Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Forget Chicken Soup

Have you ever heard of funeral potatoes?

I had, because Cam's family is Mormon. But it wasn't till this past weekend that I actually got to try them. My beloved almost mother-in-law died Thursday from kidney cancer. We got less than a year with her after her diagnosis, and I'm still very much processing things. One thing is absolutely clear: We're all missing her like crazy, already.

But back to funeral potatoes, since food definitely equals comfort around here. After an incredibly emotional service Saturday, Cam's family's church held a private reception for family members, a place to decompress away from the well-wishers. I was really grateful for it, and there I got finally got to try the famous funeral potatoes. They're sort of like scalloped potatoes, but seem to have cream of chicken soup playing the role usually reserved for dairy. They were good. Comforting. And funny. "Funeral potatoes." Always feels good to laugh after lots of tears.

Cam and I volunteered to feed a crowd of his gathered family members Sunday night, and this recipe, for baked ziti, worked perfectly. It's a total cheat - bottled pasta sauce, combined with ricotta, mozzarella, and egg, mixed with mostly-cooked pasta (I prefer penne rigate to the de rigeur ziti), slopped into a baking dish and covered with parmesan. We doubled it, then froze it in foil pans. It bakes beautifully and easily, and is incredibly crowd pleasing. Good to have on hand, good to take to someone who needs a meal, just plain good.

Another crowd pleaser that takes just a bit more effort is this chicken sausage casserole. We commuted to Cam's family's home, where his mom spent her last weeks, frequently over the last month or so, and cooked for them whenever we could. We tended to arrive too late to do the cooking, but this recipe comes together so quickly that we made it work. And it smells heavenly because of the browning sausage. We used a rotisserie chicken and Jimmy Dean sage sausage, and added broccoli. Everyone loved it. So that's another one to tuck away in case you need that sort of thing. We tend to spend hours on complicated recipes that require tons of attention, and hope to do some more of that soon. But sometimes, quick, easy, hot, delicious and nourishing is the order of the day.