I decided to give an unconventional gift for a friend’s birthday this year. Instead of the usual card or little treat or some tea, I decided to give her the gift of time.
My friend balances a demanding job, a young family, and still creates her own work. Understandably, something has to give. I made her a few dinners over the summer when N was working long hours and I wanted to still cook for someone. I remember her telling how much of a help having that meal already made was for her day, so what better gift to give someone on their birthday but some time and a really nourishing meal.
For the past few months I’ve been trying to cook more from my pantry and cut down on wasting food (and money). I had a very full box of no-boil lasagna noodles sitting in my pantry and I knew that was the perfect occasion to use them. Lasagna is a comforting meal to give anyone, and for my friend and her small table, they can have left overs for lunch or another meal. Win win!
For years, I’ve made Everybody Likes Sandwiches’s spinach and zucchini lasagna. To make something more seasonal, I went with some swiss chard and some butternut squash. I was worried that the butternut squash would be a little too sweet, but by adding in some heat and having it right next to the cheese layer, the sweetness mellowed out and played perfectly with the other flavors of the lasagna.
I made my own puree for this recipe, but if you’re short on time (and sometimes you just are), you can easily swap the homemade puree with a can of organic puree. You can find those in the baking aisle near the canned pumpkin. You could also quickly cook some frozen, organic butternut squash and blend them up from there. Do what works for your schedule.
Swiss chard is also a great addition in this lasagna. I can never have too many greens, and the lasagna was a great place to use as much of the swiss chard as I could. A lot of the time, most recipes just call for the leaves and don’t do anything with the stems, which is a crime. Sautéed Swiss chard stems are delicious, add a nice texture to a dish, and are filled with healthy phytonutrients. The sauce uses a handful of the chard stems, and if you want, you can take the rest of them and use them to make the Chard and Walnut Pesto from Food Gift Love. This time, I made the pesto without the cheese because I knew this meal was going to have it’s fair share of cheese.
If you’re the one that’s short on time, you can also easily double this recipe and cook these in aluminum 8x8s and make one for now and one to freeze for later. If you’re going to freeze one, prepare the lasagna and don’t cook it. Freeze it first, then cook it when you’re ready to enjoy it. You’ll need to cook it for longer with the foil on about and hour and a half, then remove the foil and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes until the top is bubbly and everything is heated through.