Practice Empathy

Have you ever gone to the grocery store knowing exactly how much you could spend without overdrafting? I have. Sometimes I fantasize about going grocery shopping without knowing the last penny I can spend. As fantasies go, it’s pretty tame, I guess.

There’s a quiet desperation going on all around you at every store. People may clutch a list like a lifeline, fuss at their children for adding to the cart, block part of an aisle to calculate how much they have left to spend. People may put things back wherever they are or at the cash register. A mother may have a cartload of processed foods, box meals. She may get noticeably agitated when the meat counter measures imprecisely.

Not to mention, she (or he) might be hungry. The kids might be, too.

We, for I am one of these people, fully appreciate the impact of organic, grass-fed, pasture-roaming, responsibly cultivated, locally sourced foods. We get that 95/5 is ‘healthier’ than 85/15. We read, we watch, we know. We wish convenience foods had less bad stuff and more nutritional value.

We know that kids operate best when nutritiously filled. We know that we do, too.

We also know that full-fat dairy will fill tummies better and longer than low-fat. We know that grains are cheaper per serving than meat or vegetables, so that’s a core of most meals. We know that serving sizes are largely out of reach, especially in larger families.

This post isn’t about education or food industry practices. It’s not about working more or harder. No, this post is just a standard Monday reminder to practice empathy.

Whether at the grocery store or in the pharmacy line or wherever, we all have no idea what the people around us are enduring – financially, physically, emotionally. We have no idea how much stress a seemingly simple sales transaction creates for anyone else.

Cut some slack. Overlook food choices with which you disagree. Have patience with shoppers who seem fickle. Nearly everyone’s day is hard enough without anyone else pressing with anger, disgust, judgement, and the like. Practicing empathy costs us nothing but a momentary sneer at others.

Kitchen Intuition: Chicken Sausage Lasagna

Never fear! We are not starving

I’m blessed with a bit of kitchen intuition. Recipes aren’t really used here so much. Though I adore cookbooks, they are used more like idea tools or books I read because books!

Our budget is as slim as it’s been in quite some time, because I’m not delivered a lovely paper money envelope from an employer monthly. And it’s time to go shopping, so we have a strange assortment of foodstuffs, mostly canned, dry and frozen.

Tonight is chicken sausage lasagna, and yeah, I made it up.

Here are the ingredients I used because they were available:

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound chicken Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 26 ounces strained tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • frozen spinach, a couple handfuls
  • 6-8 ounces mozzarella
  • 12 lasagna noodles (mine were brown rice noodles that didn’t require boiling, but I boiled anyway to shorten the oven time)

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2: Start the noodles. Bring a pot of salty water to boil. Add lasagna noodles to rolling boil and cook until just bendable. Remove from pot into a bowl with about a tablespoon of butter and coat the noodles with the butter.

Step 3: Start the meat sauce.

Melt 3 tablespoons of good butter in a skillet. Add two or so pinches of black pepper, about a teaspoon of salt, and about a teaspoon of oregano. Heat the butter and seasonings.

Chop and add the onion and garlic. Cook over medium high heat until the onion is mostly translucent. Add the chicken italian sausage, crumbling with a metal spatula or wooden utensil. Cook until no pink remains.

Add strained tomatoes and bring to a happy simmer. Taste the sauce, adding salt or other seasoning as desired. Stir in the sour cream until well incorporated. Add the spinach and bring back to a simmer. Cook two minutes and remove from heat.

Step 4: Build the lasagna.

Coat a 9 x 13 pan with butter along the bottom and sides. Place one layer of noodles on the bottom of the pan. Cover with about 1/3 of the meat sauce. Grate about 1/3 of the mozzarella over the meat sauce. Layer two more times.

Step 5: Cook.

Place the uncovered pan in the preheated oven and cook for about 35-45 minutes. Visually, the lasagna should be bubbling along the edges and the cheese should be melted. When this happens, test the noodles by cutting with a spatula – if the noodles cut easily after 35 minutes, then you’re done.

Remove from oven and let stand five minutes. Serve and devour!image

This is, by a long stretch, not the strangest combination of foods I’ve ever tried to shoehorn into dinner. It was tasty and relatively easy, though it used rather more dishes than I enjoy washing. Let me know if you try it or if you change it!