Food for Thought is a weekly collaboration between Thick Fit Mom and Flexible Fork encouraging thoughtful eating and easy, balanced meals for you and your family.
I don’t make my child eat things. Well, maybe that’s not the way to put it. I don’t make her eat things that she doesn’t like. Now, if I make pasta and you like pasta but just don’t feel like eating it, you’re still eating pasta. I wouldn’t, however, force her to sit at the table and choke down meatloaf that I know she doesn’t like. She likes so many things that I can make a varied menu without making foods that will cause issues. Every once in a while, though, there is something I want that she hates and won’t eat and I am faced with a decision. Wait till she’s with her dad and make it (let’s be honest though, if I don’t need to feed her it’s likely that I’m not cooking at all), make it for myself and make an alternative for her (extra work) or adapt it. My mom used to adapt things for me and so this is probably my favorite way to handle it. As a child, I didn’t care for beans, but I liked the flavor of chili. So, my mom would make chili and then before she added the beans, she would separate a portion of it in to a smaller pot. This was my chili. It doesn’t really make a bunch of extra work and we’re eating together.
I've had people tell me this is indulgent and that I'm spoiling her. My answer is usually, "So?" I mean, what's wrong with a little indulgence when it comes to what we're having for dinner. Our kids deal with a lot every day at school. Friends, frenemies, bullies, homework, etc. Why can't I make life at home a little easier without being considered indulgent? It's not like I said she can skip the meal and just eat cookies. I don't know. I suppose I could be wrong, but she's not a raging mean girl and I've been doing this for several years so you'll have a hard time convincing me there's error in my ways.
Then again, why try and convince someone they're parenting wrong instead of just accepting that you parent differently and may still be able to raise non-jerks in more than one way.
Anyway, back on topic... Since Em doesn’t like cheese (IKR?!) I knew that this week’s lasagna cup recipe would be a challenge, but then I asked her if she’d be interested in trying it if I made a couple without the cheese and she agreed! Adaptation for the win!
22 pieces of Whole Wheat - Whole Grain - Lasagna Noodles
½ lb Ground Turkey Breast
½ large Onion
½ medium Sweet Red Pepper
1 cup Zucchini diced
2 tsp Minced Garlic (if you use garlic in a jar, use the garlic that is packed in water)
1 tbsp dried Basil
½ tbsp dried Oregano
1 cup No Salt Added/Low Sodium Tomato Sauce
8 oz No Salt Added canned Diced Tomatoes (If your can is bigger than 8 oz, be sure to use a liquid measuring cup to measure your 8 oz)
1 tsp Brown Sugar
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Pepper
2 tbsp shredded Parmesan Cheese
⅓ cup Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
1 large Egg
1 container (7.5 oz) Chive & Onion Cream Cheese
½ cup part skim shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1. Brown ground turkey and set aside.
2. Dice onion, pepper and zucchini. Easily the most time consuming part of this recipe.
3. Sauce- heat olive oil over medium heat and saute onions, pepper, zucchini and garlic until tender, 5 minutes.
4. Stir in cooked ground beef and tomato sauce until well incorporated.
5. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to simmer.
6. Reduce heat to low and cook 30 minutes or so. This will be very thick. Micca’s note: The longer it cooks, the better it will taste! I totally fell asleep while I was waiting and I think I may have cooked it a smidge too long and reduced it a bit. As I didn’t have enough sauce in the end.
7. Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta sheets 2 minutes less than package directions and drain. Place pasta on greased baking sheet until you are ready for assembly.
8. Cheese filling- stir all ingredients together excluding half of the grated mozzarella cheese. Set aside.
9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
10. Line 12 jumbo muffin tins with squares of parchment paper. If they don't stay in on their own, that's ok--the pasta will help with that. The squares of parchment need to be fairly large. You can see my hand spread out on one for reference. They totally will NOT stay on their own, but the pasta absolutely holds them down.
11. Line the edges of the muffin tins with 1 pasta sheet per cup. Pasta sheet will overlap about 2 inches.
12. Spoon about 1/2 tablespoon of sauce into the bottom of each cup
13. Next cut 9 pasta sheets into quarters and press one of these pieces of pasta into the bottom on top of the sauce. I used a pizza cutter for nice quick slices.
14. Top pasta sheet with a generous tablespoon of sauce and then a generous tablespoon of cheese filling. Repeat this pasta-sauce-cheese layering one more time being sure to press out any air bubbles.
15. Top these lasagna cups off with a 3rd piece of pasta, more sauce and the remaining mozzarella cheese. I ran out of sauce here like I mentioned earlier. In the future I'll probably just use the whole can of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes because I like saucy lasagna anyway. If you aren’t being strict with dairy/calories, add more cheese to the tops. The half reserved in the previous step makes for light topping.
16. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until everything is hot and bubbly. Serve hot. I totally over baked these. It’s easy to make the wheat pasta tough. The outside of my “cups” were tough while the inside was delightful. I’d also put a sheet of aluminum foil over the top for the first 15-20 minutes to keep the top edges from getting too crisp.
These turned out beautifully, but they’re a little time consuming for one of our average weeknights, so this feels like a Friday - Sunday meal to me with a great meal prep opportunity thrown in because they’re so easy to grab and go. That sauce though…..I might be making that to go on all of my pastas! Super yummy and filled with veggies, it’s a major win!