Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lazy Lasagna Bake

Sometimes we are in the mood for lasagna, but don't want to go to all the work. This dish is a great solution to that dilemma. I never have Ricotta cheese at the house and sometimes
I am out of cottage cheese as well. Since I can make some using powdered milk that doesn't keep me from making this delicious meal. The kids love to make the cheese with me - it is like a science experiment right in the kitchen. As with the other meals I make using powdered milk, everyone who tastes this is surprised to learn my secret ingredient. There is quite a cost savings also when making your own cheese and yogurt. Every little bit helps as we try and stretch our food dollars.

Lazy Lasagna Bake

1 lb. wide egg noodles, cooked to al dente (You want them to still be a bit firm.)
6 cups pasta sauce
1 lb. sausage or hamburger, browned (optional)
2 cups cottage cheese*
                *Use the homemade Ricotta cheese and enough plain yogurt to equal 2 cups
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried parsley                 
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Cook the pasta until it is only about halfway done. You want it a little firm since you will be baking this again. Layer half of pasta sauce in the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle half the meat on top. Add half the noodles. Mix together the cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Spread this over the noodle layer. Top with the rest of the noodles. Sprinkle the remaining meat on top. Cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350° for 30-45 minutes until the noodles are done and it is heated through. To use as a freezer meal:  Freeze before baking. Cover pan with plastic wrap and then foil. (The plastic wrap will keep the tomato sauce from eating through the foil over time in the freezer.) To bake: Thaw first, remove the plastic wrap layer, replace the foil and then bake as above.

* Ricotta or Cottage Cheese:
2 cups warm water + ¾ cup non-instant powdered milk (1 ½ cups instant) + 3 Tbsp lemon juice or white                                                                                                                                                          vinegar

If using non-instant milk, blend water and dry milk together and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. (If using instant milk, bring water to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in milk with a wire whisk.) Drip lemon juice or vinegar around edge of the pan and gently stir. Milk will immediately start to curdle, separating into curds and whey. If the liquid is still a milky color, add just a little more lemon juice or vinegar. Let rest one minute. Pour into a colander and rinse with hot then cold water. Drain until no whey remains. Makes about 1 ½ cups of curds. The dry cheese curds will work for ricotta cheese in most recipes. To turn it into cottage cheese add a little yogurt to cream it and stir to combine. You also may want to add a little salt. Instant milk gives you a softer curd. The non-instant milk creates curds that are more chewy, but they still work great in lasagna or other similar dishes. Our family enjoys this in baked recipes. We prefer the store-bought cottage cheese for eating plain or using in salads. 

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