The United Methodist Church has two sacraments—Baptism and Holy Communion. Yesterday at our church we celebrated the baptism of a new baby. Part of what baptism symbolizes is welcoming that new member into the church family. We now walk in faith together. When we observe Holy Communion, we are united as we receive the bread and juice together. Everyone is invited. Everyone is welcomed.
And yesterday we also participated in "communion"—but not the holy kind of communion. The word communion can also mean "sharing" and "fellowship" when spelled with a little "c." After church we gathered for a covered dish dinner, where everyone was invited and everyone was welcomed.
A former pastor always invited us to the altar for Holy Communion with a smile, lifted hands, and the words, "Come to table!" I always think of his words when we gather for a church meal, too. Come to table! Join us. Be one of us. Let's eat together.
I hope that from time to time, your life includes a covered dish dinner or a pot luck or hot dish (thanks to Goodnightgram's blog, I now know what that is.) If not at church, then maybe it's a gathering of neighbors or co-workers, or it's a club or team meal. Even though it requires a little effort, sharing a meal is good for the soul. I know we could enjoy a catered meal together or all go to a restaurant, but there really is something different about bringing food to add to the table. It truly becomes a shared meal. It creates community.
If you don't or can't cook, bake brownies from a mix or pick up a bucket of chicken on your way to church. We all love tasting the good home cooked foods and casseroles and cakes baked from the old family recipe, but the meal is really about being together. It's about sitting around the table sharing conversation and laughter. Come with a jar of pickles. But come! (Hint: If you are coming with your family of five, you might better bring the chicken AND the pickles.)
Keep this recipe in mind if you need a good make-ahead recipe for a pot luck, a family reunion, a picnic or a gift meal for a friend. It keeps for several days. I made this pasta salad early before we left for a Saturday evening wedding. The salad is best made ahead of time anyway. So on Sunday morning I picked up the dish and walked out the door.
Before I left church, someone asked me for the recipe. Someone always does.
GARDEN PASTA SALAD
1 (16-oz) box of pasta -- rotini, bowtie, or penne
5 cups of chopped fresh vegetables
fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
1 (15-oz) bottle Italian salad dressing
3-4 tablespoons McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Rinse under cold water. Drain well. Put pasta and vegetables and parsley into a large bowl. Add salad dressing and Salad Supreme Seasoning. Toss gently until mixed well. Cover. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until ready to serve. I like to make it a day ahead.
This recipe filled a 5-quart plastic container.
The only secret I know for this pasta salad to use a big assortment of vegetables. I try to get lots of color into my mix. This time I chopped zucchini, carrot, celery, red and yellow peppers, cucumber, grape tomatoes, red onion, corn, and broccoli. You can use any combination that suits you. Mine is almost never the same twice in a row.
Another hint is to put a large pot of water on to boil before you start chopping. A big pot of water takes forever to come to a boil.
To keep from washing more pots, when the water for the pasta came to a boil, I dunked in the broccoli to blanch it for a minute. (Yep, I held it by the stem and dunked it.) Then I let the corn (on the cob) cook for five minutes and took it out. (One ear of corn is enough for this salad.) Then I cooked the pasta in the same water. Only one pot to wash!