Thursday, January 13, 2011
At the entrance of my local grocery store there’s a massive tower of Hamburger Helper. Our college students are back in session and need cheap food, right? So I suppose I shouldn’t be annoyed.
But I am. I’m quite irritated in fact. How did “Hamburger Helper” become food anyway? Now, I’m not one of those always-make-it-from-scratch nutters and shortcuts are quite welcome in my hectic life. Food shortcuts. Not MSG loaded chemical shortcuts.
When did it become acceptable to eat non food items? Why did this happen?
Trust me. I know how much cheaper and easier it is to grab a pound of bargain priced hamburger and a box of garbage, but in the end these new adults aren’t doing themselves any favors.
If I could devote my life to helping students cook I would. Maybe I still will. Until then I’ll create copycat recipes with real vegetables, real dairy, whole wheat pasta and organic meat. It may cost more, but what are the lives and health of those I care about worth?
A lot more than a box of chemicals I can tell you that.
Skillet Lasagna with Italian Sausage and Vegetables
The ingredient list looks long, but this hearty skillet dinner isn’t difficult to make.
8 ounce box whole wheat or regular lasagna noodles
1/2 cup ricotta
1/3 cup shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces thinly sliced mushrooms
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound Bulk Sweet Italian Sausage (not in casing)
8 ounce zucchini, sliced into 1/8” thick half moons
24 ounce jar red pasta sauce (I like Newman’s Own Sockarooni Sauce in this dish.)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Break lasagna noodles in half lengthwise then break each strip into 1 to 2 inch pieces. Cook according to package directions, for whole wheat I cook them up to 5 minutes longer to soften to taste. Strain water out and mix noodles with a small amount of olive oil to keep them from sticking together.
2. In a small bowl, mix together ricotta and Pecorino Romano or Parmesan. Set aside.
3. In a very large skillet add the olive oil and melt the butter over medium high heat until the foam begins to subside. Add mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook for several minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
4. Add the sausage and break it up in the pan, then add the zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally until sausage is thoroughly cooked through. Turn off heat and strain mixture in a colander and place back into the skillet.
5. Turn the heat to medium. Stir in pasta and pasta sauce and cook for a few minutes until heated through. Stir in water then dollop on ricotta mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella. Swirl in the cheeses. Top with more Romano or Parmesan if desired before serving.
Note: Can’t eat dairy? Want to save some money or cut down on calories? Feel free to leave out the butter and all cheeses. Just substitute another tablespoon of olive oil for the missing butter. At the end, taste for salt and pepper as you might need to add extra to make up for the missing salty cheese.
Recipe and photographs by Laura Flowers.