Non-Traditional Lasagna/Meatloaf Lasagna

Tonight, we had non-traditional lasagna for dinner. Or “Meatloaf Lasagna” or Mommy’s new lasagna recipe. I had planned meatloaf for dinner. Boy was kitchen sous chef for tonight’s prep. He hates meatloaf. I was out of cheese nips, so I ended up crushing corn flakes. Then I realized we had no potatoes or instant potatoes and I couldn’t serve meatloaf without potatoes. Ok. Boy was happy! Maybe I should make polenta layered something. Boy grumbled he liked polenta even less than meatloaf. My eyes lit upon the lasagna noodles. Oooo some sort of lasagna. Out of Parmesan, out of mozzarella.

Non-Traditional Lasagna AKA Meatloaf Lasagna

1 box of lasagna noodles (uncooked)
1 lb ground beef
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1 cup cornflake crumbs
1 tsp chopped garlic (or to taste)
1 can diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 cups small curd cottage cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar
2 eggs

Spray 9 x13 pan with nonstick spray. Brown ground beef. Mix with spaghetti sauce, Italian seasoning, cornflake crumbs, diced tomatoes, garlic. Beat eggs with fork. If you like a less lumpy lasagna, (I do) whiz cottage cheese in blender/food processor/handy chopper until smoother…or have ricotta on hand. Mix cheeses and eggs together. Splash about 1 cup meat mixture in bottom of lasagna pan. Add layer of noodles. Use half of cheese mixture. Then half of remaining meat mixture. Repeat with layer of noodles and rest of meat mixture and then cheese mixture. Sprinkle a bit more cheddar on top. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour at 350. Take foil off. 10 more minutes or until bubbly.

Note: Mama liked it. Teens liked it. Lasagna hating tween didn’t but she ate some. Denise said it was ok and certainly ate it. I liked it.

Mock Lasagne Casserole

It is quarter to seven pm as I write this post, I don’t know what is for dinner. At all. I thought we were having stuffed zucchini. But the zucchini I remembered as being in the fridge transformed into cucumbers. I don’t know how that happened. Really.

I am hungry. Laughing Cow + cranberry bread is not really enough to fuel me all day…even with a generous amount of coca cola and a caramel macchiatto.

But, instead of fixing a meal, I am here. Mostly because I can’t fathom what to make for dinner. I flipped through the cookbook on my desk. I seem to have few of the ingredients needed for any of the recipes and really, we all know what not having dinner ready by this hour means at this house: No recipe is going to save me from serving everyone what is known as “scrounging” at this house.

Yep. Every able bodied person old enough/young enough to run a microwave without assistance gets to figure out what they want for dinner and prepare it themselves. (This would be everyone in this house, save my mother who isn’t having an able-bodied day. I will fix something for her. (Oh, by the way, the limited posting of late has been related to the fact that my mother moved in to our home at the end of the year)

Going out seems too taxing and oh wait, taxes mean we don’t have the money anyway. Well, taxes and other things mean we have no money. Chicago is expensive. Moving to Chicago is expensive. That sort of thing.

I could use a recipe in this book though. We have the ingredients. Some in our family might even enjoy it…mostly the part of the family not here for dinner tonight. On the other hand, they may look at it suspiciously. They often do if they see some new food and evidence of a retro cookbook. They also are highly reluctant to eat anything with either “mock” or “casserole” in the name. This recipe contains both.

If you can sell your family on it though…nice budget dinner and you likely have all the ingredients.

Mock Lasagne Casserole

1 pound bulk pork sausage
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon each garlic salt, pepper, and dried basil leaves, crushed
1 7-oz package macaroni-cooked and drained
1 1/2 cups cream-style cottage cheese
6 oz shredded process American Cheese (1 1/2 cups) (oh good grief, use cheddar)

Brown the meat; drain off fat. Add tomato sauce, garlic salt, pepper, basil and 1/2 cup water. Cover; simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a 2-qt casserole, layer HALF each macaroni, cottage cheese, shredded cheeese, and meat sauce. Repeat. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.

(Recipe from Good Food on a Budget, 1971)

Broccoli Casserole

My kids like plain steamed broccoli. I know. Strange children. However, tonight we are having broccoli casserole. This violates their sensibility but some day I hope to bring them over to the casserole dark side.

