The quarantines of the pandemic have led to many people appreciating more simplified schedules. For me, it's seemed to have the opposite affect. I’ve come to appreciate more the activities that my children are involved in and have missed them over the last year. I'm excited about this fall's prospect of busier weeks and the kids benefiting from sports and other after school activities.
Making a Loose Plan Can Decrease Stress
As my children return to school and activities, and I add my youngest to the bunch as she enters Kindergarten, we are suddenly doing a lot of schedule juggling. I’ve found over the years, if I have a busy week of afternoon and evening activities, it helps my overall stress level to have a loose plan for dinners. I typically will look at the week's calendar and plan 3-4 dinners for the week that I can pull from, depending on how each day is going. Meal planning doesn't need to be rigid and looks different for different people and families. Check out one of our first podcast episodes, where Elizabeth and I discuss our approach to meal planning.
This past week was my kids’ first week of fall sports. Suddenly, we had evenings with sports games and practices. I honestly had not done as much meal planning over the past year, because of the monotony of the pandemic, I believe. Looking at the week ahead, I knew I needed some kind of a plan, or I'd be scrambling each night. As I made a dinner plan for the week, a tried-and-true recipe came to mind, spinach lasagna. I hadn’t made this recipe since probably the beginning of 2020. It’s a favorite dish of the house, but I think about it as a “go-to” meal when I need something we can pull out of the fridge and heat up during a busy week. That hasn’t been a scenario over the last year. I suppose that is why I haven’t made it in so long.
A Great Recipe to Prepare Ahead of Time
I typically will put the lasagna together on the weekend or after dinner one night to be eaten later in the week. It can be cooked right before eating or cooked ahead of time. I think it tastes even better heated up a day later! There is usually enough for 2 dinners for my family of 5. I typically will pair it with a bagged salad kit, fruit, or microwave in the bag green beans. Also, the kids love the lasagna cut into small pieces and put in a thermos for lunch. Sometimes, I will make one recipe split between 2 square pans and freeze one of the pans for a future busy week. This is a great recipe to get the kids to help with! And a great way to expose more selective eaters to spinach.
I grew up eating this recipe and always loved it! My mother says the original recipe is from the Irregardless Cookbook, a restaurant in Raleigh, NC. As she made it over the years, she made it more and more simple and the recipe has transformed to what it is today.
To assemble, add lasagna noodles to boiling water. We use whole wheat lasagna noodles, as they hold up well reheated and add fiber to the meal. Regular lasagna noodles are great, too!
As the noodles cook, combine defrosted (in the microwave) frozen spinach, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and eggs. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Pour a small amount of jarred spaghetti sauce to the bottom of a 9" x 13” pan.
Place 3 lasagna noodles on top. (This photo is from layer number 2, that is why the cheese is showing!)
Scoop ⅓ of the spinach mixture on top of the noodles.
Pour about ⅓ of the spaghetti sauce on top of the spinach mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.
Repeat the layers 2 more times. Cover with aluminum foil. Cook at 350 degrees for 45 min, remove foil, and cook for another 15 minutes.
Let sit for 10 min before serving. Or, let cool and keep in the fridge to be reheated the next day.
What's on your "go-to" meal list?
For more of our "go-to" meals click the links below:
- "Go-to Meals" - Your Plan B
- Garlic Shrimp with Feta - A New "Go-To" Meal
- "Go-To" Meals - Part 2
- "Go-To" Summertime Meals
- 1-16 ounce package of frozen spinach
- 2 eggs
- ¾ c ricotta cheese
- 1-5 to 6 oz. package of shredded parmesan cheese
- 1-8 oz. package of shredded mozzarella cheese
- 9 lasagna noodles
- 1.5-24 ounce jars 36 ounces total of spaghetti sauce (I use Classico brand)
- Preheat oven 350 degrees.
- Cook 9 lasagna noodles according to package.
- Combine thawed spinach, ricotta, eggs, ½ parmesan in a bowl.
- Coat bottom of pan with sauce.
- Place 3 lasagna noodles in bottom of pan.
- Spread ⅓ of spinach/ricotta mixture on noodles.
- Pour ⅓ of sauce on top of spinach mixture.
- Sprinkle mixture with parmesan and mozzarella cheese
- Repeat layers 2 more times.
- Cover with foil.
- Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 15 minutes more.