Sometimes Mom needs help — and accepts it thankfully

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Here I sit typing while lying on my side as I recover from surgery resulting from a broken tailbone. As part of my recovery, I haven’t been able to lift or drive for more than two weeks, not an easy task when you have three young children at home.

Though I have written about the joy of helping others by making a meal for them, it was hard for me to accept the assistance myself. I remember receiving meals when we had newborns in the house and how helpful that was. But this time, it felt different. I am not sleep deprived and I am not busy doing 100 things at once. Instead, I have been idle on my couch for several hours at a time.

Ironically, I thought that sitting on the couch with a good book and being able to nap whenever I wanted would be heavenly. But for someone who is usually busy and social, confinement to the couch proved to be quite difficult. It has made me realize how much I enjoy physical exercise.

It’s frustrating to find a new recipe or yearn for an old favorite and not be able to stand in my kitchen for more than a few minutes before I am fatigued and sore. What I have learned through this process, however, is that I live in a loving community full of great friends.

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Over the course of three weeks, we have had more than 10 homemade meals delivered to our doorstep. We have also had lots of friends pitch in and help our eldest get to and from his baseball practices and school.

I am fortunate to have good eaters in our family and so the kids willingly gobbled up all of the different meals delivered to our dining room table. One such meal was a couscous casserole from our good friend, Liza DiMitri, who also has three young children. Soon after we lifted our forks to eat her meal, I heard my eldest say, “This is awesome.” And a few minutes later, my husband said, “We should get this recipe.”

And as I took a bite, I was thinking, “I want to share this with my readers.”

Colleen Lunn Scholer is a freelance writer living in Auburn who likes to cook with her husband and three young children.

Couscous casserole

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound ground turkey

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 medium zucchinis, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chicken/vegetable stock or water

4 cups tomato sauce

1/2 cup couscous (Liza used tricolored)

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Method:

1. Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and garlic and cook until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add meat and stir to break it up; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until meat is no longer pink, about 8 to 10 minutes more, depending on the kind of meat; set aside.

2. While the meat cooks, put zucchini slices on a baking sheet, drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 425-degree oven and roast until just tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

3. Put the stock and tomato sauce in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle bubble. Stir in the couscous and turn off the heat; set aside for about 10 minutes.

4. Spoon a thin layer of the tomato sauce mixture into a casserole dish (which may be greased for easier cleanup) and top with zucchini slices and then a portion of the meat. Repeat the layers until you have used up all the ingredients, finishing with tomato sauce. Bake the casserole until it’s bubbling along the edges, about 25 minutes. Serve hot, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese if you like.

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