Jan Higbea makes Pork Parmigiano
'Every grandma' turns cooking into caring
Jan Higbea would be perfect as a rent-a-grandma, cooking hot meals and baking coffee cakes for people in need of comfort and joy, knitting baby sweaters for a new grandchild or bringing out the "extra little touches" for entertaining friends.
But for Jan happiness is giving, any time of the year, and that's a beautiful thing.
Her friend and neighbor in Wauconda, Carole Powis, can't say enough good things about her:
"More energy and heart than almost anybody I've ever known; enjoys making somebody's day brighter; she's always wherever the need arises, and with such a positive outlook."
Jan doesn't talk about herself that way, she just thinks of herself as "everyone's mom and grandma."
Cooking, baking and sharing "are a little way of expressing your care and love for people, it's like a big hug," she says. "I'd rather do that than organize my closets."
Jan wraps her arms around family, neighbors and friends, figuratively speaking, as often as possible.
She helps provide food for funeral luncheons and other events at Messiah Lutheran in Wauconda. When she hears about people in need she drops by with a coffee cake or a hot dish.
Recently she was in charge of a wedding reception for a friend and she entertains often at home, going the extra mile to make everyone happy.
She always prepares a vegetarian entree for the non-meat eaters in the family and baked a turkey-shaped pizza for one of her grandsons at Thanksgiving.
When it's Jan's turn to host book club she sets out the good china and cloth napkins - even when it's just for coffee cake and muffins - and endures the good-natured teasing by her friends.
For day-to-day meals, Jan fixes healthy meals based on fish, chicken, lots of fruit and vegetables and no desserts, for herself and her husband, Jim,
"We're in our 60s, and we exercise, but we end up eating out a lot so we are always battling the weight," she says.
For company she likes to indulge, leaning toward make-ahead recipes like today's baked seafood casserole and Pork Parmigiano. The latter is a variation on the classic veal dish that she developed years ago when her butcher was out of the traditional main ingredient.
"I serve it with pasta tossed with olive oil and salt, a big salad and bread," she says. "There's enough sauce on the meat that plainer pasta is better."
The seafood dish is for the "vegetarians" in her family; it has an unusual topping made by molding breadcrumbs and butter into a log, slicing it and dotting the casserole before baking. Get the recipe at dailyherald.com/food.
The salad is another splurge, loaded with bacon, avocado and parmesan.
And that's how you're spoiled by "Grandma Jan."