Food is love (and foodie friends are awesome)

It's been a rough start to the year for my husband's family and for our kids. Five days into the new year my father-in-law was rushed to the hospital. The next day he was having chest pains and moved to ICU...a little background the past three years he's had three surgeries: quadruple bypass, surgery to repair and aneurysm and then surgery to remove a large portion of his lung after lung cancer was discovered. In November he started radiation and chemotherapy after the cancer returned. He didn't take well to it and in the hospital the effects were showing...radiation burns, dehydration, infection. The family returned him to his home for hospice care. It's been exhausting for everyone. And eating and cooking are the furthest thing from everyone's minds.

Yesterday, I got a call in the morning from my dad offering to bring lunch over for me and the kids. That was such a nice gesture. I've been running back and forth and not spending much time in the kitchen. He delivered enough pizza and pasta for lunch and leftovers for an additional meal.

Not long after dad stopped by, my darling friend, Michelle, who I've written about in this blog before (because every single time we get together it is for breakfast or lunch and involves lots of good food!) stopped by. She dropped off this:

The presentation was nice and it totally looked like she'd picked it up from a caterer. But, no, she didn't. She cooked it herself. I scooped out a little for lunch and for the kids (it was still warm) and headed over to my in-law's house. There was a large pan of baked mostaccioli, a big pan of salad and a loaf of warm homemade banana bread.
I got there with one of my sons and my mother-in-law, brother-in-law and two sisters-in-law were there. Everyone was so grateful to have a home cooked meal (everyone has pretty much being eating junk or fast food if they are eating at all.) Everyone gave it a thumbs up and told me to pass on their thanks to Michelle. I should also mention that my father-in-law had been at home for two days and I hadn't seen him eat a bite yet. He was only drinking juice and water. My sister-in-law was eating some of the bread and offered it to him and he ate a few bites. That must have triggered his appetite because he was soon asking for ice cream and then mashed potatoes. There was still almost half of pan of each left at the end of the night which made for a good lunch the next day. In seeing how other people make dishes, it's nice to get ideas on different ways to make the same old thing. When I make mostaccioli, it's usually just the pasta and sauce with some meatballs separately because that's the way my kids like it. However, it's so much better the way she made it - with a hearty meat sauce and covered with lots of mozzarella cheese and some spinach and tomatoes on top.
My friend Judy had also messaged asking if she could help. I know Judy likes to cook and took her up on her offer of help. Wow did she go all out. I think the poor thing was cooking all afternoon on a Saturday just for us. What a sweet thing to do. I stopped by her house on the way to my in-law's and picked up a big pan of tater tot casserole, a big pan of salad, croissants and homemade cupcakes. I didn't get pictures, but everything was delicious. Never had tater tot casserole? My husband's family wasn't familiar with it. I've been making it for years after my friend, Heidi, gave me the recipe. I make mine with ground beef, but Judy made hers with some chicken and an extra layers of tater tots. I'll have to give her version a try. Here's the recipe off my yellow index card from Heidi that's been in my recipe book for years:
1 pound uncooked ground round
sliced onion
American cheese slices
frozen veggies (any kind)
1 can undiluted cream of mushroom soup
Bag of tater tots
Spray pam in a pan. Layer ingredients. Bake an hour covered at 350 degree, then uncovered for a half hour.
***A few notes:
As with a lot of recipes, I modified it a little. Although the ground beef gets cooked thoroughly because of the long cooking time, I prefer to brown it first. Then I cut the cooking time down to an hour total.
You can use any type of cheese you'd like. I have used shredded cheddar or shredded cheese blends, which work well. Judy's had a layer of mozzarella on top, which worked great.
I always use the California blend of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. That's what Judy used in hers, too.
When I didn't have Cream of Chicken soup on hand, I have used Cream of Mushroom soup and it works just fine as a substitute.
I'm so grateful to have such wonderful friends...and foodie friends are a special kind of friends, aren't they? I reached out over the weekend to my friends in a club I'm involved in, the Lansing Junior Woman's Club. Our members have cooked for other families in similar situations, so I asked if they'd be willing to help and got several responses. It's nice to know that this week meals are one thing that we won't have to worry about, especially as one of my sister-in-laws is in from Florida and staying at my in-laws house. It's been a rough couple of weeks with lots of ups and downs and this gesture has been a great help.
Food is love. It's a way to show love. I have no doubt about that. When families are grieving and there's little that can be done to ease their pain, you can always bake them a cake or bring them a meal and it's a way to show that you care. And we're feeling very loved right now.


  1. Sorry about everything that your father-in-law is going through. It is great that you have friends that have been able help you guys out. Providing food sometimes sounds like such a small thing but it really is just what you need in these situations.


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