decided to take it one step further and start calling the grocery store my cook! I don't know why it is so easy for us as women to let competativeness get in the way of serving each other, but I'm trying to do better about utilizing the resources I have (ie the deli counter). And making enough food for me ensures that I am serving my own house while giving to others as well.

  4. I think that this is a great idea! And also nice that the receiver can decide when they want to have it.
    I could eat one of those cookies right now :)

    1. Thanks, Lydia. I will admit something: I ate one of those cookies for breakfast this morning. Frozen cookie dough balls are dangerous!

  5. I don't think it matters that I have a child... I'm still working on figuring out how to take meals to people too :-) and how to have people in. It was easier to have people in when we lived in our house but now with our apt it tends to be just chaos and I don't enjoy eating in the kitchen so then there's the added excitement of choosing a meal that can be eaten on tray tables... add in normal children (you know, they are quiet the first five minutes and then into everything)... ugh. Obviously I haven't figured it out yet. But I loved reading what you did... miss you!
    p.s. with baby, just for the record, Sam and I still usually end up eating between 7:30 and 8 ... still figuring a lot of things out :-)

    1. I miss you too, Alaina! Some of my favorite memories are eating off tray tables with our friends. I'm starting to get the idea that only the families I know eat at a "normal" time each day. :) I hope I can see you and meet your son soon!


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