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November, 2009

Make It Easy on Yourself

By Mark Mulcahy

We all know that daylight gets shorter this time of year, but with our very hectic schedules, family and friends staying over and meals to plan, I know that many of us wish we had more time.

Orange Honeydew Melon
Being so busy can make one quite frazzled. So what’s the answer? Well you could turn back the clock, but that won’t help. I say take another approach. Before your busy week starts, take a few minutes to plan out your menu and think about how Melissa’s can be a part of your menu planning before you start shopping. If you are looking for one last taste of summer fruit, then make sure you include a Melissa’s Organic Sherbet Melon on your list; yes, they still have tasty melons available, even this late in the fall. If you know you’re going to have a busy weekend that is going to have you out and about, or your house is going to be filled with guests, you can do your prep work before the pace gets harried and things will go much smoother.

Here are some ideas that should help.

Make VEGETABLE LASAGNA; this one from http://allrecipes.com is a nice one to use.

Spinach Lasagna III

Prep Time: 35 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Ready In: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

Servings: 12

INGREDIENTS:
20 lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups fresh spinach
3 cups ricotta cheese
2/3 cup grated Romano cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3 cups tomato pasta sauce
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook mushrooms, onions, and garlic in olive oil until onions are tender. Drain excess liquid and cool. Boil spinach for 5 minutes. Drain, and then squeeze out excess liquid. Chop spinach. Combine ricotta cheese, Romano cheese, spinach, salt, oregano, basil, pepper, and egg in a bowl. Add cooled mushroom mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Lay 5 lasagna noodles in bottom of a 9x13 inch-baking dish. Spread one third of the cheese/spinach mixture over noodles. Sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese on top. Spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce over cheese. Repeat layering 2 times.

Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour. Cool 15 minutes before serving. You can prepare your Melissa’s organic veggies and cheese the day before and put it together and bake it the next. Now you have the beginning of a nice dinner for your busy weekend, just add a bowl of mixed salad greens; a glass of syrah and a nice slice of French bread and you’re set. If you make enough, you can enjoy a hearty lunch that will be made even better with some Melissa’s Organic Ambrosia apples. One night you can chop and sauté your Melissa’s organic onions, peppers, broccoli, and mushrooms, and whip the eggs and bake it the next night. If you do it early in the week, make two and you can have one for that night’s dinner along with some baked yams or steamed broccoli. Having a bowl of grated cheese, some chopped Melissa’s yellow onions, sliced Crimini mushrooms, minced garlic, sliced olives, along with some steamed rainbow chard in the fridge, with a couple of pre-made crusts means that you can have pizza night without much fuss and a whole lot more fun. If your weeknights are too busy to do prep, how about giving up a Sunday in the kitchen for a weekend of easy meals?

The lasagna and the quiche can easily be made that far ahead. A vegetable soup or stew made on Sunday can be frozen and thawed the day before. I think you are getting the idea… Another thought is to not make a recipe that is too elaborate or involved when you are trying to save time, you’ll only end up frustrated and more harried.

So start with a plan

• Choose recipes that are fairly quick and easy
• Buy your Melissa’s produce items for the week
• Make sure your pantry is well stocked with basics so you don’t have to run to the store during your cooking time
• Prep veggies ahead of time

All these ideas will have you wishing for longer days, not because you are too busy, but because you had so much fun at your events and gatherings. There is another bonus from this: your friends and family will enjoy the calmer you. And isn’t that something to be thankful for?