Cooking isn’t unique to me within my family. My aunts, my grandma and my mom, who often claims to barely cook, are all exceptional at creating great meals. My mom is responsible for expanding my palate beyond the juvenile Happy Meal. Though, admittedly, I was sure that those golden arches stood for Melissa and begged for trips to my namesake on the regular.
My mom makes the best chicken soup. So good that there’s a brief moment upon taking the first bite where winter is no longer my least favorite season.
She bakes a delicious zucchini bread with chocolate chips. It seems an unlikely combination when thinking about the two ingredients alone on a plate, but add a little flour, sugar and butter (and more…and yes, we’ll cover this one day) and magic happens.
Another favorite meal from my mom’s hand is lasagna. Simply the best comfort food and so delicious.
I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot lately: her strength, her kindness, her goofy sense of humor. These are the things you appreciate about a parent as an adult, but never as a kid.
Really, never as a kid. Specifically when you’re a pre-teen helping outside with yard work and your mom starts singing loudly in a goofy, cartoon voice right at the very moment that your adolescent crush and his friend are strolling past the house.
My husband called me out about singing in that exact same cartoon voice a couple of weeks ago. No, I wasn’t attempting to mortify any tweens. Although, now I can see how much fun that would be. I have to admit that I was singing to our dogs. We can go right ahead and identify goofy sense of humor as something that my mom and I share.
There are a lot of things that I do just like my mom. Really good lasagna is one of them. Showing that you care through cooking is another. Once during a particularly painful high school break-up, my mom spent her free time making my favorite foods each day until I started to feel a little better. She gave lots of hugs and listened a lot too, but it’s the comfort food that’s relevant to this story.
Comfort foods can act like a brake on stress-related hormones and are useful in relieving anxiety in the short term.
Since most comfort foods are high in fat and carbohydrates, it’s important to note the words “short term” and stick with healthier options for the long term. However, the occasional comfort food can deliver happy feelings that carrot sticks can never match.
Start your sauce by sautéing ground beef/sausage, onion, and garlic until the meat is no longer pink. Drain the grease, please. Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, and pinch some black pepper into meat mixture. Bring sauce to boiling, then reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes (covered – hello, splatter city), stirring occasionally.
Boil a pot of water and cook lasagna noodles for about 10 to 12 minutes or until tender but still firm. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop further cooking, then drain again.
Create your filling by combining egg, ricotta, and the 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
Now the fun begins.
Spread about 1/2 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Layer half of the cooked noodles in the bottom of the dish, trimming or overlapping as necessary to fit. Spread with half of the filling. Top with half of the remaining sauce and half of the mozzarella and provolone cheeses. Repeat and admire your handiwork.
Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Enjoy, and smile a little to yourself. This feels good.
Thanks Mom – love you!