21 January 2015

Can you believe it's the second half of January already? Time flies when you're busy!  We have been super busy since the kids finally went back to school (after Christmas break and multiple snow days).  Weeknights have changed a lot around here in the last year with me working part-time (today is my one year anniversary!) and with my oldest daughter having homework every night.  I used to be able to cook pretty much whatever dinner I wanted on whatever night I wanted to, but not anymore.  I really need quick-cooking dinners on weeknights that are easy enough that my husband can throw them together if I get bogged down helping Lena with her homework.  He's not inept in the kitchen by any means, but simple is always best on these busy nights.  I recently created this awesome recipe that is perfect for these nights.  Not only is it ready in about half an hour, with pockets of time when you are able to leave it and go do something else while it cooks, but since it cooks all in one pan, you have only one pan to clean up afterwards.  I love that!  

The lovely folks at Red Gold sent me an nifty little package of tomatoes, lasagna noodles. an apron, and a coupon for Laura's Lean Beef and invited me to participate in their "Red Gold Simple Gourmet Lasagna Party".  Do you love lasagna?  Lasagna isn't something I have mastered, so I looked forward to an opportunity to work on my lasagna skills. I have two main lasagna hang-ups: 1. I don't like ricotta cheese, and 2. it is a complicated dish with lots of prep work, then a really long baking time.  Ain't nobody got time for dat!  Well, maybe somebody does, but I don't!  The lasagna recipe that I came up with fixes both of those issues.  I replaced the ricotta with a mixture of cream cheese, parmesan, and garlic powder.  Yum.  And I cooked the entire thing on the stovetop.  It was ready, from start to finish, in half an hour or less (I didn't time it exactly.)  It's not layered like traditional lasagna, but the taste is the same and you really feel like you're getting the whole "lasagna experience".  
Skillet Lasagna

1 tsp olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 (14.5 oz.) cans Red Gold Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic, and Oregano
2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
⅔ cup water
1 tbsp Italian seasoning (I use Penzeys Tuscan Sunset)
11 lasagna noodles, broken into pieces
½ cup cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp Parmesan
½ tsp garlic powder
2 oz. mozzarella pearls

Heat oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet.  Add the onion and sauté until tender.  Add the ground beef and cook until browned.  Drain off grease if necessary.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, and Italian seasoning.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Add noodles, stir, and replace cover.  Cook for 10 minutes, or until noodles are al dente.  Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, Parmesan, and garlic powder.  Drop by spoonfuls into the pan and gently fold inside.  Place mozzarella pearls on top and cook for another 5-10 minutes, covered, to melt. Top with freshly grated Parmesan or Fontina, if desired.  Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

This is how I broke up the lasagna pieces.  I assumed that you would have to use no-boil noodles for something like this, but I was wrong!  Regular lasagna noodles work perfectly.  If you happen to have some no-boil (aka oven-ready) noodles or you want to speed up the cooking even more, I think that you could use them as well.  They are thinner and more delicate than regular, so be gentle with your stirring.

If you can't find mozzarella pearls at your store, you can buy a mozzarella ball and just cut little pieces off of it.  Of course, you can always use shredded instead, but I like the looks of the pearls.  Makes it seem fancier somehow.

My family loved this!  While it was cooking I steamed some green beans in the microwave and threw some garlic bread under the broiler and dinner was done.  Easy peasy. Both of my girls made a point to tell me how much they loved it.  We had just a little bit leftover and it was quickly gobbled up for lunch the next day.

Give this a try the next time you get hungry for lasagna but don't have all day to devote to making it.  And be sure to head over to Red Gold's Facebook page to enter for your chance to win one of 750 aprons or one of 6 Gourmet Lasagna Party Prize Packs which include a Le Creuset Lasagna pan.  It ends February 3rd, so go enter now before you forget!

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