I have a confession: I love food, and I love to cook. But to be honest, the task of feeding a house-full of hungry bellies night after night can sometimes be a chore.
At the end of a busy work day, after shuffling kids from one activity or another, it’s sometimes difficult to muster creativity. I’ve often thought how fantastic it would be if only the dinner would just appear somehow, some way. But we all know when that happens it’s in the form of a guilt-inducing 16-inch cheesey pie, brought special by a guy in a baseball cap and a sign on his car.
We can all use a little inspiration from time to time, and I am always looking to be inspired.
Meal-time ideas can be found in various locations, and are as eclectic as the recipes themselves: friends and family for great casseroles, magazines for seasonal dishes, The Food Network for, well, everything.
Online resources abound, too, with recipe Web sites like cooks.com and recipe.com, and the daily morning news programs chef segment always stops me in my tracks. It’s a visual treat where top culinary experts are featured to impart their spin on various dishes. At times, I’ve wished for television smell-a-vision, the dishes look so scrumptious!
Personally, I’ve found the best resource there is: other busy moms. Moms are always eager to share, so when I’m tapped out, I will simply pose the question, “What’s for dinner,” and welcome the flood of responses, which ultimately turns into a trip to the supermarket for me in search of the necessary ingredients.
Additionally, I’ve found that my Facebook friends are always helpful when asked for dinner ideas. The mere mention of what they’re having at their tables takes on a life of its own in my vivid imagination -- becoming a force that must be meted out in my own kitchen.
Ah, the power of suggestion is a mighty thing...
People just love to talk about food -- there is commonality in it; they take great pleasure when they share ideas, trade recipes, and even show off pictures of their latest creations. If only there were an easily accessible place for them to do it?
This column was born out of that desire to connect busy moms who are looking for great, easy recipe ideas with one another. Submissions are not only welcomed, but encouraged as a means for this columns success. Perhaps together we can help each other decide, “What’s for dinner?”
Simply provide a brief explanation of “What’s for Dinner?,” why you or your family love it, and jot down the ingredients and how-tos in the comment section below, and Danvers Patch will share it. We’d love to hear from others who try out the recipes, and following up with pictures is always a nice touch.
In other words, this column is by and for all of us.
What’s for dinner? Here is my contribution...
Chicken Lasagna with Homemade Ricotta - Pasta Meets Protein (from the kitchen of Michelle Gilliss)
Last night, I was craving pasta, but my husband wanted his protein. We had some left-over cooked chicken breast in the fridge, so I started thinking about how to integrate it into a pasta dish, so we can each be satisfied.
First, I took inventory to assure I had everything, and discovered a key ingredient missing: ricotta cheese. Lasagna without ricotta is like a meatball without meat.
I thought I was in a bit of a pickle, until I remembered reading somewhere about homemade ricotta. It came back to me: I read it on goop.com. I had subscribed a while back to this online blog by Gwyneth Paltrow, which covers all kinds of topics from fashion to fun to-you guessed it -- food. I desperately scoured my old e-mails for the one with the really, super-easy looking ricotta recipe, that had caught my eye-and hit pay dirt.
Within an hour, my family was sitting down to easily the best lasagna I’d ever made. Sometimes it takes these momentary incidents of necessity to invoke something spectacular.
Here is a link to the recipe for homemade ricotta: http://goop.com/newsletter/102/en/. It was used here with bruschetta, which looks delicious, but I chose to simply take the ricotta, doctor it up, and use it in my lasagna.
Here is my full recipe for Chicken Lasagna with Homemade Ricotta - Pasta Meets Protein:
- 1 box lasagna
- 1 lb. cooked chicken breast, shredded
- olive oil
- 1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach (thawed)
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 48 oz. can whole tomatoes
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 small can tomato paste
- Parmesan cheese
- handful fresh chopped parsley
- 1 pkg. shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 med. onion
- 1/2 each red and green bell pepper
- *pinch of crushed red pepper
- *coarse salt/ black pepper to taste
Ricotta Cheese Filling:
- homemade ricotta (see recipe link: http://goop.com/newsletter/102/en/)
- 2 eggs
- handful chopped parsley
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
Combine all together in medium bowl, set aside.
To make sauce:
Saute onion and garlic in oil on medium heat. Add salt and pepper, and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Add peppers, parsley and spinach, cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth, raise heat slightly to boil. Add tomatoes and paste, boil for 2 minutes, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Add cooked chicken. Allow to simmer 20 minutes until sauce is thickened.
Prepare lasagna noodles as directed on the package, drain and set aside. Put a spoonful of sauce in bottom of 9”x13” casserole dish, layer four lasagna noodles on bottom of dish, followed by a layer of ½ the ricotta cheese mixture. Top ricotta with a third of the sauce mixture and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Top with a second layer of four lasagna noodles, layer the rest of the ricotta, and another third of the sauce. Add final four lasagna noodles, final layer of sauce -- and top with layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake in 375-degree oven for 35 minutes. Once cheese is browned and bubbly, remove from oven and let your lasagna set up for about 10 minutes. Enjoy!