I’d never made lasagna until a couple weeks ago. I was always intimidated by the idea. It just seemed so involved: boiling pasta, layering, cooking meat and baking everything. And why make one when you can buy one for $12.99?
These days, most people are averse to making things from scratch. Last summer my husband and I spent a lot of time at his cottage, and I was very impressed with my mother-in-law’s cooking skills; she made so many things from scratch. She learned this from her mother and now it’s second nature to her.
That being said, I think there is a shift happening in the world of food. I think people are starting to care about where their food comes from, and the quality of their food. I know I do. It seems as though there is news every single day about another food recall, frozen burgers with salmonella, horse meat found in Ikea meatballs or shards of metal found in frozen pizza.
Health food stores are becoming more popular. Ingredients such as hemp, chia and flaxseeds, coconut oil and quinoa are available in major grocery stores. Terms such as “free-from,” “organic,” “buy-local,” and “non-GMO” are becoming common buzz words.
This shift in caring about our food naturally means a shift in consumer buying habits. If you care about where your food comes from you’re more likely to avoid low-quality, packaged foods and make meals from scratch using whole, fresh, good quality ingredients.
Sometimes I can’t believe what my cart looks like compared to how it used to look. I spend the majority of my grocery budget on local or organic produce, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and organic meat. I’ve noticed that I fill my green bin up way faster than my garbage can. The best part is that my grocery bill has stayed the same.
I’ve learned to become a better cook. When you cook with whole, fresh foods more often you start to learn what flavours go together, and the options become endless. Besides, meals made from scratch taste way better than their frozen, packaged counterparts.
Don’t believe me? Give this veggie lasagna recipe a try this weekend. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and will hopefully think twice before buying a packaged version next time. (I realize the first four ingredients are packaged foods, but I simply don’t have time to make my own cheese, homemade pasta, tomato sauce and cook dry beans). If you have the time, all the power to you!
Easy Veggie Lasagna
Serves 4-6 (makes great leftovers for 2!)
9 whole wheat or brown rice lasagna noodles
1 jar of White Linen Collection all-natural marinara sauce (Costco)*
1 475g tub of light ricotta cheese or 1% cottage cheese
1 540 mL can navy or white kidney beans (organic)
Zest of 1 lemon (approx. 1 tbsp)
1 zucchini peeled and diced (could also use sliced cremini mushrooms or both!)
5 cups organic baby spinach
1 tsp red chili flakes
Salt & pepper
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
*You can also make your own sauce: combine 1 can crushed tomatoes, ¼ cup water, 2 cloves of garlic (minced) and ½ tsp each of salt and pepper in place of the marinara sauce.
Preheat oven to 450° F.
Boil lasagna noodles according to package instructions.
Drain and rinse beans well (important for proper digestion).
Peel and chop zucchini into small cubes.
Stack and roll spinach leaves and cut into strips (it will seem like a lot, but spinach cooks down significantly).
Combine ricotta, beans, lemon zest and chili flakes in a bowl.
Assembling the lasagna:
Step 1: Spread 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
Step 2: Place 3 noodles on top of the sauce.
Step 3: Spoon and spread half of the ricotta mixture over the 3 noodles. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 4: Scatter half the zucchini and spinach across all 3 noodles.
Step 5: Drizzle 1 cup of sauce over the veggies.
Step 6: Layer 3 more noodles and repeat steps 3 through 5.
Finish the lasagna with 3 more noodles, any remaining sauce and shredded parmesan cheese. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover, and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, cut into squares and enjoy!