Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cold Weather Dinner

If you are a human living in the United States, I don't have to tell you that it has been cold. Really cold. Hurts-to-breathe-and-go-outside cold. Even though I am from Pennsylvania, which is pretty into winter, I have never seen days like the ones I have experienced in Chicago this year. Highs of -12 F? What. I didn't even know that was a thing.

On days like these, in addition to staying indoors under a pile of blankets for as long as I can, I like to make dishes of hearty, warming comfort foods. Because what is better on a frigid day than a huge slice of lasagna or a vat of mac and cheese? Nothing. The answer is nothing.

In my quest to get in wedding shape, I've been working hard to find healthy recipes that still fulfill the giant-bowl-of-cheesy-goodness comfort craving. Behold! Lasagna that doesn't make your arteries harden just by looking at it!

This recipe from Emily Bites is awesome AND healthy, and as a bonus, the serving is HUGE. One serving of this lasagna is 1/9 of the pan. So much goodness!

I couldn't even wait to take a picture before diving in. It really is that good.

I was a little bit skeptical when I perused the ingredients list, as the recipe omits one thing that is usually vital to a successful lasagna: ricotta cheese. However, the combination of reduced fat cream cheese and low fat cottage cheese yields a texture that is very much like ricotta with a bit of that frozen lasagna cheese nugget texture that I happen to really enjoy (for an example, see Stouffer's lasagna). Keep warm, friends!

The Best Lasagna Ever

Modified slightly from Emily Bites

3/4 lb 95% (or greater) lean ground beef
3/4 lb (about three links) hot (or mild, if you prefer) Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 jar (about 24 oz) tomato & basil pasta sauce
8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, cubed (I only use Philadelphia brand)
1 cup 1% cottage cheese (mix it up in the container before you measure so that it isn't watery)
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
6 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
1 cup shredded 2 % reduced-fat mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. In a large skillet, cook the sausage, beef, onion, and green pepper over medium heat, breaking up with a spoon until browned. Set aside 1 cup of pasta sauce, and combine the remaining sauce into the meat mixture. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat, simmering uncovered for 8-10 minutes.
3. In a small saucepan, melt the cream cheese over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once melted, remove from heat, and stir in cottage cheese and parsley.
4. Spray a 9"x13" baking dish with cooking spray, and spread about 1/4 of the meat sauce evenly across the bottom. Top with 3 lasagna noodles, followed by another 1/4 of the meat sauce. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the sauce, and add another 1/4 of the meat sauce. Lay the 3 remaining lasagna noodles over the top, and cover with the rest of the meat sauce plus the reserved pasta sauce. Sprinkle the top with the shredded cheese, followed by the Italian seasoning.
5. Cover dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until browned (you can also broil it a bit if necessary). Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.

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