I’ve been making the same handful of dinner recipes since my kids started summer vacation. It’s like the part of my brain devoted to meals has posted a “gone fishing” sign.
The dishes I cook on autopilot are the old standards my own mother served. That sounds sweet, until I confess that I was raised on Tang, Jell-O molds, and candy cigarettes. Nutritionally speaking, the ‘70s are not the decade to fall back on. While it’s easy enough to Google a healthy recipe, it’s hard to turn a critical eye to the ones that are deep in our repertoire. But the twinge of healthy cooking guilt I felt when I watched my kiddos shovel piles of cholesterol-laden lasagna into their gaping maws was enough to send me back to square one, and the grocery store.
When you walk down the pasta aisle, do you automatically reach for the box you always buy? On a recent trip, I paused to read the nutritional information on several new-to-me packages. I was delighted to discover that whole-grain pasta has around 9 grams of protein in a 2-ounce serving. (As if anyone eats only 2 ounces of lasagna.) It allowed me to skip the meat in my family recipe without my football-training boys worrying about a lack of muscle-building protein. If you’re contemplating a stealthy swap, I assure you we found no discernible taste difference between the whole-wheat and enriched white lasagna noodles.
I similarly perused the cheese options in the dairy case, and found a ricotta labeled “light.” It contained significantly less fat and fewer calories than the red container I habitually add to my cart. I used only half of the cheese that’s required in my rote recipe and, instead, bulked up the white layer with savory sauteed cauliflower. If you are so inclined, you can omit both the ricotta and the sprinkle of mozzarella on top to make your lasagna virtually fat-free.
This new recipe calls for more vegetables than anything that ever graced my childhood table, and at first glance, you might think it requires too much chopping. I can cut up all of the vegetables in about 6 minutes, or less if I’m working out some frustration. You can also purchase pre-diced veggies in the produce aisle, advance-chop them on the weekend, or pulse them in the food processor. Make this recipe, or use it as inspiration to reimagine your family’s old standby. It may very well become the recipe your own children carry to the next generation.
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