This is from my grandmother’s recipe box. Yes, you can cut the mayo down and the eggs. I use only 1 can of cream of mushroom and skip the butter topping. Somehow I feel a little virtuous doing these things…but on the other hand Nini’s tasted better.

Broccoli Casserole

2 cups chopped broccoli
1 onion, chopped
1 cup grated cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
4 eggs
2 small cans mushroom soup
salt and pepper

Mix and cook at 350 until bubbles. Top with butter and bread crumbs. Brown 5-10 min.

Polenta Lasagna with Mushrooms Bechamel

This is totally not a retro recipe, but it is what we had for dinner tonight. This prompted @dtanton to tweet that the Polenta Funky Mushroom Lasagna was awesome. This of course brought requests for more info…which she can’t answer.

Let me preface the recipe by saying, I really didn’t think this would go over well. We are not big lasagna fans. @dtanton doesn’t like Italian food much at all and well, I am not the biggest fan of tomato sauce. She hates creamy sauces. We generally don’t do Italian food. We also are not huge polenta fans. About once a year I will fix something with polenta and it gets a meh response from both of us. For whatever reason, when pitching dinner ideas this week while flipping through the cookbook, we went with this one.

I prepped it Sunday, but we certainly were not rushing to eat it. The tofu apricot kugel went first (also in the Passionate Vegetarian-This is also excellent and totally the noodle kugel for anyone, unless your bubbe/zayde makes the only noodle kugel you can ever imagine enjoying) . Followed by the Pad Thai Wraps (pretty darn good-from Whole Foods frugal recipe gig)

Anyhow, it turned out to be a surprise favorite. Really surprise. BIG. Huge. Surprise. Awesome is not a word that describes many recipes in this house, not even long time favorites.

The original recipe came from the BEST Vegetarian cookbook ever written…Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon (a nifty writer outside of cookbooks and she can teach you to be a fab one too). The Oven Baked Chicken Fried Tofu recipe also comes from there. Even if you are a dedicated omnivore, you should own this cookbook. Huge cookbook. Buy it. We have had tons of successful meals from it, the intros to the recipes and the discussion in general…WONDERFUL!!!!

The recipe originally called for 1/2 shiitake 1/2 lb button mushrooms. I split the difference and went with a pound of baby bellas. It called for a homemade basic Italian tomato sauce, I went with a jar. Freshly grated parmesan…umm yeah, it came in a can. sorry. Yeah, I would change that but shrug. So, below is not actually what happens in the book…but you can figure it out.

Polenta Lasagna with Mushrooms Bechamel

1/2 large onion
1 lb baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat milk (err I used skim)
2 tablespoons cornstarch (Hey, did you know Argo comes in a little plastic canister now? way cool)
2 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup white wine (Gasp! Wine in the house! Thank you Redwood City Holiday Inn Express Priority Club check-in rewards. How long does a re-corked open bottle of wine last?)
Salt, freshly ground black pepper (err um, not so fresh here, sorry again) and freshly ground nutmeg. (No, we were out of even the not freshly ground sort. May have added dash of apple pie spice? maybe not)
3 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce
1 tube of plain polenta (or you could make your own or use pesto flavored) sliced in 3/8 thick slices (divide this into 4 piles now so you don’t run short like I did)
1/4-3/4 c. Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. (Skip this if you are prepping ahead like I did) Spray your 9 x13 pan with Pam. Set aside.

Spray a large skillet with cooking oil or dump a smidge of olive oil in it or both. Saute your onion until almost translucent. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until it they start to get limp. Add the 3/4 cup of milk, bring to simmer.

Dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining 2 T. milk. When the mushrooms simmer, add the cornstarch mixture. It gets gummy at this point (or “thick and pasty”). Stir in the cream cheese and then the wine. When well blended, remove from heat, season to taste.

Spread some spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the pan. Then make a sparse layer of polenta slices (about 1/4 of the polenta). It won’t completely cover the bottom of the dish. Then dust it with Parmesan. Throw some mushroom mixture on top. Rinse and repeat. Ok, don’t rinse. Just repeat the sauce/Parmesan/polenta layering. I actually think I ended up with fewer layers because I didn’t remember the instructions very well and didn’t keep walking back and forth between cookbook and dish. (Stop here if prepping ahead)

Place in the preheated oven and bake until bubbly, 35-45 minutes. Allow to rest for 15 min after removing from oven for prettier slices (It smelled good, we didn’t wait.)