Monday, January 31, 2011

The Giving Fi

Fiona is my little giver. She's in love with the concept of giving. She notices when someone needs something—a fork, a spoon, a drink, a toy, a hug that resembles a python's squeeze, a light kiss.

We just call her Fi.
I first noticed it this fall when she would see Owen's empty cereal bowl and said, "More cereal for Owen?" And it's continued. She wants to help feed him. She gives him toys and then takes them away and then gives them back, presumably for the smiles to tears to smiles reaction. This evening, after getting her own smoothie, she insisted that I make a smoothie for Danny. Then she proudly walked down into the TV room to hand it to him (after taking a sample sip for herself, of course). I prayed that my son would accept it graciously. Nothing makes her madder than someone who won't take what she's offering. (It's kind of the way I feel when some people won't eat what I cook.) She appears to be obsessed with feeding people. I can't imagine where she gets that.

Fiona also has an excellent grasp on what belongs to whom. The rest she claims for herself with a loud and whiny, "Mine." Today is her official 2nd birthday. So we begin the year of "Mine." Nevertheless, my hope is that she remains a cheerful giver who doesn't keep score. It helps that she's actually incapable of keeping score for the time being. I imagine life is less stressful that way. But given her gender, that's not a realistic expectation. As a mother, I give until it feels like my eyeballs are bleeding and my head might explode and then chastise myself for feeling put upon when the kids ask me for yet another glass of icy water (despite the fact that they can get it for themselves, dammit).

I don't really consider myself much of a giver. In fact, I've spent much of my life confused and frightened by the act of giving—as if it were some kind of open exchange with a running tally. I often don't let people help me because I'm afraid that I'll never be able to reciprocate. I sometimes try too hard to keep up with who has given me what and whether I've done enough for them. I've had so much assistance come my way in the past four years—babysitting, clothes, food, prayers—sometimes from people who probably need more help than I do. (Ugh. That paragraph has way too many first person pronouns, don't you think?)

But when I do manage to help those around me, it usually takes the form of a meal. Cooking is something I do daily. Even with three kids. People think I'm some sort of super mom for this, but I think that you always find a way to do what you love to do. For instance, my sister always managed to sew with little kids in the house. I can barely do that. My kids are way too jumpy and curious to be anywhere near sharp objects and heavy machinery. (But I did manage to make a lovely bathrobe for Fiona's birthday.) Anyhow ...

Whenever someone I know has a baby or is sick or having a rough time, this is the meal I usually fix. A friend once remarked to me after she had a baby that she'd had enough lasagna for one lifetime. It's a nice twist on the traditional Italian casserole dish and it's not laden with ricotta cheese (which is not a favorite of mine for some reason despite my obsession with melty cheese. weird.).

Turkey and Spinach Stuffed Shells

1 box jumbo shells
1.25 pounds ground turkey (ground turkey is usually sold in this amount)
1 teaspoon or so of olive oil 
1 10-ounce package chopped spinach
3/4 cup parmesan cheese (I used to really think this cheese was called Farmer John when I was a kid)
1/2 cup mozarella cheese plus a handful to sprinkle atop the assembled shells
1/2 cup chopped onions (I buy frozen chopped onions because chopping onions, or anything, while children whine at me is rather dangerous. For me, people, not the kids.)
1 large clove garlic minced or 1 teaspoon minced garlic from jar (again, chopping=dangerous)
1 egg
1 teaspoon basil
1 28 to 32 ounce jar spaghetti sauce

Cook pasta shells al dente. Brown onion and garlic in oil. Add turkey and basil and cook through. Add spinach, heat and then remove from heat to add cheeses and egg. Stir until well blended and the mozarella begins to melt. 

Prep a 13x9 pan by putting a thin layer of spaghetti sauce in the bottom. Stuff the shells and arrange them in the pan. Pour remaining spaghetti sauce over it, top with mozarella cheese and cook covered at 350 for about 30 minutes. (This recipe will also fill two smaller pans. I use an 11x9 and an 8x8. Or sometimes, I stuff all the shells, fill a smaller pan for dinner, then freeze the others on a cookie sheet and transfer them later to a freezer bag. This way I can throw one pan together for a friend or us later.)

You'll have more shells than filling. I just stick the extras in the freezer for next time. I always have extra shells in my freezer. It's a time consuming project, but it's worth it in a zen-like way. I once did a variation with ground chicken, feta cheese and chard (from my garden!!). That was totally worth it.



Monica said...

have been reading and enjoying your blog. today - recipe! bonus! :o) have a great tuesday and happy birthday to little tot.

Josee said...

hope you enjoy the recipe. it's one of our favorites ... even though it sort of bugs me that i spend all that time stuffing shells that you have to basically destroy in order to eat. Oh well! glad you enjoy the blog. i often wonder if anyone really reads or if some digital bot is just crawling over my site!